• Fox News Is Losing It Over Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone

    The terrifying hellscape of Seattle's CHAZ.

    For much of Friday, Fox News’ website featured images of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone that were clearly photoshopped to depict the CHAZ as some sort of lawless hellscape guarded by heavily armed anarchists. Or anarchist, rather—Fox News used the same guy in both photoshopped images. The doctored photos were pulled when a Seattle Times reporter called them out. 

    The images were a mashup of photos from different days, shot by different photographers. Protesters have taken over a handful of blocks near a recently abandoned police precinct and turned it into a cop-free zone. While there have been instances of police shooting tear gas at protesters, the CHAZ has been mostly peaceful, with protesters screening movies and setting up food gardens and co-ops. On Friday, Fox News had no disclaimers that the images were manipulated in any way. The site also included an image of buildings burning under a “Crazy Town” headline for a story about Seattle’s CHAZ. That photo was taken May 30 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    Here’s one of Fox News’ CHAZ composites: 

    One of the manipulated images published on Fox News website June 12.
    Fox News via Seattle Times

    The Seattle TimesJim Brunner broke the story. He writes: 

    The network’s misleading and faked images were published as the Capitol Hill zone — quickly labeled CHAZ — became a political flashpoint for conservatives nationally and a target of tweets by President Donald Trump, who has branded the demonstrators “domestic terrorists” and threatened federal action unless local officials “take back” the area.

    In a statement, Fox News told Brunner, “We have replaced our photo illustration with the clearly delineated images of a gunman and a shattered storefront, both of which were taken this week in Seattle’s autonomous zone.” This isn’t true, as Brunner points out. The gunman photo was June 10, but the storefront images were taken May 30.

    Brunner tracked down the photographer who took one of the photos.  

    The June 10 photo of an unidentified man with a gun standing in front of a car in CHAZ was taken by Seattle freelance photographer David Ryder, who distributed the photo through Getty Images.

    The image, as displayed on the Fox News website, was spliced with other photos, including a photo of a smashed retail storefront in May, making it look as though the scene was all playing out concurrently in the autonomous zone. “It is definitely Photoshopped,” confirmed Ryder. “To use a photo out of context in a journalistic setting like that seems unethical.”

    Original photo taken June 10 in Seattle’s CHAZ
    Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images
    Altered image posted by Fox News
    Fox News via Seattle Times

    It’s a short step from manipulating the narrative around anti-racist protesters to manipulating images of them. Fox News took it as clumsily as possible. Three stories on the website now carry an editor’s note saying the “collage did not clearly delineate between these images, and has since been replaced.”

    Meanwhile, on TV, Fox News mistook a Monty Python joke for a sign of political infighting within the CHAZ:

    Here’s the gag being referenced:

     

  • A Sundown Town Sees Its First Black Lives Matter Protest

    A person holds up a placard that reads, 'Black lives matter' during a different protest in Detroit, Michigan, on May 29, 2020.Seth Herald / Getty Images

    This story was published in partnership with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

    The image on Facebook showed three raised fists — one white, one brown, one black — with the hashtag BLM overlaid in large letters. A date and place to meet was at the bottom: Thursday, June 4. The location: Anna, Illinois.

    A Black Lives Matter protest. In Anna?

    In November, I’d published a story about this small southern Illinois city’s reputation as a sundown town—a place where black people were not welcome after dark—and the legend about what Anna stands for: “Ain’t No N——— Allowed.” The article stirred up strong feelings in the town, where all public officials, police officers and nearly all teachers are white. While many current and former residents wrote to me to share their own stories about racism in the area, others decried the story as perpetuating the A-N-N-A reputation.

    A Black Lives Matter protest in Anna. Who was behind it? How many people would join? What would the reaction be?

    And what would this mean for A-N-N-A?

    “I was terrified to do this. I’m not going to lie,” said Jessica Moore, 25, one of the organizers.

    She added, “I’ve experienced racism in Anna my entire life.”

    Moore, who is biracial, grew up in Ullin, a small town about 20 minutes south of Anna. Her earliest memory of being a victim of racism in Anna happened when she was 8, she told me. As she was leaving the Anna Walmart with her mother, who is white, Moore said she remembers a woman screaming at her after she accidentally pushed a shopping cart into her car, repeatedly calling Moore the N-word. When she got older and started going to bars and restaurants in Anna, she said people would call her the N-word, too.

    Moore is one of a small group of young people in southern Illinois leading the region’s recent demonstrations against police brutality and in support of black lives, many in towns with histories like Anna’s. Most of the organizers did not know one another a month ago. And many, like Moore, are new to the cause.

    After she took part in her first protest in Paducah, Kentucky, on May 31, Moore said leaders there encouraged her to organize in her own community and gave her some tips. A few days later, a lightbulb went off: “It’s time to show Anna,” she thought.

    Anna resident Takiyah Coleman, 19, agreed. The two, along with several other young adults from the area, met with Anna Police Chief Bryan Watkins to explain their plan to protest. Watkins said he told them he wanted to ensure they felt safe coming to town to do so, but to also expect some opposition from residents.

    “We’ve never had a demonstration in town like this,” Watkins, who said he’s lived in Anna for 45 years, later told me. (He prefers to use the word “demonstrate” instead of “protest,” he said, because “people associate protest with rioting.”)

    When Watkins informed residents through his personal Facebook page about the event, the post prompted more than 350 shares and 600 comments, which ranged from curiosity to praise to fear.

    “I hope everyone is ready to protect their business with brute force!” wrote one commenter from the area.

    “How long do these things typically last??” wrote another.

    The comments reminded me of stories people in Anna have told me about rumors spreading through town in the late 1960s and early 1970s that black people from Cairo, about 30 minutes south, were coming up to Anna to riot. That never happened, but some residents remember waiting with guns in case it did.

    Anna City Council member Bryan Miller said he got received calls from residents concerned about the Black Lives Matter protest. He and I have been talking since November, when he commented on a Facebook post about my story, saying: “Uhm, I’m guessing [A-N-N-A] doesn’t go away because you keep writing about an issue that is long gone.”

    I’ve appreciated our frank discussions about the story and about his community. A new City Council member, Miller said he is determined to erase the A-N-N-A stigma. When residents called him with concerns about the protest, he said that he told them it was a chance to change Anna’s reputation, and that, “I expect you to do your part.”

    The day of the protest, a post on the official Facebook page for Anna expressed a similar sentiment: “In recent months, citizens were outraged over an article written about Anna. Well, actions speak louder than words. Tonight is our chance to show the world what we are made of.”

    Moore, one of the organizers, said she expected about 60 people to show up. She was wrong.

    Nearly 200 people marched through Anna’s streets. Many of them were young and white and described themselves as being from southern Illinois. Other area residents gathered along the route to watch an event many thought they’d never see.

    Alexis Steward, 21, who grew up in Anna and helped organize the march, said she spent much of it bawling. The tears started when she began to realize how many people had shown up. She remembered when she was bullied at Anna junior high. She said she wants Anna to be a place where she feels she could start a family, and where she wouldn’t have to worry about her children feeling the pain she felt growing up there.

    “I’ve always been shy,” Steward said. “Not anymore.”

