Saturday, June 26, 2021 – 2:00 P.M.
Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California
1433 Madison Street
Oakland, CA 94612
$20 - $10 sliding scale admission at the door. No one turned away for lack of funds. Wheelchair accessible with advanced notice.
Masks and Social Distancing Requirements Observed
Freedom for Julian Assange, San Francisco Bay Area Presents:
John and Gabriel Shipton, the father and brother of award-winning Australian journalist Julian Assange, as their nationwide tour stops in the Bay Area. They are raising awareness of the importance of protecting whistleblowers and journalists and calling on the U.S. government to drop its prosecution and finally let Julian come home.
Joining the Shiptons live are Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Alice Walker and Pentagon Papers defendant and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Noam Chomsky, linguist and author, and Mamia Abu-Jamal, innocent political prisoner and journalist, will be joining via Zoom.
Additional Speakers Include:
· Joe Lombardo, National Coordinator UNAC
· Cynthia Papermaster, CODEPINK
· Jeff Mackler, National Steering Committee, assangedefense.org
· Dennis Bernstein, host of KPFA's Flashpoints
· Nozomi Hayase, author, WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening
Download the flyer here:
Freedom for Julian Assange, San Francisco Bay Area
affiliated with the National assangedefense.org
Courage Foundation (assangedefense.org) • San Francisco Bay Area National Lawyers Guild
Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal • Black Alliance for Peace • Socialist Action
Code Pink, Golden Gate and nationally • United National Antiwar Coalition • International Action Center
Syria Solidarity Movement • Peninsula Peace and Justice Center • Peace and Freedom Party
Green Party of Alameda County • U.S. Peace Council • BAYAN USA • Haiti Action Committee
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee • Task Force on the Americas
Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center • Workers World Party • San Jose Peace and Justice Center
Women's International League for Peace & Freedom • Bay Action Committee to Free Julian Assange
For additional information: email@example.com Online donations: assangedefense.org
People's March and Rally 2021
SUNDAY, JUNE 27, 2021,10:30 AM – 6:00 PM
We will not be silenced!
Sincere Greetings of Peace:
The “In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition*” invites your participation and endorsement of the planned October 2021 International Tribunal. The Tribunal will be charging the United States government, its states, and specific agencies with human and civil rights violations against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.
The Tribunal will be charging human and civil rights violations for:
• Racist police killings of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people,
• Hyper incarcerations of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
• Political incarceration of Civil Rights/National Liberation era revolutionaries and activists, as well as present day activists,
• Environmental racism and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people,
• Public Health racism and disparities and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and
• Genocide of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people as a result of the historic and systemic charges of all the above.
The legal aspects of the Tribunal will be led by Attorney Nkechi Taifa along with a powerful team of seasoned attorneys from all the above fields. Thirteen jurists, some with international stature, will preside over the 3 days of testimonies. Testimonies will be elicited form impacted victims, expert witnesses, and attorneys with firsthand knowledge of specific incidences raised in the charges/indictment.
The 2021 International Tribunal has a unique set of outcomes and an opportunity to organize on a mass level across many social justice arenas. Upon the verdict, the results of the Tribunal will:
• Codify and publish the content and results of the Tribunal to be offered in High Schools and University curriculums,
• Provide organized, accurate information for reparation initiatives and community and human rights work,
• Strengthen the demand to free all Political Prisoners and establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission mechanism to lead to their freedom,
• Provide the foundation for civil action in federal and state courts across the United States,
• Present a stronger case, building upon previous and respected human rights initiatives, on the international stage,
• Establish a healthy and viable massive national network of community organizations, activists, clergy, academics, and lawyers concerned with challenging human rights abuses on all levels and enhancing the quality of life for all people, and
• Establish the foundation to build a “Peoples’ Senate” representative of all 50 states, Indigenous Tribes, and major religions.
Endorsements are $25. Your endorsement will add to the volume of support and input vital to ensuring the success of these outcomes moving forward, and to the Tribunal itself. It will be transparently used to immediately move forward with the Tribunal outcomes.
We encourage you to add your name and organization to attend the monthly Tribunal updates and to sign on to one of the Tribunal Committees. (3rd Saturday of each month from 12 noon to 2 PM eastern time). Submit your name by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please endorse now: http://spiritofmandela.org/endorse/
Dr. A’isha Mohammad
– Coordinating Committee
Created in 2018, In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition is a growing grouping of organizers, academics, clergy, attorneys, and organizations committed to working together against the systemic, historic, and ongoing human rights violations and abuses committed by the USA against Black, Brown, and Indigenous People. The Coalition recognizes and affirms the rich history of diverse and militant freedom fighters Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Graca Machel Mandela, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and many more. It is in their Spirit and affirming their legacy that we work.
We hope all is well with you.
We are happy to announce that the video recording of "No Life Like It: A A Tribute to the Revolutionary Activism of Ernie Tate" is now available for viewing on LeftStreamed
and here: https://socialistproject.ca/leftstreamed-video/no-life-like-it/
Please share the link with your comrades and friends.
All the best,
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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
Martha Hennessy and Carmen Trotta released from prison
Martha Hennessy was released yesterday, May 26, from Danbury prison after 5 1/2 months confinement to a halfway house in Manchester, New Hampshire which is about a two hour drive from her home in Vermont. Her husband, Stephen Melanson, picked her up and drove her to the halfway house. She expects to have to spend a week or two at the halfway house before being allowed to return home to finish the last few months of her 10 month sentence. She had applied for early release through the CARES Act which allows release for the qualified elderly to reduce the risk of catching COVID. She is looking forward to return to her home and family and her gardening soon. Martha gave a short video statement on getting out and it will be posted on the website shortly.
Mark Colville is scheduled to report to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY on June 8 to finish his 21 month sentence. He has already served 15 months in the county jails in Georgia before the trial in October 2019. He may also be eligible for an earlier release but does not intend to apply for any special consideration.
I don’t usually do this. This is discussing my self. I find it far more interesting to tell the stories of other, the revolving globe on which we dwell and the stories spawn by the fragile human condition and the struggles of humanity for liberation.
But I digress, uncomfortably.
This commentary is about the commentator.
Several weeks ago I underwent a medical procedure known as open heart surgery, a double bypass after it was learned that two vessels beating through my heart has significant blockages that impaired heart function.
This impairment was fixed by extremely well trained and young cardiologist who had extensive experience in this intricate surgical procedure.
I tell you I had no clue whatsoever that I suffered from such disease. Now to be perfectly honest, I feel fine.
Indeed, I feel more energetic than usual!
I thank you all, my family and friends, for your love and support.
Onwards to freedom with all my heart.
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
We hope all is well with you.
We are happy to announce that the video recording of "No Life Like It: A A Tribute to the Revolutionary Activism of Ernie Tate" is now available for viewing on LeftStreamed
and here: https://socialistproject.ca/leftstreamed-video/no-life-like-it/
Please share the link with your comrades and friends.
All the best,
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
By Lelac Almagor, Ms. Almagor teaches fourth grade at a public charter school in Washington, D.C., June 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/16/opinion/remote-learning-failure.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Our prepandemic public school system was imperfect, surely, clumsy and test-crazed and plagued with inequities. But it was also a little miraculous: a place where children from different backgrounds could stow their backpacks in adjacent cubbies, sit in a circle and learn in community.
At the diverse Washington, D.C., public charter school where I teach, and which my 6-year-old attends, the whole point was that our families chose to do it together — knowing that it meant we would be grappling with our differences and biases well before our children could tie their own shoes.
Then Covid hit, and overnight these school communities fragmented and segregated. The wealthiest parents snapped up teachers for “microschools,” reviving the Victorian custom of hiring a governess and a music master. Others left for private school without a backward glance.
Some middle-class parents who could work remotely toughed it out at home, checking in on school between their own virtual meetings. Those with younger kids or in-person jobs scraped together education and child care — an outdoor play pod or a camp counselor to supervise hours of Zoom classes. With schools closed, the health risks and child care hours didn’t disappear. They simply shifted from well-educated, unionized, tax-funded professional teachers to hourly-wage, no-benefit workers serving only those who could afford to pay.
The families with the fewest resources were left with nothing. No child care, only the pallid virtual editions of essential services like occupational or speech therapy.
If they could work out the logistics, their kids got a couple of hours a day of Zoom school. If they couldn’t, they got attendance warnings. In my fourth-grade class, I had students calling in from the car while their mom delivered groceries, or from the toddler room of their mom’s busy day care center.
Home alone with younger siblings or cousins, kids struggled to focus while bouncing a fussy toddler or getting whacked repeatedly on the head with a foam sword. Others lay in bed and played video games or watched TV. Many times each day, I carefully repeated the instructions for a floundering student, only to have them reply, helplessly, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” their audio squealing and video freezing as they spoke.
Even under optimal conditions, virtual school meant flattening the collaborative magic of the classroom into little more than an instructional video. Stripped of classroom discussion, human connection, art materials, classroom libraries, time and space to play, virtual school was not school; it was busywork obscuring the “rubber-rooming” of the entire school system.
Some educators sneered that the parents who complained just wanted free babysitting. But I’m not ashamed to say that child care is at the heart of the work I do. I teach children reading and writing, yes, but I also watch over them, remind them to be kind and stay safe, plan games and activities to help them grow. Children deserve attentive care. That’s the core of our commitment to them.
I am still bewildered and horrified that our society walked away from this responsibility, that we called school inessential and left each family to fend for itself. Meanwhile nurses, bus drivers and grocery workers all went to work in person — most of my students’ parents went to work in person — not because it was safe but because their work is essential. Spare me your “the kids are all right” Facebook memes. Some children may have learned to do laundry or enjoy nature during the pandemic. Many others suffered trauma and disconnection that will take years to repair.
I don’t know the first thing about public health. I won’t venture an opinion on what impact the school closures had on controlling the spread of Covid. What I do know is that the private schools in our city quickly got to work upgrading HVAC systems, putting up tents, cutting class sizes and rearranging schedules so that they could reopen in relative safety. Public schools in other states and countries did the same.
More of our public school systems should have likewise moved mountains — repurposed buildings, reassigned staff, redesigned programming, reallocated funding — to offer consistent public schooling, as safely as possible, to all children.
Instead we opened restaurants and gyms and bars while kids stayed home, or got complicated hybrid schedules that many parents turned down because they offered even less stability than virtual school. Even now, with vaccinations rising and case rates dropping, some families remain reluctant to send their kids back to us in the fall. I can’t help thinking that’s because we broke their trust.
Does virtual learning work for some kids, in some circumstances? Sure. So does home-schooling, or not attending school at all. But I am profoundly relieved that most districts, including my own, plan to shut down or restrict the online option.
I hope this means that we are renewing our collective commitment to true public education. Just as before, we will have to fight to make our schools safer, more equitable and more flexible. Just as before, coming together will be messy and complicated. Children, families and teachers will all need time to rebuild relationships with our institutions.
But we’ll be back together, in the same building, eating the same food. We’ll find that the friend who helps us in the morning might need our help in the afternoon. We’ll have soccer arguments at recess and patch them up in closing circle. We’ll sing songs, tell stories, plant seeds and watch them grow. That’s schooling in real life. That’s what public school is for.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement signals the beginning of the end to an arrangement that many homeless people said provided a better living environment.
By Andy Newman, June 16, 2021
Homeless people and advocates protested across from Gracie Mansion on Monday against the city’s plan to move people from hotel rooms back to group shelters. Credit...Andrew Seng for The New York Times
New York City plans to move about 8,000 homeless people out of hotel rooms and back to barrackslike dorm shelters by the end of July so that the hotels can reopen to the general public, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.
When the pandemic lockdown began last spring, New York City moved the people out of the shelters, where in some cases as many as 60 adults stayed in a single room, to safeguard them from the coronavirus. Now, with social distancing restrictions lifted and an economic recovery on the line, the city is raring to fill those hotel rooms with tourists.
“It is time to move homeless folks who were in hotels for a temporary period of time back to shelters where they can get the support they need,” Mr. de Blasio said at a morning news conference.
The mayor said the city would need the state’s approval to remove the homeless people from 60 hotels, but a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that as long as all shelter residents — even vaccinated ones — wore masks, the state had no objections to the plan.
“The governor has lifted social distancing restrictions, so now people just have to follow the C.D.C. guidelines on masks,” said the spokesman, Rich Azzopardi.
On Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo announced that the state was lifting nearly all remaining coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures, after more than 70 percent of the state’s adults had received at least a first dose of a vaccine.
It was unclear when the city would move forward with its plan. When asked when people would be moved back to shelters, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Homeless Services said the agency still believed it needed the state’s approval.
The announcement signals the beginning of the end to a living arrangement that was popular with many homeless people, many of whom said that a private hotel room provided a vastly better living experience than sleeping in a shelter. Some said they would sooner live in the street than go back to a group shelter, where many residents are battling mental illness or substance abuse or both.
“I don’t want to go back — it’s like I’m going backward,” Andrew Ward, 39, who has been staying at the Williams Hotel in Brownsville, Brooklyn, after nearly two years at a men’s shelter nearby, said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not safe to go back there. You’ve got people bringing in knives.” He said he had his belongings stolen countless times at the shelter.
At the hotel, he said: “It’s peaceful. It’s less stressful.” He said that if he was transferred back to a congregate shelter, “I’d just stay in the street like before.”
But the arrangement at the hotels, many of them located in densely populated middle-to-upper-class neighborhoods of Manhattan, has been a source of friction with neighbors who have complained of noise, outdoor drug use and other nuisances and dangers from the hotel residents.
The city’s decision last year to move nearly 300 people from a shelter on an island off Manhattan into the Hotel Lucerne on the Upper West Side touched off a monthslong battle. A state appeals court earlier this month ruled the city could move the people out of the hotel.
The mayor has said for months that the hotels were never intended to be permanent homes and that he wanted to move people out of them as soon as it was safe. But some advocates for the homeless have noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has offered to pay for the hotel rooms until the end of September and called Wednesday’s announcement premature.
At a small protest outside Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s residence, on Monday, homeless people and organizers from the advocacy group Vocal-NY demanded that the homeless remain in the hotels until they could be offered permanent apartments.
“Why the rush to put us back into the shelters now?” said Milton Perez, 45, who has spent five years in the shelter system. “Why the rush to put us in danger?”
The coronavirus hit the city’s shelter residents hard. More than 3,700 people in the city’s main shelter system contracted the virus, and 102 died of it, the city says.
During the pandemic, some congregate shelters closed entirely. Others moved most people out to create more space but stayed open.
Advocates noted that vaccination rates for homeless people might be much lower than the rate in the general population. The city said that about 6,300 homeless single adults had been fully vaccinated through Homeless Services sites, though it did not know how many had been vaccinated elsewhere. More than 17,000 single adults are in the main shelter system.
About 65 percent of adults in New York City have received at least a first dose of a vaccine.
“There are people sleeping in shelters who are still testing positive and getting sick,” Giselle Routhier, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Until permanent affordable housing can be secured, the safest option remains placement in hotel rooms.”
Ms. Routhier also took issue with Mr. de Blasio’s implication that people were not receiving needed social services at the hotels. In fact, several shelter operators said in interviews in recent weeks that they had found ways to offer most of the same treatment and counseling services at the hotels.
When the city decided to move people to hotel rooms last spring, many shelter operators were worried that many residents would fall prey to substance abuse or withdraw from social supports that kept their mental health from declining.
The actual results have been mixed. Some shelters have seen increases in overdoses, but others have seen reductions and reported that removing sources of tension seemed to have improved many people’s mental health, which resulted in fewer fights between residents.
“We had far fewer incidents,” said Andrea Kepler, the former director of a BronxWorks shelter in the Bronx that moved en masse to the OYO Times Square hotel, where each room had a microwave and a refrigerator and housekeeping services. She said that more people obeyed curfews at the hotel because they did not want to lose their spots.
“When you get down to it, it’s not science,” she said. “It’s about really doing basic human things that we would all want for ourselves.”
Nicholas Kraus of St. Paul, Minn., was drunk at the time of the crash, the authorities said. Deona Marie Erickson, 31, a social justice advocate, was killed in the episode.
By Neil Vigdor, Published June 16, 2021, Updated June 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/16/us/nicholas-kraus-minneapolis-protests.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
The drunken driver who plowed a sport-utility vehicle into a crowd of protesters in Minneapolis on Sunday night, killing a woman and injuring several other people, was charged on Wednesday with intentional second-degree murder, the authorities said.
The demonstrators had been protesting the death of Winston Smith, a Black man who was shot by members of a federal law enforcement task force this month, when, officials said, the driver, Nicholas Kraus, barreled into them in a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Mr. Kraus, 35, of St. Paul, Minn., was intoxicated at the time and had been driving with a suspended license, according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which said that he had been convicted several times of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The protesters pulled Mr. Kraus from the vehicle, and some of them began to strike him, the Minneapolis Police Department said.
Michael O. Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, said at a news conference on Wednesday that there was clear evidence that Mr. Kraus had intentionally driven into the crowd.
“He said he saw the cars and the barricades and the people,” Mr. Freeman said. “And at that point in time, he intentionally accelerated and went right at them. He said afterwards that he might have hit a person or two while he was driving his vehicle.”
The authorities said Mr. Kraus told investigators that he wanted to get over the barricade. They said there was no indication that he was motivated by politics or antipathy toward the protesters.
The attack on protesters has exacerbated the unrest in Minneapolis, which began last year after the killing of George Floyd while in police custody and continued this year with the trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering Mr. Floyd.
It was not immediately clear if Mr. Kraus, who is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, had a lawyer. He was also charged with two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, according to a criminal complaint.
The woman who was killed in the episode was identified on Wednesday by the Hennepin County medical examiner as Deona Marie Erickson, 31. She also went by the name Deona Marie Knajdek and was known for her social justice activism.
She had two children and was a program manager for the Cottages Group, a residential services provider for vulnerable adults in the Twin Cities area.
“She was one of the most selfless people we have had the pleasure of knowing, she earned the respect and trust of those she served because of her true compassion for her work,” her employer said in a Facebook post on Monday.
Ms. Erickson’s relatives told local media outlets that she would have turned 32 this week and was drawn to the cause of social justice.
“I knew that she was going to use her voice for this,” Deb Kenney, Ms. Erickson’s mother, told the television station WCCO. “And I’m proud of her for doing so.”
The episode, which occurred at just before 11:40 p.m. Sunday at West Lake Street and Girard Avenue South, spurred outrage among the crowd of people, who had gathered to protest police brutality and commemorate the death of Mr. Smith. He was fatally shot by members of a fugitive task force who had been trying to arrest him.
“I’ve never seen anything that horrendous,” Zachery James, 28, said from the scene, where several of the crowd were still gathered hours later.
Mr. James said the protesters had blockaded an area of the road, using their own cars, and that he and about 40 to 50 people had been “occupying peacefully” when he first heard a vehicle driving toward the group at high speed. He said it smashed into one of the protesters’ parked cars, which hit a woman, sending her flying several yards into a pole.
Mr. James described Ms. Erickson as “an uplifting, kind, beautiful spirit” who was always curious and considerate toward others. He said she had recently joined the Black Lives Matter movement in Minneapolis.
“She was just here for us and with us,” he said. “I watched her body fly.”
Geoffrey H.L. Thom shot Iremamber Sykap eight times after a high-speed chase on April 5, prosecutors said. Two other officers were charged with attempted murder.
By Neil Vigdor, June 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/17/us/iremamber-sykap-shooting.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
A Honolulu police officer has been charged with second-degree murder in what prosecutors called the unjustified fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy after a high-speed chase in April. Two other officers have been charged with second-degree attempted murder for their roles in the confrontation.
The charges were announced on Tuesday by prosecutors in Honolulu, less than a week after a grand jury had declined to indict the officers in connection with their actions leading up to the death of Iremamber Sykap on April 5.
“The evidence supports the conclusion that the defendants’ use of deadly force in this case was unnecessary, unreasonable, and unjustified under the law,” Christopher T. Van Marter, a deputy prosecuting attorney, wrote in a criminal complaint.
Prosecutors said that Geoffrey H.L. Thom, the officer charged with second-degree murder, had fired 10 shots “without provocation” into the rear window of a Honda driven by Iremamber, hitting him eight times.
Iremamber died shortly after the shooting, according to prosecutors, who said that one of the bullets fired by Officer Thom had pierced Iremamber’s aorta and another had fractured his spine and that one of the bullets had pierced his lung, causing extreme internal bleeding.
Iremamber’s brother, Mark Sykap, who was in the front passenger seat, was struck in the right shoulder and the left hand when the officers opened fire, a criminal complaint said. He survived.
The shooting happened after a high-speed chase, according to investigators, who said that the car had been idling on a city street when three officers opened fire. The police said that the car had been reported stolen two days earlier and had been connected to an armed robbery, a purse snatching and a theft.
The gearshift lever of the car was still in the drive position when Iremamber was shot, and the vehicle struck an empty patrol car, climbed onto the sidewalk, went through a fence and landed in a canal about 10 feet below street level, investigators said.
Prosecutors said that Officer Thom had written in a police report that the Honda had rammed his patrol car and had reversed toward him. But body camera footage, they said, contradicted those statements. His patrol car had a few minor paint chips and scuff marks, a criminal complaint said.
Officer Thom, 42, a five-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department, did not immediately respond to a phone message on Wednesday requesting comment. It was not clear if he had a lawyer.
The two officers who were charged with second-degree attempted murder were identified by prosecutors as Zackary K. Ah Nee and Christopher J. Fredeluces.
Prosecutors said that Officer Ah Nee, 26, a three-year police veteran, had fired four shots without provocation toward the passenger side of the Honda after it struck his empty patrol car. Two of those shots hit Iremamber’s brother, according to a criminal complaint.
Officer Ah Nee wrote in his report that he thought he had seen the butt of a firearm in the lap of the front-seat passenger, but body camera footage contradicted his account, the criminal complaint said.
A message seeking comment from Officer Ah Nee was left with a person who answered the phone at his home on Wednesday. It was not clear if he had a lawyer.
Prosecutors said that Officer Fredeluces, 40, a 10-year veteran of the Police Department, had fired one round from his Glock 9-millimeter pistol into the driver’s side door of the Honda, but the bullet did not strike Iremamber.
Officer Fredeluces could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
If convicted, all three officers would face mandatory sentences of life in prison and would be eligible for parole only after serving 20 years because semiautomatic firearms were used in the shooting.
Their police powers have been removed, according to the Honolulu Police Department, which said that they had been placed on desk duty.
The decision to charge the three officers perplexed Honolulu’s interim police chief, Rade Vanic.
“We are surprised by the prosecuting attorney’s announcement to seek charges against the officers after a grand jury comprised of citizens decided not to indict them,” Chief Vanic said in a statement. “This is highly unusual, and we are not aware of a similar action having been taken in the past.”
Matt Dvonch, special counsel to the Honolulu prosecutor, Steven S. Alm, said in an interview on Wednesday that it was not the first time that the office had asked a judge to determine if there was probable cause after a grand jury did not return an indictment.
“It is not that common,” he said, “but it does happen on occasion.”
Eric Seitz, a lawyer for the Sykap family, was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday, but he told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was gratified that prosecutors were pursuing the case.
“We have suspected from the beginning, when we began to get information about how the events unfolded, that the shooting was entirely unjustified,” he said. “Now that we’ve seen the further evidence that’s contained and attached to the charges, there’s no question in our minds that this was an event that could have been — and should have been — prevented.”
In May, the Sykap family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Honolulu and the officers who were involved in the shooting.
The head of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, but in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday, he voiced support for the officers.
“We continue to trust the process and will continue to stand by our officers,” said Malcolm Lutu, the union’s president.
The exchanges on Thursday and into Friday stopped short of a full-scale escalation, but they underscored the fragile nature of the cease-fire that ended last month’s war.
“The new Israeli government does not want to appear weak, and is trying to differentiate itself from Benjamin Netanyahu, whose administration it replaced on Sunday. Mr. Netanyahu tended to ignore the balloons, whereas his successors want to show that the balloons will be met by a military response. … More than 8,000 remain homeless after their homes were destroyed in the war, with some living in classrooms of a U.N.-run school in Gaza City.”
By Patrick Kingsley, June 17, 2021
A street vendor works near a building that was destroyed by last month’s airstrikes in Gaza City. Credit...Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
JERUSALEM — Israeli airstrikes hit several sites in Gaza on Thursday night for the second time in three days, after Palestinian militants sent incendiary balloons into farmland in southern Israel for the third day in a row.
