Tag Archives: BlackLivesMatter

Buffalo Cops Who Shoved 75-Year-Old Peace Activist to Ground Cleared of Wrongdoing

The arbitrator asserted that Martin Gugino was “definitely not an innocent bystander.”

By Andrea Germanos  Pubished 4-11-2022 by Common Dreams

Police officers in Buffalo, New York walk by the motionless body of 75-year-old Martin Gugino, whose head cracked on the concrete after being attacked by pushed over by officers during a June 2020. (Photo: Screengrab/WBFO)

Two Buffalo, New York police officers were cleared of any wrongdoing on Friday related to their actions knocking an elderly peace activist to the ground, causing him a fractured skull and weeks in the hospital, amid protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd nearly two years ago.

The arbitrator’s decision stems from officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe’s actions toward then-75-year-old Martin Gugino at a June 4, 2020 Black Lives Matter protest outside City Hall. Continue reading

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Mass Student Walkouts Over Police Killing of Amir Locke

Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was killed last week by police executing a no-knock search warrant.

By Julia Conley.  Published 2-8-2022 by Common Dreams

Demanding accountability from local leaders, hundreds of high school students in Minneapolis and St. Paul walked out of their classes on Tuesday at noon in protest of the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke during a no-knock raid.

The youth-led group MN Teen Activists organized the walkout, which included students at St. Paul Central High School and Capitol Hill Magnet School in St. Paul and Southwest, Roosevelt, and Washburn high schools in Minneapolis, as well as other schools in the surrounding suburbs. Continue reading

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‘Senselessly Unjust’: Ex-Chicago Cop Who Killed Laquan McDonald Released From Prison

The Justice Department is facing pressure to bring federal charges against Jason Van Dyke, who served less than half of his 81-month sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder.

By Jessica Corbett.  Published 2-3-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: C. Presutti/VOA

Critics of police violence toward Black Americans expressed outrage as Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago cop who killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014, was released Thursday after serving just over three years in prison for a state murder charge.

“A white officer who murdered a 17-year-old Black child by firing 16 shots into his body is walking free today after just three years behind bars. Think about that. Just three years for a violent, vicious attack that killed a child,” tweeted Kina Collins, a Democratic candidate running to represent Illinois’ 7th Congressional District, which includes part of Chicago.

A Cook County, Illinois jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in October 2018. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison the following January. The judge’s decision to merge all charges for sentencing was significant because the 16 battery counts each had a mandatory minimum of a six-year prison term.

“An 81-month sentence for the gruesome murder of a child was inadequate in the first place,” said Collins. “For Van Dyke to walk free in less than half that time is senselessly unjust.”

WGN TV reports that Chicago activists “plan on holding a ‘large demonstration’ in Federal Plaza Thursday around 4:00 pm to express their displeasure, with at least 15 social and civil rights groups pledging their attendance.”

Leading up to Van Dyke’s release this week, activists, the NAACP, and political figures have urged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to update the public on an investigation that was announced in April 2015 and to pursue federal charges against the convicted murderer.

“We’ve been crying aloud for federal charges on Jason Van Dyke for the past three years,” community organizer William Calloway told WGN TV. “It shouldn’t take this to happen, to be on the cusp of his release, to get federal charges pressed on him.”

Tracie Hunter, McDonald’s grandmother, said of Van Dyke that “this man doesn’t need to get out. We are seeking federal charges. The time he did wasn’t enough.”

Collins, in her Thursday morning Twitter thread, said that “I’m calling on U.S. Attorney John Lausch Jr. and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene and bring federal charges against Jason Van Dyke to ensure that he is held accountable.”

The congressional candidate also blasted former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Japan. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) on Wednesday similarly slammed Emanuel’s new post and called for federal charges against Van Dyke.

Bush also shared a letter that NAACP leaders sent to Garland Tuesday which said the “lack of resolution” in the investigation coupled with the release of the “disgraced” ex-cop is “clearly alarming” and “has given rise to very vocal concerns and unrest” in Chicago.

