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Social Justice Posts

Social Justice Posts

Status Update on the Prosecution of Capitol Rioters

Brief #8—Social Justice
By Erika Shannon
On January 6th, as Congress was counting electoral votes, a crowd of far-right extremists rioted outside and eventually made their way into the Capitol building. Their actions prompted members of Congress, as well as former vice-president Mike Pence, to go into hiding and leave their session behind. Criminals sat in the offices of congressmen and congresswomen, and in the end lives were lost. Many people view the actions of these extremists as terrorist acts, for they were attempting to interfere with the results of an election that was already deemed fair by the DOJ and FBI. Whether they will be charged as terrorists or not, the Justice Department will be pursuing criminal charges against as many of the protest attendees as possible. It is no secret that the path to a trial is not always speedy here in the U.S., so many of those involved with the January 6th riots have only been charged and have not yet been tried for their crimes.

read more

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Trump on Emoluments Cases

Brief #7—Social Justice
By Zack Huffman
The U.S. Supreme Court halted a pair of ongoing emoluments lawsuits against former president Donald Trump on Monday, Jan. 25, noting that the cases stopped being relevant when Trump left office. One of the lawsuits was filed days after Trump’s inauguration in 2017 by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The suit claimed Trump’s vast business empire, from which he refused to divest, created numerous ways for foreign interests to buy influence over the president.

read more

President Biden Signs Four Executive Orders Aimed at Racial Equality

Brief #6—Social Justice
By Erika Shannon
On January 20th, Joe Biden was finally sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. In his first week in office, there has been a flurry of executive orders being signed by the new president-elect; some of these are aimed at repairing what Trump may have broken, and others are aimed at making America a better and more inclusive place for all. Of the 24 executive orders signed by President Biden so far, four of them involve promoting racial equality. These four executive orders are comprised of: directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to “take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies,” directing the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons, reaffirming the federal government’s “commitment to tribal sovereignty and consultation,” and combatting xenophobia against Asian American and Pacific Islanders. It is important to familiarize yourself with the executive orders being signed, as they are laying some of the groundwork for Joe Biden’s plans for his presidency.

read more

Do We Need a Domestic Terrorism Law?

Brief #5—Social Justice
By Zach Huffman
President Joe Biden said that among his first priorities in office will be to pass a domestic terrorism law. Renewed interest in anti-terrorism legislation comes after frenzied attendees from President Donald Trump’s January 6 rally in Washington DC, rioted at the Capitol while Congress was confirming the electoral votes from last November’s election. The insurrectionist crowd breached the capital, with so-called protesters breaking into legislators’ offices and ransacking the building. 

read more

Progress in Policing in 2020

Brief #4—Social Justice
By Laura Plummer
Two-thousand and twenty was a year defined by unprecedented hardship. A deadly global pandemic ravaged the country and crippled whole sectors of the economy. A contentious presidential election divided the nation, and killings of black and brown people by police officers sparked yearlong protests against police brutality.

The Black Lives Matter movement gained popular support last year as it exposed the systemic racism inherent in American policing. More than any previous year, communities started organizing to demand comprehensive police reform and to hold their leaders and elected officials accountable. The following list explores the progress achieved in policing in 2020 at the federal and state levels.

read more
Status Update on the Prosecution of Capitol Rioters

Status Update on the Prosecution of Capitol Rioters

Brief # 8 Social Justice

Status Update on the Prosecution of Capitol Rioters 

By Erika Shannon

February 5, 2021

On January 6th, as Congress was counting electoral votes, a crowd of far-right extremists rioted outside and eventually made their way into the Capitol building. Their actions prompted members of Congress, as well as former vice-president Mike Pence, to go into hiding and leave their session behind. Criminals sat in the offices of congressmen and congresswomen, and in the end lives were lost. Many people view the actions of these extremists as terrorist acts, for they were attempting to interfere with the results of an election that was already deemed fair by the DOJ and FBI. Whether they will be charged as terrorists or not, the Justice Department will be pursuing criminal charges against as many of the protest attendees as possible. It is no secret that the path to a trial is not always speedy here in the U.S., so many of those involved with the January 6th riots have only been charged and have not yet been tried for their crimes.

As of Friday, January 8th, thirteen people had been charged federally and forty people had been charged at the state level. According to the Department of Justice website, six individuals were charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; or knowingly, with intent to impede government business or official functions, engaging in disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” Their names are Cindy Fitchett, Michael Curzio, Douglas Sweet, Bradley Ruskelas, Terry Brown, and Thomas Gallagher. Other individuals involved were charged with varying crimes; Cleveland Meredith was charged with “making interstate threats to Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” Richard Barnett was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and theft of public money, property, or records. Barnett allegedly entered a restricted area of the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi,” Lonnie Coffman was charged with “possession of an unregistered firearm (destructive device) and carrying a pistol without a license.” He also was allegedly carrying eleven explosive devices in his vehicle. Mark Leffingwell was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; assault on a federal law enforcement officer; and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” Leffingwell had allegedly entered the Capitol building and struck an officer in the helmet and chest. Christopher Alberts was charged  “with carrying or having readily accessible, on the grounds of the United States Capitol Building, a firearm and ammunition. Specifically a Taurus G2C, 9mm handgun and 9mm caliber ammunition.” Interestingly enough, Alberts was released after appearing in district court. Joshua Pruitt was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.” Joshua Pruitt was also released after appearing in district court. Matthew Council was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds,” and allegedly pushing an officer when he was stopped inside the Capitol building.