    “We need more people who are educated, loud and who can stand for people who cannot.”

    When she marched past some Anna residents she recognized, who she said were screaming at the protesters to “get out of their town,” she said she knew she was doing something right.

    So, too, did Aveon Winfield, another organizer, who grew up in nearby Grand Chain. When he heard onlookers repeatedly use the N-word, Winfield, 21, said he kept his eyes fixed on the ground and marched on. Winfield’s mother has worked for years at a mental health center in Anna. He thought about her, a woman of color, spending her days in a town where some residents still used racial slurs.

    Coleman said she wanted the protest to show other residents that “change starts here.” Coleman and her family moved to Anna from Chicago three years ago, she said. She knew what Anna stood for but said she didn’t think much of it until a white customer at the local McDonald’s, where she worked, refused to let her pour his coffee.

    Among the marchers, too, was Easter Smith.

    I first met Easter in 2018, after a number of Anna residents suggested I speak with her. At the time, Smith and her six children were one of the few black families living in Anna. Her eldest son, Arieh, had won the Illinois state wrestling championship for his weight class. He was elected homecoming king of Anna-Jonesboro Community High School. I wrote about how the family challenged many white residents’ assumptions about black people while quietly struggling to balance their very public status in the community with the private pain of the racism they experienced.

    Easter said she has lost some friends in Anna and become more outspoken about her experience there since the story was published. Last week, her family moved about 20 minutes away, to Murphysboro. She said she would have liked to stay in Anna until her children finished school there, but she had trouble finding a comfortable home to rent. She decided to march before she left, she said, because she felt she “needed to see it.”

    “How are we going to be one of the first black families and not go to the protest?” Easter said.

    Early on during the protest, a speaker, who was white, reminded the crowd of the signs posted around the city limits in Arieh’s honor, a positive contrast to signs long rumored to have once warned black people to be out of town before dark.

    Two thoughts struck Easter. The first, she said, was that, as a black person in America, “Normally when your name is called in public, it’s because it’s in memorial.” The second: It “doesn’t take away racism because a black kid holds a title at your school.”

    The protest ended peacefully. Police made no arrests. No property was damaged.

    The protest was covered across the region and the focus of a Reuters story about small-town Black Lives Matter protests, which was republished by national news outlets.

    The headline of a story in the Southern Illinoisan referenced a chant repeated at the protest: “Ain’t No Negativity Allowed,” a new, positive twist on A-N-N-A.

    Miller, the City Council member, said he’s thinking about making yard signs for residents with the slogan. Everybody is welcome in Anna, he said.

    I asked him what he thinks can be done to show that beyond the protest.

    “It’s our responsibility to change everything that is going on around here,” Miller said. “If people were more just willing to talk to other people, things would change so much quicker.”

    I asked some of the organizers, too, whether Anna still deserves A-N-N-A.

    Moore didn’t think so, though she said, “There are people in Anna that still give Anna the name it has.”

    But Coleman disagreed. The town is still A-N-N-A, she said.

    “The people in the town have to change in order for that to change. They have to make it mean something else,” Coleman said. “They have to not be racist.”

    But, she added: “Change starts somewhere, and if a group of teenagers have to be the ones to do it, so be it.”

  • The Week Protesters Said Christopher Columbus Can Discover These Hands

    After being pulled down by Native American activists, a man kicks the statue of Christopher Columbus as it lays face down on the ground at the Minnesota State Capitol in Saint Paul on Jun 10, 2020.Chris Juhn / ZUMA

    Another week, another bunch of racist statues gone. This time it was Christopher Columbus, patron saint of problematic iconography, taking a tumble. On Tuesday and Wednesday, protesters pulled down a Columbus statue at the State Capitol in Minnesota, threw another one in Richmond, Virginia, into a lake, and beheaded a third in Boston. (The rest of the statue in Boston was also taken down the next day.)

    Plenty of ink has been spilled correcting the record on Columbus and reminding people that he was a slaver, a murderer, and a harbinger of settler colonialism in the Americas, and the arguments against celebrating his federal holiday have caught on in recent years. Still, it is significant that two of these monuments to Columbus were brought down by Indigenous people during demonstrations organized to acknowledge anti-Indigenous racism. 

    The recent protests were spurred by the killing of George Floyd and have focused on police brutality and anti-Black racism in the US, but they’ve made space to address a number of white supremacy’s sins against various peoples around the world. In toppling monuments, people are denouncing everything from the genocide of Indigenous peoples to the crimes of Leopold II in Congo.

    Christopher Columbus is the ur-colonialist, the symbol of all the injustices of Western history that flowed from his first voyage in 1492. The ubiquity of his image in cities throughout the Americas is an affront to the Black and Indigenous people who have been the primary victims of his legacy. Three toppled statues are just a start.

    The Columbus statues are the latest in a string of racist symbols that have been toppled, torched, occupied, or otherwise defaced in recent weeks. Read the full list here

  • What Will Replace the Minneapolis Police? The City’s Native American Community Has Some Ideas.

    Cyclists in Brooklyn gather to ride in protest of systemic racism in policing after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.Scott Heins/Getty

    Late one night at the end of May, as spray paint, fires, and looting reigned across Minneapolis, an Indigenous hip-hop artist named Tall Paul was roving the streets in a truck, looking for looters and arsonists. “It looked like that movie The Purge,” he says. “It was lawless.” Days before, Paul had joined the American Indian Movement Patrol, a group of Native Americans volunteering to maintain neighborhood safety and protect key buildings from destruction amid the rebellion. 

    Paul and the other volunteers on shift were on their way to check on the offices of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe when they saw four white teenagers looting a nearby liquor store. They stopped their truck and three of the teens fled, while Paul’s group caught up with the fourth. Soon his buddies returned, and all were made to lie on the ground so they couldn’t run away, then give their names and wait for a parent to come pick them up. The teens had driven 90 miles from suburban Wisconsin to take advantage of the chaos.

    With a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members pledging to disband their police force, many wonder, “What comes next?” Activists from communities of color say the answer has been lurking under the city’s nose all along: neighborhood-based initiatives that protect property and prevent violence. In Minneapolis, those groups—AIM Patrol, as well as First Nations United, the Little Earth Patrol, and the NAACP’s Minnesota Freedom Riders, among others—are not new, but today they share a common vision: Without police, communities can maintain their own safety with less brutality and more accountability.

    On Friday, the City Council voted unanimously to begin moving toward a “transformative new model” of public safety. “Safety is being able to decide who supports you,” says Arianna Nason of MPD150, a group that conducted a 150-year performance review of the Minneapolis Police Department. “It is absolutely imperative that we find community-based, community-controlled, bottom-up solutions.” 

    Native groups have a special place in the history of organizing, and of fighting police brutality, in Minneapolis. With about 150,000 Native Americans in its greater metro area, the city has been a major urban hub for Indigenous people since the federal government began moving them off reservations in the 1950s. In 1968, fed up with unlawful arrests, police violence, and poverty, a group of Natives in Minneapolis launched the American Indian Movement, an organization dedicated to addressing chronic neglect and abuse. AIM became a national civil rights group, unifying tribes across the country and successfully challenging a federal “termination” policy that aimed to end the special status of Indigenous peoples by withdrawing federal services and aid.

