Social Justice Posts
By Erika Shannon
November 20, 2020
In the past weeks, there has been some confusion about who our next President truly is. The Associated Press has declared Joe Biden the projected winner due to his surpassing 270 electoral votes; yet, there are still some doubters out there who believe that this election could end up miraculously turning for Donald Trump. There are some recounts going on, and Trump has filed lawsuits in a couple of states to attempt to stall as long as possible. While there is a small chance that a recount may mean a Trump victory, most people have come to terms with the fact that Biden will be the next president. However, there are those who are still clinging to the idea that Trump could still somehow win, and that the election was rigged in Biden’s favor. Since the election has been called, there have been various pro-Trump protests occurring in cities across the country, including the nation’s capital, where protests turned violent and arrests were made.
This past weekend, several thousand Trump supporters showed up in Washington D.C. to protest the results of the election. Protesters marched in the streets at Freedom Plaza and the Supreme Court building. The rally was dubbed the “Million MAGA March” or “Stop the Steal Rally” on social media and was attended by members of the far-right group the Proud Boys. Other far-right groups in attendance included QAnon, Patriot Prayer, and the self-named American Guard. During the day, the protests were mild and mostly uneventful. However, as night fell, protesters clashed with ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter counter-protesters. Just blocks from the White House, police had to break up a brawl between the two groups. Tensions have been rising throughout 2020 at protests being held by both sides, and protests often end in violence or tragedy. Reports indicate that over the course of Saturday’s protests, at least twenty people were arrested. Charges from the arrests include firearms violations, simple assault, disorderly conduct, and assault on a police officer. Two police officers were injured and seven guns were recovered, though it is unknown if the guns belonged to the Trump supporters or counter-protesters.
With the election having been called by the Associated Press, there was hope that Donald Trump would simply concede to Joe Biden. However, Trump has managed to imply that the election was not fair and that he is, in fact, the winner. His comments have clearly caused quite the stir among Trump supporters; one can only wonder what they hope to achieve by protesting the election results. They often chant, “stop the steal” or, “four more years,” implying that they feel the democrats have stolen the election. Their motivation is a hope that somehow this election will end up being called in favor of Trump. The end result Trump supporters want does not seem likely at this point. The recounts being done are still projected to be in Biden’s favor for the presidency. This will hopefully result in Trump finally being satisfied with the results and peacefully conceding. There is the lingering concern that Trump will continue to insinuate that the election was unfair and that voter fraud occurred, which may incite his supporters to continue on with these protests. More protests could mean more violence and unrest for American citizens.
Regardless of Donald Trump’s claims, there are signs that this election was not actually fraudulent. In late September, FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote that the FBI had not seen any evidence of a “coordinated national voter fraud effort.” This included mail-in ballots, which goes against Trump’s statements regarding concerns over mail-in votes. The FBI investigates all instances of voter crimes, and so far none have been announced. Recently, sixteen federal prosecutors, who were specifically chosen to investigate elections crimes, have said that there was no proof of voter fraud or other irregularities that could substantially influence the election. It is also important to note that there are non-biased organizations at work to ensure that the election results are genuine. The National Task Force on Election Crises is a cross-partisan organization of over fifty experts ensuring that the outcome of the 2020 general election is free and fair. It seems that there are many powers at work to ensure that there is no election interference, here in America or internationally. There is no reason to believe that the election has been “stolen” by democrats, and those who state otherwise pose a threat to our democratic voting process. If Biden still has the most electoral votes when all legitimate votes are finally done being counted and there is no evidence of election fraud, Trump supporters will have no choice but to support Trump in his new endeavors — ones that do not include being the President of the United States.
2020 Presidential Election Motivates Both Sides to Protest
By Erika Shannon
November 6, 2020
This past week, tensions have been rising here in the U.S. while everyone impatiently awaits the result of the 2020 presidential election. A winner has still not been announced, but we already see civil unrest in American cities. There was always a fear that no matter who won the presidency, we would see demonstrations and protests, even violence; however, the waiting has been the hardest part for some, and we are already seeing protesters on both sides take to the streets so their voices can be heard. On the one hand, supporters of President Trump are protesting to demand that the process of counting votes is stopped because some of the votes are “fraudulent,” with claims that this election has somehow been hi-jacked by Democrats. On the other hand, Biden supporters are protesting to insist that all legitimate votes should be counted. The Black Lives Matter movement has combined with the Count Every Vote movement, with the two groups rallying together in several cities across the U.S. They are protesting because they want peoples voices to be heard, while Trump supporters are seemingly seeking to suppress valid votes.