Since the January 8th press release by the Department of Justice, there have been many other arrests related to the Capitol riots. Michael Sherwin, US Attorney for Washington DC, says that 135 suspects have been arrested out of the 400 identified in relation to the Capitol incident. Other updates include the arrest and release of Riley June Williams, whose charges include “aiding and abetting the theft of government property.” She claimed to have had Speaker Pelosi’s laptop, although it has not been found, and she was actually released from jail and is under electronic monitoring at her mother’s home. Kevin Seefried and his son, Hunter, were jointly charged with “entering a restricted building, violent entry, and disorderly conduct.” John Sullivan was charged with “entering a restricted building and violent entry or disorderly conduct,” and was then released from jail without bail. Eric Gavelek Munchel and Larry Rendell Brock, individuals who were seen carrying plastic zip ties and white flex cuff, were charged with “disorderly conduct and violent entry.”

While any and all arrests involving January 6th rioters are certainly victories towards justice, there are some arrests that have been made which involve some supposedly key players in planning an executing the storming of the Capitol. Some of these people stand out more than others for their willingness to voice, and sometimes wear, their ignorance for everyone to notice. Robert Keith Packer, a man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie on the day of the riots, was arrested and charged with “trespassing in a federal building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” The QAnon Shaman, Jake Angeli, was charged with “violent entry and disorderly conduct,” and was photographed inside the Capitol Building wearing a fur hat, horns, and a painted face. Doug Jensen, a member of QAnon, faces five different federal charges, including “violent entry and disorderly conduct and obstructing a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder.” Jensen was seen in a video from that day chasing a police officer up a flight of stairs in the Capitol Building. Nick Ochs, of the Proud Boys, was charged with “unlawful entry of restricted buildings or grounds” after a picture of him smoking a cigarette inside the Capitol Building was circulated around social media. Derrick Evans, a Republican delegate from the West Virginia state legislature, was charged with “trespassing and disorderly conduct.” He also resigned from his seat in the state legislature.

In addition to the arrests already listed, more arrests are being made everyday related to the Capitol riots. While the DOJ feels confident that they are doing all they can to arrest anybody involved with actually planning and carrying out the riots, there have also been small-time arrests made. Some of these people are being charged federally, many are being charged at a state level for things like trespassing or disorderly conduct. Some of the arrestees include Nicholas Rodean, Aaron Mostofsky, William Pepe, Andrew Williams, Josiah Colt, Adam Johnson, Jenny Cudd, Klete Keller, Robert Sandford, Jacob Fracker, Thomas Robertson, John Schaffer, Tam Pham, Joseph Randall Biggs, Suzanne Ianni, Mark Sahady, Jorge Riley, Samuel Camargo, and Michael Joseph Foy. Most charges are for trespassing or disorderly conduct, but some are being charged with assault or obstructing justice. One of the most recent charges filed was against Patrick Edward McCaughey III, who is charged with “assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees; civil disorder; entering restricted building or grounds; and violent entry or disorderly conduct.” The charges against these rioters will hopefully stick as we see more of them arrested and charged in the coming weeks.

Many of those who went to the Capitol riots felt that they were doing something to help ascertain justice for President Trump; weeks later, it is clear that could not be further from the truth. The election has been declared as fair, and a new President has taken his seat, just as everybody has suspected would happen. The actions of those present on January 6th were abhorrent and unnecessary.

January 6  is something that will undoubtedly keep coming back to haunt them, and even if they do not see any real jail time, that day has changed their lives. They will never be able to hide their racism under the guise of being a tolerant white person; their faces are plastered all over the Internet and social media for everybody to see. As more arrests are made and charges are filed, we will continue to provide updates.

RESISTANCE RESOURCES

  • To provide a tip or digital media from January 6th, please visit this FBI webpage.
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Trump on Emoluments Cases

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Trump on Emoluments Cases

Brief # 7 Social Justice

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Trump on Emoluments Cases

Zack Huffman

February 3, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court halted a pair of ongoing emoluments lawsuits against former president Donald Trump on Monday, Jan. 25, noting that the cases stopped being relevant when Trump left office.

One of the lawsuits was filed days after Trump’s inauguration in 2017 by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The suit claimed Trump’s vast business empire, from which he refused to divest, created numerous ways for foreign interests to buy influence over the president.

“Applied to Donald J. Trump’s diverse dealings, the text and purpose of the
Foreign Emoluments Clause speak as one: this cannot be allowed,” said the original civil complaint, which was filed in federal court in New York City.

“President Donald Trump has been violating the Constitution since noon on January 20, 2017,” wrote Gabe Lezra, staff counsel for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “His decision in the months prior to his inauguration to retain ownership and control of his sprawling business empire—a move that went against both long-standing historical practice and the advice of career government ethics officials—put him at odds with the Constitution’s original anti-corruption provisions the moment he was sworn in.”

The second lawsuit, filed in June, 2017, came from the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington D.C. and alleged similar claims about Trump businesses functioning as a means for Trump to accept payments from foreign sources.

Both lawsuits cited the emoluments clause of the Constitution which dictates that Congress must approve all payments the president receives from foreign sources.

The rulings were part of an order list that was publicly released on Monday, Jan. 26. Each week, the Supreme Court issues an order list, which is series of brief rulings on cases. The Supreme Court’s order also included instructions for the lower courts that previous ruled on the case to vacate their actions, which effectively remove any precedents that may have been set.

 

 

Analysis

The emoluments clause, as it was originally intended, was created as a safety guard against corruption of diplomats. It was a reaction to the European royal tradition of gift giving by kings and queens, according to a 2016 report from the Brookings Institute. For example, the King of France an ornate box to Ben Franklin when he was serving as diplomat to France. Franklin had to seek permission from Congress to keep the box.

Although the clause originally applied to diplomats and ambassadors, as recently as 2009 the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that the clause applied to the presidency. The official interpretation was made after Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which the Department of Justice deemed exempt from the emoluments clause because it was not granted by a foreign government.