    From the beginning, members of AIM volunteered to patrol neighborhoods in order to document the Minneapolis Police Department’s rampant violence against Natives, which allegedly included coldblooded murders and rapes. As AIM co-founder Dennis Banks said at the time, police harassment was “an everyday fact for Indian peoples” in Minneapolis; the Black Panthers’ patrols had successfully reduced violence in their neighborhoods, “and we’re going to have to do the same.” Within a year, AIM Patrol claimed they’d seen 22 consecutive weeks without a Native being arrested, while in years prior they’d seen five or six Natives arrested per day. The Patrol has existed off and on ever since.

    Mike Forcia, who is Anishinaabe and has worked with the American Indian Movement since its early days, revived AIM Patrol from its most recent hiatus in 2010 after witnessing EMTs roughly handle the dying body of an Ojibwe elder who’d been violently attacked (the death was never investigated). Along the way, he’s had his own run-ins with racist Minneapolis police, and received a $125,000 settlement from their department after officers who “misidentified him” beat him during an arrest in 1999. Forcia says that incident began when he witnessed a Minneapolis police officer holding a gun to a Native girl’s head.

    Tall Paul, for his part, once saw a cop grope his mother during a traffic stop, and later watched police beat his older brother, then whisper that they’d kill him if he ever brought a lawsuit. 

    Though the current political moment focuses on violence against Black communities, police killings of Natives have long gone overlooked, in part because some departments don’t identify or track Indigenous victims. A CNN analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Native Americans were slightly more likely than Black people to die at the hands of law enforcement between 1999 and 2015, though the rates are often neck-and-neck—and deeply intertwined.

    In 2011, Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, was involved in the shooting of an Alaska Native named Leroy Martinez. (A witness claimed Martinez had surrendered his gun and had his hands in the air when he was shot.) Recognizing their common experience of police brutality, Native youth stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Black protesters throughout this year’s Minneapolis uprising. 

    For the past few years, AIM Patrol has been “under the radar,” says Forcia. His recruits walk the streets, deterring both police and intra-community violence by intervening or simply bearing witness to make accountability possible. Members can also be called upon to safely escort women, elders, or others who don’t feel safe moving through the neighborhood alone. Forcia has expanded the definition of Patrol duties to include cooking hot breakfasts for the unhoused and checking on overlooked neighbors.

    Compared to the police, Forcia says AIM Patrol has “a more hands-on, personal approach” to safety. “You do it with kindness and generosity, but you always have to be alert.” Though the reality is that some communities prefer armed patrols, Forcia emphasizes that real peace arises when people’s needs are being met. He says that like cops, AIM Patrol members are “never really off duty,” but that usually means helping people move, offering rides, and sitting with those who might hurt themselves. 

    “If it’s a mental health crisis, I feel like an armed cop shouldn’t be coming, because they’re gonna come with a warrior mentality,” says Paul, who is Ojibwe and Oneida. “Mental health workers could be called. If there’s an overdose, a medic could be called. It shouldn’t just be ‘cops or nothing.'” But as of now, “people don’t know who to call besides 911.”

    Paul and Forcia believe AIM Patrol could help fill that gap. Their group already helps with security for the city’s colorful Mayday Parade, and Forcia says he’s now in talks to support events in local parks, since the Minneapolis Park Board recently voted to cut ties with the police department.

    Forcia says Mayor Jacob Frey exempted AIM Patrol from the city’s curfew so that they could protect their community. Meanwhile, City Council member Jeremiah Ellison, the son of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, was driving around with a pistol and fire extinguisher to protect his home neighborhood in north Minneapolis, along with the Minnesota Freedom Riders, a group of volunteers organized by a local NAACP chapter. These patrols, as well as many others, acted as a deterrent against burning and looting, specifically protecting Black- and Native-owned businesses and community centers, they say.

    As my colleague Julia Lurie reported from Minneapolis:

    Residential neighborhoods formed security teams…equipped with block leaders, text threads, and schedules for sitting out on stoops with fire extinguishers. I ran into these community security guards repeatedly as I walked home around midnight after reporting on a protest a week after Floyd’s death. From their stoops, they asked me who I was, and then if I needed help. One man, standing on the corner with a team on Hennepin Avenue, said he would walkie talkie his neighbors down the street so they would know to expect me.

    As 92 percent of Minneapolis police officers live outside the city, Paul thinks it’s time for a localized approach to safety. “When it’s someone from the community, there’s accountability because everybody knows them,” he says. Unlike a police officer, “if I were to do something dirty or unjust to people I know, I would be held accountable.” Patrol members should “be on their feet, not in the car with a barrier between them and the people.”

    Certain Black activists, Minneapolis officials, and experts have embraced these arguments. Grassroots organizations Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective hosted the historic rally where nine of the city’s 13 council members pledged to initiate a transition away from policing and toward “a transformative model for cultivating safety.” When making his pledge, council member Phillipe Cunningham argued that the city has “poured [money] into the police department” while other groups “have been doing this work for decades and not getting paid.” In a press release, Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective, which both advocate for police abolition, acknowledged that their movement had been “built alongside the presence and legacy” of AIM Patrol, whose members attended the event.

    AIM Patrol could help replace the police “because it is supported by the community,” says Nason of MPD150. “I trust my relatives to take the right approach to my personal safety.”

    Yet Nason acknowledges that this type of solution could still beget profiling, harassment, and killings in communities where racism is rampant: Trayvon Martin was killed by an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer, and while police abolitionists say that certain situations should be handled by social workers instead of cops, the social work institution has its own racist tendencies. “Part of the work of abolition has to be shifting the mindset and culture that’s all around us,” says Nason. “We’re going to have to tackle that head-on with difficult conversations” about prejudice, gun laws, and more.

    Forcia has long covered AIM Patrol expenses, such as patrol car repairs, out of his own pocket, or by selling T-shirts in the community.  If Minneapolis were to divert some of its $189 million police budget to neighborhood groups like his, he could develop robust training programs, distribute information about gun laws and safety, and feed and clothe neighbors in need—because “why would you loot if you already have enough at home?” he asks.

    He’d also like to restart violence prevention initiatives like the American Indian–Somali Friendship Committee, which began bringing the two communities together for children’s basketball games and potlucks in 2010. While the project had some success in reducing neighborhood tensions, it folded after just a few years when city funding was cut.

    Riding the global wave of removing historically fraught monuments, Forcia on Wednesday led the charge to pull down a statue of Christopher Columbus that stood outside the Minnesota State Capitol. Even this is part of a larger vision to lift up local communities: He’d like to hold the state’s largest-ever powwow on the Capitol grounds (and he’s in talks with Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, who is also Anishinaabe, to make it happen). “We’d invite the Somali community, and the Aztecs and the Hmong and all of Minnesota, to get to know each other as brothers and sisters.”

    Forcia believes that investing in intercultural exchange, along with education, housing, and food, can heal the wounds that beget violence. “We certainly are hoping,” he says. “We’ve seen things in the past two weeks that I never thought would happen. You got Nancy Pelosi kneeling, so many cops kneeling…now is the time, and we are who we have been waiting for.”