While both sides are (mostly) peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights, these two sides could not be more different in what they represent for our democracy. Trump supporters have often been vocal about their disdain for Black Lives Matter protests around the country. They have taunted and antagonized peaceful protesters, with some of the altercations ending in violence and tragedy. However, now that they are the ones in danger of losing something – a republican presidency – they wish to take to the streets and attempt to derail the Democratic voting process. We have seen pro-Trump protests break out in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, and Arizona, among other states. President Trump himself is likely responsible for inspiring these protests, for as early as Wednesday morning he was proclaiming premature victory and demanding that people stop voting, and that votes should stop being counted. The remark was partially unfounded, for voting itself had been finished since Tuesday night, and counting the remaining votes was the last step before revealing a winner. The President then tweeted Thursday morning to “STOP THE COUNT,” a day after it had been announced that he was filing suit in Michigan and Pennsylvania to stop the counting of votes. These moves are a threat to the integrity of our democracy. It is evident that Donald Trump is not ready to give up yet, and now that losing is a real possibility, he is grasping at straws to do anything in his power to stop our democratic processes at work. Pro-Trump supporters chanting to “stop the count” represent a true threat to fair democracy, one where all votes that were received on time are counted. It seems that a group of people who were so keen on shouting “all lives matter” have forgotten that all votes matter, too.
Supporters of Joe Biden have also taken to the streets in response to the messages from Trump and his supporters. They are leading their own protests to voice that states should continue to count their legitimate votes. These protesters, many of whom are associated with the Black Lives Matter or Count Every Vote movement, have convened in places like Washington, New York, Minnesota, and Washington D.C. They are insisting that votes should continue to be counted so that we can finally know who has won this roller coaster of an election. Some protesters feel that President Trump is trying to stall the election results so that he can do anything in his power to retain the presidency. A move like this would come as no shock, for the President implied in late September that he would only turn over power if he felt the election was fair. His comments also included a theory about a “ballot scam,” where ballots of people who voted for Trump were supposedly being lost. To date, there has been no evidence of pro-Trump ballots disappearing, yet unfounded comments like these lead some Biden supporters to believe that Trump may not want to step down if he loses the election. Filing suits to stop counting votes is evidence that the President is in fear of what the votes may reveal: a win for Biden. He has been able to get his supporters riled up and there are still concerns that things may not stay peaceful if it is eventually revealed that Trump has lost the election. It is only fair to tally every vote that was cast, postmarked, or dropped off on time. The Count Every Vote movement is representative of the need to consider each vote so that a winner can be fairly determined. Some people’s only voice in the political process is their vote, and to rob them of that is a blatant disregard for our Democracy in action.
USRESIST NEWS Legal Brief
The USRESIST NEWS legal briefs report on the roles that our legal system plays in relation to the processing and adjudication of public policy issues.
# 1 End of Eviction Moratoriums Strains Renters’ Legal Support System
By Zack Huffman
October 27, 2020
Covid-19 brought record unemployment over the summer, which left millions of families unable to afford rent.With a federal moratorium on evictions expiring in January along with numerous states ignoring the problem, an impending eviction wave could further cripple nonprofit and pro bono legal organizations, further diminishing access to legal counsel for the nation’s neediest.
Somewhere between 30 and 40 million renters are in danger of losing their homes because they can no longer cover the cost of rent, according to data from the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program.
Those in danger represent about a third of all renters in the country, with concentrations in the South and the Rust Belt.
Data from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project show, as of early August, at least 37% of renters in Alabama and Nevada were in danger of eviction. Louisiana, New York and Oklahoma show 36% of all renters in danger, which 14 other states had rates above 30%.
Several states issued their own eviction bans, such as New York, Massachusetts and California. California’s lasts until 2021, but other states that previously issued moratoriums have allowed them to expire.
