Photo by Carole Seligman from San Francisco rally and march in support of Palestine Saturday, May 15, 2021
Stand with Palestine!
Say NO to apartheid!
Join the global movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
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
Update: Mumia Abu-Jamal is Recovering from Heart Surgery!
Mumia's wife, Wadiya, has spoken to Mumia and reports that he sounded strong. He still needs to be free to get the medical care he needs for his weakened physical condition and, because he's innocent!
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
Jeff Bezos has at least $180 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
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.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or 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:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
Civilian deaths on both sides raise urgent questions about which military actions are legal, what war crimes are being committed and who, if anyone, will be held to account.
“Israel sometimes warns Gaza residents to evacuate before an airstrike, and it says it has called off strikes to avoid civilian casualties. But its use of artillery and airstrikes to pound such a confined area, packed with poorly protected people, has led to a death toll 20 times as high as that caused by Hamas, and wounded 1,235 more.”
By Declan Walsh, May 16, 2021
A Palestinian boy in front of the ruins of his house in Gaza City on Friday after it was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times
The Israeli missile that slammed into a Palestinian apartment exacted a shocking toll: eight children and two women, killed as they celebrated a major Muslim holiday, in one of the deadliest episodes of the war between Israel and Palestinian militants that has raged for nearly a week.
Israel said a senior Hamas commander was the target of the Friday attack. Graphic video footage showed Palestinian medics stepping over rubble that included children’s toys and a Monopoly board game as they evacuated the bloodied victims from the pulverized building. The only survivor was an infant boy.
“They weren’t holding weapons, they weren’t firing rockets and they weren’t harming anyone,” said the boy’s father, Mohammed al-Hadidi, who was later seen on television holding his son’s small hand in a hospital.
“Oh, love,” he said to his son.
Civilians are paying an especially high price in the latest bout of violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, raising urgent questions about how the laws of war apply to the conflagration: which military actions are legal, what war crimes are being committed and who, if anyone, will ever be held to account.
Both sides appear to be violating those laws, experts said: Hamas has fired more than 3,000 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns, a clear war crime. And Israel, although it says it takes measures to avoid civilian casualties, has subjected Gaza to such an intense bombardment, killing families and flattening buildings, that it likely constitutes a disproportionate use of force — also a war crime.
In the deadliest attack yet, Israeli airstrikes on buildings in Gaza City on Sunday killed at least 42 people including 10 children, Palestinian officials said.
No legal adjudication is possible in the heat of battle. But some facts are clear. Israeli airstrikes and artillery barrages on Gaza, an impoverished and densely packed enclave of two million people, have killed at least 197 Palestinians, including 92 women and children, between last Monday and Sunday evening, producing stark images of destruction that have reverberated around the world.
In the other direction, Hamas missiles have rained over Israeli towns and cities, sowing fear and killing at least 10 Israeli residents, including two children — a greater toll than during the last war, in 2014, which lasted more than seven weeks. The latest victim, a 55-year-old man, died on Saturday after missile shrapnel slammed through the door of his home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. One Israeli soldier has also been killed.
With neither side apparently capable of outright victory, the conflict seems locked in an endless loop of bloodshed. So the focus on civilian casualties has become more intense than ever as a proxy for the moral high ground in a seemingly unwinnable war.
“The narrative around civilian casualties takes on a bigger importance than normal, perhaps even bigger than the numbers, because it goes to the moral legitimacy of the two sides,” said Dapo Akande, a professor of public international law at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.
The calculus of the war is brutal.
Although Hamas fires unguided missiles at Israeli cities at a blistering rate, sometimes over 100 at once, the vast majority are either intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system or fall short inside Gaza, resulting in a relatively low death toll.
Israel sometimes warns Gaza residents to evacuate before an airstrike, and it says it has called off strikes to avoid civilian casualties. But its use of artillery and airstrikes to pound such a confined area, packed with poorly protected people, has led to a death toll 20 times as high as that caused by Hamas, and wounded 1,235 more.
Israeli warplanes have also destroyed four high-rise buildings in Gaza that it said were used by Hamas. But those buildings also contained homes and the offices of local and international news media organizations, inflicting enormous economic damage.
It may not look it, but there are rules to govern the carnage.
The laws of war — a collection of international treaties and unwritten laws, also known as international humanitarian law — govern the behavior of combatants. The killing of civilians is not, of itself, illegal. But combatants must abide by widely accepted principles, Professor Akande said.
Most important, they must discriminate between civilian and military targets, he said. After that, they must weigh the military advantage gained from any potential strike against the damage to civilians that it will cause.
And when they attack, combatants must take all reasonable precautions to limit any civilian damage, he added.
Unsurprisingly, applying those principles in a place like Gaza is a highly contentious affair.
Israeli officials say they are forced to strike homes and offices because that is where Hamas militants live and fight, using civilians as human shields. Hamas is responsible for civilian casualties inflicted during those strikes, Israeli officials say, because it fires rockets close to schools, offices and homes.
In a statement about the attack on Friday that killed 10 family members, the Israel Defense Forces said it had “attacked a number of Hamas terror organization senior officials, in an apartment used as terror infrastructure in the area of the Al-Shati refugee camp.”
Neighbors of the family, though, said no Hamas official was present at the time of the attack.
Human rights groups, however, say that Israel routinely pushes the boundaries of what might be considered proportionate military force, and that it has frequently breached the laws of war. “There’s been an utter disregard for civilian life that stems from the decades of impunity,” said Omar Shakir, Israel director for Human Rights Watch.
Mr. Shakir and others said Israel’s staunch alliance with the United States, which gives the country $3.8 billion in military aid every year and offers reflexive diplomatic support, has shielded its actions from serious international censure for decades, emboldening it to commit abuses against Palestinians.
On Saturday President Biden again asserted his “strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself.”
The top prosecutor with the International Criminal Court, which in February announced an investigation into possible war crimes by both Hamas and Israeli soldiers, warned on Friday that both sides in the current conflict could be subjects of future prosecutions.
“These are events that we are looking at very seriously,” the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, told the Reuters news agency.
But the criminal court, which Israel and the United States do not recognize, faces a host of political and logistical obstacles, and it could be years before any Israeli or Palestinian is put on trial — if ever.
Other bodies have adjudicated on previous rounds of fighting. In a report published last year, Human Rights Watch said Israel appeared to violate the laws of war when it killed 11 civilians during a flare-up in Gaza in November 2019. Palestinian militants, who fired hundreds of rockets into Israel at that time, also violated the laws of war, the report said.
A spokesman for the Israeli armed forces, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, did not respond to several requests for comment for this article. But Lior Haiat, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said that his country did everything possible to minimize civilian casualties, and that the true culprit was Hamas.
“Every one of those missiles that are being launched from the Gaza Strip to Israel is actually a terror attack,” Mr. Haiat said. “But not only that — every one of those missiles is also a war crime.”
In 2018, Israel’s defense minister then, Avigdor Lieberman, said, “The I.D.F. is the most moral army in the world.”
Some Israeli soldiers disagree.
A scathing report by Breaking the Silence, an organization of leftist combat veterans, into the conduct of Israel’s army during its last major war against Hamas in 2014, accused the military of operating a “lenient open-fire policy” in Gaza. It said Israeli commanders had called for “brutal and unethical” actions there and encouraged soldiers to behave aggressively toward Palestinian civilians.
The group’s executive director, Avner Gvaryahu, said that the Israeli military did not intentionally set out to kill civilians but that it routinely uses disproportionate force. He pointed to the use of artillery in recent days to hit targets with munitions that can kill anyone in a radius of up to 150 meters, or almost 500 feet.
“It speaks volumes to the fact that we are not doing everything in our power to prevent civilian casualties,” Mr. Gvaryahu said.
Others push back on Israel’s insistence that Hamas is to blame for the civilian casualties because it operates from residential areas. In a densely populated place like Gaza, “there is almost no way to fight from it without exposing civilians to danger,” said Nathan Thrall, author of a book on Israel and the Palestinians.
