With Harvey approaching, ICE left 50 immigrant women and children stranded at a bus station

from August 28, 2017 at 03:50PM http://bit.ly/2x273jS
On Friday, ICE officials dropped 50 women and their children at a bus station, after their asylum applications were approved. But with Harvey approaching, bus routes were canceled, leaving the women and children stranded.

Read more at: PRI.org Latest from The World and the GlobalPost https://www.pri.org/

Mexican officials ignore Trump’s disparaging tweets and reach out a hand to Texas

from August 28, 2017 at 03:57PM http://bit.ly/2wgnIPV
Hours after a tweet from President Donald Trump insisting Mexicans pay for a border wall, Mexican officials offered aid to Harvey victims in the United States.

Read more at: PRI.org Latest from The World and the GlobalPost https://www.pri.org/

Entire Families Are Being Killed by U.S. Airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria

from August 28, 2017 at 06:15AM http://bit.ly/2vHKCMC

On June 6, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced the beginning of a military campaign to liberate the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State. In an interview at the time, the commander of the force, which is known as SDF, highlighted the critical role that the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition would play in the fight to take back the city. “The coalition has a big role in the success of the operations,” the commander said. “In addition to warplanes, there are coalition forces working side by side with the SDF.”

Nearly three months later, the battle for Raqqa is still raging, and more and more civilians are dying from U.S. airstrikes. A relatively small number of ISIS militants are fighting to the death to defend their putative capital, while an estimated 160,000 civilians are trapped in dire circumstances, caught between the armed factions on the ground and bombarded by U.S. airstrikes and artillery barrages.

Activists inside Raqqa who spoke to The Intercept by phone earlier this month described an increasingly desperate situation. (Their names are being withheld for their safety.) Despite the bombardment Syrian activist groups like Sound and Picture are continuing to work documenting abuses in the ISIS-held city.

“The airplanes are heavily striking the city, and many of the places they are targeting are empty of ISIS fighters and full of civilians,” an anti-ISIS Syrian activist from Raqqa told The Intercept. “The number of civilians being killed today is much more than the ISIS members.

“It’s a miracle to find any open grocery shop, the shelling is very intensive, and the ISIS snipers are very professional and target anyone they see outside,” the activist said. “The medical situation is even worse — people need medicine but many supplies were moved out of Raqqa earlier by ISIS, and the hospitals are forced to offer medical services only to ISIS fighters.”

A second activist described the death of his father in a strike in June: “The planes hit the street where he was walking to go home. There were no ISIS members or headquarters in that street, my father was only 50 meters from home. I wished that he had hurried home that night, but he was too old and it took him time.”

Many similar stories are told in a report released last week by Amnesty International. The report, titled “I Won’t Forget This Carnage,” documents in detail the growing civilian death toll from airstrikes and shelling in and around the city. The monitoring group AirWars estimates that between 725 to 993 civilians have been killed by coalition attacks since the assault on Raqqa began this June, with deadly incidents occurring daily.

As the battle moves into the heart of the city, coalition airstrikes and artillery fire — often called in by SDF fighters on the ground — have been blamed for attacks that have resulted in civilian deaths. The threat to civilians is compounded by the fact that ISIS is known to hide out in civilian areas, effectively using local populations as human shields. The transition to urban combat was expected to lead to an increase in civilian deaths, but the reported use of munitions with a wide impact radius and inadequate U.S. reporting on its own strikes has led to allegations of reckless disregard for civilian lives.

“We have seen incidents in which entire families have been wiped out. The scale of things is increasing significantly,” said Alex Hopkins, a researcher at AirWars. There has been a “worrying increase in the rate of mass casualty incidents” in recent weeks, he said, with disproportionate numbers of children being reported killed in U.S. strikes.


A photo of the Al-Aliwi family who were reportedly killed during an airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, according to AirWars.

Photo: Syrian Network for Human Rights

For instance, a coalition airstrike in Raqqa City on August 14 killed a mother, Nahla Hamoud Al-Aran al-Shehab, and her three children, Marwa, Ahmed, and Mariam. Three days later, another strike killed 30 members of the al-Sayer family, including several children. On August 21, yet another attack killed eight members of the Al-Aliwi family, internally displaced refugees who had previously fled from fighting in their home city of Palmyra.