There were no reported casualties in either Israel or Gaza, but the exchange raised the specter of a return to full-scale conflict for the first time since an 11-day air war ended nearly a month ago.
The Israeli Army said it had targeted military compounds and a rocket launching site near Gaza City and Khan Younis, two of the biggest cities in the strip, shortly before midnight on Thursday. A Hamas-linked media outlet in Gaza reported hits on sites near Gaza City and Khan Younis, as well as in Jabalia, a town in the north of the strip.
About an hour later, early on Friday morning, sirens sounded in areas of southern Israel close to Gaza, a warning that the Israeli military said was prompted by gunfire from militants in Gaza, not rockets, which might have led to an even more forceful Israeli response.
The Israeli airstrikes followed attempts by militants in Gaza to set fires in Israeli farmland surrounding the strip. Militants sent balloons over the perimeter fence that were attached to incendiary devices. Eight fires were reported on Thursday, in addition to scores earlier in the week.
Analysts and diplomats are skeptical that either Hamas or Israel wants a repeat of the war in May. Israel’s new government is barely a few days into its term, while Hamas is still counting the cost of the damage caused last month. The chief of staff of the Israeli Army, Aviv Kochavi, is still planning to visit counterparts in the United States this weekend.
“If there had been an appetite to upscale and uptick, it would have happened already,” Tor Wennesland, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a phone interview on Thursday morning.
But while the exchanges on Thursday and into Friday stopped short of a full-scale escalation, they underscored the fragile nature of the cease-fire that followed the air war in May.
The new Israeli government does not want to appear weak, and is trying to differentiate itself from Benjamin Netanyahu, whose administration it replaced on Sunday. Mr. Netanyahu tended to ignore the balloons, whereas his successors want to show that the balloons will be met by a military response.
“What was is not what will be,” said a Defense Ministry official this week.
Hamas is reluctant to let recent behavior by the Israeli police and far-right activists in Jerusalem, which many Palestinians considered offensive and provocative, pass uncontested.
Despite mediation by Egyptian and United Nations officials, Hamas and Israel have yet to conclude a lasting cease-fire agreement.
Reconstruction in Gaza of thousands of homes, clinics, schools and major infrastructure systems has barely begun, with a damage assessment yet to be completed by Egypt and the United Nations. Israel is still blocking the import and export of most items, including millions of dollars in aid from Qatar, on which the Gazan economy depends.
For years, an Israeli and Egyptian blockade has limited what comes in and out of Gaza, while Israel controls Gaza’s airspace, access to water, cellular data and birth registry, and prohibits Palestinian access to farmland at the edge of the strip.
Talks on a new reconstruction arrangement have stalled over disagreements of the role that the Palestinian Authority should play in managing the efforts. Hamas forced the authority from Gaza in 2007, and it now administers only parts of the occupied West Bank.
Hamas is also seeking to include in the agreement the release of hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Israel wants Hamas to hand over two missing Israeli citizens and the remains of two Israeli soldiers.
Amid these disagreements and delays, many Palestinians in Gaza are still waiting for some kind of normalcy.
More than 8,000 remain homeless after their homes were destroyed in the war, with some living in classrooms of a U.N.-run school in Gaza City.
“The war will be over when I leave this place,” one newly homeless man, Mohammad Gharbain, 36, said in an interview at the school on Wednesday. “The war still goes on as long as I am here.”
Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.
Six incarcerated people have died, a man accused of murder was accidentally released and a captain was charged with criminally negligent homicide, while the future of Rikers Island remains unclear.
By Jan Ransom, June 19, 2021
Tomas Carlo Camacho, left, died after being found unresponsive in a mental health observation unit on Rikers Island. Kevin Carlo, his son, said the family wanted someone to take responsibility for his father’s death. Credit...via Kevin Carlo
Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.
More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.
Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.
Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder, and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course.
The crisis comes at a pivotal moment for Rikers Island. Mayor Bill de Blasio and leaders in the City Council are moving forward with an $8 billion plan to replace the complex with four smaller jails in five years. But most of the candidates vying to replace Mr. de Blasio when his term expires at the end of the year have expressed opposition to the plan. Several candidates have said they want to close Rikers Island without building jails to replace it, instead focusing on mental health treatment. Other candidates have expressed concern about the size and location of the planned new jails.
The chaos at Rikers Island, one of the nation’s largest and most notorious jails, has erupted at a time when officials across the country are grappling with the pandemic, violence and abuse behind bars.
In New Jersey, the governor announced this month that the state’s only prison for women will be shuttered after a Justice Department review found there was a pervasive culture of sexual violence by guards. At the same time, officials in California, Connecticut and elsewhere have moved to close facilities in response to a drop in the prison population and a broad rethinking of how and when people should be incarcerated.
New York City’s correction department, meanwhile, has endured a punishing streak of scandals: A captain was charged with criminally negligent homicide in April after she left a man hanging in a Manhattan jail cell and stopped a subordinate from intervening.
A captain, an assistant deputy warden and two correction officers were suspended in March after a man accused of murder was accidentally released from jail. And now, the department is investigating the wrongful release of yet another detainee who escaped on Monday. The department, in March, also came under fire following a report in the Daily News that more than 1,500 phone calls between defendants and their lawyers had been illegally recorded.
And late last month, several guards and other correction workers were charged with taking bribes to smuggle contraband into city jails.
“I have real questions about what’s happening with the agency,” said Councilman Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat who heads the criminal justice committee. “I think we all recognize that Covid has added a new layer of stress to the system, but it still doesn’t help us account for the various issues we have seen over the last few months.”
At least some of the problems inside the jails appear to be the result of mismanagement, the federal monitor found, such as staffing shortfalls resulting not from a lack of officers but from a failure to properly deploy them.
In interviews, guards described being too exhausted to break up fights or to complete necessary paperwork. For some officers, the longer hours have led to shorter tempers and irritability when interacting with inmates, they said. Officer morale remains low. Up to 2,000 officers — more than 20 percent of the work force — are out sick or unable to work daily, jail officials said.
In response, incarcerated people have grown frustrated by a reduction in basic services. Inadequate staffing has forced them to miss meetings with their lawyers, and limited access to commissary, the law library, and medical and mental health care.
Cynthia Brann, the former jails commissioner who stepped down at the end of last month, declined an interview.
Speaking at a jail oversight hearing, Ms. Brann acknowledged “significant challenges” since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I can assure you we’ve taken all measures to ensure that we are safely staffed and operations go on,” Ms. Brann said.
But the 342-page report released by the federal monitor provided a strikingly different view.
“Issues plaguing the department are systemic and deep-seated and have been passed down and accepted by all levels of staff across the agency,” the monitor, Steve J. Martin, a lawyer and national corrections expert, said.
He said the jail’s use-of-force rate was at a five-year high, and added that “the pervasive level of disorder and chaos in the facilities is alarming.”
‘We just want answers’
Instances of self harm have been on the rise in the city’s jails in recent months, statistics show. In March, 148 people harmed themselves, including 12 seriously, according to Correctional Health Services data.
Yet, training officers to better respond to suicide attempts has lagged. As of May 6, just 10 percent of the city’s more than 9,000 officers and their supervisors had received a required annual refresher course in suicide prevention training, the department said.
Underscoring the issue, Manhattan prosecutors in April charged a correction captain, Rebecca Hillman, with criminally negligent homicide after they say she left Ryan Wilson hanging in his cell for 15 minutes on Nov. 22 and stopped another officer from saving him.
Two days later, another man, Ishmael Hamilton, 26, tried to kill himself while in a mental health clinic on Rikers Island, according to an official with knowledge of the incident. The city’s Department of Investigation is now investigating.
On Jan. 23 at another facility on Rikers Island, Wilson Diaz-Guzman, 30, used a bedsheet to hang himself from a sprinkler head in his cell, the official said. An officer discovered Mr. Diaz-Guzman at 7 p.m. He was pronounced dead 30 minutes later.
Tomas Carlo Camacho, 48, was in a mental health observation unit on Rikers on March 2 when he was found unresponsive and on his knees with his head through a small slot in the cell door known as a cuffing slot. He died at a hospital. Earl Ward, a lawyer for the family said Mr. Carlo Camacho should have been under constant surveillance.
Mr. Carlo Camacho’s son, Kevin Carlo, said his father had schizophrenia disorder.
“He was a God-fearing man, he had two kids and grandkids who love him,” Mr. Carlo, 28, said. “We just want answers. We want somebody to take responsibility.”
Seventeen days later, Javier Velasco, 37, used a bedsheet to hang himself while also housed in a mental health observation unit. Mr. Velasco had been transferred to the unit after he had attempted suicide three days earlier, according to two people with knowledge of the incident.
Given the earlier suicide attempt, advocates say, jail officials failed to protect Mr. Velasco.
With the pandemic starting to recede behind bars — 10 percent of incarcerated people have already had the virus and 38 percent were at least partially vaccinated as of last week — new issues have arisen.
“This isn’t even about Covid anymore,” said Kelsey De Avila, the jail service project director at the Brooklyn Defender Services. “This is the aftermath now, this is the crisis that follows the pandemic.”
‘Our officers feel defeated’
The correction officer had not eaten or had a break from her post at a facility on Rikers Island in more than 16 hours. When a fight erupted in the jailhouse, she said, she was too tired to stop it.
It was not the first time the officer, 27, who spoke anonymously because she was not authorized to speak to the media, had to work a triple shift. She said she had worked 15 24-hour shifts since the fall. She had started sleeping in her car, she said, because she was too tired to drive home and often had to return in a matter of hours.
Another officer, 31, said she had worked so many long hours that it began to affect her health. She was only relieved after she suffered a medical emergency on duty, when her heart was racing and she had chest pain.
Benny Boscio Jr., president of the union representing correction officers, said 1,000 officers had resigned in the past two years, in part because of the work conditions. “Our officers feel defeated,” he said.
Jail staff and elected officials had questioned Ms. Brann’s leadership in the months before her departure. Many welcomed the appointment of her successor, Vincent Schiraldi, who is widely seen as a reformer. Mr. Schiraldi has said he plans to downsize the system and move forward on efforts to close Rikers Island.
In an interview, Mr. Schiraldi said he would focus attention on young adults and incarcerated people with mental illnesses at a time when more than half of the city’s detainees receive mental health services. These groups have experienced the highest rates of violence and use-of-force by guards, he said.
Mr. Schiraldi said he also wanted to prioritize getting jail officers to return to work.
“It’s like peeling an onion, there are many layers to the violence that’s occurring there and that includes an insufficient number of staff coming to work, the pandemic, programs being closed down,” Mr. Schiraldi said. “We need a multifaceted approach.”
Councilwoman Adrienne E. Adams said Ms. Brann, the previous commissioner, was “failing her employees in not getting to the bottom of sick outs and making a better work environment.”
Mr. de Blasio, during an “Inside City Hall” interview on NY1 in March, praised Ms. Brann for her work on the plan to close Rikers and, following pressure from advocates for incarcerated people, a move to end solitary confinement.
“Commissioner Brann has taken on an incredibly tough situation and made real progress,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Joseph Russo, president of the union representing assistant deputy wardens and deputy wardens, said that staff members felt “trapped” and that some had resorted to calling out sick to avoid being forced to work multiple shifts.
Jail officials said that staff had been redeployed from headquarters, specialized and support units to make up for the wave of absences. The city also plans to hire 400 new correction officers this year.
But the staffing issues, the monitor’s report said, had led to problems, including the elevated use of excessive force, tension among detainees, and morale issues among staff members working extra shifts.
The monitor also said that jail officers tended to rely too heavily on emergency response teams to assist with routine jailhouse matters, often resulting in extreme uses of force.
“The department struggles to manage its large number of staff productively, to deploy them effectively, to supervise them responsibly, and to elevate the base level of skill of its staff,” the monitor said.
Mr. Boscio, the correction officer union leader, said the work force felt abandoned.
“People are frustrated with the working conditions we’re forced to work in,” Mr. Boscio said. “We feel like they’ve forsaken us.”
By Nicholas Kristof, June 19, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/19/opinion/sunday/child-marriage-rape.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
For years, the United States has campaigned against child marriage around the world, from Guatemala to Zimbabwe. But we should listen to ourselves: Forty-five states here in America continue to allow girls and boys under 18 to wed.