  • The Pulse of Jazz Grounded in Freedom Movements

    John Coltrane at the Half Note in New York, 1965Adam Ritchie/Redferns via Getty

    When it’s said that you can hear the history of freedom movements in John Coltrane’s 1963 “Alabama,” it’s more than metaphor: Coltrane patterned his horn lines after Martin Luther King Jr.’s vocal inflections. He reworked the cadences of King’s speech after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the Ku Klux Klan, which killed four Black girls, into the song. King’s tone is remade in Coltrane’s rising saxophone solo, Elvin Jones’ crashing cymbals and percussive shots, McCoy Tyner’s rolling block chords, and Jimmy Garrison’s low-register groundswell. This is music that’s rooted in purpose, principle, and memory.

    And it’s especially relevant now. Coltrane’s “Alabama” of 1963 is an America of 2020:

    It’s far from the only entry in a necessary realm of politically engaged expression. I’ve been returning to a few recordings that, beyond their musical greatness, address this country’s open wounds and long history of racism directly. There are many songs for moments like this—it is never not a moment like this—when you don’t want to read between lines; you want to, or need to, or should hear chants grow and voices rise.

    There is “Dred Scott,” the riveting first track on 10 Freedom Summers, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith’s 2013 recording. The “summers” he chose are those between 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education and 1964’s Civil Rights Act, and each track points to a civil rights theme or event. The music is elegiac, mournful, and mountainous, summiting the heights in sound that this country hasn’t in society. Which might sound like an overly tight frame for the entire jazz canon, but this music hits multiple registers. Smith grew up less than 30 miles away from where Emmett Till was murdered, in Mississippi, in 1955, and sees the signposts. Give it a listen.

    Next: Smith again, here with the phenomenally talented, historically informed, and mesmerizing Vijay Iyer. The pianist—a MacArthur grant winner—has Amiri Baraka’s consciousness in his mind and music, and Cecil Taylor’s stature and clout to his name, but Iyer is a force unto himself. Smith and Iyer are joined by bassist Reggie Workman, tabla player Nitin Mitta, and vibraphonist Patricia Brennan:

    As a bonus, catch the heavier, sharper thunder of Iyer with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, a recording I’ve been spinning, and spinning, and spinning, as the days blur:

  • The Revolution Is in the Streets—And It Slaps

    Demonstrators marching to defund the Minneapolis Police Department dance on University Avenue on June 6, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

    Jubilation doesn’t arise in spite of protest—it’s present at the root. Coverage of this year’s uprisings has rightfully focused on the torrent of police brutality against protesters. But rebellion is also festive. It can be beautiful, joyful, and catchy. As Jewish anarchist Emma Goldman famously wrote about dancing in a revolution, freedom fighters shouldn’t “demand the denial of life and joy.” And as one organizer in Lexington, Kentucky, put it recently, “Black joy is a state of resistance.”

    People claiming their power have marched to brass bands in New Orleans, danced after curfew in Oakland, and chanted “fuck these racist-ass police” over techno beats in Detroit. We’re watching in real time as each city shows how it demands and celebrates the movement’s growing triumphs. Here are a few of our favorites:

    Detroit is a lot of things, but it doesn’t get enough credit as the birthplace of techno music. Just like Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder (and yours truly), techno is from Detroit and techno is Black—despite what the dance floors of Europe would have you think. How fitting, then, for techno to serve as the score to remix a chant about police brutality as protesters marched through the city proclaiming the importance Black lives. Motown music has always been movement music, and techno is no exception. —Camille Squires

    OK, so this was actually filmed in February. But iMarkkeyz—the DJ behind the Cardi B coronavirus remix we were all singing two months ago—was prescient in auto-tuning Johnniqua Charles’ takedown of the security guard detaining her outside a South Carolina club, because “you about to lose yo’ job” has since been bumped in the streets of Minneapolis and weaponized against cops, mayors, and the president. —Delilah Friedler

    When I lived in New Orleans, I never went to a protest march that didn’t feel like a parade. The city has always danced through its pain—residents celebrated Mardi Gras six months after Hurricane Katrina, and are famous for mirthful jazz funerals. Their response to the uprising is no exception; these protesters reveled in the French Quarter. —Delilah Friedler

  • Top Military Official Apologizes for Appearing in Trump Photo Op

    Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Zuma

    The nation’s top military official apologized Thursday for appearing in a photo op with President Trump, for which police cleared the way by tear-gassing peaceful protesters.

    “I should not have been there,” Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a prerecorded address to the National Defense University. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

    Milley’s statement follows a stern rebuke of the stunt by former Defense Secretary James Mattis and represents a significant departure from the Trump administration’s often sycophantic obedience to the president’s whims. His comments also contrast with congressional Republicans’ general refusal to condemn the president’s authorization of violence against civilians exercising their right to peaceably assemble.

    “As a commissioned, uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it,” Milley said. “We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation, and we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the essence of our republic.”

    Watch the video below:

  • He Went to a Black Lives Matter Protest in Phoenix—and Ended Up in ICE Custody

    Phoenix police keep protesters away from police headquarters on May 30.AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

    On May 30, Johan Montes Cuevas heard about a protest against police brutality in Phoenix from a couple of friends. They got together and talked about going downtown to watch thousands march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Montes Cuevas was unsure about going, “since I obviously have to be more careful because of my status.” In the end, he decided to go.

    As the night went on and the protest grew in size, Montes Cuevas remembers being impressed with the large turnout. “That goes to show how much people care,” he thought to himself. “We all just want equality.” Eventually, his fiancee called and told him to go home, just to be safe—she is a US citizen, but Montes Cuevas is not. “I just never thought anything would happen,” he told me.

    The three friends stayed a bit longer before heading back to their car to leave. As they sat in traffic, the police showed up. One of Montes Cuevas’ friends posted a video on social media showing police officers pulling people out of cars to arrest them. Soon, the three of them found themselves on the ground, at the feet of a group of Phoenix cops holding riot shields. They were booked and charged with rioting, alongside some 100 other people arrested in downtown Phoenix that night.

    The next morning, as people were released from jail and started heading home, Montes Cuevas, one of his friends, and two other undocumented people who also had been picked up at the protest were surprised to find Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents waiting to take them into custody as soon as they stepped outside.  

    As protests spread across the country following George Floyd’s death in late May, so did warnings to undocumented immigrants thinking about joining the demonstrations. Messages on social media warned that ICE officers were on the ground: “ICE is at the protest, if you’re undocumented leave!” one person tweeted. “Please if you’re of undocumented status or have DACA PLEASE PRIORITIZE YOUR SAFETY FIRST! ICE is taking advantage,” read another tweet. “CBP and ICE agents are at protests across the country. They have made claims to the media they aren’t going to arrest people, but we know they are notorious liars,” tweeted the advocacy group United We Dream. “Stay alert. Plan ahead.” There were soon online guides with resources on what undocumented people could do to stay safe, because an arrest at a protest has the potential to end in deportation.

    Montes Cuevas, 22, didn’t see those posts online. He was born in Mexico but has lived in Phoenix since he was six months old and says he considers himself “more American than Mexican sometimes.” Over the last few years, he has received temporary protection from deportation and a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. To qualify for DACA, he had to meet multiple requirements, including having a clean criminal record. “I’ve always had in mind that if at any point I get arrested,” he told me, “there’d be a big chance I could be deported.”

