Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, February 3, 2023


Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal march down JFK Blvd. past the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice and City Hall, in Philadelphia, Friday, December 16, 2022. .Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

Save the Date for Action to:

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!

Thursday, February 16, 2023

This is the hour to fight for Mumia’s freedom. On Thursday, Feb. 16th, longshore workers in ILWU Local 10will shut down the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco to demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal.


Mumia was framed for killing a police officer. With Tyree Nichols’ murder, we know who the real criminals are!


Other actions are being organized for Feb. 16:


Unions in South Africa will demonstrate in Pretoria at the U.S. Embassy, and in Durban at the U.S. Consulate.


Railroad workers in Japan (in the Doro-Chiba union) will organize a demonstration for Mumia in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.


Bay Area teachers will also teach on Mumia’s case on February 16th.


We call on all Bay Area justice supporters to hold the date of Feb. 16 to join the ILWU action for Mumia’s freedom. More info will be sent out shortly.


Why now? Judge Lucretia Clemons of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has ordered the Philadelphia District Attorney to turn over its files—up to 200 boxes—to Mumia’s defense team. His lawyers expect to findfurther evidence that he was framed, that police coerced and bribed witnesses, and that extreme racism andjudicial bias have permeated all the proceedings against him.


What you can do now: In addition to participating in the actions of Feb. 16, we can write letters to Judge Clemons to demand Mumia’s immediate release. Here is her address:


Judge Lucretia Clemons, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County 1220 Criminal Justice Center

1301 Filbert St.

Philadelphia, PA 19107


Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal www.laboractionmumia.org

(415) 483-4428

Results of Mumia Abu-Jamal's Court Hearing 

December 16, 2022


In October, Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons strongly signaled in a 30-page opinion that she is leaning toward dismissing the defense appeal.

However, she gave the two sides one last chance Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 to argue their positions. The lawyers did so in a courtroom filled with about 50 Abu-Jamal allies, as well as Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, and a smaller number of her supporters. Mumia Abu-Jamal was not present.

Clemons said she would rule within three months. Before ending the hearing, the judge asked the prosecutors and defense lawyers to make sure that Abu-Jamal’s lawyers had reviewed every scrap of evidence that the District Attorney’s Office could share.

“I do not want to do this again,” she said.




Watch the live-stream of the Dec. 16 Court Rally at youtu.be/zT4AFJY1QCo.

The pivotal hearing follows a hearing Oct. 26 at which the Judge said she intended to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s appeal based on six boxes of evidence found in the District Attorney’s office in Dec. 2018. Clemons repeatedly used procedural rules – rather than allowing for an examination of the new evidence – in her 31-page decision dismissing Mumia Abu-Jamal’s petition for a new trial. (https://tinyurl.com/mtvcrfs4 ) She left the door open on Abu-Jamal’s appeal regarding the prosecution’s selection of jurors based on race.

Abu-Jamal’s attorneys Judith Ritter, Sam Spital  and Bret Grote filed a “ Petitioner’s Response to the Court’s Notice of Intent to Dismiss PCRA Petition” (https://tinyurl.com/mvfstd3w ) challenging her refusal to hold a hearing on the new evidence.

Just this week, the UN Working Group on People of African Descent filed an Amicus brief, a friend of the court document that reinforced the facts and arguments in Mumia's attorney's PRCRA filing. (https://tinyurl.com/587r633p ) They argued that no judicial time bar should be applied when the defendant is a victim of historic racial bias that may have tainted the possibility of a fair trial and due process.

At a press conference Dec. 13 announcing the Amicus brief, the Hon. Wendell Griffen, Division 5 judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court for Pulaski County, Arkansas said, “Clemons is only the second Black judge to hear any aspect of Abu-Jamal’s case. Will she have the courage to say that there are too many factors here that compel for Mumia to justify dismissing the motion? This evidentiary hearing is required, because exculpatory evidence was concealed.” (https://youtu.be/Xh38IKVc_oc )

Griffen clarified his statement on Dec 14 during a Democracy Now interview (https://youtu.be/odA_jjMtXQA): “Under a 1963 decision that every law student knows about, and every lawyer that does criminal law practice, in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the U.S. held that due process of law is violated when the prosecution conceals evidence relevant to guilt or punishment from the bench. In this country, that kind of precedent should have required Mumia to be released and the Commonwealth decide whether or not to prosecute him based upon having revealed the right evidence. That hasn’t been done.”

More details on Abu-Jamal’s case can be found at 
https://tinyurl.com/ymhvjp8e and https://tinyurl.com/34j645jc.



John Beadle (Screenshot)


February 24-25 :: International Days of Action in Solidarity with Ukraine

On the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, activists throughout the world will be mobilizing for protests and education events in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their struggle to liberate their country. 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) will be organizing actions and events. 

Connect with us!

Solidarity with Ukraine!

Ukraine Solidarity Network Mission Statement 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) reaches out to unions, communities, and individuals from diverse backgrounds to build moral, political, and material support for the people of Ukraine in their resistance to Russia’s criminal invasion and their struggle for an independent, egalitarian, and democratic country. 

The war against Ukraine is a horrible and destructive disaster in the human suffering and economic devastation it has already caused, not only for Ukraine and its people but also in its impact on global hunger and energy supplies, on the world environmental crisis, and on the lives of ordinary Russian people who are sacrificed for Putin’s war. The war also carries the risk of escalation to a direct confrontation among military great powers, with unthinkable possible consequences. 

It is urgent to end this war as soon as possible. This can only be achieved through the success of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion. Ukraine is fighting a legitimate war of self-defense, indeed a war for its survival as a nation. Calling for “peace” in the abstract is meaningless in these circumstances. 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) supports Ukraine’s war of resistance, its right to determine the means and objectives of its own struggle—and we support its right to obtain the weapons it needs from any available source. We are united in our support for Ukraine’s people, their military and civilian defense against aggression, and for the reconstruction of the country in the interests of the majority of its population. We stand in opposition to all domination by powerful nations and states, including by the United States and its allies, over smaller ones, and oppressed peoples. 

We uphold the following principles and goals: 

1.     We strive for a world free of global power domination at the expense of smaller nations. We oppose war and authoritarianism no matter which state it comes from and support the right of self-determination and self-defense for any oppressed nation.

2.     We support Ukraine’s victory against the Russian invasion, and its right to reparations to meet the costs of reconstruction after the colossal destruction it is suffering. 

3.     The reconstruction of Ukraine also demands the cancellation of its debts to international financial institutions. Aid to Ukraine must come without strings attached, above all without crushing debt burdens. 

4.     We recognize the suffering that this war imposes on people in Russia, most intensely on the ethnic and religious minority sectors of the Russian Federation which are disproportionately impacted by forced military conscription. We salute the brave Russian antiwar forces speaking out and demonstrating in the face of severe repression, and we are encouraged by the popular resistance to the draft of soldiers to become cannon fodder for Putin’s unjust war of aggression. 

5.     We seek to build connections to progressive organizations and movements in Ukraine and with the labor movement, which represents the biggest part of Ukrainian civil society, and to link Ukrainian civic organizations, marginalized communities and trade unions with counterpart organizations in the United States. We support Ukrainian struggles for ensuring just and fair labor rights for its population, especially during the war, as there are no military reasons to implement laws that threaten the social rights of Ukrainians, including those who are fighting in the front lines.


Click here to read the complete list of USN Endorsements: 



Please sign below to add your endorsement:




Spring Action Week:  April 15 - 22, 2023
Holloman AFB, Southern New Mexico

Co-sponsored by CODEPINK & Ban Killer Drones

Mark your calendars & Join Us! 

Come for all or part of the week!



Dear friends and supporters of Kevin Cooper, 

We are horrified by the terrible report put out by the Morrison Foerster (MoFo) law firm who were assigned to conduct an independent investigation of Kevin Cooper’s case. As Kevin’s chief attorney, Norman Hile, says: "In short, Mofo did not do an innocence investigation. Instead, they simply looked at the evidence the prosecution used and then hired some of their own experts to affirm what the prosecution said.”

Attached is a brief press statement issued by Kevin’s defense law firm. If you would like to receive the link to the MoFo report (over 200 pages) let me know and I will email it to you.

More analysis and information will follow soon.

An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974



January 14, 2023


Kevin Cooper has suffered imprisonment as a death row inmate for more than 38 years for a gruesome crime he did not commit. We are therefore extremely disappointed by the special counsel’s report to the Board of Parole Hearings and disagree strongly with its findings.  Most fundamentally, we are shocked that the governor seemingly failed to conduct a thorough review of the report that contains many misstatements and omissions and also ignores the purpose of a legitimate innocence investigation, which is to independently determine whether Mr. Cooper’s conviction was a product of prosecutorial misconduct. The report failed to address that critical issue. The evidence when viewed in this light reveals that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the Ryen/Hughes murders, and that he was framed by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. 


The special counsel’s investigation ordered by Governor Newsom in May 2021 was not properly conducted and is demonstrably incomplete. It failed to carry out the type of thorough investigation required to explore the extensive evidence that Mr. Cooper was wrongfully convicted. Among other things, the investigation failed to even subpoena and then examine the files of the prosecutors and interview the individuals involved in the prosecution. For unknown reasons and resulting in the tragic and clearly erroneous conclusion that he reached, the special counsel failed to follow the basic steps taken by all innocence investigations that have led to so many exonerations of the wrongfully convicted. 


In effect the special counsel’s report says: the Board of Parole Hearings can and will ignore Brady violations, destruction of exculpatory evidence, planted evidence, racial prejudice, prosecutorial malfeasance, and ineffective assistance of trial counsel; since I conclude Cooper is guilty based on what the prosecution says, none of these Constitutional violations matter or will be considered and we have no obligation to investigate these claims.


Given that (1) we have already uncovered seven prosecutorial violations of Brady v. Maryland during Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, (2) one of the likely killers has confessed to three different parties that he, rather than Mr. Cooper, was involved in the Ryen/Hughes murders, and (3) there is significant evidence of racial bias in Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, we cannot understand how Mr. Cooper was not declared wrongfully convicted.  The special counsel specifically declined to address ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial or the effect of race discrimination.  We call on the governor to follow through on his word and obtain a true innocence investigation.

