This article was originally published on ACLU in September 2016.
The ACLU of Connecticut is suing state police for fabricating retaliatory criminal charges against a protester after troopers were recorded discussing how to trump up charges against him. In what seems like an unlikely stroke of cosmic karma, the recording came about after a camera belonging to the protester, Michael Picard, was illegally seized by a trooper who didn’t know that it was recording and carried it back to his patrol car, where it then captured the troopers’ plotting.
“Let’s give him something,” one trooper declared. Another suggested, “we can hit him with creating a public disturbance.” “Gotta cover our ass,” remarked a third.
ACLU affiliates around the country have done a lot of cases defending the right to record in public places, but this case (press…
Calls to “cancel rent” are catching fire. First came a couple of tweets on Twitter. Then progressive firebrands like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed the #CancelRent movement. Now, millions are on a rent strike. Even presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has declared his support for rent and mortgage forgiveness. As millions of tenants mobilize to cancel rent, they are not asking nicely or relying on…
This is a bleak but fascinating documentary about the downside of so-called “progress” associated with the two century-long fossil fuel age. Starting with the replacement of wood with coal in the early 18th century, the film examines each new technological innovation the ruling elite celebrates as “progress.” By the end of the film, it is alarmingly clear that the great majority of the global population has paid an enormous price for this progress, in terms of chronic exposure to toxic chemicals and radionucleotides, global warming, near total deforestation, collapse of our fish stocks, colonization, massive poverty, and destruction of formerly vibrant public spaces by the automobile.
In the filmmaker’s view, what is commonly called “progress” are actually wealth making schemes that have made a few hundred people fabulously wealthy by destroying the health and wellbeing of…
Protesters – particularly in cities that have struggled to control the novel coronavirus – should “highly consider” getting tested for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, a top US health official said on Thursday.
“Those individuals that have partaken in these peaceful protests or have been out protesting, and particularly if they’re in metropolitan areas that really haven’t controlled the outbreak … we really want those individuals to highly consider being evaluated and get tested,” Robert Redfield, director for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a US House of Representatives committee.
Redfield also said the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to be a close colleague in public health efforts. US President Donald Trump said on Friday that the US will end its relationship with the WHO over the body’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Minneapolis, United States – Eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence. Eight minutes, 46 seconds of prayer. For eight minutes and 46 seconds, thousands in Minneapolis, Minnesota, stood silently with their heads bowed to remember George Floyd, the unarmed Black man killed by police here last week.
It was the same amount of time that a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck as he cried out: “I can’t breathe.”
It was an amount of time that has become a rallying cry across the United States against police brutality and violence against Black people.
“That’s a long time,” said Reverend Al Sharpton, who eulogised Floyd on Thursday in Minneapolis.
“There’s no excuse. They had enough time, they had enough time,” he told the gathering.
“George Floyd’s story has been the story of Black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck,” he added. “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!'”
Thursday’s service was the first of several memorials scheduled before Floyd will be buried in Houston, Texas, where he grew up on Tuesday. A weekend memorial is scheduled in North Carolina, where Floyd was born.
Philonise Floyd told mourners that his brother was like “a general” and people wanted to follow him.
Philonise described George Floyd as a man who made people feel “like the president”. People “wanted to greet him, wanted to have fun with him,” he said.
Philonise spoke alongside other members of George Floyd’s family, each remembering Floyd as a kind and good man. Fridays, civil rights leaders, celebrities and politicians listened closely, at times breaking out in applause for what was being said. Thursday’s event was part memorial, part a call to action to end police violence and the culture that many say has led to the deaths of so many African-Americans and other people of colour at the hands of people.
“What we saw in that video was evil. So America … as we memorialise George Floyd, do not accept evil,” said Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer who is representing the Floyd family.
“Protest against evil. We cannot cooperate with evil. We cannot cooperate with torture,” Crump said.
‘Floyd’s spirit is alive’
While the memorial was invite-only, thousands of people gathered not far from the site it was held, listening intently to the service on loudspeakers. One person in the crowd described the eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence as a “powerful” moment.
“I’m not gonna give up, and we’re not gonna give up until this world changes,” said Zenzele Isoke in the park where the public gathered to listen to the service.
“[Floyd’s] spirit is alive in every breath that I draw,” she said. “He’s looking down and he’s with us, so actually we’re closer together now than we’ve ever been.”
Mahlet Aschenaki said Thursday’s event was important so people could start to heal.
“It’s important for us to come together and grieve because we have been out there cause of our anger, and now it’s important to come together in the grieving process,” Aschenaki said. “I think it’s really good for the community to all be here, show their support and overall just be here for his family.”
‘This is the era to deal with policing’
Floyd’s death, captured on a video seen worldwide, set off mass protests over police and former law enforcement killings of unarmed Black people, including Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta, Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Sharpton announced he and Floyd’s family will lead a march in Washington, DC, on August 28, the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s original March on Washington, which drew hundreds of thousands of people.
“We’re going back to Washington,” Sharpton said. “This is the era to deal with policing and criminal justice.”
Sharpton’s emotive words came a day after prosecutors announced new charges against the four now-fired officers involved in the death.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, had his previously announced third-degree murder charge upgraded to second-degree murder. He also faces a second-degree manslaughter charge.
The other three officers face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four are in custody.
The charges were one of the key demands of protesters, who have rallied daily for more than a week in cities across the US. But protesters have vowed to continue marching to demand an end to police violence and more systemic reforms.
