Photo 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 ongoing medical care he needs 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
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.”
For one reporter, witnessing the rounds of violence had become a familiar experience. Not this time.
By Iyad Abuheweila, May 21, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/21/insider/gaza-airstrike-reporter.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage
GAZA CITY — I’ve lived through some long and frightening nights during rounds of violence between Gaza and Israel.
Up until this point, the wait until dawn was all too familiar to me, as a lifelong Gaza resident who has reported from here for The Times since 2017 during perhaps a dozen exchanges.
Israel and Hamas reached a cease-fire agreement on Thursday, but whatever happens next, this war will always be different from the past battles for me because of what happened last week. I’ve never endured a longer or more horrific hour than I did beginning at about 6 a.m. on May 12.
After ordering in a quick meal of shawarma the previous night to break my Ramadan fast, I watched the back-and-forth between Palestinian militants and the Israeli military. Rockets brought airstrikes. Airstrikes brought rockets. Wait and repeat.
I’m 27 and single, so I am responsible only for myself. I’d like that to change, so I’m building a home atop my parents’ house. As yet, only one room is finished, but it gives me a vantage point and some privacy from my six younger siblings who live downstairs.
A friend who lives nearby called and asked to come over. He was scared. We spent a few hours together — he stared at the television; I watched the sky light up again and again from rocket launches.
My home is in a residential area, not near anything I can imagine the Israelis would consider a high-value target. And my parents were relieved a while back when the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees opened a school in our neighborhood. They imagined it might be opened up as a shelter in case of war. But it gave me no sense of security.
When Gaza militants launched a barrage of heavy rockets at central Israel, the sound was so thunderous, and from every direction, that I thought Israeli jets were bombarding Gaza City. But then I heard whistling and people chanting, “God is great.” The sound of that salvo was something new for me.
Before midnight, my friend felt tired enough to go home and get some sleep. I needed sleep, too — I had gotten maybe three hours in the past 24 — but every time I nodded off, rocket launches or airstrikes nearby woke me up. And then there were the drones, noisily hovering overhead.
Things were relatively quiet until 3 a.m., when a tower housing a currency-exchange shop operated by a friend was destroyed. He had recently gotten engaged and went into debt to pay for his wedding. He had just lost everything.
I braced for a Palestinian response, and it came quickly, with more rockets aimed at Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion airport, and a direct hit on an Israeli oil tank in Ashkelon.
This meant a new escalation, for sure. But strangely, it didn’t come. At 5:30, I tried to sleep. Not 20 minutes later, my phone rang. It was a friend calling from Turkey, a Palestinian who had emigrated from Gaza, eager to check in.
He realized I had been sleeping and apologized, but we kept talking. Through the phone, he could hear the drones hovering. We were both wondering why Israel hadn’t struck back. I said, “Maybe there’s a truce.”
He said, “Maybe this is the quiet before the storm.”
I wish he hadn’t said that. Moments later, Gaza erupted with the most violent and powerful explosions of my life. It felt like blast waves were hitting my face and body. It felt like our neighborhood was under attack. I staggered to my window to look outside. I got scared — Israel was lashing out, striking randomly and everywhere. But the neighborhood was still standing.
I ran downstairs to my parents’ apartment. I told them I wanted to be with them, because it was much safer on the first floor. My sisters, Ayda, 16, and Maysaa, 21, were crying.
My 14-year-old brother, Ayman, was very scared; his face turned yellow. My mother and sisters put on headscarves in case they had to flee.
I tried to control myself, to show that I could manage my fear, but I didn’t succeed. We moved from one room to another, debating whether this or that room was safer, whether the courtyard was too close to the street. There was no basement, no bomb shelter.
“We have no option but to die,” said my brother Asaad, 23.
This whole time, I was shaking. My heart was beating like a drum, and I was thinking of death. I was imagining myself in a grave. My brother Hatem, 18, said what we were all thinking: that he wanted both sides to stop shooting.
Ayman, the youngest, said he wanted to run away to a safer place. But my mother said no. “Where are you going to go?” she said. “There are no safer places. There is no safer place. Die with me.”
Breathe’ United a Generation
in a Gasp for Justice
A Series on George Floyd and America
By William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, May 21, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/21/opinion/george-floyd-death-william-barber.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
In Elizabeth City, N.C., the morning after a jury in Minneapolis found the former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd, a unit from the county’s Sheriff’s Department dressed in tactical gear arrived at the home of Andrew Brown Jr. They were there to serve drug-related arrest and search warrants.
Within minutes, 42-year-old Mr. Brown was dead, shot at the wheel of his car. He was hit by five bullets, including one shot to the back of his head. The North Carolina prosecutor in the case has called the shooting “justified.”
If George Floyd forced America to face the question of whether an officer who abuses power can be held accountable, Andrew Brown Jr.’s blood cries out from the ground of eastern North Carolina for deeper change. Justice demands systemic and enduring transformation — something that younger generations will see and trust as authentic. We call it the Third Reconstruction.
Consider our recent history, starting with Mr. Chauvin’s trial. For us, it brought back memories of the summer of 2013, when a jury in Florida found George Zimmerman not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Mr. Zimmerman had shot and killed the 17-year-old boy who was guilty of nothing more than walking while Black in a gated community. Our legal system’s failure to hold Mr. Zimmerman accountable for killing Mr. Martin sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. It rallied a generation of young people who refused to accept white police officers regularly killing unarmed Black people, not unlike how white Americans regularly lynched Black Americans in the early 20th century.
And that moment — the rise of Black Lives Matter — in turn recalled the movement galvanized by the death of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy from Chicago, who was murdered with impunity in Jim Crow Mississippi. The horror of his lynching inspired a generation of children who looked like Till to confront a system that denigrated their Black lives and undermined democracy. Over the next decade and a half, they grew up to be the college students and young adults who led sit-ins at lunch counters, organized Freedom Summer in Mississippi, petitioned their fellow Americans to see voting rights as a moral issue at Selma and built a Rainbow Coalition in Chicago to advocate the dignity of all poor people.
The reckoning that Emmett Till’s generation demanded took time — and it was subverted and sabotaged at every turn. But the young people who saw themselves in Till eventually contributed to a Second Reconstruction of America in the mid-20th century, expanding democracy and pushing the nation toward the promise of a government that would represent all of its citizens.
Now the Trayvon Martin generation has come of age and is pushing the nation toward a Third Reconstruction. The death of Mr. Floyd, along with those of Breonna Taylor and so many more who’ve joined the litany of lives taken, marked a turning point in the movement: His cries of “I can’t breathe” united this generation in a collective gasp for justice.
But what does that justice look like? Accountability for Mr. Floyd’s murder is not justice. If we cannot stop the killings of unarmed Black people before they happen, any collective affirmation of Black life rings hollow.
As hard as it may be to achieve, the Third Reconstruction is about more than Black people surviving encounters with law enforcement. It’s about America taking steps to protect and value its Black citizens as it has never done before. A Third Reconstruction is about ensuring Black Americans are no longer twice as likely as white Americans to die in a pandemic. It’s about remaking a system that saddles them with student debt and then offers them poverty wages.
A Third Reconstruction will ensure that all Americans can access decent housing for their families and quality education for their children, as outlined in a resolution introduced Thursday by Representatives Barbara Lee and Pramila Jayapal, and supported by our organization, the Poor People’s Campaign. Their resolution seeks to ensure all Americans access to clean and unleaded water and, in the face of widespread voter suppression efforts, a guarantee that their participation in American democracy is expanded and protected.
The Third Reconstruction is about confronting policies and practices that produce death, whether from police killings, poverty, lack of health care, ecological devastation or unnecessary war. It is, in short, a declaration that unnecessary death is intolerable and that democracy is still possible.
In 2020, following a summer of Black Lives Matter protests, we witnessed the most votes cast in a federal election in U.S. history, with a higher percentage of eligible voters participating than we’d seen in decades, and maybe even more than a century. From the Fight for $15 to the Sunrise Movement to the Poor People’s Campaign, this generation has linked up with movements to connect systemic racism in policing with systemic racism in economic inequality, ecological degradation, health disparities and voter suppression. In our work with the Poor People’s Campaign, we saw thousands of Black, white and brown Americans reach out to millions of poor and low-income neighbors like them, encouraging them to join a movement that votes for a transformative agenda in our public life.
And then, 11 months after Mr. Floyd’s murder — thanks to the courage of Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed Derek Chauvin with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck — the nation witnessed a police chief testify against one of his own and a jury vote to hold Mr. Chauvin accountable for murder. It was a measure of accountability that Trayvon Martin and so many others were never deemed worthy of, and the crowds in Minneapolis celebrated with chants of “I am somebody.”
But even as Mr. Chauvin’s trial was approaching and underway, the police continued to kill Black and brown people. We added names including Donovan Lynch, Adam Toledo and Ma’Khia Bryant to the list of souls we mourn.
As with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the Second Reconstruction, any fundamental change in American policing will require federal legislative action that we do not currently have the political power to achieve. Even the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which does not fundamentally reimagine law enforcement but does introduce protections against the abuse of power, is languishing in a Senate where Republicans are using the threat of filibuster to silence any real debate.
The Third Reconstruction is about more than any single bill or the agenda of a political party. It is about building power to fundamentally reimagine what is possible in our society. Both the First and Second Reconstructions in American history happened because moral movements reclaimed the promises of democracy and a new, expanded electorate insisted on new priorities. If the Trayvon Martin generation has pricked the nation’s conscience and sparked a moral movement, we believe a coalition of poor and low-income people who have historically been “low-propensity” voters has the potential to shift the political landscape. We must organize around an agenda that lifts from the bottom so that everyone can rise.
No single verdict or election can bring about the racial reckoning America needs after 400 years of building systems that have rested upon white supremacy. But the generation of young people who saw themselves in Trayvon Martin knows that whatever the color of their skin, their lives will not matter in this society until Black lives matter in our public policy.
Dr. Barber is the president of Repairers of the Breach and a co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Mr. Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of “Revolution of Values: Reclaiming Public Faith for the Common Good.”
Our politics are stalled. Our democracy is in tatters. Blame the occupation.
By Dahlia Scheindlin, May 20, 2021
Ms. Scheindlin is a political strategist and a public opinion expert who has advised eight national campaigns in Israel and worked in 15 other countries.
Smoke rising after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on Tuesday. Credit...Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock
TEL AVIV — For a few days in early May, Israel appeared close to establishing a new government. After four elections in two years that failed to produce a decisive result, the country was poised for a surprising partnership of ideologically diverse parties including, for the first time, an independent Arab party — Raam. Such a government would have been fraught, even shaky, but it would have ended the two years of political chaos and replaced Israel’s right-wing prime minister, a man currently standing trial for corruption.
What happened instead followed a grim pattern: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict flared yet again. Within days of the start of the military escalation between Hamas and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu that was sparked in Jerusalem and compounded by Jewish and Palestinian violence in Israeli cities, the crisis had put political change on hold.
Although many Israelis scoff at the left-wing tendency to blame the occupation for the country’s problems, and Mr. Netanyahu has insisted for years that the conflict doesn’t control our lives, reality says otherwise. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominates Israeli politics, muscling out sound policymaking in other critical areas of life. The conflict is suffocating liberal values, eroding Israel’s democratic institutions. Israeli leadership at large is collapsing under its weight.
It is time to accept that it’s not just that Israel controls Palestinians in the conflict. Palestine also controls Israel. The occupation and the festering political conflict since 1948 have permeated every part of our society, political and social institutions, and well-being. If Israel and its supporters can view the situation in this light, they might reach different conclusions about what’s best for the country.
The political system is a key starting point. In Israel, left, center or right-wing ideology is grounded in attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: support for or opposition to a two-state solution; support for expanding or dismantling settlements and/or land concessions. These attitudes and levels of (Jewish) religious observance strongly predict which ideological camp a voter will choose.
