Leonard Peltier’s statement
on Rio Grande Water Walk:
Greetings my Relatives,
I would like to offer my support for all of you, as you walk and pray for world peace and to protect the water spirits of the Rio Grande. I know when you walk you carry a torch of light and hope that the world will finally get it right in these two fundamental parts of life. And I thank the organizations who have organized these important events.
From my limited point of view here behind these high gray walls I often shake my head in disbelief at what is going on in the world. The brutal attack on the people of Ukraine has captured the attention of people all over the world, as it should, but there are indigenous peoples in every part of the world who continue to struggle to survive every day in the face of "progress." I join you praying for help and relief for them now.
As an indigenous person myself I honor all of you. The stronger ones who can walk, and the Native people who will run. But I do not forget all of you who offer your voices and your support in all the ways you do to support these honorable efforts. Those who gather the food and cook and those who drive and those who write the letters and make the phone calls to seek support and public awareness.
I am now old enough to understand that for us, who grew up traditional indigenous, it was simply a part of our original instructions that we should Honor the Earth and water always, and protect them every day in every way.
No one ever heard the term "Earth Day" when I was young. It did not exist. It was your elders who invented it. And now I know that was what drew so many people in the 60's to acknowledging our way of looking at the natural world. I think they understood on a deep level that it is everyone's duty to protect the water and the earth for those yet unborn.
I cannot forget to send love to our Buddhist relatives who will help to lead your walk. I send them my love and respect. And my profound Thanks for standing up for us, and for me, all these years.
I live in a place that knows little of peace ,but I have not forgotten that PEACE should be the natural order of things. It is the most beautiful of things. All faiths know and acknowledge this.
But you, my sisters and brothers are living it and I am deeply grateful to you for keeping such a sweet dream alive.
You are my heroes. Thank You, and know I will join you in my prayers each day as you walk and speak for those who have no voices.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
Leonard Peltier 89637-132
USP Coleman 1
P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521
Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.
Outrage as Judge Approves Julian Assange’s Extradition to the U.S.
British judge on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, granted formal approval to the U.S. government’s request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who faces espionage charges for publishing classified material that exposed war crimes by American forces.
“The home secretary must act now to protect journalism.”
The judge’s new and widely expected procedural order, the culmination of a drawn-out legal battle, places the final decision on Assange’s extradition in the hands of U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, leaving the WikiLeaks publisher with dwindling options to fight his removal to the U.S.—where he could be hit with a 175-year prison sentence.
Patel is expected to make a final decision by May 18, after which Assange can attempt to appeal via judicial review, Reuters reported Wednesday. As Patel weighs the extradition order, Assange will remain jailed in a high-security London prison, where he has languished for years under conditions that experts have condemned as torture.
Human rights organizations wasted no time urging Patel to reject the extradition order. Allowing it to proceed, they warned, would endanger press freedoms around the world, given that the charges against Assange seek to punish a common journalistic practice.
The Espionage Act charges against Assange were originally brought by the Trump administration. Despite pressure from press freedom groups and progressive leaders across the globe, the Biden administration has opted to continue pushing for Assange’s extradition and prosecution.
“If Julian Assange is extradited to the U.S., journalists around the world will have to look over their shoulders if they are publishing information that is detrimental to U.S. interests,” said Simon Crowther of Amnesty International.
Rebecca Vincent, director of operations and campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, stressed in a statement that “the next four weeks will prove crucial in the fight to block extradition and secure the release of Julian Assange.”
“We are seeking to unite those who care about journalism and press freedom to hold the U.K. government to account,” Vincent added. “The home secretary must act now to protect journalism and adhere to the U.K.’s commitment to media freedom by rejecting the extradition order and releasing Assange.”
—SheerPost, April 20, 2022
Now on YouTube
Be sure to watch:
Stop the War in Ukraine, April 9 Online Rally
Is now on YouTube:
Alexey: Socialist Against War, Russia
Yuri: Ukraine Peace Activist
With Vijay Prashad, Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis, Medea Benjamin, MP Clare Daly, Tariq Ali and many others
Bucha Massacre Evidence and Russia’s Propaganda
By Eric Draitser, April 8, 2022
Exploring the newly emerging evidence of a Russian atrocity in the village of Bucha and debunking the fraudulent narratives of the Kremlin disinformation army on the Left.
Eric Draitser is an independent political analyst and host of CounterPunch Radio. You can find his exclusive content including articles, podcasts, audio commentaries, poetry and more at patreon.com/ericdraitser. He can be reached email@example.com.
With our partners in Europe, we are organizing protests to stop the war in Ukraine, call for Russian troops to leave Ukraine, and oppose NATO expansion. Find an action in your city or organize one here.
Here's the full petition:
Open letter: Solidarity with Russian anti-war protestors
Dear Russian anti-war protestors,
We, women and other feminists (including men) of the world, express our solidarity with you as you protest the devastating invasion of Ukraine, and we join your call for Russian troops to immediately leave Ukraine. We are aware of the risks you face from police and civil authorities and thank you for your profound bravery and sacrifice. We are also moved by the tremendous courage of the Ukrainian people in the face of disaster, and our hearts ache as we bear witness to Ukrainian families huddling in bomb shelters and parking garages, or facing long lines at the border after being forced to flee their homes.
We have experience standing up to our own governments’ aggression. During the U.S./NATO invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, we took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands to oppose the horrific destruction of entire cities and the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Now, as Russian missiles mercilessly wipe out your neighbors’ homes, medical facilities, and schools in Ukraine, we see you take to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities in peaceful protest, and we are so deeply inspired and grateful.
As we oppose this brutal war being waged in your name, we are also aware of the role the U.S. and NATO have played in stoking the geopolitical crisis that led to this war. We have opposed NATO’s expansion into Central and Eastern Europe, and we continue to oppose NATO expansion today. We steadfastly believe Ukraine should be a neutral country.
Today, as Putin has put your nuclear arsenal on high alert, we see the terrifying possibility of this conflict spinning out of control. The U.S. and Russia are guilty of stockpiling 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, putting the entire world at risk, and violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. As we organize today to stop this war, we must work together in the future to force our governments to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons so we can rid the world of this existential threat to survival on our beautiful planet.
The imposition of sanctions aimed to damage the Russian economy also concerns us. We have no problem with taking yachts and private jets from oligarchs, but sanctions that hurt millions of ordinary Russians like you and impact the entire global economy are cruel and counterproductive. We have seen the devastating results of sanctions in countries from Cuba to Iran to North Korea–such sanctions harm the civilian population, particularly women, children, and the elderly, and fail to change government policies.
Instead of indiscriminate sanctions and fanning the flames by pouring more weapons into Ukraine, we demand that Russia and Ukraine engage in serious negotiations, with all the compromises this would entail.
As women and other feminists, we have had enough of senseless wars that destroy lives and communities while lining the coffers of weapons manufacturers. We’ve seen too many attacks on civilians from Yemen to Gaza to Ethiopia to Ukraine, and we’ve watched in horror as precious resources are poured into wars while families' basic needs for food, shelter, education, and healthcare go unmet and climate change threatens all life on our planet. A world of violence, hatred, and destruction is not the world we want for our children. With fire in our bellies and love in our hearts, we join with you — across borders — to demand an end to the bloodshed and the destruction.
Russian Troops Out of Ukraine!
No NATO expansion!
Peace Talks NOW!
This March 19th webinar for Ruchell “Cinque” Magee on his 83rd birthday was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell Magee. Two of the featured speakers also spoke at the February 1 webinar for International workers’ action to free Mumia and all anti-racist, anti-imperialist Freedom Fighters—Jalil Muntaqim (who was serving time at San Quentin State Prison in a cell next to Ruchell!) and Angela Davis (who was a co-defendant of Ruchell’s!) A 50 year+ struggle!
Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar sent by the webinar organizers.
Here is the YouTube link to view Saturday's recording:
Here is the link to the Facebook upload:
After The Revolution
By David Rovics
It was a time I'll always remember
Because I could never forget
How reality fell down around us
Like some Western movie set
And once the dust all settled
The sun shone so bright
And a great calm took over us
Like it was all gonna be alright
That's how it felt to be alive
After the revolution
From Groton to Tacoma
On many a factory floor
The workers talked of solidarity
And refused to build weapons of war
No more will we make missiles
We're gonna do something different
And for the first time
Their children were proud of their parents
And somewhere in Gaza a little boy smiled and cried
After the revolution
Prison doors swung open
And mothers hugged their sons
The Liberty Bell was ringing
When the cops put down their guns
A million innocent people
Lit up in the springtime air
And Mumia and Leonard and Sarah Jane Olson
Took a walk in Tompkins Square
And they talked about what they'd do now
After the revolution
The debts were all forgiven
In all the neo-colonies
And the soldiers left their bases
Went back to their families
And a non-aggression treaty
Was signed with every sovereign state
And all the terrorist groups disbanded
With no empire left to hate
And they all started planting olive trees
After the revolution
George Bush and Henry Kissinger
Were sent off to the World Court
Their plans for global domination
Were pre-emptively cut short
Their weapons of mass destruction
Were inspected and destroyed
The battleships were dismantled
Never again to be deployed
And the world breathed a sigh of relief
After the revolution
Solar panels were on the rooftops
Trains upon the tracks
Organic food was in the markets
No GMO's upon the racks
And all the billionaires
Had to learn how to share
And Bill Gates was told to quit his whining
When he said it wasn't fair
And his mansion became a collective farm
After the revolution
And all the political poets
Couldn't think of what to say
So they all decided
To live life for today
I spent a few years catching up
With all my friends and lovers
Sleeping til eleven
Home beneath the covers
And I learned how to play the accordion
After the revolution
Free Em All—Mic Crenshaw and David Rovics featuring Opium Sabbah
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
End Legal Slavery in U.S. Prisons
Sign Petition at:
Rashid just called with the news that he has been moved back to Virginia. His property is already there, and he will get to claim the most important items tomorrow. He is at a "medium security" level and is in general population. Basically, good news.
He asked me to convey his appreciation to everyone who wrote or called in his support during the time he was in Ohio.
His new address is:
Kevin Rashid Johnson #1007485
Nottoway Correctional Center
2892 Schutt Road
Burkeville, VA 23922
Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!
Wrongful Conviction podcast of Kevin Cooper's case, Jason Flom with Kevin and Norm Hile
Please listen and share!
Kevin Cooper: Important CBS news new report today, and article January 31, 2022
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:
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed.
Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.
—Workers World, January 4, 2022
Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case
Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.
In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.
KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:
“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.
“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: email@example.com
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
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 email@example.com
- 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
Patrick Lyoya, 26, was killed by a Grand Rapids police officer last week during a traffic stop. Activists said the shooting followed years of unheeded calls for changes to the police force.
By Mitch Smith, April 13, 2022
“A New York Times investigation last fall revealed that American police officers, over the previous five years, had killed more than 400 motorists who were not wielding a gun or knife or under pursuit for a violent crime. The Times found that police culture and court precedents significantly overstated the danger to officers at vehicle stops. … Already this year, more than 250 people have been fatally shot by on-duty police officers nationwide, according to a Washington Post database, close to the pace from both 2020 and 2021, when more than 1,000 people were shot dead by the police.”