Anything But Justice for Black People

Statement from Kevin Cooper concerning recent the decision on his case by Morrison Forrester Law Firm

In 2020 and 2022 Governor Newsom signed in to law the “Racial Justice Act.” This is because the California legislature, and the Governor both acknowledged that the criminal justice system in California is anything but justice for Black people.

On May 28th, 2021, Governor signed an executive order to allow the law firm of Morrison Forrester (MoFo) to do an independent investigation in my case which included reading the trial and appellant transcripts, my innocence claims, and information brought to light by the 9th circuit court of appeals, as well as anything else not in the record, but relevant to this case.

So, Mr. Mark McDonald, Esq, who headed this investigation by Morrison Forrester and his associates at the law firm, went and did what was not part of Governor Newsom’s order, and they did this during the length of time that they were working on this case, and executive order. They worked with law enforcement, current and former members of the L.A. Sheriff’s department, and other law enforcement-type people and organizations.

Law enforcement is the first part of this state’s criminal justice system. A system that both the California legislature, and the Governor acknowledge to be racist, and cannot be trusted to tell the truth, will present, and use false evidence to obtain a conviction, will withhold material exculpatory evidence, and will do everything else that is written in those two racial justice act bills that were signed into law.

So, with the active help of those pro-police, pro-prosecutor, pro-death penalty people working on this case to uphold my bogus conviction we cannot be surprised about the recent decision handed down by them in this case.

While these results are not true but based on the decisions made in 1983 and 1984 by the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, these 2023 results were not reached by following the executive orders of Governor Newsom.

They ignored his orders and went out to make sure that I am either executed or will never get out of prison.

Governor Newsom cannot let this stand because he did not order a pro-cop or pro-prosecutor investigation, he ordered an independent investigation.

We all know that in truth, law enforcement protects each other, they stand by each other, no matter what city, county, or state that they come from. This is especially true when a Black man like me states that I was framed for murder by law enforcement who just happened to be in the neighboring county.

No one should be surprised about the law enforcement part in this, but we must be outraged by the law firm Morrison Forrester for being a part of this and then try to sell it as legitimate. We ain’t stupid and everyone who knows the truth about my case can see right through this bullshit.

I will continue to fight not only for my life, and to get out of here, but to end the death penalty as well. My entire legal team, family and friends and supporters will continue as well. We have to get to the Governor and let him know that he cannot accept these bogus rehashed results.

MoFo and their pro-prosecution and pro-police friends did not even deal with, or even acknowledge the constitutional violations in my case. They did not mention the seven Brady violations which meant the seven pieces of material exculpatory evidence were withheld from my trial attorney and the jury, and the 1991 California Supreme court that heard and upheld this bogus conviction. Why, one must ask, did they ignore these constitutional violations and everything that we proved in the past that went to my innocence?

Could it be that they just didn’t give a damn about the truth but just wanted to uphold this conviction by any means necessary?

No matter their reasons, they did not do what Governor Gavin Newsom ordered them to do in his May 28, 2021, executive order and we cannot let them get away with this.

I ask each and every person who reads this to contact the Governor’s office and voice your outrage over what MoFo did, and demand that he not accept their decision because they did not do what he ordered them to do which was to conduct an independent investigation!

In Struggle and Solidarity

From Death Row at San Quentin Prison,

Kevin Cooper


Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)



Ruchell is imprisoned in California, but it is important for the CA governor and Attorney General to receive your petitions, calls, and emails from WHEREVER you live! 


SIGN THE PETITION: bit.ly/freeruchell




Call CA Governor Newsom:

CALL (916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer (Mon. - Fri., 9 AM - 5 PM PST / 12PM - 8PM EST)


Call Governor Newsom's office and use this script: 


"Hello, my name is _______ and I'm calling to encourage Governor Gavin Newsom to commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long. In the interests of justice, I am joining the global call for Ruchell's release due to the length of his confinement and I urge Governor Newsom to take immediate action to commute Ruchell Magee's sentence."


Write a one-page letter to Gov Gavin Newsom:

Also, you can write a one-page letter to Governor Gavin Newsom about your support for Ruchell and why he deserves a commutation of his sentence due to his length of confinement (over 59 years), his age (83), and the health risks of an elderly person staying in California’s prisons. 


YOUR DIGITAL LETTER can be sent at bit.ly/write4ruchell


YOUR US MAIL LETTER can be sent to:

Governor Gavin Newsom

1303 10th Street, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814


Email Governor Newsom




Under "What is your request or comment about?", select "Clemency - Commutation of Sentence" and then select "Leave a comment". The next page will allow you to enter a message, where you can demand:


Commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. 

He was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence.  Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long.


Write to District Attorney Gascon

District Attorney George Gascon

211 West Temple Street, Suite 1200

Los Angeles, CA 90012


Write a one-page letter to D.A. George Gascon requesting that he review Ruchell’s sentence due to the facts that he was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence. Ruchell’s case should be a top priority because of his age (83) and the length of time he has been in prison (59 years).


·      Visit www.freeruchellmagee.org to learn more! Follow us @freeruchellmagee on Instagram!

·      Visit www.facebook.com/freeruchellmagee or search "Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee" to find us on Facebook!

·      Endorse our coalition at:

·      www.freeruchellmagee.org/endorse!

·      Watch and share this powerful webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u5XJzhv9Hc



Ruchell Magee

CMF - A92051 - T-123

P.O. Box 2000

Vacaville, CA 95696


Write Ruchell uplifting messages! Be sure to ask questions about his well-being, his interests, and his passions. Be aware that any of his mail can be read by correctional officers, so don’t use any violent, explicit, or demoralizing language. Don’t use politically sensitive language that could hurt his chances of release. Do not send any hard or sharp materials.



of Detroit Shakur Squad


The Detroit Shakur Squad holds zoom meetings every other Thursday. We educate each other and organize to help free our Elder Political Prisoners. Next meeting is Thurs, Jan 12, 2022.  Register to attend the meetings at tinyurl.com/Freedom-Meeting





Urgent support needed for cancer-stricken, imprisoned writer/artist, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s Legal Fund!

Fundraiser for an attorney to represent Rashid’s struggle for medical care
A campaign is underway to hire an attorney to represent Kevin Rashid Johnson’s struggle for medical care. The prison has denied this care to him, despite a cancer diagnosis discovered over one year ago for which no treatment has yet been provided.

Here is the donation link for Rashid’s legal fund: 
Please be as generous as you can.


Prostate cancer can be cured if discovered and treated before it spreads (metastasizes) beyond the prostate. But once it spreads it becomes incurable and fatal.

Rashid's prostate cancer was discovered over a year ago and diagnosed by biopsy months ago, before it had spread or any symptoms had developed. However, he has now developed symptoms that indicate it likely has metastasized, which would not have happened if he had begun receiving treatment earlier. Denied care and delayed hospital appointments continue, which can only be intended to cause spreading and worsening symptoms.

I just received word from Rashid through another prisoner where he is, that he was transported on October 25, 2022 to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) hospital, which is a state hospital where Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) officials also work. MCV appears to have a nefarious relationship with the VDOC in denying prisoners needed treatment. Upon arrival to the hospital he was told the appointment had been rescheduled, which has now become a pattern.

The appointment was for a full body PET scan to determine if and to what degree his cancer has metastasized. When he met with a radiologist on October 4, 2022, after 3 prior re-schedulings, there was concern that his cancer may have spread because of symptoms he's begun developing. This is his fourth rescheduled hospital appointment which has delayed appointments for weeks to months, preventing him from receiving care.

Because of delayed testing and denied care Rashid has developed symptoms that continue to worsen, which include internal bleeding and pain. The passage of time without care is worsening his condition and making the likelihood of death from the spread of his cancer more certain.



Sign the petition:


If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.

UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".

Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”

Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”

The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.

Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.

The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense." 

The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.

The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.



Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!


Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



Laws are created to be followed

by the poor.

Laws are made by the rich

to bring some order to exploitation.

The poor are the only law abiders in history.

When the poor make laws

the rich will be no more.


—Roque Dalton Presente!

(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)[1]

[1] Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.







Screenshot of Kevin Cooper's artwork from the teaser.


 “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.



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.

Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



The Moment

By Margaret Atwood*


The moment when, after many years 

of hard work and a long voyage 

you stand in the centre of your room, 

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, 

knowing at last how you got there, 

and say, I own this, 


is the same moment when the trees unloose 

their soft arms from around you, 

the birds take back their language, 

the cliffs fissure and collapse, 

the air moves back from you like a wave 

and you can't breathe. 


No, they whisper. You own nothing. 

You were a visitor, time after time 

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 

We never belonged to you. 

You never found us. 

It was always the other way round.


*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!



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.

Emergency Hotlines

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: 

National Hotline

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. 

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 Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) Biden Clears the Way for Alaska Oil Project

The administration issued an analysis that indicates a scaled-back version of the Willow project can go forward. Opponents call the drilling plan a “carbon bomb.”

By Lisa Friedman, Feb. 1, 2023


A cylindrical object, wrapped in a black cover, stands in wide expanse of Alaskan tundra dotted by patches of green interspersed with small pools of water.

Conoco-Phillips testing equipment in the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska. Credit...Jim Wilson/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Wednesday took a crucial step toward approving an $8 billion ConocoPhillips oil drilling project on the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, drawing the anger of environmentalists who say the vast new fossil fuel development poses a dire threat to the climate.


The Bureau of Land Management issued an environmental analysis that says the government prefers a scaled-back version of the project, which is known as Willow. The assessment calls for curtailing the project to three drill sites from five, as well as reducing the miles of both gravel and ice roads, pipelines and the length of airstrips to support the drilling.


The analysis is the last regulatory hurdle before the federal government makes a final ruling about whether to approve the Willow project. If approved, the Willow project would produce about 600 million barrels of oil over 30 years, with a peak of 180,000 barrels of crude oil a day.


Separately, Bureau of Land Management and White House officials are considering additional measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and environmental harm, such as delaying decisions on permits for one of the drill sites and planting trees, according to two people familiar with the discussions.