In Israeli elections, it is nearly impossible to woo a significant number of voters across the main ideological political camps with shared problems such as economic concerns, investment in education, L.G.B.T.Q. rights or even the highly emotional question of disentangling religion and state. While the elections in March demonstrated that some centrists voted for the right-wing parties, right-wing voters in particular almost never move to the left.
There is nothing wrong with voting for parties that reflect one’s ideology. But right-wing parties, especially under Mr. Netanyahu, have a longstanding pact with religious parties that share their ideology regarding the conflict. The religious parties block other urgently needed changes in Israeli society, such as laws proposing an end to the longstanding exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from conscription, which is required for all other citizens; civil marriage, which is not available in Israel (sending many Israelis abroad to tie the knot); and widespread access to public transportation on the Sabbath. Ordinary Israelis have been angry for decades about inequality of army service, about Sabbath privileges for those who own cars and about religious authority over family law, which is a bitter source of gender inequality.
At times, Israel has appeared to lay the groundwork for a more liberal democratic society, which would advance broader progressive values. In the early 1990s, Israel passed two new Basic Laws, guaranteeing a series of basic individual rights and protections. These became a stand-in for a Bill of Rights since Israel has no formal one. An increasingly activist Supreme Court advanced some human rights protections and individual freedoms.
For example, in 1993 Israel repealed its restriction on gay men serving openly in certain defense forces positions, and the next year the Supreme Court issued its first ruling against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1998, Israel passed its first dedicated law against sexual harassment.
Yitzhak Rabin’s government sought to redress discrimination against Palestinian citizens and signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. When Mr. Rabin was assassinated in 1995 for his nascent efforts to end the conflict, progressive change on certain social issues continued, but liberal interpretations of the law and the Supreme Court itself would eventually come under intense attacks from the Israeli right wing.
The failure of another peace process in 2000 gave way to a violent second intifada, pushing Israeli society farther to the right and paving the road for Mr. Netanyahu’s return to power in 2009. Mr. Netanyahu has worked assiduously to undermine a two-state solution. And he and other right-wing nationalists and populist leaders set about undermining the institutions of Israeli democracy itself.
Since 2009, Mr. Netanyahu’s governments have passed discriminatory legislation against Palestinian citizens, laws targeting left-wing political activities and laws constraining civil society. These laws have roots in the conflict over national identity or occupation. They elevate the status of Jews over Palestinians, or they are tailored to constrain criticism of the occupation.
The motive for this effort is no mystery: It is aimed at ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish-dominated state, with minimal political opposition. Both would be essential if Israel were to advance West Bank annexation, which would alter the state’s demographic makeup and spark challenges to the character of the state and its undemocratic governance of Palestinians.
The Israeli right’s most ambitious campaign for about a decade has been a sustained attack on the judiciary. Right-wing leaders speak of correcting the balance of power among the branches of government and restoring sovereignty to “the people,” rather than the elites, referring to judges — especially Supreme Court justices. The chief proponents of this cause are overwhelmingly committed to settlements and annexation. Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party and a former defense and education minister, once served as head of the Yesha settlers’ council. Ayelet Shaked, justice minister from 2015 to 2019, is outspoken in favor of both aims. Simcha Rothman, a firebrand anti-Supreme Court crusader and a settler from deep inside the West Bank, entered the Knesset in 2021 with the Jewish-ultranationalist Religious Zionist party.
Undermining the judiciary has nothing to do with repairing institutions; it will assist what right-wing leaders call “governability” — a word that also appears in the name of the organization Mr. Rothman founded. The term is a euphemism, and a mantra, for government power unrestrained by courts, which enables both continuing rule over the Palestinian territories and an increasingly undemocratic Israel.
Last, the conflict is directly tied to Israel’s chaos of leadership. Mr. Netanyahu retains stable support from nearly one-quarter of voters, largely because of his image as the man who won’t make concessions to “Arabs” (many right-wing Israelis avoid the word “Palestinian”). He used the most recent escalation with Hamas to burnish his image as the master of security. The crisis also persuaded Mr. Bennett of the Yamina party to withdraw from negotiations to join the would-be alternative government and revive the option of yet another Netanyahu coalition.
Once again, with help from the conflict, Israel has normalized a leader standing trial for corruption charges in three cases, who refuses to resign. (He has pleaded not guilty). Since a sufficient number of parties over the past two years have refused to join a government led by Mr. Netanyahu, his recalcitrance is the reason Israel has had no permanent government despite four elections. He has also opportunistically joined the attacks on Israel’s judiciary in an effort to undermine the court cases against him.
Decades of Palestinian suffering should have brought Israel’s occupation to an end by now. But the folly of territorial conquest and international realpolitik has been stronger.
Perhaps a cleareyed view of how the conflict is suffocating Israel can add urgency. There is certainly no easy or ideal solution. But the “stand back” approach, or any “not now” complacency, is definitely the wrong one.
By Laila Al-Arian, May 20, 2021
Ms. Al-Arian is an award-winning Palestinian-American journalist.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/opinion/gaza-airstrike-apartment-building.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Illustration by Jim Datz/The New York Times; photographs via Hatem Moussa/Associated Press and the Al-Arian family
On May 15, an Israeli airstrike destroyed Burj Al-Jalaa, a 12-story apartment tower in Gaza that housed the bureaus of Al Jazeera and The Associated Press. Watching the footage of the falling building left me in shock. It collapsed like one of the many towers that my children make out of magnetic tiles or Jenga blocks. It was gone in seconds.
I have worked for Al Jazeera for the past 13 years. Along with the families living in the 60 apartments in the tower, my colleagues had to make difficult choices about what to grab and what to leave as they rushed out to beat the bomb.
An hour later, my brother texted me, and the story actually hit home: Our grandfather had an apartment in the building, which he had bought with his life savings and left for his children to inherit. It was now reduced to rubble and ash. This is a lesson that Palestinians across generations have never been allowed to forget: Home is fleeting and can be taken away at any moment.
My grandfather, Abdul Kareem, knew this all too well. The story of his life can be told through all of the homes that he has lost.
He was born in Gaza City in 1933 and became an orphan by his fifth birthday after both of his parents died of cancer. He was among the Nakba generation, the Palestinians who experienced the terror, loss and displacement that came with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. He was in high school. He would speak of the bullets from Israeli warplanes over Gaza, which shredded the dust between his feet.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes, and there were massacres in cities and villages across the country. Refugees streamed into Gaza’s tiny coastal strip. My grandmother, Inaam, who was 12 years old, was one of them. She was among the 50,000 to 70,000 people who walked from Lydda, Ramle and neighboring villages, east of Jaffa, in what came to be known as the Lydda Death March. She learned that her father, a police officer in Jaffa, was executed by Israeli forces and buried in a mass grave.
Many of the refugees left with the clothes on their backs and hung the keys to their houses from their necks. My grandmother’s mother grabbed her children and started to walk, walk until her toenails had fallen off, my grandmother would tell us. Their homes were taken over by Jewish settlers who arrived from Europe. When my grandmother and her family arrived in Gaza, it had become crowded with refugees from across Palestine, thousands of whom slept in tents provided by the United Nations.
By the time my grandparents met in 1956, my grandmother had been working as a seamstress to help support her family. Never able to return to school, she had completed only a sixth-grade education. Petite with curly brown hair, she had bright almond-shaped eyes and a shy smile, and dressed in clothes she sewed in 1950s fashion.
When my grandparents got married, jobs were hard to come by. They became part of the Shatat al-Falasteeni, or the Palestinian diaspora, moving to Arab countries that needed their labor and education but saw them as outsiders on the verge of overstaying their welcome.
Central to the Palestinian diaspora experience is a paradox of existing in a past that despite its pain seems more secure than the precariousness of your present home. Life is a struggle to build a new home while preserving the memory of the one that was taken from you and desperately searching for a way to return to it.
In 1958, my grandfather moved to Saudi Arabia with his wife and 1-year-old son to work as an Arabic teacher. He saved whatever he could of his meager salary to take his children to visit Gaza during the summers. My mother remembers those trips home, playing in the mulberry orchards, the Mediterranean Sea within sight and the sand beneath her feet.
After years of living modestly, my grandfather bought a small plot of land on Gaza’s coast, where he planned to build a house. Then, in 1967, while sitting in a cafe with friends in the Saudi city of Jeddah, my grandfather heard the news: Israel had occupied the Gaza Strip. His face went pale and he fainted from the shock. Israel decreed that any Palestinian who was not in Gaza before the war would no longer be recognized as a resident of the strip.
My grandfather was not allowed to return. A few years later, when he reported his school’s headmaster for sexually assaulting a Palestinian student, the Saudis fired him and forced him to leave the kingdom. The family moved to Cairo and rebuilt their lives once again.
My grandfather bought an apartment from an Egyptian family, but he wasn’t permitted to register it in his name because he was Palestinian. When he and his family left Cairo for a short trip, the Egyptian family moved into the apartment and took it over.
He was once again homeless. He had worked and lived in four Arab countries without being allowed to acquire citizenship. For decades he longed for Gaza. As a stateless Palestinian, he needed a passport to return home.
My mother, who had settled in the United States when she was 18, brought him over. He lived with us in Florida for long stretches in the 1990s and applied for U.S. citizenship. I cherished the afternoons when he and I would sit on our porch drinking sage tea and watching the rain. He would puff on his cigarettes, we would share jokes, and I would quiz him on the basics of American history and governance in preparation for his citizenship test.
I did not realize that these moments together were not bringing him closer to us but enabling his return to Gaza, where I would no longer be able to see him.
Once he became a U.S. citizen, he was determined to return to Gaza. My grandmother, his wife of nearly 50 years, refused to return as long as the land was under occupation. He refused to remain in exile. In 2004, he moved to Gaza; she stayed in the United Arab Emirates alone.
In Gaza, my grandfather quit smoking and spent much of his time outdoors planting olives, grapes, loquats and berries in his family orchard and relaxing in a studio apartment on the Mediterranean. He reconnected with family members he had been separated from for years and ate the figs that he had dreamed about in exile.
In 2007, in a bid to destabilize the Hamas-led government, Israel imposed a crushing blockade that persists today, turning Gaza into an open-air prison and, along with Egypt, controlling every aspect of the lives of its residents. Getting medication for my grandfather’s diabetes became nearly impossible; frequent power outages forced him to use kerosene burners for cooking.
Several wars on Gaza followed, my grandfather describing each one as more brutal and terrifying than the one before. He would tell us how the bombs would rattle the walls as he tried to sleep.
During the 2008-09 bombardment of Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead, Israeli bombing and shelling destroyed farmland and compromised the food supply. A section of our family orchard was hit with white phosphorus shells and its charred soil could no longer grow crops. Six years later, during the devastating war in 2014, my grandfather’s studio on the beach in Gaza was also bombed.
None of my grandfather’s seven children were able to visit him in Gaza. For most of their adult lives, every one of them was living in a different country, reflecting the intractable reality of Palestinian displacement.
My grandfather died in 2019. A part of me is relieved that he is not alive to witness what many in Gaza today describe as the worst assault yet.
He had poured all his savings into buying an apartment in Burj Al-Jalaa tower, one of Gaza’s tallest buildings. When all you’ve ever known is dispossession, occupation and exile, there are no retirement funds or government checks. He had survived on the rent from his apartment.
Unlike Al-Jalaa tower, which was evacuated before the bombs were dropped, many other homes in Gaza that were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes crushed their inhabitants to death.
There is almost a sense of shame in grieving over the loss of property when entire families have been killed in Gaza. But this too is a critical function of the occupation, which compounds Palestinian dispossession by not only the loss of one home after another but also the right to mourn them.
