On Fri. March 13th, Breonna Taylor was shot six times by Lousiville police officers and bled to death on the floor of her own apartment.
Six months later, one officer is indicted for wanton endangerment for his crime of unloading a firearm of bullets aimlessly into an apartment building. The other two officers concerned with the murder, whose bullets killed 26-year-old Taylor, are uncharged. By the end of the week, an audio recording of the court deliberations that decided these charges will be released.
Taylor, as she has come to be known by the nation, was working as an EMT. She had begun a relationship with a man her friends and family liked, and was nurturing plans for the future when police broke through her door with a battering ram and killed her.
The jury concluded that the behavior of the two uncharged officers was justified. They had a warrant, they reportedly announced their arrival, and they were fired on once by Taylor’s boyfriend, who does not report hearing their announcement, who legally owns a gun, and who feared for his life. This came more than two weeks after city officials agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.
The ruling was met with a wave of protests across the country comparable to those that were in response to her death—this time with more fervor.
Tapes of the deliberations that decided Taylor’s case are now set to be released, as a result of an unnamed juror filing a complaint, claiming that the Republican Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron, mishandled Taylor’s case.
According to Rukmini Callimachi of the New York Times, the juror asked for the transcripts of the grand jury’s deliberations and a statement from the judge. Cameron agreed.
Cameron has since asked for a one-week delay that he says would allow him more time to ensure the privacy of witnesses. The preceding judge granted him a lesser extension of two days.
The release of the audio recording is set for tomorrow, exactly 29 weeks after Taylor’s untimely death.
For any American, 9/11 marks an essential day of reflection and remembrance. September 11, 2020 marks the nineteenth anniversary of the historic terrorist attacks that rocked New York City, shocking the United States and the world.
19 years ago, four passenger jets were hijacked by the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda in an effort to strike at American symbols. One was flown into the Pentagon Military Headquarters in Washington D.C. Another two, most remembered of the four, were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City as Manhattan looked on in horror. A fourth, upon hearing news of the other hijackings, realized their plane was also under attack and chose to fight back, resulting in their plane plunging into a Pennsylvania field. In sum, roughly 3,000 lives were loss, with 2,700 of them being in New York City. The toll of lives and on the psyche of Americans was hitherto unimaginable, as was the ensuing consequences including the now infamous War on Terror.
The victims of 9/11 have been commemorated in numerous ways across the country, including at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum opened on the tenth anniversary of the attacks. The memorial is located where the Twin Towers formerly stood, now marked with design features such as man-made waterfalls, a forest of white oak trees, and the inscribed names of the victims as part of the memorial. This long-awaited memorial site has since been part of the commemorations each year, with 2020 being no exception. Visitors such as Vice President Pence and Democratic nominee for president Joseph Biden were among the attendees today.
New York is especially reflective this year as the anniversary of 9/11 comes during the COVID-19 pandemic, of which the city was an early epicenter, resulting in thousands of lives lost. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was thrust onto the national stage following the New York outbreak, said “This year it is especially important that we all appreciate and commemorate 9/11, the lives lost and the heroism displayed as New Yorkers are once again called upon to face a common enemy.” In NYC, the current death count due to coronavirus is placed at 23,000. This year, at the somber moments held at the September 11 memorial in Manhattan, those paying their respects wore face masks while honoring the dead, a new feature in remembering 9/11. New York remains a fixture of American culture, with eyes turned towards them during the tragedy of 9/11, as well as the current tragedy of coronavirus.
Another way victim’s families, including those killed and affected during rescue efforts, is the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, currently authorized through 2090 and worth billions of dollars. “Our nation owes each of you a profound debt that no words or deeds will ever repay,” President Trump said during the bill signing ceremony. “But we can, and we will keep our nation’s promise to you.” Certainly, monetary efforts are no replacements for the lives loss and the impacts made, but it represents Congress’ efforts to assist those left in the wake of the tragic attacks.