Despite the 2009 determination, the emoluments clause remains largely untested, especially in the case of someone like Donald Trump. By refusing to divest from his businesses, Trump maintained a vast network of opportunities for foreign interests to buy influence in a manner less direct than a simple jeweled box.

“Never in American history has a president presented more conflict of interest
questions and foreign entanglements than Donald Trump. Given the vast and global scope of Trump’s business interests, many of which remain shrouded in secrecy, we cannot predictthe full gamut of legal and constitutional challenges that lie ahead,” said the Brooking Institute’s report, which was written by Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe.

The two emoluments lawsuits filed against Trump were seeking a court order that Trump’s business automatically put him in violation of the Constitution. Essentially, the plaintiffs wanted a ruling the Trump broke the lawsuit, as opposed to seeking a specific punishment for the violation.

Both cases went from federal court to their respective circuit courts of appeal where there were rulings against President Trump.. Trump then appealed his losses at the circuit level to the Supreme Court.

A pair of briefs, filed on behalf of Trump before the Supreme Court at the end of December, argued that both cases were moot since Trump had lost reelection and Biden was, at the time, on the verge of being inaugurated. Basically, the court could not properly find that Trump was in violation of the emoluments clause if he was no longer bound by that clause as a former president. The Supreme Court agreed.

Despite the outcome, the attorneys general celebrated their lower court victories for laying a pathway by which the emoluments clause could be enforced by the court – provided legal action takes place before the president leaves office.

“The Emoluments Clauses were specifically inserted into the Constitution to prevent federal officials, including the President of the United States, from profiting from their positions in government,” said AGs Karl Racine and Brian Frosh in a joint statement following the Supreme Courts ruling. “President Trump illegally profited from his office by receiving improper emoluments in the form of money from foreign governments, federal agencies, and state governments that conducted business at his hotel to curry favor with him and his administration.”

On the other hand, Trump’s attorneys created their own blueprint for dragging lawsuits out until the end of a presidential term, rendering them irrelevant.

Learn More

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Order List for Jan. 25
https://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/012521zor_3f14.pdf

Profiting off the Presidency: Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clauses

Profiting off the Presidency: Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clauses

Brookings Institute: The Emoluments Clause: Its Text, Meaning, and Application to Donald J. Trump
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/gs_121616_emoluments-clause1.pdf

DOJ: President’s Receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize
https://www.justice.gov/olc/opinion/applicability-emoluments-clause-and-foreign-gifts-and-decorations-act-presidents-receipt

Statement by AG Racine and AG Frosh on Conclusion of Emoluments Lawsuit
https://oag.dc.gov/release/statement-ag-racine-and-ag-frosh-conclusion?src=ilaw

 

President Biden Signs Four Executive Orders Aimed at Racial Equality

President Biden Signs Four Executive Orders Aimed at Racial Equality

Brief # 6 Social Justice

President Biden Signs Four Executive Orders Aimed at Racial Equality

by Erika Shannon

February 1, 2021

POLICY SUMMARY

On January 20th, Joe Biden was finally sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. In his first week in office, there has been a flurry of executive orders being signed by the new president-elect; some of these are aimed at repairing what Trump may have broken, and others are aimed at making America a better and more inclusive place for all. Of the 24 executive orders signed by President Biden so far, four of them involve promoting racial equality. These four executive orders are comprised of: directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to “take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies,” directing the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons, reaffirming the federal government’s “commitment to tribal sovereignty and consultation,” and combatting xenophobia against Asian American and Pacific Islanders. It is important to familiarize yourself with the executive orders being signed, as they are laying some of the groundwork for Joe Biden’s plans for his presidency.

The four executive orders regarding racial justice have all been prompted by specific problems in America. It is no secret that housing policies in the U.S. have been discriminatory for a long time, with minorities often being mistreated or denied access to affordable housing in desirable neighborhoods. While things such as the Fair Housing Act have been aimed at minimizing discrimination, there are still underhanded examples of mistreatment of minorities in the housing market. Studies show that real estate agents show fewer available homes and apartments to minorities than equally qualified white people. In turn, minorities housing options are restricted, which is a serious problem.

When it comes to private prisons, they are run much differently from public prisons. A study done by the Justice Department in 2016 indicated that private prisons see higher rates of assault, use of force incidents, and lockdowns than public prisons. These problems have caused people to become concerned with the way private prisons are operated, and this executive order aims to address that.

The United States was essentially built on stolen land, and over the years that fact has fallen by the wayside. Native Americans still face threats to their land, with things like the Dakota Access Pipeline that intrude on native lands.

The final executive order on Asian and Pacific Islander xenophobia is directly related to coronavirus. With the virus’s supposed origins being Wuhan, China, there has been a lot of negativity surrounding Asians abroad, as well as Asian Americans. For a while, there was a period of time where people were not patronizing Chinese restaurants in American cities, which was hurting Asian Americans financially. While Trump was in office, he used the harmful rhetoric of referring to coronavirus as the “China virus,” which only further alienated Asians and Pacific Islanders. These four executive orders look like they are going to be a step in the right direction, but it is a bit early to tell if President Biden will follow through with his promise of promoting racial equity.

POLICY ANALYSIS

President Bieen’s  executive orders regarding racial equity are important for a few reasons. First and foremost, they’re important because our former President, Donald Trump, did nothing to promote racial justice in the U.S. If anything, his refusal to condemn white supremacy has exacerbated racial tensions; at the very least, it has made many of his racist followers come out of the woodwork and act on their racist ideals.