Mr. Thrall noted that the headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces was in a residential part of Tel Aviv, beside a hospital and an art museum.
Human rights researchers say Hamas strictly controls information about civilian deaths in Gaza to hide its losses and failures.
Although the casualty list provided by the local Ministry of Health — the source for the figure of 197 deaths over the past six days — is generally accurate, they say, Hamas will not say how many of the dead are militants, or were killed by Hamas missiles that fell short and exploded inside Gaza.
But others have found evidence. During the fighting in 2019, Human Rights Watch reported, at least two Palestinian rockets landed inside Gaza, killing one civilian and injuring 16 others.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy about civilian deaths, said Adil Haque, a professor at Rutgers Law School specializing in international law and armed conflict, is that they have become a way for belligerents to show their strength before inevitably agreeing to yet another cease-fire.
“Civilians are trapped between two sides,” he said. “Hamas wants to show it can survive the Israeli onslaught, and Israel wants to show that it is the stronger party.”
“Both sides are able to stop if they want,” he added. “But neither is willing to stop first.”
Vivian Yee and Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting.
The death of Jamal Sutherland after officers tried to remove him from his cell using pepper spray and Tasers raised calls for changes in the treatment in custody of the mentally ill.
By Richard Fausset, May 14, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/14/us/Black-man-tasered.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
Jamal Sutherland’s family, including his mother, Amy Sutherland, held a news conference outside the Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston, S.C., on Friday. Credit...WCIV-ABC News 4
The death of a Black man after police used pepper spray and Tasers on him in a South Carolina jail has stirred outrage as well as widespread calls for changes to the treatment of people in custody suffering from mental illness.
Video footage released late on Thursday shows sheriff’s deputies in Charleston County extracting the man, Jamal Sutherland, from his jail cell on Jan. 5, first using pepper spray on him, and then Tasers while he screams out in pain. He was declared dead soon after, and the graphic video spurred denunciations on Friday of the officers’ response.
Elements of the videos — including a moment when Mr. Sutherland, who has an officer’s knee on his back, says “I can’t breathe” — echo other recent instances of violent encounters between law enforcement and African-Americans that have sparked sustained racial justice and police reform movements that continue to resonate throughout the United States.
“Jamal Sutherland was handled like an animal by correctional officers who had no regard for his altered mental state,” a coalition of South Carolina activist groups said in a statement on Friday. The statement said the video of his killing revealed the inhumane conditions of the detention center where he was being held, “which undoubtedly aggravated Jamal’s state of mental distress.”
The two Charleston County Sheriff’s deputies who engaged with Mr. Sutherland, Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Deputy Brian Houle, have been placed on administrative leave, and the local prosecutor, Scarlett A. Wilson, said this week that she was reviewing the results of an investigation conducted by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Ms. Wilson, the Ninth Circuit solicitor, said she expected to decide whether criminal charges are warranted in the case before the end of June.
On Friday, civic leaders appealed for calm in and around Charleston, where angry protests, including rioting and looting, occurred in late May after a Minneapolis police officer killed an African-American man, George Floyd, while he was in custody.
“We recognize that emotions are high and concerns are justifiably warranted but it is important that we choose to address this, as a community at large, calmly and together,” Teddie Pryor, the Charleston County Commission chairman, said in a statement.
Mr. Sutherland had been taken to a mental health facility, Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health, but was arrested there on Jan. 4, the day before he died, after a fight broke out. Workers at the mental health center told responding officers that Mr. Sutherland had assaulted a staff member. He and another patient were arrested on the charge of third-degree assault and battery, according to the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper.
Mr. Sutherland was taken to a Charleston County jail facility, the Al Cannon Detention Center. Video of Mr. Sutherland on the day of his arrest shows him in obvious distress, screaming “Let go of me” at officers and speaking of conspiracies, including references to the Illuminati, groups — real and fictitious — dating back centuries and said to have special knowledge.
The next morning, Sergeant Fickett and Deputy Houle went to Mr. Sutherland’s cell intending to take him to court for a bond hearing. The surveillance and body camera footage of their efforts was released by the Charleston County sheriff, Kristin Graziano, who said she had waited to release it until she received the blessing of Mr. Sutherland’s family.
The video shows deputies repeatedly asking Mr. Sutherland, who is yelling in his cell, to come to the door and cooperate. At one point a deputy notes that medical personnel are standing by as the extraction process begins.
The deputies release pepper spray in Mr. Sutherland’s cell twice, each time closing the door, and urging him to come out. Then they open the door and begin shouting at him to get down, turn on his stomach and begin sliding toward the door.
Although a camera angle does not give a clear view of the cell, Mr. Sutherland appears to be moving slowly on the ground toward the door, but not turned on his stomach. “That’s as far as I’m turning,” he says at one point.
A deputy tries to handcuff him, and at this point, the video shows Mr. Sutherland yelling and thrashing as the deputies struggle to subdue him. Hit with a Taser, his body begins to writhe on the ground as he is shocked by electric charges. A deputy’s knee is on his back. “I can’t breathe,” Mr. Sutherland says.
Deputies eventually manage to cuff his hands behind his back and put him in a chair, at which point he appears to have lost consciousness.
Deputy Houle later says that Mr. Sutherland had been hit with the Taser six to eight times.
Ms. Wilson, the prosecutor, said in a statement that a pathologist, Dr. J.C. Upshaw Downs, reviewed the extrication process and found that it did not reveal any “unusual or excessive interactions or areas of direct concern.”
Dr. Downs, Ms. Wilson said, ruled the manner of Mr. Sutherland’s death as “undetermined,” stating that he died “as a result of excited state with pharmacotherapeutic effect during subdual process.”
Ms. Wilson did not further explain Dr. Downs’s comments. Joe Crawford, a paralegal with the Charleston County coroner, said Thursday that Mr. Sutherland’s autopsy report was not considered a public record and would not be disclosed.
“The evidence surrounding Mr. Sutherland’s death has raised serious concerns and begged many questions,” Ms. Wilson said. “I have retained experts who may be able to shed more light on Mr. Sutherland’s death and the circumstances surrounding it, to include potential culpability of those in law enforcement.”
State Senator Marlon E. Kimpson, a Democrat who represents Charleston County, said it appeared the deputies were not sufficiently trained in dealing with mentally ill detainees.
“It appeared to be to be a breach of protocol — and if not, we need to change the protocol,” he said.
Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, called Mr. Sutherland’s death “a tragedy” in a statement.
“The video of this incident reveals issues which need to be addressed in training, procedures and policies around law enforcement’s encounters with those experiencing mental illness,” he said.
By Weiyi Cai, Josh Holder, Lauren Leatherby, Eleanor Lutz, Scott Reinhard and Karen Yourish, May 17, 2021
A week of fighting has left more than 200 people dead in Israel and the occupied territories, the vast majority of them Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/05/17/world/middleeast/israel-palestine-gaza-conflict-death-toll.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage
Note: Eight deaths in the Gaza Strip and three deaths in the West Bank could not be located. And one person was killed by Israeli forces on Israel’s border with Lebanon, according to Lebanese authorities. | Sources: Palestinian Center for Human Rights; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; Palestinian Ministry of Health; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The violence has intensified over the past eight days as diplomatic efforts have stalled and Israel has scaled up its bombing campaign against Hamas.
The war is being fought on multiple fronts. According to the Israeli Air Force, Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, has fired more than 3,300 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns, killing at least 10 people. Israeli forces and settlers have killed 20 Palestinians during unrest in the West Bank, a Palestinian human rights group said. And a wave of mob attacks hit at least one mixed Arab-Jewish city in Israel.
But the worst devastation is in Gaza, a densely packed coastal enclave of about two million people. Israeli forces have struck homes, refugee camps, medical facilities and other buildings.
Israeli officials have said the assault is aimed at destroying Hamas's ability to make and launch missiles and a network of underground tunnels used by Hamas to move people and equipment. But the strikes have killed at least 212 people, including at least 61 children, according to local health authorities, drawing international condemnation.