Amnesty International researchers also visited a farmhouse in the Hukumya-Salhiya area northwest of Raqqa, where 14 people were reportedly killed in a coalition attack before the campaign to take the city officially began. Amnesty found fragments of GPS-guided American munitions, and judged that “from the pattern of destruction there seems little doubt that the house was destroyed by air strikes.”

One of the survivors of that attack, named in the report as “Marwan,” said that his family had been killed while trying to hide in safety outside the city.

My sisters, my mother, my nephews, and nieces were bombed to shreds for no reason at all. Four strikes were launched against a house full of women and children, why? Only one of my brothers was with them. My sister’s husband had stayed in Raqqa to try to protect their homes. They knew that if they left their homes empty, Daesh would occupy them. The battle for Raqqa had not yet started but they got the women and children out for fear that the city would be besieged and they would get stuck there. That is why they were staying at the farm, to be safe, but death came to them in the more horrible way. Don’t they keep watch over their targets before they bomb? If they had they would have known that there were only women and children there.

Another member of the family, who saw the attack hit the farmhouse from a distance, described being unable to help his family as they came under assault. “The planes were circling all night, and we could not even approach the house to get the two injured children out from under the rubble until the following day,” he said. “The bodies were in shreds. We recovered body parts hundreds of meters away.”

Amnesty was unable to confirm whether ISIS fighters had been in or around the targeted area during the time of the airstrikes. In comments to the Associated Press responding to the Amnesty report, a coalition spokesperson said that the research on civilian deaths was based on “scant evidence,” suggesting that its findings served the interest of militant groups.

But the U.S. military does not provide detailed information about the timing and coordinates of attacks it carries out in Iraq and Syria, making it hard to judge the proportionality of strikes. And while the military claims to thoroughly investigate alleged civilian casualty incidents, it rarely interviews survivors of such attacks or conducts on-site investigations. “Relying on this limited methodology leads the coalition to discount a majority of reports as ‘non-credible’ or inconclusive,” the Amnesty report says. It calls on military officials to do more to be transparent about their lethal operations.

“We are not naive and are not pursuing some kind of utopian vision of a zero-casualty war in the middle of an urban area. However desirable that would be, we recognize that its not going to happen,” Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty and one of the authors of the report, told The Intercept. “But there is a difference between civilian casualties occurring when every measure is being taken to avoid them, and civilian casualties occurring as a result of reckless or disproportionate attacks.” 

Civilians have few escape routes from Raqqa, but some try to make it out via boat, across the Euphrates River. The U.S. military has dropped leaflets over the city warning civilians not to try to cross the river. In comments to the New York Times in July, Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the U.S. commander of the coalition force leading the Raqqa operation, said, “we shoot every boat we find.”

Rovera said that Townsend’s comments reflect a serious lack of awareness of conditions in the city, where land escape routes are often blocked by ISIS fighters. They also signal a troubling degree of callousness about targeting practices.

“It’s unclear whether Townsend doesn’t know that the river is a main escape route for civilians, or whether he does know that and is still boasting about bombing every boat, but in either case it is unacceptable and suggests that reckless and indiscriminate attacks are being carried out,” Rovera said. “The [military] doesn’t interview people who have fled or whose families have been killed in these attacks, but if they did, they might learn something about how these attacks are actually impacting the people of this city.”

Criticism over civilian deaths from these airstrikes is rising. U.S. strikes have killed an estimated 2,200 civilians since President Donald Trump took office, almost matching the total number of deaths during Barack Obama’s administration. While the rising casualty figures could be interpreted as delivering on Trump’s repeated promises to wage the wars in Iraq and Syria more brutally and with less discretion, the military has defended its recent operations as proportionate.

On a trip to Baghdad last week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis responded to a question about civilian deaths in Raqqa by saying, “We’re not the perfect guys. We can make a mistake, and in this kind of warfare, tragedy will happen.

“But we are the good guys,” Mattis said. “And the innocent people on the battlefield know the difference.”

Top photo: Smoke rises from buildings in Raqqa’s eastern al-Sanaa neighborhood on Aug. 13, 2017, as Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance, battle to retake the city from the Islamic State group.

The post Entire Families Are Being Killed by U.S. Airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria appeared first on The Intercept.