The Trump administration initially announced a federal ban on evictions, which expired in July. The Centers for Disease Control then issued its own eviction ban, which lasts until January 2021, as a means to reduce the spread of COVID-19.In October, the CDC clarified that its ban solely applies to the removal of people from a home and that landlords were still able to bring tenants to court as a means to start the eviction process or to collect unpaid rent.Whatever happens this fall and winter, it is almost guaranteed that 2021 will bring an avalanche of housing court evictions when there is already a limited supply of support for nonprofit and pro bono legal help.
Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants facing eviction need legal representation. Now with the economy reeling from the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns there is an even greater need for legal help on the horizon.Without adequate funding for nonprofit legal aid organizations and attorneys that provide pro bono help, there will be little that can help against the swelling eviction wave.
In the absence of federal action, cities and states can pass regulations that require full notification of tenants’ rights by the landlord before they can begin the eviction process. Few tenants are properly prepared to defend themselves from legal action. Most people lack a basic knowledge of housing law and are ill-equipped to defend themselves. At the same, few people who struggle to pay their rent have enough income to cover the cost of a lawyer. Aside from leaving people without a home, eviction can leave a black mark on their record, making it more difficult to obtain housing from skeptical landlords.
“Civil legal aid evens this unfair playing field and helps people protect their health, home, income, and family,” said the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in an open letter to all members of the U.S. Congress from June, seeking additional funding for the Legal Services Corporation. “This will be of particularly critical importance over the coming months as the legal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to develop and become clearer.”
The National Legal Aid & Defender Association
The NLADA advocates and raises funds for legal aid, particularly for those who cannot afford it. http://www.nlada.org.
The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project
The CED Project was founded in March 2020 to respond to urgent questions about housing, homelessness and community recovery during the spread of the coronavirus. https://cedproject.org
Learn More References
Buhayar, N. (2020, August 26). Why a Historic Eviction Wave Is Bearing Down on U.S.: QuickTake. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-26/why-a-historic-eviction-wave-is-bearing-down-on-u-s-quicktake
The CDC and Health and Human Services’ FAQ on the Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/eviction-moratoria-order-faqs.pdf
Keating, D. And L. Tierney (2020, April 29). Which States Are Doing a Better Job Protecting Renters from Being Evicted During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/29/which-states-are-doing-better-job-protecting-renters-being-evicted-during-coronavirus-pandemic/?arc404=true
By Linda F. Hersey
October 21, 2020
Deshawn Grange says he is proud to have not just one but two jobs. He is a part-time worker assembling vehicle doors at a Tesla plant in California. He also is a monitor at a public restroom owned by the City of San Francisco.
Grange, a San Francisco native, said he landed the jobs through assistance from a prison re-entry program that connected him to life-skills training, job preparation and employment. “I work all the time now,” said Grange, who did not use his real name for this story.
With two thirds of state prisoners in the U.S. re-arrested within 36 months of their release, prison-to-work or so-called re-entry programs are a path for former offenders to enjoy a law-abiding life. The goal is to provide wraparound services, from help with housing to finding a job, to lower the risk of returning to jail or prison.
A growing body of evidence shows that offenders need a diverse range of support services as they transition from incarceration to their communities, to lessen the chance of re-arrest and landing back in prison or jail, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Research shows that the better educated and/or older offender is less likely to re-commit crimes, according to the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization.
HIGH RATE OF INCARCERATION
Incarceration numbers in the U.S. are staggering for a western nation. More than two million people are behind bars in the United States, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
More than a half-million Americans each year are released from prisons and jails after serving time.
Many go back to the communities and friends they left when they originally broke the law and got into trouble. The return to their former lives poses risks and challenges.
The ex-offenders face significant barriers:
- Having a criminal record makes it hard to find work.
- Many have a history of drug addiction.
- Offenders are less likely to have completed high school or have the skills to sustain a job.
- Many have no place to live.
Advocates for people who have served time focus efforts more and more on education, employment and housing. These support services, studies show, can determine whether a former convict succeeds or fails after release.
To reduce the $40 billion spent by state governments annually for corrections without compromising public safety, advocates say it is critical to identify programs and services like these that improve outcomes.
FAITH-BASED PROGRAMS REACH OUT TO EX-OFFENDERS
An array of nonprofits in the U.S., many of them faith-based, aim to help offenders post-release. Saved by Grace of the San Francisco Bay area, for example, is staffed by ex-felons and focuses on both the spiritual and economic needs of former offenders.