There is a long way to go before there is a bigger sense of inclusion for minorities in the U.S. For example, while the executive order to close private prisons is good, there are far bigger problems regarding race in our justice system. The whole justice system needs reform, and something must be done to address systemic misconduct in police departments across the country. Here in America, there are actually only 14,000 inmates still located in private prisons; this constitutes only around 9% of total people incarcerated. It is clear that the bigger problem has not yet been tackled, but there is hope that our new President will right some of the wrongs that have plaguing minorities in America for centuries. Taking any course of action is better than sitting back and letting things go on as they are. While President Biden has signed many executive orders in his first week, these four regarding racial equity are a big change from what we’ve seen in the past four years with Trump in office. There is optimism that Biden will continue to take bigger steps towards racial equity for all here in the U.S.

Engagement Resources

Do We Need a Domestic Terrorism Law?

Do We Need a Domestic Terrorism Law?

Brief # 5 Social Justice

Do We Need a Domestic Terrorism Law?

By Zack Huffman

January 25, 2021 

President Joe Biden said that among his first priorities in office will be to pass a domestic terrorism law.

Renewed interest in anti-terrorism legislation comes after frenzied attendees from President Donald Trump’s January 6 rally in Washington DC, rioted at the Capitol while Congress was confirming the electoral votes from last November’s election. The insurrectionist crowd breached the capital, with so-called protesters breaking into legislators’ offices and ransacking the building.

Federal agents have since arrested dozens in the days after the riot. Charges against those arrested range from disorderly conduct and violent entry to making interstate threats and illegal possession of firearms. None have been charged with domestic terrorism. In fact the perpetrators of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing as well as any of the suspects in the string of politically-motivated mass shootings from the last decade were not  charged with domestic terrorism, because it is not technically a separate offense.

Rather than a specific crime, domestic terrorism as a legal definition is a designation that allows enhanced investigation and surveillance measures of crimes such as murder, mass destruction and kidnapping. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic offenses, such as the violent crimes listed above.

Analysis

President Biden co-authored the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995 which was intended to increase the federal government’s ability to prosecute international terrorism. The bill died before it could be voted on amid concerns from civil liberties groups. Key portions of that bill were later included in the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. Biden bragged to the New Republic in 2001 that the then-pending USA PATRIOT Act borrowed from his own legislative work, so he already had experience on the issue even before he spent 8 years as vice president.

U.S. rep. Adam Schiff introduced legislation in 2019 that would have made domestic terrorism a specific crime. The law would have established domestic terrorism as a separate criminal charge for offenses that already carried stiff federal consequences. The new crimes would require prosecutors to prove political intent behind violent crimes, and those charges would have to be personally approved by the Attorney General or an acting equivalent.

Schiff’s bill failed to pass Congress – again, amid concerns from civil liberties groups. A report from the John Brennan Center for Justice criticized existing anti-terrorism laws, along with any new proposed terrorism laws, based on concerns over selective enforcement. For example, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Justice Department primarily targeted Muslims and Muslim organizations. Later the Justice Department focused its anti-terrorism efforts on animal rights, peace and social justice activism. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has failed to identify white supremacist mass shootings in Charleston, Pittsburgh and El Paso between 2015 and 2019 as acts of domestic terrorism.

Even if a version of Schiff’s bill were to be passed, it would have to be applied retro-actively against the rioters who forced their way into the Capitol. As it stands, the various participants that have already been arrested face sedition charges on top of trespassing, assault, destruction, theft or which ever other crime they committed in the Capitol.

Biden could also face opposition from members of his own party on the issue of domestic terrorism. US rep. Rashida Tlaib released an open letter, that was signed by nine other members of congress, pledging to oppose any expansion of “domestic national security or surveillance powers.” The legislatures cited COINTELPRO, a now-defunct FBI program that targeted civil rights and anti-war activism in the 1960s and 1970s, and the modern targeting of Black Lives Matter activists, among the federal government’s past abuses of authority.

“The Justice Department has a history of minimizing far-right violence while aggressively targeting minority activists and far-left protest movements,” said the report. Historically, this has been the case in the United States, as evidenced by the results of the Church Commission

Following the Watergate scandal, Democrats created a congressional committee, chaired in the House by rep. Frank Church, to investigate intelligence gathering agencies that spied on protest movements during the 1960s and 1970s. The Church Committee, which started its work in 1975, found that the CIA and the FBI had used mass wiretapping with the latter group starting a program called COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) that infiltrated and disrupted numerous political organizations. The covert work originally targeted the Ku Klux Klan, after three civil rights workers disappeared in Mississippi in 1964.  A few years later the FBI switched its attention to the rising civil rights and black nationalist  movements as well as anti-war activists and the New Left, as detailed in the Committee’s report on Intelligence of Activities and The Rights of America.

“It has demonstrated that intelligence activities have not generally been governed and controlled in accord with the fundamental principles of our constitutional system of government,” wrote Church in the report’s preface.

More recently, the federal government used similar monitoring and infiltration efforts against environmental and animal rights activists in the early 2000s during the George W. Bush administration.

For example, environmentalists Eric McDavid, Lauren Weiner and Zachary Jenson were all arrested for an alleged plot to damage or destroy the Nimbus Dam in California after a federal informant using the name “Anna,” seduced McDavid and coerced the trio to attempt the destructive scheme.  Such instances will likely be brought up again by those who are wary of expanded anti-terrorism powers for the federal government.

“While we are not necessarily opposed to reforms to address the law enforcement and intelligence communities’ inability or unwillingness to seriously confront domestic white nationalist violence, we firmly believe that the national security and surveillance powers of the U.S. government are already too broad, undefined, and unaccountable to the people,” wrote Tlaib.