Read more at: The Intercept http://bit.ly/1QabwCe

Are Texas Shelters Safe for Undocumented Immigrants Fleeing Hurricane Harvey?

from August 28, 2017 at 11:51AM http://bit.ly/2vpO7fs

Houston is reeling from Hurricane Harvey. Houses on the Texas Gulf Coast were devastated over the weekend, and tens of thousands of people fled their homes. The National Weather Service expects the rain to continue through Thursday. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates more than 30,000 people will be housed in temporary shelters, calling for all hands on deck in helping Texas recover from the disaster.

But for unauthorized immigrants, dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster has an extra layer of complexity and risk.

There are more than 400,000 immigrants without proper documents in Houston, according to the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative. To put them at ease, FEMA put out the following statement on its website, under a portion titled “Rumor Control”:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has stated that it is not conducting immigration enforcement at relief sites such as shelters or food banks. In the rare instance where local law enforcement informs ICE of a serious criminal alien at a relief site that presents a public safety threat, ICE will make a determination on a case-by-case basis about the appropriate enforcement actions.

The disaster relief agency pointed to an ICE-CBP statement issued Friday that said, “Routine non-criminal immigration enforcement operations will not be conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks.”

However, as The Intercept reported the same day, the ICE-CBP statement is not entirely forthcoming. While the agencies committed to prioritizing “life-saving and life-sustaining activities,” a CBP spokesperson confirmed to The Intercept that border patrol would continue to operate checkpoints so long as state highways remained open.

The best news for undocumented immigrants in need of shelter, meanwhile, may be that shelters tend not to be run by the government. “Most shelters are managed by local communities, the Red Cross, and other voluntary agencies,” FEMA noted in its statement, and the Red Cross will not request identification from people seeking to stay at its shelters.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also said on Friday that people seeking shelter would not be asked to present identification. “It’s my understanding, from what I saw from the border patrol instructions yesterday, that it will not be an issue,” Abbott said to MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle.

So far, there have been no reports of immigration authorities using the disaster as a way of rounding up and deporting people. Astrid Dominguez, an immigrants’ rights activist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said she had not heard about any enforcement action so far. “That’s been one of the main concerns from the community,” Dominguez said. “I think the community is coming out because we understand how dangerous the situation is, and want people to call the police, and don’t be afraid of doing so. So far we have not heard of any actions on [immigration] enforcement.”

But over the last eight months, ICE has carried out President Donald Trump’s agenda to ramp up immigration enforcement by carrying out operations in traditionally safe spaces — including a church homeless shelter and courthouses — in the name of public safety. Given what we know about ICE’s ongoing enforcement practices, FEMA’s statement leaves open the question of whether the agency will cooperate with aggressive immigration enforcement agents if they do show up.

And some changes between the public statements put out by immigration authorities before and after Trump send a signal that anything is possible. In 2012 and again in 2016, for hurricanes Matthew and Isaac, ICE and CBP used the same language in both their statements (emphasis added):

 In light of Hurricane Matthew, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) highest priorities are to promote life-saving and life-sustaining activities, the safe evacuation of people who are leaving the impacted area, the maintenance of public order, the prevention of the loss of property to the extent possible, and the speedy recovery of the region.

As such, there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to Matthew, including the use of checkpoints for immigration enforcement purposes in impacted areas during an evacuation.

That assurance, in this year’s statement, was replaced with the vague wording about “routine non-criminal immigration enforcement.” Highlighting how fraught the issue has become for federal agencies, a spokesperson for FEMA would only speak on background in order to say the agency is heavily engaged in ongoing, lifesaving efforts in response to the hurricane — referring additional questions to ICE.

If ICE does try to step in, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he’d represent those swept up himself.

“There is absolutely no reason why anyone should not call [for help]. And I and others will be the first ones to stand up with you,” Turner, who is an attorney, told reporters on Monday. “If someone comes and they require help and then for some reason tries to deport them, I will represent them myself.”

Alex Emmons contributed reporting.

Top photo: Flood victims are seen at a shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 28, 2017.

The post Are Texas Shelters Safe for Undocumented Immigrants Fleeing Hurricane Harvey? appeared first on The Intercept.