A confrontation between a Grand Rapids police officer and Mr. Lyoya. Credit...Grand Rapids Police Department
Protesters marched in Grand Rapids on Wednesday after the videos of Mr. Lyoya’s death were released. Credit...Nic Antaya for The New York Times
The police in Grand Rapids, Mich., released videos on Wednesday showing a white officer fatally shooting Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, after a struggle during a traffic stop last week.
The officer, who has not been named, was lying on the back of Mr. Lyoya before he appeared to shoot him in the head. In the seconds before the shooting, Mr. Lyoya and the officer wrestled on the ground and seemed to be fighting for control of the officer’s Taser.
“When I saw the video, it was painful to watch,” Mark Washington, the Grand Rapids city manager, said. “And I immediately asked, ‘What caused this to happen, and what more could have been done to prevent this from occurring?’”
Even before the release of the footage, the case exposed longstanding tensions in Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000 people where 18 percent of residents are Black. Activists aired their frustration and grief on Tuesday night during a City Commission meeting, speaking for hours about what they described as years of inaction on policing issues by Grand Rapids leaders, and then protested through the evening on Wednesday after the videos were released.
The investigation into the officer’s actions was ongoing, officials said on Wednesday, and no charging decision had been made. Chief Eric Winstrom of the Grand Rapids police said he was not aware of any weapons other than the officer’s gun and Taser being found at the scene. Police body camera video shows the officer telling Mr. Lyoya that he is pulling him over because his license plates do not match his car.
A New York Times investigation last fall revealed that American police officers, over the previous five years, had killed more than 400 motorists who were not wielding a gun or knife or under pursuit for a violent crime. The Times found that police culture and court precedents significantly overstated the danger to officers at vehicle stops.
Police killings of Black men have dominated national discussions about law enforcement in recent years, particularly after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020 touched off protests across the country, including in Grand Rapids. Already this year, more than 250 people have been fatally shot by on-duty police officers nationwide, according to a Washington Post database, close to the pace from both 2020 and 2021, when more than 1,000 people were shot dead by the police.
In Grand Rapids, officials said that the police officer who fired the fatal shot joined the department in 2015. Mr. Lyoya immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 and had lived in Grand Rapids for about five years, according to the office of Ben Crump, a lawyer for the family.
“The video clearly shows that this was an unnecessary, excessive and fatal use of force against an unarmed Black man who was confused by the encounter and terrified for his life,” Mr. Crump said. He called for the officer to be fired and prosecuted.
The videos released on Wednesday show Mr. Lyoya driving through a residential area on the cold, rainy morning of April 4 when an officer pulls him over. Mr. Lyoya steps out of his car, the videos show, and appears confused as the officer tells him to get back in the car. The officer asks Mr. Lyoya whether he speaks English.
Mr. Lyoya responds that he does speak English, and asks, “What did I do wrong?” After a brief exchange about whether Mr. Lyoya has a driver’s license, the officer grabs Mr. Lyoya, who pulls away and starts to run, the video footage shows.
The officer tackles Mr. Lyoya in a nearby lawn, yelling “Stop!” as Mr. Lyoya appears to try to regain his footing. At one point, body camera footage shows Mr. Lyoya grasping for the Taser that is in the officer’s hand. Chief Winstrom said he believed that the Taser was fired twice during the encounter, but that it did not hit anyone.
Midway through the struggle, the officer’s body camera stops filming. Chief Winstrom said pressure was applied to the camera to turn it off during the struggle. It was not clear who applied that pressure or whether it was intentional.
Other cameras — from the officer’s vehicle, a nearby doorbell security system and a bystander’s cellphone — capture different portions of the encounter. Shortly before the fatal shot is fired, the officer yells, “Let go of the Taser.” Mr. Lyoya is facing the ground and pushing up, with the officer on top of him, in the moments just before the shooting.
Chief Winstrom called the shooting a tragedy but declined to say whether he thought the officer followed department policy or state law, citing the investigations into the case. The officer is on paid leave and his police powers have been suspended, officials said.
In a statement, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed sympathy to the Lyoya family and called for any protests to be peaceful.
“The Michigan State Police will conduct a transparent, independent investigation of the shooting,” said Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat and former prosecutor. “Then, prosecutors must consider all the evidence, follow the law and take appropriate action on charges. Justice is foundational to safety, and without justice, we are all less safe.”
Mr. Lyoya’s death was the latest in a series of incidents that have strained relations between residents and the Grand Rapids police. In 2017, officers searching for a middle-aged woman wanted for a stabbing instead handcuffed an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint while she was leaving a house. Those officers were not disciplined. Months prior, other Grand Rapids officers held five innocent teenagers at gunpoint. And in 2020, local outlets reported, an officer was suspended for two days after shooting a protester in the face with a gas canister.
City data from 2020 showed that Black residents who responded to a survey said they had less trust in the Grand Rapids police than their white and Hispanic neighbors did.
“We’ve constantly, constantly been talking about the harassment and the brutality that’s done right here,” Cle Jackson, the president of the Greater Grand Rapids N.A.A.C.P., said in a news conference after the video was released.
A spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police, the agency handling the case, declined to say when the investigation might be finished and handed over to prosecutors for a charging decision.
Christopher Becker, the prosecuting attorney in Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids, last week urged the police to hold off on releasing the video until the State Police investigation was completed. Chief Winstrom, who took over as police chief last month, responded by saying he would release the video by the end of this week, though he did not set a date for that release until Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Becker did not answer questions about the status of the case on Wednesday morning, but said he expected to release another statement later in the day.
The scene of the shooting, a residential street southeast of downtown, was quiet Wednesday morning before the video was released. A small memorial of flowers, candles and a teddy bear surrounded a tree near where Mr. Lyoya was shot.
By evening, hundreds of protesters had gathered downtown, including outside a police station that had been surrounded with concrete barricades. Some chanted “Justice for Patrick” and “Shut it down.” Others raised their fists in the air.
Kristina Rebelo and Steve Eder contributed reporting.
Capt. Kevin Larson was one of the best drone pilots in the U.S. Air Force. Yet as the job weighed on him and untold others, the military failed to recognize its full impact. After a drug arrest and court martial, he fled into the California wilderness.
By Dave Philipps, April 15, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/15/us/drones-airstrikes-ptsd.html
REDWOOD VALLEY, Calif. — After hiding all night in the mountains, Air Force Capt. Kevin Larson crouched behind a boulder and watched the forest through his breath, waiting for the police he knew would come. It was Jan. 19, 2020. He was clinging to an assault rifle with 30 rounds and a conviction that, after all he had been through, there was no way he was going to prison.
Captain Larson was a drone pilot — one of the best. He flew the heavily armed MQ-9 Reaper, and in 650 combat missions between 2013 and 2018, he had launched at least 188 airstrikes, earned 20 medals for achievement and killed a top man on the United States’ most-wanted-terrorist list.
The 32-year-old pilot kept a handwritten thank-you note on his refrigerator from the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He was proud of it but would not say what for, because like nearly everything he did in the drone program, it was a secret. He had to keep the details locked behind the high-security doors at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev.
There were also things he was not proud of locked behind those doors — things his family believes eventually left him cornered in the mountains, gripping a rifle.
In the Air Force, drone pilots did not pick the targets. That was the job of someone pilots called “the customer.” The customer might be a conventional ground force commander, the C.I.A. or a classified Special Operations strike cell. It did not matter. The customer got what the customer wanted.
And sometimes what the customer wanted did not seem right. There were missile strikes so hasty that they hit women and children, attacks built on such flimsy intelligence that they made targets of ordinary villagers, and classified rules of engagement that allowed the customer to knowingly kill up to 20 civilians when taking out an enemy. Crews had to watch it all in color and high definition.
Captain Larson tried to bury his doubts. At home in Las Vegas, he exuded a carefree confidence. He loved to go out dancing and was so strikingly handsome that he did side work as a model. He drove an electric-blue Corvette convertible and a tricked-out blue Jeep and had a beautiful new wife.
But tendrils of distress would occasionally poke up, in a comment before bed or a grim joke at the bar. Once, in 2017, his father pressed him about his work, and Captain Larson described a mission in which the customer told him to track and kill a suspected Al Qaeda member. Then, he said, the customer told him to use the Reaper’s high-definition camera to follow the man’s body to the cemetery and kill everyone who attended the funeral.
“He never really talked about what he did — he couldn’t,” said his father, Darold Larson. “But he would say things like that, and it made you know it was bothering him. He said he was being forced to do things that went against his moral compass.”
Drones were billed as a better way to wage war — a tool that could kill with precision from thousands of miles away, keep American service members safe and often get them home in time for dinner. The drone program started in 2001 as a small, tightly controlled operation hunting high-level terrorist targets. But during the past decade, as the battle against the Islamic State intensified and the Afghanistan war dragged on, the fleet grew larger, the targets more numerous and more commonplace. Over time, the rules meant to protect civilians broke down, recent investigations by The New York Times have shown, and the number of innocent people killed in America’s air wars grew to be far larger than the Pentagon would publicly admit.
Captain Larson’s story, woven together with those of other drone crew members, reveals an unseen toll on the other end of those remote-controlled strikes.
Drone crews have launched more missiles and killed more people than nearly anyone else in the military in the past decade, but the military did not count them as combat troops. Because they were not deployed, they seldom got the same recovery periods or mental-health screenings as other fighters. Instead they were treated as office workers, expected to show up for endless shifts in a forever war.
Under unrelenting stress, several former crew members said, people broke down. Drinking and divorce became common. Some left the operations floor in tears. Others attempted suicide. And the military failed to recognize the full impact. Despite hundreds of missions, Captain Larson’s personnel file, under the heading “COMBAT SERVICE,” offers only a single word: “none.”
Drone crew members said in interviews that, while killing remotely is different from killing on the ground, it still carves deep scars.
“In many ways it’s more intense,” said Neal Scheuneman, a drone sensor operator who retired as a master sergeant from the Air Force in 2019. “A fighter jet might see a target for 20 minutes. We had to watch a target for days, weeks and even months. We saw him play with his kids. We saw him interact with his family. We watched his whole life unfold. You are remote but also very much connected. Then one day, when all parameters are met, you kill him. Then you watch the death. You see the remorse and the burial. People often think that this job is going to be like a video game, and I have to warn them, there is no reset button.”
In the wake of The Times’s investigations, the Pentagon has vowed to strengthen controls on airstrikes and improve how it investigates claims of civilian deaths. The Air Force is also providing more mental-health services for drone crews to address the lapses of the past, said the commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech, Col. Eric Schmidt.
“We are not physically in harm’s way, and yet at the same time we are observing a battlefield, and we are seeing some scenes or being part of them. We have seen the effects that can have on people,” Colonel Schmidt said. In the past, he said, remote warfare was not seen as real combat, and there was a stigma against seeking help. “I’m proud to say, we have come a long way,” he added. “It’s sad that we had to.”
Captain Larson tried to cope with the trauma by using psychedelic drugs. That became another secret he had to keep. Eventually the Air Force found out. He was charged with using and distributing illegal drugs and stripped of his flight status. His marriage fell apart, and he was put on trial, facing a possible prison term of more than 20 years.
Because he was not a conventional combat veteran, there was no required psychological evaluation to see what influence his war-fighting experience might have had on his misconduct. At his trial, no one mentioned the 188 classified missile strikes or the funeral he had targeted. In January 2020, he was quickly convicted.