    The night he spent in jail, Montes Cuevas said, he didn’t get to make a phone call until 10 hours after he was arrested. His fiancee and his family were worried sick. “This isn’t the first time we all lose someone; we’ve lost undocumented family before,” he said, speaking about an all-too-common scenario in which a loved one gets picked up by ICE and never comes home. 

    US Customs and Border Protection said in an email to Mother Jones last week that the agency had deployed resources to “several states undertaking various operational support roles at the request of fellow law enforcement agencies.” The CBP agents were sent to “confront the lawless actions of rioters,” not to carry out an immigration enforcement mission. An ICE spokesperson echoed that sentiment in a separate email. Nonetheless, their mere presence was enough to set off shockwaves across undocumented and mixed-status families. And as Montes Cuevas’ experience shows, local police departments continue to work with ICE in certain cities across the country, turning any interaction with the cops into a potential crisis for undocumented immigrants. In Arizona, police and ICE have worked closely together for decades. In fact, many protesters in Phoenix last week not only demanded an end to police brutality but also urged the Phoenix Police Department to end its collaboration with ICE. 

    “Attending a protest is such an individual choice, but it has very different consequences if you’re a citizen or not,” said Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient and founder of Aliento, a nonprofit that provides art therapy to immigrant communities. “This is a very complicated, multi-layer situation…how do you make sure that, if you want to show solidarity and come out, that you’re not afraid of getting deported or potentially being sent to a detention center?”  

    Like many in the immigrant rights movement, Montoya has seen the direct impact protests can make. In 2012, President Obama launched DACA in response to nationwide pressure from immigrant rights groups that took to the streets. In 2006, millions of people protested in massive marches pushing for immigration reform. Montoya was in high school then and remembers her parents telling her to stay home and study so they could march for the whole family. “Sometimes in marginalized communities [protesting] is all we have,” Montoya said. “Especially as an undocumented person or DACA, we don’t have the power to vote, so we’ve been able to rely on other tactics to be heard.” 

    Montoya said she’s been having conversations with young people who “want to be there for our Black brothers and sisters who are being brutalized by the police at the moment,” and she understands the feeling of wanting to do something beyond posting on social media. “On the other hand, right now there are severe consequences,” she said. “People are being taken away from their cars even as they are leaving a peaceful protest. I’m legitimately very scared of the consequences for some of the DACA and undocumented students I work with.” 

    The night Montes Cuevas was arrested, Máxima Guerrero, a local immigrant rights organizer with Puente Human Rights Movement, was also arrested as she was leaving. Sandra Castro Solis, who also works at Puente, said Guerrero was there as a legal observer, “making sure people’s First Amendment rights weren’t violated while protesting.” She expected to be confronted by militarized police, but she wasn’t expecting “arrests and charges to be so egregious that they would lead DACA recipients to be held by ICE,” or for people who weren’t even attending the protests to end up detained. 

    Which is exactly what happened to Corina Paez and her boyfriend, Jesus Orona Prieto. They weren’t downtown to protest or even observe—they were simply on their way to dinner. (Arizona has been “open” for weeks now and has relatively lenient physical distancing rules.) Paez told me in a phone call last week that police also pulled them out of the car and arrested them for rioting, “even though I tried to explain to them that we weren’t doing anything.” Paez, a US citizen, was released the next morning, but Orona Preto doesn’t have DACA or other forms of legal immigration status. As of Wednesday, he remained in ICE custody at the Florence Correctional Center, a facility with 21 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

    Puente’s work has focused on getting people released from ICE custody, especially with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to spread in detention facilities. As soon as organizers heard about the arrests May 30, they started mobilizing. They made calls to ICE and to the mayor of Phoenix, demanding that the four people detained at the protest be released from custody. By June 1, three were let out, including Montes Cuevas.

    Montes Cuevas was put on supervised released and has to wear an ankle monitor. “It feels like I’m a criminal when I’m not. It feels like I’ve done something so wrong or committed the biggest crime ever, and now I’m marked with this around my ankle,” he told me. “I can hide it with jeans, but it’s a bulk around my ankle. Someone can tell what it is. It’s summertime in Arizona, and we’re going to wear shorts and that’s what people look at first.”

    He’ll have to check in with ICE, continue wearing the ankle monitor, and hire a lawyer to help him navigate what’s next. He fears that he may miss something and, because of a simple bureaucratic error, “they’re going to straight-up deport me for that.” Plus, if the charges from the protest aren’t dismissed, it could mean losing DACA and the protection from deportation that goes with it. (That same weekend a judge in Phoenix found that there was no probable cause for most of the more than 100 arrests from the night Montes Cuevas was arrested.) 

    “It was something historic, so in a way I do not regret it,” Montes Cuevas told me when I asked if he wished he hadn’t gone to the protest. “But as much as I would like to protest—especially given my situation now seeing how unjust this all was—I would like to go, but I’m going to have to think about it twice.”

    “I would love to tell people to be as free as Americans, to do what we feel is right, like protest, but it’s a scary situation.”

  • NASCAR Bans Confederate Flag

    zefart/Shutterstock

    Tough day for racist autosport fans:

    The Confederate flag is a blood-stained testament to racism, slavery, and murder and it should forever and always be resigned to the bits of history where we keep Nazi swastikas and Klan hoods. It’s been a long time coming.

  • San Francisco’s Police Union Just Made the Case for Defunding the Police

    Police officers in front of San Francisco's City Hall on May 31.Karl Mondon/Getty

    Following the lead of transit workers and agencies in Minneapolis, New York, and Boston, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (AKA Muni) announced yesterday that it would stop transporting cops to anti-police brutality protests: 

    Today, the city’s police union, the San Francisco Police Officers Association, tweeted out a grumpy response that inadvertently made the case for rolling back some of the city’s police services, specifically, using cops to bust fare evaders and handle “problem passengers.” “Shouldn’t be a @SFPD officer’s job anyway,” it grumbled.

    The SFPOA went on, “As city leaders demand cuts to SFPD, it needs to be clear what SFPD will no longer do.” Yup. That’s exactly the discussion that advocates of defunding and downsizing police departments have kicked off. Beyond the menacing snark, is San Francisco’s police union ready to have that conversation?  

  • Philonise Floyd Asks Congress to Make Sure His Brother Didn’t Die in Vain

    Philonise Floyd testifying before the House Judiciary Committee hearing.Michael Reynolds/AP

    Less than a day after speaking at the funeral of his older brother, George Floyd—an unarmed black man who was killed by Minneapolis police—Philonise Floyd arrived on Capitol Hill to relive the same tragedy. On Wednesday morning, he was the first witness to offer testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing on policing and racism, largely in response to George’s Floyd’s death and the massive protests it sparked.

    Those protests have become a worldwide phenomenon, but that’s rarely the case when someone is killed by police. According the Washington Post, about 1,000 people are killed by police annually in the United States, including 463 so far in 2020. “I’m here to ask you to make it stop,” Philonise Floyd said.