“We trust that you find the matters alarming as well,” wrote NAACP president Derrick Johnson and Illinois State Conference president Teresa Haley, urging Garland to close the investigation and “move forward with appropriate and applicable federal charges based on the federal grand jury findings and other relevant evidence.”

A DOJ spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the department received the NAACP letter as well as one from Illinois’ two Democratic U.S. senators, who wrote to Garland that “the facts of this case remain shocking and upsetting,” and demanded an update on the federal investigation.

As Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary chair, detailed:

In April 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced a joint federal and state investigation into the shooting; however, there was never an announcement that the federal investigation had closed after Van Dyke was convicted of state charges. In October 2019, when activists called for federal civil rights charges against Van Dyke and other officers involved in the cover up of the murder, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to state whether the federal investigation was still ongoing or closed. Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office again declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

Van Dyke’s state conviction and sentencing do not preempt or negate the interest of the federal government, if the evidence supports charging Van Dyke with violating McDonald’s civil rights under Section 242 of Title 18. The recent federal civil rights case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin demonstrates this; after Chauvin was found guilty by a state jury and sentenced to 22 years for murdering George Floyd, Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges under Section 242. Chauvin admitted that his willful use of unreasonable force resulted in Floyd’s death. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Chauvin faces a sentence of over 20 years in prison.

“We urge the Justice Department to carefully and expeditiously complete its investigation,” the senators wrote, telling Garland that they “look forward to your prompt report” on the probe.

Collins, in a statement Tuesday, said that “this is a step in the right direction” for the senators, “but let’s be clear: we don’t just need an update, we need charges filed.”

“This is an open and shut case,” she said. “This murder was a clear-cut violation of Laquan McDonald’s civil rights. Just like in Chauvin’s case, the federal charges against Van Dyke should be straightforward. It’s past time for the federal charges to be filed.”

U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, who represents Illinois’ 4th Congressional District, said Thursday that “there can never be justice for Laquan McDonald, but Jason Van Dyke’s early release negates even the small measure of accountability that his conviction provided.”

“Van Dyke’s early release is a slap in the face to our communities, and today I join the call for the Department of Justice to consider bringing civil rights charges against Van Dyke,” García added. “Laquan’s life mattered. Black Lives Matter.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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Abdulrazak Gurnah: the truth-teller’s tale

Winning the Nobel Prize in literature means his work could add essential nuance to the global conversation about identity and belonging

By Rashmee Roshan Lall  Published 10-31-2021 by openDemocracy

Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature. Screenshot: The Hindu

Until recently, Abdulrazak Gurnah, a professor of English and postcolonial literatures at the University of Kent in Canterbury, had little media attention other than a brief mention in stories about refugees.

As a refugee who arrived in England from Zanzibar in 1968, and as a novelist who wrote about refugees and immigrants from east Africa, Gurnah would sometimes be mentioned in newspaper stories on asylum and migration. After the 2016 Brexit referendum and that notorious anti-immigrant UK Independence Party poster, his name was mentioned among other writers who championed a less insular worldview. And after the Windrush scandal, when the children of Caribbean migrants who had come to the UK decades ago were asked for paperwork to prove their right to live in Britain, Gurnah’s opinion was sought. He was, after all, a refugee himself. Continue reading

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Feds Targeted BLM Activists to Foil Racial Justice Protests: Report

“The federalization of protest-related charges was a deliberate and cynical effort to target and discourage those who protested in defense of Black lives.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-19-2021

George Floyd protest in Philadelphia 6-1-2020. Photo: Joe Piette/flickr/CC

As Black Lives Matter protests grew across the U.S. following the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, so did the federal government’s persecution of activists who marched in support of racial justice.