Desperate to avoid prison, reeling from what he saw as a betrayal by the military he had dedicated his life to, Captain Larson ran.
A Vexing Moral Landscape
Captain Larson grew up in Yakima, Wash., the son of police officers. He was a straight-and-narrow Eagle Scout who went to church nearly every Sunday and once admonished a longtime friend to stay away from marijuana. At the University of Washington, where he was an honors student, he joined R.O.T.C. and the Civil Air Patrol, set on becoming a fighter pilot.
The Air Force had other plans. By the time he was commissioned in 2012, the Pentagon had a developed seemingly insatiable appetite for drones, and the Air Force was struggling to keep up. That year it turned out more drone pilots than traditional fighter pilots and still could not meet the demand.
“He was sobbing when he got the news. So disappointed. He wanted to fly,” his mother, Laura Larson, said in an interview. “But once he started, he enjoyed it. He really felt like he was doing something important.”
Captain Larson was assigned to the 867th Attack Squadron at Creech — a unit that pilots say worked largely with the C.I.A. and Joint Special Operations Command. The drone crews operated out of a cluster of shipping containers in a remote patch of desert. Each crew had three members: a sensor operator to guide the surveillance camera and targeting laser, an intelligence analyst to interpret and document the video feeds, and a pilot to fly the Reaper and push the red button that launched its Hellfire missiles.
The specifics of Captain Larson’s missions are largely a mystery. He kept the classified details hidden from his parents and former wife. His closest friends in the attack squadron and dozens of other current and former crew members did not respond to requests for interviews; secrecy laws and nondisclosure agreements make it a crime to discuss classified details.
But several pilots, sensor operators and intelligence analysts who did the same type of work in other squadrons spoke with The Times about unclassified details and described their struggles with the same punishing workload and vexing moral landscape.
More than 2,300 service members are currently assigned to drone crews. Early in the program, they said, missions seemed well run. Officials carefully chose their targets and took steps to minimize civilian deaths.
“We would watch a high-value target for months, gathering intelligence and waiting for the exact right time to strike,” said James Klein, a former Air Force captain who flew Reapers at Creech from 2014 to 2018. “It was the right way to use the weapon.”
But in December 2016, the Obama administration loosened the rules amid the escalating fight against the Islamic State, pushing the authority to approve airstrikes deep down into the ranks. The next year, the Trump administration secretly loosened them further. Decisions on high-value targets that once had been reserved for generals or even the president were effectively handed off to enlisted Special Operations soldiers. The customer increasingly turned drones on low-level combatants. Strikes once carried out only after rigorous intelligence-gathering and approval processes were often ordered up on the fly, hitting schools, markets and large groups of women and children.
Before the rules changed, Mr. Klein said, his squadron launched about 16 airstrikes in two years. Afterward, it conducted them almost daily.
Once, Mr. Klein said, the customer pressed him to fire on two men walking by a river in Syria, saying they were carrying weapons over their shoulders. The weapons turned out to be fishing poles, Mr. Klein said, and though the customer argued that the men could still be a threat, he persuaded the customer not to strike.
In another instance, he said, a fellow pilot was ordered to attack a suspected Islamic State fighter who was pushing another man in a wheelchair on a busy city street. The strike killed one of the men; it also killed three passers-by.
“There was no reason to take that shot,” Mr. Klein said. “I talked to the pilot after, and she was in tears. She didn’t fly again for a long time and ended up leaving for good.”
Squadrons did little to address bad strikes if there was no pilot error. It was seen as the customer’s problem. Crews filed civilian casualty reports, but the investigative process was so faulty that they rarely saw any impact; often they would not even get a response.
Over time, Mr. Klein grew angry and depressed. His marriage began to crumble.
“I started to dread going in to work,” he said. “Everyone kind of expects you to do that stuff and just be fine, but it ate away at us.”
Eventually, he refused to fire any more missiles. The Air Force moved him to a noncombat role, and a few years later, in 2020, he retired, one of many disillusioned drone operators who quietly dropped out, he said.
“We were so isolated, that I’m not sure anyone saw it,’ he said. “The biggest tell is that very few people stayed in the field. They just couldn’t take it.”
In her job as a police officer, Captain Larson’s mother conducted stress debriefings after traumatic events. When officers in her department shot someone, they were required to take time off and meet with a psychologist. As part of the healing process, everyone present at the scene was required to sit down and talk through what had happened. She was not aware of any of that happening with her son.
“At one point I pulled him aside and told him, ‘If things start bothering you, you and your friends need to talk about it,’” Ms. Larson said. “He just smiled and said he was fine. But I think he was struggling more than he ever let on.”
The Air Force has no requirement to give drone crews the mental health evaluations mandated for deployed troops, but it has surveyed the drone force for more than a decade and consistently found high levels of stress, cynicism and emotional exhaustion. In one study, 20 percent of crew members reported clinical levels of emotional distress — twice the rate among noncombat Air Force personnel. The proportion of crew members reporting post-traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of suicide was higher than in traditional aircrews.
Several factors contribute — workload, constantly changing shifts, leadership issues and combat exposure. But the most damaging, according to Wayne Chappelle, the Air Force psychologist leading the studies, is civilian deaths.
Seeing just one strike that causes unexpected civilian deaths can increase the risk of PTSD six to eight times, he said. A survey published in 2020, several years after the strike rules changed, found that 40 percent of drone crew members reported witnessing between one and five civilian killings. Seven percent had witnessed six or more.
“After something like that, people can have unresolved, disruptive emotional reactions,” Dr. Chappelle said. “We would assume that’s unhealthy — having intrusive thoughts, intrusive memories. I call that healthy and normal. What do you call someone who is OK with it?”
Having time off to process the trauma is vital, he said. But during the years when America was simultaneously fighting the Taliban, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, that was nearly impossible.
Starting in 2015, the Air Force began embedding what it called human performance teams in some squadrons, staffed with chaplains, psychologists and operational physiologists offering a sympathetic ear, coping strategies and healthy practices to optimize performance.
“It’s a holistic team approach: mind, body and spirit,” said Capt. James Taylor, a chaplain at Creech. “I try to address the soul fatigue, the existential questions many people have to wrestle with in this work.”
But crews said the teams were only modestly effective. The stigma of seeking help keeps many crew members away, and there is a perception that the teams are too focused on keeping crews flying to address the root causes of trauma. Indeed, a 2018 survey found that only 8 percent of drone operators used the teams, and two-thirds of those experiencing emotional distress did not.
Instead, crew members said, they tend to work quietly, hoping to avoid a breakdown.
Bennett Miller was an intelligence analyst, trained to study the Reaper’s video feed. Working Special Operations missions in Syria and Afghanistan in 2019 and 2020 from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, the former technical sergeant saw civilian casualties “almost monthly.”
“At first it didn’t bother me that much,” he said. “I thought it was part of going after the bad guys.”
Then, in late 2019, he said, his team tracked a man in Afghanistan who the customer said was a high-level Taliban financier. For a week, the crew watched the man feed his animals, eat with family in his courtyard and walk to a nearby village. Then the customer ordered the crew to kill him, and the pilot fired a missile as the man walked down the path from his house. Watching the video feed afterward, Mr. Miller saw the family gather the pieces of the man and bury them.
A week later, the Taliban financier’s name appeared again on the target list.
“We got the wrong guy. I had just killed someone’s dad,” Mr. Miller said. “I had watched his kids pick up the body parts. Then I had gone home and hugged my own kids.”
The same pattern occurred twice more, he said, yet the squadron leadership did nothing to address what was seen as the customer’s mistakes. Two years later, Mr. Miller was near tears when he described the strikes in an interview at his home. “What we had done was murder, and no one seemed to notice,” he said. “We just were told to move on.”
Mr. Miller grew sleepless and angry. “I couldn’t deal with the guilt or the anxiety of knowing that it was going to probably happen again,” he said. “I was caught in this trap where if I care about what is happening, it’s devastating. And if I don’t care, I lose who I am as a person.”
At Shaw, he said, his squadron did not have a human performance team. “We just had a squadron bar.”
In February 2020, he got home from a 15-hour night shift, locked himself in his bedroom, put a cocked revolver to his head and through the door told his wife that he could not take it anymore. He was hospitalized, diagnosed with PTSD and medically retired.
Beyond their modest standard pensions, veterans with combat-related injuries, even injuries suffered in training, get special compensation worth about $1,000 per month. Mr. Miller does not qualify, because the Department of Veterans Affairs does not consider drone missions combat.
“It’s like they are saying all the people we killed somehow don’t really count,” he said. “And neither do we.”
A Question of Forgiveness
In February 2018, Captain Larson and his wife, Bree Larson, got into an argument. She was angry at him for staying out all night and smashed his phone, she recalled in an interview. He dragged her out of the house and locked her out, barely clothed. The Las Vegas police came, and when they asked if there were any drugs or weapons in the house, Ms. Larson told them about the bag of psilocybin mushrooms her husband kept in the garage.
When she and Captain Larson had met in 2016, she said, he was already taking mushrooms once every few months, often with other pilots. He also took MDMA — known as ecstasy or molly — a few times a year. The drugs might have been illegal, but, he told her, they offered relief.
“He would just say he had a very stressful job and he needed it,” Ms. Larson said. “And you could tell. For weeks after, he was more relaxed, more focused, more loving. It seemed therapeutic.”
A growing number of combat veterans use the psychedelic drugs illicitly, amid mounting evidence that they are potent treatments for the psychological wounds of war. Both MDMA and psilocybin are expected to soon be approved for limited medical use by the Food and Drug Administration.
“It gave me a clarity and an honesty that allowed me to rewrite the narrative of my life,” according to a former Air Force officer who said he suffered from depression and moral injury after hundreds of Reaper missions; he asked not to be named in order to discuss the use of illegal drugs. “It led to some self-forgiveness. That was a huge first step.”
In Las Vegas, the civilian authorities were willing to forgive Captain Larson, but the Air Force charged him with a litany of crimes — drug possession and distribution, making false statements to Air Force investigators and a charge unique to the armed forces: conduct unbecoming of an officer. His squadron grounded him, forbade him to wear a flight suit and told him not to talk to fellow pilots. No one screened him for PTSD or other psychological injuries from his service, Ms. Larson said, adding, “I don’t think anyone realized it might be connected.”
As the prosecution plodded forward over two years, Captain Larson worked at the base gym and organized volunteer groups to do community service. He and his wife divorced. Struggling with his mental health, seeking productive ways to cope with the trauma, he read book after book on positive thinking and set up a special meditation room in his house, according to his girlfriend at the time, Becca Triano.
“I don’t know what he saw, what he dealt with,” she said. “What I did see toward the end was him really working hard to try to stay sane.”
The trial finally came in January, 2020. His former wife and a pilot friend testified about his drug use. The police produced the evidence. That was all.
After deliberating for a few hours on the morning of Jan. 17, the jury returned with guilty verdicts on nearly every count.
On the Run
The pilot would be sentenced after a break for lunch. His lawyer told him to be back in an hour. Instead he took off.
He loaded his Jeep with food and clothes and sped away, convinced that he was facing a long prison sentence, Ms. Triano said. Within hours, the Air Force had a warrant out for his arrest.