Learn More

Thomas, Ken and Sabrina Siddiqui. Jan. 7. 2021. Biden Says Rioters Who Stormed Capitol Were Domestic Terrorists. https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-says-mob-that-stormed-capitol-were-domestic-terrorists-11610046962

Thirteen Charged in Federal Court Following Riot at the United States Capitol

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/thirteen-charged-federal-court-following-riot-united-states-capitol

Crowley, Michael. Oct. 22. 2001. Rhetorical Question. https://newrepublic.com/article/61756/rhetorical-question

The Church Committee report on Intelligence of Activities and The Rights of America

https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/94755_II.pdf

German, Michael and Sara Robinson.

Oct. 31, 2018. Wrong Priorities on Fighting Terrorism. https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/Report_Wrong_Priorities_Terrorism.pdf

Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s open letter

https://tlaib.house.gov/sites/tlaib.house.gov/files/NationalSecurityOpp.pdf

Aaronson, Trevor and Katie Galloway. Nov. 19, 2015. Manufacturing Terror.

https://theintercept.com/2015/11/19/an-fbi-informant-seduced-eric-mcdavid-into-a-bomb-plot-then-the-government-lied-about-it/

Progress in Policing in 2020

Progress in Policing in 2020

Brief # 4 Social Justice

Policing in America Series: An ongoing  series that covers efforts to reform policing in America, written by USRESIST NEWS Reporter Laura Plummer.

Progress in Policing in 2020

January 19, 2021

Summary

Two-thousand and twenty was a year defined by unprecedented hardship. A deadly global pandemic ravaged the country and crippled whole sectors of the economy. A contentious presidential election divided the nation, and killings of black and brown people by police officers sparked yearlong protests against police brutality.

The Black Lives Matter movement gained popular support last year as it exposed the systemic racism inherent in American policing. More than any previous year, communities started organizing to demand comprehensive police reform and to hold their leaders and elected officials accountable. The following list explores the progress achieved in policing in 2020 at the federal and state levels.

Federal Level:
House and Senate Democrats unveiled the Justice in Policing Act to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, improve reporting on police misconduct and make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct.

Senate Republicans introduced a bill to improve reporting in police departments, apply harsher penalties for falsified documents, provide funding for de-escalation training, and establish a commission for criminal justice reform.

U.S. representatives introduced a bill in the House to end qualified immunity.

House Democrats introduced the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act to implement national policing standards, require agencies to report data to the DOJ, and increase oversight.

Pres. Trump signed the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, providing financial resources to departments that meet certain standards set by the attorney general.

State Level:
The Arkansas governor signed an executive order to establish a police task force to review its community policing policies.

California’s governor called for the banning of chokeholds. The California attorney general recommended key reforms.

Colorado passed a bill to ban chokeholds and tear gas, remove qualified immunity, require body cameras, prevent fired officers from being rehired, and hold officers accountable for not intervening.

The Connecticut governor required state police to stop using chokeholds and receiving military gear and to start using body cameras at all times. He signed a bill to increase oversight, review use-of-force policies, ban consent searches, investigate police shootings and weaken qualified immunity.

The Iowa governor signed a bill to ban chokeholds, prevent fired officers from being rehired, require anti-bias and de-escalation training, and weaken qualified immunity.

Massachusetts proposed several bills regarding use of force, hiring standards, and criminal justice reform.

The Michigan State Senate passed a bill to require mental health screenings for prospective officers and training in implicit bias and de-escalation for current officers.

The Minnesota State Legislature banned chokeholds and antiquated training programs, introduced trained peace officers, and improved investigations into fatal police encounters.

The New Hampshire governor issued an order on police reforms, including the use of body cameras by all state police.

New Jersey banned chokeholds and similar restraints.

The New York governor signed bills related to police misconduct, chokeholds, racial profiling, body cameras and reporting requirements. He also made departments come up with plans for reform in order to qualify for state funding.

Pennsylvania’s governor approved sweeping changes to policing, including background checks and mental health evaluations, a termination database, and training on use of force and de-escalation.The Rhode Island State Police agreed to obtain and use body cameras.

Tennessee House Democrats introduced a series of police reforms regarding use of force.

Analysis

At the federal level, most legislation introduced in the House in 2020 was not taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate. Only 14 states proposed significant changes to police policy last year and some of it was dead on arrival. In some cases, legislation is still pending. Readers can continue to put pressure on their governors and lawmakers to overhaul this historically racist institution. 

Resources

Breonna Taylor Case Update

Breonna Taylor Case Update

Brief # 2 Social Justice

Breonna Taylor Case Update

By Erika Shannon

January 7, 2021

On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her home when Louisville, Kentucky police executed a no-knock search warrant. The warrant was for another person, not Breonna Taylor or her boyfriend, the only people in the apartment at the time. While police claim that they announced themselves prior to entering, there are statements from neighbors to the contrary. When police entered without announcing who they were, Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, feared for their lives and her boyfriend brandished a gun. Walker was a licensed firearm holder and fired a shot in self-defense when the officers continually would not announce that they were members of law enforcement. Officers then negligently shot over twenty rounds into the apartment and ended up hitting Taylor eight times, killing her. While the case did not gain national attention at first, it did not take long for protests to pop up across the country in support of justice for Breonna Taylor.

There was no action being taken against the officers by the city of Louisville, and so the Taylor family filed a lawsuit against Louisville Police. The allegations were wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence. The family wished to be awarded compensatory and punitive damages, along with legal fees. On September 15, 2020, the mayor of Louisville announced that the city reached a $12 million dollar settlement with Breonna Taylor’s family. Besides compensation, the settlement also included policy changes that could help to reform police conduct in the city of Louisville and help stop situations like this from happening again in the future. There is no amount of money that could bring her daughter back or make this killing just; because of that, her mother decided that they will move forward and attempt to have the cops involved criminally charged in Taylor’s death.

