Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, May 26, 2023


The Tampa 5 are facing 10-plus years in jail! Drop the charges now!


Statement by Freedom Road Socialist Organization

Update, May 20, 2023



Tampa, FL – Florida state prosecutor Justin Diaz it trying to put the Tampa 5 in prison. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) members, arrested at a campus protest against the racist agenda of Governor Ron DeSantis, each face a trumped-up felony charge, alleging “battery on a police officer,” carrying five years of jail time. When the activists rejected a plea deal requiring them to apologize for doing the right thing, the prosecutor added on more felony charges. This means that three of the activists are facing more than ten years behind bars. In addition, the activists face ten misdemeanor charges.


The five facing charges are Chrisley Carpio, Laura Rodriguez, Gia Davila, Lauren Pineiro and Jeanie Kida. They have done nothing wrong. They are heroes who are standing up to injustice. 


The large number of charges and the reactionary political climate in Florida means that this repression needs to be taken seriously. The enemy is increasing the level of the attacks on our movement.


Progressive and fair-minded people need to push back. The state wants to intimidate other people away from protesting injustice and make an example of the Tampa 5.  Freedom Road Socialist Organization urges everyone around the country to follow new developments in the Tampa 5’s case closely and take action when calls are put forward. The situation has sharpened.


On March 6, 2023, a student demonstration was brutalized by campus police at the University of South Florida (USF). The activists were defending diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs on campus from recent attacks by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  Four of the student activists were arrested and booked.  Later the police arrested a fifth woman and charged her in the same manner as the other four.  


Some of those arrested lost their jobs, including campus worker and AFSCME union member Chrisley Carpio, who was fired by USF despite maintaining a spotless record during her seven-year career. Others experienced threats of expulsion and talk of not being allowed to graduate, despite video evidence that clearly shows the police as the aggressors.  


The Tampa 5 deserve our support because, while they were defending diversity on campus, the police launched an unprovoked attack on them with no warning and which was clearly captured on video.  Later, the university released a report comparing the original student protest to an active shooter situation on campus, falsely claiming that procedures for an active shooter situation had to be used in response to the student demonstration.


The state initially charged members of the Tampa 5 with four felony charges and a number of misdemeanor charges.  After legal maneuvers, press conferences, community rallies and call-in days involving activists around the country, the enemy put forward an offer to drop the charges – if the Tampa 5 wrote apology letters to the police officers who attacked and groped them.  This was considered unacceptable and rejected by the heroic young women who suffered the unprovoked attack for simply exercising their freedom of speech.


This is the point at which the state’s attitude towards the Tampa 5 became crystal clear – the state doesn’t just want to intimidate activists; they are looking to put them in prison.


After the activists’ rejection of the ridiculous plea offer to write apology letters, the state charged members of the Tampa 5 with additional felonies.  Rather than doing the right thing and dropping the charges, which is not uncommon in other cases of protesters unjustly arrested by the police, the state has doubled down.  


A conference on the Tampa 5 situation is being planned for this summer. The main focus of the Florida conference will be mobilizing progressive forces statewide to engage in the defense campaign.


Our right to protest and speak out needs to be defended - in Florida and everywhere that our democratic rights are under attack.


Freedom Road Socialist Organization urges everyone to watch for further developments and to join in calls to action around the Tampa 5.  It is going to take each and every one of us participating in the defense campaign to ensure that the Tampa 5 beat these bogus charges.


Drop the Charges Now!


     Justice for the Tampa 5!



No one is coming to save us, but us.


We need visionary politics, collective strategy, and compassionate communities now more than ever. In a moment of political uncertainty, the Socialism Conference—September 1-4, in Chicago—will be a vital gathering space for today’s left. Join thousands of organizers, activists, and socialists to learn from each other and from history, assess ongoing struggles, build community, and experience the energy of in-person gatherings.


Featured speakers at Socialism 2023 will include: Naomi Klein, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin D.G. Kelley, aja monet, Bettina Love, Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò, Sophie Lewis, Harsha Walia, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Astra Taylor, Malcolm Harris, Kelly Hayes, Daniel Denvir, Emily Drabinski, Ilya Budraitskis, Dave Zirin, and many more.


The Socialism Conference is brought to you by Haymarket Books and dozens of endorsing left-wing organizations and publications, including Jacobin, DSA, EWOC, In These Times, Debt Collective, Dream Defenders, the Autonomous Tenant Union Network, N+1, Jewish Currents, Lux, Verso Books, Pluto Press, and many more. 


Register for Socialism 2023 by July 7 for the early bird discounted rate! Registering TODAY is the single best way you can help support, sustain, and expand the Socialism Conference. The sooner that conference organizers can gauge conference attendance, the bigger and better the conference will be!


Learn more and register for Socialism 2023

September 1-4, 2023, Chicago



Attendees are expected to wear a mask (N95, K95, or surgical mask) over their mouth and nose while indoors at the conference. Masks will be provided for those who do not have one.


A number of sessions from the conference will also be live-streamed virtually so that those unable to attend in person can still join us.

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Public complaint about the health condition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, illegally imprisoned in the United States

On Friday, March 16, 2023, Camilla Saab made an urgent call to the world to denounce the dire health condition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, which endangers his life.

In July 2021, the Working Group against Torture and several UN rapporteurs expressed their concern about the irreparable deterioration of Alex Saab's health condition.  

Let us recall that in Cape Verde, on July 7, 2021, after many refusals, Alex Saab was visited by his family doctor, who, in his report, detected a worrying health condition of the Venezuelan official, especially because Saab is a stomach cancer survivor. The doctor diagnosed: anemia, anorexia, diabetes mellitus type 2, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and high risk of thromboembolic disease, including pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. In addition, he highlighted that a high infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori was found in his blood, and an endoscopy identified bleeding from the digestive tract that could mean a recurrence of cancer. Saab's lower left molar was found broken due to the beatings received during the torture, and access to proper medical care was recommended. However, he was never allowed to receive treatment.  

Subsequently, the treating physician issued, on September 9, 2021, a new report highlighting the need for patient Alex Saab to receive specialized medical care and asked the authorities of Cape Verde to consider the need to preserve the health and life of Alex Saab. Cape Verde did nothing in this regard.  

Alex Saab arrived in the United States, kidnapped for the second time on October 16, 2021, and from that moment until today, he has not received any medical attention according to the primary diseases that had been reported, ignoring the call of the UN rapporteurs. Alex Saab is in the Federal Detention Center in Miami, and his prison situation is even worse than in Cape Verde: he has not been allowed family visits. He has not seen his wife and children, who have also been victims of persecution by the U.S. authorities and their allies, for more than two years and eight months. 

Alex Saab has also not been allowed consular visits, a human right of every prisoner deprived of liberty. The U.S. State Department has yet to respond to the Venezuelan State's request to grant him a consular visit, as established in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.  

In the medical reports made in July, Alex Saab's doctor had already informed that they had identified bleeding from the digestive tract, which could mean a cancer recurrence. Now, it is highly alarming to learn that Alex has been vomiting blood for weeks, and despite having reported it to the U.S. authorities, there is still a lack of medical attention at the prison. Why has the U.S. not bothered to treat him?  

Everything indicates that the lack of medical attention is part of a State policy, as was his illegal arrest. Do U.S. authorities want Alex Saab dead? Why, then, the insistence on not providing him with medical attention and not allowing his doctor to visit him? 

Everyone knows that the truth is on the side of the Venezuelan diplomat, and sooner or later, the United States must release him, but they are taking more time than usual. Could it be that they are waiting for his illnesses to develop further? 

We, the #FreeAlexSaab Movement, hold the U.S. Government responsible for diplomat Alex Saab's life and what may happen to him during his illegal detention.

·      We ask that the International Committee of the Red Cross to be present at the Federal Detention Center in Miami-USA. 

·      We urge the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights to take action and denounce this violation of the human rights of the Venezuelan diplomat illegally detained in U.S. territory. 

·      We request the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, as the highest defender of International Law, to make an announcement on this case, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and human rights. 

·      We demand immediate freedom for Alex Saab Moran, the Venezuelan diplomat kidnapped in the United States. We urgently require a humanitarian, political, and diplomatic solution to this unjust situation. 

It is time to move forward. We urge the U.S. Government to sit down and reach an agreement. Venezuela has shown to be open to finding a solution.



Previously Recorded

View on YouTube:




Featured Speakers:


Yuliya Yurchenko, Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich and author of Ukraine and the Empire of Capital: From Marketization to Armed Conflict.


Vladyslav Starodubstev, historian of Central and Eastern European region, and member of the Ukrainian democratic socialist organization Sotsialnyi Rukh.


Kirill Medvedev, poet, political writer, and member of the Russian Socialist Movement.


Kavita Krishnan, Indian feminist, author of Fearless Freedom, former leader of the Communist Party of India (ML).


Bill Fletcher, former President of TransAfrica Forum, former senior staff person at the AFL-CIO, and Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Including solidarity statements from among others Barbara Smith, Eric Draitser, Haley Pessin, Ramah Kudaimi, Dave Zirin, Frieda Afary, Jose La Luz, Rob Barrill, and Cindy Domingo.



Urgent Health Call-In Campaign for Political Prisoner Ed Poindexter


Watch the moving video of Ed's Niece and Sister at the April 26, 2023, UN EMLER Hearing in Atlanta: https://youtu.be/aKwV7LQ5iww


Ed needs to be released to live the rest of his life outside of prison, with his family! (His niece Ericka is now 52 years old and was an infant when Ed was targeted, stolen from his home, jailed, framed, and railroaded.)


Ed Poindexter's left leg was amputated below the knee in early April due to lack of proper medical care. Ed has diabetes and receives dialysis several days a week. He underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2016.


Please support Ed by sending him a letter of encouragement to:


Ed Poindexter #27767

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800


Ed has a cataract in one eye that makes it difficult for him to read, so please type your letter in 18 point or larger font. The Nebraska Department of Corrections does not plan to allow Ed to have surgery for the cataract because "he has one good eye."





·      Warden Boyd of the Reception and Treatment Center (402-471-2861);


·      Warden Wilhelm of the Nebraska State Penitentiary (402-471-3161);


·      Governor Pillen, the State of Nebraska Office of the Governor (402-471-2244);


·      Director Rob Jeffreys, Nebraska Department of Corrections 402-471-2654;


The Nebraska Board of Pardons

(Email: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov).


Please sustain calls daily through May 30th, 2023, for this intensive campaign, and thereafter as you can.


[Any relief for Ed will be announced via email and social media.]


Sample Message:


“I'm calling to urge that Ed Poindexter, #27767, be given immediate compassionate release.


“In April 2023, Ed's niece and brother found out that Ed’s leg had been amputated earlier in the month. And it happened without notice to Ed’s family! This was all within the ‘skilled nursing facility’ at the Reception and Treatment Center, which specializes in behavioral issues and suicide watch, and is not primarily a rehab medical unit.