Girls as young as 10 are occasionally married quite legally in the United States. Nine states have established no absolute minimum age for marriage.
A study this year found that nearly 300,000 children — meaning age 17 and under — were married in the United States from 2000 to 2018. An overwhelming majority were 16- or 17- year-old girls, on average marrying a man four years older. But more than 1,000 were 14 or younger, and five were only 10 years old. Some were wed to people far older.
“No one asked me for consent,” remembered Patricia Abatemarco, who as an eighth grader was married just after her 14th birthday to a man who was 27. “There was nothing romantic about it. I wasn’t in love with him. I didn’t have a crush on him. I was afraid of him.”
A judge in Florence, Ala., married the couple in the courthouse, and then the couple went to the park outside — where the new bride spotted a playground and left the groom to play on the jungle gym.
Abatemarco, now 55, said the path to this marriage began when she was 12 and living in a middle-class home. Her parents were secular, but she had become quite religious and during a personal crisis sought help from an evangelical Christian telephone hotline. A counselor, Mark, showed up and offered free counseling services; these became increasingly intense, she said, and he began to forcibly rape her repeatedly.
At 13, she became pregnant by these rapes. She didn’t know what to do, but Mark and her mother favored marriage. This solved their problems: For Abatemarco’s mother, it averted the stigma of an out-of-wedlock baby in the house, and for Mark, it allowed him to dodge rape charges. Abatemarco desperately wanted to keep the baby, in hopes of having someone to love and comfort her, and her mom told her this was the only way she could do so.
While this happened decades years ago, similar reasoning leads to many youthful marriages today.
I’ve been writing about child marriages in the United States since 2017, when I came across the case of an 11-year-old girl, Sherry Johnson, who had been forced to marry her rapist in Florida. Child marriage was then allowed in some form in all 50 states.
Now, thanks in part to heroic work by an advocacy organization, Unchained at Last, five states have completely barred marriages by people under 18: Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and (just this month) Rhode Island. New York has passed a similar bill that is awaiting the governor’s signature.
The states that allow child marriages mostly do so in particular circumstances, such as with the permission of a parent and a judge. These safeguards don’t work very well. The marriages sometimes involve a girl, perhaps pregnant, marrying an older man who may be her rapist.
The new study found that 60,000 of the child marriages since 2000 involved couples with a large enough gap in ages that sex would typically be a crime. “The marriage license became a get-out-of-jail-free card in most of those states,” said Fraidy Reiss, a victim of forced marriage who founded Unchained at Last.
There are, of course, 17-year-olds who fall deeply in love and can handle a marriage. We can understand that if a girl becomes pregnant, the couple may prefer to marry right away. But it’s complicated: The legal system withholds many rights from people under 18, so a married 17-year-old can become trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare.
If the marriage sours, an underage girl will often not be accepted at a women’s shelter. She will have difficulty retaining a lawyer to get assistance. Astonishingly, she may even have trouble getting divorced, because children often cannot initiate a legal proceeding without going through a guardian. And if a minor flees a violent husband, the police may send her right back to her abuser.
That’s what happened to Abatemarco.
Her marriage at 14 didn’t work. Within months, Abatemarco said, Mark began beating her almost daily and sometimes the new baby as well. (Mark died in 2008, so I don’t know his version of events.)
One night, she said, she fled a beating and was walking on the road about midnight with her baby in a stroller. A police officer stopped her for violating curfew, drove her and the baby back home, gave a copy of the written warning to her husband and then drove off.
“My husband then beat me,” Abatemarco said.
Eventually, Abatemarco fled for good and put her baby daughter up for adoption. With the help of her parents, she was able to get a divorce — on a school day, with enough time to catch her 11th-grade English class.
The United States is quite right to campaign to end child marriage in Bangladesh and Yemen. Let’s do the same at home.
One of the girls’ remains from a 1985 police attack are believed to have ended up in a cardboard box for use in a university forensics course, provoking outrage.
By Sam Roberts, June 21, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/21/us/consuewella-africa-dead.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Obituaries
Consuewella Africa, whose two young daughters were among 11 victims of a police siege in West Philadelphia in 1985 that began when officers tried to arrest four members of the revolutionary group MOVE and ended after the police dropped a bomb on its fortified commune, died on Wednesday in Philadelphia. She was 67.
Her death was confirmed by MOVE, which said she had been hospitalized several weeks ago with lung problems.
The group said Ms. Africa had become ill after officials at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton publicly acknowledged in April that anthropologists had been using the unidentified bones of one of the siege’s young victims for research and in teaching an online course on forensics.
Ms. Africa, MOVE’s former minister of confrontation, was in prison at the time of the siege. She had been arrested in 1978 following the group’s armed standoff with the police in the Powelton Village section of Philadelphia, in which an officer was killed. She was paroled in 1994.
In the 1985 episode, the police fired 10,000 rounds into MOVE’s rowhouse compound and deployed a helicopter that dropped bombs, igniting a fire that destroyed 65 homes. Eleven people, including five children, were killed.
The unidentified bones of one young victim had been turned over by the local medical examiner to an independent forensic anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania in 1985. The anthropologist was subsequently hired by Princeton. In 2016, after he retired, the bones were returned to the Penn Museum, where the curator made a video of a forensic examination of the bones for a Princeton online course.
MOVE members believed the bones belonged to one of Ms. Africa’s daughters, Zanetta, 12, known as Netta, or Katricia, 14, who was known as Tree. They were half sisters. A statement on MOVE’s website expressed confidence that the remains were those of Tree.
The remains were supposed to have been cremated, but when The Philadelphia Inquirer and the news site Billy Penn reported in April that the bones had been stored in a cardboard box at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Ms. Africa broke into tears.
“It’s just continuous, nonstop, vicious, violent, sadistic, ongoing abuse of the MOVE organization,” she said at a news conference.
“The MOVE organization is not just a bunch of people you see here,” she said. “We are a family, a unit. We stand together. This is my family. The family of John Africa. Our belief is life. Our children is life. Animals are life. Therefore, we stand together and fight for one life.”
MOVE was founded in 1972 by John Africa, born Vincent Leaphart. The name is shorthand for the original title, Christian Movement for Life. The group espouses a back-to-nature philosophy while promoting Black liberation. Members, most of them Black, have adopted Africa as a surname.
In 1988, a grand jury exonerated police officials of criminal liability in the siege. In 1990, Ms. Africa was awarded $125,000 in damages plus a $950 monthly annuity for each of her two daughters, guaranteed for 30 years.
Mike Africa Jr., who had been a childhood friend of Ms. Africa’s daughters, said his reaction to the revelation about the remains was “anger, fury, disappointment, sadness.”
“It’s like this never ends,” he told The New York Times, “and no matter how much time passes, and you hope that things can get to a place where you can begin to heal some, it’s right back up in your face.”
After the existence of the remains was reported in the news media, Christopher Woods, the director of the Penn Museum, said: “I would apologize for any trauma this has reintroduced. That certainly wasn’t our intention. Our intention was to help solve this case and restore the personhood and identity and dignity of this individual.”
Consuewella Dotson was born on Aug. 11, 1953, in South Philadelphia. After graduating from a Roman Catholic high school, she became enraptured by the teachings of John Africa.
Her survivors include her husband, Frank Edwards; her sister and brother, Zelma and Isaac Dotson; and her son, Lionel Dotson.
The statement on MOVE’s website said that the organization had been notified that the remains had been sent to a local funeral home and expressed the hope that “we can put Tree and Consuewella together.”
A major step toward defusing tensions in a conflict that has long divided Spain prompted mixed reactions from an independence movement.
By Nicholas Casey, June 22, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/world/europe/spain-catalan-pardon.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
MADRID — Spain’s government on Tuesday approved pardons to a group of separatists serving long prison sentences for their involvement in a failed attempt to form a breakaway state in the northeastern region of Catalonia, a major olive branch in a conflict that has long divided the country.
The pardons, approved by the Spanish cabinet and announced at a news conference, made good on recent promises by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to reconcile with a separatist movement that in 2017 rocked Spain with an independence referendum. Spain’s courts declared the vote illegal and the government ordered a crackdown, confiscating ballots and even sending in riot squads to beat many who tried to vote.
Officials also ordered wide-ranging arrests, including those of the nine politicians and independence activists, who were originally given sentences between nine and 13 years, on charges that included sedition and misuse of public funds. The prisoners were jailed about three and a half years ago.
In an announcement from the prime minister’s palace, Mr. Sánchez offered a conciliatory tone that marked a shift from past confrontational stances by the government against the prisoners. He said pardoning them was in the public interest.
“It’s best for Catalonia, it’s best for Spain,” he said.
The government did not offer complete pardons to the prisoners, however, maintaining bans on holding political office for a number of them who previously had been politicians.
Among those receiving clemency were Oriol Junqueras, the former deputy leader of Catalonia; Raül Romeva, who had been in charge of foreign affairs for the former Catalan government; Jordi Sànchez, who headed a pro-independence group; and Jordi Cuixart, the president of Omnium Cultural, a Barcelona-based cultural organization.
The pardons decision did not come without risks for Mr. Sánchez, leader of the Socialists, who has been fending off criticism that the party has been soft on the separatists, whom many Spanish regard as little more than lawbreakers. Separatists claim they are political prisoners.
After Mr. Sánchez began floating the idea of pardons more seriously this month, three major political parties — representing voters from Spain’s center, right and far right — demonstrated in Madrid, in a protest that drew an estimated 25,000 people.
Polls show most Spaniards oppose the pardons.
“The pardons are a prize for those who have destroyed families, those that have broken the law,” said Inés Arrimadas, a Catalan politician who heads the centrist Citizens political party and who led a group of protesters. “It’s a humiliation to those in Catalonia who continue to be loyal to the Constitution and follow the law.”
Ms. Arrimadas noted that until recently, Mr. Sánchez and members of his government maintained that the separatists needed to answer for their crimes, but that his party now needs support from Catalan nationalists to pass laws.
Many observers, however, point out that for a government looking to win hearts and minds in Catalonia, the timing could be favorable.
Mr. Sánchez’s Socialists won the most seats in a regional vote in Catalonia in February after years of trailing in elections. Pro-independence parties eventually formed a government without them, but rallied behind a moderate leader, Pere Aragonès, who is proposing a dialogue with Madrid rather than pushing for a renewed referendum.
Joaquim Coll, a historian and columnist in Barcelona, said that in the years since the 2017 referendum, the momentum of the independence movement has flagged throughout the region, meaning there may be little threat in releasing the prisoners.
“I think from the point of view of the state,” he said, “it’s a gesture that confirms the victory of the state — the gesture that the winner chooses to make.”
Mr. Coll also said that by releasing the prisoners, the government deprived more hard-line members of the independence movement of martyrs who could be used to push for more confrontation with Madrid. That gives more breathing room to moderates in Catalonia.
The jailings stem from a longstanding conflict over who should govern in Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people that is home to Barcelona as well as a separate language and an independent culture.
After Spain’s courts in 2010 nullified much of a charter that was meant to grant the region more autonomous powers, a regional separatist movement began to gain momentum.
The 2017 referendum was held in the face of a court ruling that it was illegal. The separatists declared victory despite opinion polls showing the public divided on the issue, and Catalonia’s government declared independence — only to suspend the measure and be dissolved by the Spanish government in the crackdown.
The next showdown came in the trial of the independence leaders, which dominated the news for months. In 2019, Spain’s Supreme Court gave the group prison sentences of up to 13 years for crimes that included sedition and misuse of public funds.
The long prison sentences stunned many human rights observers, including Amnesty International, which said jailed separatists amounted to political prisoners in the heart of Europe.
Reactions to the pardons were mixed among some members of the independence movement.
“On a personal note, them getting out of prison will make me happy,” said Adrià Alsina, a national secretary for the Catalan National Assembly, an independence group whose leader, Mr. Sànchez, was among those who received pardons. “But the whole process seems like an enormous bad joke.”
Mr. Alsina said that his goal was not pardons, but instead a declaration of amnesty by the Spanish government, a statement that the prisoners had not committed any crimes, and an agreement to allow a new independence referendum to decide Catalonia’s status.
Conservatives were also not pleased by the pardons, though for different reasons.