That apartment was the home my grandfather built after a lifetime of exile, everything he had worked toward until the last years of his life. The feeling of longing that pulled him back to Gaza and every moment of joy, pain and loss in his life were built into the walls of that apartment. It was a place he hoped his grandchildren might one day be able to visit.
But I realize now that it wasn’t that simple. When I consider all of the homes that he lost, I know my grandfather could not have expected any physical structure to be his lasting legacy. Instead he left us with something that cannot be taken away. His struggle to return home embodied the hope, resilience and audacity that all dispossessed Palestinians pass on from one generation to the next. We build, they destroy, and we build again.
The state Superior Court ruled Thursday that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Abu-Jamal’s latest challenge of his conviction and life sentence for the 1981 traffic stop death of Officer Daniel Faulkner.
By The Associated Press, The Associated Press, Published May 20, 2021https://www.inquirer.com/news/philadelphia/mumia-abu-jamal-pennsylvania-supreme-court-20210520.html
PHILADELPHIA — The latest appeal filed by Mumia Abu-Jamal and a related suit brought by the widow of the Philadelphia police officer he’s convicted of killing will now go before Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.
The state Superior Court ruled Thursday that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Abu-Jamal’s latest challenge of his conviction and life sentence for the 1981 traffic stop death of Officer Daniel Faulkner. The panel also found the state's top court is the better venue for addressing a plea by Maureen Faulkner to intervene in the case in opposition to Jamal’s bid for freedom.
Neither side opposed the transfer to the Supreme Court, the panel noted.
The ruling comes less than six months after the state Supreme Court rejected Maureen Faulkner's bid to disqualify the city district attorney’s office from continuing to work on the matter. She sought to have the attorney general’s office appointed to take over the prosecution.
Maureen Faulkner has argued that District Attorney Larry Krasner and his aides have links to Abu-Jamal’s case that should have disqualified them and that the office has not handled the case with due vigor. Krasner, a Democrat, has denied any substantial conflict exists.
The 67-year-old Abu-Jamal is arguing that his convictions must be reconsidered, especially in light of the discovery by a DA’s office of previously undisclosed boxes of material in its files on his case. He is serving a life sentence and, in the intervening decades, his claims of being unfairly convicted have drawn fervent supporters, both in the United States and internationally.
An eviction in East Jerusalem lies at the center of a conflict that led to war between Israel and Hamas. But for millions of Palestinians, the routine indignities of occupation are part of daily life.
By David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon, May 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/us/israel-gaza-conflict.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage
JERUSALEM — Muhammad Sandouka built his home in the shadow of the Temple Mount before his second son, now 15, was born.
They demolished it together, after Israeli authorities decided that razing it would improve views of the Old City for tourists.
Mr. Sandouka, 42, a countertop installer, had been at work when an inspector confronted his wife with two options: Tear the house down, or the government would not only level it but also bill the Sandoukas $10,000 for its expenses.
Such is life for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation: always dreading the knock at the front door.
The looming removal of six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem set off a round of protests that helped ignite the latest war between Israel and Gaza. But to the roughly three million Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and has controlled through decades of failed peace talks, the story was exceptional only because it attracted an international spotlight.
For the most part, they endure the frights and indignities of the Israeli occupation in obscurity.
Even in supposedly quiet periods, when the world is not paying attention, Palestinians from all walks of life routinely experience exasperating impossibilities and petty humiliations, bureaucratic controls that force agonizing choices, and the fragility and cruelty of life under military rule, now in its second half-century.
Underneath that quiet, pressure builds.
If the eviction dispute in East Jerusalem struck a match, the occupation’s provocations ceaselessly pile up dry kindling. They are a constant and key driver of the conflict, giving Hamas an excuse to fire rockets or lone-wolf attackers grievances to channel into killings by knives or automobiles. And the provocations do not stop when the fighting ends.
Home on the Edge
No homeowner welcomes a visit from the code-enforcement officer. But it’s entirely different in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians find it nearly impossible to obtain building permits and most homes were built without them: The penalty is often demolition.
Mr. Sandouka grew up just downhill from the Old City’s eastern ramparts, in the valley dividing the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.
At 19, he married and moved into an old addition onto his father’s house, then began expanding it. New stone walls tripled the floor area. He laid tile, hung drywall and furnished a cozy kitchen. He spent around $150,000.
Children came, six in all. Ramadan brought picnickers to the green valley. The kids played host, delivering cold water or hot soup. His wife prepared feasts of maqluba (chicken and rice) and mansaf (lamb in yogurt sauce). He walked with his sons up to Al Aqsa, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
In 2016, city workers posted an address marker over Mr. Sandouka’s gate. It felt like legitimation.
But Israel was drifting steadily rightward. The state parks authority fell under the influence of settlers, who seek to expand Jewish control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Citing an old plan for a park encircling the Old City, the authority set about clearing one unpermitted house after another.
Now it was Mr. Sandouka’s turn.
Plans showed a corner of the house encroaching on a future tour-bus parking lot.
Zeev Hacohen, an authority official, said erasing Mr. Sandouka’s neighborhood was necessary to restore views of the Old City “as they were in the days of the Bible.”
“The personal stories are always painful,” he allowed. But the Palestinian neighborhood, he said, “looks like the Third World.”
Mr. Sandouka hired a lawyer and prayed. But he was at work a few months ago when someone knocked on his door again. This time, his wife told him, crying, it was a police officer.
The Night Raid
The knock at the door is not always just a knock.
Badr Abu Alia, 50, was awakened around 2 a.m. by the sounds of soldiers breaking into his neighbor’s home in Al Mughrayyir, a village on a ridge in the West Bank.
When they got to his door, a familiar ritual ensued: His children were rousted from bed. Everyone was herded outside. The soldiers collected IDs, explained nothing and ransacked the house. They left two hours later, taking with them a teenager from next door, blindfolded.
He had taken part in a protest four days earlier, when an Israeli sniper shot and killed a teenager who was wandering among the rock-throwers and spent tear-gas canisters.
Al Mughrayyir was one of the few villages still mounting regular Friday protests. They began after settlers cut off access to some of the villagers’ farmland. The boy’s death became a new rallying cry.
The army says it raids Palestinian homes at night because it is safer, and ransacks them to search for weapons, in routine crackdowns aimed at keeping militance in check.
But the raids also inspire militance.
Mr. Abu Alia seethed as he described seeing his son outside in the dark, “afraid, crying because of the soldiers, and I can do nothing to protect him.”
“It makes you want to take revenge, to defend yourself,” he went on. “But we have nothing to defend ourselves with.”
Stone-throwing must suffice, he said. “We can’t take an M-16 and go kill every settler. All we have are those stones. A bullet can kill you instantly. A little stone won’t do much. But at least I’m sending a message.”
Settlers send messages, too. They have cut down hundreds of Al Mughrayyir’s olive trees — vital sources of income and ties to the land — torched a mosque, vandalized cars. In 2019, one was accused of fatally shooting a villager in the back. The case remains open.
A Family Divided
For Majeda al-Rajaby the pain of occupation never goes away. It slices straight through her family.
A twice-divorced teacher, Ms. al-Rajaby, 45, is divided from her five children by the different ways Israel treats Palestinians depending on where they are from.
She grew up in the West Bank, in Hebron. But both her ex-husbands were Jerusalem residents, allowing them to travel anywhere an Israeli citizen may go. The children were entitled to the blue IDs of Jerusalem residents, too. Hers remained West Bank green.
Both her husbands lived in Shuafat refugee camp, a lawless slum inside the Jerusalem city limits but just outside Israel’s security barrier. West Bankers are not allowed to live there, but the rule is not enforced.
She had thought she was marrying up. Instead, she said her husbands “always made me feel inferior.”
After the second divorce, she was left on her own, with her green ID, to raise all five children with their blue IDs. The distinction could be life-threatening.
When a daughter accidentally inhaled housecleaning chemicals, Ms. al-Rajaby tried to race her to the closest hospital, in Jerusalem. Soldiers refused to let her in. As a teacher in Shuafat, she had a permit to enter Jerusalem, but only until 7 p.m. It was 8:00.
Her children are older now, but the distinction is just as keenly felt: Ms. al-Rajaby allows herself to be excluded from joyful moments and rites of passage so her children can enjoy advantages unavailable to her.
She stays behind on the Palestinian side of the security barrier while they head off to Jaffa or Haifa, or on shortcuts to Hebron through Jerusalem, a route forbidden to her. “West Banker,” they tease her, waving goodbye.
One daughter is 21 now and engaged and goes on jaunts into Israel with her fiancé’s mother. “I should be with them,” Ms. al-Rajaby said.
Last summer, Ms. al-Rajaby moved out of Shuafat to a safer neighborhood just outside the Jerusalem city limits, in the West Bank. That means her children could lose their blue IDs if Israel determined that their primary residence was with her.
“I’m not allowed to live there,” she said of Shuafat, “and my daughters are not allowed to live here.”
Constrained as she is, Ms. al-Rajaby wants even more for her children than freedom to move about Israel.
In 2006, her daughter Rana, then 7, was burned in a cooking accident. An Italian charity paid for treatment at a hospital in Padua. Mother and child stayed for three months.
The experience opened Ms. al-Rajaby’s eyes. She saw green parks, children in nice clothes, women driving cars.
“It was the moment of my liberation,” she said. “I started thinking: ‘Why do they have this? Why don’t we?’”
Today, she urges all her children to see the world, and holds out hope that they might emigrate.
“Why,” she asked, “should someone keep living under the mercy of people who have no mercy?”
Working for the Occupation
Try as they might to make their accommodations with Israel, Palestinians often find themselves caught in the occupation’s gears.
Majed Omar once earned a good living as a construction worker inside Israel. But in 2013, his younger brother was spotted crossing through a gap in Israel’s security barrier. A soldier shot him in the leg.
Mr. Omar, 45, was collateral damage. Israel revoked his work permit just in case he had ideas about taking revenge — something Israel says happens too often.
He sat unemployed for 14 months. When Israel reissued his permit, it only allowed him to work in the fast-growing West Bank settlements, where workers are paid half as much, searched each morning and supervised by armed guards all day.
Which is how he came to be the foreman on a crew that remodels Jewish homes and expands Israeli buildings on land the Palestinians have long demanded as part of their hoped-for state.
In a small way, it’s like digging his own grave, Mr. Omar said. “But we’re living in a time when everyone sees what’s wrong and still does it.”
Violence is often sudden and brief. But the nagging dread it instills can be just as debilitating.
Nael al-Azza, 40, is haunted by the Israeli checkpoint he must pass through while commuting between his home in Bethlehem and his job in Ramallah.
At home, he lives behind walls and cultivates a lush herb and vegetable garden in the backyard. But nothing protects him on his drive to work, not even his position as a manager in the Palestinian firefighting and ambulance service.
Recently, he said, a soldier at the checkpoint stopped him, told him to roll down his window, asked if he had a weapon. He said no. She opened his passenger door to take a look, then slammed it shut, hard.
He wanted to object. But he stopped himself, he said: Too many confrontations with soldiers end with Palestinians being shot.
“If I want to defend my property and my self-respect, there’s a price for that,” he said.
His commute is a 14-mile trip as the crow flies, but a 33-mile route, because Palestinians are diverted in a wide loop around Jerusalem along a tortuous two-lane road of steep switchbacks. Even so, it ought to take less an hour — but often takes two or three, because of the checkpoint.
The Israelis consider the checkpoint essential to search for fleeing attackers or illegal weapons or to cut the West Bank in two in case of unrest. Palestinians call it a choke point that can be shut off on a soldier’s whim. It is also a friction point, motorists and soldiers each imagining themselves as the other’s target.
Idling and inching along, Mr. al-Azza compared traffic to blood flow. Searching one car can mean an hour’s delay. The soldiers are so young, he said, “They don’t feel the weight of stopping 5,000 cars.”