The agency offers case management, job training, education resources and help with writing resumes and contacting employers. The agency provides a positive and welcoming community with church pastors, employers, caseworkers and advocates who represent a new network of friends and associates for the former offender.
The agency not only directs former offenders to education and employment, it also tries to provide a constructive alternative to peer pressure and negative influences former offenders may encounter again in their communities.
“Throughout my life I have made some good and bad decisions, but through it all I truly believe God had, and still has, his hand on my life,” Pastor Ronnie Muniz states about his former criminal life and his founding of the prison-re-entry agency, Saved by Grace.
A FOCUS ON OUTCOMES
Nationally, two initiatives known as SVORI and the Second Chance Act, have shown the most promise and continue to evolve, according to research by the National Institute of Justice.
- SVORI – the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative — is considered the pioneering federal grant program for integrating support services for former offenders, including job and life-skills training, education, and treatment and release plans. Research shows that participation in SVORI-funded programs have resulted in fewer re-arrests and longer times between arrests, compared with former prisoners who did not participate. Women, especially, experienced better outcomes in the areas of employment and overcoming substance abuse.
- The Second Chance Act, reauthorized by President Trump in 2018, is a follow-up to SVORI. Its goal is to improve outcomes for former offenders. In looking at outcomes for close to 1,000 former offenders in Second Chance, the National Institute of Justice found that the men and women had better rates of long-term employment and earnings but were not less likely to be re-arrested. Researchers are trying to determine why and how to change that. The legislation signed by Trump provides federal funding to programs considered essential to an offender’s re-entry.
Now a new generation of programs and research aims to identify high-risk populations that are more prone to re-offend and land back in jail or prison, according to the National Institute of Justice. Former offenders in this at-risk group may have literacy challenges, dropped out of high school, struggled with drug addiction, and a long rap sheet, including with the juvenile justice system.
The First Step Act (FSA), also signed into law in 2018, centers on developing a risk and needs assessment for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to better identify this high-needs population. Increasingly, a strong body of research shows that successful outcomes do not depend on just one factor but a whole host of supportive services and positive connections in the community.
Trauma During Re-Entry Study: This report by the Institute for Justice Research and Development looks at the effects of violence and trauma on offenders returning to their communities after serving time.
National Institute of Justice and Recidivism: The institute researches, reviews and evaluates programs for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Prison Policy Initiative: The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization offers research and advocacy around prisons and prison reform in the U.S.
Saved by Grace is a nonprofit California agency that provides supportive services to former inmates returning to their communities.
The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, national news organization that covers the criminal justice system.
Policing in America
“Police Wall of Shame” is a Policing in America series by Laura Plummer.
October 15, 2020
The New York Police Department (NYPD) is the largest police department in the U.S. and the second largest in the world after Tokyo. It has over 36,000 sworn officers, equal to the population of a small city, with approximately one officer for every 233 people.
When the NYPD killed Black man Eric Garner in 2014, it helped transform the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter into a national movement. Since then, the department has not done much to improve its reputation. In fact, its shocking antics continue to dominate headlines. From discriminating against women to planning assaults on protestors, it’s no wonder the NYPD finds itself in our Police Wall of Shame.
Date: June 4, 2020
Incident: Officers assaulted protestors in what was called the “most aggressive police response” to the George Floyd murder protests in the U.S.
Date: August 11, 2020
Incident: A female chief quit and sued the department for rampant gender discrimination. She alleged that women were systematically prevented from reaching top positions.
Date: September 1, 2020
Incident: Officers pushed back against the department’s new disciplinary measures, which are meant to improve transparency and accountability in the department. They complained that such measures would prevent them from doing their jobs.
Date: September 9, 2020
Incident: The president of the sergeants union posted a homophobic tweet about an openly gay city councilman. The councilor called for the union leader’s resignation.
Date: September 10, 2020
Incident: The department continued to promote an officer who was accused of invasive, inappropriate strip searches of Black and Latino men.
Date: September 17, 2020
Incident: Reporting showed that officers were still ticketing street vendors in September, despite Mayor de Blasio’s June declaration that the department would be relieved of this duty.
Date: September 25, 2020
Incident: The department suddenly suspended its funding for a crisis intervention training meant to reduce violent conflict with the mentally ill by teaching officers empathy.