“This sends a confusing message to citizens about equity in justice,” said Trinidad Cornejo, who works as an economist in the capital, Madrid. “I’m not saying I’m against it in the future, but right now, no, because only a little time has passed and they’re not sorry.”
José Bautista contributed reporting.
By Luis Ferré-Sadurní, June 23, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/nyregion/india-walton-buffalo-mayor-socialist.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage
“Tonight’s result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we’re ready to serve them,” India Walton said. Credit...Lindsay Dedario/Reuters
A progressive challenger running her first campaign was poised on Tuesday to beat Buffalo’s four-term Democratic mayor in a primary upset that would upend the political landscape in New York’s second-biggest city and signal the strength of the party’s left wing.
The challenger, India B. Walton, is a former nurse and community activist who ran with the support of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party. She was leading Byron Brown, a longtime member of the Democratic establishment, by 7 percentage points, or about 1,500 votes, as of midnight with all of the in-person ballots counted, according to unofficial results.
Should Ms. Walton, 38, win the primary and then triumph in the general election November — a likely result in heavily Democratic Buffalo — she would be the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960, when Frank P. Zeidler stepped down as Milwaukee’s mayor. She would also be the first female mayor in Buffalo’s history.
Ms. Walton celebrated her victory in a jubilant call to her mother that was captured on video, yelling, “Mommy, I won. Mommy, I’m the mayor of Buffalo. Well, not until January, but, yeah.”
Mr. Brown, who once led the state’s Democratic Party and is a close ally of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, declined to concede despite the margin separating him from Ms. Walton.
“We’re going to make sure every single vote is counted,” he said. (Ms. Walton’s campaign estimated that there were about 1,500 absentee ballots outstanding.)
Ms. Walton showed no such hesitation in declaring victory, highlighting what she said were the race’s national ramifications. She said the stunning outcome would “resound here in Buffalo and throughout the nation, showing that a progressive platform that puts people over profit is both viable and necessary.”
“Tonight’s result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we’re ready to serve them,” Ms. Walton said in a statement. “For too long, we’ve seen our city work for politicians, for developers, for the police union, but not for ordinary working families. In our city, everyone will have a seat at the table.”
Ms. Walton has said her priorities as mayor would include adopting so-called sanctuary city rules to safeguard undocumented immigrants, introducing more robust protections for tenants and ending the role of police officers in most mental health emergency calls.
She has also criticized Mr. Byron’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and helped lead protests in the city last year over the police killing of George Floyd.
Mr. Brown, 62, did not campaign vigorously, according to his opponents, and he refused to debate Ms. Walton. He has appeared regularly with Mr. Cuomo at the governor’s news conferences in Western New York to promote the state’s economic reopening.
Ms. Walton, in turn, relied on an intense grass-roots organizing operation, a formidable fund-raising effort and backing from some of the governor’s most vocal foes, including the Working Families Party and Cynthia Nixon, who waged an unsuccessful primary campaign against Mr. Cuomo in 2018.
By Marlo Mack, June 23, 2021
Marlo Mack writes under a pseudonym about parenting a transgender daughter, in order to protect her child’s safety. Her memoir, “How to Be a Girl,” is based on her podcast of the same name.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/opinion/trans-children-parenting.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
I live in Seattle, a large, liberal city in a very blue state. Is that why my child is trans?
According to supporters of the raft of proposed laws targeting trans youth in state legislatures around the country, the answer is emphatically yes: Transgender children are a liberal American fad.
Are they right? Is the Family Research Council, a powerful right-wing organization that supports many of these bills, correct when it claims that children like mine are the result of “a resurgence of postmodern thinking”? Is it true, as a best-selling book has argued, that my daughter is part of a “transgender craze” sweeping America’s youth?
The evidence in my inbox suggests otherwise. I write a blog and host a podcast about parenting my trans daughter, and as a result I receive emails from parents of transgender children every day. I can assure you they are not all writing to me from San Francisco, New York City and Seattle. I can also assure you that my child was not channeling postmodern ideology almost a decade ago when she told me, at age 3, that she was not the boy we all believed her to be.
“My heart is a girl heart,” she said.
Soon after her announcement, I stumbled into the loving arms of a fledgling support group full of parents like me as we grappled with raising gender-diverse children in a world that had yet to hear the name Laverne Cox. I don’t know how I would have managed without them. And I wondered — and worried — about how parents like me were faring elsewhere. Because everything I learned tells me that children like mine must exist everywhere.
I learned that while many transgender people do not transition until adolescence or adulthood, significant numbers of young children are aware of their gender identity from a very young age. Dr. Kristina Olson, a psychologist at Princeton University who studies gender development in children, says, “Research shows that there are a set of trans people who first identify with their gender by the toddler or preschool years and continue to do so throughout their lives.”
I learned that children like this are not new. In her book, “Histories of the Transgender Child,” the historian Jules Gill-Peterson documents the existence of transgender children in the United States dating back to the early 20th century. “As far back as historians like me have found evidence of transgender people,” she recently wrote in The Times, “we have found transgender children.” I read about the long history of people living outside the gender binary in cultures around the planet, including the hijra of South Asia, the fa’afafine of Samoa and the “Two Spirit” people in Native American cultures.
After I started my blog, I began to receive emails from parents who said they had children just like mine. At first, the messages came mostly from the United States, including many from the Midwest and the South. But then I began to hear from parents farther afield. “I am the mom of a gender fluid kid who seems to be the only one in the whole country,” wrote a woman from Italy. The father of a 6-year-old in Argentina wrote to share research he’d found on transgender issues. Groups on Facebook connected me with more parents from around the globe. We shared stories in lengthy emails and in hourslong video chats, meeting each other’s children and laughing and crying like old friends.
Some of them let me interview them for a radio documentary produced for the BBC World Service. I was struck by how remarkably similar their stories were to the ones I had heard for years at my local support group in Seattle.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, a 6-year-old wanted to know why God had forgotten to give him a penis.
On the outskirts of Paris, a mother knew something was amiss when her 5-year-old grew distraught at the idea of one day having “a beard like Papa.”
In Gurugram, India, a father was baffled by his child’s deep depression and frightening incidents of self-harm.
A mother from Kyushu, Japan, told me that she had never heard the word “transgender” when her child came out to her as nonbinary. She described a Japanese legend about people who come down to Earth from the moon. “And that’s how I felt,” she said. “It was as if my child had said, ‘I’m actually from the moon.’”
Like this mother (and like me), nearly all of these parents were bewildered and terrified when they first learned their child was trans. But their children’s suffering was too real to ignore. When the father in India finally discovered the source of his child’s depression — she told him that she could no longer bear living as a boy — she asked her father if he was going to throw her out on the streets.
He did not. Instead, he founded a group that supports transgender people in India. The mother in Japan did the same. A mother from Bogotá, Colombia, joined a similar group after consulting three priests and informing them that if she had to choose between her religion and her transgender son, she would walk away from a lifetime in the Catholic Church. All three priests told her that humans may judge, but God loved her son. She stayed.
These children, their parents told me, are now thriving, living in the genders that match their hearts — in some cases thanks to medical care that still remains inaccessible to many trans people around the world. But if transgender children are a global phenomenon, so are their struggles. Just as in the United States, parents who have spoken publicly are often harassed and threatened. (For safety reasons, I am not naming them.) Nearly all saw relationships with friends and family members disintegrate when their children came out as trans. Several families immigrated to countries that felt safer for their children. “When my daughter is older,” said one mother who left Mexico for the United States, “I’ll tell her the real reason we left.”
These kinds of moves are likely to become more common, as courts and legislatures around the United States and in other countries chip away at transgender rights, restricting access to gender-affirming (and lifesaving) medical care for children like mine. On my social media feed, parents around the world are asking one another: Where can we go now? Where will my child be safe?
It is not always easy to stay hopeful while raising a transgender child in a world that so rarely chooses to welcome her. I wonder what I would do if my own state passed a law making her medical care illegal. I worry about where she will be able to live and travel safely when she is older. I worry about the children who live in places where being transgender remains a crime.
Yet I am hopeful, because I have witnessed the ferocious, protective love of parents around the world. And that is not a liberal Western fad.
By Amanda Allen and Cari Sietstra, June 22, 2021
Ms. Allen is a reproductive rights lawyer. Ms. Sietstra is a reproductive rights advocate.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/opinion/miscarriage-abortion.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Up to 26 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. These losses can be as physically painful as they are emotionally wrenching. And yet many patients are not offered the best care for their miscarriages because of abortion politics.
Both of us have had miscarriages. We each visited our doctors for scheduled ultrasounds between eight and 11 weeks of pregnancy, expecting to see a little bean-shaped baby-to-be with a reassuring heartbeat. Unfortunately, all we heard was quiet. No motion. No beautiful pulse. Only stillness.
These pregnancies would miscarry; there was no way to stop it. The only questions were how and when our bodies would begin to move through the physical acts of loss.
In an ideal world, our health care providers would have offered us the best possible treatment to move the process along quickly, with the least amount of pain and in the privacy of our homes. That treatment would have begun with us each taking one pill of mifepristone, which would have blocked the hormone progesterone and signaled to our bodies that the pregnancies we carried were at an end. That would have been followed by several pills of misoprostol, which would have caused the cramping and bleeding needed for our bodies to swiftly finish our miscarriages. Then we could begin the process of healing and prepare, in both our cases, to try for another pregnancy.
But neither of us was given this option. Instead, we were offered one of three treatment possibilities: a procedure known as dilation and curettage at a local Planned Parenthood, watchful waiting and the use of misoprostol alone, which is less effective than when it’s paired with mifepristone.
Both of us declined the procedure at Planned Parenthood because we wanted to avoid enduring a gantlet of anti-abortion protesters on top of our grief and to select a less invasive and less costly alternative. One of us chose to wait for the miscarriage to pass on its own and weeks later had to undergo a painful procedure to dislodge the remaining pregnancy tissue. The other chose misoprostol alone, which involved more pain and trauma than if it had been preceded by mifepristone to prepare the body to begin the bleeding process.
Because we both work in reproductive health and rights and have deep knowledge of pregnancy loss, we knew there was another way — and we knew it wouldn’t be offered to us.
Why weren’t we offered the best care? It wasn’t an issue of coverage or payment for treatment; we both were fortunate enough to have great health insurance. Many patients who miscarry are not so fortunate. It wasn’t a safety concern; mifepristone has a 30-year track record of use and can be safer than Tylenol. It wasn’t a supply chain issue or unfamiliarity with the medicine. It was abortion politics.
Mifepristone is restricted in the United States for political reasons. Pharmacies are prohibited from stocking it. That’s because, in addition to managing miscarriages, it is used to induce early abortions. This means that because of opposition to abortion, mifepristone is as heavily regulated as drugs like OxyContin.
Last month in a court filing, the Food and Drug Administration announced a new review of the restrictions on this medicine. We applaud this first step and urge the agency to make mifepristone available as a prescription drug.
Right now, health care providers must be certified to prescribe mifepristone, even if they want to use it to manage miscarriages. Even though it could be bought and taken at home as easily as any other prescribed drug, health care providers are required to purchase mifepristone themselves and dispense it in person from their clinics (though the F.D.A. recently suspended the in-person dispensation requirement for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic). If patients are offered mifepristone, they have to sign a consent form stating that they are knowingly ending their pregnancies.
Anti-abortion policies frequently ensnare miscarriages and funnel women who lose wanted pregnancies into substandard treatments that can lengthen their pain and suffering. We are especially concerned that harmful policies around miscarriage will disproportionately hurt people who are already poorly served in pregnancy care. Black women, for instance, have a higher risk of miscarriage compared to white women, and Black women are three to four times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy or childbirth complications.
The mifepristone regulations benefit no one, regardless of whether a person is choosing to end a pregnancy or miscarrying. It’s time for the F.D.A. to allow patients to access this drug without red tape designed to stigmatize abortion.
An Indigenous group said the remains of 751 people, mainly children, had been found in unmarked graves on the site of a former boarding school in Saskatchewan.
By Ian Austen and Dan Bilefsky, June 24, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/world/canada/indigenous-children-graves-saskatchewan-canada.html
CALGARY, Alberta — The remains of 751 people, mainly Indigenous children, were discovered at the site of a former school in the province of Saskatchewan, a Canadian Indigenous group said on Thursday, jolting a nation grappling with generations of widespread and systematic abuse of Indigenous people.