He thinks only of those delayed. “When they impede your movement and cause you to fail at your job, you feel like you’ve lost your value and meaning,” he said.
A few nights each week, delays force him to sleep at work and settle for video calls with his three children.
On weekend outings, the checkpoint takes a different toll on his family.
“I try to keep my kids from speaking about the conflict,” he said. “But they see and experience things I have no answer for. When we’re driving, we turn the music on. But when we reach the checkpoint, I turn it off. I don’t know why. I’ll see them in the mirror: All of a sudden, they sit upright and look anxious — until we cross and I turn the music back on.”
Deadly scenarios constantly play out in Mr. al-Azza’s head: What if a tire blew out or his engine stalled? What if a young soldier, trained to respond instantly, misconstrued it as a threat?
“It’s not possible to put it out of mind,” he said. “When you’re hungry, you think about food.”
In the Bubble
No Palestinian is insulated from the occupation’s reach — not even in the well-to-do, privileged “bubble” of Ramallah, where Israeli soldiers are seldom seen.
Everyone Sondos Mleitat knows bears the scars of some trauma. Her own: Hiding with her little brother, then 5, when Israeli tanks rolled into Nablus, where she was raised.
In the dark, she said, he pulled all his eyelashes out, one by one.
Today, Ms. Mleitat, 30, runs a website connecting Palestinians with psychotherapists.
Instead of reckoning with their lingering wounds, she said, people seek safety in social conformity, in religion, in the approval gleaned from Facebook and Instagram likes. But all of those, she said, only reinforce the occupation’s suffocating effects.
“This is all about control,” she said. “People are going through a type of taming or domestication. They just surrender to it and feel they can’t change anything.”
After her uncle was killed by Israeli soldiers at a protest, she said, his younger brother was pushed into marriage at 18 “to protect him from going down the same path.”
But a nation of people who reach adulthood thinking only about settling down, she said, is not a nation that will achieve independence.
“They think they’re getting out of this bubble, but they’re not,” she said.
Mr. Sandouka earns about $1,800 in a good month. He hoped the lawyer could quash the demolition order. “I thought they would just give us a fine,” he said.
Then he got another panicked call from home: “The police were there, making my family cry.”
Khalas, he said, enough. He would tear it down himself.
Early on a Monday, his sons took turns with a borrowed jackhammer. They almost seemed to be having fun, like wrecking a sand castle.
Finished, their moods darkened. “It’s like we’re lighting ourselves on fire,” said Mousa, 15.
“They want the land,” said Muataz, 22. “They want all of us to leave Jerusalem.”
In 2020, 119 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem were demolished, 79 of them by their owners.
When all was rubble, Mr. Sandouka lit a cigarette and held it with three beefy fingers as it burned. His pants filthy with the dust of his family’s life together, he climbed atop the debris, sent photos to the police and contemplated his options.
Moving to the West Bank, and sacrificing Jerusalem residency, was unthinkable. Moving elsewhere in Jerusalem was unaffordable.
A friend offered a couple of spare rooms as a temporary refuge. Mr. Sandouka’s wife demanded permanency.
“She told me if I don’t buy her a home, that’s it — everyone can go their separate ways,” he said.
He turned his eyes uphill toward the Old City.
“These people work little by little,” he said. “It’s like a lion that eats one, and then another. It eventually eats everything around it.”
By Nicholas Kristof, Opinion Columnist, May 21, 2021
"A newborn Black boy in Washington, D.C., has a shorter life expectancy than a newborn boy in India."
We in the commentariat have leapt at covering police violence against Black citizens since George Floyd’s murder a year ago, but I don’t think we’ve been as good at responding to other inequities that cost a far greater number of lives.
Even if Floyd hadn’t been murdered, he still very likely would have died prematurely because of his race.
There would have been no headlines, no protests, no speeches. But the average Black man in America lives about five fewer years than the average white man. A newborn Black boy in Washington, D.C., has a shorter life expectancy than a newborn boy in India.
One of the challenges for those of us in journalism is to do a better job highlighting these inequities that don’t come with a viral video.
Since Floyd’s death, we’ve focused on racial inequities in the criminal justice system, and it has been easy for liberal white Americans — my tribe — to feel indignant and righteous while blaming others. But in some areas, such as an unjust education system, we are part of the problem.
At the very time that America was having a racial reckoning about criminal justice, Democratic states were closing in-person schooling in ways that particularly harmed nonwhite students. Race gaps increased, according to research by McKinsey & Company, and a Federal Reserve study suggests that higher dropout rates for marginalized students will have long-term consequences.
More broadly, we in the United States embrace a public education system based on local financing that ensures that poor kids go to poor schools and rich kids to rich schools.
Yes, it’s a “public” school system with “free” education. So anyone who can afford a typical home in Palo Alto, Calif., costing $3.2 million, can then send children to superb schools. And less than 2 percent of Palo Alto’s population is Black.
Rucker Johnson, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that since 1988, American public schools have become more racially segregated. Roughly 15 percent of Black and Hispanic students attend so-called apartheid schools with fewer than 1 percent white students.
In 1973, the Supreme Court came a whisker from overturning this system of unequal school funding, in the case of Rodriguez v. San Antonio Independent School District. Lower courts had ruled that profoundly unequal school funding violated the Constitution, but by a 5-to-4 vote the justices disagreed.
This was the Brown v. Board of Education case that went the other way. If a single justice had switched, America would today be a fairer and more equitable nation.
Educated white Americans are now repulsed at the thought of systems of separate and unequal drinking fountains for Black Americans but seem comfortable with a Jim Crow financing system resulting in unequal schools for Black children — even though schools are far more consequential than water fountains.
Perhaps that’s because we and our children have a stake in this unequal system. Similarly, we accept that elite universities offer legacy preferences that amount to affirmative action for highly privileged children, with bonus consideration for big donors. This is one reason some universities have more students from the richest 1 percent than from the poorest 60 percent.
Likewise, wealthy white Americans benefit from single-family zoning laws in the suburbs around those fine “public” schools. The effect of this zoning is to freeze out low-income families and keep neighborhoods more segregated.
Then there’s our skewed tax system: The I.R.S. is more likely to audit impoverished Americans who use the earned-income tax credit and typically earn less than $20,000 than it is to audit people earning $400,000. The county in the United States with the highest audit rate, according to ProPublica, is Humphreys County, Miss., which is impoverished and three-quarters Black.
So how do we address these root inequities?
We don’t have perfect solutions, but many programs promote opportunity and reduce race gaps over time. The time to start is early childhood, with home visiting, quality child care and pre-K. Baby bonds can reduce wealth gaps, and child tax credits cut child poverty. Job training and a higher minimum wage can help families. Many of these elements are in President Biden’s three-part proposal to invest in America and Americans, with the goal of reducing child poverty in America by half.
One paradox is that while liberals often advocate such measures as ways to reduce racial inequality, polling suggests that this framing actually reduces public support. The best way to win support for these progressive policies, research suggests, is to frame them as reducing class gaps, not race gaps.
Back in the early 2000s, white Americans sometimes said in polls that antiwhite bias was a bigger problem than anti-Black bias. That was delusional, and the tumult following the Floyd case increased the share of whites who acknowledge that discrimination persists.
So the Floyd case may represent a milestone of progress in criminal justice. Now can America leverage this recognition of unfairness and inequity into other spheres, such as our still segregated education system?
By Christoph Koettl and Caroline Kim, May 22, 2021
A New York Times review of bodycam footage showing the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in April raises questions about whether officers were in imminent danger when they used lethal force as he drove away to avoid arrest.
The officers have not been charged in the shooting. R. Andrew Womble, the district attorney for North Carolina’s First Judicial District, determined that they were justified in their actions because Mr. Brown was using his car as a “deadly weapon.” He said police body-camera videos “clearly illustrate the officers who used deadly force on Andrew Brown Jr. did so reasonably” and only when their lives were in danger.
Mr. Brown’s family members and their lawyers have described the shooting as an “execution.”
A review of slowed-down bodycam footage by The Times shows that 13 of the 14 gunshots — including the fatal one — were fired as Mr. Brown was driving away from officers, not at them. The footage was presented by the district attorney at a press conference and is from four officers’ cameras.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten II of Pasquotank County said that “while the deputies did not break the law, we all wish things could have gone differently. Much differently.”
Here’s what the videos of the 20-second interaction show.
The police officers arrive in a Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office pickup truck at Mr. Brown’s house at 8:23 a.m. on Wednesday, April 21, to execute search and arrest warrants. According to the prosecutor, the police team had been briefed that morning that Mr. Brown, 42, had previous convictions and a history of resisting arrest.
Mr. Brown is sitting in his vehicle outside his house after returning from a drive that morning, the prosecutor added. The officers approach him with their weapons drawn, shouting orders at him.
Mr. Brown does not comply with officers’ orders. The situation escalates.
As two officers reach the driver’s-side door, Mr. Brown backs up the vehicle, and grazes but does not injure an officer.
Mr. Brown ignores officers’ repeated commands to stop the car, and lurches the vehicle forward while steering it sharply to the left, putting officers at risk.
The car initially moves toward the same officer who had been grazed moments earlier. This officer does not move away from the vehicle, but takes a step into Mr. Brown’s path. It’s unclear if the officer is trying to obstruct Mr. Brown’s escape, or trying to evade the car.
The officer briefly places his left hand on the hood of the car, and this is when another officer fires a shot that Mr. Womble said “entered the front windshield” of the car and was not fatal. That contradicts a preliminary internal investigation report, which found that no bullet went through the windshield.
The video shows that there is a brief pause in shooting while Mr. Brown steers his car between two officers. At this point, as Mr. Brown accelerates and drives away, three officers fire 13 more shots into the side and rear of Mr. Brown’s car. One of the shots is fatal, hitting Mr. Brown in the back of his head. His car crashes into a tree 50 yards from his home.
In justifying the police's use of lethal force, Mr. Womble said Mr. Brown “drove recklessly and endangered the officers." He also argued that “they could not simply let him go.”
But the legalities around this can get complicated. “The Supreme Court has never authorized the use of deadly force simply because someone is resisting arrest or fleeing,” Paul Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University and former federal prosecutor, said in an interview about the footage. He also said that “sometimes the best policing is to let the suspect go.”
The officers’ actions may have violated their department’s guidelines. The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office’s use-of-force policy states that shooting at a moving vehicle is “rarely effective,” and that officers should fire at a moving vehicle only “when the deputy reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the imminent threat of the vehicle.”
Seth Stoughton, a law professor and policing expert at the University of South Carolina, questioned the officers’ actions at the time Mr. Brown was speeding away. “Deadly force is only justified while there is an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm,” he said. “Once the vehicle has driven past the officers and they are now to the side of it, or behind it, as it's going away from them, there is no more imminent threat.”
Beyond the shooting of Mr. Brown, the videos show that officers may have placed some of their colleagues and others at risk. In their line of fire was a neighbor’s house and an unmarked white police minivan.
Mr. Womble said that while the white minivan was in the path of the bullets, there was no danger to the officers inside.
Michael Anthony Gordon Sr., whose house was in the line of fire, told The Times that a bullet from the shooting entered his kitchen, and that no one was home at the time. Mr. Womble stated that one shot fired by the police was believed to have ricocheted, and hit the house.
The district attorney’s decision not to press charges closes a state-level criminal case, though a federal civil rights case is ongoing.
Reporting was contributed by Richard Fausset. Produced by Malachy Browne and Jugal Patel.
The Louisiana State Police said Mr. Greene died in 2019 from crashing his S.U.V. during a police chase, but video footage shows troopers shocking, choking and beating him.
By Dan Levin and Michael Levenson, May 21, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/21/us/ronald-greene-video-louisiana.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
The death of Ronald Greene after a police chase in Louisiana in 2019 is attracting new scrutiny after the publication of police body camera footage that appears to show a starkly different version of events than the one given by the Louisiana State Police.