Incident: The state attorney general declared that the department should cease making traffic stops, due to a history of stops escalating quickly into fatal violence.
Date: September 26, 2020
Incident: Officers aggressively charged at a group of protestors, diners and pedestrians, arresting 12 people. Protestors were responding to having their music equipment seized by the department during a raid of a peaceful art protest earlier in the evening.
Date: September 28, 2020
Incident: An officer was arrested for allegedly punching and pointing a gun at his girlfriend. The officer had a long history of domestic violence and was previously arrested in 2014 for threatening a woman with knives.
Date: September 29, 2020
Incident: Officers refused to wear face masks, despite it being law. Gov. Cuomo pointed out the hypocrisy of a group that is tasked with enforcing mask-wearing and yet refuses to cover their own faces.
Incident: A judge ordered a judicial review into the department’s killing of Eric Garner in 2014. Officers put Garner in a chokehold despite the fact the chokehold had been banned since 1993.
Date: September 30, 2020
Incident: A report revealed that the department planned the assault on protestors on June 4 (see above.) The attack was led by the highest-ranking uniformed officer on the force.
Incident: The department was lambasted by a former officer. The man uploaded a video in which he criticized its modern tactics and militarism, comparing it to the Call of Duty video game.
Date: October 2, 2020
Incident: Several dozen officers dressed in riot gear disrupted an outdoor concert. Neighbors were shocked, stating they had never seen such an overwhelming show of force.
Incident: The department broke the law by failing to enforce illegal placard parking. Officers are required to investigate placard abuse and turn the evidence over to the Department of Investigation.
In early summer 2020, New York City saw an increase in protests against police brutality and calls to defund the NYPD. While these outward demonstrations seem to have waned in recent months, local advocacy groups like Brooklyn Movement Center, Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) and The Gathering for Justice are still hard at work organizing for tangible change in policing.
One way in which residents can have their voices heard is by voting in the city’s 2021 elections. Up for election are mayor, city councilors, public advocate, borough presidents and district attorneys. New Yorkers are urged to support progressive candidates who back comprehensive police reform. A list of current candidates can be found here.
- Brooklyn Movement Center – A campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) – A campaign working against discriminatory and abusive policing in New York
- The Gathering for Justice – An organization working to expose the NYPD’s unfair targeting of people of color
This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer. To add an incident involving the NYPD to this article, please contact email@example.com.
With a general election looming, there is a lot of debate on whether or not the results of the election will incite violence. Since Donald Trump took office as President just four years ago, a lot has changed. One of the most concerning changes is the phenomenon of white nationalist militias coming out of the woodwork. Throughout 2020, private militias were antagonizing Black Lives Matters protesters with sometimes deadly consequences. More recently, there was a plot by right-wing extremist group Wolverine Watchmen to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam due to their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the plan was exposed and while thirteen men total were arrested, six were specifically charged with planning to kidnap Whitmer and Northam. Besides the troubling situation with plotting to kidnap sitting governors, it has also been hypothesized that these right-wing militias will likely show up to the polls in certain states on Election Day. They will probably be armed and ready to intimidate others if they deem it necessary. While some groups claim they do not wish to harm anyone and only want to curb civil unrest, it can be seen that many of these groups have already engaged in violence.
These bold moves by white nationalist militia groups are not only a potential threat to the integrity of the upcoming election, but also to our democracy as a whole. Often, these right-wing militias disobey laws to achieve their goals and create more civil unrest in the process. There is the question of whether or not these civilian-formed militias are even legal. The answer to that is a bit complicated; people with extreme views are allowed to create a group off of those shared political views and call themselves a “militia.” However, all fifty states prohibit “private, unauthorized militias and military units from engaging in activities reserved for the state militia, including law enforcement activities,” according to Georgetown University Law Center. This is exactly what we have seen pop up lately: armed civilians who are untrained in formal law enforcement attempting to do the job of legitimate law enforcement. When this happens, tragedy often strikes, as was the case with 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, IL. His involvement with right-wing militia Boogaloo Bois during the Kenosha protests ended up being deadly and he is now being charged for the murder of two out of the three protesters that he shot. Citizens have a right to defend themselves under the Second Amendment, but self-defense is not what we see these militias engaging in. Instead, we see them engaging in outright vigilantism, acting as a paramilitary unit.