The Greek Islands attract thousands of tourists every year, but many are oblivious to the refugee crisis that is plaguing the country. Greece is an access point to Europe for those fleeing countries in the Middle East and South and Central Asia.
On September 9, 2020 over 12,000 of the countries 50,000+ refugees were displaced after a fire raged at the Moria refugee camp. The Moria camp is Europe’s largest refugee camp, according to The New York Times, and is overrun with overpopulated tents, makeshift toilets and little to no access to water and healthcare.
The camp, which is located on the Greek Island of Lesbos, burned as fires were set by those living there over two days, the Associated Press reported. “The first one Tuesday evening set by residents angered by quarantine measures imposed to contain a COVID-19 outbreak after 35 people tested positive.”
While officials say the fire was started my the refugees in the camp, some migrants told BBC, “the fire had broken out after scuffles between migrants and Greek forces at the camp. Several blamed “far-right Greeks” for the blaze after the announcement of coronavirus cases.”
While no deaths have been reported in the aftermath of the fires, “some people experienced breathing problems because of smoke inhalation,” NPR reported.
Many feared that a disaster was on the brink for years as the 12,000 refugees were living on land only meant for about 3,000 in extreme inhumane conditions.
Since 2015, the Moria camp has taken in refugees when almost 850,000 people seeking asylum travelled into the EU. When the camp first started, people would only stay for a few days before being let into other European countries; however, “that changed drastically in March 2016, when the EU signed its so-called refugee deal with Turkey. Since then, refugees have had to endure long stays before being sent to other EU countries or being deported,” DW.com explained.
With the refugee crisis once in the headlines again, humanitarian groups are urging people to get involved and also educated themselves on the crisis.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) says that most refugees end up settling in Greece and need help with unemployment as the rate of unemployment is high across the country. Many unaccompanied minors and women make up the population of refugees in Greece and are at risk of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. With many refugees displaced, these dangers are at an all time high.
On Friday, August 28, 2020, tens of thousands of Americans from all racial, religious and geographic backgrounds gathered in Washington, D.C. on the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington to recommit themselves to the fight for justice; a fight that calls for the eradication of systemic racism, police reform and full and open access to the ballot box in November’s presidential election and beyond.
Others joined virtually from cities and states across the world to show their solidarity and to call for longstanding change. You can watch the complete coverage here on C-Span.
The day was empowering. Reverend Al Sharpton issued a clarion call for the next steps. Between now and November, National Action Network will organize voting education brigades and train poll workers to work the polls on Election Day. Our vote will not be suppressed.
According to CBS News, “Sharpton first announced plans for the march during a memorial service for George Floyd, the 46-year-old father who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.” After the unjust killing of Floyd at the hands of police, cases of police brutality against the black community gained media attention, sparking protests across the world.
Many of those families who had been dismantled because of this violence epidemic had the opportunity to speak at this year’s march, coined the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” Commitment March on Washington. Philonise Floyd, George Floyds brother, and Tamika Miller, mother of Broenna Taylor who was killed in her home by police, both took the podium to speak to the crowd. NPR reported that Floyd told the crowd, “My brother, George, he’s looking down right now. He’s thankful for everything that everybody is doing right now. Our leaders, they need to follow us while we’re marching to enact laws to protect us.”
The March also hoped to bring attention to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. According to the New York Times the bill would, “overhaul law enforcement training and conduct rules to try to limit police misconduct and racial bias.” Which comes after months of protest demanding the defunding of police departments and more education for those pursuing a career in law enforcement.
We will work tireless to push for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, named in honor of our beloved Congressman who recently passed away after a heroic battle with cancer. You can read more about these proposed pieces of legislation below.
More importantly, if you are not registered to vote, please do so today. Most states are offering mail-in and early voting. The 2020 presidential election may be the most significant election of our lifetime. Key issues that impact the civil rights community will be on the ballot. Additionally, you will want to make your voice known in your local elections, particularly on issues relating to education.
• Click here to find out deadlines for registering to vote.