Captain Larson headed southwest to Los Angeles and stayed the night with a friend, then started heading north. By the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 18, he was driving by vineyards and redwood groves on U.S. Route 101 in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco, when the California Highway Patrol spotted his Jeep and pulled him over.
Captain Larson stopped and waited calmly for the officer to walk up to his window. Then he gunned it — down the highway and onto a narrow dirt logging road that snaked up into the mountains. After several miles, he pulled off into the trees and hid. The police could not find him, but they knew something he did not: All the roads in the canyon were dead ends, and officers were blocking the only way out.
Night fell. Nothing to do but wait.
In the morning, during a briefing at the bottom of the canyon, records show, Air Force agents explained to the Mendocino County sheriff’s deputies that the wanted man was a deserter who had fled a drug conviction, was probably armed and possibly suicidal.
The officers drove up the canyon and spotted tire tracks on a narrow turnoff. Agents crept up on foot until they spotted the blue Jeep in the trees, but did not risk going farther. The deputies had a better option, something that could get a view of the Jeep without any danger. A small drone soon launched into the sky.
Captain Larson was hiding behind a mossy boulder. There was no phone service deep in the canyon, no way to call for whatever hope or solace he might have conjured. He could only record a video message for his family members. One by one, he told them that he loved them. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I won’t go to prison, so I’m going to end this. This was always the plan.”
There was a lot he did not explain — things that have kept his family and friends wondering in the years since. He did not talk about the hundreds of secret missions or their impact. He did not say what it had felt like to have his commanders stand by quietly as civilian deaths became routine, then stay just as quiet when a decorated pilot was prosecuted for drug possession. He did not talk about the other pilots who had done the same drugs and then avoided him like a virus after he got caught.
Perhaps he was planning to say more, but as he spoke into the phone camera, he was interrupted by an angry buzzing, like a swarm of bees.
“I can hear the drones,” he said. “They’re looking for me.”
Had they found him alive, his pursuers would have been able to tell him this: In the end, the Air Force had decided not to sentence him to prison, only to dismissal.
But now, just as Captain Larson had done countless times, the officers could only study the drone footage and parse the evidence — slumped behind the boulder, shot with his own assault rifle — of another unintended death.
The court formally ordered the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder to the United States, but it still needs approval from a British cabinet minister and his defense can appeal to her directly.
By Megan Specia, April 20, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/20/world/europe/assange-uk-extradition.html
The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London, in 2017. He sought refuge there for seven years. Credit...Justin Tallis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
LONDON — A London court on Wednesday ordered the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, the latest but not the last step in a long-running battle in British courtrooms.
The order to extradite Mr. Assange, who is being sought by the United States in connection with charges under the Espionage Act, must be signed by the British home secretary, Priti Patel. Mr. Assange has four weeks to appeal to her directly, and he also has the right to take his case to the English High Court after she issues her decision.
Wednesday’s court decision, delivered in a brief hearing that saw Mr. Assange dial in by video call from a prison in London, was the latest blow to his attempts to fend off his extradition. Protesters, as they have done throughout his legal battle, gathered outside the courtroom in central London.
Britain’s Supreme Court ruled last month that Mr. Assange could not appeal an earlier decision that paved the way for his extradition, bouncing the decision back to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which made the decision on Wednesday.
Ms. Patel will now decide whether to order the extradition or refuse the request, but Mr. Assange’s defense team also is entitled to make submissions to her before her final decision is made. His legal team has until May 18 to do so. The Home Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Assange was charged in the United States under the Espionage Act in connection with obtaining and publishing classified government documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on WikiLeaks in 2010. Those files were leaked by Chelsea Manning, a former military intelligence analyst.
Mr. Assange has waged a prolonged legal battle against his extradition following his arrest in London in 2019, after he spent seven years holed up inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in an effort to avoid detention.
His defenders have sought to present the case as a matter of press freedom, and his extradition to the United States could raise major issues about First Amendment rights, experts say.
“The extradition of Julian Assange would also be devastating for press freedom and for the public, who have a right to know what their governments are doing in their name,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general.
She also said that decision placed Mr. Assange “at great risk of prison conditions that could result in irreversible harm to his physical and psychological well-being.”
The flare-up followed a rise in tensions over holy places in Jerusalem and a deadly wave of Arab attacks in Israel, answered by a lethal Israeli crackdown in the occupied West Bank.
By Patrick Kingsley, April 21, 2022
Israeli police officers stood guard in front of Muslim women praying in front of the Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Credit...Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
JERUSALEM — Militants in Gaza fired several rockets toward Israel overnight and early Thursday and the Israeli Air Force said it retaliated by striking two military sites in Gaza, the most intense fighting between the two sides since the end of an 11-day war in May last year.
No deaths were reported on either side, but the Israeli public broadcaster, Kan, said several Israelis had been treated for shock and injuries sustained while running for shelter. One of the rockets landed in southern Israel, one fell short in Gaza, and four more were intercepted by an Israeli air defense system, the army said.
In response, the Israeli military said its jets struck a militant outpost involved in making rockets and later hit a Palestinian air defense facility. Video posted by Palestinians to social media showed several rocket interceptions in the air over Gaza and several explosions on the ground.
The exchange followed a sharp rise in violence across Israel and the occupied territories over the past month, beginning with the deadliest wave of Arab attacks within Israel in more than a half decade. The attacks killed 14 and prompted an Israeli crackdown in the occupied West Bank, which killed at least 15 Palestinians.
Tensions escalated further after clashes between the Israeli police and Palestinian stone-throwers at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, known to Jews as Temple Mount and a site holy to both Jews and Muslims. Those confrontations drew rare public criticism from Israel’s new Arab allies, Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
Clashes at the Jerusalem mosque compound flared again early Thursday as the police forced Palestinians from parts of the site to secure access for tourists and Jewish worshipers, including hard-line Jewish activists who hope one day to rebuild an ancient Jewish temple that once stood on the site of the mosque compound. The Israeli police fired rubber-tipped bullets and tear gas, Kan reported, and some Palestinians shot off fireworks from inside a large mosque building on the site.
But both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, have indicated in recent days that they both want to avoid another mini-war like the one last year. For now, the hostilities have followed a familiar routine that allows both sides to save face without forcing the other into a major escalation.
By firing rockets without killing Israeli civilians, the militants can express anger at events in Jerusalem without provoking a more violent Israeli reaction. By retaliating with nonlethal airstrikes, Israel proves to both Israelis and Palestinians that it won’t let any act of aggression go unanswered — but avoids pushing the militants into a corner.
On Wednesday, Israel blocked far-right Jews from marching through Muslim areas of the Old City of Jerusalem — something that could have easily triggered more violence — and barred a far-right Jewish lawmaker from setting up a makeshift office next to an entrance to the Old City that is used by tens of thousands of Palestinians to reach the Aqsa Mosque.
The Israeli police said it had arrested three Jewish visitors to the site who did not comply with police instructions.
A Hamas official, Fawzi Barhoum, said early Thursday that the group was seeking to put pressure on Israel over the situation in Jerusalem but “without going to a war.”
In Gaza, officials are still mending infrastructure damaged in last May’s fighting. Militants are still replenishing their weapon stocks and defenses. And analysts say they believe Hamas is wary of taking action that might prompt Israel to cut the number of Israeli work permits assigned to Gaza residents, an important source of revenue for Palestinians.
Tensions may calm in the coming days, when Israel will adopt its standard practice of closing the Aqsa compound to Jews and tourists during the last 10 days of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
But the exchange overnight showed how quickly the situation can spiral out of control, particularly as video of police interventions at the mosque flood Arab social media, causing deep offense among Muslims, who are currently observing Ramadan. Last year’s war in Gaza was set off in part by similar scenes.
To Israelis, the repeated police raids at the mosque compound are a responsible act of law enforcement on Israeli sovereign territory. The Israeli government says it has been forced to intervene at the mosque to contain disturbances that were started by Palestinian rioters who placed both Muslims and Jews in danger, and to ensure freedom of access for all, including tourists.
“Israel is doing everything so that all peoples, as always, can celebrate the holidays safely — Jews, Muslims and Christians,” the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said this week.
Israel captured the compound in 1967, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, and now considers it an integral part of its capital. But the United Nations Security Council has frequently deemed it occupied territory.
To Palestinians, the Israeli police presence at the site is the unwelcome result of Israeli occupation, and confrontations with the police at the compound, regardless of who starts them, are seen as a legitimate act of resistance against an occupying power.
They fear that the police’s recent facilitation of Jewish prayer at the site, against decades of convention, is the latest effort to weaken Muslim access to and oversight over one of Islam’s most sacred places.
The Israeli interventions have also caused offense across the Arab world, and prompted criticism from the three Arab countries that signed diplomatic agreements with Israel in 2020.
Weeks after a landmark diplomatic conference on Israeli soil, involving ministers from those countries, the responses show how the Palestinian conflict still affects Israel’s relationship with the Arab world, even as decades of Israeli diplomatic isolation in Middle East are fading.
The clashes have also prompted an Islamist party in the Israeli governing coalition to suspend its membership, deepening a government crisis that could lead to early elections.
Reporting was contributed by Raja Abdulrahim from Jerusalem, Iyad Abuheweila from Gaza City, and Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel.
The execution of Melissa Lucio would be the first of a Hispanic woman in Texas. New evidence casts doubt on her conviction.
By J. David Goodman, April 22, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/22/us/melissa-lucio-texas-execution.html
HOUSTON — In less than a week, Texas is set to execute Melissa Lucio, a mother of 14 who was convicted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter more than a decade ago.
The execution would be the first of a Hispanic woman in Texas, and it has drawn widespread attention — from a 2020 documentary to a recent segment on “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” — because of new evidence and expert testimony casting strong doubt about her guilt.
Ms. Lucio’s case has also done something rare in the intensely polarized political climate of Texas: It has brought Democratic and Republican lawmakers together in mutual outcry. Scores of legislators have called for clemency or at least a reprieve, including those who are ordinarily vigorous backers of the death penalty.
“It will be a historic, irreversible blunder on the part of the State of Texas if we go forward with this,” said State Representative Jeff Leach, a Republican from north of Dallas who has been a leading voice in Texas urging a halt to the execution. “I’ve never seen a more troubling case than the case of Melissa Lucio.”
Five of the jurors in her case have also come out in favor of clemency or a reprieve, citing in part the new evidence. “I voted to sentence Melissa Lucio to death. I was wrong,” one wrote in The Houston Chronicle.
The challenges to Ms. Lucio’s execution highlight familiar failings of the nation’s criminal justice system, including a confession given after hours of interrogation, evidence presented as scientific that has since been questioned, an inadequate defense and gender bias.
“Police targeted Melissa because she didn’t fit their image of how a grieving mother should behave” in the aftermath of her daughter’s death, said Sandra Babcock, one of Ms. Lucio’s lawyers and the director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide.
Ms. Lucio’s daughter Mariah died at home. Her lawyers have said that Mariah went down for a nap and did not wake up and that, two days earlier, she had fallen down a flight of stairs. An autopsy said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
The fact that Ms. Lucio is on death row at all is an outlier. It is rare for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in a case where a mother has been charged with killing her children, her lawyers said.