The final decision could come within the next month. But in concluding that limited drilling could occur on the land in Alaska’s North Slope, the Biden administration has already sent a strong signal that it is likely to give the project a green light, both supporters and opponents said.


The Department of the Interior issued a statement saying the agency still had “substantial concerns” about the Willow project, “including direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and impacts to wildlife and Alaska Native subsistence.” The analysis notes that the agency might make final changes “that would be more environmentally protective” like delaying a ruling about permits to more than one drill site.


The report is expected to be greeted with relief by Alaskan lawmakers and ConocoPhillips executives, who wanted a more expansive area for drilling but were worried that President Biden, who has made tackling climate change a centerpiece of his agenda, would work to block the project entirely.


ConocoPhillips said in a statement that it “welcomes” the environmental analysis and said the alternative selected by the Bureau of Land Management provided “a viable path forward” for the Willow project.


“We believe Willow will benefit local communities and enhance American energy security while producing oil in an environmentally and socially responsible manner,” Erec S. Isaacson, president of ConocoPhillips Alaska, said in a statement. He said the project had undergone five years of rigorous regulatory review and called on the administration to approve the plan “without delay.”


The option is the smallest footprint possible for the Willow project with a more limited impact on the immediate environment, but still allows the company access to the area’s vast petroleum reserves. In addition to the three drilling sites, the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred option calls for about 482 acres of gravel fill, more than 400 miles of ice roads and about 89 miles of pipelines.


The agency said the blueprint would reduce the proposed project’s footprint within the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, a critical ecological area in the petroleum reserve that supports thousands of migratory birds and is a primary calving area and migration corridor for the Teshekpuk caribou herd.



2) U.S. to Boost Military Role in the Philippines in Push to Counter China

Washington and Manila announced a plan to give the American military access to four new locations in the Southeast Asian country, a growing strategic partner in the region.

By Sui-Lee Wee, Published Feb. 1, 2023, Updated Feb. 2, 2023


US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reviewing honor guards upon arrival at the Department of National Defense at Camp Aguinaldo military camp in Quezon City, Metro Manila on Thursday.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reviewing honor guards upon arrival at the Department of National Defense at Camp Aguinaldo military camp in Quezon City, Metro Manila on Thursday. Credit...Pool photo by Rolex Dela Pena

Filipino activists protesting against the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, outside the military headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo, in Quezon City, Philippines, on Thursday.

Filipino activists protesting against the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, outside the military headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo, in Quezon City, Philippines, on Thursday. Credit...Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

The United States is increasing its military presence in the Philippines, gaining access to four more sites and strengthening the Southeast Asian nation’s role as a key strategic partner for Washington in the event of a conflict with China over Taiwan.


The agreement, announced on Thursday, allows Washington to station military equipment and build facilities in nine locations across the Philippines, marking the first time in 30 years that the United States will have such a large military presence in the country.


The deal comes as Washington has tried to reaffirm its influence in the region amid a broader effort to counter Chinese aggression, reinforcing partnerships with strategic allies and bolstering relations that have soured in recent years. Fears have also grown over a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the island democracy that China claims as its territory. Among the five treaty allies that the United States has in Asia, the Philippines and Japan are the most geographically close to Taiwan, with the Philippines’ northernmost island of Itbayat just 93 miles away.


On Thursday, Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, accused the United States of threatening regional peace and stability with its announcement.


“Out of self-interest, the United States continues to strengthen its military deployment in the region with a zero-sum mentality, which is exacerbating tension in the region and endangering regional peace and stability,” she said. “Countries in the region should remain vigilant against this and avoid being coerced and used by the United States.”


In a news conference, the U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, stressed that these new sites were not permanent. The last U.S. soldiers left the Philippines in 1990s, and it is now against the country’s Constitution for foreign troops to be permanently based there.


“This is an opportunity to increase our effectiveness, increase interoperability,” he said during a visit to Manila that began on Tuesday. “It is not about permanent basing, but it is a big deal. It’s a really big deal.”


Carlito Galvez Jr., the Philippines’ defense secretary, declined to name the locations of the four additional sites, saying the government needed to consult local officials first. American officials have long eyed access to the Philippines’ northern territory, such as the land mass of Luzon, as a way to counter China in the event that it attacks Taiwan.


In November, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro of the Philippines said that Washington had identified five possible sites, including two in Cagayan, one in Palawan, one in Zambales and one in Isabela. Cagayan and Isabela are in the northern part of the Philippines, with Cagayan sitting across from Taiwan.


“Having increased U.S. access in Northern Luzon, close to Taiwan, is really ensuring that the Philippines and the U.S. alliance is going to have a front and center role in Northeast Asian security and deterrence,” said Drew Thompson, a visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and a former U.S. defense official.


The Philippines is the United States’ oldest treaty ally in Asia. Washington is shoring up its presence in the country after relations deteriorated during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year term, which ended last year.


During Mr. Duterte’s term, he frequently criticized Washington and complained that the United States, the Philippines’ former colonial ruler, had created defense treaty agreements that weighed heavily in favor of the Americans. (The Philippines was an American territory for nearly half a century before the country gained independence.)


U.S. officials were concerned when Mr. Duterte threatened to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement, a long-held defense pact that allows for large-scale joint military exercises between the two allies. He also threatened to disregard the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the deal that formed the basis for Thursday’s announcement.


Since he took office last June, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has sought to revive his country’s relationship with the United States, surprising many foreign policy experts. On the campaign trail, Mr. Marcos had indicated that he would try to forge closer ties with China, a hallmark of Mr. Duterte’s term.


Mr. Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, has since said he “cannot see the Philippines in the future without having the United States as a partner.” At least 16,000 Filipino and American troops will train side by side in the northern province of Ilocos Norte, the stronghold of the Marcos family, later this year.


Under Mr. Marcos, officials in the Philippines have started building contingency plans for a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan. When the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last August, China responded by launching military exercises in multiple areas, including the Bashi Channel, a waterway separating Taiwan and the Philippines.


Taiwanese officials called it an “air and sea blockade.”


If war were to break out over Taiwan, “the battle space will encompass the Philippines,” said Mr. Thompson. China’s moves in the Bashi Channel “really brought that home for Philippine leaders,” he added.


The Philippines is also strategically important because of what lies beneath the surface of the ocean. The waters just off the west coast that abut the South China Sea — where China has turned a series of sand mounds into military bases — are flush with undergrowth, making it ideal for stealth submarine movement.


“You need to control the Philippines because of submarines,” said Michael J. Green, an Asia expert on the National Security Council under George W. Bush who now heads the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney. “If you can picture it, the undersea topography is jungle-y — you can sneak in submarines.”


The U.S. Marine Corps has proposed shifting toward smaller units in the region that could deploy to remote islands for missile attacks, rear support, counterattacks or intelligence gathering in the case of a war with China over Taiwan. Along with islands in Japan, the islands of the Philippines represent what American military planners see as one of the most important locations for such tactics.


“I would expect to see rotational access and more frequent deployments of these small marine teams for training and joint exercises alongside their Philippine counterparts,” said Gregory B. Poling, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia and director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.


The five existing sites where the United States military has access are Cesar Basa Air Base and Fort Magsaysay near Manila; the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in central Cebu Province; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, to the east, and the Lumbia Air Base in the south. Since being granted access in 2016, the U.S. has used these sites to build facilities and preposition defense assets.


Three decades ago, the U.S. presence in the Philippines was a sore point among many Filipinos. The military bases maintained by Washington for nearly a century were seen to be a vestige of American colonialism. In 1992, the United States had to shut down its last American base in the Philippines after street protests and a decision to get rid of it by the Philippine Senate.


But as China began its military incursions in the South China Sea, public opinion on the American presence in the Philippines has shifted.


The Philippines now hopes to get American support to fend off Beijing’s continued military buildup in the South China Sea. Manila and Beijing have been locked in a long-running disagreement over the disputed waters that both sides claim as their own.


Among some quarters, the planned increase of the American military presence in the Philippines remains contentious. In a statement, Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the nationalist activist political group Bayan, said Filipinos “must not allow our country to be used as staging ground for any U.S. military intervention in the region.”


“Allowing U.S. use of our facilities will drag us into this conflict, which is not aligned with our national interests,” Mr. Reyes said.


Jason Gutierrez contributed reporting from Manila, and Damien Cave from Sydney.



3) This Is a Moral Crime

By Charles M. Blow, Feb. 1, 2023


RowVaughn Wells, the mother of Tyre Nichols, stands by a microphone at her son’s funeral.
Pool photo by Andrew Nelles

When RowVaughn Wells arrived at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on an icy, gray Wednesday in Memphis, she was there to say goodbye to her son Tyre Nichols. He was dead. Killed. Beaten to death by local police officers while he screamed for her less than 100 yards from her house.


There was a phalanx of television crews across the street from the front of the church, and the Secret Service manned the doors. The sanctuary was full of dignitaries, including Vice President Kamala Harris.


Wells entered the church under the glare of TV cameras that craned over the balcony and when she neared the front, and the black coffin surrounded by white flowers, she began to shake her head and fight back tears.


Her grief and mourning were not her own. They could not be walled off from the political drama in which she was thrust and caught.


When the church’s presiding pastor, the Rev. Dr. J. Lawrence Turner, opened the service, he said:


“This family has endured the unsolicited, unwarranted, unreasonable, unjustifiable and massive burden of grieving their loved one and at the same time fighting for justice.”


This is the thought that I have not been able to shake in this case, and those that preceded it:


Not only is their loss staggering, but their ability to grieve that loss has also been altered and interrupted, converted into politics and performance. Privacy is unavailable to them.


As Hunter Demster, a local organizer, told me, the family has endured “vigil, after protest, after news conference, after news interview.” Although he was leery of saying for certain, he didn’t believe they’d “had a moment to sit and grieve.”


Mourning, properly, slowly and messily if needed, shouldn’t be a luxury. It’s the least that any of us deserves when tragedy befalls our families.


As Collette Flanagan, whose son was also killed by a police officer and who runs the group Mothers Against Police Brutality, told me by phone just before the funeral started, she remembers telling herself that “you’re going to have to put this grief on a shelf,” that “you’re going to have to put aside all of your hurt and your sorrow and you cannot go quietly into the night.”