On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a well-known tower that housed some of the world’s leading news media organizations, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The strikes have destroyed 132 buildings in Gaza and left 2,500 people homeless, according to Palestinian officials.
Eight days of violence
· Day 1 May 10 | Israeli airstrikes began Monday after militants fired a salvo of rockets toward Jerusalem.
28 killed in Gaza
3 killed in Israel
· Day 2 May 11 | By Tuesday night, more than 30 Palestinians had been killed, including 10 children.
4 killed in Gaza
1 killed in Israel
· Day 3 May 12 | Waves of mob violence between Jews and Arabs spread across Israeli cities as rockets and missiles streaked overhead.
21 killed in Gaza
4 killed in Israel
· Day 4 May 13 | Israel intensified its campaign of airstrikes against Hamas, pulverizing buildings, offices and homes.
34 killed in Gaza
2 killed in Israel
· Day 5 May 14 | Violence erupted in several places on the West Bank, as Israeli soldiers fired on demonstrators, some of whom threw stones and lit fires.
39 killed in Gaza
0 killed in Israel
· Day 6 May 15 | Israel destroyed a building housing the offices of two major news media outlets, thousands of Palestinians fled their homes and Hamas militants fired more rocket barrages toward the Tel Aviv area.
13 killed in Gaza
1 killed in Israel
· Day 7 May 16 | In the conflict’s most lethal episode so far, dozens of Palestinians were killed early Sunday morning in an airstrike on several apartments in Gaza City.
53 killed in Gaza
0 killed in Israel
· Day 8 May 17 | The Israeli Army released 110 rockets and bombs on some 35 targets in a predawn bombardment that lasted about 20 minutes.
20 killed in Gaza
1 killed in Israel
Sources: Palestinian Ministry of Health; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Underneath the military battle in the skies, mob violence erupted in the city of Lod, where rival Arab and Jewish groups attacked people, cars, shops, offices and hotels early last week. Two people died of their injuries.
The violence is the worst since 2014, when Israel’s seven-week invasion of Gaza and Hamas’s rocket fire ultimately claimed 2,200 lives, rendered large areas of the Gaza Strip uninhabitable and paralyzed Israel’s south. It took nearly three months for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a cease-fire.
Additional work by Jugal K. Patel.
Live Updates, New York Times, May 18, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/05/18/world/israel-gaza-updates
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel downed tools for the day on Tuesday, as did workers across the occupied West Bank and in Gaza, protesting violence against Arab Israelis, the unfolding Israeli military campaign targeting Hamas militants in Gaza and the looming eviction of several families from their homes in East Jerusalem.
Streets were deserted in Arab areas across both Israel and the occupied territories, as shopkeepers shuttered stores along the waterfront in Jaffa, central Israel; the steep roads of Umm el-Fahm, an Arab town in northern Israel; and West Bank cities such as Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah.
Palestinians gathered instead in central squares, waving Palestinian flags, listening to speeches and chanting against Israeli policies. Outside Ramallah, a group of Palestinians, who had gathered separately to the protesters, set fires on a major thoroughfare and later exchanged live fire with Israeli soldiers.
Since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in 1948, they have been divided not only by geography, but also by lived experience.
They were scattered across Gaza, the West Bank, and the wider Middle East, as well as the state of Israel itself. Some struggled under differing forms of military occupation, while others were given Israeli citizenship — diluting their common identity.
But on Tuesday, millions of them came together in a general strike to protest their shared treatment by Israel, in what many Palestinians described as a rare show of political unity.
Mustafa Barghouti, an independent politician who attended a rally in central Ramallah on Tuesday morning, said the protests constituted “a very significant day.”
“It reflects how Palestinians now have a unified struggle against the same system of apartheid,” he added.
Israel fiercely rejects longstanding accusations of apartheid by Palestinians, a claim now taken up by a small but growing number of rights watchdogs, including Human Rights Watch last month.
Israeli officials say that the occupation of the West Bank is a temporary measure until a peace agreement is achieved. And the blockade of Gaza, they say, is a security measure to prevent Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza and opposes Israel’s existence, from acquiring weapons. They also highlight how Arab citizens of Israel have the right to vote and elect lawmakers, have representation in Israel’s Parliament, and often rise to become judges and senior civil servants.
Mark Regev, a senior adviser to the prime minister, told The Times last month: “To allege that Israeli policies are motivated by racism is both baseless and outrageous, and belittles the very real security threats posed by Palestinian terrorists to Israeli civilians.”
But many Palestinians on either side of the boundary between Israel and the occupied territories say that they are the victims of the same system of oppression — one that operates with varying degrees of intensity, and offers Arabs varying degrees of freedom, but ultimately seeks to assert Jewish supremacy wherever that system is in force.
“We’re one big family,” said Enass Tinah, a 46-year-old researcher at the Ramallah protest.
“What’s happening in Gaza, in Lydd” — a mixed Arab-Jewish city, known as Lod by Israeli Jews, that saw intense clashes between Jews and Arabs last week — “and in the West Bank, it’s the same suffering,” she said.
Some did not participate in the strike — including health workers in northern Israel, who felt they had a moral need to keep on working, and the Arab residents of Abu Ghosh, a town west of Jerusalem known for its good relations between Arabs and Jews.
Other Palestinians simply saw the strike as an attempt to show solidarity with Gaza, and to strengthen calls for an independent Palestinian state.
But for some, the strike, and the unity it implied, was a sign of a new paradigm for the Palestinian cause.
For Ms. Tinah, the old hope of an independent Palestine now seemed unlikely.
A single state for Palestinians and Jews, with equal rights for both, now felt a better goal to Ms. Tinah. “That’s where we’re moving,” she said. “One state with equal rights for all citizens.”
“I don’t know what that looks like,” she said. But, she added, “I think this is the new path.”
Mr. Brown was fatally shot in Elizabeth City, N.C., by police in April. His family and their lawyers have described it as an “execution.”
By Richard Fausset, May 18, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/18/us/andrew-brown-elizabeth-city-shooting.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
A North Carolina prosecutor on Tuesday said that the fatal shooting of a Black man in Elizabeth City, N.C., by local sheriff’s deputies was justified.
R. Andrew Womble, the district attorney for North Carolina’s First Judicial District, made the announcement in a news conference on Tuesday, during which he described Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies’ efforts to serve a drug-related warrant on Andrew Brown, Jr.
Three deputies opened fire on Mr. Brown as he tried to get away in his car on April 21. A private autopsy paid for by Mr. Brown’s family showed that he was hit by five bullets and killed by a shot to the back of the head.
Mr. Brown’s family and their lawyers have said that the shooting was an “execution.” Mr. Womble said that Mr. Brown, at one point, drove his car “directly at” one deputy, after which the first shot was fired.
Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, had asked Mr. Womble to turn the case over to a special prosecutor, as have lawyers for the Brown family.
The death of Mr. Brown, 42, at his house on a quiet residential street, came just days after a jury found a Minneapolis police officer guilty of murdering another Black man, George Floyd. The shooting sparked multiple days and nights of intense but peaceful protest in Elizabeth City, as well as national attention.
A lawyer for the deputies said the killing was justified, and Mr. Womble, in an earlier court hearing, said that the body and dash cam video of the incident showed that Mr. Brown made contact with deputies with his car, and that officers opened fire thereafter.
But the prosecutor’s version of what the body camera footage shows is starkly different from the description offered by Mr. Brown’s family and two members of their legal team, who have been given two occasions to see some of the footage.
On April 30, a local judge delayed the public release of the videos, citing concerns that their release could compromise the investigation. The decision angered demonstrators and family members who said members of the public should have the right to see the recordings and decide for themselves whether the shooting was justified.
Mr. Womble showed portions of the video on Tuesday but said that he would not publicly release the full footage.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Demonstrations have filled the streets of major cities for three weeks — and more than 40 people have died, some in clashes with the police. Here’s what you need to know about the protests.