One issue her lawyers are raising is the legal provision — unique to Texas — under which prosecutors must prove a person’s “future dangerousness” in order to secure a death sentence. Ms. Lucio did not have a history of acting violently before Mariah’s death, so prosecutors relied heavily on disciplinary records from her time behind bars after her arrest. Ms. Lucio’s lawyers have argued that the prosecution misrepresented those records and that she had not engaged in significant misconduct.
Ms. Lucio, who lived in the border city of Harlingen, struggled to provide for her large family. At the time of Mariah’s death, she was pregnant with twins and already had 12 children.
She had part-time work as a home health aide, her lawyers said, but struggled with drug addiction and often relied on soup kitchens for food. At one point, the family was homeless and living in a park. Child Protective Services took her children from her for a time because of neglect, but her lawyers said Ms. Lucio had no documented history of abusing her children.
At the time of Mariah’s death in 2007, Ms. Lucio lived with Mariah’s father, Robert Alvarez, and nine children; the family had just moved into a new apartment. The police interviewed both Mr. Alvarez and Ms. Lucio, but her lawyers said they approached Mr. Alvarez much differently, treating him more as a witness than a suspect. He was eventually convicted of a much lesser charge of causing injury to Mariah by omission — by failing to seek medical care for her — and sentenced to four years in prison.
In their interrogation immediately after Mariah’s death, the police accused Ms. Lucio of beating her daughter to death. Prosecutors pointed to bruises on Mariah’s body and an untreated broken arm as evidence of abuse.
But from the start, Ms. Lucio maintained her innocence, saying her daughter had fallen down a flight of stairs as the family was moving out of an apartment two days earlier. Her lawyers have presented expert testimony that the bruising could have been caused by her fall down the stairs, and that broken arms are not uncommon in young children prone to falls. Mariah had a medical history of falling, including at day care, and no record of prior bruises, the lawyers said.
Despite the growing support for Ms. Lucio, no formal action has been taken to halt or delay her execution, which is scheduled for Wednesday. The case is currently before the highest criminal court in Texas, and a request for clemency is being considered by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Asked about Ms. Lucio on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott said he would consider what action to take after the board had made its decision.
During a hearing this month in the State Capitol, lawmakers repeatedly pressed the Cameron County district attorney, Luis V. Saenz, a Democrat, to withdraw the execution warrant — a move that would allow the defense more time to pursue a new trial. (The district attorney who prosecuted Ms. Lucio, Armando Villalobos, is serving a 13-year sentence for corruption unrelated to her case.)
Mr. Saenz declined to intervene.
“For me to sit here unilaterally and just pull the plug on it,” he told legislators, “then what do I say to the other 195 poor souls that are on death row right now, who by the way are also innocent?” His comment drew gasps and guffaws from those in the hearing room.
In their application for clemency to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, lawyers for Ms. Lucio presented medical evidence explaining how the fall could have caused her death as well as the bruising on her body, saying it was not considered at trial. (Her trial defense did bring up the fall, but presented only one expert medical witness who testified about Mariah’s head injuries.) The lawyers, including those from the Innocence Project, also argued that the jury was not told of Mariah’s medical history, which included past falls.
Her lawyers have also challenged Ms. Lucio’s statements to the police in the immediate aftermath of Mariah’s death that were used against her, saying they had been obtained after five hours of coercive interrogation known to result in false confessions.
“How did you hit her?” a Texas Ranger asked.
“I never hit her head,” Ms. Lucio replied.
“How would you hit her?” the ranger asked.
“I would just spank her,” she said.
Elsewhere, investigators suggested that Ms. Lucio abused Mariah and caused her death because she was simply a frustrated and overwhelmed mother, an idea that Ms. Lucio eventually appeared to adopt during the interrogation. “I was just frustrated,” she said.
“You see Ms. Lucio regurgitate the words that the investigators provide,” said David Thompson, the president of a law enforcement training company who reviewed footage of the interrogation for Ms. Lucio’s lawyers.
At one point, the camera recording the interrogation was switched off, according to her clemency application. After it was switched back on, around 3 a.m., the ranger questioning Ms. Lucio could be heard directing her to hit a doll in order to demonstrate the alleged abuse that led to Mariah’s death. She did so.
“I would say that it is an unreliable, involuntary, coerced compliant confession,” Mr. Thompson said in an interview.
But even as many conservatives in the State Legislature signed letters supporting Ms. Lucio, some faced pushback. Mr. Leach, in an appearance with the conservative podcast host Allie Beth Stuckey, spent nearly an hour debating the case.
“I don’t think it’s right to say that she is probably innocent,” Ms. Stuckey said, citing Ms. Lucio’s history of neglect, her confession and other evidence presented during her trial.
Mr. Leach stressed that he was not insisting on Ms. Lucio’s innocence but on her need for a new trial to consider the new evidence.
“There’s a lot of people on the right who are very supportive of the death penalty and just aren’t sure that Melissa should be saved,” said Lacey Hull, a Republican member of the Texas House. “I hope her case makes everyone take a much greater look at the death penalty in general and where we need to make changes.”
Ms. Hull visited Ms. Lucio this month as part of a group that included Mr. Leach and both Democratic and Republican members of the Legislature. They prayed together with Ms. Lucio.
“As someone who is pro-life, it is something that I take great issue with, that the state should be executing an innocent person,” Ms. Hull said. “If there is even a slight doubt of her guilt, she should not be executed.”
The authorities said that Darren Kardos, 42, who has been charged with aggravated assault, pulled a young Black mother out of a vehicle by her hair in October 2020 after she inadvertently found herself near a police barricade during a protest in Philadelphia.
By Vimal Patel, April 21, 2022
“The law applies equally to people in uniform and people who are not in uniform,” Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s district attorney, said in an interview on Thursday. Credit...Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
A former Philadelphia police officer has been arrested and charged for his role in the assault of a young Black mother who was yanked out of her vehicle after she inadvertently found herself near a police barricade during a protest in October 2020, the city’s district attorney said Thursday.
The former officer, Darren Kardos, 42, was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief among other charges, according to Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney.
In an interview, Mr. Krasner said that the charges, the product of a complex investigation of a chaotic scene, were an important step in the city’s effort to restore trust in the justice system and demonstrate that it is “even handed.”
“The law applies equally to people in uniform and people who are not in uniform,” he said, declining to say if the investigation was continuing.
Mr. Kardos could not immediately be reached late Thursday, and the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which has represented officers involved in the matter, declined to comment about the arrest. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison on the most serious count.
The encounter on Oct. 27, 2020, happened as the woman, Rickia Young, was with her toddler and the 16-year-old son of a family friend in a sport-utility vehicle, according to Ms. Young’s lawyers. In September, city officials agreed to pay $2 million to Ms. Young, who was bruised and bloodied in the beating, her lawyers said.
The episode occurred amid protests in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who the police said was armed with a knife.
Hours after Mr. Wallace’s killing on Oct. 26, 2020, in a cellphone video taken by a bystander, an S.U.V. is seen at a police barricade, and officers quickly surround the vehicle. Ms. Young, her lawyers say, was not part of the protest but had picked up the teenager, who was stuck in West Philadelphia and was “afraid of the growing tensions between the police and those protesting Mr. Wallace’s killing.”
When she started to head back home, the lawyers said, she found herself amid a large group of protesters and police officers, on a blocked-off Chestnut Street. She tried to make a U-turn but had to stop to avoid hitting protesters who began running by her vehicle, her lawyers said.
“Suddenly and without warning,” Riley Ross, a lawyer for Ms. Young, said at a news conference in September, “a pack of Philadelphia police officers wearing riot gear and wielding batons descended on the car, smashing multiple windows of the vehicle. The officers then violently yanked Ms. Young and her nephew from the vehicle and physically beat her, and him, in the street, causing significant injuries.”
According to a statement from the district attorney, Mr. Kardos is accused of pulling Ms. Young out of her sport utility vehicle by her hair, “after which she was struck by fists, batons and a number of unknown objects.” Ms. Young was never charged.
After an internal affairs investigation, two officers — including Mr. Kardos — were fired and 14 were awaiting disciplinary proceedings through the department’s Police Board of Inquiry, a city spokesman said in September. The Philadelphia police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Appearing at a news conference via Zoom on Thursday, Ms. Young said that she now gets nervous and scared every time there’s a police officer in a car behind her. She had a message for Mr. Kardos: “You could have talked to me. I’m very easy to talk to. What you did to me, what you did to me in front of my son, was not acceptable.”
“I don’t wish this on my worst enemy,” she added. “Dealing with this has so far been one of the hardest things I had to do in life.”
A lawyer for Ms. Young, Thomas Fitzpatrick, said that the charges were “a step in the right direction” and added that a civil lawsuit against the Fraternal Order of Police was still pending.
Ms. Young’s lawyers in September filed the case in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas against the national group for a since-deleted social media post it made that stated the child was “wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness.” The post, which showed an officer hugging the child, stated, “The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.”
“We are not your enemy,” it continued. “We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.”
Ms. Young’s lawyers called the post “political propaganda.” On Thursday, Mr. Krasner, the district attorney, called it “really awful, false and arguably racist.”
“The mother was brutalized,” he said. “The child was traumatized. The mother did not know where the child was for hours.”
The national Fraternal Order of Police chapter could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday.
Pamela Moses, who was sentenced in January to six years in a case that outraged voting rights supporters, will not face a new trial, a district attorney said.
By Sophie Kasakove and Eduardo Medina, April 23, 2022
Pamela Moses after a news conference in Memphis in March. Credit...Lucy Garrett for The New York Times
A Tennessee prosecutor dropped all criminal charges on Friday against Pamela Moses, a Memphis woman with a previous felony conviction who was sentenced to six years and one day in prison in January after she tried to restore her right to vote in 2019.
The voter fraud conviction from her trial was thrown out in February after a judge ruled that the Tennessee Department of Correction had improperly withheld evidence that was later uncovered by The Guardian. Ms. Moses had been set to appear in court on Monday to find out whether prosecutors would pursue a retrial.
But Ms. Moses will no longer face a second trial “in the interest of judicial economy,” Amy Weirich, the district attorney of Shelby County, said in a statement. Ms. Moses spent 82 days in custody on this case, “which is sufficient,” Ms. Weirich said. Ms. Moses is also permanently barred from registering to vote or voting in Tennessee. Ms. Weirich declined to comment further on the case.
The sentencing of Ms. Moses, who is Black, had spurred outrage among voting rights supporters who said that the case highlighted racial disparities in the criminal prosecution of voting fraud cases and opaque voting restoration rights laws that sow confusion and leave many people with felony convictions unsure of their rights.
In the summer of 2019, Ms. Moses, a Black Lives Matter activist, decided she wanted to run for mayor of Memphis, or at the very least vote in the upcoming election.
She knew that she couldn’t do either while she was on probation for prior felony convictions, including a 2015 conviction for tampering with evidence. But she believed her probation was over, according to her lawyer, Bede Anyanwu. Overall, Ms. Moses had 16 prior criminal convictions, including misdemeanor counts from 2015 of perjury, stalking and theft under $500, according to the district attorney’s office.
In September 2019, a judge told Ms. Moses that she was still on probation. But when she went to the probation office to confirm, a probation officer told her she was actually done with her felony probation, records show. The probation officer signed off on her certificate of restoration to vote and Ms. Moses then submitted it to election officials.