The discovery, the largest one to date, came weeks after the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of another former boarding school in British Columbia.
Both schools were part of a system that took Indigenous children in the country from their families over a period of about 113 years, sometimes by force, and housed them in boarding schools, where they were prohibited from speaking their languages.
A national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 2008 to investigate, expose and document the history and consequences of the residential schools, called the practice “cultural genocide.” Many children never returned home, and their families were given only vague explanations of their fates, or none at all. Canada had about 150 residential schools and an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children passed through the schools between their opening, around 1883, and their closing in 1996.
It is unclear how the children died at the church-run schools, which were buffeted by disease outbreaks a century ago, and where children faced sexual, physical and emotional abuse and violence. Some former students of the schools have described the bodies of infants born to girls impregnated by priests and monks being incinerated.
The commission estimated that about 4,100 children went missing nationwide from the schools. But an Indigenous former judge who led the commission, Murray Sinclair, said in an email this month that he now believed the number was “well beyond 10,000.”
The discovery in Saskatchewan was made by the Cowessess First Nation at the Marieval Indian Residential School, about 87 miles from the provincial capital, Regina.
“There was always talk and speculation and stories, but to see this number — it’s a pretty significant number,” said Bobby Cameron, the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the provincial federation of Indigenous groups. “It’s going to be difficult and painful and heartbreaking.”
He added: “This is what the Catholic Church in Canada and the government of Canada of the day forced on our children.”
For Canada’s 1.7 million Indigenous citizens, who make up about 4.9 percent of the population, the discovery is a visceral reminder of centuries of discrimination and abuse, which has led to intergenerational trauma among survivors of residential schools and their families.
It is also a powerful vindication of their testimonies. While the recent findings have intensified attention to the issue, Indigenous people had been suggesting for decades through their oral histories that thousands of children had disappeared from the schools, but had often been met with skepticism. “There’s no denying this: All of the stories told by our survivors are true,” Chief Cameron said.
The latest findings are likely to deepen the nation’s debate over its history of exploiting Indigenous people and refocus attention on the horrors of the schools, a stain in the history of Canada, a country which has often been perceived, fairly or not, as a bastion of progressivism and multiculturalism.
In September 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the nation’s past “humiliation, neglect and abuse” of Indigenous people, and vowed in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly to improve the lives of the country’s Indigenous people. The latest discoveries will add pressure for him to accelerate those efforts, which many Indigenous people complain have fallen short.
When Mr. Trudeau took office in 2015, he made the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 recommendations a top priority. But progress has been slow, in part because some of them are beyond the federal government’s control. The Indian Act, a collection of laws dating back to the 19th century that govern the lives of Indigenous people, also remains in place despite Mr. Trudeau’s promises to move it into a new system under their control. Chief Cameron and several other Indigenous leaders say that they hope the discovery of the children’s remains will accelerate the process.
The remains of the 215 children were discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia through the use of ground-penetrating radar. Much like an M.R.I. scan of the body, the technology produces images of anomalies in the soil.
An official at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said the latest analysis, which relied on the same technology, began about three weeks ago, not long after the announcement of preliminary findings about the Kamloops school by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.
The search at the Kamloops school is continuing, and the First Nation leaders said that they expected the count to rise further.
When the commission tried to look into the question of missing Indigenous children, the Conservative government at the time turned down its request for money to finance searches. Since the Kamloops discovery at the end of May, several Canadian governments have offered to pay for searches.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced that it would provide just under 4.9 million Canadian dollars (about $3.9 million) to Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to search for graves. The provincial government previously committed 2 million Canadian dollars ($1.6 million).
In a statement, Scott Moe, the premier of Saskatchewan, predicted that the remains of more children would be found elsewhere. “Sadly, other Saskatchewan First Nations will experience the same shock and despair as the search for graves continues,” he wrote.
Like Kamloops, the Marieval school, which opened in 1899, was operated for most of its history by the Roman Catholic Church for the government of Canada. A marked cemetery still exists on the grounds of the school, which closed in 1997 and was subsequently demolished. The commission, relying on testimony from former students and archival materials, listed the Marieval school as a likely site for unmarked graves.
The commission called for a papal apology for the role of the church, which operated about 70 percent of the schools. (The rest were run by Protestant denominations.) But despite a personal appeal from Mr. Trudeau to the Vatican, Pope Francis has still not taken that step. By contrast, the leadership of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, apologized in 1986 for its role in running the schools.
Former students of the Saskatchewan residential schools were particularly active in litigation against the government, resulting in financial settlements and the establishment of the commission, which heard testimony from more than 6,700 witnesses over six years.
Since the Kamloops announcement, Chief Cameron said, he has been traveling around the province, where farming and mining are major industries, looking at former school sites.
“You can see with your plain eye the indent of the ground where these bodies are to be found,” he said of some locations. “These children are sitting there, waiting to be found.”
Vjosa Isai contributed research.
Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, may choose to speak at his hearing. He could face decades in prison.
By Tim Arango, June 25, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/25/us/derek-chauvin-sentence.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
MINNEAPOLIS — For the past two months, Derek Chauvin has been held in solitary confinement as lawyers and investigators have been busy with the next phase of his case: determining the length of his punishment for the murder of George Floyd.
On Friday afternoon, Mr. Chauvin, 45, will return to the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis where he was convicted in April to learn his fate. Prosecutors are asking that Mr. Chauvin face 30 years in prison, while his defense team has requested probation. The maximum sentence allowed by law is 40 years.
The sentencing hearing is expected to last at least an hour and to include statements from members of Mr. Floyd’s family, who may speak about his life and how his death has affected them. The gruesome killing of Mr. Floyd as Mr. Chauvin, a former police officer, held a knee on his neck for more than nine minutes was captured on cellphone video and drew millions of Americans to the streets to protest against racial injustice and police brutality toward Black people.
Mr. Chauvin, who is white, did not testify at his six-week trial in March and April; he spoke only once, outside the presence of the jury, to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand.
Mr. Chauvin will be permitted to speak at his sentencing hearing on Friday, but legal experts said it was unlikely he would choose to do so. Any remarks, they said, could be considered in future federal court proceedings, where Mr. Chauvin faces additional charges, and might complicate an appeal of his state conviction.
Under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, the presumptive sentence for a person like Mr. Chauvin, who had no previous criminal history, is 12.5 years for second-degree murder, the most serious of the three charges he was convicted on. After deliberating for about 10 hours, a jury also convicted him of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
But the judge who will decide Mr. Chauvin’s sentence, Peter A. Cahill, has already ruled that four “aggravating factors” apply in the case, which would allow Mr. Cahill to deliver a longer sentence than Minnesota’s guidelines call for. The judge found that Mr. Chauvin acted with particular cruelty; acted with the participation of three other individuals, who were fellow officers; abused his position of authority; and committed his crime in the presence of children, who witnessed the killing on a Minneapolis street corner on May 25, 2020.
Mr. Chauvin’s conviction was a rare rebuke by the criminal justice system against a police officer who killed someone while on duty. Officers are often given wide latitude to use force, and juries have historically been reluctant to second-guess them, especially when they make split-second decisions under dangerous circumstances.
According to research conducted by Philip M. Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, 11 police officers, including Mr. Chauvin, have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings since 2005. The lightest sentence has been just less than seven years in prison, while the harshest was 40 years. The average sentence has been 21.7 years.
Most legal experts said they expected Judge Cahill to deliver a sentence closer to the 30 years the prosecution has asked for than the far shorter guideline sentence of 12.5 years. With good behavior, Mr. Chauvin would most likely serve two-thirds of any prison sentence, and then the rest on parole.
“I would hope that Judge Cahill sentences Derek Chauvin to the maximum amount of time in prison,” Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and activist, said recently in a public forum held by the Legal Rights Center, a Twin Cities nonprofit group that provides indigent defense and advocates criminal justice reform. “But I believe that he will probably strike somewhere in the middle, between the lowest and the highest possible sentence he could have.”
In a memorandum seeking a 30-year sentence, the prosecution team wrote: “Such a sentence would properly account for the profound impact of defendant’s conduct on the victim, the victim’s family, and the community. Defendant brutally murdered Mr. Floyd, abusing the authority conferred by his badge. His actions traumatized Mr. Floyd’s family, the bystanders who watched Mr. Floyd die, and the community. And his conduct shocked the nation’s conscience.”
Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, has pressed for leniency, asking that Mr. Chauvin be granted probation and a penalty of the time he already has served behind bars.
In a memorandum to the judge, Mr. Nelson wrote that the life expectancy of police officers was lower than the general population, and said that Mr. Chauvin had been diagnosed with heart damage.
Mr. Nelson also argued that placing Mr. Chauvin in prison would make him a target of other inmates, pointing to the fact that Mr. Chauvin has already been placed in solitary confinement for his own safety. Mr. Nelson wrote that Mr. Chauvin was a product of a “broken system,” though he offered no elaboration.
The lawyer’s memorandum offered no sense of regret for what had happened. “Mr. Chauvin was unaware he was even committing a crime,” Mr. Nelson wrote. “In fact, in his mind, he was simply performing his lawful duty in assisting other officers in the arrest of George Floyd.”
By Thomas Page McBee, June 25, 2021
Mr. McBee is the author of “Amateur: A Reckoning With Gender, Identity, and Masculinity” and “Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man.” He writes for TV and film.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/25/opinion/transgender-transition-testosterone.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Ten years ago this month, on an otherwise ordinary lunch break from my job as an editor at a local newspaper, I received my first testosterone injection from a no-nonsense doctor at a hospital in Boston. I was 30 years old and desperate to be known.
I also wanted it known that despite the media fixation on a trite narrative about what it meant to be trans, I was not “a man trapped in a woman’s body or any cliché like that,” as I emailed my friends and family. I was a man and I was born trans, and I could hold both of those realities without an explanation that could be written on the back of a napkin.
“I will not become a different person,” I wrote in that email, defiantly and, as it turns out, correctly. “I am myself. I just want to feel more like me.”
That day, as my doctor taught me how to aspirate a syringe, she gently warned me that there was woefully little longitudinal medical research into testosterone and trans men. She couldn’t say for sure whether taking the hormone would affect my life span, but what was left unsaid lingered in the subtext: No matter how long I lived, it would be a lot longer than if I had to manage one more sleepless night, hallucinating a bearded version of myself in my bathroom mirror, mapped over my dead-eyed reflection.
“You’re a medical pioneer,” she told me, with some apology, as she handed me my first prescription. Of course, I wasn’t — generations of trans people and their doctors had made this moment possible for me — but I knew what she meant: She had no idea how to envision my future. The problem was, neither did I.
That was in 2011, two years before Laverne Cox would star in “Orange Is the New Black” and three before Time would make her the magazine’s cover and announce that we’d reached a “Transgender Tipping Point.” Same-sex marriage, the primary focus of the mainstream L.G.B.T.Q. rights movement, was still prohibited by federal law, and President Barack Obama’s views on it were still “evolving.” There were zero regular or recurring transgender characters on broadcast television, and I could count on one hand the number of trans people I knew in real life.
The decade since I began my medical transition, it turns out, coincided with another American gender story, largely centered on people who weren’t trans and, yet, playing out beside my own: Lost jobs and a slow recovery from the Great Recession created a shake-up of gender roles in homes and workplaces across the country, leading to what some experts termed a “masculinity crisis” — a widening educational achievement gap between boys and girls, the high rate of male suicides and other “deaths of despair,” and single women dropping out of the marriage market rather than partnering with low-earning men. It all led to much gender anxiety and hand-wringing. What, I wondered, might it mean to ask a new question: What makes a man, at all?
Gender, it turns out, is a language, and the more fluent I became in it, the more finding the words to express the messy humanity of myself and others like me became an urgent task — in part because it was becoming increasingly clear that, whether we asked for the job or not, trans people were going to play a key role in shaping the future of gender for everyone.
But in those first years of my transition, before Twitter and Instagram and other social media platforms became central to our daily lives, the diversity of experience within the trans community — the kaleidoscopic potential that we contained — remained largely invisible, even to those of us who were trans. Instead, if we found ourselves at all, it was often in others’ bad translations: sensational stories doled out by the entertainment industry and the news media, designed to titillate audiences and created by people who had no idea what it was like to be us.