Months and months went by before any type of justice was served for the killing of Breonna Taylor. This past September the attorney general of Kentucky, Daniel Cameron, convened a grand jury to review Taylor’s case. On September 23, 2020, it was announced that only one police officer would be indicted on three criminal charges of wanton endangerment. Officer Brett Hankison was indicted of the Class D felony, which is the least serious type of felony in Kentucky; his punishment would be possibly one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The most heinous part of it all is that these charges are reportedly not related to Breonna Taylor’s death in any way, but have to do with Officer Hankison shooting his firearm ten times into neighboring apartments. There were two other officers in question, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove. They were not indicted, for the grand jury found they were justified in their use of force due to “self-defense.” It was revealed that Officer Cosgrove shot his weapon sixteen times total and he was the one who actually fired the shots that killed Taylor that night. At the time of Officer Hankison’s indictment, Cosgrove was still employed by the Louisville Metro Police Department.

In the latest news related to the Breonna Taylor case, two officers related to the fatal incident have received notice from the Louisville Police Interim Chief that they will be fired. The two detectives who received the notices were Joshua Jaynes and Myles Cosgrove; Cosgrove is the one thought to have fired the bullet that killed Taylor, while Jaynes allegedly lied about information obtained in the search warrant. Had Jaynes not violated procedures in preparing and obtaining that no-knock search warrant, Taylor may still be alive today. Firing these police officers is the first step to getting justice for Taylor’s family, but there is still a lot that can and should be done. Many people are still holding out hope that proper charges will be fired against the police officers who acted recklessly that night.

It is clear that justice has not yet been served in the excessive police killing of Breonna Taylor. The fact of the matter is that it took too long for something to be done in the first place. No-knock warrants should be a thing of the past, and police should be required to announce their presence in all situations. In today’s society, you never know who may want to harm you; it is like that if Kenneth Walker had shot an intruder that night, he would have been a hero to those around him. Instead, trained police officers barged into a home unannounced where a couple was sleeping and murdered one of them in cold blood. They proceeded to taunt Walker and tell him it was “unfortunate” that none of the gunfire had hit him. While all of this was happening, the actual target of the search warrant, Jamarcus Glover, was already allegedly in police custody. Let’s not forget, Taylor was designated as a “soft target,” which means she posed no threat to the officers serving the warrant. While the cops maintain that they did knock and identify themselves, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. In the grand jury proceedings a neighbor testifies that the police did not identify themselves. Walker says there was pounding at the door but no one identified who they were. Had they announced who they were, Kenneth Walker would have never feared for his and Taylor’s life, and acted accordingly. Had they announced who they were instead of barging in with a battering ram, Breonna Taylor would still be alive. In a world where police officers cannot follow the rules any better than the criminals they are supposed to apprehend, there will never be any justice.

Resistance Resources

  • To find out how you can help in the fight for justice, visit org
  • The Center for Policing Equity seeks to reform police bias across the nation and is a great resource for those interested in joining the cause.
Alternatives to Deadly Force: Tasers

Alternatives to Deadly Force: Tasers

Social Justice Brief # 2

Alternatives to Deadly Force: Tasers

Policing in America Series: Alternatives to Deadly Force

By Laura Plummer

December 21, 2020

Summary

On Oct. 26, Philadelphia police shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr. in broad daylight. In a viral video of the incident, Wallace can be seen approaching officers with a knife. After issuing a verbal warning, they unloaded 14 rounds into the 27-year-old from a distance of around 15 feet. He quickly collapsed to the pavement and was later pronounced dead.

What the video doesn’t show is that police were actually responding to a 911 call that Wallace was experiencing a mental health crisis. The event sparked a nationwide debate about the role of law enforcement in mental health emergencies. At minimum, many believe Wallace’s death could have been prevented if officers on the scene had been equipped with tasers.

A taser is a conductive electrical device (CED) that causes painful muscle contractions. It came on the market in 1993 to provide law enforcement with an alternative to firearms. Over 90 percent of police departments in the U.S. issue them. But at the time of Wallace’s death, only one third of Philadelphia officers were trained to use tasers.

Tasers are often confused with stun guns. While both are CEDs that deliver an electric shock, a stun gun must be used directly against the skin. Depending on the model, police tasers can be effective at a distance up to 35 feet. This makes them especially useful if a suspect is fleeing, resisting arrest or behaving in a menacing way. They can incapacitate someone for five minutes to an hour without causing any permanent injury.

While tasers are less lethal than firearms, they still present the possibility of serious injury or death if misused or abused. Some people are also at higher risk, including pregnant women, the elderly, children, and those with certain medical conditions. In addition, secondary risks exist if a tasered subject falls from a height, crashes his vehicle, or hits the ground while running. Tasers have even been known to catch flammable materials on fire.

Analysis

Despite the taser’s shortcomings, it is likely Walter Wallace Jr. would still be alive today had he been tasered rather than shot. The Philadelphia Police Department has a use-of-force continuum on the books, which prescribes an officer’s level of force according to an offender’s behavior. Additionally, the department requires police to exhaust all alternatives prior to discharging their firearms. Because Wallace was at a sufficient distance away, and armed with only a knife, a compliant officer may have first reached for his taser.

Policies around use of force and exhausting alternatives are only effective when police have access to less lethal weapons like tasers. When officers only have firearms in their tool belts, that will be their go-to weapon when responding to a threat.

This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer.

New Defense Authorization Act Calls for the Taking Down of Confederate Monuments at Military Bases

New Defense Authorization Act Calls for the Taking Down of Confederate Monuments at Military Bases

Social Justice

Brief # 1

New Defense Authorization Act Calls for the Taking Down of Confederate Monuments at Military Bases

By Erika Shannon 

December 18,2020

POLICY SUMMARY

With 2020 finally coming to a close, many of us are beginning to look ahead to 2021. It is a new year with a new president and new possibilities for our country. Our government is certainly looking ahead, and recently, the House and Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. The spending bill sets aside $740 billion dollars for the United States military, and there are several new provisions within it. Perhaps the most interesting provision is also one of the reasons why Donald Trump wanted to veto the bill; this provision created a commission to help in removing names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America on buildings and at military bases. This change must happen within three years, and Trump has certainly been vocal about his disdain for this specific provision. There is speculation on what Trump will do with the bill once it comes time to sign it.