A day later, the Department of Correction sent a letter to the Shelby County Election Commission informing it that the probation officer had made a mistake and that Ms. Moses could not vote because she was in fact still on probation.
Video from a January hearing shows Ms. Moses telling Judge W. Mark Ward of the Shelby County Criminal Court, “All I did was try to get my rights to vote back the way the people at the election commission told me.”
Judge Ward responded, “You tricked the probation department into giving you a document saying that you were off probation.”
Ms. Moses was charged with perjury on a registration form and consenting to a false entry on official election documents. The first charge was dropped, but she was convicted of the second charge in November and sentenced in January. Ultimately, Ms. Moses’ felony conviction in 2015 for tampering made her permanently ineligible to vote under Tennessee law regardless of her probation status.
“The case should not have been prosecuted right from the beginning because there was no trickery,” Mr. Anyanwu said. Ms. Moses declined to comment on Saturday.
In recent years, Republican officials have moved to crack down on voter fraud, despite the fact that the crime remains a very rare and often accidental occurrence.
Florida election officials made just 75 referrals to law enforcement agencies regarding potential fraud during the 2020 election, out of more than 11 million votes cast, according to data from the Florida secretary of state’s office. Of those investigations, only four cases have been prosecuted as voter fraud.
Still, legislators in some states have stiffened penalties for voting-related crimes, and district attorneys and state attorneys general have pursued aggressive felony prosecutions in cases that might have been deemed legitimate mistakes.
Voting rights advocates interpret these actions as a voter suppression tactic.
“These prosecutions are intended to scare people who have prior convictions from even trying to register to vote,” said Blair Bowie, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., who has been assisting Ms. Moses and Mr. Anyanwu with the case since October.
These prosecutions also unfairly blame individuals for failing to navigate a voter restoration process that is unclear, she said, adding that state officials are responsible for putting adequate procedures in place for that process.
Ms. Bowie is representing the Tennessee N.A.A.C.P. in a lawsuit against Gov. Bill Lee and other officials that accuses them of failing to establish clearer procedures for individuals with felony convictions, “leading to a rights restoration process that is unequal, inaccessible, opaque and inaccurate.”
Nearly 80 percent of the disenfranchised people in the state have completed probation and parole and are potentially eligible to restore their voting rights, but fewer than 5 percent of potentially eligible Tennesseans have been able to acquire a completed certificate of restoration of voting rights and have tried to register to vote, according to the lawsuit.
Voting rights advocates say that the case also highlights the racial disparity in the prosecution of voter fraud cases.
“What we see consistently is honest mistakes made by returning citizens are penalized to the max, and true bad intentions are not being penalized to the same extent,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for Common Cause, a government watchdog group. “And usually in those cases the defendants are white.”
In October, Donald Kirk Hartle, a white Republican voter, was charged with two counts of voter fraud in Las Vegas after he forged his dead wife’s signature to vote with her ballot. He was sentenced in November to one year of probation, The Associated Press reported.
Edward Snodgrass, a white Republican official in Ohio, forged his dead father’s signature on an absentee ballot in 2020 and was charged with illegal voting, NBC News reported. As part of a plea agreement, he served three days in jail last year, The Delaware Gazette reported.
Ms. Moses is still pursuing the restoration of her civil rights, which include voting rights, through a lawsuit in Shelby County Circuit Court, according to Ms. Bowie. That lawsuit presents a constitutional challenge to the state statute that permanently bars people convicted of tampering with evidence from voting in Tennessee.
In Washington, D.C., as well as Phoenix, Atlanta and scores of other cities across the country, demonstrators called on the government to enact bold climate action.
By Coral Davenport, April 23, 2022
“Fight for Our Future” demonstrators gathered at Lafayette Park near the White House on Saturday to protest government inaction on climate change. Credit...Jason Andrew for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Environmental activists, distraught by the government’s slow pace of action on climate change, amassed in front of the White House Saturday afternoon, calling on President Biden and Congress to swiftly pass a climate bill that has been stalled in the Senate since December.
The White House demonstration was one of dozens of “Fight for Our Future” rallies held across the country to press the government to cut the pollution that is dangerously heating the planet, capping a week of events timed to coincide with Earth Day.
“We’re here because in North Carolina we keep getting hit by hurricanes back to back, and we ain’t got nothing fixed,” said Willett Simpkins, 68, a retired nursing home maintenance director from Wallace, N.C. “And it’s getting worse every year. It’s time for them to stop talking about it and do something about it.”
The event, which drew several hundred people under the pale green trees in Lafayette Park, was emceed by Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, a nonpartisan group that tries to engage young voters.
Many in the crowd work for environmental organizations, but sprinkled among them were voters who wanted Mr. Biden to know that failure to enact climate legislation could cost him their vote.
Mr. Biden, who came into office promising urgent action on what he called the existential threat of climate change, has seen his ambitious plans pass the House but get watered down and stuck in the Senate because of unified opposition from Republicans as well as Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, a powerful swing vote in an evenly divided chamber.
Spiking gas prices because of the war in Ukraine have led Mr. Biden to take steps that are anathema to climate activists. He released a record amount of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and pleaded with oil and gas companies to step up drilling. In keeping with an order from a federal judge, Mr. Biden said he would open more public lands to drilling, despite a campaign promise to stop new oil and gas extraction.
Gracie Chaney, 27, a doctoral candidate in physics at the University of Maryland, said those actions felt like betrayal. “I’m pretty disappointed,” she said. “There were a lot of promises that he broke. It feels like we’re going back to the 19th century or something.”
The events come at a moment when scientists say the window is rapidly narrowing for nations to avoid tipping the planet into an irreversible future of more deadly storms, wildfires, floods, drought, food scarcity and mass migration.
Mr. Biden has pledged to cut greenhouse gases in half by 2050, a goal that is in line with what scientists say is needed from the United States to avert such catastrophes.
But if Democrats, who hold a razor-thin majority in Congress, do not enact major climate legislation within the next few months, many analysts say that window to meet that goal will slam shut. Republicans are favored to win control of at least one chamber of Congress in this fall’s midterm elections, and their steadfast opposition to climate action would likely doom the prospects for new legislation anytime soon.
Scientists have been declaring with increasing urgency that nations need to act now to avert a harrowing future. A major scientific report released earlier this month concluded that countries must immediately and drastically pivot away from the fossil fuels that have underpinned major economies for more than a century.
The Earth has warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Age largely because of human activity, namely the burning of oil, gas and coal. Scientists say that every fraction of a degree of heating translates into more frequent droughts, more violent storms, more species extinction — impacts that are already being felt in every corner of the globe. Once the Earth passes a threshold of 1.5 degrees of warming (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the likelihood of devastating heat waves, drought, wildfires and storms rises significantly, scientists say.
Brenda Mallory, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, reminded the crowd about steps the Biden administration has taken to cut pollution. But she emphasized the need to pass his stalled legislation, which would provide more than $500 billion in tax credits designed to speed the country’s transition to wind and solar power as well as to electric cars.
“President Biden will use every lever, use every tool, and push every resource to tackle climate change,” she said. “But Congress must act, too.”
Mr. Simpkins has followed Mr. Biden’s actions, including a crackdown on planet-warming methane that leaks from oil and gas wells and a ban on hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas produced by refrigerator coolants.
“That stuff on the gas emissions, that was good,” he said. “The stuff on the Freon and air-conditioner stuff, that was good. But they need even more. Those trees that are getting burned down every year, they’re not getting replanted. The houses that are getting hit are not coming back.”
Mr. Simpkins voted for Mr. Biden in 2020, but he said that if Mr. Biden fails to deliver strong climate laws, he will sit out the 2024 election. “I hate to say that, but I wouldn’t vote,” he said.
More than ever it has become deadly to be homeless in America, especially for men in their 50s and 60s.
By Thomas Fuller, Published April 18, 2022, Updated April 21, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/18/us/homeless-deaths-los-angeles.html
A line outside North Hollywood First United Methodist Church, which offers assistance to homeless people. Credit...Mark Abramson for The New York Times
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Their bodies were found on public benches, lying next to bike paths, crumpled under freeway overpasses and stranded on the sun-drenched beach. Across Los Angeles County last year, the unsheltered died in record numbers, an average of five homeless deaths a day, most in plain view of the world around them.
Two hundred eighty-seven homeless people took their last breath on the sidewalk, 24 died in alleys and 72 were found on the pavement, according to data from the county coroner. They were a small fraction of the thousands of homeless people across the country who die each year.
“It’s like a wartime death toll in places where there is no war,” said Maria Raven, an emergency room doctor in San Francisco who co-wrote a study about homeless deaths.
An epidemic of deaths on the streets of American cities has accelerated as the homeless population has aged and the cumulative toll of living and sleeping outdoors has shortened lives. The wider availability of fentanyl, a particularly fast-acting and dangerous drug, has been a major cause of the rising death toll, but many homeless people are dying young of treatable chronic illnesses like heart disease.
More than ever it has become deadly to be homeless in America, especially for men in their 50s and 60s, who typically make up the largest cohort of despair. In many cities the number of homeless deaths doubled during the pandemic, a time when seeking medical care became more difficult, housing costs continued to rise and when public health authorities were preoccupied with combating the coronavirus.
Austin, Denver, Indianapolis, Nashville and Salt Lake City are among the cities where officials and homeless advocates have said they have been alarmed by the rising number of deaths.
But the crisis is most acute in California, where about one in four of the nation’s 500,000 homeless people lives.
The process of tallying homeless deaths is painstaking, involving the cross-referencing of homeless databases and death reports. But based on data from the handful of California’s 58 counties that report homeless deaths, experts said that 4,800 is a conservative estimate for last year.
In Los Angeles County, the homeless population grew by 50 percent from 2015 to 2020. Homeless deaths have grown at a far faster rate, an increase of about 200 percent during the same period to nearly 2,000 deaths in the county last year.
“These are profoundly lonely deaths,” said David Modersbach, who led the first public study of homeless deaths in Alameda County across the Bay from San Francisco.
In some cases, bodies are left undiscovered for hours. Others are unclaimed at the morgue despite efforts to reach family members. In San Francisco, where people sleeping in cardboard boxes, tents and other makeshift shelters are a common sight, the body of a homeless man who died on a traffic median last spring lay for more than 12 hours before being retrieved. “Guy lay dead here & no one noticed,” said a cardboard sign left at the scene.
Those who sleep on the streets speak of the wear that it imposes on the body, of several untreated illnesses and the loneliness of being surrounded by pedestrians who ignore you.
Billy, a metal worker and carpenter from New Jersey who now sleeps in the narrow alleys behind Venice Beach in Los Angeles, constantly feels the reminders of his previous jobs. At 50 he has chronic pain from an accident while trimming trees, treating it with a jumbo-size bottle of Aleve he keeps in his backpack.
He has overdosed twice from heroin, revived both times with the drug naloxone, and has watched as friends have disappeared around him.
“I can name 30 or 40 people who have died of overdoses and most of them were in my demographic,” said Billy, who did not want his last name published because he said it would embarrass his three grown children.
A study by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found that homeless people are 35 times as likely as the general population to die of a drug or alcohol overdose. They are also four times as likely to die of heart disease, 16 times as likely to die in a car crash, 14 times as likely to be murdered and eight times as likely to die of suicide.