“We don’t have a problem denouncing violence,” Sharpton told mourners on Thursday.
“We don’t have a problem denouncing looting … but it seems like some in the criminal justice system have a problem looking at a tape, and knowing there’s probable cause,” he said. “America, this is the time of dealing with accountability in the criminal justice system.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged people not to attend Black Lives Matter protests that are expected to take place in major cities around the country this weekend as the New South Wales government took court action to try and stop the rally there from going ahead, citing the risk of coronavirus.
Organisers expect thousands of people to attend rallies in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities that aim to focus attention on Australia’s poor record on police treatment of Indigenous people, including 432 deaths in custody since 1991 when a landmark inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody reported its findings. None of its recommendations have been implemented.
The protests have split opinion, with some state police and lawmakers approving the action despite the health risks. Morrison said people should find other ways to express their anger.
“The health advice is very clear, it’s not a good idea to go,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. “Let’s find a better way and another way to express these sentiments … let’s exercise our liberties responsibly.”
In New South Wales, the state with the largest population in Australia, the state government on Friday went to the Supreme Court to try and stop the rally in Sydney from going ahead.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the authorities were concerned about the potential size of the rally, which had been given the go-ahead initially on the expectation no more than 500 people would take part.
Thousands of Australians have already joined rallies this week that began after George Floyd’s death in the United States. There was a large turnout on Friday in Canberra, the country’s capital.
“We’ve had more than 20 years of Reconciliation,” Geraldine Atkinson and Marcus Stewart, co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, wrote in a column for broadcaster SBS.
“Our leaders speak out, our academics map pathways to change. Every time we lose one of our own, our people march in the streets. Our writers, filmmakers, painters and musicians tell our stories. Somehow we’re still unseen. Our history of police killings is still unknown. The page of injustice is turned, and the statistics revealed to a blind eye because it apparently doesn’t happen here.”
Australia has been easing coronavirus restrictions after cases fell to daily single-digit and low double-digit numbers in recent weeks. The country has 490 active cases, with just 25 people in hospital.
A rare public rift has opened between United States President Donald Trump and senior military leaders over Trump’s threats to use troops against protesters as the US braces for another day of unrest and mourning following the death of George Floyd.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper broke publicly with Trump on Wednesday in an appearance at the Pentagon and said active-duty military troops should not be used to quell the protests. Other military leaders soon followed.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations,” Esper said.
General Mark Milley, the top US commander, later the same day issued a memo to military leaders reminding them of their oaths to protect the US Constitution and the “right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly”.
The rare disagreement between a president and his generals comes at a time when Trump is facing plummeting public support for his handling of the simultaneous crises of the coronavirus pandemic, crushing unemployment and mayhem in the streets. Trump met with his top campaign advisers at the White House on Thursday after polls released on Wednesday evening suggested his prospects for re-election are tumbling, the Reuters news service reported.
Trump’s aggressive use of federal law enforcement in Washington, DC – and his threats to call in combat troops against protesters in cities across the nation – have alarmed even some Republican leaders and politicians who had been supporters of the president.
Trump’s former Trump defence secretary, General James Mattis, chimed in with a strongly worded statement criticising Trump directly for his divisive rhetoric during the protests.
“Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, DC, sets up a conflict – a false conflict between the military and civilian society,” Mattis said.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, told reporters at the US Capitol on Thursday that Mattis’s public letter rang true for her and she now is unsure whether to support Trump’s re-election.
“I thought General Mattis’s words were true and honest and necessary and overdue and I have been struggling for the right words,” Murkowski said. “Perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up.”
In remarks to the nation on June 1, Trump positioned himself as “the president of law and order” and promised to dispatch “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” to cities across the US.
Trump sparked outrage after the speech when federal officers forcibly cleared peaceful protesters from a public park near the White House so he could walk to a nearby church for a photo opportunity.
Retired General Martin Dempsey, a former top US commander, criticised Trump in a radio interview set to air on Friday.
“The idea that the military would be called in to suppress what for the most part were peaceful protests” is “very dangerous”, Dempsey said.
Irked by Esper’s comments, Trump called the defence secretary to a meeting at the White House late on Wednesday and confronted him about their disagreement, Bloomberg reported.
The president questioned senior White House aides about whether they thought Esper could continue to be effective in his job, according to the report.
Firing the secretary of defence would come with a political price, and while Trump may be unhappy with Esper undercutting his hardline stance on the potential use of troops, some Republicans in Congress sided with Esper instead of the president.
“He’s doing a good job,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican ally of Trump, told reporters at the Capitol, according to Politico.
“There’s no reason to let him go. That’s all just a bunch of chatter. I have confidence in Secretary Esper,” Graham said.
“He should be allowed to express his opinion and his advice should be heeded,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican.
“I hope he would stay on. I like him. We’ve got enough vacancies,” she said.
Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, defended Trump and pointed out to reporters on a conference call on Thursday that the president’s authority to use military force against violent protests has been used repeatedly by other presidents.
Since World War II, US presidents have used their authority to deploy the military to put down riots six times, most recently in Los Angeles in 1992.
“From the president’s point of view, he is going to protect our citizens and protect the nation and he has the right to do it,” McCarthy told reporters.
Democrats in Congress were less charitable.
“What is President Trump doing to this democracy? To the rule of law, the primacy of the Constitution?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said in remarks to the Senate.