Now that the bill has officially passed both the House and the Senate, it will be landing on Trump’s desk any day now. He feels that the provision about renaming military bases and buildings is one of the deal breakers that this bill contains; however, any efforts to stop the passage of the bill are likely to be unsuccessful. With it passing 335-78 in the House and 84-13 in the Senate, the National Defense Authorization Act is more or less veto-proof at this point. Even if Trump wishes to veto it, it is probable that Congress will override his veto when they vote on it again. Essentially, by not signing the bill, Trump is simply prolonging the inevitable, because someway, somehow, our military does need their budget to be approved. This is something our divided Congress understands, but Trump still has apparently not figured it out. Trump’s time as our president is ticking away, and he is superficially trying to make the most of his remaining days in office. If he wishes to foster change before his anti-climactic exit, there are other ways to do it than to veto a military spending bill.

POLICY ANALYSIS

The National Defense Authorization Act for the year 2021 has been controversial since June; this is mostly due to the fact that military bases and buildings must change their names if they are named after anybody who helped to lead the Confederate States of America. Some, including Trump, are upset because they feel it is erasing a part of American history. The fact of the matter is that that is a dark spot on our history. The United States was divided during the Civil War, partially because the South did not wish to lose the free labor that came with slavery. The states that seceded did so because they did not want their economy ruined by the abolishment of slavery and they did not wish to accept Abraham Lincoln as their president. The Confederate States of America coming to exist is nothing for our country to be proud of, as some seem to think. The monuments, names, and homages to Confederate leaders in the South should be rightfully renamed. American history does honor our heroes – the heroes that fought for every American to be free, regardless of skin color. The Confederacy is a symbol of hate, bigotry, and lack of empathy.

Think of what it must be like to be a black US soldier working at one of the bases named after a confederate general. Many might feel a disconnect between their commitment to defending their country and working or training at a government base named after a person who was committed to defending slavery.

Public opinion on the matter is largely divided. While the general public is primarily against displaying the confederate flag in public places, feelings on renaming military bases and removing monuments is not as clear-cut. According to YouGov polls from earlier this year, only 20% of people strongly favor changing names of bases or buildings, while 30% of people strongly oppose. It is a hard choice for some who are holding on to our country’s historic past, no matter how wrong it was. Those who want them removed see the removal as a way to show that our values as a country are changing in a positive direction. There is no way to dismantle oppression unless change begins somewhere. These military bases and buildings names are not being changed to erase that part of our history. They are being changed so that every American can feel included, and they are being changed so that nobody has to be reminded of a time when slavery was widespread and acceptable. The America we live in now should not be a place that is built upon the backs of others; rather, it should be a place where everybody has a voice and nobody feels alienated.

RESISTANCE RESOURCES

  • To see a list of the military bases that are still named after the confederacy, see this article.
  • Click here to see in-depth polling data on confederate symbols.
  • Human Rights First is an organization that helps to influence policy in the U.S. to be more inclusive and equal for all.
Police Wall of Shame: The Philadelphia Police Department

Police Wall of Shame: The Philadelphia Police Department

Policing in America Series

“Police Wall of Shame” is a Policing in America series by Laura Plummer. 

November 30,2020

Summary

Philadelphia is the sixth largest city in the U.S. and the largest city in Pennsylvania. It has a population of just over 1.5 million, with roughly equal percentages of Black and white citizens (42 and 41 percent respectively). Its police department is the fourth largest in the country, behind only New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. It employs over 6,300 full-time sworn officers, around one for every 238 people.

While the defeat of Pres. Trump in the Nov. 3 election elicits hope for an end to police brutality in our nation, this is not a time to rest on our laurels. One need only examine the litany of untoward events involving the Philadelphia Police Department to be convinced of the ongoing need for radical and comprehensive police reform.

Date: Feb. 10, 2020

Incident: The department graduated 19 officers, none of whom was African-American, despite the city’s Black population of 42 percent.

Date: April 27, 2020

Incident: A report by the Penn. ALCU showed significant racial disparities when it came to traffic stops by the department. Black people accounted for 71 percent of all stops, despite only representing 42 percent of the city’s population.

Date: June 4, 2020

Incident: In his new budget, the mayor proposed a massive funding increase for the department while slashing funds for anti-violence programs and civilian oversight of the police.

Date: June 5, 2020

Incident: A high-ranking commander was charged with aggravated assault after being caught on video beating protestors with a baton. The same commissioner was cited in 2014 for failing to supervise four narcotics officers accused of theft and lying.

Date: June 6, 2020

Incident: Thousands of UPenn students and faculty urged the institution to cut its ties with the department, claiming a militarized police presence on campus.

Date: July 23, 2020

Incident: A report revealed that officers misused their body cameras. Misuse included not turning on the camera prior to handcuffing a person, not filing arrest paperwork, and, in one instance, turning off a camera to allow a fellow officer to beat a detainee.

Date: Sept. 17, 2020

Incident: A former officer claimed he was harassed and demeaned by his colleagues for his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which he believed led to his unjust termination from the force.

Date: Oct. 9, 2020

Incident: A former officer was charged with murder in the 2017 fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man.

Date: Oct. 26, 2020

Incident: Police shot dead Walter Wallace Jr. in an incident captured on video.
The 27-year-old Black man was suffering from severe mental illness.