California, flush with cash from pandemic budget surpluses, has poured record amounts of money into combating homelessness. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $12 billion homelessness package last year that included funds to construct 42,000 new housing units.
Los Angeles County voted overwhelmingly in 2017 to raise its sales tax and generate a projected $3.5 billion over 10 years for homelessness programs. Since then the county has housed 78,000 people.
Yet, county officials say they cannot keep up: While 207 homeless people find housing every day, 227 people become homeless daily, the county calculates.
And once on the street, mental health, drug abuse and general medical well-being can spiral out of control. Mr. Modersbach said he had been struck by how many homeless people were dying of diseases outside of hospitals or other clinical settings.
“To die of heart disease, liver disease, respiratory diseases — on your own — is pretty shocking,” he said.
Of the 809 homeless deaths from 2018 to 2020 in Alameda County, according to the study, one-quarter were from drug overdoses, half were from heart attacks, cancer, strokes and chronic illnesses, and the rest were from accidents, suicides and homicides. In Sacramento County at least three homeless people froze to death last year.
A key distinction among the homeless population today is the graying of the destitute.
Margot Kushel, a doctor specializing in homeless care, has tracked the rise of the average age of homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area from their mid-30s three decades ago to their mid-50s today.
But even that rise in age does not tell the full story of their vulnerability, she said. Homeless people in their 50s are showing geriatric symptoms: difficulty dressing and bathing, visual and hearing problems, urinary incontinence.
“Poverty is very wearing on the body,” Dr. Kushel said. “Fifty is the new 75.”
A quarter of the homeless people she began studying nine years ago are now dead. The median age of death was 63, well below the average U.S. life expectancy of 77.
Across California, homeless deaths are overwhelmingly among men, and especially Black men who are dying on the streets at rates far disproportionate to their share of the general population. In Los Angeles County, men make up 67 percent of the homeless population but 83 percent of homeless deaths. In San Francisco, men in their 50s have the highest rates of overdose deaths among all age deciles.
Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychologist, said the issue of death and despair among older men was underappreciated and understudied. He said society should ask the question: “Can we help men from dying so much?”
David Brown, 59, a former bus driver and fast-food employee in San Francisco who is currently enrolled in a rehabilitation program at the Salvation Army, describes the circumstances that put him on the streets as a life’s accumulation of woes. The knee problems from cramming his tall frame into the bus driver’s seat. The type 2 diabetes. The prison terms he served for burglary. A lifetime struggle with alcoholism and drug abuse.
So many friends died in shootings around the time of the crack epidemic in the 1980s and from overdoses on the streets that he feels entirely bereft.
“I don’t have anybody in my life,” he said.
Pamela Prickett, a sociologist who has studied death records in Los Angeles, said one measure of male isolation is that men’s bodies go unclaimed at the morgue at twice the rate of women. The rates that bodies go unclaimed, which have been climbing since the 1970s, are highest among men in their 40s and 50s.
“There are more people not getting married or getting divorced and not getting remarried,” Ms. Prickett said. “So we find lots of loners.”
Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, said he had seen a pattern of men being ill-equipped to handle “triggers” in life such as illness and losing a job or a spouse.
“As men get older they tend to be less good at building and maintaining relationships,” he said. “When people do not have a safety net to catch them in the form of community and strong healthy relationships, it’s much more likely they end up struggling with substance use disorders, with mental illness and homelessness.”
Ivan Perez, 53, is philosophical about what caused his life to go off the rails. His wife’s miscarriage and their marriage that fell apart. A marijuana habit that sank his career as a stockbroker. Prison time for an assault when he was high. Gambling.
“Being alone you kind of have no excuses to say it’s my wife’s fault, it’s my mom’s fault, it’s society’s fault,” Mr. Perez said.
In recent months he has slept on the streets in a tent near the North Hollywood subway station. The soundtrack to his life, he said, is the hissing of passing trucks next to his tent and the swoosh of street cleaners.
“There’s a certain posture that you take when you are homeless,” he said. “You lose your dignity.”
His goal, he said, was to live as long as his father, who died at 54 and a half. He is not far off.
Mr. Perez remembered the hopes he had when he was younger of becoming an actor or a playwright.
“I tried to do all the right things and it blew up in my face,” he said.
“What a raw deal this life turned out to be.”
Susan C. Beachy contributed research.
Audio produced by Kate Winslett.
A friend described the actions of Wynn Bruce, of Boulder, Colo., as “a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis.”
By Chris Cameron, April 24, 2022
The Supreme Court is deliberating a case whose outcome could deal a sharp blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to address climate change. Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — A Colorado man who set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court on Friday in an apparent Earth Day protest against climate change has died, police said.
The Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., said that Wynn Bruce, 50, of Boulder, Colo., had died on Saturday from his injuries after being airlifted to a hospital following the incident. Members of his family could not be reached immediately for comment.
Kritee Kanko, a climate scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and a Zen Buddhist priest in Boulder, said that she is a friend of Mr. Bruce and that the self-immolation was a planned act of protest.
“This act is not suicide,” Dr. Kritee wrote on Twitter early Sunday morning. “This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis.”
She later added in an interview that she was not completely certain of his intentions, but that “people are being driven to extreme amounts of climate grief and despair” and that “what I do not want to happen is that young people start thinking about self-immolation.”
Mr. Bruce had set himself on fire at the plaza in front of the Supreme Court at about 6:30 p.m. on Friday, police and court officials said. A video posted to Twitter by a Fox News reporter showed a National Park Service helicopter landing in the plaza to airlift Mr. Bruce to a nearby hospital.
The court had heard arguments in late February on an important environmental case that could restrict or even eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to control pollution. The court’s conservative majority had voiced skepticism of the agency’s authority to regulate carbon emissions, suggesting that a decision by the justices could deal a sharp blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to address climate change.
Mr. Bruce, who identified as Buddhist, set himself on fire in an apparent imitation of Vietnamese monks who burned themselves to death in protest during the Vietnam War. A Facebook account that Dr. Kritee identified as Mr. Bruce’s had commemorated the death of Thich Nhat Hanh, an influential Zen Buddhist master and antiwar activist who died in January.
Thich Nhat Hanh, in a letter he wrote in 1965 to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had idolized those monks. Dr. Kritee cited that letter in another tweet on Mr. Bruce’s death on Sunday morning.
“The press spoke then of suicide, but in the essence, it is not. It is not even a protest,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote of the monks, adding that “to burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance. There is nothing more painful than burning oneself. To say something while experiencing this kind of pain is to say it with utmost courage, frankness, determination, and sincerity.”
David Buckel, a prominent civil rights lawyer turned environmental advocate, also set himself on fire in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in 2018 to protest climate change and died. In a letter beforehand, Mr. Buckel alluded to the spiritual roots of self-immolation in protests, including in Tibet.
Mr. Bruce had, on his own Facebook page nearly three weeks before his act, recently edited a 2021 comment — under his post in 2020 warning of “irreversible” climate change — to include the date of his planned self-immolation, with a fire emoji. The apparent announcement of his plans was buried in his account timeline.
Other posts from Mr. Bruce’s Facebook account going back to April 2020 criticized “war profiteers,” President Donald J. Trump and collective inaction in the face of a worsening climate crisis. He also praised the young climate activist Greta Thunberg, quoted Dr. King, and as recently as March spoke of the “compassion” of Ukrainian refugees.
Dr. Kritee said that the last time Mr. Bruce had communicated with her was in a Facebook message he had sent in January, asking if she had seen his post about Ms. Thunberg. She added that if she or any other Buddhist teacher in Boulder had known of his plan to set himself on fire, they would have discouraged him from doing so.
There have been previous instances of public self-immolation in Washington. Arnav Gupta burned himself in front of the White House in 2019 and later died of his injuries. A motive in that case was never determined. Mohamed Alanssi, a Yemeni-born F.B.I. informant, set himself on fire outside the White House in 2004 in protest of his treatment by the government, but he survived. Norman R. Morrison, a Quaker man, burned himself to death outside the Pentagon in 1965 in protest of the Vietnam War.
At least 40 children and teenagers have been shot this year, taking a toll on young people whose lives have already been disrupted by the pandemic.
By Troy Closson, April 25, 2022
Classmates of Kade Lewin, 12, who was killed in a case of mistaken identity, hold a memorial event for him at the K763 Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy on April 13. Credit...Mostafa Bassim for The New York Times
When the thick pall of a gunman’s smoke bombs cleared on the 36th Street subway platform on April 12, at least four of the people struck by bullets or injured in the ensuing panic were revealed to be children or teenagers.
Above ground, young people nearby and across Brooklyn rushed to take cover behind school walls, or anxiously waited as their parents hurried to retrieve them from street corners. Classrooms went on lockdown, shutting doors to visitors as students posted on windows messages of hope — and fear.
For many New York City children, the Sunset Park shooting was just the latest in a troubling series of violent acts in which young people have been wounded or killed. Two years of the pandemic worsened a mental-health crisis among the young; over the same period, shootings have risen sharply. Students, parents and teachers say that has exacted a deep toll on young people, both those who have taken bullets and those in their orbit who have watched the aftermath.
On April 12, as details of the Brooklyn shooting that injured 30 people were still emerging, a Bronx community 16 miles away was reeling from tragedy: a sunset memorial was planned for a 16-year-old who had been killed in a shooting after class.
The following afternoon, even as the police made an arrest in the subway attack, dozens of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, teenagers wept outside their middle school, K763 Brooklyn Science and Engineering, for a beloved friend recently killed.
“I find it really hard to admit that I’m in pain,” said Tatiana Barrett, 14, a student at the school and friend of the teenager who was killed. “As the days go by, I get angrier and angrier.”
The pandemic’s disruption and the upheaval it has inflicted on young people are well documented, from the classroom to home life. Medical groups declared an emergency in child and adolescent mental health last winter, a crisis exacerbated by isolation, uncertainty and grief. In New York City, more than one in every 200 children have lost a parent or caregiver to the virus, almost double the nationwide rate, a recent analysis found.
Some of the harm has been direct, physical and deadly: When shootings in New York rose after the virus struck, doubling from historic lows in 2018 and 2019, so did the number of young people caught in the violence.
At least 40 children and teenagers have been shot in 2022, making up about one in every 10 victims. The number is on track to match or exceed the number of youth victims last year, when 138 were struck by bullets.
The tallies remain significantly below those of decades ago: At least 530 children under 16 were shot in 1991 alone, for example, and 54 died. Still, the figures represent a significant rise from prepandemic years. Fewer than 65 minors were shot in both 2018 and 2019.
City officials have tried to quell the violence in several ways, including by targeting guns on city streets and expanding the youth summer jobs program to 100,000 positions. Some residents, meanwhile, have argued that the city needs a more intense focus on poverty and on scant resources in their neighborhoods.
This year, some of the highest-profile killings have had children as their victims. Some have been casualties of street disputes or long-running feuds. Others were hit by stray rounds in cars, parks or on sidewalks.
For Kyla-Simone Sobers Batties, 17, a calm senior year was interrupted on Oct. 1 when a stray bullet struck her in the head while she hung out with friends in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. She spent two weeks in an induced coma and found a frustrating world awaiting, said her mother, Nadine Sobers.
The bullet missed Kyla-Simone’s brain, but she became forgetful, often asking the same questions three or four times. Her vision was so blurred she needed help walking to the restroom at night. She experienced near-constant pain. Meanwhile, classmates were celebrating the milestones of their final year.