By Julie Turkewitz, May 18, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/18/world/americas/colombia-protests-what-to-know.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=World%20News
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Protests have rocked Colombia for three weeks, with thousands of people pouring into the streets of its major cities — and facing a crackdown by government security forces. More than 40 people, many of them protesters, are dead.
On Monday, Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, ordered the “maximum deployment” of the country’s military and police forces to clear roads blocked by protesters, a move he said would “allow all Colombians to regain mobility,” but that some feared would lead to more violence.
The fuse for the protests was a tax overhaul proposed by Mr. Duque, which many Colombians felt would have made getting by in an economy squeezed by the pandemic even harder.
But the outpouring quickly morphed into a widespread expression of anger over poverty and inequality — which have risen as the virus has spread — and over the violence with which the police have confronted the movement.
Students, teachers, health workers, farmers, Indigenous communities and many others have come together in the streets.
“People are fed up,” said Sergio Romero, 23, at a recent protest in Bogotá.
Demonstrators’ demands began with a repeal of the tax proposal, which the president granted. But they have grown over time to include calls for the government to guarantee a minimum income, to prevent police violence and to withdraw a health reform plan that critics say does not do enough to fix systemic problems.
Mr. Duque’s popularity had dropped before the pandemic, and is now near its lowest point since his election in 2018, according to the polling firm Invamer.
What first triggered the protests?
In late April, Mr. Duque, a conservative, became among the first leaders in Latin America to try to address an economic shortfall created in part by a pandemic that has ravaged populations and economies in the region.
His tax plan sought to keep in place new subsidies for poor people, while raising taxes on many everyday goods and services. While many economists said that some kind of fiscal restructuring was necessary, many Colombians viewed the plan as an attack on their already difficult existences.
Even before the pandemic, many Colombians with full-time jobs struggled to make even the minimum wage of about $275 a month.
Helena Osorio, 24, for example, is a nurse who works nights and earns $13 per shift caring for Covid patients, barely enough for her and her younger brother to survive. This pushed her to attend recent protests.
The president’s tax proposal also came as coronavirus cases and deaths were rising in the country, leaving hundreds of desperate Colombians to wait for a bed at overloaded hospitals even as the vaccination campaign rollout has been slow.
What else are Colombians angry about?
The tax proposal was a catalyst that brought longstanding frustrations to a boil.
Colombia is among the most unequal countries in the world. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2018 said that it would take 11 generations for a poor Colombian to approach the mean income in his or her society — the highest number of 30 countries examined.
Despite reductions in poverty in the decades before the pandemic, many Colombians, particularly the young, feel the engines of upward mobility are beyond their reach.
Many Colombians are also frustrated by the government’s implementation of its side of the peace agreement with the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The deal, signed in 2016, was supposed to end generations of armed conflict. The rebels would lay down arms, and the government, among other commitments, would bring economic opportunity to rural areas that had suffered during the war.
But Mr. Duque’s party strongly opposed the deal, saying it went too easy on the FARC. His critics say he has not been aggressive enough in setting up the programs that were supposed to help cement peace, including one that would help coca-growing families switch to other crops. And violence continues in many rural areas, fueling frustration.
As the protests have escalated, resulting in clashes between demonstrators and police, Mr. Duque’s government has frequently blamed the violence on armed groups it says have infiltrated the protests.
What has the police’s response to the protests been?
The country’s national police force, one of few in the Americas that sits under the defense ministry, has responded with force, sometimes firing bullets at peaceful protesters, according to New York Times interviews with witnesses. This has exacerbated anger.
At least 42 people are dead, according to Colombia’s Defensoría del Pueblo, a government agency that tracks alleged human rights violations. But Human Rights Watch and other organizations say that the death toll is likely higher.
The Defensoría says that it has received 168 reports of people who have disappeared amid the protests, and only some of them have been found.
In an interview, Mr. Duque recognized that some officers had been violent, but attributed the violence to a few bad actors, saying major change in the police force was not needed.
“There have been acts of abuse of force,” he said. But “just saying that there could be any possibility that the Colombian police will be seen as a systematic abuser of human rights — well, that will be not only unfair, unjust, but without any base, any ground.”
What about the protesters, have they engaged in violence as well?
Protesters have also blocked major roads, preventing food and other essential goods from getting through. Officials say this has hampered efforts to fight the coronavirus at a time when new cases and virus deaths are at near record highs.
The defense department says that hundreds of officers have been hurt, and one has been killed, while people associated with the protests have vandalized police stations and buses.
While tens of thousands have marched in the streets, not everyone supports the protests.
Jhon Henry Morales, 51, a taxi driver in Cali, said his city had been nearly paralyzed in recent days, with some protesters blocking the roads with tires.
He had not been able to work, he said, putting him behind on his bills. “Protest is legal,” he said. But, he said, “I also have rights as a Colombian citizen.”
Reporting was contributed by Sofía Villamil and Steven Grattan in Bogotá.
By Yousef Munayyer, May 19, 2021
Mr. Munayyer is a writer and political analyst who focuses on Palestinian issues.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/opinion/israel-palestine.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
For those who periodically tune in and tune out of the Israel-Palestine situation, the events of recent days and weeks might seem like a replay of a movie they have seen before: Palestinians are being forced from their homes; Israel drops bombs on Gaza; Palestinians fire rockets from Gaza; Israel destroys most of the rockets with an air defense system that is largely paid for by American taxpayers.
All familiar. But the truth is, this moment is different. And it may prove a transformational one in the Palestinian struggle for freedom.
Before the world’s attention shifted toward pushing for a cease-fire, Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, inside Israel and in the diaspora had all mobilized simultaneously in a way unseen for decades. They are all working toward the same goal: breaking free from the shackles of Israel’s system of oppression.
Reacting to growing Israeli restrictions in Jerusalem and the impending expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinians across the land who identified with the experience of being dispossessed by Israel rose up, together. Even now, as bombs fall on Gaza, they continue to do so. Palestinians are protesting in huge numbers in cities and towns throughout the land; hundreds of thousands took part in a general strike.
With this unified movement, Palestinians have shown Israel that they cannot be ignored. For years, Israelis have made peace with the notion that they can manage, however brutally, their relationship with Palestinians instead of resolving it. This has been aided by a process of walling off the ugliness of their rule: Gaza, caged and besieged, might as well have been on a different planet; Israelis could drive throughout the West Bank practically uninterrupted by the sight of Palestinians; Palestinian citizens of Israel have largely been relegated to neglected, concentrated areas.
Out of sight, out of mind. Or so Israel seemed to hope.
But as Palestinians took to the streets in recent weeks, defiantly raising their national flags and chanting against their subjugation, Israelis awoke to the reality that for Palestinians, the divisions between Gazans, residents of the West Bank and Palestinian citizens of Israel do not exist. Palestine is not “over there” but is everywhere around them. With their bodies and their feet, Palestinians were acting out the lines of the famed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “I am from here. And here I am. I am me. And here is here.” They have reasserted that they are all Palestinians, with one flag and one struggle.
That is precisely why, in the weeks and months to come, Palestinians should not be forced back to a paradigm that divides them with calls for a two-state solution.
The so-called peace process, which has supposedly worked toward a two-state solution, was born in the 1990s, at a time when the Palestinian political leadership, in the form of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was in exile. Wanting to return home, the P.L.O. was lured into a trap: In exchange for being allowed to return to the occupied West Bank, Palestinian political leaders agreed to engage in negotiations. Instead, Israel has used these talks — mediated by the United States, Israel’s staunchest ally — as a cover to persist with its settlement expansion.
Nearly 30 years later, it should now be clear that the process is going nowhere. And so the Palestinian people are moving on, whether or not their leadership comes with them.
To be clear, all Palestinian factions — including Fatah, which dominates the P.L.O. — are part of the Palestinian body politic. They will be necessary parties to whatever comes next. But the Palestinians who can most shape the future now are in the streets and squares, speaking to one another and the world directly, and making clear that the “green line” that divided Israel and the occupied territories was an instrument of division, not liberation.