As the fantastic 2020 Netflix documentary “Disclosure” highlights in harrowing detail, mass media depictions of trans people have long been rooted in monstrosity and the idea of failed womanhood (and manhood). From the unhinged mother-impersonating murderer in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” to ’90s talk shows (“My boyfriend is really a girl!”), gender diversity — common throughout human history — has largely been portrayed as either the sinister stuff of nightmares or shocking tabloid fodder.
Learning to tell a story that didn’t begin with “born in the wrong body” and to acknowledge the rich, long history of trans experience would become as much a part of my transition as the synthetic hormone that I hoped would broaden the muscles in my back and deepen the sound of my voice. I was confident that the otherworldly, threatening narrative ascribed to my body in the popular imagination wasn’t the truth. And I began to realize that my experience offered a view into the way gender operates on all bodies.
We are, all of us, in a constant stage of negotiation with the political and cultural forces attempting to shape us into simple, translatable packages. Trans people, by necessity, are more aware of these forces; that fluency is a strength, and it has afforded us an opportunity to question the stories about the “biology” of gender that are so foundational to American culture: Do we all really want to co-sign the notion that a uterus, and thus reproductive potential, is how we define womanhood? When a nonbinary person births a child, why must the birth certificate dictate that the person who gave birth is a “mother,” and what does being a “mother” even mean, exactly? What might it mean for all parents if “mother” and “father” were not such distinct categories in child-rearing? Who benefits from their continuing separation?
Despite the growing interest in our lives over the past decade, being the trans flag bearers of the “future of gender” usually made us the subjects, not the authors, of our narratives. As we became more visible, trans people showed up in a glut of news stories with headlines such as “Transgender Love: When Husband Becomes Wife.” These tended to focus less on our experience as trans people and more on the supposed plights of our parents and partners. Our families were pitied for their bad fortune or celebrated for the enduring strength of their love, while the trans person in question was casually dehumanized. (“Don’t look at them as a monster,” suggested the wife of a trans woman in a network TV news story.) The widespread and anthropological interest in otherwise ordinary trans lives felt less about us and more about a broader gender anxiety — for better or, usually, for worse.
While much more recent three-dimensional portrayals of trans people are certainly a balm, it’s also crucial that we not underestimate the effects of those more disturbing takes. Today, only three in 10 Americans say they know a trans person, and experts and advocates twin the continuing epidemic of violence against trans people (especially Black trans women and other trans women of color) with those dehumanizing portrayals of our lives.
By 2015, a year after that Time “Transgender Tipping Point” cover and amid the urgent, intersectional calls for action against systemic racism championed by Black Lives Matter, I was working in another newsroom in New York, unpacking the continuing “masculinity crisis” from my vantage point as a still-new (and white) man. My beard had come in by then, and years of socialization as a cis-passing man after three decades as a queer feminist had left me with questions about the root relationship between masculinity and violence, and my own latent biases.
As the country roiled with pre-Trump rage, I had questions about the world I now inhabited, such as “Why won’t anyone touch me?” and “Am I sexist?” As a newcomer to this fraught landscape, I reckoned with my own masculinity in a very public experiment: I learned how to box, spending months grappling with other men in a Manhattan boxing gym, learning the rituals of the men’s locker room and asking sociologists and biologists and psychologists every “beginner’s mind” question I had about masculinity along the way. I became the first trans man to fight in Madison Square Garden. I wrote the story of my fight in 2016 and later wrote a book, “Amateur,” that expanded my examination of American masculinity.
By the time that book was published, in 2018, the #MeToo movement had toppled previously untouchable men, “toxic masculinity” had become part of our national lexicon, and trans and nonbinary artists, advocates and activists were leading powerful conversations about gender diversity, intersectionality and the limitations of the gender binary.
The entwined potential of the anti-racist, feminist, queer and trans rights movements gave rise to potent change and an equally potent backlash: Dangerous gender-reveal parties sought to reaffirm genitalia as the de facto definition of gender, no matter how many people got hurt or killed in the process; violence against trans people continues to hit record highs, with 2020 being the deadliest on record; and women of all gender backgrounds who went up against systemic injustices faced horrifying harassment.
Even as the TV show “Pose” elegantly engaged viewers with stories about Black and Latinx trans women, the (now legion) trans people in my life struggled. At a funeral for one of several trans friends who died by suicide, it was clear that the marginalized among us remained at the margins. As a white, trans man, I never forget that medical transition is — and should not be — a privilege. Trans people who either don’t want or can’t get medical interventions remain vulnerable to both the existential threat of erasure and the often-physical violence of gender policing.
Visibility, of course, is not the same as belonging. Language creates nuance, but not necessarily legislation. Stories save lives and also, paradoxically, endanger them. Seeing ourselves reflected in the broader culture may have given us more models of how to navigate the crushing weight of transphobia, but increased awareness of our existence also inflamed gender fundamentalists, who initiated a moral panic about trans kids duped into gender variance by predatory trans adults. Their rhetoric reminded me of the same sort of anxiety straight people had about gay kids like me in the late ’90s.
But, as with any civil rights movement in this country, what has been seen cannot be unseen, and in that sense, the tide really has finally turned. Even as bigots wage a near-constant legislative assault on our civil liberties via draconian “bathroom bills,” straw-man attacks on the supposed “competitive advantage” of trans athletes and medically unsound efforts to prevent trans kids from seeking lifesaving, gender-affirming care, our insistence that we be the architects of our own stories has only grown.
As a journalist, author and screenwriter, I’ve seen that firsthand. Over the past decade, I’ve found myself at what turned out to be epicenter of the movement for trans visibility — first in media, and then writing for film and television. As I filed stories and authored books and worked in writers’ rooms, I witnessed a sea change from the inside of our culture in the stories we tell about gender. Somewhere along the way I became the trans future I needed, embodied.
When I left my doctor’s office that June day in 2011, trans visibility was still a nascent strategy in the struggle for our civil rights. The prevailing advice to trans men on hormone replacement therapy was to focus on “passing” as cisgender men — even if that meant leaving your past behind. According to this myopic logic, being trans was not its own identity so much as a swift journey between two gender poles.
Now a new generation of trans young people is growing up in a much more expansive narrative landscape, one that makes room for a gender spectrum instead of a binary and trumpets evolving, reclaimed and even newly invented language far beyond “trapped in the wrong body.” They also have what most of us didn’t when we were younger — myriad paths forward modeled by real, live trans adults. The trans people making history as well as magazine covers include State Senator Sarah McBride of Delaware, Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, the writer and director Janet Mock, and the actor Elliot Page. A Black trans lives matter march in New York City in June 2020 drew 15,000 people, according to organizers. And a GLAAD analysis of the 2020-21 television season found 29 regular or recurring trans characters on scripted prime-time broadcast, cable and streaming shows.
I hope my generation will be among the last in this country forced to endure patronizing medical professionals requiring that therapists evaluate our capacity to know our own hearts. Today, self-determination has largely replaced medical gate-keeping, and with those gates open, the very fabric of our most retrograde gender narratives, like “born in the wrong body” and “boys will be boys,” has begun to come undone. Young people have a language, a history and a sense of possibility — and so do I.
In 2018, my wife and I were married. I’m an uncle to five nephews, and I work every day to model a different sort of masculinity to the many trans kids who regularly write to me online. Some of them cheekily call me “Dad,” and I’ve found it suits: Increasingly, I hope to be a parent myself someday. That’s a future I could never have imagined.
As trans and queer and BIPOC and cis youth join forces to reckon with historical wrongs and create new ways forward, I wonder with genuine awe, what new futures will bloom? I hope I live long enough to find out.
Trans time isn’t linear. Beyond the shared experience of birth and death, many of us live in loops that double back on themselves: A second birth, a second death, two puberties, a collapsing of space-time that becomes, eventually, a kind of integration.
“You don’t have to start at the beginning and go in order to achieve ‘truth,’” the trans historian Susan Stryker told me in a recent conversation about how she approaches writing trans histories. Trans people, she said, cut off from our history and traumatized both collectively and personally, live in a space without the constrictions and narrative benefits of neat arcs of time.
Our time is circular, organic, associative. Sometimes we return to the beginning and find that not much has changed. Late last year I met with a new primary care doctor who treats many trans patients in Los Angeles. He suggested I switch my injection site from my thigh to my stomach — and once again a medical professional had to teach me the way in which I can continue to make myself whole.
I asked him, as I held and stabbed a fleshy part of my belly, whether the research into the health outcomes of trans men on testosterone had advanced in the past decade. He promised to get back to me after reviewing the literature, but when he did, I wasn’t surprised to find few answers. Despite the continuing obsession with trans people as metaphors and boogeymen, there’s still very little medical research to ensure our survival.
But being trans taught me long ago that progress isn’t so much a straight line as a relentless drumbeat, a fire inside, an instinct that is clearer than the static blaring wildly in the background. Ten years later, and that’s what I see in the mirror: my body, messy and illegible and imperfect and, above all else, human. My body, a miracle beyond time.
Islands like the Bahamas are paying the price for wealthier nations’ emissions — an injustice crying out for a global remedy.
By Bernard Ferguson, June 23, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/magazine/climate-change-impact-bahamas.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
This May — 20 months after Hurricane Dorian unleashed its cruelty upon my Bahamas — I looked down from an airplane’s window and could see land that was still visibly wounded. Grand Bahama and the Abacos were once covered in dark green foliage that complemented the emerald waters; now long stretches had faded to brown, even gray. Two-story waves had blown apart wide sections of shoreline. Once-gorgeous mangrove swamps — habitat for algae and crabs and bonefish, and the land’s defense against a storm’s surge — were overwhelmed by Dorian’s salt water, and large swaths of them lay dead, their brittle shells shimmering in the heat. The same fate befell the abundant indigenous Caribbean pine trees, which take decades to grow to their towering heights of over 100 feet. They need fresh water to survive, so when the ocean stretched upon the land and sat there for days, it killed acres of them.
Interspersed between the dead mangroves and fields of mangled bark I would find still-marred neighborhoods. Concrete toppled. Roofs missing. Debris scattered. Some blocks looked akin to the aftermath of rapture: Those taken were not taken gently, and those granted enough mercy to survive had stories so harrowing they approached the point of legend. One man was flung high into a massive gum tree and remained there until rescue arrived. Another man and his son, almost swept away by the flood, managed to hang on to the trunk of a pine. By the end of the storm, they had no skin left on their arms.
Standing in her yard, her battered home behind us, Jacana Theoc told me how she and her six children endured three terrifying days inside the storm. The sky above was calm, with fading pink clouds, as she described how they spent nearly 12 hours standing atop their countertops while the living room and kitchen filled with water. At one point, nearly neck-deep in it, her oldest son said, “Mummy, I can’t feel my legs.” As she remembered, she paused to look up at the darkening sky, the stars just becoming visible, and wiped away a few tears.
Somehow, she said, they escaped. Somehow — after retreating into the attic, after struggling over a barbed-wire fence, after a bout with snakes in their search for dry land — she and her family were, by some miracle, still alive. But their house was gutted. The water inside climbed to the ceiling, destroying everything they owned. Very slowly, she and her husband have begun repairs. But “the reason it’s taking so long,” she told me, “is because we’re literally doing this out of pocket.”
Every time I have returned home to the Bahamas since the storm, I’ve also stopped by what remains of my uncle’s house. My mother was living there when Dorian began to worsen off the coast. Having been through many hurricanes, she decided to shelter in place. But her sisters had awful premonitions of danger and begged her to come to Nassau. Eventually she relented and, for the first time in her life, retreated from a hurricane. She turned out to be incredibly lucky: Dorian intensified rapidly just before landfall, and the house was thoroughly ransacked. Its windows and doors were blasted open, and much of what had been on the inside was in pieces on the outside. The roof survived, but the refrigerator was dangling among the support beams, having floated up into the ceiling and never descended. If my mother had remained there, we might never have found her.
Before my mother, before Bahamians, before the colonizers and the enslaved people they dragged here, it was in large part the Indigenous Taíno who cultivated the lands. They believed hurricanes arrived because of the powers of the zemis, or divine deities. The Taíno feared and respected these zemis, whose powers often devastated Taíno communities. To survive, they sheltered in sturdy structures when storms came, praying to be spared. European colonizers, before killing nearly all the Taíno, took note of these strategies — knowledge passed down across the time of colonization that serves as a basis for Bahamians today.