“She had nightmares,” her mother said. “I would walk into her room and find her crying in her bed. This was a child who didn’t like having arguments — and now she would get angry easily, she was always upset.”
“She has tried to be resilient. But it will never be easy for her,” her mother added.
The trauma of some shootings has rippled beyond the young people who have cried over their classmates even to those who have watched the tragedies from afar — including the attack in Sunset Park, which unspooled as many students were passing through on their way to school.
Shahana Ghosh, a teacher at P.S. 24 in the neighborhood, said that in the days after, her first graders knew “someone had hurt a lot of people,” but they wrestled with why, and what they should do if in a similar situation.
“There was fear and anxiousness there. I could see it on their faces,” Ms. Ghosh said. “They were talking about the helicopters overhead, how that scared them through the night.”
Two blocks away, some teenagers at Sunset Park High School — whose doors are about 250 feet from the subway station — had “low-level panic attacks” that morning, said Dan Wever, an art teacher. He tried to keep them busy, leading them in a hands-on activity — and coaxing them away from the news on their phones, he said.
Many seemed to search for any sense of normality, he said, and “cut their brains off” from the scene outside the windows.
“The past two years have been just full of trauma,” Mr. Wever said. “With Covid and now this happening to our school, the students are put in a situation where I think years from now, this is going to keep affecting them.”
Experts have long warned of long-term setbacks in schooling and health for students exposed to gun violence. Aditi Vasan, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where gun violence reached all-time highs last year, said the ramifications could arrive much sooner.
Dr. Vasan and other researchers found that in the two weeks after a shooting, children living nearby were nearly twice as likely to visit emergency rooms for problems like anxiety, depression and self-harm.
“It has been striking to see how quickly these symptoms can arise,” she said. “A lot of these children are experiencing them really immediately and very frequently.”
The breadth of the challenges are evident across New York. Twenty-one children and teenagers were killed last year, more than double that number in 2020, leaving empty seats behind in their classrooms. A 3-year-old girl was hit in the shoulder in March while leaving a Brownsville, Brooklyn, day care center.
The following month, Angellyh Yambo, a 16-year-old in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx who aspired to become a model, was killed when she was struck by a stray bullet while walking home from school. Two other teenagers were shot but survived, including Isaiah Duncan, 17, who has told reporters that he has struggled to sleep since, having nightmares over the violence.
One week after the Bronx shootings, more than 150 students in East Flatbush — mostly young Black children between 12 and 14 years old — lifted candles to mourn another loss. Their seventh-grade classmate, Kade Lewin, 12, had been shot in the head in a case of mistaken identity.
At one point during the memorial, three girls in the back row rested their heads on one another’s right shoulders, taking deep breaths. Two boys in black hooded sweatshirts shared a 10-second embrace, wiping away tears.
Tatiana Barrett, the 14-year-old student at K763 Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy, said in an interview that she has struggled to move forward after the shooting, taking several trips to the street where Kade’s family car had been parked, and to his mother’s house.
She has had trouble concentrating, describing herself as often “blurry-minded.” Her mother said that she has withdrawn, asking to spend more time alone.
Tatiana mourned Kade, whom she had known for four years, at his funeral on Wednesday. As for his burial the following day, she told her mother that “she couldn’t bear it.”
David Walcott Jr., a 12-year-old schoolmate, asked to stay home from memorials and the funeral, his father said. He has become anxious, worrying who could be the next victim. On one recent morning around 2 a.m., David was shaken up when a loud car passed by their home as he watched television and emitted a gunfire-like noise.
“Why do we live here?” his father, David Walcott, recalled his asking. “He said he’s starting to understand racism. He’s like, ‘It only happens in our neighborhoods that innocent people are dying.’”
The teenagers in East Flatbush released three turquoise balloons into the sky at the end of their memorial for Kade, filled with poems and writings. The wind carried one into a tree’s branches, where it lingered, a reminder of the persistent grief in the school nearby.
Kirsten Noyes contributed research.
Melissa Lucio had long maintained her innocence. New evidence and expert testimony emerged casting strong doubt on her guilt.
By J. David Goodman, April 25, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/25/us/melissa-lucio-execution-texas.html
HOUSTON — The highest criminal court in Texas on Monday ordered a halt to the execution of a Hispanic mother of 14 convicted of killing her 2-year-old child more than a decade ago in a case that has drawn bipartisan outrage.
The mother, Melissa Lucio, has long maintained her innocence, and calls for leniency have become widespread in Texas, including among dozens of Democratic and Republican state legislators, as new evidence and expert testimony emerged that cast strong doubt on her guilt.
In a three-page decision ordering a stay to the execution that had been set for Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals found that several of the claims raised by her lawyers needed to be considered by a trial court, including that prosecutors may have used false testimony, that previously unavailable scientific evidence could preclude her conviction and that prosecutors suppressed other evidence that would have been favorable to her.
The case now returns to a lower court to resolve those issues, postponing the execution indefinitely. Ms. Lucio would have been the first Hispanic woman executed in Texas.
The case had drawn national attention, including a documentary film, as lawyers for Ms. Lucio argued that evidence presented at trial undercut the case for murder in the death of her daughter, Mariah.
“I thank God for my life,” Ms. Lucio said in a statement released by her lawyers. “I am grateful the court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always.”
Mariah died at home two days after what Ms. Lucio and her children have said was a fall down a flight of stairs as they were moving between apartments. An autopsy said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
Ms. Lucio was convicted of beating her daughter to death in part based on her own statements during a five-hour interrogation just after Mariah died in 2007.
Ms. Lucio’s lawyers challenged those statements, arguing that the apparent confession had been coerced, and presented expert testimony showing that the type of bruising seen on Mariah’s body, and the type of trauma that caused her death, could have been caused by the fall.
Under the court’s ruling on Monday, a lower court will now hold a hearing to consider the new evidence and determine whether a new trial is warranted.
“Melissa is entitled to a new, fair trial,” said one of her lawyers, Tivon Schardl. “Texans should be grateful and proud that the Court of Criminal Appeals has given Melissa’s legal team the opportunity to present the new evidence of Melissa’s innocence to the Cameron County District Court.”
Ms. Lucio’s case was also before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which could grant clemency. But the board said on Monday that because of the stay it would not be making a clemency recommendation “at this time.”
At the time of Mariah’s death, Ms. Lucio had been living with Mariah’s father, Roberto Alvarez, and nine children. Her lawyers had argued that Mr. Alvarez was treated differently than Ms. Lucio by the police, who questioned him more as a witness than as a suspect during interrogations. Mr. Alvarez was convicted of a lesser charge of failing to provide medical help to Mariah and sentenced to four years in prison.
But the court on Monday dismissed claims brought by her lawyers that gender bias had affected the investigation and prosecution of Ms. Lucio.
During her original trial, prosecutors said that bruising on Mariah’s body and the head trauma she suffered could only have come from beatings. Ms. Lucio’s appellate lawyers argued that other medical evidence should have been presented at trial but was not, demonstrating that the fall could have caused the bruising seen on the child’s body and ultimately led to her death.
“Medical evidence shows that Mariah’s death was consistent with an accident,” said another of her lawyers, Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at the Innocence Project.
By John Kiriakou, April 21, 2022
It’s not at all unusual to feed prisoners animal-grade food to save money. It happens all across the country every single day.
Arizona State Prison Complex -Lewis. (Prison Insight, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
We’ve all been reading about inflation over the past several months. Food prices are up dramatically this year, and it’s putting the squeeze on a lot of American families. Many people are cutting back, eating less meat, and trying to conserve. But what happens when you’re in prison when food prices are spiking?
On my first day in prison in 2013, one of the other inmates said to me, “It’s Friday. Fish day.” I responded, “Oh. Ok. I like fish.” “Not this fish,” he said. “We call it sewer trout. Stay away from it.” When I got to the cafeteria, I saw boxes stacked up behind the serving line. They were all clearly marked: “Alaskan Cod. Product of China. Not for Human Consumption. Feed Use Only.” I never ate the fish.
There are two ways that prisons are able to save money. They cut food costs and they cut medication costs. In many prisons and jails at the state and local level, any budget surplus goes into the warden’s or sheriff’s pocket.
Check out this article , which documents how an Alabama sheriff legally took home as personal profit more than $750,000 that had been budgeted to feed prisoners and used it to pay cash for a beach house. The prisoners ended up eating scraps not meant for human beings.
It’s not at all unusual to feed prisoners animal-grade food to save money. It happens all across the country every single day.
In one Arizona women’s prison, current and former prisoners complained that they saw the “Not for Human Consumption” label on boxes of chicken legs and thighs and on lunch meat.
One former prisoner, who spent 12 years in the facility, said that she asked multiple times why animal-grade food was being served to prisoners, but she “never got a straight answer.” Eventually, the prison stopped serving the chicken — the lunch meat is still being served — but not until enough prisoners complained about it. The food service company, Trinity Services Group, also served prisoners maggot-infested food and “potatoes laced with crunchy dirt.” Trinity was also accused of serving prisoners rotten meat that caused dozens of H. pylori infections. Trinity’s response? “That happened in the past.”
To give you an idea of how seriously, or not, “corrections professionals” take the allegations, one must only look at what they say to each other when they think nobody else can hear them. The Phoenix New Times reported that a private Facebook group of Arizona prison guards mocked the animal-grade food and the prisoners who had to eat it. One guard wrote, “That was true haha working in the kitchen I read it.” Another said, “As a kitchen officer, I plead the fifth.” Still another wrote, “This isn’t news lol.”
‘It’s All Bad’
One Minnesota prisoner said that he tells new prisoners upon arrival, “Don’t eat no chili, no burritos, no types of sausage or the sausage gravy, no meatloaf, or no Salisbury steak. It’s all bad. It’s all made from that meat marked ‘Not for Human Consumption.’”
Aramark, the big food service company, says that it is dedicated to “culinary excellence” in prisons. But after winning a contract to provide food in the Colorado prison system, their quest for culinary excellence didn’t stop them from serving prisoners “rotten food crawling with maggots or food that had been thrown in the trash, and (Aramark) gave inmates cake that had been partially eaten by rodents.” The same thing happened at prisons Aramark supplied in Mississippi, in Oregon, Alabama and elsewhere.
If these details don’t make you angry, maybe this will: According to a lawsuit filed against Oregon prison officials, prison administrators — in anticipation of state health inspections — directed inmates to clean up kitchens and remove “not for human consumption” food and to move green and moldy, spoiled food to the a mobile refrigerator and freezer trucks, only to return the spoiled food to the kitchen after the inspection was completed. One of the prisoners filing the suit said she was ordered to serve “not for human consumption bait fish and spoiled meats, milk and produce” to fellow inmates.
The fix here is easy: STOP DOING IT. Where is the humanity? I understand that when you run a prison, you want to balance a budget. But the budget can’t be balanced while ignoring basic human rights. I have no idea if it’s even illegal to serve people animal-grade food. It wouldn’t even occur to me that such a thing would need to be legislated. But if it is legal, it needs to be made illegal. And people who do it should be prosecuted. Maybe one of the reasons that we have some of the societal problems that we do is that we don’t treat the less fortunate among us with respect and dignity.
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.