• Call your Senators and urge them to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
Organizers originally estimated that there would be 100,000 protestors, according to the Washington Post; however, following a permit from the National Park Service that number was decreased to an allowed 50,000.. Organizers urged protesters to abide by COVID regulations by keeping social distance, causing some to step out into the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool in efforts to keep a six-foot distance.
Even with this cut, the immense power of the crowd was still felt. Protestors filled the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park holding signs painted with the faces of those who have been murder by police, calls voter registration and the dauntless reminder of the 8 minutes and 46 second George Floyd was pinned at the neck by an officer.
Martin Luther King III, King Jr’s son, spoke at the rally on the 57th anniversary of his father’s historical speech. CNN reported King III said, “If you’re looking for a savior, get up and find a mirror. We must be (our own) hero.” He reminded the crowd that quoting his father who died for this movement was not enough. King III stressed the importance of this generation of protestors to continue their activism and to vote in this upcoming election.
2020 has been a historical year engulfed by the flames of a pandemic and police brutality which both disproportionately affect black Americans. This years march served as a reminder that 57 years later, King’s dream has a long way to go and the fight for racial equality is still emanating through out America.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives. This bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It includes measures to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, to enhance transparency and data collection, and to eliminate discriminatory policing practices. The bill facilitates federal enforcement of constitutional violations (e.g., excessive use of force) by state and local law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:
• lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,
• limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer, and
• authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination.
The bill also creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct. It establishes a framework to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels. The bill establishes new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, including to report data on use-of-force incidents, to obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to wear body cameras.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act
This bill establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices in these areas may take effect. (Preclearance is the process of receiving preapproval from the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before making legal changes that would affect voting rights.)
A state and all of its political subdivisions shall be subject to preclearance of voting practice changes for a 10-year period if (1) 15 or more voting rights violations occurred in the state during the previous 25 years; or (2) 10 or more violations occurred during the previous 25 years, at least one of which was committed by the state itself. A political subdivision as a separate unit shall also be subject to preclearance for a 10-year period if three or more voting rights violations occurred there during the previous 25 years.
A state or political subdivision that obtains a declaratory judgment that it has not used a voting practice to deny or abridge the right to vote shall be exempt from preclearance. All jurisdictions must preclear changes to requirements for documentation to vote that make the requirements more stringent than federal requirements for voters who register by mail or state law. The bill specifies practices jurisdictions meeting certain thresholds regarding racial minority groups, language minority groups, or minority groups on Indian land, must preclear before implementing. These practices include changes to methods of election, changes to jurisdiction boundaries, redistricting, changes to voting locations and opportunities, and changes to voter registration list maintenance.
The bill expands the circumstances under which (1) a court may retain the authority to preclear voting changes made by a state or political subdivision, or (2) the Department of Justice may assign election observers. States and political subdivisions must notify the public of changes to voting practices.
The bill revises the circumstances under which a court must grant preliminary injunctive relief in a challenge to voting practices.
In the most recent incident to incite protests against injustices across the nation this summer, a Black man has been shot in Wisconsin. Jacob Blake, witnesses said, was attempting to break up an argument between two women. Following this, he walked back towards his silver SUV this past Sunday, August 23rd while being trailed by a police officer involved in the confrontation. As three of his children watched from their vehicle, the police officer proceeded to fire seven times at Blake’s back and close range. One can only imagine the trauma for his sons. As of today, Blake remains hospitalized in serious condition, but is expected to survive.
The incident, caught on video, has gone similarly viral to other violent misconducts by the police over the course of spring and summer 2020. The officers involved in Blake’s shooting have been placed on administrative leave and have shocked the small city of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests across the city have motivated Governor Evers to call in the National Guard, though he attempted to assure constituents it was not in an effort to mimic clashes between protesters and servicemen in places like Seattle, Minneapolis, or New York. Minor confrontations have occurred over the past two days despite this.