The brazen actions of these right-wing nationalist militias should concern American citizens, as there is the potential for more violence as the election approaches. The FBI has arrested about 120 people on domestic terrorism suspicions this year, many of which were members of white supremacist or anti-government groups. It is clear that these groups now feel comfortable enough to come out of the woodwork and showcase themselves. Members of these groups know that laws against private militias are rarely enforced, and our own President refuses to condemn their existence. During a presidential debate, President Trump even told white supremacist group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” to deal with ANTIFA, which is a reflection of his attitude in general over the past four years. It is no wonder these groups continue to assemble and emerge, as they feel they have the support of our country’s “leader.” While these white nationalist militias grow in membership, what we need is a leader who will condemn their existence to protect our democracy and preserve law and order.
On September 21st, President Donald Trump followed through with an Executive Order from earlier this month and officially deemed New York, Seattle, and Portland “anarchist jurisdictions.” This could mean that these three cities will potentially see cuts in federal funding, especially regarding federal grants. In the original September 2nd Executive Order, Trump specifically targeted the government officials of cities who are “permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction.” The three cities listed have seen heavy protests this year after several law-enforcement involved shootings.
In a statement on September 21st, Attorney General William Barr implied that leaders in these cities do not allow law enforcement to do their jobs, which in turn leads to citizens not being protected by law enforcement when the time comes. Since these leaders will allegedly not cooperate with law enforcement, President Trump and the Justice Department intend on punishing them through cutting federal funding. Some of the criteria for cities to fall under the scope of the term “anarchist jurisdiction,” as laid out in the Justice Departments September 21st memo, are: whether a jurisdiction disempowers or defunds police departments and whether a jurisdiction refuses to accept offers of law enforcement aid from the Federal Government. According to the memo, cities may be added to the list as they fall under these criteria. In the coming weeks, there is expected to be more information released about what specific cuts in federal funding may occur.
The move to declare New York City, Portland, and Seattle as anarchist jurisdictions is perceived by many as a political move. The November 3rd election is looming, and President Trump is looking to make good on his promise to be a “law and order” candidate. Painting cities as “lawless zones” that he intends to help or put an end to, Trump grasps at straws as Election Day closes in. In recent national polls, Democratic candidate Joe Biden is favored at 51%, putting him eight points ahead of President Trump. Being that the election is so close, it is no coincidence that all three of the cities named in this recent announcement are Democrat-led. Any other cities that are added to the Justice Department’s list in the coming months would likely be Democrat-led, as well. The President has often criticized the leadership of these cities during the protests, and subsequent looting and rioting, earlier this year. The mayors of these three cities believe that if Trump follows through with his promise after labeling them anarchist jurisdictions, he would be breaking the law. In response to this threat, the mayors have also vocalized that they feel the President’s move is purely political and unconstitutional. There are already legal wheels turning, with New York Attorney General Letitia James stating that she is preparing a lawsuit to challenge President Trump’s plan to withhold federal grant money.
President Trump has once again successfully manipulated the Constitution with his latest move; he claims he does not want Federal funds used in a way that violates the Government’s promise to “protect life, liberty, and property,” yet, he cuts funding instead of redirecting it in a more productive way or attempting to get to the root of the problem.
The protests that have been going on in recent weeks are nothing new here in the U.S. since police-involved shootings have been prompting people to gather an protest for change. However, incidents involving these protests are becoming increasingly violent. We still see ongoing protests in cities like Kenosha, Portland, Rochester, and Lancaster. In the past few weeks, we have seen incidents where Trump supporters clash with protesters, as well as protesters clashing with counter-protesters. The protesters are trying to get across a point: systemic racism is real, and the police target minority groups. The Black Lives Matter movement exists to further gain equality for black people in America; however, the right sees it as a movement to dismantle and destroy our democracy.