“Ed is on dialysis several days per week and is wheelchair bound, and is not able to shower or change without a lot more direct support than he is currently getting.


“The Nebraska Department of Corrections admits that their facilities are severely overcrowded and understaffed.


“I join Ed’s family in demanding that Ed be given Compassionate Release, and that he be immediately released to hospice at home.”


Warden: Taggart Boyd

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800

Phone: 402-471-2861

Fax: 402-479-6100


Warden Michelle Wilhelm

Nebraska State Penitentiary

Phone: 402-471-3161

4201 S 14th Street

Lincoln, NE 68502


Governor Jim Pillen

Phone: 402-471-2244

PO Box 94848

Lincoln, NE 68509-4848



Rob Jeffreys

Director, Nebraska Department of Corrections

Phone: 402-471-2654

PO Box 94661

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509


Nebraska Board of Pardons

PO Box 95007

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509

Email: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov


You can read more about Ed Poindexter at:




Updates From Kevin Cooper 

March 23, 2023 

Dear Friends and Comrades, 

This is Kevin Cooper writing and sending this update to you in 'Peace & Solidarity'. First and foremost I am well and healthy, and over the ill effect(s) that I went through after that biased report from MoFo, and their pro prosecution and law enforcement experts. I am back working with my legal team from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

'We' have made great progress in refuting all that those experts from MoFo came up with by twisting the truth to fit their narrative, or omitting things, ignoring, things, and using all the other tactics that they did to reach their conclusions. Orrick has hired four(4) real experts who have no questionable backgrounds. One is a DNA attorney, like Barry Scheck of the innocence project in New York is for example. A DNA expert, a expect to refute what they say Jousha Ryen said when he was a child, and his memory. A expect on the credibility of MoFo's experts, and the attorney's at Orrick are dealing with the legal issues.

This all is taking a little longer than we first expected it to take, and that in part is because 'we' have to make sure everything is correct in what we have in our reply. We cannot put ourselves in a situation where we can be refuted... Second, some of our experts had other things planned, like court cases and such before they got the phone call from Rene, the now lead attorney of the Orrick team. With that being said, I can say that our experts, and legal team have shown, and will show to the power(s) that be that MoFo's DNA expert could not have come to the conclusion(s) that he came to, without having used 'junk science'! They, and by they I mean my entire legal team, including our experts, have done what we have done ever since Orrick took my case on in 2004, shown that all that is being said by MoFo's experts is not true, and we are once again having to show what the truth really is.

Will this work with the Governor? Who knows... 'but' we are going to try! One of our comrades, Rebecca D.   said to me, 'You and Mumia'...meaning that my case and the case of Mumia Abu Jamal are cases in which no matter what evidence comes out supporting our innocence, or prosecution misconduct, we cannot get a break. That the forces in the so called justice system won't let us go. 'Yes' she is correct about that sad to say...

Our reply will be out hopefully in the not too distant future, and that's because the people in Sacramento have been put on notice that it is coming, and why. Every one of you will receive our draft copy of the reply according to Rene because he wants feedback on it. Carole and others will send it out once they receive it. 'We' were on the verge of getting me out, and those people knew it, so they sabotaged what the Governor ordered them to do, look at all the evidence as well as the DNA evidence. They did not do that, they made this a DNA case, by doing what they did, and twisted the facts on the other issues that they dealt with.   'more later'...

In Struggle & Solidarity,

March 28, 2023

"Today is March 28, 2023

I spoke to Rene, the lead attorney. He hopes to have our reply [to the Morrison Forster report] done by April 14 and sent out with a massive Public Relations blast.

He said that the draft copy, which everyone will see, should be available April 10th. 

I will have a visit with two of the attorneys to go over the draft copy and express any concerns I have with it.

MoFo ex-law enforcement “experts” are not qualified to write what they wrote or do what they did.

Another of our expert reports has come in and there are still two more that we’re waiting for—the DNA report and Professor Bazelon’s report on what an innocence investigation is and what it is not. We are also expecting a report from the Innocence Network. All the regional Innocence Projects (like the Northern California Innocence Project) in the country belong to the Innocence Network.

If MoFo had done the right thing, I would be getting out of here, but because they knew that, somewhere along the line they got hijacked, so we have to continue this fight but we think we can win."

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


Background on Kevin's Case


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



The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 

See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:


Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings



Sign the petition:




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.







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: 


Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312

San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or fbi_hotline@nlgsf.org

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:


National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811






1) The U.S. Needs Minerals for Electric Cars. Everyone Else Wants Them Too.

The United States is entering an array of agreements to secure the critical minerals necessary for the energy transition, but it’s not clear which of the arrangements can succeed.

By Ana Swanson, May 21, 2023


A truck drives on a sandy road between green water ponds.

The Chaerhan Salt Lake in Golmud, China, where brine is processed to extract lithium and other minerals. Credit...Qilai Shen for The New York Times

For decades, a group of the world’s biggest oil producers has held huge sway over the American economy and the popularity of U.S. presidents through its control of the global oil supply, with decisions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries determining what U.S. consumers pay at the pump.


As the world shifts to cleaner sources of energy, control over the materials needed to power that transition is still up for grabs.


China currently dominates global processing of the critical minerals that are now in high demand to make batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. In an attempt to gain more power over that supply chain, U.S. officials have begun negotiating a series of agreements with other countries to expand America’s access to important minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite.


But it remains unclear which of these partnerships will succeed, or if they will be able to generate anything close to the supply of minerals the United States is projected to need for a wide array of products, including electric cars and batteries for storing solar power.


Leaders of Japan, Europe and other advanced nations, who are meeting in Hiroshima, agree that the world’s reliance on China for more than 80 percent of processing of minerals leaves their nations vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing, which has a history of weaponizing supply chains in times of conflict.


On Saturday, the leaders of the Group of 7 countries reaffirmed the need to manage the risks caused by vulnerable mineral supply chains and build more resilient sources. The United States and Australia announced a partnership to share information and coordinate standards and investment to create more responsible and sustainable supply chains.


“This is a huge step, from our perspective — a huge step forward in our fight against the climate crisis,” President Biden said Saturday as he signed the agreement with Australia.


But figuring out how to access all of the minerals the United States will need will still be a challenge. Many mineral-rich nations have poor environmental and labor standards. And although speeches at the G7 emphasized alliances and partnerships, rich countries are still essentially competing for scarce resources.


Japan has signed a critical minerals deal with the United States, and Europe is in the midst of negotiating one. But like the United States, those regions have substantially greater demand for critical minerals to feed their own factories than supply to spare.


Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, said in an interview that the allied countries had an important partnership in the industry, but that they were also, to some extent, commercial competitors. “It is a partnership, but it’s a partnership with certain levels of tension,” she said.


“It’s a complicated economic geopolitical moment,” Ms. Hillman added. “And we are all committed to getting to the same place and we’re going to work together to do it, but we’re going to work together to do it in a way that’s also good for our businesses.”


“We have to create a market for the products that are produced and created in a way that is consistent with our values,” she said.


The State Department has been pushing forward with a “minerals security partnership,” with 13 governments trying to promote public and private investment in their critical mineral supply chains. And European officials have been advocating a “buyers’ club” for critical minerals with the G7 countries, which could establish certain common labor and environmental standards for suppliers.


Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest nickel producer, has floated the idea of joining with other resource-rich countries to make an OPEC-style producers cartel, an arrangement that would try to shift the power to mineral suppliers.


Indonesia has also approached the United States in recent months seeking a deal similar to that of Japan and the European Union. Biden administration officials are weighing whether to give Indonesia some kind of preferential access, either through an independent deal or as part of a trade framework the United States is negotiating in the Indo-Pacific.


But some U.S. officials have warned that Indonesia’s lagging environmental and labor standards could allow materials into the United States that undercut the country’s nascent mines, as well as its values. Such a deal is also likely to trigger stiff opposition in Congress, where some lawmakers criticized the Biden administration’s deal with Japan.


Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, hinted at these trade-offs in a speech last month, saying that carrying out negotiations with critical mineral-producing states would be necessary, but would raise “hard questions” about labor practices in those countries and America’s broader environmental goals.


Whether America’s new agreements would take the shape of a critical minerals club, a fuller negotiation or something else was unclear, Mr. Sullivan said: “We are now in the thick of trying to figure that out.”


Cullen Hendrix, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the Biden administration’s strategy to build more secure international supply chains for minerals outside of China had so far been “a bit incoherent and not necessarily sufficient to achieve that goal.”


The demand for minerals in the United States has been spurred in large part by President Biden’s climate law, which provided tax incentives for investments in the electric vehicle supply chain, particularly in the final assembly of batteries. But Mr. Hendrix said the law appeared to be having more limited success in rapidly increasing the number of domestic mines that would supply those new factories.


“The United States is not going to be able to go this alone,” he said.


Biden officials agree that obtaining a secure supply of the minerals needed to power electric vehicle batteries is one of their most pressing challenges. U.S. officials say that the global supply of lithium alone needs to increase by 42 times by 2050 to meet the rising demand for electric vehicles.


While innovations in batteries could reduce the need for certain minerals, for now, the world is facing dramatic long-term shortages by any estimate. And many officials say Europe’s reliance on Russian energy following the invasion of Ukraine has helped to illustrate the danger of foreign dependencies.


The global demand for these materials is triggering a wave of resource nationalism that could intensify. Outside of the United States, the European Union, Canada and other governments have also introduced subsidy programs to better compete for new mines and battery factories.


Indonesia has progressively stepped up restrictions on exporting raw nickel ore, requiring it to first be processed in the country. Chile, a major producer of lithium, nationalized its lithium industry in a bid to better control how the resources are developed and deployed, as have Bolivia and Mexico.


And Chinese companies are still investing heavily in acquiring mines and refinery capacity globally.


For now, the Biden administration has appeared wary of cutting deals with countries with more mixed labor and environmental records. Officials are exploring changes needed to develop U.S. capacity, like faster permitting processes for mines, as well as closer partnerships with mineral-rich allies, like Canada, Australia and Chile.


On Saturday, the White House said it planned to ask Congress to add Australia to a list of countries where the Pentagon can fund critical mineral projects, criteria that currently only applies to Canada.


Todd Malan, the chief external affairs officer at Talon Metals, which has proposed a nickel mine in Minnesota to supply Tesla’s North American production, said that adding a top ally like Australia, which has high standards of production regarding environment, labor rights and Indigenous participation, to that list was a “smart move.”


But Mr. Malan said that expanding the list of countries that would be eligible for benefits under the administration’s new climate law beyond countries with similar labor and environmental standards could undermine efforts to develop a stronger supply chain in the United States.