Read more at: The Intercept http://bit.ly/1QabwCe

White Supremacists Joked About Using Cars to Run Over Opponents Before Charlottesville

from August 28, 2017 at 02:42PM http://bit.ly/2gn8dAa

A crowd of protestors are reflected in the sunglasses of a member of the Ku Klux Klan in Justice Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Nearly a month before a car driven by an alleged neo-Nazi plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, white supremacists planning the “Unite the Right” rally joked about using vehicles to run over their opponents.

That message and thousands of other conversations among white supremacists were leaked from a chat app called Discord and posted on the website of a left-wing media collective called Unicorn Riot. Many users’ participation could not be verified, but ProPublica was able to confirm that two people whose statements were included in the leaked trove made the comments attributed to them.

The pre-Charlottesville chats include discussions of potential violence, the use of weapons, and excitement at the prospect of “fighting for the white race.”

The leaked discussions also reveal an intense level of planning and nationwide coordination. As ProPublica reported earlier this month, the “Unite the Right” demonstrations were dominated by a younger, more tech-savvy generation of white supremacists than in past protests. They coordinated logistics for disparate groups and came together a thousand strong to take over city streets in military-style formation. The two-plus months of leaked planning discussions, reviewed by ProPublica, support this assessment. Below are five key takeaways from the messages.

1. Some Activists Insisted on Peace — But Many Were Hungry for Violence

The discussion boards include repeated fantasies of violence against counter-protesters and black residents, only occasionally challenged by board moderators. (Wired.com reported on several examples over the weekend.) On July 18, for example, user AltCelt(IL) posted a photo of vehicles surrounded by crowds in response to fellow commentors’ discussion of car insurance and logistics. Another user replied, claiming that in North Carolina “driving over protesters blocking roadways isn’t an offense.” The user seemed to be referring to a controversial bill that was recently passed by the North Carolina Statehouse. The user then posted a meme showing a combine harvester that could be a “digestor” for multiple lanes of protesters, saying, “Sure would be nice.”

Less than a month later, at the actual “Unite the Right” rally, a car struck a group of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. The white supremacists made light of that after the fact, with one user posting a meme that inserted an image of the car from the movie “Back to the Future” into a photo of the crowd at Charlottesville, adding the phrase, “Back to the Fhurer (sic).”

Evan McLaren, executive director of Richard Spencer’s white supremacist National Policy Institute, argued in an interview that what he characterized as “irreverent banter” was “not relevant to what happened” and did not spur the violence in Charlottesville.

The chat group members often used Discord before the rally to discuss street-fighting with their enemies, especially antifa groups. And some conversations focused on terrorizing Charlottesville residents. On Aug. 3, a user copied a posting for a Facebook event for a black community back-to-school party near Emancipation Park, the site of the planned Robert E. Lee statue removal. Users joked about crashing the party and stabbing attendees, who would have presumably included schoolchildren. (“RAHOWA,” cited below, is an acronym for “racial holy war.”)

2. White Supremacist Groups Spent Months Tracking Potential Foes Online and in the Real World

A month before the rally, white supremacists used their chat site to collect information on counter-protesters they anticipated they might encounter. As one chat group leader put it, “knowing faces is always helpful.” For weeks in the lead-up to the rally, white nationalists shared photos of a wide variety of potential adversaries, from out-of-state leftists to local Charlottesville racial justice activists.

On July 17, a user with the handle Stanislav Dajic posted “>Nigger >shoot intended targets,” followed by a smiley-face emoji, under a photo of Joseph Offutt, a black Dallas-area activist who has taken part in several counter-protests against Black Lives Matter.

Chat group users also trawled through left-wing websites and social media, aiming to exploit what they viewed as their political advantage in the Trump era.

McLaren, for instance, posted information about a “DC Training to Resist the Alt-Right” car pool, which he took from the discussion section of a left-wing Facebook event. (McLaren said he did so to protect his fellow marchers.)

The white supremacists also gathered and shared information they had gleaned via in-person sleuthing efforts. One post from July 26, for example, showed a photo a white supremacist took of notes left on a whiteboard from a meeting of a group called Showing Up For Racial Justice in Charlottesville. The board included references to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Black Lives Matter and other entities.

On July 20, another user took pictures of three left-wing groups in Ann Arbor as they raised money and recruited volunteers to go to Charlottesville.