Forcing these families to subjugate their mourning is a crime, a moral crime.


Mourning in public, on repeat, under and in front of the lights and cameras, isn’t part of the normal grieving process. Many people can hardly understand their flood of emotion, let alone live with the pressure of constantly being asked to form those feelings into sound bites.


And yet, somehow, families like Tyre Nichols’s valiantly do just that. They put their personal mourning “on the shelf” to become leaders of a mass public mourning. They advocate for their dead child instead of simply mourning the dead child. They are drafted into a war — without warning or preparation — a war in which the enemy is entrenched, and the comrades beleaguered.


What they surrender — what we force them to surrender — is what the grief expert Joél Simone Maldonado described to me as the “sacredness in grief,” the sitting alone with it in silence, the honoring of loss, and developing ritual around it. Families must engage instead in what Maldonado calls “performance grief.”


And sadly, the legions of these families are growing.


At the funeral, I sat in front of Donna Gates Bullard, who tapped me on the arm before the service and explained that her brother Michael Gates was also beaten to death by law enforcement in Memphis. He was killed by sheriff’s deputies in a so-called “jump and grab” sting operation in 1989. (Memphis seems to have no shortage of horrible names for their tough-on-crime efforts.)


Bullard said she came to the funeral to honor her brother. This is something I’ve often seen, the pilgrimage of mothers or sisters of other slain children to the sight of a funeral of the newest one. Their grieving is ongoing and unresolved.


During one of the musical interludes, I looked back and saw Bullard burst into tears, her hands clasped across her bosom, as if trying to hold herself together.


These family members are constantly told that they must be strong for their killed child, but where is the space for vulnerability? Where is the space for human frailty? Where is the opening to confess their fatigue without judgment? Where is the space for them to be when the only noise their mouths can make is that of wailing and cursing the sky?


We have a model for a kind of perfect performance of grief from these women, a single script to follow.


They are made to polish and professionalize mourning, to substitute oration for lamentation, to respectfully receive an endless stream of condolences when the soul craves silence.


I have seen this conflict up close in other mothers who have lost children to violence, and who made that loss part of a cause.


When I first interviewed Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, in person, she was consumed and shrunken by grief. She brought her mother to the interview, and she reflexively wrapped her hands around her mother’s arm and rested her head on her mother’s shoulder as she spoke.


When I spent the day with Sam DuBose’s family in 2015, his mother, Audrey, was so drained that she needed to cling to me just to leave the car and walk into a TV interview. But when the lights came on and the camera rolled, she delivered a stirring and spirited interview. After it was over, she confessed to me in a whisper, “All I want to do is just shut my door and cover up and never open it again.”


When I interviewed Tamir Rice’s mom, Samaria, that same year, on the one-year anniversary of her son’s death at the hands of a Cleveland police officer, one of the first things she told me was, “I’m tired and I’m overwhelmed, and I just want to go to bed.” But she couldn’t go to bed. That day, she had to perform, she had to receive hugs and do interviews and deliver a speech, which she did with passion and conviction just feet from where the blood of her 12-year-old boy had soaked the ground.


Not only do these women lose a part of their heart when their children are killed, the rest of the heart is bound in expectations and advocacy. The loss is compounded.



4) The Dying Practice of Time and a Half

By Peter Coy, Feb. 1, 2023


An illustration of a hand inserted a time card into a punch clock. The image is overlaid with an illustration of a hand writing a check.

Illustration by The New York Times; images by CSA Images

Time and a half for overtime is one of the best-known and most important protections for workers in the United States. Yet many employers routinely undermine the protection by misclassifying workers as managers and thereby making them ineligible for overtime pay.


The extent to which employers game the overtime system was made starkly clear in January in a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The title says it all: “Too Many Managers: The Strategic Use of Titles to Avoid Overtime Payments.” “Food cart manager,” “price scanning coordinator,” “carpet shampoo manager,” “lead shower door installer,” “grooming manager” and “director of first impressions” (for a front desk clerk) are some of the “fake-sounding” titles uncovered by the authors, Lauren Cohen of Harvard Business School and Umit Gurun and N. Bugra Ozel of the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management.


I talked to three people who want to make it harder for employers to misclassify workers: Nick Hanauer, a wealthy entrepreneur who founded Civic Ventures, a public policy incubator in Seattle; Heidi Shierholz, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on low- and middle-income workers; and David Weil, who ran the wage and hour division of the Department of Labor during the Obama administration but was rejected by the Senate for the same job in the Biden administration.


I also interviewed skeptics of a stronger rule at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association, whose franchisee members employ more than eight million people in the United States.


America’s overtime protection goes back to the New Deal, specifically the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. It says that if employers want certain people to work more than 40 hours a week, they must pay the employees at their regular hourly rate plus 50 percent — time and a half. It protects virtually all hourly workers as well as salaried workers below a certain pay threshold and even salaried workers who are above the pay threshold but are not in executive, administrative or professional jobs.


“When employers have to pay overtime, it actually means that they have skin in the game when they make decisions. When they say, ‘You have to work all weekend,’ it’s not totally free for them to do that. When it is totally costless to employers, workers’ lives end up not being taken into consideration,” Shierholz told me.


A lax overtime rule hurts good employers that treat their workers well, Shierholz said, since “employers who are willing to exploit their workers have a competitive advantage.”


All hourly workers are entitled to overtime, as are all salaried workers earning less than $35,568 a year. The problem comes above the salary threshold, where managers don’t get overtime. The new economic working paper found that listings for salaried positions with managerial titles are almost five times as common just above the salary threshold as just below it — which seems to be prima facie evidence that employers are gaming the system by handing out bogus titles.


The potential for abuse was obvious as long ago as 1940, when Col. Philip Fleming, then the administrator of the wage and hour division, wrote, “A title alone is of little or no assistance in determining the true importance of an employee to the employer. Titles can be had cheaply and are of no determinative value … it is not hard to call a janitor a ‘superintendent of maintenance’ if some result desirable to the employer will flow therefrom.”


Broadly speaking, there are two ways to combat this problem. One is to hire more inspectors to crack down on title inflation. Weil told me that in 1939, the wage and hour division had 131 investigators who were responsible for 29,442 establishments. By 2021, it had 800 investigators who were responsible for 11 million establishments. So the workload for each inspector is 61 times as high now as in the Depression. What’s more, he wrote in an email, “the workplace is a far more complicated and varied place now than in 1939, when the employment relationship was far more straightforward.”


Another way to combat underpayment of overtime is to tweak the rule to rely more heavily on a person’s pay and less heavily on the person’s purported duties as a way to judge whether the person deserves overtime. A higher pay threshold would protect more workers automatically, regardless of what employers claim about their duties. In reality, the opposite has happened. The share of workers protected by the pay standard has fallen. As the chart below shows, it was 63 percent in 1975 and had fallen to 10 percent by last year.


If the duties standard is so subject to trickery, you might think the government should abandon it and rely solely on the more easily measurable pay standard. Hanauer, the head of Civic Ventures, who has been working overtime on the overtime issue since 2014, told me he thought everyone earning under $90,000 annually should be guaranteed overtime pay. That would restore the protection to the high-water mark of 1975, in terms of the percentage of full-time salaried workers covered.


“We used to live in a world where we respected people’s time,” Hanauer said. “People are working harder than ever and falling further behind because there aren’t these basic protections we used to have. Everything heals when people get paid fairly.”


But guaranteeing overtime to everyone earning under $90,000 a year probably would not pass muster with the courts. In November 2016 a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction against an overtime rule promulgated by the Obama administration. The next year the judge said the rule violated the intent of the 1938 act by setting the salary threshold so high that the duties standard became irrelevant. (The threshold was to to be set at $47,476 a year and then rise in sync with average wages. If the rule hadn’t been struck down, the salary threshold would be at $58,500 this year, Shierholz calculates.)  Shierholz, who was the Labor Department’s chief economist at the time, disagreed with the judge’s interpretation, but there wasn’t time for an appeal before Donald Trump took office the following January.


All eyes are on the Biden administration, which announced last month that it was aiming to put out an overtime rule for comment in May. That would give it one year to collect comments, respond to them and issue a final rule by about May 2024. Any later than that and the rule would fall within the period in which the next Congress would be able to kill it under the Congressional Review Act.


Marc Freedman, vice president of employment policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told me he doesn’t see why a new rule is needed now, considering that the current rule is pretty new (the Trump administration revised it in 2019 in response to the Texas judge’s ruling) and that the U.S. economy is strong, so workers are being well paid. Freedman said employers worry that stepped-up inspection would be unfair to them: “There is a tendency among some of those folks to assume employers are mistreating their employees.” And he said the fact that a smaller percentage of workers are guaranteed overtime by the salary standard (as shown in the chart above) isn’t relevant, since what should count is workers’ duties, not their pay. Freedman said his members also oppose adding an automatic escalator clause to the rule.


“Many employees really don’t want to be reclassified” and lose their managerial status, Freedman said. “They see it as a professional credential. It gives them a feeling of status.”


Mike Layman, the senior vice president of the International Franchise Association, told me, “The biggest problem facing small business right now is a shortage of qualified workers. Four out of five franchiser systems are not growing as they’d like because their franchisees can’t find enough workers. Adding a layer of regulatory restrictions to how small business can recruit and retain employees that they’re working desperately to find already doesn’t seem to fit the times.”


Seems to me that proponents of stronger overtime protection have the better of the argument. It will be interesting to see how strong the Biden administration’s proposed rule will be. Biden prides himself on being a pro-labor president, and this is a key issue for the labor movement, so the Labor Department’s rule might be pretty tough. Weil said the delay in putting it out is probably to tighten it up against the inevitable lawsuits by business. “This is going to be the ‘go big or go home’ approach,” Freedman predicted. Going big might be exactly the right move.



5) Five Years Ago, I Wrote a Fictional Disaster That Is Now Playing Out in Real Time

By Richard Powers, Photographs by Joshua Dudley Greer, Feb. 2, 2023


Several people gathered on some steps outside City Hall in downtown Atlanta, awaiting news on the fate

Activists gathered on Tuesday outside City Hall in downtown Atlanta, awaiting news on the fate of the forest.

A view of a cloud-filled sky through tree branches at South River Forest.