“If you start opening the door to Indonesia and the Philippines or elsewhere where you don’t have the common standards, we would view that as outside the spirit of what Congress was trying to do in incentivizing a domestic and friends supply chain for batteries,” he said.


However, some U.S. officials argue that the supply of critical minerals in wealthy countries with high labor and environmental standards will be insufficient to meet demand, and that failing to strike new agreements with resource-rich countries in Africa and Asia could leave the United States highly vulnerable.


While the Biden administration is looking to streamline the permitting process in the United States for new mines, getting approval for such projects can still take years, if not decades. Auto companies, which are major U.S. employers, have also been warning of projected shortfalls in battery materials and arguing for arrangements that would give them more flexibility and lower prices.


The G7 nations, together with the countries with which the United States has free trade agreements, produce 30 percent of the world’s lithium chemicals and about 20 percent of its refined cobalt and nickel, but only 1 percent of its natural flake graphite, according to estimates by Adam Megginson, a price analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.


Jennifer Harris, a former Biden White House official who worked on critical mineral strategy, argued that the country should move more quickly to develop and permit domestic mines, but that the United States also needs a new framework for multinational negotiations that include countries that are major mineral exporters.


The government could also set up a program to stockpile minerals like lithium when prices swing low, which would give miners more assurance they will find destinations for their products, she said.


“There’s so much that needs doing that this is very much a ‘both/and’ world,” she said. “The challenge is that we need to responsibly pull up a whole lot more rocks out of the ground yesterday.”


Jim Tankersley contributed reporting from Hiroshima, Japan.



2) A Year After a School Shooting, Divisions Run Through Uvalde

Tensions have flared over new rifts between victims’ families and the police, and between gun owners and newly minted gun-control activists.

By Edgar Sandoval and J. David GoodmanPhotographs by Tamir Kalifa, May 22, 2023

Reporting from Uvalde, Texas

A large mural of a young girl adorns the side of a building, standing out against a sunset.
A mural in Uvalde honoring Maranda Mathis, who was killed in the shooting.

At a school board meeting this month in Uvalde, Texas, parents and administrators found themselves locked in what had become a familiar argument: Nearly a year had passed since a gunman breached Robb Elementary School and killed 19 children and two teachers. The community was still waiting for officials to fully disclose how it happened.


“Almost a year now, and honestly nothing has changed,” Jesse Rizo, the uncle of one of the massacre victims, told the board. “These people are pretty much begging you guys to answer questions. You came here and you pretty much oppress people. They ask you questions, you don’t have answers.”


Despite the passage of time, there is still strong disagreement over who should be fired for the slow police response to one of the worst school shootings in American history, and what position the town should take on the repeated calls from families of the victims to restrict guns. Neighbors who have known each other for years now find themselves unable to agree and more distant than ever before.


“We used to be a close community,” Mr. Rizo said after the school board meeting on May 15. “Now it’s like we don’t know each other anymore.”


United in grief in the weeks after the shooting that ignited a national firestorm over how the police respond to mass shootings, Uvalde in the painful months since then has drifted apart, dividing along fault lines that barely existed a year ago.


The fissures run deep and remain raw: between the victims’ relatives lobbying for stricter gun laws, and neighbors who have long been avid hunters and gun owners and bristle at any new restrictions; between supporters of the police, who are the subject of a district attorney’s investigation for their delay in taking down the gunman, and residents who now distrust law enforcement; between those still in mourning and those who would like to move on.


Frictions have occasionally spilled into the open in a city where everyone still shops at the same grocery stores, eats at the same restaurants, attends the same Little League games.


At a recent library event, residents pulled the city manager aside to ask, quietly, about when Uvalde could begin to put the shooting behind them, starting with finally getting rid of a makeshift shrine to the massacre’s victims that still fills the central plaza. “I’ve had more than one person ask me: When are you going to clean up the plaza?” said the city manager, Vince DiPiazza.


There have been overt displays of anger. The relatives of one of the children killed screamed at the mother of the 18-year-old gunman after running into her by chance on the street last year. A local pastor drew ire for defending the police during a school board meeting last summer. One person urged him to sit down, shouting, “Your time is up!”


“The negativity divides. You have everybody getting mad,” said Berlinda Arreola, the step-grandmother of one of the victims.


Disagreements and lingering resentments have complicated the preparations for Wednesday’s commemoration of the massacre. Officials urged outsiders to stay away from Uvalde, while relatives of some residents planned a memorial march through town.


Rifts have grown even among the families. Joe Alejandro, whose niece was killed, found himself disagreeing with other relatives who have been demanding stricter gun laws, such as raising the age from 18 to 21 to buy an AR-15-style rifle, the type used in last year’s massacre.


“I’ve had guns all of my life, and my gun is not going to kill anybody,” Mr. Alejandro said. “This is how we grew up. You go hunting in the morning and go to school and the guns stay there,” he said, referring to his car. “Why come after me?”


Mr. Alejandro’s view is a common one in Uvalde, where voters in the majority Hispanic city surrounded by ranches and hunting land voted for Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, a little over five months after the shooting, in a race where his opponent, Beto O’Rourke, frequently wore a Uvalde baseball hat and had promised stronger gun control.


After more than 100 students walked out of classes last month as part of protests against gun violence, school administrators warned them that they would face consequences the next time.


Long after the gunfire, Uvalde remains on edge. Recently, the City Hall and a large supermarket went into lockdown after residents circulated images of a man walking around downtown with a gun on his shoulder. (It turned out to be a BB gun.) Some parents kept their children home from school during the final full week of classes this month amid social media threats of violence that turned out to be unfounded.


Tensions remain in part because several investigations into the shooting and police response remain unresolved.


An inquiry by the district attorney, Christina Mitchell, remains open into whether charges should be brought against any of the dozens of officers who waited for more than an hour to storm the classroom where the gunman was holed up with students and kill him. Ms. Mitchell has said that she intends to present any evidence of criminal wrongdoing to a grand jury. But such a presentation is likely still many months away.


“A case of this magnitude has to be deliberate, has to be thorough, and there cannot be haste,” she said in a statement. “Because I have seen cases that are quickly investigated and justice does not prevail in those cases.”


A medical study to determine whether a faster confrontation with the gunman could have saved any of the children has yet to be completed. The Justice Department, too, is still working on its inquiry into the police response. Vanita Gupta, the department’s third highest-ranking official, visited Uvalde last month to meet with officials and families and reassure them that the investigation was still happening, even if its results were not yet forthcoming.


The department has helped city officials connect with people in other cities torn apart by mass shootings, sharing a kind of grim new playbook for navigating the long, painful aftermath. “It reinforced in my mind that what was happening here is not unusual,” said Mr. DiPiazza.


Much of the frustration has been directed at school administrators, who oversee the school district’s small police force. The chief of that force, Pete Arredondo, was immediately singled out by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s director, Steve McCraw, for failing to swiftly confront the gunman.


But a report by a Texas House committee later found “systemic failures” in the police response, not just by Mr. Arredondo, but by other agencies, including the state D.P.S. and the city Police Department, which also participated in the response. Both Mr. Arredondo and a state police sergeant on scene, Juan Maldonado, were fired, and the officer who had been acting as the chief of the city Police Department at the time of the massacre resigned.


The school district revamped its Police Department, but the hiring of a new school police chief has not eased tensions. When a father of two students questioned the qualifications of a new police hire during a recent school board meeting, the district responded by barring him from school property for two years.


A letter signed by the new interim school superintendent, Gary Patterson, called the father’s actions disruptive and disturbing.


In addition to the school police chief, the district has hired three additional officers and hopes to bring in several more. “We’re being very careful and trying to hire the right type of person,” Mr. Patterson said in an interview. “Our Police Department is the most scrutinized in the world right now.”


The school building where the shooting took place now sits behind chain-link fencing, its windows boarded over, ready for a planned demolition. The sign at one corner of the campus has become a kind of shrine, visited by victims’ relatives and passing motorists, and students have been dispersed to other schools until a new facility can be built.


Before the shooting, the most prominent mural downtown had been the one bearing the town name, images from its history and its previous claim to Texas fame as “the honey capital of the world.” Now several streets and alleys are emblazoned with towering images of the fourth graders and their teachers who were killed, an unavoidable reminder of the city’s forever altered identity.


From the first hours after the shooting, it was clear that the massacre would test the closeness of the community. On the night of May 24, victims’ relatives had gathered at a hospital awaiting news of their children when the gunman’s mother walked in.


Her mother — the gunman’s grandmother — had been the first victim, shot in the face before the gunman drove to the school. She has since recovered.


Ms. Arreola, the step-grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, who was killed, recalled feeling stunned as the gunman’s mother introduced herself. “I just wanted to let you know that it was my son who killed your kids, and I’m so sorry for this,” Ms. Arreola remembered her saying.


When Ms. Arreola and other relatives saw the woman on the street two months later, in July, Ms. Arreola became enraged. “What reason did he have?” she yelled, in a scene captured by a camera crew for the Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo.


The gunman’s mother could be seen calling 911 asking for help, and also addressing the relatives. “I know my son was a coward, you don’t think I don’t know that?” she said. “You don’t think I’m carrying all that with me? I know. And I’m sorry.”


On a recent evening, scores of parents gathered to watch Little League games as the sun went down over a city park. Clouds slid by overhead, delivering a light drizzle.


“Life goes on,” said Lupe Leija, who works in construction and also serves on the league’s board. “But there’s still anger.”


He said his son was at Robb Elementary during the shooting and refused to sleep alone for two months after. Now, he said, his son and others were coming to the games, just trying to regain a sense of normality. “A lot of people come here to relax,” he said. “People just want to feel comfort. They want to feel peace.”


Under the lights, umpires call balls and strikes. Parents sit in folding chairs or stand and cheer for their children. Among them on some nights, Mr. Leija said, is the former state police sergeant, Mr. Maldonado. No one pays him much attention.


“He got released from his job,” Mr. Leija said. “What more do they want?”


Kirsten Noyes contributed research.



3) France’s Latest Way to Sound Anger Over Pensions Law: Saucepans

Protesters have been harassing the French government in clanky demonstrations that have gone viral in a country with no shortage of kitchenware.

By Constant Méheut, May 22, 2023

Reporting from Paris and La Cluse-et-Mijoux, a town in eastern France

A protester bangs on a pan amid a crowd of people, some of whom area also holding pots and pans.
Protesters across France have taken to the streets with pots, pans, lids and spoons to make known their frustration over President Emmanuel Macron’s pension changes. Credit...Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters

Spreading across a highway so that no cars could pass, 100 or so protesters banged saucepans in a deafening racket that echoed through a remote valley outside the town of La-Cluse-et-Mijoux in eastern France last month. They were marching toward a nearby castle where the French president was due to arrive, determined to stand in his way and create cacophony around the visit.