The energy of this moment represents an opportunity to wed Palestinian aspirations with a growing global consensus. According to a 2018 poll by the University of Maryland, 64 percent of Americans would support equal rights in a single state if the two-state solution fails. That number climbs to 78 percent among Democrats. Among scholars and experts on the Middle East, one recent poll found, 66 percent say there is a one-state reality. There is also a growing shift in mainstream organizations that have been hesitant to call for greater change: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently released a report calling for a break from the two-state approach.
Many diplomats and analysts around the world I have spoken to in recent years understand that the two-state solution is dead. Israel has killed it. When I ask why they don’t call for equal rights for Palestinians to end what is increasingly obviously a de facto apartheid system, they point out the official Palestinian position remains for a separate state. When they ask me what the Palestinian leadership is waiting for, I have no good answer.
The two-state peace process has acted as a convenient excuse for third parties who would rather pretend it presents a viable path to peace — no matter how clear its failures have been — than ever hold Israeli leaders to account. But the curtain is falling: The Palestinians have moved on, and many people in America and around the world are ready to do so, too. Now Palestinian officials should do the same. They would be far from the first to abandon the two-state paradigm — after all, Israel buried it under settlements long ago. But there are also no prizes for being last.
Eventually, the bombs and rockets will subside, and this “familiar” round will appear to be over. Israel, Washington and some Palestinian officials might try to pretend that nothing has changed, but make no mistake: Something has.
Interviews and a Times review showed a shelter system with wildly varying conditions, some of which are far below the standard that the Biden administration has promised.
By Eileen Sullivan, May 18, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/18/us/politics/biden-migrant-children.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
WASHINGTON — In a federal shelter in Dallas, migrant children sleep in a windowless convention center room under fluorescent lights that never go dark.
At a military base in El Paso, teenagers pile onto bunk cots, and some say they have gone days without bathing.
And in Erie, Pa., problems began emerging within days of the shelter’s creation: “Fire safety system is a big concern,” an internal report noted. Some of the hot water heaters were not working, and lice was “a big issue and seems to be increasing.”
Early this year, children crossing the southwestern border in record numbers were crammed into Customs and Border Protection’s cold-floored, jail-like detention facilities. They slept side by side on mats with foil blankets, almost always far longer than the legal limit of 72 hours. Republicans declared it a crisis. Democrats and immigration groups denounced the conditions, which erupted into an international embarrassment for President Biden, who had campaigned on a return to compassion in the immigration system.
The administration responded by rapidly setting up temporary, emergency shelters, including some that could house thousands of children. But the next potential crisis is coming into view.
“I know the administration wants to take a victory lap for moving children out of Border Patrol stations — and they deserve credit for doing that,” said Leecia Welch, a lawyer and the senior director of the legal advocacy and child welfare practice at the National Center for Youth Law, a nonprofit law firm focused on low-income children. “But the truth is, thousands of traumatized children are still lingering in massive detention sites on military bases or convention centers, and many have been relegated to unsafe and unsanitary conditions.”
Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, put the best face on the situation in an interview on Friday. Conditions at the emergency facilities varied, he said. “It’s site by site.”
On Thursday he visited the department’s shelter at the convention center in Long Beach, Calif., where nearly 700 children, mostly ages 12 and under, are staying, a fraction of the 20,000 migrant minors in government custody.
“I was not only gratified to see that it’s working, but I was actually uplifted by what I saw,” Mr. Becerra said. It was his first shelter tour since he was confirmed in mid-March.
There is broad agreement that the emergency shelters, run by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, are an improvement over the Border Patrol facilities. But interviews with children’s advocates and a review of weeks of internal reports obtained by The New York Times paint a picture of a shelter system with wildly varying conditions, some of which are far below the standard of care that the Biden administration has promised.
“No foster care system in America would allow kids to remain in these sorts of places for weeks or months,” said Ms. Welch, who has been visiting shelters and interviewing children about their stays.
None of the shelters are open to the public, and Ms. Welch said she and members of her team were not permitted to take photographs there. Her organization monitors the government’s adherence to a 1997 settlement that set conditions for how immigrant children are detained in the United States. Many groups working with the federal government to provide care are not allowed to talk about what they see.
One of the children Ms. Welch met was a 10-year-old girl who had arrived at the border alone because her mother had been kidnapped on their journey north. She spent nearly three weeks in Border Patrol custody this year before she was transferred to the shelter in Erie, Pa.
The heat was broken in three rooms, including one with an isolated child who was sick with Covid-19 and complained about being cold. There were not enough clothes for the children to wear in Pennsylvania’s chilly early springtime. And the shelter was understaffed, with volunteers “overextended, stressed and fatigued,” according to a government assessment.
Cleaning was infrequent, as was trash removal. Gas leaked inside and outside where the children were living. The shelter closed on April 26.
Another shelter that opened in Houston closed months before the date officials had planned. The building, which housed 500 girls ages 13 to 17, had problems from the start, Ms. Welch said. She described the shelter as a warehouse with no access to the outdoors, where children went for days without bathing. The food made them sick, she said, and some had fainting spells from not eating. They were not allowed to go to the bathroom after 10 p.m., she said.
These emergency shelters are not bound by the law that sets a standard of care and are ordinarily overseen by the refugee office. That network of licensed shelters, with room for fewer than 10,000 children, is not big enough to handle the surge of migrants this year. Even that limited capacity decreased during the Trump administration, Biden aides say.
The emergency facilities were supposed to house migrant children for very short stays, but minors are remaining in Department of Health and Human Services custody for about a month.
“These facilities were designed and ramped up with the goal of achieving prompt reunification with parents, sponsors and legal guardians,” said Maria M. Odom, the senior vice president for legal programs at Kids in Need of Defense.
But a significant shortage of case managers charged with placing the children with family members and other sponsors is extending the stays in these shelters. The government has hired contractors to fill those roles in some of the shelters, and federal employees from other agencies have volunteered to help. But it is far from enough.
Modest improvements recently have meant that more children are being discharged from government care each day than are being transferred in from Border Patrol. On Monday, 427 children were released from government custody and 358 were transferred in, according to recent data.
But unaccompanied children are still coming to the border; under Biden administration policy, they are being let in, not turned away as they were under the Trump administration.
At an emergency shelter in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Michelle L. Saenz-Rodriguez, an immigration lawyer, described a facility intended to hold 2,000 children, mostly teenage boys. “It is literally a big ballroom with no exterior windows and typical fluorescent lighting” that never turn off, she said.
For weeks, internal documents have indicated an unmet need for urgent mental health consultations for the children. At times, there have been no mental health staff on site.
The Dallas shelter is closing at the end of the month because the lease is expiring, as is another emergency shelter in San Antonio. The Biden administration is looking to house more children at Fort Bliss, near El Paso, which has the largest emergency shelter in the network with room for more than 5,000 children. According to internal documents, the administration is planning to house up to 10,000 children there, half of whom would be 12 and under. About 4,400 teenagers currently live there.
“I am flabbergasted to learn that Fort Bliss will increase capacity to 10,000 beds,” said Ellen Beattie, a director at the International Rescue Committee. She added that it was “hard to imagine this being in the best interest of the children there.”
The government typically preferred to shelter younger children in smaller facilities, Ms. Beattie said.
Living conditions at the Fort Bliss shelter, which is made of soft-sided tents, are less than desirable. Ms. Welch, who visited late last month, said it smelled like a high school locker room. She spoke to children who had not received clean clothes in days.
Ms. Welch described precarious “bunk cots” for children to sleep in that can collapse when they are playing. The linens did not appear to be laundered regularly, she said.
While there is an option to play soccer outside in the Texas heat, some of the children told her they did not want to because they did not know when they would receive clean clothes.
The children “generally describe not feeling cared for and a sense of desperation,” Ms. Welch said.