South River Forest is one of Atlanta’s largest, richest and most enjoyable urban woodlands.

What could make a person die for trees?


About five years ago, I published a novel called “The Overstory,” the tale of several characters who come together to protect an old-growth forest. The book follows these characters as they put their lives on the line in increasingly aggressive confrontations against powerful interests in the hope of saving trees. In the story, decent and principled people cross over the edge into retaliatory violence while trying to defend the living world.


Now a similar story is playing out just a four-hour drive from where I live. Atlanta has been shaken by an apparent shootout that occurred two weeks ago when law enforcement officers tried to clear protesters from South River Forest, a wooded area just outside of the city that has been designated as the site for a controversial new police and firefighter training center. A Georgia state trooper has been hospitalized with a bullet in the belly. A 26-year-old protester, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, is dead, gunned down by law enforcement in what they are calling an act of self-defense.


South River Forest is one of Atlanta’s largest, richest and most enjoyable urban woodlands. It borders a predominantly Black, underprivileged neighborhood. The battle for its future erupted over a year ago when the City Council, in a decision met by much public resistance, approved plans for a $90 million, 85-acre training center in the middle of the woods. It would be one of the biggest centers of its kind anywhere in the country, containing not only a shooting range and driving course for practicing high-speed chases, but also an entire simulated village where police would train to conduct raids.


City Hall calls it the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. On the street it’s known as Cop City.


The choice of site could not be more politically charged. The Indigenous Muscogee people, from whom the land was taken 200 years ago, revere that forest, which they know as the Weelaunee. The training center is slated to be built over the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, in operation for much of the 20th century, where decades of human rights abuses took place. And the forest has long been part of an ambitious plan to piece together an ecologically rich greenbelt of protected parkland stretching across southeastern Atlanta and neighboring southwestern DeKalb County, a project that would provide numerous environmental benefits to an increasingly heat-stressed city.


After the City Council approved the project, local environmental and social justice groups joined forces to oppose the decision. Destroying part of South River Forest, they rightly argued, would harm Atlanta’s residents, especially those in the mostly Black neighborhoods nearby. The lush tree cover of South River Forest helps clean and filter Atlanta’s air and water. It provides defense against storm water surges. The trees cool the concrete and buildings that make Atlanta hotter than its surroundings, and they raise the value of surrounding real estate. The diversity of wildlife and the ancient quiet of the groves improve the health of city dwellers in profound ways.


These local activists, joined by protesters from around the country, then took action. Over the past year, they have mounted a largely successful defense of South River Forest, resisting the proposed training center through tree-sitting, blockades, demonstrations and direct confrontation that at times has caused property damage. Two weeks ago, increasingly frustrated law enforcement agencies swept into the woods and tried to shut down the forest defenders. Predictably, the violence spiraled into tragedy.


The kind of fictional disaster I wrote about in “The Overstory” is playing out in fact.


Following the shooting of the state trooper and the death of the protester, the atmosphere in Atlanta is tense. Property in the downtown area stands damaged and dozens of people have been arrested, some held without bond. Idealistic young people building barricades and living in tree houses face charges of domestic terrorism, with the possibility of spending decades in prison. Last Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia declared a state of emergency, empowering him to bring in a thousand National Guard troops who could further escalate the crisis.


The battle over South River Forest is our national crisis in microcosm: environmental anxiety, racial tension and ethnic animosity, the growing gap between rich and poor, concern for public safety, suspicion of the police, the reckoning with our symbols of historical injustice. The issues are complex and do not lend themselves to easy answers.


But there is a solution to the city’s immediate crisis: put the issue of the training center to a public vote. In the short term, a referendum would allow both sides to cool the conflict. In the long term, it offers the best hope for restoring trust in the city. Those who breathe Atlanta’s air and walk its public spaces must decide whether the southeast of their city should remain a living greenbelt or become a state-of-the-art training center.


A citywide vote might seem like an obvious answer to the citywide turmoil. But it could be a hard pill to swallow for both sides. Would a passionate, loosely organized protest movement really stand down if a majority of voters were to decide that they don’t care about the fate of the forest? Could City Hall, keenly aware of the vast amount of outside money committed to the training center, be big enough to walk back its prior decision and accept the wishes of Atlanta at large?


A referendum is a risky approach for all parties. And the practical challenges would be considerable: Not only would the City Council have to suspend its approval of the plan, but the referendum also would have to bridge two counties — DeKalb, where the forest and the neighborhood bordering it are, and Fulton, home to most of Atlanta. But in a city divided by fatal confrontation, only the will of the majority has the moral force to resolve the showdown.


A character in my novel “The Overstory” comes to realize that nothing in this living world has an independent existence. As she puts it, “Everything in the forest is the forest.” Atlanta will always be a wild mix of people whose interests could not be more different. And yet everyone in Atlanta is Atlanta. All those whose city is at stake should be allowed to choose what happens to South River Forest. As with America at large, the only way forward is into that tangled woods we call democracy. It’s still alive. Use it.



6) Someone Called the Police on a Girl Catching Lanternflies. Then Yale Honored Her.

Bobbi Wilson, 9, was hunting for spotted lanternflies, an invasive species, in New Jersey. A neighbor called the police, but her effort has since earned recognition “from far and wide,” her mother said.

By Maya King, Feb. 2, 2023


Bobbi Wilson smiles as she holds up a display with 27 spotted lanternflies, preserved from ones she caught in her neighborhood in Caldwell, New Jersey. One of the lanternflies has its wings spread out, showing orange, black and brown colors.

A collection of lanternflies caught by Bobbi Wilson in her New Jersey neighborhood will sit in the archives of the Yale Peabody Museum. Credit...Andrew Hurley/Yale

When Bobbi Wilson, 9, took it upon herself to spend hours of her summer aiming to obliterate the invasive spotted lanternflies that were ravaging her northern New Jersey community, she did not expect much attention. She just wanted to help.


She went out to the streets of her neighborhood in Caldwell, N.J., armed with a container with a mix of dish soap and water — a recipe to disarm the bugs that she found on TikTok, and enhanced by adding apple cider vinegar. She was determined to get as many of the insects as she could.


But her one-girl extermination campaign got her reported to the police about three months after it started, when a neighbor complained about a “little Black woman, walking and spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees” a few houses from the girl’s home on Oct. 22, according to a recording of the call obtained by CNN.


Though no further action was taken, the police questioned Bobbi and her mother in an episode that reflects the larger dialogue on racial profiling and the treatment of Black children across the country — a lesson that Bobbi’s mother does not want to go unlearned.


“I wanted it to be a teachable moment,” said her mother, Monique Joseph, 50, a real estate agent. “This same call could’ve happened in another state with another police officer, and I would be grieving.”


The incident ended up getting the attention of individuals and institutions alike, including Yale University, which held a ceremony on Jan. 20 that recognized Bobbi’s efforts to eradicate the lanternflies. Her insects will be added to the Peabody Museum’s collection.


Close to 30 of the lanternflies she captured will be housed there, with Bobbi’s name attached.


In an interview, Bobbi said that she was excited to be recognized by Yale and that it was “cool that I can help other scientists with research.”


She added that she hoped her story would help other young aspiring scientists feel “not afraid to pursue their dreams and not be afraid to try something just because they’re little.”


“We can make a difference, too,” she said.


Before it all happened, Bobbi just wanted to do something good for her community.


Last summer saw a deluge of spotted lanternflies, an invasive insect that can hurt trees and ruin crops. The infestation of the bug, which is native to parts of Asia and arrived in the United States in 2011, was documented in multiple states, with swarms concentrated in the Northeast, including in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


Last year, scientists and state authorities encouraged people to kill the bugs, whenever and wherever they found them, and also advised people to destroy their eggs. In August, New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture started a “Stomp It Out” campaign to get its residents and their children do just that.


Bobbi was on a mission: She sprayed trees and plants around her neighborhood in Caldwell, about 12 miles northwest of Newark, from the peak of the summer into her first weeks of fourth grade. Her solution disarmed the bugs so that she could then collect them in a jar or, with the help of her mother and sister, stomp on them.


Ms. Joseph said her daughter felt she was serving her community in her efforts to kill the lanternflies — she even asked for special permission to go spray the trees by herself. She promised in a handwritten note to her mother to stay close to home, keep her phone on and not talk to strangers. She felt comfortable encouraging her neighbors to kill the bugs and shared her solution with them.


“It empowered her because she was now doing something that she wanted to do,” Ms. Joseph said. “She realized that she was helping.”


But a neighbor called a nonemergency police line to report Bobbi as she was spraying trees a few houses down from her home.


The neighbor gave the police Bobbi’s location and said that she was wearing a hood, according to a recording of the call.


“I don’t know what the hell she’s doing,” the caller said. “Scares me though.”


Ijeoma Opara, an assistant professor of public health at Yale who also directs its Substance Abuse and Sexual Health Lab, said she found Bobbi’s story especially compelling. It closely aligned with her research interests — the impact of racism on Black girls and other children of color. It represented a phenomenon that she and other researchers have called the “adultification” of Black girls, who, they say, are more likely to be seen as more criminal and less innocent than white children.


“Often our society, we don’t view Black children as children,” Dr. Opara said. “We view them as much older than what they are. They end up getting less protected; they end up getting judged more. They end up not being forgiven for mistakes.”


Dr. Opara asked her Twitter followers to help her find Bobbi in November after watching a video of her mother and older sister, Hayden, 13, speaking about Bobbi’s experience during a borough council meeting. She offered to give the family a campus tour so she could visit Yale’s labs and meet other Black female scientists — a small group on campus whose members now call themselves Bobbi’s “Yale Aunties.”


In addition to the honor from Yale, Princeton, the American Museum of Natural History and a host of other universities and state and local officials have recognized Bobbi for her lanternfly solution. In July, both Wilson sisters will attend a summer research program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology on scholarships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for young scientists.


Ms. Joseph said that the support for Bobbi and her family has come from “far and wide.” Her primary concern, she said, was for her daughter’s mental health; after the incident, Ms. Joseph said she made it her goal to turn an otherwise traumatic day for her daughter into a positive experience.


Dr. Opara agreed with that assessment.