Suddenly, a helicopter carrying President Emmanuel Macron appeared overhead, the sound of its blades briefly drowning out the din. Although the boisterous demonstrators didn’t stop the French leader’s visit, the scene was an earsplitting reminder of the fury that has dogged his government since it enacted a highly unpopular pension overhaul this spring that raised the legal age of retirement to 64 from 62.


For weeks, opponents of the change have been harassing Mr. Macron and his cabinet members by banging pots and pans on their official trips. In a country with no shortage of kitchenware, the protests, known as “casserolades,” after the French word for saucepan, have disrupted or stopped dozens visits by ministers to schools and factories.


Like the “yellow vest” protest movement of 2018-19 that began over fuel prices and then expanded to include multiple grievances, the pan beating has also become the symbol of a broader discontent in France after months of large street demonstrations failed to push the government to back down on the pension changes.


“The desire to deafen and respond with noise reflects a kind of discredit of the political discourse,” Christian Salmon, a French essayist and columnist for the online publication Slate, said in an interview. “We are not being listened to, we are not being heard after weeks of protests. So now we are left with a single option, which is not to listen to you either.”


Mr. Macron’s decision to raise the legal age of retirement is based on his conviction that the country’s current pension system, which is based on payroll taxes, is financially unsustainable. Because retirees supported by active workers are living longer, people must also work longer, he says.


The pension law was pushed through using a constitutional provision that avoided a full parliamentary vote. Mr. Macron defended the move in a televised interview on Monday as an act of responsibility, noting that key government decisions in the past, such as building France’s nuclear-weapons force, had used the same mechanism.


The casserolades began a month ago during a televised speech by Mr. Macron that was intended as a way to move on from the pension upheaval. Determined to keep up the fight, protesters gathered outside City Halls across France to bang pots and pans. In Paris, many residents joined in from their apartment windows, filling entire neighborhoods with metallic notes.


The culinary battle cry spread fast. Before long, members of the government were greeted by a cookware cacophony on official trips across the country.


“We want to show them that we’re not giving up the fight,” said Nicole Draganovic, a protester who was banging a saucepan on the highway at La Cluse-et-Mijoux in eastern France last month.


Around her, amid the red flags of labor unions, were the sounds of myriad utensils from a typical French kitchen: sieves, lids and frying pans banged in rhythm with metal and wooden spoons. Demonstrators without pots were clanging on metal fences that lined the highway.


“It’s like a symphony,” Ms. Draganovic said.


Several people involved in the weeks of protests said the main message was anger over the government’s decision to push through the pension overhaul without the support of a majority of voters or of labor unions.


“It’s a total denial of democracy,” said Stéphanie Allume, 55, who was bashing a stainless-steel saucepan during a May Day demonstration in Paris. “When it’s no longer possible to dialogue with our government, we drown out their voices with the noise of our pots.”


The casserolades — the latest stage of a protest movement that began with peaceful marches that drew millions into the streets and then spawned some “wild protests” marked by heavy vandalism — also reflect a centuries-long protest tradition in France.


Pan beating dates back to the Middle Ages in a custom, called “charivari,” that was intended to shame ill-matched couples, according to Emmanuel Fureix, a historian at University Paris-Est Créteil. The tradition then took a political turn in the 1830s, under King Louis Philippe I, with people banging pots and pans at night under the windows of judges’ and politicians’ homes to demand greater freedoms.


Those saucepans, Mr. Fureix said, were “an everyday object, an instrument that embodied the voice of the people” at a time of poor political representation — a theme echoed in today’s casserolades. “The revival of gestures that belonged to an undemocratic age, the 19th century, is precisely the symptom of a democratic crisis,” he said.


Mr. Macron has been visibly annoyed by the pan beating, saying that “it’s not saucepans that will make France move forward” — to which Cristel, the French cookware manufacturer, responded on Twitter: “Monsieur le Président, at @cristelfrance we make saucepans that take France forward!!!”


The French leader has also strongly rejected the idea that the country has reached a democratic crisis, noting that the pension law was adopted in accordance with the country’s Constitution. In the televised interview on Monday, he tried to move past the contentious reform by announcing tax cuts valued at 2 billion euros, about $2.2 billion, for the middle class before the end of his term.


“The country is moving forward,” Mr. Macron said.


But unions have called for another nationwide day of protest early next month, and the government’s response to the casserolades speaks to the unease.


Many ministers now announce their travel plans at the last minute for fear of being surprised by saucepan bangers. And the police have used antiterrorism laws to ban several protests and, on one occasion, confiscated demonstrators’ pots after the local authorities banned “the use of portable sound devices.”


Mr. Fureix said that the government had been “trapped” by the casserolades, just like Louis Philippe I in his time.


“If they repress, they make a fool of themselves,” he said. “That’s the case today, as it was in the 19th century when trials were transformed into political platforms for opponents. If they do nothing, the phenomenon grows.”


And grow it has.


A website created by a union of tech workers now ranks French regions for casserolades based on the level of cacophony and the importance of the affected government official. At a recent protest in Paris, demonstrators held up a giant pot and spoon made of cardboard, instantly providing the surrounding crowds with a mascot to rally around.


The ubiquity of the pots and pans has been such that Mr. Salmon, the essayist, drew a parallel to the “yellow vest” protests. Both, he said, are objects “on which everyone can project their own meanings” and demands.


At the May Day protest, Ms. Allume said she saw wide-ranging significance behind the saucepans, including the struggle to put food on the table and the desire to voice one’s anger. She said that her own pot that she was banging had once been used to cook pasta and then to melt depilatory wax.


“It has had several lives, and now it ends up in a protest,” she said.



4) You Cannot Hear These 13 Women’s Stories and Believe the Anti-Abortion Narrative

By Michelle Goldberg, May 22, 2023

Lauren Miller, wearing a blue shirt, holds her pregnant belly and looks at the camera.
Lauren Miller in March. Credit...Nitashia Johnson for The New York Times

It’s increasingly clear that it’s not safe to be pregnant in states with total abortion bans. Since the end of Roe v. Wade, there have been a barrage of gutting stories about women in prohibition states denied care for miscarriages or forced to continue nonviable pregnancies. Though some in the anti-abortion movement publicly justify this sort of treatment, others have responded with a combination of denial, deflection and conspiracy theorizing.


Some activists have blamed the pro-choice movement for spooking doctors into not intervening when pregnancies go horribly wrong. “Abortion advocates are spreading the dangerous lie that lifesaving care is not or may not be permitted in these states, leading to provider confusion and poor outcomes for women,” said a report by the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute.


Others have suggested that doctors are deliberately refusing miscarriage treatment, apparently to make anti-abortion laws look bad. “What we’re seeing, I fear, is doctors with an agenda saying, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do’ when, in fact, they do,” the president of Ohio Right to Life said last year.


A new filing in a Texas lawsuit demolishes these arguments. In March, five women represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights sued Texas after enduring medical nightmares when they were refused abortions for pregnancies that had gone awry. Since then, the Center for Reproductive Rights says it has heard from dozens of women in Texas with similar accounts. And this week, eight more women, each with her own harrowing story, joined the suit, which asks a state district court to clarify the scope of emergency medical exceptions to Texas’ abortion ban.


There’s one woman among the new plaintiffs who recounted terrible mistreatment in a religiously affiliated hospital as she waited to either go into labor or get sick enough to merit an abortion. But in most of these cases, the women described their doctors as struggling to do the right thing. The problem was the law, not the doctors’ misunderstanding of it.


Elizabeth Weller, for example, was hospitalized after her water broke at 19 weeks. She was given antibiotics and, according to the suit, instructed to pray. Her OB/GYN concluded that, without an abortion, she risked an infection and could lose her uterus or even her life. The hospital administration, however, refused to clear the procedure because the antibiotics made such an infection less likely.


“Elizabeth was told that she could either discontinue antibiotics and stay in the hospital to wait to develop an infection and get sicker; or she could go home and look out for signs of infection,” said the filing. She went home. “With every passing day, I felt the state’s intentional cruelty,” Weller said during a news conference on Monday. “My baby would not survive and my life didn’t matter.” Her doctor, she said, called around trying to find another hospital that would treat her. “All of those hospitals told my doctor that they have patients just like me in those situations and they can’t touch them,” she said.


Two of the women in the original suit, Lauren Miller and Ashley Brandt, had been pregnant with twins. Each discovered that one of her twins had severe abnormalities and wouldn’t survive. In both cases, only by aborting the doomed twin could they protect the life of the viable one, as well as their own health.


Texas doctors can do little for women in this excruciating situation. Given a state law that lets people sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, many are fearful even to counsel their patients about out-of-state options. “In every interaction with their medical team in Texas, Lauren M. and her husband felt confused and frustrated and could not get direct answers,” says the lawsuit. Both Miller and her doctors were afraid to even utter the word “abortion.”


Now Miller’s obstetrician, Austin Dennard, has joined the lawsuit, not as a doctor but as a patient. Shortly before Miller’s devastating diagnosis, Dennard had been pregnant with what she hoped would be her third child when she learned that the fetus had anencephaly, giving it no chance of survival. She left the state for an abortion, as Miller would later do. Seeing Miller endure the same ordeal that she had, and then watching her go public about it, inspired Dennard to do so as well, despite fears about what it could mean for her career.


“This is not some isolated incident of one doctor misunderstanding the law,” said Molly Duane of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This is a widespread, pervasive fear throughout the medical community.”


If the anti-abortion movement were interested in allaying this fear, it might consider joining this suit, or filing one of its own. Perhaps needless to say, that hasn’t happened.


One of the new plaintiffs in the suit, a mother of four named Samantha Casiano, was forced to carry to term a fetus that she knew would not survive after birth, spending months fund-raising for the inevitable funeral. Reporting on Casiano’s case in April, NPR spoke to Amy O’Donnell of Texas Alliance for Life. O’Donnell was at least honest. She doesn’t believe in exemptions for cases like Casiano’s. “I do believe the Texas laws are working as designed,” she said.



5) Book Removals May Have Violated Students’ Rights, Education Department Says

The U.S. Department of Education reached a settlement with a Georgia school district after launching an investigation into whether book removals created a hostile environment for students.

By Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, May 22, 2023

A shot from above shows a long table with rows of books stacked on top and a person leaning over the table and arranging the books.
Over the past two years, book challenges and bans have surged across the country. Credit...Shane Keyser/The Kansas City Star, via Getty Images

A Georgia school district may have violated its students’ civil rights by removing certain books from its libraries, creating a “hostile environment” for students based on race, sex or national origin, said the United States Department of Education.


The department’s Office for Civil Rights was investigating whether Forsyth County Schools had violated students’ rights, and announced a settlement on Friday.


In a letter to the superintendent of Forsyth County Schools, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said that in the fall of 2021, the district began receiving complaints from some parents that material in the library was sexually explicit or had L.G.B.T.Q. content. The district eventually responded by removing some books. The debate concerning the books’ removal left some students feeling targeted, said Catherine E. Lhamon, the education department’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.