    For 5 minutes that went from stoic to emotional, Philonise Floyd spoke of the void left behind by his brother’s death—and of being “robbed” of the chance to say goodbye.

    “I couldn’t take care of George that day he was killed,” Philonise Floyd said. “But maybe by speaking with you today, I can make sure that his death will not be in vain, to make sure that he’s more than another face on a t-shirt, more than another name on a list that won’t stop growing.”

    Part of what made George Floyd’s death so powerful, Philonise Floyd pointed out, is also what made it so painful: Its entirety was captured on camera. “I can’t tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch something like that,” he said. “When you watch your big brother, who you looked up to your whole entire life die? Die begging for his mom?”

    Philonise Floyd called his brother a “gentle giant” who “didn’t deserve to die over $20.” During his his remarks, he also asked the committee to hold the police accountable for their role in the death of unarmed black men and to instill in law enforcement a sense of empathy and respect necessary for the institution to be a force of good. “The people marching in the streets are telling you, enough is enough,” he said.

    As a final beat, Philonise Floyd turned to the power of legacy. His brother’s death has in some ways been immortalized in the annals of criminal justice, and it could come to mean even more—if Congress acts.

    “George’s name means something. You have the opportunity here, today, to make your names mean something, too,” he said. “If his death ends up changing the world for the better, and I think it will, then he died as he lived. It is on you to make sure his death is not in vain.”

  • The NRA Has Spent Decades Warning About Police Crackdowns. Now It’s Utterly Silent.

    Richard Tsong-Taata/Star Tribune via AP

    In many ways, the past couple of weeks have been exactly what the National Rifle Association has for years warned its members about: A mass mobilization of militarized police and unknown federal agents in cities across the country to shut down largely peaceful mass demonstrations of people exercising their constitutional rights—and doing so with force. In Washington, DC, for example, the President of the United States had law enforcement fire tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters for a photo op. In Buffalo, police in riot gear shoved an unarmed 75-year-old man to the ground, sending him to the hospital bleeding from the ears. In Minneapolis, where the protests started after a white police officer killed 46-year-old George Floyd on May 25, there have too many instances to count of police violently attacking peaceful protesters—and slashing people’s tires

    Surely these actions by law enforcement officers are what NRA head Wayne LaPierre warned about when he wrote in a 1995 fundraising letter that a recently signed assault weapons ban would give “jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us,” right? After all, that was the NRA’s biggest fear during the Obama administration, when the group turned the former president into a liberal bogeyman, incessantly fundraising on the notion that his administration would ban all firearms. And even before that, the group capitalized off of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, making misleading claims that the New Orleans mayor had declared martial law and that police were disarming law-abiding gun owners to help crack down on looters. So surely the nation’s oldest gun rights organization, which has a sordid history of stoking fear among its base that Big Government is going to come and take away rights, would have a lot to say about these current instances of police crackdowns on peaceful protesters, right?

    But at a moment that seems ripe for the NRA to push government fears to highlight its agenda, the organization has been utterly silent. Since May 25, the day that Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin, the NRA’s main Twitter account has tweeted about 30 times, though not a single tweet has specifically mentioned Floyd’s murder, the subsequent nationwide protests, nor the law enforcement response. At best, the group has tweeted vague messages about its commitment to the Second Amendment, writing on June 1 that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Mostly, the organization’s Twitter feed has been filled with attacks on Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, attacks on gun control groups, and celebration over the surge of gun sales in the past few months. On the website of the group’s lobbying arm, where it frequently posts its own op-eds and aggregated news articles about its activities, there similarly has been no mention of the nationwide protests over the past two weeks. 

    It’s a stark contrast to the NRA’s messaging in the months before Floyd’s death, when the group was firing on all cylinders to stoke fear and panic in order to drive up gun sales. As I reported in May, on social media, in videos, and in blog posts, the organization had repeatedly pushed out alarmist messages suggesting that people should be buying firearms because the pandemic would lead to a societal breakdown. In one video from March, a disabled Black woman holds an AR-15-style weapon while explaining the importance of a having a gun. “I know from history how quickly society breaks down during a crisis,” she says as the video is interspersed with footage of looting, “and we’ve never faced anything like this before, and never is a Second Amendment more important than during public unrest.” And as armed demonstrators began protesting stay-at-home orders at state capitols around the country in April and May, the NRA—in both public messaging and in statements by members of its 76-person board of directors—encouraged them.

    But when it comes to the demonstrations over police brutality and systemic racism that have rocked the country in the past week, the NRA doesn’t have anything to say—largely because it doesn’t fit with its political agenda as a close ally of President Trump. Because of the pandemic and the recent wave of demonstrations, Trump’s support is waning, and he’s doing everything he can to reclaim control, calling peaceful protesters “terrorists” (whereas he tweeted support for the armed protesters who stormed the Michigan statehouse in April) and calling on state governors to “dominate” them. For Trump, his way of “dominating” protesters isn’t unlike what LaPierre’s warned NRA members about in that 1995 fundraising letter, when he worried about how President Bill Clinton would enforce the assault weapons ban. “Not too long ago, it was unthinkable for federal agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms to attack law-abiding citizens,” LaPierre wrote. “In Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.”

  • Seattle City Council President: “We Need to Radically Reimagine” Policing

    A protestor holds a placard calling to defund police A woman holds a placard calling for the abolition of police during a June 1, 2020 demonstration in Seattle. (Toby Scott/SOPA Images via ZUMA)

    On Sunday, when a veto-proof majority on its city council pledged to disband the city’s police department, Minneapolis made American history.

    Tomorrow, Seattle might follow suit.

    Council members have so far talked about defunding Seattle’s troubled police department by up to 50 percent. But today, Seattle City Council President Lorena González told me that she’ll “see if we can get a veto-proof proposal to follow the lead of the Minneapolis City Council”—meaning tomorrow afternoon, when the council’s budget committee is set to meet.

    Seattle has seen some of the most striking and extensive instances of police violence captured on video in the last week, and three of nine city council members have demanded Mayor Jenny Durkan’s resignation, including budget committee head Teresa Mosqueda.

    Durkan also faces calls to resign from Washington’s biggest private-sector union, at least a third of her city council, and a long list of top Democrats across the state. An open letter calling on the mayor to step down over her handling of the protests has been signed by more than 14,000 members of the public, almost all identifying as Seattle residents.

    Like eight of nine council members, Durkan is a Democrat. She’s also a former federal prosecutor, notorious among activists for hiring a five-time-convicted rapist and child molester to infiltrate community organizers’ barbecues. (“It’s not the saints who can bring us the sinners,” Durkan said at the time.) Her resistance to police reform, let alone defunding, hasn’t won her any praise from critics; under Durkan, the city filed to end a federal consent decree reforming its police department, a filing she now says she’ll withdraw.

    In the last two weeks, as social media has become a firehose of police violence footage, the Seattle Police Department has been responsible for some of the most striking attacks yet, including allegedly pepper spraying a small child in the face:

    Including guarding an armed man who allegedly drove his car into a protest for George Floyd and shot a 26-year-old Black protester who tried to disarm him:

    And including tear-gassing Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood so thoroughly that it allegedly filled nearby apartments, sickening a man’s three-month-old child, in defiance of the citywide “pause” on gas:

    That 30-day “pause” on tear gas—actually ordered by Durkan’s police chief, not Durkan herself—took less than 48 hours for Seattle police to defy. The chief, Carmen Best, was apparently allowed to call for exceptions, and did it so promptly that there was effectively no “pause” at all.