Days after The Associated Press published more than two minutes of footage from the encounter, the state police released what it said was all of the related video. A lawyer for the Greene family said the footage had been shown to Mr. Greene’s mother and sister last fall.
The death is under investigation by the F.B.I. and other federal agencies, and Mr. Greene’s family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit accusing the state police of covering up the cause of his death.
Here’s what we know about the case.
Who was Ronald Greene?
Mr. Greene was a 49-year-old Black man who lived in Monroe, La. He was married, worked as a barber, and had recently gone into remission after battling cancer for two years, according to CNN. He was on his way to meet his wife in Florida when he died shortly after midnight on May 10, 2019.
What was his family told about his death?
The authorities told Mr. Greene’s relatives that he died from injuries he sustained in a crash outside Monroe after he failed to stop immediately for a traffic violation, a lawyer for his family said.
The Associated Press reported, citing the Union Parish coroner, that Mr. Greene’s death was ruled accidental and was attributed to cardiac arrest, and that the coroner’s file made no mention of any struggle with the police.
What does the body camera footage show?
The A.P. obtained body camera footage of the episode and published three excerpts on Wednesday. The footage shows Mr. Greene’s S.U.V. stopped on the side of the road. Troopers are seen opening his vehicle and jolting Mr. Greene with a stun gun, and Mr. Greene is heard to scream “I’m sorry” and “I’m scared.”
According to The A.P., which said it had obtained 46 minutes of video footage from the encounter, one trooper wrestled Mr. Greene to the ground, put him in a chokehold and punched him in the face. Another trooper is seen briefly dragging Mr. Greene by shackles on his ankles as he lay on the ground.
In the clips published by the A.P., covering more than two minutes, Mr. Greene is seen being jolted again with a stun gun while lying handcuffed on the ground.
The A.P. reported that the troopers, who were white, left Mr. Greene lying facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as they wiped blood from their hands and faces. “I hope this guy ain’t got AIDS,” one of the troopers is heard to say, adding an expletive.
Video from several minutes later shows Mr. Greene limp, unresponsive and bleeding from his head and face, and he is then seen being loaded onto an ambulance gurney with his arm cuffed to a bedrail, according to The A.P.
In one body camera video that the state police later released, a trooper can be heard saying that he had beat Mr. Greene, using an expletive. “Choked him and everything else, trying to get him under control,” the trooper says.
After Mr. Greene was in handcuffs, the trooper says, he was “still fighting and we were still wrestling with him, trying to hold him down, ’cause he was spitting blood everywhere — and then, all of a sudden, he just went limp.”
“Yeah,” the trooper continues. “I thought he was dead.”
Did the entire footage become public?
The state police had described the release of the footage obtained by The A.P. as “premature” and unauthorized, and a state police spokesman said that the agency could not yet release it because the encounter was the subject of an administrative and criminal investigation.
But on Friday, the state police released what it said was all of the video of the encounter, including a 46-minute clip and additional footage from body and dashboard cameras. Col. Lamar A. Davis, the state police superintendent, said the parts that had been released without official authorization had not been “provided to the public in its full capacity, or context.”
At a news conference announcing the release of the footage, Colonel Davis said the state police had every intention of releasing all required evidence at the right time.
“Any suggestion otherwise is categorically false,” he said, adding, “It’s unfortunate that the path to get here today has taken this long.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana had said that he had arranged for Mr. Greene’s family to view the body camera footage last year, but that he agreed not to publicly release the video until the federal investigation had concluded.
On Friday, Mr. Edwards said in a statement that he strongly supported the release of the video, which was done in consultation with the U.S. attorney’s office and the district attorney. He said the video was “disturbing and difficult to watch.”
What do the police say happened?
Mr. Greene’s family said state troopers initially told them that Mr. Greene died on impact after crashing his vehicle into a tree during the chase, according to The A.P.
A single-page crash report, released later by the state police and reviewed by The A.P., said that troopers tried to stop Mr. Greene for an unspecified traffic violation, but that he refused to pull over and troopers pursued him.
The report says that the chase ended when Mr. Greene’s vehicle crashed; that he was taken into custody after struggling with troopers; and that he became unresponsive and died on the way to a hospital, The A.P. reported. The news agency said the crash report did not mention any use of force by troopers.
The Louisiana State Police later released a statement acknowledging that the troopers did use force in the encounter, and saying the use of force was justified. It did not open an internal investigation until 474 days after Mr. Greene’s death, according to The A.P.
What does the Greene family say happened?
Mr. Greene’s family sued the police for wrongful death in May 2020, arguing that he had died as a result of a struggle with troopers that “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest.”
In their lawsuit, Mr. Greene’s relatives said that there was no sign that the front of Mr. Greene’s vehicle had struck anything, and that his airbag had not deployed. Mr. Greene got out of the vehicle uninjured and could “walk, speak and otherwise function in a healthy manner,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that two troopers pinned Mr. Greene down and shocked him three times with a Taser while he begged them to stop. Emergency medical technicians who were called to the scene found Mr. Greene unresponsive, with several stun-gun barbs stuck in his body, according to the lawsuit. Included in the court papers are photos that circulated online, appearing to show Mr. Greene’s bruised and bloodied face.
The family commissioned an independent autopsy that found severe injuries to Mr. Greene’s head and skull and several wounds to his face, the family’s lawyer said. After examining the damage to Mr. Greene’s vehicle, which was mostly on the rear driver’s side, an accident reconstruction expert concluded that it was inconsistent with a fatal collision, the lawyer said.
In September, federal authorities opened a civil rights investigation into Mr. Greene’s death. The F.B.I., the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana are handling the federal investigation, according to an F.B.I. spokeswoman.
What has happened to the officers involved?
The lawsuit filed by Mr. Greene’s family includes seven defendants, three of whom are not identified by name, according to CNN. The A.P. reported that six troopers were involved in the encounter.
One of the troopers, Kory York, served a 50-hour suspension and returned to active duty, pending the outcome of state and federal investigations, the state police said. He was found to have violated policies regarding the treatment of prisoners in custody and the activation of body-worn and in-car cameras.
Another trooper, Chris Hollingsworth, died in a car crash in September 2020, the state police said. The A.P. reported that Mr. Hollingsworth had been notified hours earlier that he would be fired as a result of an internal police investigation into Mr. Greene’s death.
A third trooper, Dakota DeMoss, who chased Mr. Greene at speeds exceeding 115 miles an hour, according to The A.P., was one of four Louisiana state troopers arrested in February in an unrelated case on charges of using excessive force and deactivating their body cameras while making arrests.
The State Police said Trooper DeMoss had been notified of the agency’s intention to terminate him. He remains on leave pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings, the State Police said.
Fewer babies’ cries. More abandoned homes. Toward the middle of this century, as deaths start to exceed births, changes will come that are hard to fathom.
By Damien Cave, Emma Bubola and Choe Sang-Hun, May 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/world/global-population-shrinking.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage
All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.
Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.
Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.
A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.
The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. It may also require a reconceptualization of family and nation. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 or older. Imagine governments laying out huge bonuses for immigrants and mothers with lots of children. Imagine a gig economy filled with grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation.
“A paradigm shift is necessary,” said Frank Swiaczny, a German demographer who was the chief of population trends and analysis for the United Nations until last year. “Countries need to learn to live with and adapt to decline.”
The ramifications and responses have already begun to appear, especially in East Asia and Europe. From Hungary to China, from Sweden to Japan, governments are struggling to balance the demands of a swelling older cohort with the needs of young people whose most intimate decisions about childbearing are being shaped by factors both positive (more work opportunities for women) and negative (persistent gender inequality and high living costs).
The 20th century presented a very different challenge. The global population saw its greatest increase in known history, from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6 billion in 2000, as life spans lengthened and infant mortality declined. In some countries — representing about a third of the world’s people — those growth dynamics are still in play. By the end of the century, Nigeria could surpass China in population; across sub-Saharan Africa, families are still having four or five children.
But nearly everywhere else, the era of high fertility is ending. As women have gained more access to education and contraception, and as the anxieties associated with having children continue to intensify, more parents are delaying pregnancy and fewer babies are being born. Even in countries long associated with rapid growth, such as India and Mexico, birthrates are falling toward, or are already below, the replacement rate of 2.1 children per family.
The change may take decades, but once it starts, decline (just like growth) spirals exponentially. With fewer births, fewer girls grow up to have children, and if they have smaller families than their parents did — which is happening in dozens of countries — the drop starts to look like a rock thrown off a cliff.
“It becomes a cyclical mechanism,” said Stuart Gietel Basten, an expert on Asian demographics and a professor of social science and public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s demographic momentum.”
Some countries, like the United States, Australia and Canada, where birthrates hover between 1.5 and 2, have blunted the impact with immigrants. But in Eastern Europe, migration out of the region has compounded depopulation, and in large parts of Asia, the “demographic time bomb” that first became a subject of debate a few decades ago has finally gone off.
South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.92 in 2019 — less than one child per woman, the lowest rate in the developed world. Every month for the past 59 months, the total number of babies born in the country has dropped to a record depth.
That declining birthrate, coupled with a rapid industrialization that has pushed people from rural towns to big cities, has created what can feel like a two-tiered society. While major metropolises like Seoul continue to grow, putting intense pressure on infrastructure and housing, in regional towns it’s easy to find schools shut and abandoned, their playgrounds overgrown with weeds, because there are not enough children.
Expectant mothers in many areas can no longer find obstetricians or postnatal care centers. Universities below the elite level, especially outside Seoul, find it increasingly hard to fill their ranks — the number of 18-year-olds in South Korea has fallen from about 900,000 in 1992 to 500,000 today. To attract students, some schools have offered scholarships and even iPhones.
To goose the birthrate, the government has handed out baby bonuses. It increased child allowances and medical subsidies for fertility treatments and pregnancy. Health officials have showered newborns with gifts of beef, baby clothes and toys. The government is also building kindergartens and day care centers by the hundreds. In Seoul, every bus and subway car has pink seats reserved for pregnant women.
But this month, Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki admitted that the government — which has spent more than $178 billion over the past 15 years encouraging women to have more babies — was not making enough progress. In many families, the shift feels cultural and permanent.
“My grandparents had six children, and my parents five, because their generations believed in having multiple children,” said Kim Mi-kyung, 38, a stay-at-home parent. “I have only one child. To my and younger generations, all things considered, it just doesn’t pay to have many children.”
Thousands of miles away, in Italy, the sentiment is similar, with a different backdrop.
In Capracotta, a small town in southern Italy, a sign in red letters on an 18th-century stone building looking on to the Apennine Mountains reads “Home of School Kindergarten” — but today, the building is a nursing home.
Residents eat their evening broth on waxed tablecloths in the old theater room.
“There were so many families, so many children,” said Concetta D’Andrea, 93, who was a student and a teacher at the school and is now a resident of the nursing home. “Now there is no one.”
The population in Capracotta has dramatically aged and contracted — from about 5,000 people to 800. The town’s carpentry shops have shut down. The organizers of a soccer tournament struggled to form even one team.
About a half-hour away, in the town of Agnone, the maternity ward closed a decade ago because it had fewer than 500 births a year, the national minimum to stay open. This year, six babies were born in Agnone.
“Once you could hear the babies in the nursery cry, and it was like music,” said Enrica Sciullo, a nurse who used to help with births there and now mostly takes care of older patients. “Now there is silence and a feeling of emptiness.”
In a speech last Friday during a conference on Italy’s birthrate crisis, Pope Francis said the “demographic winter” was still “cold and dark.”
More people in more countries may soon be searching for their own metaphors. Birth projections often shift based on how governments and families respond, but according to projections by an international team of scientists published last year in The Lancet, 183 countries and territories — out of 195 — will have fertility rates below replacement level by 2100.