The district took steps to “try to adhere to a nondiscriminatory policy,” she said, but those steps were not sufficient to address the hostile environment.


“When they removed books, there was a lot of discussion in the school community about which books would be removed, and it looked like the books being removed were by and about L.G.B.T.Q.I.+ people, and by and about people of color,” Ms. Lhamon said. “Students heard that message and felt unsafe in response.”


The Education Department said that the district agreed to take certain steps as part of the settlement, including conducting a survey of students about their school environment and submitting to ongoing monitoring by the Office for Civil Rights.


In a statement, Jennifer Caracciolo, a spokeswoman for Forsyth County Schools, said the district “is committed to providing a safe, connected and thriving community for all students and their families. With the implementation of the O.C.R.’s recommendations, we will further our mission to provide an unparalleled education for all to succeed.”


The Education Department’s involvement in Georgia marks a significant step in the Biden administration’s efforts to address book removals, and highlights the degree to which book bans have become a potent national political issue. Recently, President Biden referred to book bans as a new threat to Americans’ freedoms in a video announcing his campaign for a second term.


“As we’re seeing this issue of book removals and book bans surging around the country, it’s important to remind every school community that they have a federal civil rights obligation to not operate a hostile environment based on the race or sex of their students,” Ms. Lhamon said. “We are prepared to enforce those laws.”


For the past two years, free speech organizations have tracked a spike in book bans across the country, fueled by a growing and organized movement to remove books on certain subjects from school districts and libraries.


PEN America has counted more than 4,000 instances of book removals since it began tracking bans in July 2021. A recent report from the American Library Association found that efforts to ban books nearly doubled in 2022 over the previous year, and reached the highest levels that the organization has seen since it began gathering data on book bans more than 20 years ago. Most of the targeted books are titles that feature L.G.B.T.Q. themes and characters, or works that address race and racism, both organizations found.


Opponents of book removals have expressed alarm not only over the sharp rise in bans, but in the methods that are being used to challenge books. Whereas in the past, book challenges often came from concerned parents, many are now coming from the organized efforts of conservative groups like Moms for Liberty and Utah Parents United, or from statewide legislation that has made it easier to get titles removed.


In recent months, a counter movement by those who oppose book removals has started to take shape. In Llano, Texas, a federal judge ordered the county to restore 17 banned books to its library, after a group of residents sued the county and library officials, arguing that the book removals were unconstitutional and violated citizens’ First Amendment rights.


In Illinois, the legislature has passed legislation that would withhold grant funding from libraries that remove books, or refuse to adopt a policy against book banning.


Last week, PEN America and the publisher Penguin Random House, along with a group of authors and parents, filed a lawsuit against a Florida school board and district over book removals.


“Children in a democracy must not be taught that books are dangerous,” Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, said in a statement about the suit. “The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution.”



6) Statement on suppression of the demonstration on May 21 against G7 summit in Hiroshima

Photo of Hiroshima bomb explosion from a photo taken in Kure, Japan. August 6, 1945. (Shutterstock)

August 6 Hiroshima Grand Action Organizing Committee

Today, May 21, at 11:56, during our protest demonstration against the G7 Hiroshima summit, one student was arrested by the riot police of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department on false allegation of “obstruction of public service.” The arrest took place in the midst of violent assault by the police, which surrounded the demonstrators on all sides: the police squad roughly pushed down demonstrators on the ground and pulled in two students. One of them was soon released but the other student was kept in custody in the Hiroshima Central Police Station.

Already on May 18, on the occasion of Japan-US leaders’ talk, a Hiroshima University student, Soma Ohta, was arrested by the similar way and is still in custody. Moreover, as a preventive measure to suppress protest actions against G7 summit, six activists, who had been preparing for the struggle, were unjustly arrested on May 12.

  The political aim of these arrests is to forcefully crush our demonstrations by the police violence and to eliminate once for all our movement against war and for the abolition of nuke. We vehemently denounce this ferocious attack and express our firm determination to take back the students from the police custody as soon as possible. 

We have carried out seven demonstrations since May 17 for five days in a row against G7 summit in Hiroshima, taking place from May 19.  The aim of this summit talks is to intensify the war in Ukraine and, at the same time, to prepare for war on China. Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, was invited to the in person talks and the US president Biden promised him to deliver F 16 fighters during the summit conference. We shall never allow this decision of escalation and expanding wars.

On the Japan-US talk held on May 18, preceding the G7 summit, it was confirmed that “further strengthening of deterrence and response capabilities of Japan-US Alliance”, “the US commitment to the defense of Japan under Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, backed by the full range of capabilities, including nuclear” and expressed military threat on China by reiterating “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”. Thus, the G7 summit was carried out as a conference also for the war of aggression on China with US and Japan as its axis.

TheG7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament says: “Our security policies are based on the understanding that nuclear weapons, for as long as they exist, should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war and coercion”. It is thus justifying the possession of nukes by the G7 countries. We shall never admit this declaration that outrageously tramples A-bomb victims and workers and citizens in Hiroshima who eagerly wish to abolish all nukes and to oppose war absolutely. Our demonstrations have been carried out to respond to these wishes.

It is evident that the unjust arrests and violent police assaults on the demonstrations are the expression of the true character of G7 summit as war conference. The Kishida government, as the host of G7, has recently doubled the military budget, declared to hold enemy base strike capabilities, turned Nansei Islands, Okinawa, into missile bases, offered military aid to Ukraine and expresses full support to the continuation of war. 

 We resolutely pledge once again to take back as soon as possible the newly arrested two students and also all comrades taken in custody as preventive measure to suppress protest actions. As our essential duty, we declare our solid determination to fight the war policy of the Kishida government with our all power and make effort to stop the war in Ukraine and to prevent world war together with all people of the world. 


August 6 Hiroshima Grand Action Organizing Committee

5-4-302 Fukuro-machi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-city, 730-0036, Japan

Phone: 082-245-8410

email: 86hiroshima.daikoudo@gmail.com 

Secretary General, Ryou Miyahara: 





7) Hundreds of Thousands Have Lost Medicaid Coverage Since Pandemic Protections Expired

As states begin to drop people from their Medicaid programs, early data shows that many recipients are losing their coverage for procedural reasons.

By Noah Weiland, May 26, 2023

Reporting from Washington

Melissa Buford standing in a medical clinic with tan walls and doors. She is wearing a pink and blue dress with sandals.
Melissa Buford, a diabetic with high blood pressure, is no longer eligible for Medicaid because her income increased. Credit...Whitten Sabbatini for The New York Times

Hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans have lost Medicaid coverage in recent weeks as part of a sprawling unwinding of a pandemic-era policy that prohibited states from removing people from the program.


Early data shows that many people lost coverage for procedural reasons, such as when Medicaid recipients did not return paperwork to verify their eligibility or could not be located. The large number of terminations on procedural grounds suggests that many people may be losing their coverage even though they are still qualified for it. Many of those who have been dropped have been children.


From the outset of the pandemic until this spring, states were barred from kicking people off Medicaid under a provision in a coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in 2020. The guarantee of continuous coverage spared people from regular eligibility checks during the public health crisis and caused enrollment in Medicaid to soar to record levels.


But the policy expired at the end of March, setting in motion a vast bureaucratic undertaking across the country to verify who remains eligible for coverage. In recent weeks, states have begun releasing data on who has lost coverage and why, offering a first glimpse of the punishing toll that the so-called unwinding is taking on some of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans.


So far, at least 19 states have started to remove people from the rolls. A precise total of how many people have lost coverage is not yet known.


In Arkansas, more than 1.1 million people — over a third of the state’s residents — were on Medicaid at the end of March. In April, the first month that states could begin removing people from the program, about 73,000 people lost coverage, including about 27,000 children 17 and under.


Among those who were dropped was Melissa Buford, a diabetic with high blood pressure who makes about $35,000 a year at a health clinic in eastern Arkansas helping families find affordable health insurance. Her two adult sons also lost their coverage.


Like more than 5,000 others in the state, Ms. Buford, 51, was no longer eligible for Medicaid because her income had gone up. A notice she received informing her that she did not qualify made her so upset that she threw it in a trash can.


But a majority of those who lost coverage in Arkansas were dropped for procedural reasons.


Daniel Tsai, a senior official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who is helping to oversee the unwinding process for the Biden administration, said that more outreach was needed to help those who lost coverage that way. He said federal officials were in regular contact with state officials around the country to review early data on the unwinding and check whether people who lost coverage had a fair shot to prove their eligibility.


Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, a Republican, has framed the unwinding as a necessary process that will save money and allow Medicaid to function within its intended scope.


“We’re simply removing ineligible participants from the program to reserve resources for those who need them and follow the law,” Ms. Sanders wrote in an opinion essay in The Wall Street Journal this month. She added that “some Democrats and activist reporters oppose Arkansas’s actions because they want to keep people dependent on the government.”


Medicaid, which is financed jointly by the federal government and the states, has become an increasingly far-reaching component of the American safety net. Early this year, 93 million people — more than one in four Americans — were enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, up from 71 million before the pandemic.


What has played out in Arkansas so far offers evidence of the widespread disruption that the unwinding process is likely to cause in households across the country in the coming months, forcing Americans to find new insurance or figure out how to regain Medicaid coverage that they lost for procedural reasons. The federal government has projected that about 15 million people will lose coverage, including nearly seven million people who are expected to be dropped despite still being eligible.


Among the biggest looming questions is how the process will affect children. In Florida, for instance, a boy in remission from leukemia and in need of a biopsy recently lost his coverage.


Researchers at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families estimated before the unwinding that more than half of children in the United States were covered by Medicaid or CHIP. Many children who lose coverage will be dropped for procedural reasons even though they are still eligible, said Joan Alker, the center’s executive director.


“Those kids have nowhere else to turn for coverage,” she said. “Medicaid is the single largest insurer for children. This is hugely consequential for them.”


In Arkansas, many of the children who lost Medicaid were “the poorest of the poor,” said Loretta Alexander, the health policy director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She added that losing coverage would be especially harmful for young children who need regular developmental checkups early in life.


Most states are taking around a year to complete the unwinding, with each one using its own approach to removing people from Medicaid. But in Arkansas, legislation passed in 2021 required state officials to complete the process in just six months. State officials checked the eligibility of children with Medicaid coverage early in the process because they make up a substantial share of those who are enrolled, according to Gavin Lesnick, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Human Services.


In her opinion essay, Ms. Sanders pointed to the campaign that the state has waged to alert residents to the unwinding, called Renew Arkansas.


“We hired extra staff and enlisted volunteers to help,” she wrote. “We texted, emailed and called tens of thousands of Arkansans who likely are now ineligible for Medicaid, and we have made a special effort to reach out to those with disabilities, those who have moved, those with afflictions like cancer, those receiving dialysis and women who are pregnant.”