The Trump administration was widely criticized for the tent city it opened in Tornillo, Texas, on desert land outside El Paso that held more than 2,800 children and teenagers in 2019. “But Fort Bliss is much worse in every respect,” Ms. Welch said, adding, “It goes against everything we know about the proper care and treatment of traumatized children.”
After the Erie shelter closed, the 10-year-old girl, who stayed in the crowded Border Patrol facility for nearly three weeks, was transferred again, this time to a small emergency shelter in a remote location in Albion, Mich., Ms. Welch said. The girl and the other children in the shelter were loaded into vans and not given any explanation for why they were moving more than 300 miles away, Ms. Welch said. She visited the shelter last week, when there were 190 children, 12 and under. The facility was nearly 70 percent full.
The children sleep in bunk beds in a cabin for 14, Ms. Welch said. There is a living area, a small kitchen and a space to play games, like Connect Four.
“They’re not being mistreated,” Ms. Welch said. “But a lot of the kids are really sad because they want to be with their families, and they don’t understand why it’s taking so long.”
Mr. Becerra said he blamed the immigration system for the situation.
“If we’re going to have to function with this broken immigration system, let’s at least do it right, let’s do what we can,” he said.
“I don’t know what their ultimate fate will be,” he added. “But I do know this — that while they are in my custody, they are going to be safe, and they’re going to be cared for.”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state last year, charging that its Department of Corrections did not provide adequate protections for inmates.
By Allyson Waller, May 19, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/us/alabama-prisons-deaths-lawsuit.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
One of the three inmates who were killed in Alabama prisons this month, Jody Potts, 58, died after an assault at Limestone Correctional Facility. Credit...Rollin Riggs for The New York Times
Three Alabama prison inmates died in less than a week this month from injuries that resulted from encounters with other inmates as the state faces continued scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department over its prison conditions.
The men died in separate episodes at different prisons in five days, Kristi Simpson, a spokeswoman with the Alabama Department of Corrections, said in a statement on Tuesday. The deaths were results of apparent inmate-on-inmate assaults, she said, and are being investigated by Department’s Law Enforcement Services Division.
Ms. Simpson said that the “exact causes of each of these deaths are all pending full autopsies.”
The Department of Corrections identified the three inmates who were killed as: Ian Rettig, 23, who died on May 4 and was an inmate at Fountain Correctional Facility, serving an 18-month sentence for multiple convictions; Jody Potts, 58, who died on May 6 and was an inmate at the Limestone Correctional Facility, serving a life sentence for murder; and Regial Ingram, 32, who died on May 8 and was an inmate at Bullock Correctional Facility, serving a 21-year sentence for second-degree robbery.
Mr. Rettig was scheduled to be released from prison the day after his death, according to The Associated Press.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions that the perpetrators have taken against these victims,” Ms. Simpson said in her statement. “Each of these incidents are being investigated thoroughly, and appropriate enforcement action — to include referring the perpetrators in question for prosecution — will be taken upon the completion of our investigative process.”
Alabama has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and its prison system has long been under the scrutiny of the Justice Department, which cited overcrowding and understaffing as major problems in a scathing report released in 2019. The report found that the state was “deliberately indifferent” to the risks inmates face and that “deplorable conditions within Alabama’s prisons lead to heightened tensions among prisoners.”
The Justice Department also found that prisoner-to-prisoner violence and sexual abuse was common within the system and that prisoner-to-prisoner violence was much higher “compared to other similar systems,” according to the report.
Another report, released in July 2020 by the Justice Department, found that correctional officers often used excessive force on inmates, infringing on their Eighth Amendment rights, which protect them from cruel and unusual punishment.
In December 2020, the Justice Department sued Alabama, charging that it violates inmates’ constitutional rights and “fails to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, fails to provide safe and sanitary conditions, and subjects prisoners to excessive force at the hands of prison staff.”
Wanda Bertram, a communications strategist for the Prison Policy Initiative, said in an interview on Tuesday that it was necessary for the federal government to step in when state prison agencies continue to have major issues and atrocities within their system.
“Oversight is a critical mechanism for improving conditions behind bars, and it’s also, you know, a mechanism that’s used less today than it has been before,” Ms. Bertram said.
Andrea Armstrong, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans whose expertise includes criminal justice and incarceration, said that violence accounted for a low percentage of deaths in prisons and jails, according to national data, making the recent deaths in Alabama “atypical.”
“By and large the leading causes of death are first, medical-related issues, particularly in prisons where you’re dealing with older populations on average,” said Professor Armstrong, who also cited suicide and drug overdose as other leading causes of death in prisons.
From 2001 to 2018, the annual mortality rate for inmates in Alabama state prisons who were killed by someone else was 10 inmates per 100,000 prisoners, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The death rate is higher with causes like heart disease, respiratory illness, cancer and liver disease.
Alabama currently has over 24,000 inmates in its Department of Corrections facilities, according to the department’s website.
Chris England, an Alabama state representative and Democrat, said the conditions within the state’s prisons were “horrendous,” and he has called for Jeff Dunn, commissioner of the state’s Department of Corrections since 2015, to step down.
The Department of Corrections did not immediately respond on Tuesday to a request for comment about the call for him to step down.
“Our system is rotten to the core,” Mr. England said on Tuesday, discussing deaths within the state’s prison system.
Mr. England recently sponsored legislation that would require the Department of Corrections to send quarterly reports to the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Prison Oversight Committee that would include details on officer retention and data on inmate deaths and causes.
Israeli extremists have formed more than 100 new groups on the Facebook-owned encrypted messaging app in recent days to target attacks.
By Sheera Frenkel, May 19, 2021
Screenshots from new WhatsApp groups in which Israelis boasted about planning attacks and weapons they carried. Identifying information has been removed. Credit...FakeReporter
Last Wednesday, a message appeared in a new WhatsApp channel called “Death to the Arabs.” The message urged Israelis to join a mass street brawl against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Within hours, dozens of other new WhatsApp groups popped up with variations of the same name and message. The groups soon organized a 6 p.m. start time for a clash in Bat Yam, a town on Israel’s coast.
“Together we organize and together we act,” read a message in one of the WhatsApp groups. “Tell your friends to join the group, because here we know how to defend Jewish honor.”
That evening, live scenes aired of black-clad Israelis smashing car windows and roaming the streets of Bat Yam. The mob pulled one man they presumed to be Arab from his car and beat him unconscious. He was hospitalized in serious condition.
The episode was one of dozens across Israel that the authorities have linked to a surge of activity by Jewish extremists on WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service owned by Facebook. Since violence between Israelis and Palestinians escalated last week, at least 100 new WhatsApp groups have been formed for the express purpose of committing violence against Palestinians, according to an analysis by The New York Times and FakeReporter, an Israeli watchdog group that studies misinformation.
The WhatsApp groups, with names like “The Jewish Guard” and “The Revenge Troops,” have added hundreds of new members a day over the past week, according to The Times’s analysis. The groups, which are in Hebrew, have also been featured on email lists and online message boards used by far-right extremists in Israel.
While social media and messaging apps have been used in the past to spread hate speech and inspire violence, these WhatsApp groups go further, researchers said. That’s because the groups are explicitly planning and executing violent acts against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up roughly 20 percent of the population and live largely integrated lives with Jewish neighbors.
That is far more specific than past WhatsApp-fueled mob attacks in India, where calls for violence were vague and generally not targeted at individuals or businesses, the researchers said. Even the Stop the Steal groups in the United States that organized the Jan. 6 protests in Washington did not openly direct attacks using social media or messaging apps, they said.
The proliferation of these WhatsApp groups has alarmed Israeli security officials and disinformation researchers. In the groups, attacks have been carefully documented, with members often gloating about taking part in the violence, according to The Times’s review. Some said they were taking revenge for rockets being fired onto Israel from militants in the Gaza Strip, while others cited different grievances. Many solicited names of Arab-owned businesses they could target next.
“It is a perfect storm of people empowered to use their own names and phone numbers to openly call for violence, and having a tool like WhatsApp to organize themselves into mobs,” said Achiya Schatz, director of FakeReporter.