Their model shows an especially sharp decline for China, with its population expected to fall from 1.41 billion now to about 730 million in 2100. If that happens, the population pyramid would essentially flip. Instead of a base of young workers supporting a narrower band of retirees, China would have as many 85-year-olds as 18-year-olds.
China’s rust belt, in the northeast, saw its population drop by 1.2 percent in the past decade, according to census figures released on Tuesday. In 2016, Heilongjiang Province became the first in the country to have its pension system run out of money. In Hegang, a “ghost city” in the province that has lost almost 10 percent of its population since 2010, homes cost so little that people compare them to cabbage.
Many countries are beginning to accept the need to adapt, not just resist. South Korea is pushing for universities to merge. In Japan, where adult diapers now outsell ones for babies, municipalities have been consolidated as towns age and shrink. In Sweden, some cities have shifted resources from schools to elder care. And almost everywhere, older people are being asked to keep working. Germany, which previously raised its retirement age to 67, is now considering a bump to 69.
Going further than many other nations, Germany has also worked through a program of urban contraction: Demolitions have removed around 330,000 units from the housing stock since 2002.
And if the goal is revival, a few green shoots can be found. After expanding access to affordable child care and paid parental leave, Germany’s fertility rate recently increased to 1.54, up from 1.3 in 2006. Leipzig, which once was shrinking, is now growing again after reducing its housing stock and making itself more attractive with its smaller scale.
“Growth is a challenge, as is decline,” said Mr. Swiaczny, who is now a senior research fellow at the Federal Institute for Population Research in Germany.
Demographers warn against seeing population decline as simply a cause for alarm. Many women are having fewer children because that’s what they want. Smaller populations could lead to higher wages, more equal societies, lower carbon emissions and a higher quality of life for the smaller numbers of children who are born.
But, said Professor Gietel Basten, quoting Casanova: “There is no such thing as destiny. We ourselves shape our lives.”
The challenges ahead are still a cul-de-sac — no country with a serious slowdown in population growth has managed to increase its fertility rate much beyond the minor uptick that Germany accomplished. There is little sign of wage growth in shrinking countries, and there is no guarantee that a smaller population means less stress on the environment.
Many demographers argue that the current moment may look to future historians like a period of transition or gestation, when humans either did or did not figure out how to make the world more hospitable — enough for people to build the families that they want.
Surveys in many countries show that young people would like to be having more children, but face too many obstacles.
Anna Parolini tells a common story. She left her small hometown in northern Italy to find better job opportunities. Now 37, she lives with her boyfriend in Milan and has put her desire to have children on hold.
She is afraid her salary of less than 2,000 euros a month would not be enough for a family, and her parents still live where she grew up.
“I don’t have anyone here who could help me,” she said. “Thinking of having a child now would make me gasp.”
Elsie Chen, Christopher Schuetze and Benjamin Novak contributed reporting.
The country’s military and intelligence commanded the recent assault on Hamas in Gaza from an underground bunker made for high-tech air wars.
By Ronen Bergman, May 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/world/middleeast/israel-fortress-of-zion.html
The Israeli Army’s underground command bunker collects intelligence information from various agencies and uses it to carry out operations. Credit...Dan Balilty for The New York Times
It was a little past midnight on Friday, and Israel’s Supreme Command Post was racing to complete as many strikes as possible in the final hours before a cease-fire with the Palestinian militant group Hamas was to take effect at 2 a.m.
On a wall covered with huge screens, a three-dimensional diagram of a high-rise building with one of its apartments marked in red popped up. On another screen, a live video from the air circled above a building in Gaza that looked a lot like the one in the diagram.
This room is the nerve center of a bunker dubbed the “Fortress of Zion,” a new Israeli Army command post deep underground beneath its headquarters in the heart of Tel Aviv. It is designed to command the kind of high-tech air wars that have supplanted ground invasions fought by tanks and infantry battalions.
The latest conflict with the Palestinians was the first time the sprawling facility was used during wartime. It was also the first time the army allowed foreign journalists inside one of the most fortified and secretive installations in the country — an effort to showcase Israel’s military and technological prowess but also to counter criticism over civilian casualties.
From the bunker, the military oversaw thousands of attacks on the Gaza Strip, most of them from the air, but also from the sea and land. The Israelis say they inflicted serious damage on Hamas, which controls Gaza.
Those attacks also took a high toll on civilians. Of the 248 Palestinians killed, 66 were children, Palestinian officials say. That toll brought an international outcry and pressure on Israel from its close ally, the United States, to end the hostilities. The Israeli assault also caused widespread destruction to buildings and other infrastructure in the already impoverished Gaza Strip, deepening a long-running humanitarian crisis.
A cease-fire continued to hold on Saturday afternoon as Egyptian diplomats tried to mediate a longer-term agreement between Israel and Hamas. There were just a few protests against the Israeli occupation and the war in Gaza, easing fears of a military flare-up.
The first noticeable thing one notices upon entering the bunker is the silence. None of the drama and tragedy of war is apparent, and people appear alert, focused and calm.
The command post is built for operations based heavily on intelligence and carried out from the air or by small groups of special forces. It compiles information from disparate agencies into one database and translates it into operational terms.
It is a place where people are measured by the number of approved targets — warehouses, tunnels or weapons that the military can attack. When a senior officer approves one, it is added to a “Targets Book” that the chief of staff reviews once a month.
Over the last two decades, the “targets” have increasingly been people — like senior Hamas figures.
The military is well aware of the criticism of its tactics, and the loss of innocent lives, which have drawn condemnation from inside and outside the country.
One senior officer, aiming to show that Israel had tried to minimize civilian deaths, points to detailed aerial photographs of an operation that he said had been canceled because its target was a Hamas facility near a Gaza hospital. He said many others had been similarly canceled out of concern for civilian casualties.
The head of the Intelligence Division’s Targets Branch, identified as Lt. Col. S. because the military does not allow the intelligence officers to be named in the news media, said he did not think soldiers became coldhearted by reducing people to “targets.”
Another commander working in the bunker said, however, “You can’t kill someone without something dying in you, too.”
Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, a former director of operations for the Israeli military, said he understood that the distance from the battlefield and the treatment of people as “targets” could create indifference to human lives.
“This is part of the commander’s challenge,” he said, to ensure that the operation is effective and “to know that there are human beings at the other end.”
Israel also regularly accuses Hamas of hiding its facilities and weapons inside or near civilian buildings, effectively using civilians as human shields.
During regular times, 300 to 400 soldiers work there around the clock. When Israel decided to launch its air assault on Gaza, thousands from military headquarters above ground joined the bunker. Also present were members of intelligence agencies like the Mossad and Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, and Foreign Ministry and police representatives.
For 10 days, they commanded operations from the bunker. Most of them scarcely left.
Inside the nerve center, about 70 people were arrayed on different levels so that everyone could see the screens on the wall. Most were in military uniforms and under 25, and those out of uniform were mostly older.
They sat at tables with computers, landline phones or more obscure communication devices. Some of their keyboards fed data into the wall screens — a detailed breakdown of attacks carried out and damage done to Hamas.
Israel estimates that it destroyed 15 to 20 percent of Hamas’s rocket arsenal and some weapons production facilities. It claims to have killed about 200 Hamas operatives and eliminated 30 percent of the tunnels under Gaza used for sheltering militants, housing command systems and moving weaponry around.
The nerve center also had a map with locations of ground forces and military aircraft throughout the Middle East.
In the hours just before cease-fire, it was clear that Israel was eager to deal powerful final blows to Hamas. One screen tracked rocket launches from Gaza and a possible hit on a kibbutz in southern Israel.
At 2 a.m., the commander echoed the chief of staff’s order to cease hostilities. But no one was going home. The post remains on combat alert until Israel determines that the fragile cease-fire will last.
“Fortress of Zion” took 10 years to design and build. Dug deep into the earth, it is protected from a variety of threats, including nuclear attacks. It has enough energy, food and water to function even if its occupants cannot get to ground level for a long time.
It is an extension of an old command post, nicknamed “the pit,” that was expanded several times but was deemed too small and gloomy and had electricity and sanitation problems.
More important, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, the current director of operations for the military, said, “Over the years, the Israel Defense Forces’ needs have changed.”
The huge ground wars of decades gone by gave way to more frequent but smaller operations — known as the “war between the wars.” And that shift meant relying more on technology and a digital network to pool intelligence, General Haliva said.
The bunker is connected via technology to another underground command post for Israel’s political leaders near Jerusalem, the Air Force’s underground headquarters and the Shin Bet’s command center.
The complex includes a gym, a synagogue, a kitchen and dining rooms, and a bedroom for guests with a row of clocks from different parts of the world, Tehran among them. There is also a lounge with food and nonalcoholic drinks — the only spot where soldiers can use their cellphones.
One floor is occupied by the army’s high command, including a private bedroom for the chief of staff with simple furnishings mirrored throughout the bunker.
Various military and intelligence departments feed the nerve center with information and have a representative physically present. The combined operation allows for a large number of strikes in an almost continuous stream.
Some efforts were made to give the windowless bunker a pleasant atmosphere, decorated with pictures of scenic places in the country and a famous quote by Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, that reads: “In the hands of this army, the security of the people and the homeland will now be entrusted.”
Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting.
Grand jury minutes in the investigation into Daniel Prude’s death reveal the many ways the criminal justice system struggles when prosecuting the police.
By Nicole Hong and Sarah Maslin Nir, May 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/nyregion/daniel-prude-death-letitia-james.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
Her voice heavy with emotion, Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, stepped onto a church dais in Rochester in February to announce that a grand jury had declined to indict the police officers who were involved in the death of a Black man in their custody.
“I’m disappointed — extremely disappointed,” Ms. James said. Her office had presented the jurors with what she called an extensive investigation into the death of the man, Daniel Prude, whom the police pinned face down on the pavement until he lost consciousness.
“We sought a different outcome than the one the grand jury handed us today,” Ms. James said.
But transcripts of the grand jury proceedings, released publicly by a judge last month at Ms. James’s request, tell a more complicated story.
Grand jury proceedings almost always remain secret, and the transcripts of the inquiry into Mr. Prude’s death provide a rare view into the inner workings of the criminal justice system at a pivotal moment in the continuing national debate over police accountability.
In a grand jury proceeding, prosecutors typically present a one-sided case in hopes of securing a criminal indictment. But during the inquiry into Mr. Prude’s death, lawyers from Ms. James’s office chose to present both sides of the case, effectively acting as prosecution and defense and telling the grand jury upfront that its purpose was to investigate the facts, not necessarily to indict.
Some of the witnesses who were called by prosecutors appeared to absolve the officers of wrongdoing. The revelation prompted fierce criticism of Ms. James specifically, and anger more broadly over a legal process that often seems to shield the police from criminal consequences.
The transcripts underscore the crucial role that grand juries play in deciding whether police officers are charged — or more often, not charged — for encounters that turn deadly. The transcripts also illuminate the particular challenges of prosecuting officers, even for a law enforcement official like Ms. James, who campaigned on criminal justice reform and sued the New York Police Department this year over its handling of protests touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Only prosecutors may call witnesses during grand jury hearings, and jurors never hear from the defense. In the case involving Mr. Prude’s death, prosecutors from Ms. James’s office called police trainers who testified that the officers who restrained him did not violate protocol with their techniques. The state’s lawyers also presented a California doctor who is known for defending police actions. He said the officers had not caused Mr. Prude’s death.
Another expert witness, a professor from South Carolina, testified that the police had used unreasonable force by failing to roll Mr. Prude onto his back after he stopped resisting. The prosecutors also questioned two officers who were facing potential indictment, asking why they had resorted to hands-on restraint instead of trying to de-escalate the situation or show more compassion.
At least one juror struggled to reconcile the contradictory testimony.