Local health workers like Ms. Buford are trying to help people regain coverage if they still qualify for it. She said that she had worked with 50 to 75 Medicaid recipients who had lost coverage in April, helping them fill out forms or answering their questions about how to verify their eligibility.


Other states have also removed a large number of Medicaid recipients for procedural reasons. In Indiana, nearly 90 percent of the roughly 53,000 people who lost Medicaid in the first month of the state’s unwinding were booted on those grounds. In Florida, where nearly 250,000 people lost Medicaid coverage, procedural reasons were to blame for a vast majority.


In addition to taking different approaches to removing people from Medicaid, states are also releasing data about their progress in different ways, making it difficult to compare their strategies in the early stages of the unwinding. “We’re comparing apples to oranges to tangerines,” Ms. Alker said.


Some people who lose Medicaid coverage are expected to get health insurance through their employer. Others are likely to turn to the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces to sign up for private insurance, and many of them will be eligible for plans with no premiums.


Debra Miller, 54, of Bullhead City, Ariz., lost Medicaid coverage in April after her roughly $25,000 annual salary as a Burger King cook left her ineligible. Ms. Miller, a single mother with diabetes and hypothyroidism, worked with an insurance counselor at North Country HealthCare, a network of federally funded health clinics, to enroll in a marketplace plan with a roughly $70 monthly premium.


“It’s a struggle because it’s a new bill that I haven’t had before,” she said. Her new plan, she added, does not include vision insurance, leaving her worried about paying for eye appointments she needs as a diabetic.


Ms. Buford said that for some people in Arkansas, marketplace coverage would be too expensive.


“You have a car, mortgage, kids, food,” she said. “You really don’t have that much left to pay that much for health insurance.”


Ms. Buford said that her job helping others find health insurance in underserved areas was a calling inspired by watching her grandmother struggle to afford her medications and rely on food pantries. Ms. Buford went to a community college near her hometown so she could take care of her sick father, who passed away in his 40s. “I love my job because I’m able to help people,” she said.


Now that she has lost her Medicaid coverage, Ms. Buford said she hoped to find an affordable marketplace plan in the near future. The family plan offered by the clinic where she works is too costly, she said.


“I’m grateful for what I have because someone else doesn’t have what I have,” Ms. Buford said. “I just wish I could have kept my Medicaid.”



8) The Real Threat to Freedom Is Coming From the States

By Jamelle Bouie, May 26, 2023


The shadow of a man speaking at a rally is reflected on a blue mat with a red stripe.

Mark Peterson/Redux

Across the country, we are seeing sharp new limits on the rights and privileges of Americans. And despite a national mythology that ties the threat of tyranny to the machinations of a distant, central government, the actual threat to American freedom is coming from the states.


It is states that have stripped tens of millions of American women of their right to bodily autonomy, with disastrous consequences for their lives and health. It is states that have limited the right to travel freely if it means trying to obtain an abortion. It is states that have begun a crusade against the right to express one’s gender and sexuality, under the pretext of “protecting children.” It is states that are threatening to seize the children of parents who believe their kids need gender-affirming care. And it is states that have begun to renege on the promise of free and fair elections.


That it is states, and specifically state legislatures, that are the vanguard of a repressive turn in American life shouldn’t be a surprise. Americans have a long history with various forms of sub-national authoritarianism: state and local tyrannies that sustained themselves through exclusion, violence and the political security provided by the federal structure of the American political system.


In many respects, the history of American political life is the story of the struggle to unravel those sub-national units of oppression and establish a universal and inviolable grant of political and civil rights, backed by the force of the national government.


Viewed in this light, our time is one in which we face an organized political movement to undermine this grant of universal rights and elevate the rights of states over those of people, in order to protect and secure traditional patterns of domination and status. The only rights worth having, in this world, are those that serve this larger purpose of hierarchy.


It might seem odd to say that the story of American political life is about the struggle to establish a grant of political and civil rights. After all, we have had the Bill of Rights since its ratification in 1791. And Americans today tend to think of the Bill of Rights as a set of basic, universal rights, applicable to all within our borders and binding on both federal and state authority.


But to the extent that this is true, it is a relatively recent development in the history of American constitutional law. Before the passage and ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868, the Bill of Rights was understood to be a limit on national authority — the federal government could not quarter troops in your home, for example, but the states could, if not limited by their own constitutions.


“The constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States for themselves; for their own government; and not for the government of the individual states,” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in his 1833 opinion in Barron v. Baltimore, which set the boundary between the Bill of Rights and the states:


“The powers they conferred on this government were to be exercised by itself, and the limitations on power, if expressed in general terms, are naturally, and we think necessarily applicable to the government created by the instrument. They are limitations of power granted in the instrument itself; not of distinct governments framed by different persons and for different purposes.”


Not every legal scholar agreed with Marshall — four years earlier, the celebrated Philadelphia jurist William Rawle had written that the Bill of Rights “properly finds a place in the general Constitution, where it equalizes all and binds all” — but Marshall’s view essentially summed up the conventional wisdom of the early republic and became, after Barron, precedent.


Against Marshall’s precedent, however, stood the mounting sectional conflict over slavery. To suppress antislavery agitation and secure the peculiar institution within their borders, slave-state legislatures trampled over every right mentioned in the Bill of Rights. They banned the circulation of antislavery materials, banned public speech against slavery, banned religious gatherings among free and enslaved Blacks, allowed the arbitrary search and seizure of any Black person found outside the dominion of a master and mandated cruel and unusual punishments for Black people who broke these and other laws.


Slavery made a mockery of political and civil rights for whites as well as Blacks, and to many Americans it made no sense that states could pursue such repression without raising the opposition, and intervention, of the national government.


When, after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the victors had their chance to further restructure the American political system, they took aim at the barrier between the Bill of Rights and the states, not the least because ex-Confederates were fighting to restore bondage in the former rebel states and would not stop unless met with the force of the Constitution itself. It’s this that gives us the second sentence of the 14th Amendment:


“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 


The point of this language — according to its principal author, John Bingham of Ohio, a Radical Republican member of the House — was to “to arm the Congress of the United States, by the consent of the people of the United States, with the power to enforce the bill of right as it stands in the Constitution today.” The adoption of the 14th Amendment, Bingham explained on the House floor, would “take from the states no rights that belong to the states.” But, he said, “if they conspire together to enact laws refusing equal protection to life, liberty, or property, the Congress is thereby vested with power to hold them to answer before the bar of the national courts for the violation of their oaths and of the rights of their fellow men.”


Unfortunately, in a series of rulings culminating with Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, the Supreme Court would narrow the scope of the 14th Amendment to the point where the Constitution’s limits on the actions of states were little different from what they were before the Civil War. “The justices,” the historian Eric Foner writes in “The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution,” “insisted that the amendment had not significantly altered the balance of power between states and the nation, and proved unreceptive to claims that a state’s inaction in the face of violence or other expressions of racial inequality proved justification for federal intervention.”


And yet even these monumental setbacks could not erase the fact that the 14th Amendment had, as Foner writes, citing the legal scholar William J. Novak, “set in motion a process whereby rights became attributes of a national citizenship rather than a welter of local statutes, traditional practices, and common law traditions, all of them grounded in inequality.” Many of the legal and political triumphs of the 20th century involve the fight to give substance to and expand the scope of those rights. And whether victory comes through the courts or through legislation, the fights have been, in each case, the struggles of ordinary people expressed through collective, democratic action.


In doing all this, we have, against the history and tradition of this country, begun to construct a robust set of universal rights — a baseline for political and civic equality that extends to every member of the political community and that binds the states as much as it does the federal government. When scholars and other observers of the American system say that we have been a fully functioning democracy only since the 1960s, this is what they mean. This work is far from over — there remains the question of positive economic rights, which have been under assault since they emerged during the Great Depression — but we have nonetheless built a conception of citizenship that was practically unimaginable for a large part of this nation’s history.


It is exactly this triumph that conservatives and reactionaries hope to reverse. The plan, as we have seen with abortion, is to unspool and untether those rights from the Constitution. It is to shrink and degrade the very notion of national citizenship and to leave us, once again, at the total mercy of the states. It is to place fundamental questions of political freedom and bodily autonomy into the hands of our local bullies and petty tyrants, whose whims they call “freedom,” whose urge to dominate they call “liberty.”



9) The First 10 Words of the African American English Dictionary Are In

An exclusive look at a dictionary consisting entirely of words created or reinvented by Black people. (Don’t worry: All three variants of “bussin” are included.)

By Sandra E. Garcia, May 23, 2023


Henry Louis Gates Jr., wearing a blue suit jacket and gray trousers, stands in a patch of grass, one hand resting on a black cane. His chin is angled up as he looks into the distance.

Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a decorated scholar of Black history and culture, is the editor in chief of the Oxford Dictionary of African American English. One of his proudest possessions is a first edition of the Samuel Johnson dictionary. Credit...Cole Barash for The New York Times

In a recent online presentation, editors and researchers working on a first-of-its-kind dictionary of African American English gave a status update on the project. As academics explained their various methodologies, slides displayed behind them showed words that are more often associated with Twitter than Oxford: “Bussin,” virtual attendees were told, means impressive or tasty, while a “boo” is a lover.


Those were two of the first 100 words that the Oxford University Press said it had prepared to include in the Oxford Dictionary of African American English, the hopeful result of the three-year research project announced last spring.


The researchers say they aim to publish a first batch of 1,000 definitions — some words and phrases will have more than one — by March 2025. But the more important goal of the project, which will be edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., a scholar of African American history at Harvard University, is to underscore the significance of African American English and to create a resource for future research into Black speech, history and culture. Among his other bona fides, Professor Gates is something of a dictionary nerd.


“When I was in the third grade, we studied the dictionary,” he said in a recent interview. “We had a unit on how to use the Webster’s dictionary, and even then — third grade, that means I was 8 years old — I thought the dictionary was magical.”


Professor Gates now collects and cherishes rare and historical dictionaries, including one he bought in the early days of the pandemic, when the future did not seem as sturdy as it once was.


“I was sitting here in this kitchen, sheltering in, doing a Zoom,” he recalled. “I said: ‘You know what? We could die at any time. I’m going to buy a first edition of the Samuel Johnson dictionary.’”


To support their etymological claims, researchers and editors from Oxford Languages and the Harvard University Hutchins Center for African & African American Research have drawn on lyrics from jazz, hip-hop, blues and R&B as well as letters, diaries, newspaper and magazine articles, Black Twitter, slave narratives and abolitionist writings. Individual entries will be explained using quotations pulled from Black literature, including examples from Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Martin Luther King Jr.


One of the main challenges for the researchers is finding Black sources to confirm the use of the words.