But even with that knowledge, Dorian far surpassed anything we Bahamians thought a hurricane could be capable of. Tyrone Mather, a 54-year-old I met as he tried to repair his house, seems to have internalized this difference with his own body. He told me that he went to the shoreline as Dorian’s lightning flashed off the coast. He put his palms in the water and felt that it was warm, and so he fled his home. Like most Bahamians, he has lived a life of surviving storms, and now he knows by touch what climate scientists have come to agree on: Warmer oceans mean stronger hurricanes.
Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, once said that the question with any given hurricane is not “Was it caused by climate change?” but rather “How much worse did climate change make it?” Hurricanes are seen as the Earth’s mechanism for ferrying excess heat from the Equator toward the poles. With the average surface temperature of the planet’s oceans having increased nearly one degree Celsius since the preindustrial era, there is now more heat in the tropics, and so the planet’s transfer of that heat has become more powerful; the storms quicker to intensify and the lives of those in their paths more precarious. Even small increases in hurricane strength can have catastrophic effects. According to the United States National Weather Service, doubling wind speed from 75 to 150 miles per hour can equate to 256 times more damage potential. And while the strongest hurricanes in the Bahamas’ history once topped out at 160-mile-per-hour sustained wind speeds, Dorian’s was 185 — a difference that, per the same scale, means more than three times the damage power. For Bahamians, only a handful of miles per hour seem to span the difference between tearing down power lines and tearing up concrete.
The consequences are immense. The damage Dorian inflicted on the Bahamas was estimated at $3.4 billion — about one-fourth of the country’s 2019 gross domestic product, and almost six times the damage of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, formerly the costliest storm the country had faced in the past 30 years. Historically, hurricanes kill very few people in the Bahamas, but Dorian officially killed nearly 100, and hundreds more remain missing.
The Taíno believed that hurricanes were the consequences of choices made by beings outside their control. Today it’s the intensifying strength of the hurricanes that is outside the control of Bahamians. It is the consequence of decisions made by wealthy nations beyond our shores, and the greenhouse gas emissions that have fueled their prosperity and way of life. Most of these gases have come from the United States, China, the European Union, Russia and other developed countries. Compared with them, the Bahamas’ own emissions are tiny. And yet it is the Bahamas, along with other small islands worldwide — like Antigua and Barbuda, the Maldives, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands — that are on the front lines of the climate crisis.
Given the long-known imbalance between those most culpable for climate change and those set to suffer most from it, the question of who should be held accountable for losses and damages is not a new one. It has been asked for three decades, and is even addressed in the Paris Agreement. The accord is thought to have three pillars. The first, “Mitigation,” mandates that countries commit to doing what they can to keep the rise in global average temperature well below two degrees Celsius. The second, “Adaptation,” concerns the preparation of infrastructure and communities to survive changes in the climate. “Loss and Damage” is third. It seeks to build support for joint financing, commensurate with different economies’ contributions to climate change, to address all the destruction of resources, homes, ecosystems and livelihoods that Mitigation and Adaptation cannot prevent.
The concept of Loss and Damage was first introduced by Vanuatu, a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (A.O.S.I.S.), as part of a 1991 proposal for a pool to compensate victims of sea-level rise. It didn’t prove especially consequential, though, until 2013, when a coalition of island states and developing countries pushed to bring attention to it during the United Nations’ annual climate conference. Just days before the conference began, the Philippines, long familiar with tropical cyclones, was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people and displaced millions. Yeb Saño, a delegate for the Philippines, addressed the conference and swore to a hunger strike until meaningful negotiations took place. “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness,” he said. “The climate crisis is madness.” And with this, for a moment, the divide between the rooms in which climate policy was negotiated and the climates those policies implicated became inescapably thin. Despite relentless pushback from developed countries, a landmark decision was made to award Loss and Damage its own mechanism in future negotiations.
At the 2015 conference in Paris, debate around Loss and Damage rose to a fever pitch. Developed countries, by and large, wanted to fold Loss and Damage mechanisms into the articles in the agreement regarding Adaptation, arguing that the two were coupled. Many developing countries believed they should be separate; some were already experiencing losses from climate change, and it seemed clear that even with profound adaptation, such injuries were now inevitable. “We mobilized very big-time, the climate-vulnerable forum countries, the least developed countries,” Saleemul Huq, the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, told me. “It became one of the make-or-break issues that took us into overtime on the last day in Paris.”
Toward the end of the conference, John Kerry, representing the Obama administration, met with Enele Sopoaga, who was then the chairman of A.O.S.I.S. and the prime minister of Tuvalu, a chain of low-lying Pacific islands. Throughout the conference, Sopoaga stressed his commitment to seeing A.O.S.I.S.’s goals included in the agreement, saying, “Nobody is going to take them out now without a war.” But in an interview after their meeting, Kerry told reporters that “I explained exactly where we’re coming from on that, and I think there’s good understanding.” The United States Congress, according to Kerry, would be rigidly against any implication of any nation’s liability for climate damages elsewhere. And so, when the landmark Paris Agreement was successfully adopted at the end of the conference, Loss and Damage did win recognition as a stand-alone article in the agreement — but while the accords included the aim to “enhance understanding, action and support” for such damages, a caveat was added, explaining that the agreement “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”
After Dorian, a torrent of international aid began pouring into the Bahamas. To help manage recovery efforts, the government established a Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction — and, within that, the Disaster Reconstruction Authority. Over the 20 months since the storm, tens of millions of dollars have been spent on the islands’ recovery from the worst disaster in their history. Fourteen schools have been repaired and more than three million cubic yards of debris cleared; funds have been delivered for small businesses and payments worth thousands awarded for homes in need of repair.
“We’re pretty pleased about the Small Home Repair Program,” Katherine B. Smith, the managing director of the D.R.A., told me. The organization had helped about 2,600 people, and had another thousand approved and waiting. But, Smith said, there was still some way to go. Around 9,000 homes sustained damage during Dorian, and considerable debris still remains — all while the pandemic has paralyzed tourism, the Bahamas’ most significant economic driver, and tied up the government’s resources. When I asked Smith how much longer recovery efforts might take, given that we’re approaching two years since the storm, she said the answer was “a minimum of another two to three years. And that’s based on all things being good.”
Jacana Theoc and her family were left with only the shell of their home. “We figured we had more damage than anybody,” she told me. But when the government assessed what was left of their property and offered assistance, the family didn’t get as much as they expected. The Red Cross helped with food for a while, and social services provided some furniture and a few new appliances, but the house Theoc spent 10 years saving for remains boarded up and battered. The story was similar everywhere I went. In the High Rock area, where residents were still trying to rebuild, a woman with a measuring tape on her belt told me that while her community had lost many people in the storm, it had even more deaths in the aftermath. And Nadine Pinder, whose husband is pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, told me many seniors in her community were in special need of help: “Some of them have lost their families. And the one thing you know you felt so secure in, which is your home, has now been taken away.”
Many residents had whole houses swallowed by the storm and were left with only foundations. For temporary shelter, the D.R.A. contracted for more than 100 white, igloo-like domes made of a fiberglass composite, at a cost of some $6 million. I’m told the domes leak, and have a tendency to get too warm and accumulate mold. A woman who lives in one (she asked to be referred to only as Zelma, worried about sounding ungrateful or jeopardizing future aid) told me she had been trying to rebuild her home with climate adaptation in mind. She’s using concrete this time, instead of wood, despite the expense. Other than funding from the D.R.A. and previous help from the Red Cross, her family has to stretch her daughter’s small salary to cover construction. They heard that an NGO, Samaritan’s Purse, was still around, offering free roofs. “We’ve been working on it, trying to get the house up to the belt course” — the juncture at the top of a story — “so we could get that roof,” she told me. “But it hasn’t worked out.” She shook her head for a while, holding it low. “And hurricane season is right here again.”
Similarly, Ann Wilmore now lives in a government dome built atop the foundation where her house once was, on a vibrant bluff overlooking the Sea of Abaco. She looked to NGOs for help rebuilding, but many left the islands when the pandemic arrived. Most of those who remained told her they’d depleted their resources, and for what they had left — windows, roofs, doors — “they told me I don’t qualify because I lost the whole structure.” When she went to the D.R.A., she was told they weren’t taking new applications. (Smith, the program’s managing director, told me earlier that the D.R.A. was looking to raise funds and partnerships to expand the Small Home Repairs Program, but until then its portal was scheduled to remain closed.) I watched Wilmore’s eyes dart around her remaining foundation, the different tiles indicating what were once different rooms, and I could tell she was imagining the home that had stood there. When she threw open her hands, I could see the sea behind her. “What do you mean I don’t qualify?” she said.
In the 1940s, a scientist named Irving Langmuir hypothesized that he could weaken a hurricane by flying crystals of dry ice into its eye wall. None of his results were reproducible by others. About a decade later, though, two terrible hurricanes made landfall in the United States, together inflicting damages upward of $1 billion — and the federal government became interested in Langmuir’s experiments, believing that controlling the storms, or at least weakening them, could prove worthwhile. The effort, authorized by Congress, was called Project Stormfury, and it continued until 1983. Every action the project thought might be successful at weakening hurricanes has since been proved false or inconclusive. But over the same period, of course, the country was indeed changing the nature of hurricanes: As the world’s No. 1 greenhouse gas emitter, it helped raise the planet’s average temperature. The United States may have failed at weakening hurricanes, but it has extensively contributed to making them more powerful.
Since the Paris Agreement, as the effects of climate change have worsened, the U.S. stance on Loss and Damage has remained the same. “Loss and Damage is an existential issue for us,” said an A.O.S.I.S. representative, the Belizean environment minister Omar Figueroa, at the most recent climate-change conference in 2019. “We need clear and predictable finance that we can access to really compensate for the loss and damage that so many of our sister nations are feeling.” U.S. representatives, however, operating under the Trump administration, continued to refuse discussions of finance, and privately underscored that doing otherwise would “push the button of a certain man in the Oval Office.”
As a proposed workaround, some developed countries, like those of the European Union, have suggested tapping the Green Climate Fund, a pool made available for developing countries to help in their mitigation and adaptation efforts. But Harjeet Singh, a senior adviser at Climate Action Network International, told me this would deplete an already underfunded stream. “Loss and damage occurs when you realize you have not done enough on mitigation and adaptation,” he says. Finance, he says, remains a paramount issue. According to some economists, losses and damages from climate change are set to amount to somewhere between $290 billion and $580 billion a year by 2030. Currently there is no finance stream to meet those costs. “That means that money that should have gone to education, health care, infrastructure is now being diverted to emergency response and rehabilitation and reconstruction, which puts developing countries into a vicious cycle of poverty and debt,” Singh says. “Finance is something that really rich countries, particularly the U.S., have made sure that there is no progress and not even discussion on.”
On April 22, 2021, the Biden administration began a Leaders Summit on Climate — part of an attempt, after the Trump administration, to rescue the narrative of the United States’ role in combating climate change. In his opening address, the president urged nations around the world to increase their ambition to curb emissions. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about climate justice, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that while every country was feeling the effects of climate change, “some countries are experiencing much more severe impacts than others, something we must acknowledge and address.” But they made no mention of developed countries rising to the call of accountability; they made no mention of Loss and Damage.
On behalf of my Bahamas, I wish I could say that the world wasn’t so inextricably connected. It would mean that as the planet continued to warm, Bahamians like my mother, like Jacana Theoc, Tyrone Mather and Ann Wilmore, would not be at such risk of having their entire lives lacerated. In a closed system, the carbon emissions from a small island state might change the climate at a rate proportional to their size. But the systems of this world are bewilderingly open, tangled across oceans and continents and nation-states, and so the cumulative carbon footprint of every country on the planet is coming to bear down on small islands. Some of us are disappearing as the oceans rise. Some are experiencing droughts. Some are facing storms that are swinging blades we can no longer parry. My Bahamas are facing effects of climate change that we could never have caused ourselves, and crises larger than we can survive alone.
I am told that global climate conferences tend to take place at convention centers, in windowless rooms with strip lighting and air-conditioning. This means that global climate policies are negotiated in climates far more neutral than the ones they affect. But their stakes remain incredibly high. Because this year’s conference, in November in Glasgow, will be the Biden administration’s first, it has an excellent chance to raise its ambitions and finally allow a discussion about accountability to developing nations and small island states. There’s no other way to achieve climate justice, and no other way our countries can survive.