    (Monday’s rally in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood was the city’s first without credible reports of violence; it was also the first without police present.)

    Now, Durkan finds herself in the same bind as Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey: her city council has gotten out ahead of her. Frey was jeered out of a rally when he wouldn’t commit to defunding Minneapolis’s infamous police, as captured in a headline-grabbing video; at the same rally, his city council quickly delivered a veto-proof majority committed to disbanding their police.

    González says there’s “overwhelming” support for defunding among her colleagues. “Whether or not there’s enough appetite to go the step further and dismantle is still unclear to me,” she says. “But I will be taking seriously the charge of making the case, both publicly and to my colleagues, as to why we need to radically reimagine how we deliver public safety to the people of Seattle.”

    Socialist Alternative council member Kshama Sawant has said she’ll bring articles of impeachment against Durkan, an unprecedented but relatively easy step in Seattle: the mayor gets five days’ warning before a hearing where six of nine council members must vote to impeach. The grounds: “any willful violation of duty, or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude.” Those six votes might not be out of reach for Sawant, who has fellow councilors Mosqueda and Tammy Morales on her side and two more seemingly on the fence.

    González was more wary of impeaching Durkan, arguing that the evidence isn’t yet there. “Impeachment is a serious process to undergo, and we have to ensure that it would be successful and that the record is clear,” she says. “If the evidence becomes available, or we become aware of it, I think we would have to have a conversation about moving forward with impeachment.”

    As in Minneapolis, a public commitment to defunding police is coming from councilors who previously believed in reform. González, a former civil rights attorney, says she was long a reformer—but by deploying “massive amounts of excessive force in demonstrations about excessive force,” Seattle’s police didn’t help their case.

    A veto-proof vote to disband would be a bitter rebuke to Durkan, whose last veto was met with an override, and who threatened but didn’t follow through with a veto on Sawant’s recent bill to ban most evictions in winter. It would also free up Seattle PD’s budget of more than $400 million—almost a third of Seattle’s general fund, according to local non-profit news outlet Crosscut. And if Minneapolis isn’t a one-off, the message to mayors will be clear: time to catch up.

  • Mississippi Is Finally Taking Real Steps to Change Its Racist State Flag

    Hundreds of protesters stand in silence for almost nine minutes in response to the recent death of George Floyd in police custody, Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Jackson, Miss.Rogelio V. Solis/AP

    There’s no doubt that the anti-racism protests sparked by George Floyd’s killing have been powerful, and now the movement may finally pry the Mississippi state flag—the last of its kind to still bear Confederate symbolism—from the strong stubborn hands of conservative lawmakers who have long defended its existence. 

    Mississippi Today is reporting that a bipartisan effort is brewing in the legislature to adopt a new design, known as the Stennis flag, in place of the current one, which has been in place since 1894. The lawmakers have the blessing of House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican who spoke up in support of changing the flag in 2015, after a white supremacist murdered nine congregants at a Black church in Charleston—a horrific event that reignited an effort to do away with symbols that glorify this country’s Confederate past. 

    Though bills are filed annually in the state House and Senate to change the flag, they tend to die out in committee. But now, there’s momentum; this brewing resolution represents the first substantive step toward that effort since 2001, when Mississippians voted 2-1 to keep the current flag in a state referendum.

    As Mississippi Today reports:

    Suspending the rules to consider the change would require a two-thirds of the current House members (80 out of 120 current members). Gunn told the lawmakers he would ensure the resolution passed through House committee if the lawmakers could secure verbal support from around 30 Republican members this week.

    Adding the potential Republican commitments to the 45 votes of the Democratic caucus, the House would be within eyeshot of solidifying a two-thirds, veto-proof majority to change the flag.

    After the meeting with Gunn, several lawmakers began calling their colleagues and whipping votes on Monday afternoon, though some expressed doubt they could find 30 solid commitments from Republicans.

    If the House were to pass the resolution to change the flag, it would move to the Senate for consideration. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, said during his campaign last year that voters, not the Legislature, should decide the fate of the state flag.

    But several state senators told Mississippi Today this week that they believe Hosemann, a moderate who has maintained close working relationships with leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus, could be open to the idea of legislative action, particularly during this moment of protest across Mississippi and America.

    The bill would still need to get the final approval of Gov. Tate Reeves, who, Mississippi Today explains, “sidestepped several questions about his personal views on the state flag during a press conference. Reeves did say, however, that he believes Mississippians, not lawmakers, should decide the issue at the ballot.”

    This new movement follows massive protests last weekend against police brutality and racial inequality across the state, from Jackson to Hattiesburg to Tupelo to Starkville. Democrat Mike Espy, who will challenge Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith again this year, attended the Jackson protest, which was at least  3,000 strong. Small towns in the state also participated in the protests.

    Meanwhile, the state’s neighbor to the north, Tennessee, is doing its best legislative maneuvering to take steps in the opposite direction and protect a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general, slave trader, and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. I’ve written about my home state’s unwillingness to let go of Forrest’s likeness and his name before. One step forward, a Tennessee waltz back. 

  • Now They’re Toppling Racist Statues Overseas

    The movement to take down racist statues has gone international. Over the weekend, protesters in Bristol, England, toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and tossed it into a nearby harbor. 

    Colston made his fortune rising to the highest ranks of the Royal African Company, which enslaved an estimated 84,000 African people throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. He later became a philanthropist in his hometown of Bristol. The statue honoring him stood from 1895 until last week. 

    The removal of the statue came as a long-awaited relief to demonstrators, some of whom had campaigned for years to tell the full truth of Colston’s history. 

    In an interview with the BBC, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said that he would have preferred the statue to have been taken down through a formal political process, but also acknowledged the particular bind he was in, as the city’s first Black mayor, to lead such an effort. 

    “The irony of politics and race is that perhaps Black politicians do not have the same freedoms to talk about race in the same way as white politicians,” Rees said. 

    Not everyone was pleased with the statue’s removal. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a “criminal act,” and some men were seen trying to fish the statue out of the water. 

    Protesters in Brussels, meanwhile, surrounded a statue of King Leopold II, chanting “murderer” and waving the flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Leopold oversaw a genocide of between one and 15 million Congolese people during his colonial rule in the 19th century. The Leopold statue in Brussels is still standing—for now. 

    These latest incidents join the wave of people dismantling symbols of racism mostly in the US. Over the weekend, a slave auction block was removed from a public square in Virginia, a Confederate statue was taken down in Kentucky, and the US Marine Corps banned displays of the Confederate flag from all its bases.   

    A full list of all the racist symbols that have been burned, occupied, or brought down in protests can be found here

     

  • A Local Police Organization Offers to Hire Cops Called Out for Abuse

    Cops banded together last week to stand up for their right to use force whenever they deem necessary. After the suspension of two Buffalo police officers who pushed an unarmed senior citizen last week, 57 fellow officers resigned from the riot squad in protest. Could it be more obvious that some cops are more dedicated to each other than they are the communities they’re sworn to protect? Turns out, yes.