“The further back in history, the less we can find Black people having agency over how we’re written about,” said Bianca Jenkins, a lexicographer working on the project. “Due to enslavement, Black people were prevented by law from being educated, from being taught to read. Black people had to really take it upon ourselves and educate ourselves.”


But it is not simply about the words that appear in letters, books, poems and lyrics. It is also about the words that morphed into other pronunciations and evolved to have a veiled meaning, for the safety of Black people.


Black people take language and “wrap it around themselves,” Professor Gates said. “They turn words inside out.”


“We are endlessly inventive with language, and we had to be,” he continued. “We had to develop what literary scholars call double-voiced discourse. We had to learn to speak the master’s language, then you had to learn to speak under the masters so that you could have a coded way of speaking English that would allow you to voice your feelings without being killed, whipped or — worst-case scenario — without being lynched.”


The dictionary will exist as a living record well after March 2025 has come and gone: According to Professor Gates, the public will continue to be able to suggest entries for consideration even after the first edition is published. Professor Gates recalled asking his cousin, who fought in the Vietnam War, to add a few words. He submitted 200, Professor Gates said, his wide smile revealing the apples of his cheeks.


In April, Oxford Languages and the Hutchins Center shared 10 entries with The New York Times. Below are selected definitions, variant forms and etymologies.


bussin (adjective and participle): 1. Especially describing food: tasty, delicious. Also more generally: impressive, excellent. 2. Describing a party, event, etc.: busy, crowded, lively. (Variant forms: bussing, bussin’.)


grill (noun): A removable or permanent dental overlay, typically made of silver, gold or another metal and often inset with gemstones, which is worn as jewelry.


Promised Land (n.): A place perceived to be where enslaved people and, later, African Americans more generally, can find refuge and live in freedom. (Etymology: A reference to the biblical story of Jewish people seeking freedom from Egyptian bondage.)


chitterlings (n. plural): A dish made from pig intestines that are typically boiled, fried or stuffed with other ingredients. Occasionally also pig intestines as an ingredient. (Variant forms: chitlins, chittlins, chitlings, chitterlins.)


kitchen (n.): The hair at the nape of the neck, which is typically shorter, kinkier and considered more difficult to style.


cakewalk (n.): 1. A contest in which Black people would perform a stylized walk in pairs, typically judged by a plantation owner. The winner would receive some type of cake. 2. Something that is considered easily done, as in This job is a cakewalk.


old school (adj.): Characteristic of early hip-hop or rap music that emerged in New York City between the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, which often includes the use of couplets, funk and disco samples, and playful lyrics. Also used to describe the music and artists of that style and time period. (Variant form: old skool.)


pat (verb): 1. transitive. To tap (the foot) in rhythm with music, sometimes as an indication of participation in religious worship. 2. intransitive. Usually of a person’s foot: to tap in rhythm with music, sometimes to demonstrate participation in religious worship.


Aunt Hagar’s children (n.): A reference to Black people collectively. (Etymology: Probably a reference to Hagar in the Bible, who, with her son, Ishmael, was cast out by Sarah and Abraham [Ishmael’s father], and became, among some Black communities, the symbolic mother of all Africans and African Americans and of Black womanhood.)


ring shout (n.): A spiritual ritual involving a dance where participants follow one another in a ring shape, shuffling their feet and clapping their hands to accompany chanting and singing. The dancing and chanting gradually intensify and often conclude with participants exhibiting a state of spiritual ecstasy.


In addition to appearing in the Oxford Dictionary of African American English, the entries will also be added to the wider word bank of the Oxford English Dictionary, Professor Gates said.


“That is the best of both worlds, because we want to show how Black English is part of the larger of Englishes, as they say, spoken around the world,” he said.


More than just a collection of words, Professor Gates said, the new dictionary will serve as a record of the ways Black people have molded the English language to protect themselves and also keep a morsel of autonomy in a world that would have them have none.


“Everybody has an urgent need for self-expression,” he said, adding, “You need to be able to communicate what you feel and what you think to other people in your speech community.


“That is why we refashioned the English language.”



10) A Man Called 9-1-1. The Police Shot Him While He Was Still on the Phone.

A New Jersey man was fatally wounded by a police officer after reporting trespassers in his yard. The officer has been charged with manslaughter.

By Tracey Tully, May 25, 2023


The scene outside of the home of Charles Frederick Sharp III in Mantua, N.J., from the police officer’s body camera.

An image from Officer Salvatore Oldrati’s body camera, taken from the scene of the shooting. Credit...New Jersey Office of the Attorney General

Charles Frederick Sharp III had called the police to his home in southwest New Jersey in the middle of the night to report trespassers in his backyard. One was carrying a gun, Mr. Sharp, who spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, told a 911 dispatcher.


Within five seconds of arrival, a police officer had fired multiple shots, fatally wounding Mr. Sharp as he stood outside his home in Mantua, N.J., in September 2021, according to state officials and footage from body cameras worn by police officers.


Mr. Sharp, 49, was still on the phone with the police when he was struck.


On Wednesday, the state’s attorney general announced that a grand jury voted this week to take the rare step of indicting the officer, Salvatore Oldrati, on manslaughter charges.


Thomas J. Eicher, executive director of the attorney general’s public integrity office, said Officer Oldrati gave Mr. Sharp no verbal commands or warnings before opening fire. A “detailed replica” of a .45-caliber gun was found near Mr. Sharp, according to the attorney general’s office.


“Less than five seconds elapsed between when Officer Oldrati stepped out of his police vehicle and when he began firing at Mr. Sharp,” Mr. Eicher said in a statement.


Christopher St. John, Officer Oldrati’s lawyer, did not return calls or emails. Officials with the Mantua Police Department also did not return calls. If convicted, the officer faces 10 years in prison.


Mantua, a largely rural community in Gloucester County, is about 15 miles east of the Delaware River and the border of Pennsylvania.


Mr. Sharp, who had one son, was known as Chuck and was remembered as a “funny guy” and a talented carpenter who spent years working for a remodeling company in New Jersey after leaving the Air Force, according to his obituary.


In a five-minute call with two law enforcement officials on Sept. 14, 2021, Mr. Sharp told officers that he had spotted two men from his window at about 1 a.m. One was in his shed, holding a silver gun. The other was trying to get inside his truck.


He explained that he had thrown firecrackers toward the men to try to scare them away, but that had not worked. And he said that he owned a gun, passed down to him by his grandfather.


“I don’t know what I’m allowed to do with it,” he said in the recorded call. “So I threw a couple quarter sticks at them. Maybe that’s not the professional thing to do, but — ”


Then a burst of gunfire can be heard on the 911 recording.


Officer Oldrati is at least the second police officer this year to be criminally charged by New Jersey prosecutors for an on-duty shooting. In February, Jerry Moravek, a police officer with the Paterson Police Department, which was recently taken over by the state, was charged with aggravated assault after Khalif Cooper was shot in the back while running away from officers.


Mr. Cooper survived but his injuries left him paralyzed.


All fatal police encounters in New Jersey are investigated by the state’s attorney general’s office, and must be presented to a grand jury. Footage from body-worn cameras also must be released publicly.


Last month, a grand jury indicted two correction officers from Atlantic County’s jail on manslaughter charges in connection with the death of a detainee who had ingested methamphetamine and ecstasy and died after being punched and forcibly restrained at the lockup.


Kitty Bennett contributed research.



11) Indiana Reprimands Doctor Who Provided Abortion to 10-Year-Old Rape Victim

Dr. Caitlin Bernard violated the privacy of her young patient by discussing the girl’s case with a reporter, the state’s medical board ruled.

By Ava Sasani, May 26, 2023


A young woman in a gray sleeveless dress sits near a window, looking outside.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist practicing in Indiana, provided an abortion to a ten-year-old rape victim last year. Credit...Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The New York Times

An Indiana doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim last year violated her young patient’s privacy by discussing the case with a reporter, the state’s medical board ruled Thursday night.


Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, catapulted into the national spotlight last year after she provided an abortion for an Ohio girl soon after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which left states free to severely restrict or outlaw abortion.


The state’s medical board voted to issue Dr. Bernard a letter of reprimand and a fine of $3,000. But it decided against stiffer penalties, which could have included suspension or probation, instead deciding that Dr. Bernard is fit to return to her practice.


The board also cleared her of other allegations that she failed to appropriately report the girl’s rape to authorities.


The decision was the culmination of a yearlong legal pursuit of Dr. Bernard by the state’s attorney general, Todd Rokita, a Republican who opposes abortion.


The Ohio girl had traveled to Indiana for the procedure after her home state enacted a ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Dr. Bernard told a reporter for the Indianapolis Star about the case during an abortion rights rally. She didn’t name the patient, but the case quickly became a flash point in the early, heated days of debate after the Supreme Court ruling, catching the attention of President Biden and turning conservative attention and ire toward Dr. Bernard.


“I don’t think she intended for this to go viral,” said Dr. John Strobel, the president of the board, calling Dr. Bernard a “good doctor.”


“But I do think we as physicians need to be more careful in this situation,” he said.


Mr. Rokita, who had filed the complaints against Dr. Bernard with the medical board, praised the outcome.


“This case was about patient privacy and the trust between the doctor and the patient that was broken,” Mr. Rokita said in a statement late Thursday. “What if it was your child or your patient or your sibling who was going through a sensitive medical crisis, and the doctor, who you thought was on your side, ran to the press for political reasons?”


Dr. Bernard has criticized Mr. Rokita for turning the case into a “political stunt.”


During the hearing, which stretched for more than 15 hours, ending just before midnight, Dr. Bernard said that her own comments did not reveal the patient’s protected health information. Rather, Dr. Bernard said, it was the fierce political battle that followed. Some conservatives doubted her story and drove a demand to confirm it. Eventually, the man accused of raping the girl appeared in court and was linked to her case.


Dr. Bernard, who has publicly advocated for abortion rights, said she had an ethical obligation to educate the public about urgent matters of public health, especially questions about reproductive health — her area of expertise.


Last July, after Indiana scheduled a special legislative session on abortion, Dr. Bernard was concerned that lawmakers in her home state would pass strict restrictions on abortion access similar to the Ohio law that forced her 10-year-old patient to cross state lines.


Indiana passed legislation banning most abortions, with narrow exceptions for rape and incest. That law is on hold pending a legal challenge. Abortion is currently legal in Indiana up to 22 weeks.


Dr. Bernard said she wanted to highlight the potential consequences of laws restricting abortion access, and “did not anticipate” how much the public would focus on the Ohio girl’s case.


“I think its incredibly important for people to understand the real-word impacts of the laws of this country,” she said.


Dr. Peter Schwartz, a Pennsylvania OB-GYN and chair of American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, supported Dr. Bernard’s decision to speak out about the Ohio patient.


Dr. Schwartz said Dr. Bernard had an “affirmative obligation to speak out” about issues of reproductive health, noting that she is one of just two doctors in Indiana with expertise in complicated obstetric cases like second-trimester abortions.