A few weeks ago, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter, shot three protesters in Kenosha. Two of them were killed, while the other was injured. This is an act of vigilante-like justice by somebody who is underage, and we are seeing a lot of these acts coming from Trump supporters as of late. There was an instance in Portland where a pick-up truck full of Trump supporters drove into a crowd of protesters, firing paintballs and pepper spray. On August 29th, Aaron J. Danielson, an alleged counter-protester and member of right-wing group “Patriot Prayer,” was shot and killed at a protest in Portland when a caravan of Trump supporters clashed with protesters. The “Trump 2020 Cruise Rally” was involved in some back and forth with the counter-protesters, and when it escalated Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-proclaimed ANTIFA member, reportedly shot and killed Danielson. Later, Reinoehl was killed when law enforcement attempted to apprehend him in Olympia, Washington. Reinoehl allegedly emerged with a firearm when the U.S. Marshals arrived, and the federal task force shot and killed him.
It seems that the protests have been mostly peaceful during the daytime. When night falls, that is when we tend to see things get out of hand. While there have been instances where both sides are the agitators, there are also outside forces at play. Counter-protesters often arrive, and in some cases, make matters worse for everyone involved; we saw this with the tragic shooting of Danielson, and subsequent death of Reinoehl by federal law enforcement. One of the problems is that people who do not live in these cities, and who are often times not associated with Black Lives Matter, come to these cities to get people riled up. They come to the sites of the protests to antagonize and incite violence. Another problem that lends to protests turning violent is the presence of federal law enforcement. While they claim to be there to protect federal property, they often end up provoking protesters with the use of tear gas, and the threat of violence. While the Black Lives Matter protests are supposed to be helping to make a change for the better, outside factors often intervene and attention gets strayed away from their central message: to ensure fair treatment of black people by the state and negate the world of any bigoted, anti-black sentiments.
- To find out more about the organization’s mission, donate, or get involved, visit the Black Lives Matter website.
- For tips on how to stay safe during protests, visit this PDF published by Amnesty International.
- The National Lawyers Guild has a mass defense program for those who have been arrested or held during protests and need legal support.
“Police Wall of Shame” is a new Policing in America series by Laura Plummer that provides a chronology of all the shameful incidents within a single police department. Articles in this series will be updated to reflect new events as they occur.
September 11, 2020
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is the largest police department in California and the third largest in the country. Angelenos have been clamoring for meaningful police reform in recent months as the LAPD has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. From profiling Black citizens and allegations of misconduct to falsifying records and the fatal shooting of Dijon Kizzee, the LAPD has earned its place firmly in our Police Wall of Shame.
Date: April 22, 2020
Incident: An officer nicknamed Top Shot shot and killed 38-year-old Daniel Hernandez when he exited his vehicle following a crash. The clearly intoxicated Hernandez stumbled out of his car shirtless holding a box cutter. When he did not drop the weapon, the officer shot him six times.
Date: June 1, 2020
Incident: Four police officers allegedly surrounded a man’s vehicle and smashed his car window during a protest against police violence. Hundreds of complaints have been filed alleging police misconduct during demonstrations in the city. Supervisors also told officers to remove their body cameras during the unrest.
Date: June 2, 2020
Incident: During a protest against police brutality, officers pushed a 28-year-old man holding a sign and shot him in the groin at close range with a non-lethal projectile. The incident plainly violates the department’s use-of-force policy.
Date: July 10, 2020
Incident: Three officers were charged with labeling dozens of innocent people gang members and entering them into the state’s gang database in 2018. With the officers’ credibility challenged, all defendants with whom they have had contact since 2002 may have their convictions overturned. In addition, the LAPD announced it was investigating over 20 other officers for the same behavior.
Date: July 31, 2020
Incident: Officers defied state orders for social distancing and attended a party for first responders inside Hollywood’s Sassafras Saloon, despite the fact bars had been shut down since earlier that month.
Date: August 12, 2020
Incident: A woman sued the LAPD after one of its officers was caught on his own body camera fondling the corpse of her deceased daughter. The officer was responding to the woman’s death, which was determined to be the result of an accidental overdose.
Date: August 18, 2020
Incident: A report showed a rise in misconduct accusations against LAPD officers in 2019. Despite this, fewer officers were found guilty or received punishment than in previous years. Allegations included driving while intoxicated, biased policing, domestic abuse and neglect of duty.
Date: August 22, 2020
Incident: Officers allowed a heavily intoxicated driver to walk away from the scene of a crash he caused without charging him or forcing him to take a breathalyzer test. The drunk driver was white and driving a sports car.