“Those lanternflies that had someone call the cops on her are now at Yale,” she said. “I am just in awe of just how beautiful these events have turned.”



7) When the Police Are the Government

By Jamelle Bouie, Feb. 3, 2023


Two police officers are seen from behind.
Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos

Earlier this week, I wrote that American policing lies largely outside of democratic control. In practice, despite the formal authority of mayors, city councilors and other elected officials, police departments can and do operate without meaningful accountability or public oversight.


But the problem of democracy and American policing goes beyond questions of accountability. The police shape the experience of American democracy as much (or as little) as they are shaped by it. Police departments, as much as any other institution, mediate and define citizenship for millions of Americans.


Or, as the political scientists Joe Soss and Vesla Weaver argued in 2017 against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, “Police are our government.” The paper in question is primarily addressed to scholars of American politics, urging them to widen their aperture and turn greater attention to the “activities of governing institutions and officials that exercise social control and encompass various modes of coercion, containment, repression, surveillance, regulation, predation, discipline, and violence,” what they call the “second face of the state.” To that end, Soss and Weaver make valuable observations about the role policing plays in modern democratic life.


The middle-class residents of a moderately affluent suburb are likely to experience government in ways that affirm their sense of agency and political belonging, whether at a polling place, their child’s school or a local government office. For poor and low-income Americans, and especially those in segregated, marginalized communities, the experience of government is so radically different as to challenge our use of the word “government” to refer to both.


Residents of these communities are not treated, Soss and Weaver write, as “citizens facing social barriers or as victims needing protection from slum landlord predation, violence, and misaligned service provision” but instead as potential “criminal targets in need of surveillance.” And while there would be fewer and fewer resources for social investment through the 1990s and into the 2000s, there would always be funds for law enforcement, so much so that state and local governments began handing previously unrelated tasks to police departments.


“By the early years of the twenty-first century,” they note, “police had become a normal presence in sites ranging from mental health agencies to hospital emergency rooms to schools to welfare offices.” What’s more, as policing became the central institution in the social regulation of disadvantaged communities, police departments began to engage in the kinds of actions that call to mind the “urban renewal” of the 1950s and ’60s. “Under the guise of reclaiming spaces from social disorder and promoting urban development, police advanced the gentrification of urban neighborhoods and serviced race- and class-based residential segregation.”


The upshot of all of this is to make the police “one of the most visible and proximate instantiations of state power in many citizens’ lives,” Soss and Weaver write. In fact, as Weaver and the political scientist Amy E. Lerman observe in “Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control” (a book I referred to in my previous column), there are a host of reasons to think that “criminal justice contact rivals other more traditional politically socializing experiences and venues for civic education.”


And unlike other, less punitive (or even positive) interactions with the government, like those that often occur in schools, this contact cleaves citizens away from he traditional political community. These “custodial citizens” are then “constituted not as participatory members of the democratic polity, but as disciplined subjects of the carceral state.” The result is that “rather than communicating that they are worthy and valued citizens, their experiences with criminal justice teach them that they have little voice and mark them outside consideration.”


As I have been saying, the American police are largely insulated from democratic control — that much is obvious, even if it isn’t always expressed in those terms. Much less obvious is the degree to which policing itself shapes, constricts and degrades the citizenship of millions of law-abiding Americans, making a mockery of the idea that they live in a democracy or enjoy anything like political equality.


We can catch a glimpse of this democratic distortion right now, in Atlanta, where local law enforcement and its political allies are fighting a pitched battle against activists who hope to stop the city from constructing a $90 million training ground for the Atlanta police and fire departments, derisively known as “Cop City,” complete with replica streets and businesses where the police will train in tactics meant to counter and disrupt protesters, among other things.


If and when “Cop City” becomes a reality, it will be in the face of overwhelming opposition from residents bordering the proposed installation, many of whom live in communities that are already subject to the untrammeled authority of the police. “I am encouraging the council to promptly approve this facility,” Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia wrote in support of the development. “The security of our families and communities hang in the balance, and we must continue to do all we can to support our public safety partners.” That those families and communities seem to disagree is, at this point, immaterial.


In their power and authority and reach and influence in so many neighborhoods across the country, the police are the government. And in this realm, as is true in so many others, American democracy isn’t very democratic.



8) Muscle Cars, Balaclavas and Fists: How the Scorpions Rolled Through Memphis

Residents say the street crime unit has been an intimidating and sometimes violent presence in the city. Five Scorpion officers are charged with murdering Tyre Nichols during an arrest.

By Steve Eder, Matthew Rosenberg, Joseph Goldstein, Mike Baker, Kassie Bracken and Mark Walker, Feb. 4, 2023

Police officers can be seen talking to a man on a sidewalk next to a car. In the darkness, the scene is lit by a streetlight.
Body camera footage of Memphis police officers talking to Mr. Nichols. Credit...City of Memphis, via Associated Press

For 14 months, officers from the high-profile Scorpion unit of the Memphis Police Department patrolled city streets with an air of menace, zooming up on targets, jumping out of their Dodge Chargers at a dead run, shouting at people to get out of their vehicles, lie down on the ground.


They did it to Damecio Wilbourn, 28, and his brother as they pulled up to an apartment building last February. They surrounded Davitus Collier, 32, as he went to buy beer for his father in May. And last month, they beat Monterrious Harris, 22, outside an apartment complex, where he said he was waiting to spend time with his cousin.


These and other Scorpion encounters typically began over something minor — a tinted window violation, a seatbelt infraction, a broken taillight or cracked windshield — and often resulted in officers finding illegal drugs, unregistered weapons, stolen cars and outstanding warrants. Their tactics could be aggressive, according to interviews and records, with arrestees being subdued by baton, pepper spray, Taser and the brute force of the officers’ fists.


Mr. Wilbourn said that the Scorpion officers threw him against the car. They chased and eventually pepper sprayed a frightened Mr. Collier in the face. And when officers pulled Mr. Harris out of his car, he said, they beat him so severely that he was left with cuts and a black eye.


Three days after Mr. Harris’s arrest, on Jan. 7, several of the same officers involved would go on to swarm Tyre Nichols, pulling him from his car and kicking and beating the 29-year-old amateur photographer with a baton as he begged them to let him go home. He later died at the hospital.


In some quarters of the city, Mr. Nichols’s death was shocking, but it was not a surprise. Even as city officials credited Scorpion officers with bringing down violent crime, their presence had spread fear in the predominantly low-income neighborhoods they patrolled, and records show that Black men were overwhelmingly their targets.


Since its formation in November 2021, the specialized squad of some 40 officers that was deployed to deter violence in some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods was responsible for repeated acts of intimidation, harassment and violence by some of its officers, according to interviews with dozens of people in the community, including several arrested by the unit’s officers.


“Police out here riding around like hound dogs,” said Lareta Johnson Ray, whose family members wound up in a violent encounter with the unit’s officers after running from them last summer. The Scorpion unit was “terrorizing this city,” Ms. Ray said, and Mr. Nichols’s death was “not the first time that they be beating on people — it was the first time that they messed up.”


Young Black men have disproportionately borne the brunt of the Scorpion operations: A New York Times review of arrest affidavits in about 150 of what are estimated to be thousands of cases handled by the unit suggests that the unit’s tactics appeared to rely heavily on the vehicular equivalent of “stop and frisk,” a tactic that civil rights advocates say can drive racial profiling and put people of color at risk of police violence.


In the sample reviewed by The Times, about 90 percent of those arrested by the unit were Black — much higher than the share of the city’s population that is Black, about 65 percent. Black residents across Memphis were three times as likely as white residents to be subjected to physical force by police officers, according to department data over the past seven years.


The uses of force, according to those interviewed, were not always minor. Some said they were left bloodied and bruised. One man, his lawyer said, suffered a busted jaw.


Two of the officers charged in Mr. Nichols’s death had been disciplined previously after using force and failing to submit the required documentation on how it was used, according to personnel files. In one of those cases, a woman reported being beaten by officers and slammed against a patrol car.


To city officials, the arrests and seizures that the Scorpions tallied on a near-daily basis signaled that the unit was achieving its mission in a city that had endured more than 300 homicides in 2021, a record. The city soon began touting the Scorpions’ hundreds of arrests, its seizures of scores of drugs, guns, vehicles and cash — with Memphis police noting on Facebook the unit’s role in high-profile cases, often posting photos of items that officers had confiscated.


“Police have really changed and modified what they are doing under the Scorpion,” Mayor Jim Strickland said in a television interview on Jan. 11 — the day after Mr. Nichols died — while crediting the unit with helping reduce homicides in the city. “It is a team they have really directed at that.”


Within a few weeks, the Scorpion unit would be disbanded and five officers charged in the killing of Mr. Nichols, a case that has sparked national outrage and renewed discussion about the use of specialized crime-fighting units in neighborhoods that are often home to low-income families, and people of color.


The Memphis Police Department did not respond to queries about the Scorpions’ past arrests, and on the training and policies that governed the unit’s operations. The department has not disclosed records of past citizen complaints against the unit. Many of the Scorpion officers remain on the force, and it is unclear how many operated with the aggressive tactics that arrestees detailed in interviews.


Michalyn Easter-Thomas, a member of the City Council, said she did not hear about the volatile encounters people had with the Scorpion unit until after Mr. Nichols’s death.


“I just wish we would have known sooner,” she said. She also expressed concern about the unit’s apparent focus on stopping people with minor violations, and said she would be proposing a prohibition on traffic stops for issues such as a missing brake light or late registration.


The dissolution of the Scorpion unit was just the beginning of addressing a larger problem, said Amber Sherman, a community organizer who led recent protests.


“We want a disbandment of every special task force,” Ms. Sherman said. The police have long used such units “to over-criminalize low-income, poor Black neighborhoods and to terrorize citizens,” she added. “We want that ended.”


‘They could have been anybody’


Residents could spot Scorpion teams by their cars: sometimes marked police cars, but often a pack of several unmarked Dodge Chargers driving in a straight line.


Mike Scholl, a defense lawyer who has had several clients arrested by the unit, said the problem was the officers’ often heavy-handed tactics — some of his clients said they were beaten, including the man with the busted jaw — and the perception that the Scorpions often seemed to be looking for trouble.