Attorneys on both sides of the hearing called experts on medical confidentiality to understand if Dr. Bernard violated guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, which governs the protection of patient privacy.


Dr. Bernard’s employer, Indiana University Health, found that she did not violate HIPAA rules because the patient was not identifiable based on the information that Dr. Bernard had shared publicly.


“The cause and effect that happened here was not: ‘Dr. Bernard’s story leads to the patient having her protected information shared,’” said Alice Morical, the doctor’s attorney.


But members of the medical board, made up of six doctors and one attorney — all appointed by the governor — decided that, taken together, the details Dr. Bernard provided about the patient — including her age, her rape, her home state and her abortion — qualified as identifying information.


“Dr. Bernard is a skilled and competent doctor, and I would submit that she is exactly the doctor that people would want their children to see under these circumstances,” said Ms. Morical.



12) Three Years After a Fateful Day in Central Park, Birding Continues to Change My Life

By Christian Cooper, May 26, 2023

The author of the forthcoming book “Better Living Through Birding: Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World,” from which this essay is adapted.

Wesley Allsbrook

Early in the morning of May 25, 2020, I biked from my apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to Central Park to go birding in the Ramble. Despite the uncertainties of the time — New Yorkers were living in a hot spot of the raging Covid pandemic, with no vaccine in sight — I strove to start this warm, sunlit Memorial Day on a happy note by wandering my favorite urban woodlands in search of migrating songbirds.


I was focused on the end-of-season hunt for a mourning warbler, a small yellow and gray skulking bird that’s difficult to spot and relatively rare. I hadn’t yet seen one that year.


Visiting the park in the morning to look for birds has long been a springtime routine for me. I wake before sunrise and grab my Swarovski binoculars — a 50th-birthday present from my father — and head out the door.


On that particular day, just as I approached some ideal mourning warbler habitat, a noise shattered the tranquillity, making me wince. The sound was loud, strident and unmistakable: a person calling after a dog.


This is not terribly unusual; Central Park is full of dogs. But the dog in question was running around unleashed, and the Ramble is a protected area where dogs are required to be leashed at all times.


Of course, some owners have always flouted the rules and let their pets run amok, but in the spring of 2020, the off-leash situation had become something of an epidemic. In the more than 30 years I have been birding in the Ramble, I had never seen it so bad. Dogs were routinely left to run roughshod over sensitive areas, tearing up turf, destroying plantings and disturbing wildlife, including migrants in desperate need of rest.


So I asked the woman calling the dog, in a voice just loud enough for her to hear me over the 20 or so feet between us, to please leash her pup.


If you were paying attention to the news that day — and probably even if you weren’t — you already know what happened next.


The woman refused my request, and as our interaction got heated, I pulled out my phone to record her scofflaw behavior. In the video I captured, she threatens to call the cops and then, as a white woman, takes our rather quotidian conflict to a racially explosive place, by picking up her phone and saying, “I’m going to tell them that there’s an African American man threatening my life.”


Little did I know that those 14 words would reverberate across the nation and alter the course of my life.


But then again, birding has changed my life many times over.




I have been interested in birds ever since I was a young boy. As a Black kid growing up on Long Island in the 1970s, I was rarer than an ivory-billed woodpecker in the white suburban world of birding. I was also queer and nerdy and not particularly popular. I was suffocating in the closet, and birding offered me a way to escape.


I’d watch American robins hop on lawns looking for worm sign, fire-truck-red cardinals adorn backyard shrubs, mockingbirds take to TV antennas (cable wouldn’t arrive into most homes for a few more years) to belt out medleys punctuated with leaps into the air, feathers of gray and white flashing against an Ansel Adams sky. For a moment, my Long Island rooftop would be as boundless as the West.


Transported, even just in my backyard, I connected to something deep within myself. The youthful myopia that registered only my woes and the limitations of my life fell away for a little while. Suddenly, I could breathe again.


My spark bird — the birding community’s term for the bird that ignited my interest in all things feathered — was the red-winged blackbird. When I was 9 years old, my parents, perhaps hoping it would butch me up, enrolled me in a summer woodworking class. When faced with the choice of building a footstool or a bird feeder, I picked the feeder. And no sooner was it up in our backyard than the cracked corn it dispensed lured in a nearly all-black bird with a bright red patch on its wing.


I had never seen a bird like that before and thought, with elation, that I had discovered a species of crow. But it didn’t take long for me to learn the bird’s true identity or for my disappointment that I hadn’t accomplished a preteen scientific triumph to be replaced by a singular fondness for the species.


Over the years, the red-winged blackbird’s raucous territorial cry would become like the voice of a familiar friend. To this day, that sound — which signals the males’ return after being away all winter — is, for me, the first harbinger of spring.


Spring is by far the most exciting time for a birder. Every year, as the weather grows warm, everything else in my life — work, exercise, food, sleep, friends, romance — becomes secondary to my search for birds. I reorganize my days so that I can rise each morning at 4:20 to commune with scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, subtle Lincoln’s sparrows, fire-throated Blackburnian warblers.


Consigned to a limited assortment of mostly ordinary birds for most of the year, Central Park becomes a migrant trap during the spring and fall, creating a haven for avian and human tourists alike. And since, unlike the fall, the spring features males in beautiful breeding plumage, New York’s unparalleled spring songbird migration, lasting about six weeks, is my holy season.


And while I may be a fanatic, I’m not alone.


On any given morning, a few other Central Park regulars and I might form an impromptu posse. Together, we pass a few hours in quiet wonder before racing off to work. Over the years, I have learned a lot about my fellow birders and their lives beyond the park — their careers and families, their worries and ambitions — but whatever else we bonded over, the main thing we shared was a profound love of birds. Our passion was the only passport for entry.


One of the things I love most about birding is how it shifts your perceptions, adding layers of meaning and brokering connections — between sounds and seasons, across far-flung places and between who we are as people and a wild world that both transcends and embraces us. In my life, it has been a window into the wondrous, and I feel excited and grateful to get to share that wonder with others.




Of course, the freedom to explore and appreciate the joys of the natural world is not shared equally by all. When I was a child and my parents took us from Maine to California to Canada to go camping, we were always among the few brown-skinned people we saw. And to this day, Black people visit national parks — perhaps the most spectacular public spaces on the planet — at a depressingly low rate.


An understanding of the racial as well as physical geography of our country is often top of mind for Black birders and outdoor enthusiasts. We write our own sort of “Green Book” — the segregation-era travel guide that listed establishments where Black people on the road could hope to find safe lodgings and a meal — keeping a mental map of where we do and don’t feel we can bird, camp, hike, climb or simply exist safely.


Even in my beloved Central Park, even before that now-infamous encounter, a part of me was always keenly aware that for me, as a Black man, stalking behind a shrub with a black metal object in my hands would most likely be interpreted far differently — dangerously differently — from a white birder doing the very same thing and holding the same pair of binoculars.




If you don’t give one whit about birds (though, of course, I hope by the end of this, you will) and have never held a pair of binoculars in your life, allow me to welcome you to a different world.


If you’ve never seen a male scarlet tanager in full breeding plumage — a bird of such incandescent hue, set off by jet-black wings and tail, that it makes a stoplight look dim — then a knock-your-socks-off experience awaits you. And that’s just the beginning of the show, from the gaudy, Technicolor riot of a painted bunting to the serene, pristine grace of a great egret, from the effortlessly soaring majesty of a golden eagle to the fierce frenzy of a hummingbird, from the bold color blocks of a red-headed woodpecker to the exquisite nuance of pattern and muted tones of a Lincoln’s sparrow.


What makes birding such a phenomenon? Why — of all the spectacular creatures with which we share this planet — do birds captivate as no others can? You don’t hear about mammaling or insecting enthusiasts, though certainly those creatures have their admirers, as the thousands who visit Africa on safari or who catalog butterflies can attest. And in fact, there’s a large degree of overlap among all these obsessions, because once you tune in to one aspect of nature, you eventually become aware of the whole connected network of life around us.


Birding, however, offers things those other passions do not. It’s accessible. No matter where you are around the globe or what kind of environment you’re in — city, suburb, country, mountains, woodland, field, swamp, shore or sea — the presence and variety of birds are astonishing. With birds, no matter the time of year, there’s always something to see. Plus, birds communicate in the same ways we do, through sight and sound. They’ve evolved a stunning range of patterns and colors and, among the songbirds, an astonishing musical repertoire, and we humans are equipped to revel in it.


But beyond all that, we love birds for a simple reason: They can fly. We see them launch themselves effortlessly up into a medium with no boundaries while we remain earthbound, and we are inspired to dream. Imagine watching land and sea unfold beneath you not through the windows of an airplane but under your own power.


The things that you’ve left behind recede to insignificance, put into new perspective by a towering vantage point. What it must be like to hang suspended on the wind, how radically different to conceive of movement not in two dimensions, not just as backward and forward, left and right, but in three — always infinite possibilities of direction, the body rising and falling at will. We lift our gaze skyward to the birds and see what it means to be free.




Of the many disorienting twists in the aftermath of the Central Park incident, one of the most unexpected is that my voice is now amplified in matters about which I have always spoken out, including preaching the gospel of birding.


In 2021, National Geographic invited me to host a television show on birding, “Extraordinary Birder,” and I said yes. The result is that I now find myself living an absolute dream. I spend my time crisscrossing the continent in pursuit of iconic species, having close encounters with the rarest birds (it doesn’t get any closer than peering via endoscope inside the body of a Puerto Rican parrot, or iguaca, to check on its testicles) and having the privilege of telling the harrowing and inspiring stories of these birds’ conservation — and of the farmers, biologists and truly extraordinary birders dedicated to these efforts — in front of the camera to a mass audience.


Over the past three years, I’ve worked to make it clear that birds know no boundaries and belong to no one but are for everyone — of every shape, size, color, gender and orientation — to enjoy. And I’ve been thrilled to see the numbers of birders, including Black and brown birders, who remain underrepresented, continue to surge.


I hope to be a part of that change, underscoring the need for safe and equal access to public spaces and natural places and inspiring those who might not have otherwise felt inclined to step outside and give birding a try.


The strangeness of this outcome — that the incident in Central Park inadvertently opened the door to this — is not lost on me.


But then we birders are a strange breed. We have feathered dreams, dreams that have filled my head from earliest youth. Birding served as a refuge as I struggled with being a queer kid in an unwelcoming world. It compounded my Black outsider status but also set my complete and utter nerdiness in concrete.


Birding put me on the path to the life I live today — one that has had greater impact than I ever imagined. These feathered dreams have carried me across the globe on adventures, in search of birds in faraway places.


I believe that birds in the wild are meant to inspire such passions in us all. The wonders they offer are always available, freely given, to anyone willing to partake. All we have to do is step outside, look and listen.