That’s according to a new report released Wednesday by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) clinic at the City University of New York School of Law. Continue reading

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Report Reveals Major Corporations Are Funding Lawmakers Behind Anti-Democracy Bills

“It is now more urgent than ever to build a just transition away from fossil fuels and fight off attacks against protest and our freedom to vote, so that we can have a planet our communities can thrive on.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-10-2021

Washington, DC erupts in celebration following the defeat of Donald Trump. Photo: Heartland Alliance

Numerous corporations have funded the political action committees of state lawmakers backing the recent spate of anti-voter and anti-protest bills, even as many of the companies have spoken out in defense of voting rights and democracy, a report published Monday by Greenpeace USA revealed

The report (pdf)—entitled Dollars vs. Democracy: Companies and the Attack on Voting Rights and Peaceful Protest—says that 44 state lawmakers sponsored at least one anti-protest bill and one anti-voter bill in the past year. It also reveals that 53 of the 100 top corporate donors to lawmakers sponsoring anti-voter bills also rank among the top 100 contributors to anti-protest measures. Continue reading

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‘Racist, Unconstitutional, and Anti-Democratic’: Florida Senate Passes GOP Anti-Protest Bill

“This bill is a disgrace to our state.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-16-2021

George Floyd protests in Miami, Florida on June 6, 2020. Photo: Mike Shaheen/Wikimedia Commons/CC

After Florida’s Senate Republicans on Thursday passed an undemocratic anti-protest bill—expected to be signed into law by its chief proponent, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, as early as next week—the state’s ACLU chapter condemned GOP lawmakers for “aiming to shut down political speech they disagree with in a direct attack on the First Amendment and at the cost of Black and Brown people.”

House Bill 1 “is racist, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic, plain and simple,” Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. Continue reading

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‘The OK Legislature Wants Us Dead’: Rights Defenders Decry Advancement of Anti-Protest Bills

The head of the state’s ACLU accused Oklahoma lawmakers of “attempting to silence the voices of their constituents and criminalize vital calls for accountability and racial justice.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-15-2021

A car driven by a white supremacist plows into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. The attack killed 32-year-old anti-racism protester Heather Heyer. (Photo: Ryan Kelly/The Daily Progress/WikiMedia Commons)

Dismissing warnings from civil liberties defenders, the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a pair of bills the state’s ACLU said would “chill dissent, and silence and criminalize Oklahomans who want to exercise our First Amendment right to peacefully protest.”

Tulsa Public Radio reports the state Senate passed H.B. 1674 (pdf) by a largely party-line vote of 38-10. If signed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, the measure will grant civil and criminal immunity to drivers who “unintentionally” kill or injure people while “fleeing from a riot” if they have “reasonable belief” that doing so will protect them from harm. Continue reading

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Aurora Police Killed Without Consequence, Now Their Protestors Face 48 Years for “Kidnapping” Cops

The cops and the district attorneys want people to see what we are going through — the conditions of our arrests, our experiences in jail, and our legal battle — and to think that this is what you risk when you stand up against them. – Lillian House, Aurora Activist and Defendant

By Alan Macleod   Published 3-4-2021 by MintPress News

Lillian House, left, and Joel Northam. Courtesy | Lillian House

Elijah McClain would have turned 25 last week. However, in 2019, the introverted Black massage therapist was killed on the street by police in his native Aurora (a part of the Denver metropolitan area). None of the officers involved have faced charges for the incident. Yet the leaders of mass protests against the killing are now facing up to 48 years in prison on a host of charges they see as retaliation for standing up to police power.

Three activists — Lillian House, Joel Northam, and Eliza Lucero face a preliminary hearing on March 9. A fourth, Terrence Roberts, is also facing similar, though more minor charges. Continue reading

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‘Classic Case of Crisis Opportunism’: Republicans in Three States Introduce Bills Criminalizing Protest in Wake of Capitol Attack

These proposed laws are “aimed at police brutality protests, not right-wing insurrection.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-13-2021

George Floyd protests in Washington DC. Photo: Rosa Pineda /CC

Progressives are sounding the alarm that a handful of Republican lawmakers are exploiting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by an insurrectionist pro-Trump mob to push for anti-protest bills that critics say do not aim to stem the tide of right-wing extremism but instead criminalize dissent by those seeking social change and justice.

In the immediate aftermath of last week’s invasion of the halls of Congress, GOP lawmakers in Florida, Mississippi, and Indiana introduced bills that “do not represent new strategies designed specifically to prevent future right-wing insurrections… [but] draw from a set of policies that numerous state legislators introduced [last] summer in order to appear tough on protests against police brutality,” The Intercept reported Tuesday. Continue reading

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