Date: August 27, 2020
Incident: Officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd that was protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Date: August 31, 2020
Incident: A 29-year-old Black man was shot and killed by police over a bicycle. Dijon Kizzee had allegedly violated a bicycle vehicle code and was shot 20 times by officers while fleeing on foot.
Date: September 4, 2020
Incident: Despite a season of controversy, scandal and legal woes, LAPD officers were on track to get a raise. Mayor Eric Garcetti allocated $1.75 billion to pay department salaries, over half the entire operational budget of the department.
Date: September 8, 2020
Incident: A study revealed that Black people were more than twice as likely to be stopped by the LAPD than white people in 2018 and 2019, even though white people were ten percent more likely to be in possession of illegal contraband.
Date: September 17, 2020
Incident: A 26-year-old Muslim woman filed a federal lawsuit stating that police forcibly removed her hijab during a 2019 search. A hijab is a religious headscarf worn by some female practitioners of Islam and is protected under the religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Date: September 21, 2020
Incident: A report revealed that the LAPD was keeping its K9 unit dogs caged for days, including when the temperature reached a scorching 115 degrees. Video footage shows the dogs being kenneled for up to three days with little human interaction or exercise.
Incident: A woman sued the LAPD for the wrongful death of her father in police custody in 2019. The 50-year-old man was held on the ground by officers for several minutes until he lost consciousness. He died five days later.
Date: September 22, 2020
Incident: A report indicated that the LAPD downplayed its use of facial recognition technology, and in fact used it 30,000 times since 2009, including 3,750 times since February. Facial recognition technology is a tool to identify individuals on videos based on their facial features, but is notoriously bad at recognizing African-Americans and other minorities.
Residents and activists in LA are agitating for change. Black Lives Matter Los Angeles is energized. Its People’s Budget LA coalition is proposing significant cuts to the city’s police budget and demanding city leaders prioritize “care not cops”. A current Change.org petition is pushing for LAPD funding to go toward improving infrastructure, education and support services.
- People’s Budget LA, a coalition led by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles
- Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, a local chapter of the global Black Lives Matter movement
- Change.org petition to defund the LAPD
This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer. To add an incident involving the LAPD to this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the start of the 2016 NFL Preseason, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the National Anthem, as the rest of the players as well as stadium attendees stood, hand on heart. After receiving criticism for this tactic, Kaepernick and fellow 49er Eric Reid began kneeling. When asked for an explanation, Kaepernick explained to NFL Media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” The NFL followed with a statement clarifying that players are not required to stand, and that this is a matter of individual rights.
While Kaepernick’s response to the outrage his kneeling caused seems reasonable in 2020, it was not taken as such at the time. 2016 was the last season Kaepernick was signed to an NFL team. The reasoning behind that has been disputed, but curiously Donald Trump stated in 2017 that he was responsible for the former QB’s lack of employment. In 2018, Nike announced Kaepernick would be part of their anniversary campaign which resulted in a national boycott of the brand. Cut to present day: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell commented in June 2020, “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
Goodell is not alone in his apparent flip flop in acceptance and even support for kneeling as protest. This year, NBA, MLB, and NWSL teams kneeled during the National Anthem without much in the way of fallout. Players, most notably in the NBA, have utilized interview time to call for justice for victims of police brutality, namely Breonna Taylor. While Trump has no more understanding now than in 2016, most of the country seems to have accepted the notion. When fans saw that NHL players were not kneeling for the anthem, #kneel4hockey began trending on Twitter, accompanied by fan photos of themselves kneeling and encouraging the league to do as much or more.
This shift in acceptance no doubt stems from the Black Lives Matter activity of this year. Protests of police violence continue around the country, and as they are met with more police violence, shifts in perspective are no doubt happening. This is not to say that all of America agree with the protests; a recent CBS survey stated that 58% of Americans think kneeling is an acceptable means of protest. The same poll in 2018 showed only 36% thought it acceptable. It has been four years since Kaepernick first took a knee. With the NFL season quickly approaching, time will tell whether this trend will persist.
- Know Your Rights Camp is a youth program created by Colin Kaepernick in the wake of his activist status: www.knowyourrightscamp.com
- Black Lives Matter organizes protests and resources for the causes discussed in this article, including civil rights and justice from police brutality: www.blacklivesmatter.com