“It seemed like one expert had an opinion that there was no improper anything done,” said a juror whose name was redacted from the transcript. “And then, another expert had an opinion that there was some — something that was not quite properly done, am I correct?”
Prosecutors told the juror it was the jury’s job to decide whom to believe.
The release of the transcripts, just days before Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis officer, was convicted of murder in Mr. Floyd’s killing, reignited outrage in Rochester, where the revelations surrounding Mr. Prude’s death touched off fiery protests last year. Citing the transcripts, some community leaders accused Ms. James’s office of deliberately presenting a weak case.
Ms. James said in an interview that the investigation was an earnest effort to let the jury reach an independent conclusion.
“It was really critically important that the grand jury engage in an exhaustive and comprehensive analysis of the facts,” she said, adding that the outcome was a result of laws that give police officers broad protections to use deadly force on the job.
“These are incredibly tough cases to investigate and prosecute, but ultimately I respect the grand jury’s decision,” Ms. James said. “All of us continue to be disappointed by the criminal justice system as a whole.”
On Friday, Ms. James proposed legislation that she said would strengthen police accountability. The proposal includes allowing officers to use force only as a last resort, and establishing criminal penalties for officers who violate the guidelines.
Prosecutors in cases where there may be a strong defense, particularly those that involve potential police misconduct, can present all sides to a grand jury; doing so can indicate how trial jurors may react to evidence.
Whether Ms. James’s prosecutors presented the strongest case they could is difficult to determine, said Geoffrey Alpert, the expert from South Carolina who testified before the Rochester grand jury.
“If the purpose of the grand jury is to get an indictment, then no, they could have called different witnesses,” Mr. Alpert said in an interview. “If the purpose of the grand jury was to give jurors several different perspectives, then they did.”
But Michael Schiano, a lawyer for one of the officers, said that to him, it was as if the prosecutors put on a case for the defense.
“Prosecutors put on the case that we would have put on anyway,” Mr. Schiano said. “They put on the witnesses we would have put on if there was a jury trial.”
The transcripts show that two of the three Rochester officers who were facing potential indictment testified before the grand jury. Although the targets of investigations rarely testify, legal experts said it is more common in cases involving the police, particularly where an officer is claiming to have acted in self-defense.
The officers testified that they decided to use force after Mr. Prude did not follow their instructions to stay on the ground.
“We told him to calm down, and he’s telling us he wants to take our firearms,” one of the officers, whose name is redacted in the transcripts, said. “And then we tell him to stay down and he still tries to get up.”
Mr. Prude encountered the Rochester police on March 23, 2020, shortly after he became emotionally unstable and sprinted out of his brother’s home. Fearful for Mr. Prude’s safety, his brother called 911.
Responding officers found Mr. Prude several blocks away. He was naked and spitting and claiming that he had the coronavirus. They put a mesh hood, or spit sock, over his head and handcuffed him, then pressed his head to the pavement until he lost consciousness. Although it was snowing, no one covered his body or helped him when he vomited, body camera footage shows.
Mr. Prude died a week later. The medical examiner determined that his death was caused by factors that included oxygen deprivation and PCP drug intoxication.
Body camera footage showed Mr. Prude becoming more agitated after the officers placed the hood over his head. The officers said they feared contracting the coronavirus.
Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former high-ranking official in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, defended Ms. James, saying the attorney general was constrained in her ability to prosecute the Rochester officers because of the broad legal protections provided to the police.
“Until that law changes, this will keep happening over and over again,” Ms. Friedman Agnifilo said.
Prosecutors in Minnesota did not have to rely on a grand jury to charge Mr. Chauvin. Their counterparts in about half of all states, including New York, can only bring felony charges after convincing grand jurors that there is probable cause that crime was committed, a fairly routine exercise. When the defendant is a police officer, the outcome is less certain.
About 1,000 people a year in the United States die in encounters with law enforcement officers, but few are ever charged with murder or manslaughter for deaths in the line of duty. Of those that are, only a third are convicted.
Six years ago, after a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict the officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man who was placed in a police chokehold, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo established a special unit in the attorney general’s office to prosecute such cases. The idea was to remove such prosecutions from local district attorneys, who often work closely with the police.
But in the 43 investigations that unit has investigated since then, only three officers have been charged, according to the attorney general’s office. About a quarter of the investigations remain active.
Mr. Prude’s family did not see how he died until the summer. The video became public in September after their lawyers demanded that city officials release the body camera footage. Revelations of an apparent cover-up led to the firing of Rochester’s police chief and the suspension of the seven officers involved.
Ms. James brought the case before a grand jury shortly after that.
The transcripts revealed Ms. James’s selection of an important expert witness: Gary Vilke, a San Diego doctor who is typically hired by the police to defend them. (All witnesses’ names were redacted in the transcript, but some were easily identifiable.)
Dr. Vilke testified that the weight of the officers pressing on Mr. Prude’s back and legs did not impair his breathing, the transcript showed, leading him to conclude that the officers had not contributed to Mr. Prude’s death.
In an interview last month with a local Minneapolis television station, Dr. Vilke said it was “doubtful” that Mr. Chauvin had caused Mr. Floyd’s death.
Peter Neufeld, a civil rights lawyer who has sued police officers, said it was “incomprehensible” that prosecutors chose Dr. Vilke, whom he described as a reliable defender of police.
“You’re unfairly undermining your case before you get started,” Mr. Neufeld said.
Dr. Vilke did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Ms. James said that Dr. Vilke had offered his expert opinion and did not tell the grand jury how to vote. She added, however, that his comments about Mr. Chauvin, which came after the case involving Mr. Prude concluded, were troubling and would “factor into any selection moving forward.”
After the grand jury decided not to charge the Rochester officers with homicide, Ms. James met privately with local Black faith leaders.
The Rev. Myra Brown, the pastor of Spiritus Christi Church, said she confronted Ms. James there about her office’s failure to obtain an indictment. Ms. James said it was her office’s ethical obligation to lay out all the facts, Ms. Brown said.
To people like Ms. Brown, Ms. James’s words of extreme disappointment ring hollow now.
“Clearly she wasn’t disappointed enough to send in any real scholarship presenting an airtight case to at least get us an indictment,” Ms. Brown said, “and at least get the Prude family their day in court.”
Kyra and Kami never got a simple test that could have protected them. Their story exemplifies the failure to care for people with the disease, most of whom are Black.
By Gina Kolata, Photographs by Ilana Panich-Linsman, Published May 23, 2021,Updated May 24, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/23/health/sickle-cell-black-children.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
SAN ANTONIO — It was 4 a.m. on a Sunday when Dana Jones heard an ominous sound, barely audible over the whirring of box fans, like someone struggling to breathe. She ran down the hall and found her daughter Kyra, age 12, lying on her back, gasping for air. Terrified, she called 911.
A police officer, the first to arrive, dashed into Kyra’s bedroom, threw the slender girl over his shoulder and laid her on a leather sofa in the living room. He asked her mother, an oral surgery technician, to give her CPR.
Kyra’s lips were ice-cold. An ambulance whisked the girl to Methodist Children’s Hospital, where staff members swarmed her and put her into a medically induced coma.
Kyra, who has sickle cell, had suffered a devastating stroke — her second — a common complication of this inherited disease, which afflicts 100,000 Americans, most of them Black. She most likely would never have had the strokes if she had been given an annual screening test and treatment proven more than two decades earlier to prevent nine out of 10 strokes in children with the disease and recommended by the National Institutes of Health. But like countless other children with sickle cell, she was never screened.
This is a paradoxical moment for people who have this painful, deadly disease. For the first time, gene therapies that have advanced through clinical trials offer the real possibility of a cure.
But Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said the lack of attention paid to sickle cell historically “is one more reflection of the fact that we do not have equity in our country.”
Some doctors and researchers believe the national reckoning on race sparked by the pandemic’s devastating impact on people of color, and the Biden administration’s pledge of a broad assault on racial inequities in American medical care, could make this a singular moment for advancing the fight against sickle cell.
Even so, Kyra’s strokes are a striking case study of the broad national failure to provide even the most basic treatments to people with sickle cell. Faulty care and sluggish research are symptoms of what sickle cell specialists say is the deplorable legacy of neglect of Americans with the disease.
A third as many Americans have cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that is of comparable seriousness to sickle cell but that primarily affects white children, yet it gets “seven to 11 times the research funding per patient, which results in disparate rates of development of medications,” according to a recent opinion piece in The New England Journal of Medicine. Only four medications are approved by federal regulators for sickle call, and 15 for cystic fibrosis.
The screening test for strokes in children with sickle cell has been proven for decades, as has the treatment if it detects markers for stroke risk.
“It’s such a simple, painless and harmless test,” said Dr. Robert Adams, the neurologist whose study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1998, proved the effectiveness of a scan of the head known as Transcranial Doppler ultrasound and blood transfusions for those at high risk for strokes. “It’s not rocket science.”
The National Institutes of Health issued a statement in 2002 recommending that children with sickle cell get screened every year. Then, in 2014, a consensus panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health issued guidelines repeating the advice.
But the message often did not get through, said Dr. Peter Lane, director of the sickle cell disease program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and a pediatrics professor at Emory University. “There’s often a gap between the development of improved treatments and delivery of those treatments to the patients who need them.”
With sickle cell, he said, the gap is even bigger. “A big part of the challenge of sickle cell is that it impacts predominantly disadvantaged folks,” he said.
Kyra’s mother has learned, to her eternal regret, about the system’s failings. Ms. Jones said she was shocked when a new doctor told her about the screening test that could have prevented disabling strokes that struck both of her daughters, Kyra, who turns 16 this weekend, and Kami, now 17.
Kyra’s strokes, in 2015 and 2017, severely damaged her brain and caused a learning disability that meant she had to repeat sixth grade and years later still needed a tutor to shadow her in school. Her mother said that no one informed her until recently about the ultrasound test that was offered by a hospital just a 45-minute drive from their home — and that could have helped prevent the damage to both girls.
She still feels guilt and anger. She tosses in bed at night thinking, “What if?” How could the girls’ original doctor not have mentioned it?
“I took everything he said as Bible,” she said.
Researchers have repeatedly found that many children with the disease do not get the test or do not get it annually, as recommended. A new study, based on a survey of the largest group of children with sickle cell to date and recently published in The Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, again documented the dire situation.
Dr. Julie Kanter, a hematologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and director of the university’s adult sickle cell clinic, reviewed medical records of 5,347 children at 28 medical centers large and small, including academic sites as well as smaller medical centers. Only 30 to 75 percent of the children had gotten the recommended screening, depending on the center. On average, just 48.4 percent got the ultrasound. The rates were independent of the medical center’s size or academic affiliation.
“The rate is terrible, actually worse than we thought it would be,” Dr. Kanter said.
The researchers surveyed parents and caregivers and learned that some doctors failed to tell parents about the screenings. Some parents, even if told, had not understood their critical importance. (Dr. Kanter wants to rename the test “stroke screen” rather than Transcranial Doppler ultrasound so its purpose is clearer.) Some medical centers with special sickle cell clinics failed to consistently follow up with families who missed appointments.
There were also logistical obstacles. Sometimes medical centers offering the test were far from the homes of children with the disease. Some parents had trouble getting time off from work to take their children for testing. And the centers that did the tests were sometimes out of a family’s insurance network.
Ultrasound screens aren’t the only needed medical care inconsistently given to children with sickle cell. Hydroxyurea, an inexpensive generic drug, around since the 1980s, can reduce the risk of irreversible damage to organs and the brain. But it is woefully underused. Guidelines from the National Institutes of Health published in 2014 say all children and adolescents should take it, as should adults with three or more pain crises in a year or other serious complications.