“If they pull you over and nothing is happening, they’ll create something,” Mr. Scholl said.


In encounter after encounter, Memphis residents said, the Scorpions had a similar playbook: Officers would spot some minor infraction, jump out and begin asking questions and barking commands. Some said the officers offered no explanation about what they had done wrong, leading to confusion and sometimes disobedience. Some of those interviewed said they had tried to run away, in part, out of pure fear.


“I was terrified, really, because the way they pulled up,” Mr. Wilbourn said of his encounter with Scorpion officers on Feb. 19, 2022. “They could have been anybody, they didn’t announce themselves or anything, they didn’t turn any sirens on, any lights or anything.”


Mr. Wilbourn said he and his brother Romello Hendrix, an aspiring rapper, were preparing to meet friends to shoot a music video and were just getting their recording equipment out of their Infiniti when they were cornered by a line of Chargers.


Two officers jumped out, the brothers said, demanding to know what they were doing at the apartment complex. Moments later, Mr. Wilbourn said, an officer threw him against the Infiniti, and more officers surrounded him.


One mentioned smelling marijuana. When they searched the car, they found an ounce of marijuana and a loaded pistol, which Mr. Hendrix said was a legally obtained weapon he had brought for protection. “People out here are crazy, try to steal your car, they know I go to work and probably have something,” he said.


Mr. Hendrix was arrested on gun and drug charges. Mr. Wilbourn received a citation for possession of a controlled substance. All charges against the brothers were eventually dropped, which they said bolstered their argument that they should never have been stopped.


The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the marijuana case had been dropped. “Mr. Hendrix had a very small amount of marijuana. He made a charitable donation to the charity of his choice and the case was dismissed,” said Erica R. Williams, a spokeswoman for the office.


Mr. Harris, who was arrested last month, said he was also in a parking lot when a group of Scorpion officers in balaclavas and hoodies suddenly surrounded his car, yelling at him to get out and threatening to shoot him.


“I was real scared — like, terrified,” he said. “I didn’t see any signs of security or police or anything.”


The men punched him and threw him to the ground, injuring his face; Mr. Harris said he believed his screams for help, which prompted several people to emerge from a nearby apartment complex, kept the incident from getting worse.


The police in court records said Mr. Harris had driven rapidly at officers before backing away. Mr. Harris said he had been maneuvering to park his car. He was arrested for possession of marijuana — a charge his lawyer denies — and a handgun, which Mr. Harris said belonged to his cousin.


It was only later, he said, after Mr. Nichols’s death, that he read the news accounts and realized that the officers charged in that case were the same ones who had arrested him.


Maurice Chalmers-Stokes, 19, described a similar encounter with the Scorpions: He was leaving the barbershop one day in October when he noticed an unmarked car starting to follow him. The people inside were wearing balaclavas, and he did not realize at first that they were police officers.


“They were coming at me aggressively and they didn’t approach me how a regular officer should approach a person,” Mr. Chalmers-Stokes said. “I thought they were going to kill me.”


Mr. Chalmers-Stokes started running. He was bumped by the car, he said, but got up and tried to keep running. One of the officers tackled him to the ground.


“When he tackled me, I hit my head on a brick and skidded my head up,” he said. “When they put me in the handcuffs, he turned around like he was going to beat me, but another officer came and got him off me.”


The police said in the arrest affidavit that they had found Mr. Chalmers-Stokes walking in the “middle of the street,” and that when they searched his backpack, they found a Glock pistol, which they believed to be stolen. Mr. Chalmers-Stokes has said that the weapon was legally in his possession. His lawyer said that prosecutors had so far not produced any evidence to confirm the gun claim; prosecutors did not respond to a request to discuss the case.


Mr. Chalmers-Stokes said he realized after Mr. Nichols’s arrest that the officer who had been pulled off him was Demetrius Haley, one of those now charged in Mr. Nichols’s fatal beating. “It could have been me that died,” he said. “That could have been me in Tyre Nichols’s situation.”


‘A soulful place’


Built to look like a townhouse development, Chickasaw Place is standard-issue low-income housing in Memphis: a collection of squat, two- and three-story brick buildings that is home to working people — truck drivers, electricians, grocery store clerks — yet struggles with drugs and violent crime.


“It’s a soulful place. You’ve got some good, you’ve got some bad,” said Christopher Wilson, 33, a painter who was visiting friends one recent afternoon.


He said it was not always an easy place to live. “It’ll be a normal day, and sometimes it just starts to pop off,” he said.


An arrest affidavit in August described a wild scene at the complex: Scorpion officers were cruising in to check out a report of outsiders looking to stir up trouble there when they saw a man running away from them holding a gun with an extended magazine. They tackled him, but then another man walked up and pushed an officer in the chest, the affidavit said, and several officers brought him to the ground. The incident was first referenced in a report by the Institute for Public Service Reporting Memphis.


By then, a crowd of more than 60 people had gathered and was growing hostile toward the police, “yelling curse words at them and becoming more aggressive,” the affidavit said. Fearing trouble, the Scorpion team called for backup.


Witnesses and three of the people arrested that day denied that anyone was violent with an officer and said that the police were the aggressors. They identified three of the officers present that day as among the five who have since been charged with killing Mr. Nichols.


Sebastian Johnson, 19, and his cousin Kendrick Johnson Ray, 20, said they were with two other cousins, hanging outside on a hot summer day, when the police arrived.


The officers came in “all ra-ra, jumping out the car, cursing and yelling, guns out like they were storming the place,” said Shantrell Harris, 35, whose apartment overlooks the spot where the incident took place.


Mr. Johnson was the man that the police said they saw running away, but he insisted in an interview that he had no gun and that he had already been walking away when the officers appeared. He bolted when the police called out to him, he said, because “I don’t like them, I don’t trust them. They always looking to beat on people.”


The police said they seized a bag of marijuana, a digital scale and $110 in denominations of twenties and tens, which the document called “consistent with illegal narcotic sales.” Mr. Johnson and Mr. Ray, both slight young men who were left bloodied and bruised by the Scorpions, were charged with two other cousins with a slew of felonies, including criminal trespass, unlawful possession of a weapon, evading arrest and inciting a riot.


All of the charges are now in the process of being dropped in exchange for the two men agreeing to take an hourlong, online gun safety course, according to their lawyer, Brandon Hall.


‘What did I do?’


When Davitus Collier, 32, went out with his brother and a friend in his father’s car to buy beer for his father on Memorial Day weekend last year, he broke a rule he has known since childhood.


“You don’t ride three, four deep when you’re Black,” Mr. Collier said. “You do that, you’re getting pulled over.”


The three men presently found themselves stopped by Scorpion officers for a seatbelt violation, although Mr. Collier said all of them were wearing seatbelts.


In Mr. Collier’s telling, it all unfolded quickly.


One of the officers — Emmitt Martin, also charged in Mr. Nichols’s killing — demanded Mr. Collier’s identification.


“I said, ‘What did I do?’”


They went around in circles. At one point, Mr. Collier said, the officer told him that he had found a murder warrant connected with the car. “I told him, ‘No way’ — there is no way there is a murder warrant connected with my 58-year-old father’s car,” Mr. Collier said. “That was a straight-up lie,” he said. “It was meant to scare me. It didn’t.”


What did scare him, he said, was that the officers sometimes had their hands on their holsters. Then Mr. Martin took out a telescoping baton. “He whipped it out, like a light saber.”


Mr. Martin eventually began to pull Mr. Collier out of the car, he said — prompting him to run.


He said he made that decision for two reasons: He knew he had a warrant stemming from a domestic violence complaint. But looming even larger was the fact that he did not want to be arrested on the side of the road, without many witnesses nearby.


“I made the decision because he was getting aggressive, and there was no one around,” Mr. Collier said.


He ran toward a convenience store, and soon found himself surrounded by at least a dozen people, along with the officers. He was near home; he recognized some faces.


One of the officers in an affidavit gave an account that in its initial stages concurred with Mr. Collier’s: The Scorpion officers were on routine patrol when they saw him with no seatbelt. When they ran the license plate, it came back as indicating that the car was associated with warrants for a suspended license and various traffic infractions.


The statement also described the foot chase, saying that officers were able to catch up to Mr. Collier, but that he resisted their efforts to handcuff him, balling his fists and flexing his arms, and that one officer subdued Mr. Collier using pepper spray.


In a video Mr. Collier supplied to The Times, he could be seen on the ground, having slipped, with one of the officers on his back. He was already on the pavement and not resisting when he was pepper sprayed, he said. “When I’m on the ground and he’s on my back, what’s the point of pepper spraying me?”


He faced several charges, including evading arrest and violating the seatbelt law, plus the pending domestic violence case. He recalled serving a night in jail.


When Mr. Collier watched the videos of Mr. Nichols’s arrest — the kicks and blows he suffered after he tried to run, the pepper spray in his face — it felt familiar.


“It didn’t shock me whatsoever,” Mr. Collier said. “If they would have caught me by myself, they would have done me the same way.”


Michael H. Keller contributed reporting. Julie Tate contributed research.



9) E.M.T.s Provided No Care for 19 Minutes After Police Beat Tyre Nichols

The board that regulates emergency medical technicians in Tennessee on Friday voted to suspend the licenses of the two E.M.T.s who arrived at the scene and failed to render aid.

By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Published Feb. 3, 2023, Updated Feb. 4, 2023

A white teddy bear and other contributions to a makeshift memorial under a cross reading Tyre Nichols R.I.P. 2023 at the corner where he was fatally beaten.

A makeshift memorial for Tyre Nichols at the corner where he was fatally beaten by Memphis police officers. Credit...Brad J. Vest for The New York Times

The two emergency medical technicians who first arrived to treat Tyre Nichols after he was severely beaten by Memphis police officers did not provide any care for 19 minutes after getting to the scene, a regulatory agency concluded on Friday as it voted to suspend their licenses.


Members of the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Board voted unanimously to suspend the licenses of the E.M.T.s, Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge, who could be seen on video largely standing around as Mr. Nichols, 29, writhed in pain on the ground.