He said his organization had reported many of the new WhatsApp groups to Israeli police, who initially took no action “but now are starting to act and try to prevent the violence.”
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said, “Police are tracking social media and monitoring movements on the ground.” He said that while Israelis have been involved in some attacks, they were largely “protecting themselves” against attacks by Palestinian citizens of Israel. He added, “Police investigations are continuing.”
Israeli security officials said law enforcement authorities began monitoring the WhatsApp groups after being alerted by FakeReporter. The police, Mr. Schatz said, believed attacks by the Jewish extremists were inflamed by and organized on the WhatsApp groups.
One official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that the police had not seen similar WhatsApp groups forming among Palestinians. Islamist movements, including Hamas, the militant Palestinian organization that controls the Gaza Strip, have long organized and recruited followers on social media but do not plan attacks on the services for fear of being discovered.
A WhatsApp spokeswoman said the messaging service was concerned by the activity from Israeli extremists. She said the company had removed some accounts of people who participated in the groups. WhatsApp cannot read the encrypted messages on its service, she added, but it has acted when accounts were reported to it for violating its terms of service.
“We take action to ban accounts we believe may be involved in causing imminent harm,” she said.
In Israel, WhatsApp has long been used to form groups so people can communicate and share interests or plan school activities. As violence soared between Israel’s military and Palestinian militants in Gaza over the past week, WhatsApp was also one of the platforms where false information about the conflict has spread.
Tensions in the area ran so high that new groups calling for revenge against Palestinians began emerging on WhatsApp and on other messaging services like Telegram. The first WhatsApp groups appeared last Tuesday, Mr. Schatz said. By last Wednesday, his organization had found dozens of the groups.
People can join the groups through a link, many of which are shared within existing WhatsApp groups. Once they have joined one group, other groups are advertised to them.
The groups have since grown steadily in size, Mr. Schatz said. Some have become so big that they have branched off into local chapters that are dedicated to certain cities and towns. To evade detection by WhatsApp, organizers of the groups are urging people to vet new members, he said.
On Telegram, Israelis have formed roughly 20 channels to commit and plan violence against Palestinians, according to FakeReporter. Much of the content and messaging in those groups imitates what is in the WhatsApp channels.
On one new WhatsApp group that The Times reviewed, “The Revenge Troops,” people recently shared instructions for how to build Molotov cocktails and makeshift explosives. The group asked its 400 members to also provide addresses of Arab-owned businesses that could be targeted.
In another group with just under 100 members, people shared photos of guns, knives and other weapons as they discussed engaging in street combat in mixed Jewish-Arab cities. Another new WhatsApp group was named “The unapologetic right-wing group.”
After participating in attacks, members of the groups posted photos of their exploits and encouraged others to mimic them.
“We destroyed them, we left them in pieces,” said one person in “The Revenge Troops” WhatsApp group, alongside a photo showing smashed car windows. In a different group, a video was uploaded of black-clad Jewish youths stopping cars on an unnamed street and asking drivers if they were Jewish or Arab.
We beat “the enemy car-by-car,” said a comment posted underneath the video, using an expletive.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel that has been the scene of recent clashes.
“There is no greater threat now than these riots, and it is essential to bring back law and order,” said Mr. Netanyahu.
Within some of the WhatsApp groups, Mr. Netanyahu’s calls for peace were ridiculed.
“Our government is too weak to do what is necessary, so we take it into our own hands,” wrote one person in a WhatsApp group dedicated to city of Ramle in central Israel. “Now that we have organized, they can’t stop us.”
Ben Decker contributed research.
A new generation is confronting the region’s longstanding conflict in a very different context, with very different pressures, from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.
By Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, Published May 19, 2021, Updated May 20, 2021
Protesters rallying outside the Israeli consulate in New York on Tuesday. Credit...Dave Sanders for The New York Times
A protest in support of the Palestinians on the National Mall in Washington on Saturday. Credit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
Dan Kleinman does not know quite how to feel.
As a child in Brooklyn he was taught to revere Israel as the protector of Jews everywhere, the “Jewish superman who would come out of the sky to save us” when things got bad, he said.
It was a refuge in his mind when white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., chanted “Jews will not replace us,” or kids in college grabbed his shirt, mimicking a “South Park” episode to steal his “Jew gold.”
But his feelings have grown muddier as he has gotten older, especially now as he watches violence unfold in Israel and Gaza. His moral compass tells him to help the Palestinians, but he cannot shake an ingrained paranoia every time he hears someone make anti-Israel statements.
“It is an identity crisis,” Mr. Kleinman, 33, said. “Very small in comparison to what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank, but it is still something very strange and weird.”
As the violence escalates in the Middle East, turmoil of a different kind is growing across the Atlantic. Many young American Jews are confronting the region’s longstanding strife in a very different context, with very different pressures, from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.
The Israel of their lifetime has been powerful, no longer appearing to some to be under constant existential threat. The violence comes after a year when mass protests across the United States have changed how many Americans see issues of racial and social justice. The pro-Palestinian position has become more common, with prominent progressive members of Congress offering impassioned speeches in defense of the Palestinians on the House floor. At the same time, reports of anti-Semitism are rising across the country.
Divides between some American Jews and Israel’s right-wing government have been growing for more than a decade, but under the Trump administration those fractures that many hoped would heal became a crevasse. Politics in Israel have also remained fraught, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-tenured government forged allegiances with Washington. For young people who came of age during the Trump years, political polarization over the issue only deepened.
Many Jews in America remain unreservedly supportive of Israel and its government. Still, the events of recent weeks have left some families struggling to navigate both the crisis abroad and the wide-ranging response from American Jews at home. What is at stake is not just geopolitical, but deeply personal. Fractures are intensifying along lines of age, observance and partisan affiliation.
In suburban Livingston, N.J., Meara Ashtivker, 38, has been afraid for her father-in-law in Israel, who has a disability and is not able to rush to the stairwell to shelter when he hears the air-raid sirens. She is also scared as she sees people in her progressive circles suddenly seem anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, she said.
Ms. Ashtivker, whose husband is Israeli, said she loved and supported Israel, even when she did not always agree with the government and its actions.
“It’s really hard being an American Jew right now,” she said. “It is exhausting and scary.”
Some young, liberal Jewish activists have found common cause with Black Lives Matter, which explicitly advocates for Palestinian liberation, concerning others who see that allegiance as anti-Semitic.
The recent turmoil is the first major outbreak of violence in Israel and Gaza for which Aviva Davis, who graduated this spring from Brandeis University, has been “socially conscious.”
“I’m on a search for the truth, but what’s the truth when everyone has a different way of looking at things?” Ms. Davis said.
Alyssa Rubin, 26, who volunteers in Boston with IfNotNow, a network of Jewish activists who want to end Jewish American support for Israeli occupation, has found protesting for the Palestinian cause to be its own form of religious observance.
She said she and her 89-year-old grandfather ultimately both want the same thing, Jewish safety. But “he is really entrenched in this narrative that the only way we can be safe is by having a country,” she said, while her generation has seen that “the inequality has become more exacerbated.”
In the protest movements last summer, “a whole new wave of people were really primed to see the connection and understand racism more explicitly,” she said, “understanding the ways racism plays out here, and then looking at Israel/Palestine and realizing it is the exact same system.”
But that comparison is exactly what worries many other American Jews, who say the history of white American slaveholders is not the correct frame for viewing the Israeli government or the global Jewish experience of oppression.
At Temple Concord, a Reform synagogue in Syracuse, N.Y., teenager after teenager started calling Rabbi Daniel Fellman last week, wondering how to process seeing Black Lives Matter activists they marched with last summer attack Israel as “an apartheid state.”
“The reaction today is different because of what has occurred with the past year, year and a half, here,” Rabbi Fellman said. “As a Jewish community, we are looking at it through slightly different eyes.”
Nearby at Sha’arei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse, teenagers were reflecting on their visits to Israel and on their family in the region.