A recent survey funded by the National Institutes of Health of 2,200 sickle cell patients from eight sites found that just 48 percent of patients were taking hydroxyurea regularly. Interviews with doctors who did not prescribe the drug revealed that many were unfamiliar with it while others were afraid hydroxyurea, which is also a cancer treatment at much higher doses, might cause cancer, although at the lower sickle cell dose it does not.
Another recent study, of Medicaid patients in North Carolina, found that only 32 percent of 2,790 Medicaid patients with sickle cell even had a prescription for hydroxyurea and just 31 percent of those patients took the drug regularly.
“To have teenage patients who never heard the word hydroxyurea — that’s preposterous,” said Dr. Patrick McGann, a sickle cell specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who puts all his patients on the drug.
In sharp contrast, chronic diseases whose patients are predominantly white, including type 1 diabetes and cystic fibrosis, are typically assigned to a nurse case manager who keeps in touch and manages the multiple medical appointments needed to prevent complications.
In sickle cell, said Dr. Michael DeBaun, a sickle cell specialist at Vanderbilt University, “the model of medical care is often reactionary to medical problems.”
The burden falls on parents to navigate the nation’s complicated, fragmented health care system.
‘Where’s the responsibility here?’
The idea for the stroke screening test occurred to Dr. Adams 30 years ago when he was a young neurology faculty member at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. One night, a 3-year-old boy with sickle cell was admitted to the hospital with a massive stroke that had destroyed most of his brain. The toddler’s red blood cells, shaped like sickles instead of disks, had gotten stuck in blood vessels to his brain, injuring their fragile linings and blocking blood flow.
“I tried to explain to this mother why her beautiful son had had this terrible stroke,” Dr. Adams said. “I tried to prepare her for what I knew was the eventuality — he had no chance to survive.”
Dr. Adams thought of how he would have felt if this tragedy had struck his own son, Christopher, who was then 9. That night, he determined to find a way to prevent such strokes.
He hypothesized that Transcranial Doppler ultrasound, or TCD, could detect children at high risk before they had strokes. The ultrasound test could measure the rate of blood flow into the brain and detect blood vessels that were partly obstructed by sickle cell. Then blood transfusions might prevent the strokes in the endangered children.
The N.I.H. tested his idea with a study that began in 1994. Children whose ultrasounds indicated high risk were randomly assigned to have transfusions or not.
The study was abruptly stopped in 1997, ahead of schedule, because children at risk who got transfusions had an annual stroke rate of less than 1 percent. Those who did not get transfusions had a 10 percent per year chance of having a stroke. Sickle cell experts were elated.
But decades later, Dr. Adams, now a distinguished professor of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina, is alarmed that the health care system has failed to consistently use this knowledge that could have prevented so much suffering.
Hospitals must make a concerted effort to reach families with children who have sickle cell, he said.
“Where’s the responsibility here?” he asked.
“My BMW dealer knows when I am due for an oil change,” he said. Surely, he said, clinic staffs can be just as vigilant in contacting families.
“If you know who your patients are,” he said, “you have to keep track of them.”
Life with sickle cell
Ms. Jones and her former husband, the girls’ father, both carried the mutated hemoglobin gene that causes sickle cell if a child inherits it from both parents. Both their daughters were born with the disease.
Their symptoms began when they were babies, screaming in fierce pain when the distorted cells got caught in blood vessels.
When Kami was 2 years old, Ms. Jones found a caring hematologist, Dr. Mahendra Patel. But Ms. Jones said he never told her about the screening test to detect whether her daughters were at risk for strokes.
The girls’ new doctor, Dr. Melissa Frei-Jones, a pediatric hematologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, confirmed that the girls had never gotten the test, and Methodist Hospital, where Dr. Patel practiced, confirmed that it did not offer the test.
Dr. Patel declined repeated requests for interviews through his office assistant, who said that the girls were no longer his patients and that he did not have time to discuss their care, including whether he ever mentioned the TCD test.
Kyra had her first stroke at age 10 on a steamy night in 2015 as she watched a basketball game with her mother and sister. She had been complaining for weeks of headaches, but that night, the pain was so bad that she screamed in agony.
Ms. Jones rushed her to the hospital. As Kyra slept that night, her mother tapped her. Kyra opened her eyes, but Ms. Jones recalled, “she looked through me like I wasn’t there.”
Terrified, Ms. Jones ran into the hall and cornered a nurse, begging for help. The nurse called a code blue, a life-threatening emergency. Medical personnel rushed into the room, pushing Ms. Jones aside.
Doctors at the hospital put Kyra in a medically induced coma for a week and a half to allow her brain to heal.
When she woke, Ms. Jones was at her bedside. Kyra looked up and said, “Hi, Mommy.”
Ms. Jones wept in relief.
But Kyra had large gaps in her memory. Her reading level had plummeted. She had forgotten how to tell time.
“I couldn’t remember anything,” Kyra said. “Like math. I didn’t even know what 1+1 is. I didn’t know how to divide.”
And she was unable to walk. She stayed in the hospital for a month, working with a physical therapist, progressing from using a walker to wobbly steps on her own.
With determination and special tutoring, she managed — barely — to get through fifth grade, but sixth grade defeated her. She had to repeat it.
Two years later when she was 12, Kyra had her second stroke deep in the middle of that night when her mother heard her gasping for breath.
Kyra, still struggles in school, with a learning disability so severe that — before Covid forced her to do remote schooling — she had a tutor who shadowed her and helped in her classes. She also had two special study periods a day with a teaching assistant standing by to help with schoolwork
A year older than the other students in her grade, Kyra said she found it hard to fit in.
During a tutoring session on a Friday afternoon last year, a chatty girl sitting across the table from Kyra told her, “I have come to the conclusion that I am not smart enough to do eighth-grade science.”
“Neither am I, in all honesty,” Kyra replied. “But I refuse to give up.”
If it weren’t for the medical staff at Methodist Hospital, where Kami and Kyra have long received care, Ms. Jones might never have learned about the TCD ultrasound test. One day in 2019 a doctor there handed Ms. Jones a Post-it note with Dr. Frei-Jones’s name and phone number on it.
At their appointment, Dr. Frei-Jones ordered M.R.I. scans of the girls’ brains to look for stroke damage. Kami’s showed little white spots in her frontal lobes, signs of a silent stroke that had destroyed brain cells. The results explained why she has trouble with organization. She uses every planning tool available to compensate for her losses, including lists and color coding with highlighters.
Kyra, too, had those white spots on her frontal lobes, but she also had big areas toward the back of her brain where tissue had been destroyed by her strokes.
A year ago, Dr. Frei-Jones showed Kyra’s brain scan to Kyra and her mother.
Seeing it, Ms. Jones said, her eyes welled with tears. Kyra was shocked and silent.
Dr. Frei-Jones told Kyra that it was this brain damage that explained why she struggled in school and why, at times, she was unable to find the words to say what she meant.
Dr. Frei-Jones advised — and Kyra agreed — that she should have transfusions every three weeks to reduce her stroke risk and that Kami should have them too.
Transfusions are a major commitment — an all-day ordeal. The girls have to miss school and Ms. Jones misses work. Kyra and Kami both feel tired and slightly ill after getting one.
Ms. Jones is so terrified they will have another stroke that she sleeps with a baby monitor in the girls’ room so she can hear if anything goes wrong in the night.
She knows, to her everlasting regret, that if she had been seeing Dr. Frei-Jones from the start, her daughters would most likely never have had the strokes that damaged their brains.
“I believe that wholeheartedly,” she said. “If things had been handled differently, their strokes could have been prevented.”
By Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist, May 23, 2021
“You can’t argue that the cops who kill are just a few bad apples when it is the whole tree that is shading the truth.”https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/23/opinion/ronald-greene-video.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
A demonstration was held for Ronald Greene, who died in police custody in Louisiana in 2019, at the March on Washington in 2020. Credit...Pool photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Interstate-20 in Louisiana links so many of the places that formed me.
It runs through Shreveport, where I was born and the place where I met my ex-wife and we had our wedding.
About 30 miles east, it runs along the southern edge of Minden, where my mother took us to buy school clothes each year — the same city where one of my brothers now lives and where he teaches at the high school.
Approximately 15 miles east of Minden, I-20 passes about a mile north of the flyspeck town where I grew up, Gibsland, named after an enslaver named Gibbs. Much of the land had been his plantation. Literally, Gibbs’s land.
Eight miles east of Gibsland, the highway scrapes across the top of Arcadia. It was our parish seat, the place with the closest library, the place where I saw my first movie and the place where I acquired my driver’s license.
Fifteen miles east of Arcadia, I-20 passes through the northern edge of Grambling, home to Grambling State University, where I went to college, studied mass communications and became co-editor of the Gramblinite, the school’s newspaper.
About 35 miles east of Grambling, the highway bisects the city of Monroe, where my friends and I often went to parties while we were in college, and where my nephew lived with his mother.
All these cities and towns are majority Black and their administration, including policing, reflect that to some degree. These spaces always felt special to me, at least in the relationship between municipal power and the people.
But between those safe spaces, along Interstate-20, the Louisiana State Police reigned. We called the officers state troopers. The feeling they gave, at least to me, was not one of safety.
All of this is why the killing of Ronald Greene in 2019, and the recently released video from one trooper’s body camera footage of the arrest, obtained by The Associated Press, that is discordant with the official police report of the incident, has been so resonant for me.
It was in the city of Monroe that Greene, a 49-year-old Black man, encountered the troopers. Greene was a barber, as is one of my brothers.
According to a crash report reviewed by The Associated Press, troopers attempted to pull him over for an unspecified traffic violation, but he “refused to stop” and “a pursuit ensued.”
This is how The A.P. reported the conclusion of the single-page police report released by the State Police, which said the chase ended when Greene crashed his vehicle:
“‘Greene was taken into custody after resisting arrest and a struggle with troopers,’ the report says, adding that he ‘became unresponsive’ and died on the way to a hospital. The report doesn’t describe any use of force by troopers.” (The Louisiana State Police later claimed that the troopers did use force and that it was justified.)
The video, however, shows the troopers — all white, by the way — jolting Greene with a stun gun, forcing him to the ground, putting him in a choke hold and punching him in the face. On the video, you can also hear Greene saying, “I’m sorry” and “I’m scared.”
As The A.P. reported about the video:
Instead of rendering aid, the troopers leave the heavyset man unattended, facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as they use sanitizer wipes to wash blood off their hands and faces. “I hope this guy ain’t got [expletive] AIDS,” one of the troopers can be heard saying. After a several-minute stretch in which Greene is not seen on camera, he appears again, limp, unresponsive and bleeding from his head and face. He is then loaded onto an ambulance gurney, his arm cuffed to the bedrail.
Everything about this case is wrong. It is true that fleeing the police isn’t smart or legal, but it is also true that doing so shouldn’t be a death sentence.
Furthermore, the police report, which would have been the only official accounting of Greene’s death if this video hadn’t come to light, is a damning false accounting of events, one that is in line with other false accountings that have been refuted by video in high-profile police killings.
Black people distrust the police because things like this teach Black people to distrust the police. This is not paranoia; it is practicality.
Others in the policing structure no doubt also saw this footage in the intervening two years since Greene was killed, and no one apparently said anything. You can’t argue that the cops who kill are just a few bad apples when it is the whole tree that is shading the truth.
Part of the problem is a lack of diversity. As The Advocate newspaper reported in 2018, although 32 percent of Louisiana’s population was Black at the time, only 16 percent of state troopers were. On Saturday, The Advocate reported about the Troop F, the Monroe-based division at the center of the Greene case:
“Of the 66 Troop F members, just six are Black, records show. The area they patrol is about 40 percent African-American. The Troop F roster is 86 percent White and 9 percent Black.”
The connective tissue between these majority Black cities and towns that dot I-20 in northern Louisiana is being patrolled and policed by an overwhelmingly white force unattached and unresponsive to them.
What could possibly go wrong?