    In a now-deleted Facebook post, the Brevard County Fraternal Order of Police offered jobs to those who resigned from the Buffalo PD’s Emergency Response Team, touting lower taxes in Florida and “no spineless leadership, or dumb mayors rambling on at press conferences.” (The offer was also extended to the Atlanta officers who were caught on tape brutalizing two Black college students as they left a protest in late May.)

    The Fraternal Order of Police, a national law enforcement organization with 2,000-plus local chapters representing more than 300,000 officers, has long been criticized for thwarting police reform efforts.

    But apparently recruiting officers defending abuse was a step too far. On Monday, Bert Gamin, the Brevard County FOP’s president, issued an apology, explaining “that my post was insensitive and wrong and that it did not convey the actual thought that I was trying to communicate.”

    “I let my emotions and frustration get the better of me as a result of all the continually negative media portrayals of law enforcement,” he wrote. “My intent was to respond to some of the negative messaging and offer a supportive message to all the men and women in law enforcement. Clearly, I failed doing so.”

    Clearly.

    But as a representative of the media, I feel it’s only fair to address Gamin’s concerns. I am sorry that our coverage of law enforcement brutally attacking civilians has upset him. Our intent was to hold public servants accountable for doing things like slashing tires at protests and gassing protestors. If it helps, the night before the Buffalo PD knocked down a 75-year-old man at the same spot near City Hall, press posted a photo of officers kneeling.

  • Alt-Right Trolls Are Trying to Sabotage Black Lives Matter Chatrooms

    Protesters in Minneapolis chant while facing riot police.AP Image

    As mass protests against police brutality and racial injustice continue across the country, 4chan, a notorious alt-right troll hub online, is trying to meddle in protesters’ online operations.

    On Sunday night, users of 4chan made several highly trafficked posts with links to dozens of Black Lives Matter channels on Telegram, a privacy-oriented, encrypted messaging app that has been used for organizing protests across the country. Users on 4chan encouraged others to post disinformation in the groups, find “incriminating” information that they can pass to law enforcement, and trawl the channels for as much personal, identifying, and organizational information as they can about people in the groups.

    Some have already posted the phone numbers of volunteers organizing food and water for protesters, and phone numbers for jail support for arrested protesters. The 4chan posts didn’t include instructions for what to do with the numbers, but based on 4channer’s normal behavior, it’s possible that the implication is to harass the person on the other end of the line. In some cases, users in the threads are also doxxing what they believe to be “Antifa safehouses” by posting addresses of these homes.

    The central focus on the 4chan posts so far, though, hasn’t been to impede the current protests, but rather to compile doxxing information on the activists behind the protests. “BE STEALTHY DONT TROLL, RIGHT NOW THE MOST VALUABLE THING WE CAN GET IS INFO,” one user posted.

    “A lot of these retards have identifying info on their telegram profiles, instagram, personal website, real name, phone number, etc. get that,” another wrote, urging other 4channers to store what they found on internet archive sites like Archive.is and Pastebin (links on Pastebin aren’t accessible, suggesting that the site may have taken moderation action). Others encouraged people to share their findings with “trustworthy public sources” and “right wing journalists.”

    It’s unclear to what extent 4chan posters have followed through on their plans, and if the threads have led to any offline harassment. Many of the Black Lives Matter channels don’t let anyone without authorization post. And administrators of some of the channels seem to be aware of the people trying to infiltrate. One of the larger protest Telegram channels, The BLM Revolution of 2020 with roughly 8,740 subscribers, posted an open letter to “to the fascist how are watching this channel,” on Sunday night. “I’m going to be honest with you all, the path that you have picked is only going to bring more suffering, and solidify the system that you’ve set out to fight against. Your fight is going to end up with more people in your situation. Lost, lonely, and unsure where to go,” the person behind the Telegram channel wrote, encouraging right-wingers to reach out if they wanted to anonymously talk.

    4channers aren’t the only group monitoring Black Lives Matter Telegram channels. Extremist groups that label themselves as various brands of fascists and white supremacists have compiled lists of Black Lives Matter channels on their own Telegram channels, and frequently repost content from BLM organizers on their pages.

    White supremacists and far-right extremists on Telegram have been a recurring problem that the platform has been unwilling to handle. The encrypted messaging service took action against public ISIS channels, but has been unwilling to do the same with far-right extremists, leaving up channels that compile lists of Jewish people, and others that encourage white supremacist violence.

  • Joe Biden Doesn’t Want to Defund the Police

    Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, made clear today in a statement that he would not support defunding the police. He did say there is an “urgent need for reform,” and he advocated for body-worn cameras and further diversification of the police force. The former vice president, according to the New York Times, is traveling today to Houston for the funeral of George Floyd.

    This isn’t surprising news, exactly. Biden is a moderate. But it’s remarkable that he had to clarify his position at all. The Minneapolis City Council announced on Sunday it was disbanding the police to invest in community programs. Other municipalities are considering similar action. A world without cops, as our own Madison Pauly wrote about, is not only imaginable but increasingly something activists are putting on concrete lists of demands. Who would’ve thought a few weeks ago that Biden would have to specify that he supports keeping the cops around?

  • A Majority of Minneapolis Councilmembers Vowed to Dismantle the City’s Police Department

    A large crowd gathered for a community meeting in Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis on Sunday.Julia Lurie/Mother Jones

    At a community rally at Powderhorn Park this afternoon, 9 of Minneapolis’ 12 city councilmembers showed up and pledged to dismantle the city’s police department, marking a significant shift toward overhauling a force that’s under intense scrutiny following the killing of George Floyd on May 25. Mother Jones reporter Julia Lurie was there:

    Since Floyd’s death, calls for defunding and downsizing police agencies as a way to curtail police brutality and the overpolicing of communities of color have spread. The intent signaled by the veto-proof majority of Minneapolis lawmakers will be a significant test of how a city can overhaul its police department. Within the last week, Minneapolis Public Schools, the University of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis Park Service broke ties with the city police department, which is being investigated by the state’s Department of Human Rights to determine whether its current protocols amount “to unlawful race-based policing, which deprives people of color, particularly Black community members, of their civil rights.” 

    City Council President Lisa Bender tweeted on June 4 that the city would work to replace the department with a “transformative new model of public safety.” In a statement to the Appeal, which first reported the move, Bender noted that the city’s “efforts at incremental reform have failed.” In Minneapolis and elsewhere in the United States, Bender wrote, “it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety isn’t working for so many of our neighbors.”

    On Saturday, Mayor Jacob Frey faced was rebuked by demonstrators after he rejected calls to abolishi the police department and instead proposed reforming it.

    It’s unclear what dismantling the Minneapolis police department will look like going forward. Steve Fletcher, a City Council member in Minneapolis’ Third Ward, wrote in an op-ed for Time that he among others supported an effort to “disband our police department and start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity.” “Our city needs a public safety capacity that doesn’t fear our residents,” Fletcher wrote. “That doesn’t need a gun at a community meeting. That considers itself part of our community. That doesn’t resort quickly to pepper spray when people are understandably angry. That doesn’t murder black people.”