The user advised his compatriots, “If you guys live in leftie areas and have art or street fairs coming up, it’d be worth it to mosey through and see if your local leftists are out trying for the same thing.”

3. Users Collected “Evidence” of Left-Wing Social Media Threats to Give to Police and Courts

Weeks before the “Unite the Right” rally, chat-room participants were collecting alleged left-wing threats of violence, such as “Punch a Nazi” posts on social media, suggesting this content should be forwarded to police or compiled for court proceedings. In one post from Aug. 9, for example, a user advised members of the “Antifa Watch” discussion thread to share threats against the rally “to help with our court case.”

In another post, this one on July 30, a user noted that an anarchist blog post discussing the Charlottesville rally should be forwarded to the Virginia State Police. Eli Mosley, who played a lead role in organizing the “Unite the Right” rally, told ProPublica via Twitter that police had been informed about “potential threats” his group had received. (The Virginia State Police and the Charlottesville Police Department did not respond to ProPublica’s inquiries as to whether they received any such content.)

4. Some Members Displayed a Sophisticated Understanding of Digital Security Culture and Leftist Tactics

On an intelligence-gathering thread, a user identified as McCarthy recommended not bringing phones to the rally, since “any stolen phones will compromise your entire affinity group, any organizations you are a part of, and entire networks of communication.” McCarthy may have been referring to cellphone extraction devices and programs that can perform link analysis, which are increasingly used by law enforcement and can map phone users’ communication networks based on analysis of call and text logs. In addition, a stolen phone could be used to reveal the identities of white supremacists in a doxing campaign.

The user then shared a link to a page dedicated to operational security for right-wing protesters on the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer. In a message to ProPublica, Mosley attributed this security focus to members who he claimed are “high level tech workers and IT security consultants.”

Malcolm Harris, a left-wing writer whose work often focuses on far-right organizations, noted that this reference to “affinity” groups suggests that the right wing is borrowing from left-wing organizing tactics. The affinity model brings smaller operations to work together in a larger action, and the right seemed to use this approach to coordinate among numerous white supremacists groups, such as Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Worker Party and Vanguard America.

“The base form of an affinity organization is a group of five to six people that know and trust each other, then knit themselves into a larger [collection],” Harris told ProPublica. “They love taking left-wing terminology, so I’m not surprised to see them talking about affinity groups. It’s a pretty decent model for when you don’t have a single organization running things.”

Right-wing activists also shared information about local and state police scanners to help gather intelligence.

“It’s not exactly surprising that they adopt these tactics,” said Harris. “But on the other hand, the police and the state have not made it a priority to break their networks.”

5. Organizers Worked Closely With Police and Assumed Law Enforcement Would Focus on Counter-Protesters

In planning documents and discussion threads, chat group leaders repeatedly referred before the march to close collaboration with police and voiced expectations that law enforcement would treat them respectfully. A secret planning document, entitled “Operation Unite The Right Charlottesville 2.0,” for example, prepped for various possible police responses to their demonstrations, but noted “in our communications with them [the police] they know that the left are the ones looking to do violence.”

In the message boards leading up to the rally, apparent chat group leaders also repeatedly referred to their close work with law enforcement. When asked about these communications, Mosley, who was quoted in one of the threads, explained, “when I said ‘they knew,’ I was referring to the police who, time and time again, admitted to us that they knew the left was (sic) going to be the violent ones.”

The perception of law enforcement was more mixed among commenters who appeared to be in the rank and file of the chat group. Some hoped to recruit white police officers to their cause and praised past law enforcement efforts against left-wing Antifa protesters.

Others felt cops could “betray” them and were fundamentally pawns of the establishment (and added what may have been caricatures of Jewish people).

After the rally, counter-protesters and progressives criticized law enforcement’s apparent unwillingness to shut down violent altercations. During the torchlit march on Aug. 11, for example, white supremacist forces led by figures like Richard Spencer were able to storm through the University of Virginia, with some participants beating up counter-protesters, some of whom fought back but were overwhelmed. Witnesses, such as the Harvard professor and activist Cornel West, noted how few police were in sight. The next day at the rally, according to the Daily Beast, police ignored pleas from wounded activists and did not intervene or make arrests after the beating of a black protester, Deandre Harris, in a parking garage next to the Charlottesville police station.