On Friday evening, the Memphis Police Department also announced that it had fired a sixth officer, in addition to the five who had already been fired and charged with second-degree murder in Mr. Nichols’s death. The sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, had fired his Taser at Mr. Nichols as he ran away from the police. After other officers caught up to Mr. Nichols, he was captured on his body camera video saying, “I hope they stomp his ass.”


Mr. Hemphill’s lawyer, Lee Gerald, said that he and his client disagreed with the basis of his firing but would continue to cooperate with the investigation into Mr. Nichols’s death.


In the case of the E.M.T.s, the emergency medical services board found that for 19 minutes, neither had taken Mr. Nichols’s vital signs, conducted an examination of him, or administered oxygen. Mr. Sandridge, who, as an advanced E.M.T., was also authorized to administer an IV line and perform cardiac monitoring, did not do so, the board found. Mr. Nichols died three days after the Jan. 7 beating.


“They were his best shot, and they failed to help,” said Dr. Sullivan Smith, a physician who is the chairman of the board. He added that it was obvious that Mr. Nichols was in distress.


The chief of the Memphis Fire Department, which oversees the city’s emergency medical response, fired the two E.M.T.s, Mr. Long and Mr. Sandridge, earlier this week, as well as a lieutenant, Michelle Whitaker, who the chief said never got out of the fire truck at the scene. The union that represents Fire Department employees did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.


Matthew Gibbs, a lawyer for the state’s Health Department, had asked the emergency medical services board to hold a special meeting to suspend the E.M.T.s, ensuring they cannot work as E.M.T.s in the state. The suspension issued on Friday was temporary, and the board will hold a hearing over whether to issue a full suspension at a later time.


Dennis Rowe, an ambulance service operator on the board, said there was “every reason to believe” that the E.M.T.s’ inaction “may have contributed to the demise of that patient.”


Mr. Rowe and another board member suggested that they may also want to suspend the licenses of any additional emergency medical workers, such as supervisors, if they had not intervened to get Mr. Nichols help. Dr. Smith, the chairman, said that the state’s investigation into the treatment of Mr. Nichols was continuing.


Video footage from a police surveillance camera that captured the beating and much of the emergency medical response was played for the board. It showed that a handcuffed Mr. Nichols, whom the police had punched, kicked and struck with a baton, repeatedly fell over while propped up against a police car. The E.M.T.s helped Mr. Nichols sit up a few times, but then largely left him alone, not touching him for long periods of time and, at one point, walking away for about 30 seconds as Mr. Nichols rolled around on the ground.


When they first arrived, body camera video captured them asking a police officer to shine a light on Mr. Nichols, and one of the E.M.T.s also appeared to ask if any of the police officers knew his name. Meanwhile, police officers were claiming that Mr. Nichols must be on drugs — no evidence has emerged to suggest this — and, a few feet away, some were laughing as they recounted their assault.


The Memphis fire chief, Gina Sweat, said in a statement on Monday that the police had called for emergency medical workers to respond to a “person pepper sprayed,” and that the E.M.T.s had arrived 10 minutes later. The E.M.T.s then called for an ambulance, which arrived 14 minutes after them, Chief Sweat said.


Before the board considers a full suspension, the E.M.T.s would be able to contest the findings and provide their version of events. Neither has yet spoken publicly.


“These individuals are tasked with being a patient advocate,” said Greg Miller, who leads the Sumner County Emergency Medical Services agency, north of Nashville. “They were not an advocate for the patient in these situations.”



10) After Gutting Youth Services, Can the U.K. Still Cut Youth Crime?

Poor neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by austerity have also seen violence among young people surge or remain stubbornly high. Residents say that’s no coincidence.

By Euan Ward, Feb. 4, 2023

Euan Ward obtained police data and interviewed dozens of families, social workers and officials to understand the convergence of austerity cuts and youth violence in London’s poorest neighborhoods.


The Marcus Lipton Youth Club in South London in August. The center used to count on hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in government funding. Now, it gets almost none.

The Marcus Lipton Youth Club in South London in August. The center used to count on hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in government funding. Now, it gets almost none. Credit...Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The Marcus Lipton Youth Club is the last dedicated youth center still standing in its pocket of South London. Every day, the center opens its steel security gates to an area of the city plagued by youth violence, where half the children live in poverty.


But Marcus Lipton is teetering. Nearly half of London’s youth centers have closed in the past decade as Britain has cut money for youth services, as well as for welfare, schools and drug and alcohol treatment, according to the most recent available data. Marcus Lipton used to count on hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in government funding. Now, it gets nearly zero.


“Just look around you,” said Ira Campbell, 55, the manager of the club, which offers counseling, warm meals and sports for young people. “This place is a safe haven.”


Marcus Lipton lies in the shadow of the vast Loughborough Estate public housing project, where two of the Conservative government’s longtime priorities — fighting crime and trying to reduce the budget deficit — collide.


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is building new prisons and recruiting more police officers as part of his party’s pledge to be tough on crime. He has also proposed a budget that would make deep spending reductions in the coming years, forcing officials to find savings in programs that have already been whittled to the bone during a decade of austerity.


Budget cuts during that decade, instituted in response to the global financial crisis of 2008, hit the poorest neighborhoods of Britain’s capital particularly hard, according to the Institute for Government, an independent research group in London. Those neighborhoods are also where serious youth violence, like homicide, has risen or remained disproportionately high after austerity, data from the office of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, shows.


Annual knife violence involving teenage victims in the city increased by nearly 40 percent to 5,332 in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began, from 3,809 in 2012, according to police figures obtained by The New York Times. (There was later a dip in serious youth violence during virus-related lockdowns, most likely because of reduced social contact.)


Residents of the Loughborough Estate, already frustrated by sharply rising utility bills and food costs, say that the government would rather pay to lock up young people than spend money on projects that might provide them with positive activities or help their parents to make ends meet.


With government funding effectively vanished, Mr. Campbell is no longer able to provide regular meals to children from the estate. The center receives occasional local government donations but is mostly self-funded and has been forced to cut the number of days it opens — three days, down from five on a good week.


It all leaves the youth center as one of the few places left trying to hold things together, he added. “We’re doing the dirty work that society doesn’t want to talk about,” he said. “You can’t jail your way out of this problem.”


He slowly counts on his fingers the teenagers from his youth center he has lost. Seven have been murdered over the past decade, he said. Teenage homicides in London reached a record peak in 2021, according to police data.


It is too soon to know whether a sharp drop in teenage homicides last year was a reversal of that trend or an anomaly. The relationship between crime and budget cuts is difficult to prove, particularly because money for policing was also cut during the same period. Further complicating things, crime rates in England and Wales have fallen steadily since the mid-1990s.


But under the austerity measures of the past decade, serious youth violence in London rose, as the figures from the mayor’s office point out. One analysis by a group of lawmakers found that areas of England where youth budgets had been cut most tended to have bigger increases in knife crime.


The government cut youth services in England by more than 1.1 billion pounds, about $1.35 billion, from 2010 to 2021 — a 74 percent decline. In recent years, the government has been promising to reverse £560 million of those cuts. But time and again, the money failed to materialize.


The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the government office responsible for youth policy, said in a statement that the pledged money would soon be available, with funds to help refurbish or build 300 youth centers. “By 2025, every young person will have access to regular clubs and activities, adventures away from home and opportunities to volunteer,” the department said.


The Home Office, which oversees crime policy, said that it had committed £130 million to tackle serious violence in England and Wales. That money, it said, would pay for increased police patrols, weapons sweeps and early-intervention programs.


Mr. Sunak, speaking at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia in November, acknowledged that poorer areas tended to experience greater levels of crime than wealthier areas.


“It’s often people who are in parts of the country that may feel that they’ve been looked over in the past, or that are from more disadvantaged backgrounds, that crime impacts the most,” he said.


He did not address how his party’s budget cuts might play into that analysis.


Past cuts have had a measurable effect on young people. Under austerity, since 2010, welfare money available to the poorest families dropped by an estimated £37 billion, nearly a quarter. As a result, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent research group based in London, 4.3 million children were in relative poverty by the time the pandemic began. At 31 percent, that was the highest level since the financial crisis.


For Patrick Boyce, the talk of a new round of austerity cuts at the same time as a crackdown on crime shows that the government is out of touch. Mr. Boyce’s son Jamel died last year after being stabbed in South London in 2016. The attack, which occurred when he was 17, had left him in a vegetative state for years.


“They haven’t got a clue what it’s like to live here,” Mr. Boyce said of Britain’s leaders. “These kids are fending for themselves.”


The London mayor’s office has also pointed to hunger as an indicator for crime, noting that areas with high food insecurity were strongly associated with rates of serious youth violence.


In 2009, Britain’s largest network of food banks sent 41,000 boxes of emergency food supplies to families in need.


Last year, it sent 2.1 million.


Mimi Asher is a pastor at Word of Grace Ministries, a small evangelical church housed in a rented school hall across the railway bridge from the Marcus Lipton center.


“These children are being left out there in the wild,” she said during a recent sermon. “We need the resources as a community. We can’t keep losing them to jail and the grave.”


For years, Ms. Asher has offered her church as a de facto youth center. She has helped write résumés, given counseling and career guidance, organized day trips out of London and even housed some young gang members in her own home, winning an award from the local government for her efforts. That award is proof, she says, that a little investment of time, effort and resources can redirect young people toward a better future.


But Ms. Asher, too, says she is on the brink of failure. Her congregants were already struggling after the welfare cuts. Now, with the skyrocketing costs of food, energy and other essentials, people are increasingly skipping meals — and donations. Ms. Asher said that it was getting harder to cover the rent. She has cut back on counseling and other services, and she says many young people have stopped attending church.


“We’re heading down a very dangerous path,” she said.


Gideon Buabeng, 29, knows that path well. A former gang member, his torso is jagged with knife scars from an attack that finally persuaded him to turn his life around. Mr. Buabeng now provides youth mentoring services in impoverished areas such as his home neighborhood, Pollards Hill, in South London. Funding, he said, is always spotty.


Mr. Buabeng said that children who grew up surrounded by poverty saw drugs and robbery as their best chance to make money.


“If you have a young person who has not eaten for days, what do you expect him to do?” Mr. Buabeng said. “No one is born a monster.”