Following George Floyd’s murder this past May, protests against the police and in favor of the movement Black Lives Matter have exploded across the country. Blake’s shooting has added fuel to the fire, inspiring renewed protests and calls to action all across the nation. The incident in Kenosha has furthered the call for cities to cut funding to police departments, restructure their legal practices, amongst other changes.
Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers tweeted in support of Jacob Blake and in condemnation of the actions of police officers involved: “I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and country for far too long. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.” The Governor also signed an executive order into Wisconsin’s state legislature for a special session to pass legislation and police reforms for August 31st. The reforms are expected to be fought by the state’s Republican leadership.
Calls from the countries Democratic leadership have come again for immediate reform, including the voice of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as he “wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force.” President Trump has not commented directly on the shooting, but Vice President Pence made a statement yesterday emphasizing the administration’s loyalty to their men and women in blue.
The situation involving the shooting of Jacob Blake and ensuing actions in Kenosha, Wisconsin continues to develop.
Yesterday, three police officers in Cedar Park, Texas, were shot while responding to a call at a home.
The officers, two of which went home Sunday night and one having had surgery on Monday morning, were responding to a 3:10 pm call from a woman who said her son had kicked a door in and was acting aggressively. The man barricaded himself inside the home, holding three family members (his mother, sister, and brother) hostage after the shooting.
The man remained in the home throughout the night as negotiators contacted him via direct phone line in attempts to get him to release the hostages. A helicopter circled above and dozens of emergency vehicles lined the streets.
The man released his brother, sister, and a small dog at around 8 am on Monday and his mother later that morning. By 9 am, the standoff had ended and the man had peacefully surrendered to the police after over 16 hours. Harmon said that the mother played a large role in getting her son to release his siblings and that officials were “counting on her help to get her son to exit the house and surrender peacefully.”
Harmon stated that the police had a history at the residence, but did not provide details.
“There are some mental health issues,” Harmon declared, and the officers want to “get this person the help they need.”
A mutation of the COVID-19 virus called D614G has been discovered in Southeast Asia, mostly in Malaysia and the Philippines but also in China. The outbreak can be traced back to a man who did not quarantine after his trip from India, causing a 45-case outbreak in Malaysia. The man has since been fined and sentenced to five months in prison. D614G is the leading strain in the United States and Europe, after being discovered in Chicago in June. Now the mutation is quickly spreading across Asia and the entire world.
The mutation is estimated to be up to 10 times more infectious, but “We still don’t have enough solid evidence to say that that will happen,” says Phillipines’ Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Verviers. A study from Johns Hopkins points to evidence showing that the new virus is not more deadly than the previous strain. Benjamin Cowling of University of Hong Kong agreed: “(D614G) might be a little bit more contagious. We haven’t yet got enough evidence to evaluate that.” A Cell Press paper also corroborates this, saying that the strain will most likely not impact vaccine development. However, Malaysia’s Director-General of Health, Noor Hisham, warns that this may mean that vaccine studies may be incomplete without accounting for the new strain.
A mutating virus is far from an exceptional thing, because it is how they can continue to spread. In fact, the genome of the coronavirus changes about 2 times a month, according to Science Magazine. Some of them help the virus reproduce, others damage it, and some are neutral. These changes can be just a single letter in the genetic code, but it can make the virus much more transmissible. Dr Thushan de Silva, at the University of Sheffield, says that there is not enough evidence to say whether the D614G mutation helps or harms the virus, but he knows that it is not neutral.
This comes as the FDA has just granted emergency authorization for COVID-19 spit tests, which will make testing much easier and much wider spread. The SalivaDirect test, developed at Yale University, will expedite testing by eliminating a time consuming step in the process.
Meanwhile, the United States passes 170,000 deaths from the virus, with infections of children rising as they return to school. New information from the CDC says that rates of COVID-19 in children are increasing. While they make up only 7% of cases in the country, they are responsible for over 20% of them. In addition to this, and in contrast to previous beliefs, “Recent evidence suggests that children likely have the same or higher viral loads in their nasopharynx compared with adults and that children can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings.”