“They see it as Hamas being a terrorist organization that is shooting missiles onto civilian areas,” Rabbi Evan Shore said. “They can’t understand why the world seems to be supporting terrorism over Israel.”
In Colorado, a high school senior at Denver Jewish Day School said he was frustrated at the lack of nuance in the public conversation. When his social media apps filled with pro-Palestinian memes last week, slogans like “From the river to the sea” and “Zionism is a call for an apartheid state,” he deactivated his accounts.
“The conversation is so unproductive, and so aggressive, that it really stresses you out,” Jonas Rosenthal, 18, said. “I don’t think that using that message is helpful for convincing the Israelis to stop bombing Gaza.”
Compared with their elders, younger American Jews are overrepresented on the ends of the religious affiliation spectrum: a higher share are secular, and a higher share are Orthodox.
Ari Hart, 39, an Orthodox rabbi in Skokie, Ill., has accepted the fact that his Zionism makes him unwelcome in some activist spaces where he would otherwise be comfortable. College students in his congregation are awakening to that same tension, he said. “You go to a college campus and want to get involved in antiracism or social justice work, but if you support the state of Israel, you’re the problem,” he said.
Rabbi Hart sees increasing skepticism in liberal Jewish circles over Israel’s right to exist. “This is a generation who are very moved and inspired by social justice causes and want to be on the right side of justice,” Rabbi Hart said. “But they’re falling into overly simplistic narratives, and narratives driven by true enemies of the Jewish people.”
Overall, younger American Jews are less attached to Israel than older generations: About half of Jewish adults under 30 describe themselves as emotionally connected to Israel, compared with about two-thirds of Jews over age 64, according to a major survey published last week by the Pew Research Center.
And though the U.S. Jewish population is 92 percent white, with all other races combined accounting for 8 percent, among Jews ages 18 to 29 that rises to 15 percent.
In Los Angeles, Rachel Sumekh, 29, a first-generation Iranian-American Jew, sees complicated layers in the story of her own Persian family. Her mother escaped Iran on the back of a camel, traveling by night until she got to Pakistan where she was taken in as a refugee. She then found asylum in Israel. She believes Israel has a right to self-determination, but she also found it “horrifying” to hear an Israeli ambassador suggest other Arab countries should take in Palestinians.
“That is what happened to my people and created this intergenerational trauma of losing our homeland because of hatred,” she said.
The entire situation feels too volatile and dangerous for many people to even want to discuss, especially publicly.
Violence against Jews is increasingly close to home. Last year the third-highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States were recorded since the Anti-Defamation League began cataloging them in 1979, according to a report released by the civil rights group last month. The A.D.L. recorded more than 1,200 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment in 2020, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. In Los Angeles, the police are investigating a sprawling attack on sidewalk diners at a sushi restaurant on Tuesday as an anti-Semitic hate crime.
Outside Cleveland, Jennifer Kaplan, 39, who grew up in a modern Orthodox family and who considers herself a centrist Democrat and a Zionist, remembered studying abroad at Hebrew University in 2002, and being in the cafeteria minutes before it was bombed. Now she wondered how the Trump era had affected her inclination to see the humanity in others, and she wished her young children were a bit older so she could talk with them about what is happening.
“I want them to understand that this is a really complicated situation, and they should question things,” she said. “I want them to understand that this isn’t just a, I don’t know, I guess, utopia of Jewish religion.”
Esther Katz, the performing arts director at the Jewish Community Center in Omaha, has spent significant time in Israel. She also attended Black Lives Matter protests in Omaha last summer and has signs supporting the movement in the windows of her home.
She has watched with a sense of betrayal as some of her allies in that movement have posted online about their apparently unequivocal support for the Palestinians, and compared Israel to Nazi Germany. “I’ve had some really tough conversations,” said Ms. Katz, a Conservative Jew. “They’re not seeing the facts, they’re just reading the propaganda.”
Her three children, who range in age from 7 to 13, are now wary of a country that is for Ms. Katz one of the most important places in the world. “They’re like, ‘I don’t understand why anyone would want to live in Israel, or even visit,’” she said. “That breaks my heart.”
Campbell Robertson, Liam Stack and Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.
The three known survivors, who were all children in 1921, offered their firsthand accounts of the race massacre at a hearing in Washington.
By Daniel Victor, May 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/us/tulsa-massacre-survivors.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20Politics
The three known survivors of the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa, Okla., in which white mobs gunned down Black people in the streets and Black-owned businesses were burned to the ground, appeared before a congressional committee on Wednesday, arguing that justice was far overdue.
Adding a personal touch to a House Judiciary subcommittee considering reparations for survivors and descendants of the massacre, the three centenarians recalled how the violence, among the worst attacks of racial violence in U.S. history, changed the trajectory of their lives. They described feeling safe, even prosperous, before the attack, surrounded by friends and family in a neighborhood of mostly Black-owned businesses.
Then, on June 1, a day that is rarely mentioned in history textbooks, the neighborhood of Greenwood, home to a business district known as Black Wall Street, was destroyed by a white mob. The mob looted and set fire to the businesses, and historians estimate up to 300 people were killed, 8,000 left homeless, 23 churches burned and more than 1,200 homes destroyed.
Viola Ford Fletcher, 107, said she still remembered seeing the Black men being shot and bodies in the street, could smell the smoke and hear the screams. She was 7 at the time.
“I have lived through the massacre every day,” she said. “Our country may forget this history, but I cannot.”
Hughes Van Ellis, Ms. Fletcher’s 100-year-old younger brother, said the survivors had been made to feel that they were “unworthy of justice, that we were less valued than whites.”
“We aren’t just black-and-white pictures on a screen,” he said. “We are flesh and blood. I was there when it happened. I’m still here.”
All of the committee members — Democrats and Republicans — rose for standing ovations after the survivors spoke.
The survivors are among the plaintiffs who have sued the city of Tulsa, claiming the city and the Chamber of Commerce tried to cover up the attacks and distort the narrative of what had happened, deflecting blame onto the Black victims and depicting them as instigators. They seek punitive damages, tax relief and scholarships for survivors and their descendants, along with priority for Black Tulsans in awarding city contracts.
The attacks were sparked when a Black man, Dick Rowland, was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, Sarah Page, on May 30, 1921. Hundreds of armed white men gathered outside the courthouse where Mr. Rowland was being held, and a group of armed Black men arrived to prevent a lynching. After a shot was fired, the white mob chased the Black men to Greenwood.
A grand jury blamed the Black men for the riots. No one was ever charged with a crime for the riots.
Mr. Rowland was later exonerated and charges against him were dropped, as the authorities concluded he most likely tripped and stepped on the woman’s foot.
For the better part of a century, Tulsa did little to remember the victims of the massacre. There was no memorial, no yearly commemoration, and even many Tulsa residents knew little about it. Residents began marking the day with modest ceremonies in 1996.
In recent years, awareness of the massacre has been growing. A Centennial Commission was formed in 2015 to commemorate and educate residents. Last week, its members removed the state’s governor from the commission, days after he signed legislation that commission members said would undermine their goal of teaching the state’s painful history of racial discrimination.
In 2019, a fictionalized depiction of the attacks was used as a key plot point in HBO’s “Watchmen,” introducing a new generation to the massacre if they hadn’t heard about it in history classes.
But the survivors are seeking more than awareness. They have accused the city of turning what remains of Greenwood, now just half a block, into a tourist destination, and using their stories to enrich others but not the victims themselves.
In 2005, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by massacre survivors. They appealed the decision to two federal court judges, who said they had waited too long to file the lawsuit.
Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106, said while testifying remotely by video at Wednesday’s hearing that as a 6-year-old girl she didn’t think she would make it out of the attacks alive. Now her name is being used to fund-raise for others, and she waited too long for justice, she said.
“People in positions of power, many just like you, have told us to wait,” she said. “Others have told us it’s too late. It seems that justice in America is always so slow, or not possible for Black people. And we are made to feel crazy just for asking for things to be made right.”