McLaren, the white supremacist, blames the local political establishment, claiming — without proof — that it engineered the violence. “I don’t blame police for this; it’s the people who were directing police,” said McLaren. “They obviously engineered an event where it had to be designed so that violence would occur.”

In the wake of the leaks (and efforts by Discord to ban them from the app), white supremacist leaders say they will simply move to other apps or abandon them. “I’ve never liked using Discord or things like that anyway,” Mosley wrote on Twitter. “We’ve done it without that before. We used it this time because it was a large and public event.”

McLaren echoed that view. “You know also there’s a robust nature to what we’ve accomplished so far,” said McLaren. “We’re pretty personally networked now so there’s an extent we can continue to coordinate things even if we’re completely shut out of social media.”

Read more at: ProPublica: Articles and Investigations http://bit.ly/1lISYtS

Trump bucks ethics norm with book recommendation

from August 29, 2017 at 10:42AM http://bit.ly/2gogzru

President Trump on Sunday suggested late-summer reading for his 37 million Twitter followers in a tweet that could get anyone else in his office fired.

The book, “Cop Under Fire,” was written by Milwaukee County Sheriff and Trump campaign supporter David Clarke, Jr., who had pinned a link to the book’s Amazon page on his Twitter profile in February.

Trump shared the Amazon link during a weekend of Hurricane Harvey-related tweets.

Under federal ethics regulations, executive branch employees are prohibited from using their position “to endorse any product, service or enterprise …” The president and vice president are exempt, however.

While technically legal, the tweet was criticized by government ethics groups as the latest in a string of rule-bending behavior by the Trump administration.

In February, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote a letter to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) accusing Kellyanne Conway of violating federal ethics laws after she promoted Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on Fox News. OGE advised action against Conway, but the request was rebuffed by the Office of the White House Counsel.

“This is only the latest unfortunate example of President Trump disregarding the ethical norms that help ensure that public officials are working for the public rather than for private interests,” Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, wrote in an email.

“And when coupled with some of the president’s other recent acts — the pardon of Joe Arpaio, for example — there is a sense that one of the administration’s top priorities is to use the power of government to reward those individuals and special interests who’ve ingratiated themselves with the president.”

During the 2016 campaign, Clarke was part of a cross-country bus tour campaigning for Trump. The tour was sponsored by the Great America PAC, the leading PAC supporting Trump on the campaign. Clarke was also briefly in the running for a job as assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security.

Clarke’s Twitter profile features multiple photos of Trump flashing a thumb’s up.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics criticized Trump’s endorsement as well, accusing the president of using his official account “for an advertisement to benefit a major campaign supporter.”

Clarke’s book isn’t the only one on Trump’s recommended list. He’s also promoted two by conservative author Nick Adams.

The post Trump bucks ethics norm with book recommendation appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Read more at: OpenSecrets Blog http://bit.ly/1vZELhI

With Pardon of Arpaio, Trump Gives a Green Light to Racist Cops and Vigilantes

from August 28, 2017 at 11:33AM http://bit.ly/2vHMZyN

This presidential action comes at a perilous time in U.S. history.

Given this grim reality, anti-fascist organizing and united front coalitions have never been more important.

The 45th president of the United States has exhibited some pretty outrageous behavior in his eight months in office, but his recent pardon of racist former Sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Ariz., might be the most ominous act yet. 

A signature feature of dictators and tyrants is that they allow their henchmen to act with impunity, no matter how brutal, and to jail and punish their critics. The pardon of Arpaio sends a dangerous signal to racist cops and ruthless vigilantes alike. The message is: If you are doggedly loyal to Trump and his base, you can get away with anything. The President himself boasted last month that he has “complete power” to pardon. And with his praiseful pardon of Arpaio, a man Rolling Stone’s Joe Hagan referred to as “the most corrupt and abusive sheriff in America,” Trump has demonstrated that he is willing to exercise that power.

To understand the full impact of this presidential action, we need to remember who Joe Arpaio is.  He is not a crotchety old sheriff from a bygone era. Arpaio was an equal-opportunity oppressor, challenging the legitimacy of the nation’s first Black president as part of the racist “birther” movement while rounding up and inhumanely persecuting documented and undocumented Latinx Ariz. residents.