Date: Oct. 28, 2020

Incident: It was revealed that, at the time of the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., only one third of officers was equipped with tasers, an alternative to firearms.

Date: Oct. 30, 2020

Incident: In an event caught on camera, officers smashed a woman’s SUV windows before dragging her and her infant out. A police union falsely claimed that the child had been missing.

Date: Nov. 6, 2020

An attorney for the family of Walter Wallace Jr. claimed that the police department ignored a 2015 report from the Dept. of Justice urging that tasers be given to officers in order to prevent fatal shootings.

Date: Nov. 23, 2020

Incident: The city board tasked with overseeing police shootings did not meet since Oct. of 2019 and did not have any meetings slated for the remainder of 2020.

Analysis

Non-profit organizations and advocacy groups are hard at work in Philly. Amistad Law Project and #PhillyWeRise aim to gut the city’s police budget. POWER launched its Live Free/Justice Reform Campaign in response to recent police violence. The ACLU of Greater Philadelphia and Black Lives Matter Philly continue to push for broad criminal justice reform.

Resistance Resources

ACLU Greater Philadelphia Chapter is the local chapter of the national American Civil Liberties Union
Amistad Law Project is a human rights organization based in Philadelphia
Black Lives Matter Philly is the local chapter of the global Black Lives Matter movement
#PhillyWeRise is a campaign of the Movement Alliance Project
POWER is an interfaith religious organization serving Pennsylvania

This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer. Did we miss an incident? Contact me@lauraplummer.me.

Alternatives to Deadly Force: Tasers

FBI Hate Crime Statistics, 2019

FBI Hate Crime Statistics, 2019 

By Erika Shannon

November 26, 2020

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has put out their annual report on hate crimes in the United States. The report is made public and can be found here if you are interested in looking over it yourself for reference. Hate crimes are defined here as offenses that are motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, or gender identity. Throughout 2019, there were 7,314 total incidents reported, with 8,812 total victims of those incidents. The incidents are broken down into whether or not the victim was targeted due to a single bias against them, or multiple biases. When looking at single-bias incidents, there were 8,552 victims; a staggering 57.6% of those incidents were motivated by the victims race, ethnicity, or ancestry. Most hate crimes committed were classified as intimidation, simple assault, or aggravated assault; however, there is also data of fifty-one murders, thirty rapes, and three offenses of human trafficking. According to FBI data, racially motivated hate crimes have been on the rise for the past ten years. This is disturbing information, and leads one to wonder why this number continues to grow. Besides crimes against people, there were also 2,811 hate crimes classified as crimes against property and 236 classified as crimes against society. Regardless of who or what the target is, hate crimes should not be on the rise in today’s society.

The numbers put forth by the FBI regarding hate crimes are troubling – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed 56 years ago, and it was one of the highlights of the civil rights movement. We also saw the passage of another Civil Rights Act in 1968, which came with more notable hate crime laws and punishments. Decades have passed, and one would assume that the amount of hate crimes would go down over the years; especially hate crimes motivated by a racial bias. Some hypothesize that the rise in hate crimes can be attributed to racist rhetoric being put forth, especially on social media platforms. Others blame our lack of a leader who will condemn white supremacist groups. While in office, Donald Trump himself told right-wing extremist group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate just months ago. Confirmation of Trump’s influence came when one of the group’s social media accounts incorporated the phrase “Stand Back. Stand By” in their new logo. A nation’s leaders influence clearly stems far and wide, which is why there is concern when a leader will not condemn white supremacy himself. A leaders inactions can feed into a long-standing pattern of intolerance; it comes as no shock that white people commit the highest amount of hate crimes in any given year since data has been reported. In 2019, 52.5% of the 6,406 offenders were white. This statistic may be proportionate with the fact that there are a higher percentage of whites than any other race in the U.S. population; however, one must also take into consideration what race is the most targeted by hate crimes. 48.5% of victims of single-bias incidents were committed due to anti-Black or African American bias..  For a nation whose past is riddled with slavery, segregation, intolerance, and discrimination, we must do better to lower the amount of hate crimes and promote tolerance in our communities.

There is no clear solution on how we can overcome the evidently growing problems of racism in America. There are numerous programs that exist to attempt to eliminate discrimination in the workplace, schools, and other institutions, yet we still see it happening on all levels. For starters, a leader who condemns racism and works to unite America’s citizens, regardless of color, gender, religion etc., would be a step in the right direction. With an apparent Joe Biden victory, there is hope that his leadership will do something to discourage the rise of white supremacist groups.

While hate crimes have been on the rise in the past years, 2020 specifically was full of right-wing extremists spewing hate, antagonizing protesters, and at one point, even plotting to kidnap government officials. Something must be done to curb their hate-filled motivations. Besides the rise in white supremacist group activity, there are other issues that need to be addressed in order to make the U.S. a place where all feel safe and included. The FBI hate crimes report showed that of the 3,963 hate crimes motivated by race, 25.3% of those took place in or near homes, and 20.5% occurred on roads or highways. Minorities should not have to fear for their safety at all, much less in their home or on their commute. We live in such a fast-paced society that people seem to forget: everybody around them has the same rights that they do. No person is less significant because of his or her race, religion or gender. We as Americans must take a step back and remind ourselves that America is supposed to be the land of equal opportunity. Racism cannot be tolerated, and the FBI’s report is evidence that we have a long way to go before every American can live their life without fear of being discriminated against or harmed. 

Resistance Resources

  • If you or someone you know has been the victim a hate crime, you can fill out this form on the Anti-Defamation League website.
  • To find out how you can join the fight to stop racism against African-Americans, check out the NAACP’s #WeAreDoneDying Campaign.
  • Click here to find out more about hate crimes or to view Hate Crime Reports from past years.
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