Data to reinforce this claim can be found in the rising cases among children at schools that have already reopened, including 7,000 in Alabama. Many schools have debated or committed to reversing course and going online. These rising cases correlating with schools reopening “may explain the low incidence in children compared with adults,” says the CDC, suggesting that children’s perceived resistance to transmitting the virus may have been partly a result of simply staying inside – a sobering reminder of the ever changing narrative of COVID-19.
Evacuations, power outages, flooding and devastation are expected from the c and rain that wreak havoc on coastal communities during hurricane season. Managing the damages and protecting communities is further challenged by the threat of COVID-19 as the Tropical Storm Isaias’ violent path continues up the East Coast.
Designated a tropical storm near Puerto Rico, Isaias began to travel northwest hitting the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Florida and North Carolina, where it was assessed as a Category 1 hurricane. As it persisted up the East Coast the intensity reverted back to a tropical storm. Regardless, Isaias has been accompanied by strong winds between 60mph – 70mph, over 20 reports of tornadoes, rampant flash flooding and over 3 million homes and business without power. In New Jersey and Delaware the wind gust reached speeds of 109mph and 96mph, respectively.
A report from USA Today, warns that recent 2020 hurricane season forecasting reveals 10 more hurricanes will likely follow, leaving Isaias as a practice run for a hurricane during a pandemic. With that in mind, evacuations needed to be addressed cautiously in consideration of social distancing and other COVID-19 preventative measures. The combination of COVID-19 and Isaias has heightened concerns for emergency services which face overwhelming demands. The COVID-19 consequences of Isaias remain undetermined, but a potential spike in infections could be in our future.
On June 29, 4-year old LeGend Taliferro was killed by gunfire in Kansas City, Missouri. He had fallen asleep inside his pillow fort and at around 2am he was murdered in a targeted shooting of his apartment, according to the Kansas City Police Department.
Having been diagnosed with a heart defect shortly after birth, LeGend received his first open-heart surgery at just 4 months old. His mother, Charron Powell, said that her only child “has the heart of a lion” and was always excited to create awareness for conditions similar to his.
As a result of this horrific murder and spiking crime rates in St. Louis Attorney General, William Barr, announced “Operation LeGend” on July 8. This Justice Department initiative has directed agents from the FBI, DEA, ATF, and US Marshals Service to supplement local law enforcement agencies with the aim of cracking down on illegal gun trafficking and aiding ongoing homicide investigations.
In total, 225 federal agents were sent to Kansas City to help the 400 federal agents already located in the metro area. US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Tim Garrison, announced on July 31 that 97 arrests have been made by federal and local law enforcement since the launch of Operation LeGend. Five arrests were made for homicide, but other offenses cited were drug trafficking, robbery, and child molestation.
However, this has not been the extent of federal intervention in US cities. In a Fox News phone interview, the President stated “We’ll go into all of the cities, any of them. We’re ready.” Such a statement is emblematic of the President’s desire to make federal policing a key part of his Nixonian “law and order” campaign strategy. Undoubtedly, he is hoping to appeal to suburban voters worried about crime spilling into their neighborhoods from urban centers. The President also claimed that he was prepared to dispatch “50,000, 60,000 people” into American cities.
Trump has presented increasing crime rates in cities as a partisan issue whereby Democrat-run cities are the most dangerous places in the country largely due to their leadership’s political affiliation. Overall, out of the 50 largest cities in the US the homicide rate has increased by 25% in cities with Democratic mayors and by 15% in Republican-run cities revealing a decidedly bipartisan issue despite the President’s best efforts.
Operation LeGend’s coordinated law enforcement plan has now expanded into Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee. Reasons for this move include a 54% increase in homicides in Chicago from last year, a 7% increase in Detroit’s violent crime compared to the previous year while each of Cleveland’s 5 police districts are coping with an increase in shootings of around 20%.
Such statistics reveal a problem in many US cities, yet the question remains as to whether this problem can or should be solved through federal intervention or whether this, being a local issue, should be remedied via local resources.
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