The Maricopa sheriff’s department, under Arpaio’s rule from 1993 to 2016, was notorious for its harassment and racial profiling of Latinx residents. Their tyrannical practices were so egregious that the Department of Homeland Security prohibited Arpaio from enforcing federal immigration policies. A scathing Department of Justice report indicates that Latinx prisoners under Arpaio’s control were routinely referred to by a litany of racist slurs, including: “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches” and “stupid Mexicans.”

Arpaio’s scandalous open-air prison unit, dubbed “tent city,” housed hundreds of inmates, overwhelmingly Latinx, in unbearable desert heat and unsafe conditions. Arpaio jokingly called the facility his own “concentration camp.” He also re-instated the disgraceful and famously racist “chain gang,” where prisoners were traipsed around in public shackled together and—in a veiled homophobic insinuation—forced to wear pink underwear under their uniforms.

Essentially, Arpaio’s career was an unchecked reign of terror in Ariz. This is the man who Trump embraced, referring to his service as “admirable.”

Arpaio’s practices and persona bear a painful resemblance to the anti-Black racism of southern sheriffs in the 1960s—and the continued racist practices of many urban police forces today. Some observers have likened Arpaio to a modern-day Bull Connor, the notorious and blustering public safety commissioner of Birmingham, Ala. who brazenly defied federal law, unleashed dogs and turned powerful water hoses on Civil Rights protesters in the 1960s. The chain gang and racial epithets were a mainstays of southern law enforcement before and during the Civil Rights Movement.

Today, the Movement for Black Lives has foregrounded the fact that racist police violence and mistreatment are systemic and persistent, even after police forces have been desegregated. Think of the police shootings of Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Mya Hall, Tamir Rice, Ayana Jones, Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd and so many others in recent years.

The law-and-order president condones lawlessness when it suits him, another trait common to authoritarian regimes: rules for everybody but not for “us.” In a speech on Long Island in July, Trump condoned the rough treatment of suspects during an arrest. He jokingly told his law enforcement audience, “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough—I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’”

This must have sent a shiver down the spines of the families of Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray, two young Black people who died in police custody under highly suspicious circumstances, after being violently arrested.

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, once referred to by detainees as “Hitler,” comes at a perilous time in this nation’s history. The scenes of heavily armed white supremacists marching through the streets of Charlottesville and rampaging across the campus of the University of Virginia with torches are fresh in our minds. It was only two weeks ago that Heather Heyer was murdered at the hands of a Neo-Nazi vigilante calling himself a patriot, the same term Trump used in applauding his buddy, “Sheriff Joe.”

Given this grim reality, anti-fascist organizing and united front coalitions have never been more important. The work of The Majority, a broad-based alliance of organizations called together by the Movement for Black Lives is one significant development. And the “Black and Brown” unity platform of the Expanded Sanctuary Movement, spearheaded by Mijente and Black Youth Project 100 to oppose the criminalization of Black and Brown communities, is yet another example of organizers taking seriously the slogan, “same enemy, same fight.” The local Chicago-based coalition, Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild, is doing this important united front work on the local level. There is much work for progressive, left and anti-racist activists to do from the electoral arena to protests in the streets. The stakes have rarely been higher.

Barbara Ransby is a professor of history at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision. She is a longtime activist and a founder of the group Ella’s Daughters.

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Oklahoma police chief to resign after his name connected to white supremacist website

from August 27, 2017 at 01:34PM http://bit.ly/2vjn9pD

A small-town police chief in Oklahoma is prepared to resign from his interim post after the Southern Poverty Law Center connected his name to two neo-Nazi websites, Tulsa World reported.

Bart Alsbrook, who was named the interim head of the police department in Colbert, Oklahoma, denied the allegations to Tulsa World, claiming in a text that white supremacists had stolen his identity.

“Someone has been using my name for years on the Internet in regards to racist topics,” Alsbrook said in a text to Tulsa World. “It’s not me, rather someone who has hijacked my name due to my combativeness and rejection to white power skinheads who were always coming to the heavy metal shows, starting fights and messing up our scene.”

Alsrook blamed neo-Nazis from the Dallas area for appropriating his name.

“We hate each other,” he said. “They use my name in all sorts of things.”

A local TV station in Oklahoma, KXII, reported earlier this week that the Southern Poverty Law Center found a man in Texoma who ran a website called ISD Records, which sold racist media and memorabilia.

While Alsbrook is denying the allegations, the reporting is not entirely surprising.

Earlier this year, the Intercept reported on a heavily-redacted FBI memo which said that right-wing extremists and white supremacists had infiltrated local law enforcement in America.

“This assessment examines white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement from perspectives of both strategic infiltration by organized groups and self-initiated infiltration by law enforcement personnel sympathetic to white supremacist groups,” the FBI document stated.

“White supremacist presence among law enforcement personnel is also of concern due to the access they may possess to restricted areas vulnerable to sabotage and to elected officials or protected persons, whom they could see as potential targets for violence,” the document added.

Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

National Weather Service: Hurricane Harvey is “beyond anything experienced”

from August 27, 2017 at 11:26AM http://bit.ly/2xperU8


(Credit: AP Photo/LM Otero)

The National Weather Service released a terrifying statement Sunday on the situation in southeastern Texas, calling the wreckage of Hurricane Harvey “unprecedented” and “beyond anything experienced.”

Per the Associated Press, the Houston Fire Department said that it has responded to more than 2,5000 emergency calls as of midday Sunday. Another 1,000 calls were still awaiting aide.

Residents of Houston are being advised to take to their roofs in order to avoid flooding. Officials have asked residents to not leave their homes. There are reportedly no safe exit routes in Houston.

The National Weather Service said that total rainfall could reach as high as 50 inches. Houston’s average annual precipitation usually measures 49.8 inches, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

The U.S. Coast Guard has responded to the disaster, deploying helicopters from all over the country to assist aide.

To make matters worse for the people of southeast Texas and Louisiana, the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch Sunday.

The National Weather Service released another statement Sunday afternoon saying that “local rainfall amounts of 50 inches would exceed any previous Texas rainfall record. The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before. Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”

Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

Counter-Protesters Gather In Berkeley In Response To Right-Wing Rally

from August 27, 2017 at 12:34PM http://bit.ly/2wKBRGz

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hundreds of protesters gathered in Berkeley on Sunday for a “Rally Against Hate” in response to a planned right-wing protest that raised concerns of clashes and prompted a large police presence.

Police set up barricades around a city park where the right-wing rally billed “No to Marxism in America” and a counter protest were underway, with officers checking bags of people and warning them that a long list of items were banned — including baseball bats, dogs and skateboards and scarves or bandanas to cover their faces.

Counter protesters largely outnumbered right-wing supporters as the dueling protests began, with participants on both sides engaged in peaceful but tense exchanges.

Karla Fonseca, holding a sign that said “Together We Stand” yelled at Latino man holding a “God Bless Donald Trump” sign.

“You are an immigrant,” she said. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Several others also yelled at the man, who said he was born in Mexico but supports Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border.

Another counter protest called the “Bay Area Rally Against Hate” took place Sunday on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, despite calls by university police for demonstrators to stay away.

The Berkeley rallies happened a day after a rally planned by a right-wing group fizzled amid throngs of counter-protesters in San Francisco. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee declared victory over a group he branded as inviting hate.

Berkeley is the city that gave birth to the 1960s Free Speech Movement but authorities refused to issue a permit allowing Sunday’s event. The city and campus have been the site of political clashes and violence over the past year.

Sunday’s organizer Amber Cummings, a transgender woman who is a supporter of President Donald Trump, has repeatedly denounced racism. Cummings canceled her event — saying that demonization by mayors in both cities and left-wing extremists made it impossible to speak out.

Cummings said she would be the sole attendee — but several supporters turned up anyway.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin urged counter-protesters to stay away.

Cummings has said on social media and in media interviews that Marxism is the real evil and that members of the anti-fascist movement are terrorists.

“I’m not safe to walk down the road with an American flag in this country,” she said to reporters in Berkeley last week.

Saturday’s event was organized by a group known as Patriot Prayer. Its leader Joey Gibson has also repeatedly disavowed racism. Asked Saturday whether he had any plans to go to Berkeley, Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, said he would “analyze the situation.”

Student activism was born during the 1960s free-speech movement at Berkeley, when thousands of students at the university mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.

However, the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 during a rally of white supremacists led San Francisco police and civil leaders to rethink their response to protests.


Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker, Janie Har and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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