Tag Archives: George Floyd

Warnings of Growing ‘Surveillance Empire’ as AI Van Cameras Give Amazon ‘Roaming Eyes in Every Neighborhood’

“Amazon will have the perfect panopticon in place to sweep up unprecedented amounts of data en masse,” says Fight for the Future.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-4-2021

An Amaazon Prime van making a delivery in Queens. Photo: Tdorante10/CC

In what one leading digital rights advocate is calling “the largest expansion of corporate surveillance in human history,” Amazon has begun installing artificial intelligence-equipped cameras in some of its partners’ delivery vehicles to monitor drivers while they work, a move that is raising broader concerns about privacy and corporate power.

CNBC reported Wednesday that Amazon’s AI-powered, four-lens cameras—called Driveri—are being tested in a handful of contracted delivery vehicles. The cameras are manufactured by Netradyne, a San Diego-based startup, and record 100% of the time while vans are operating. They watch and record not only the drivers, but also the road and what’s happening around the vehicles. Continue reading

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France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment

Sparked by a new bill that would make publishing photos of police illegal and a viral video soon after that shows French police brutally beating a black man, it appears that France may be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment.

By Alan Macleod. Published 11-30-2020 by MintPress News

Screenshot: EuroNews

Award-winning Syrian photographer Ameer Alhalbi lies dazed on the ground. His head is heavily bruised and bandaged, blood covers his face, arms, and much of his body. Lengths of cotton wool have been stuffed up his broken nose, giving him an almost comical appearance. Alhalbi has been badly beaten by police. But this is not Syria, it is Paris, where he was covering — ironically — huge, nationwide protests against police brutality this weekend.

Perhaps even more concerning is that new laws pushed through by the government of Emmanuel Macron and passed by France’s National Assembly (akin to the U.S. House of Representatives) mean that sharing images of Alhalbi or other victims of police brutality might soon be considered illegal.

Article 24 of the country’s new national security bill, which now only needs to be ratified by the Senate, specifically outlaws the publishing and dissemination of images of police that undermine their physical or psychological “integrity,” and is punishable with a fine of up to €45,000 and up to one year in jail. The bill specifically states that filming police in such a manner would be against the law, but questions have been raised about how liberally authorities would interpret the nebulous language of the new edict. Media unions and human rights groups warn that it could prevent journalists from documenting police abuses.

The National Assembly’s decision to approve the law last week sparked large protests in many major cities around France, including Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, and Nantes. However, an incident caught on camera on Saturday threw large amounts of fuel on the fire of resentment, drastically increasing the demonstrations’ size and intensity.

Images from mobile phones and closed-circuit television showed an unprovoked police attack on a young black music producer at his place of work. A group of four officers can be seen chasing after Michel Zecler, following him from outside into his studio, where they kick, punch and beat him with truncheons. Zecler also alleges they shouted racial abuse while they assailed him.

Before the videos went viral on social media, the officers testified that Zecler had, in fact, attacked them, and was resisting arrest. The officers have now been charged with “deliberate violence” and with “falsifying statements.” Two of the gang of four, including a 44-year-old senior officer with the rank of brigadier, remain in custody, while two others have been released.

The viral images provoked a storm of condemnation across the country this weekend, and propelled as many as 500,000 people into the streets, with demonstrations in dozens of cities. Protestors marched through the streets, setting light to cars, damaging buildings, and clashing with police, of whom a reported 98 were injured nationwide. Many of Paris’ iconic boulevards resembled a war zone as thousands of demonstrators pitched battle with lines of police in riot gear.

President Macron said he was “very shocked” by the footage of the police attack on Zecler, yet continues to be a driving force behind the new security law, under which many have noted that the images might never have come to light, given as they essentially identify the Parisien officers and clearly undermine their integrity or authority. Without the footage, it is possible that Zecler would have been facing prosecution himself.

Although the bill and the protests against it are dominating French politics, the story has been covered sparsely in the American corporate press, with no coverage whatsoever in MSNBCCBS News, or CNBC. Fox News, meanwhile, reprinted one Associated Press article, featuring an egregious, uncorrected error in its subheadline, asserting that protestors were shooting tear gas at themselves.

While foreign desks have been seriously cut in recent years, huge demonstrations in central Paris should not have been too difficult to cover. Lebanese political commentator Sarah Abdallah suggested that if the rallies had been happening in countries antagonistic to the United States, they would have been front-page news. Certainly, similar protests in Iran and Hong Kong dominated the news cycles last year, prompting constant reaction from Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State is yet to comment on the events in France, suggesting that they are not at the front and center of his thoughts.

President Macron came to power in 2017, winning in the final round of the election against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. A strong believer in neoliberalism and an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has insisted that France must not merely be reformed, but transformed, and has attempted to radically alter the shape of French society, away from a social democratic model to one more resembling the United States. Almost immediately after gaining the presidency, however, his average approval rating tumbled and has not risen above 40% since.

Indeed, the 42-year-old former investment banker has faced almost constant resistance to his agenda from the general public. His attempts to increase the cost of fuel in 2018 sparked the Yellow Vest movement across the country. Meanwhile, his plans to raise the age of retirement and reform France’s pension system was met with a months-long general strike that paralyzed the country last winter. Despite losing over 50,000 people to the coronavirus pandemic, he has seen his popularity increase this year due to the government’s financial response to the virus, which included aid to small businesses and paying employees to stay home. Despite this, it appears possible that France might be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment, where its racial injustices are finally reckoned with.

This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

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Turning White House Into a ‘Fortress’? Federal Agents to Install ‘Non-Scalable’ Fence Just Before Election Day

“Does this feel like preparation for a peaceful transfer of power?”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-2-2020

This additional fencing was put up during the George Floyd protests. Photo: Nick Confessore/Twitter

Federal authorities are reportedly planning to erect a “non-scalable” fence around the entire perimeter of the White House on Monday as law enforcement officials, including 250 national guardsmen put on standby, prepare for possible protests in the aftermath of Election Day.

NBC News White House Correspondent Geoff Bennett was the first to report on the latest White House fence construction plans. CNN confirmed the news, citing an unnamed source “with knowledge of the matter.” Continue reading

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‘Sledgehammer to Permanently Silence Opposing Voices’: Outrage Over Florida Gov. DeSantis’ Proposed Anti-Protest Bill

“This effort has one goal: silence, criminalize, and penalize Floridians who want to see justice for Black lives,” said ACLU of Florida executive director Micah Kubic.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-21-2020

George Floyd Miami Protest, June 7, 2020. Photo: Mike Shaheen/CC

The American Civil Liberties Union joined Florida Democrats on Monday in condemning a proposed bill by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would newly classify certain forms of protest as felonies and impose harsh penalties on some protesters.

Flanked by Republican lawmakers and law enforcement officials at an afternoon press conference in Winter Haven, DeSantis referred to Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon as he announced the proposed legislation. Continue reading

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Federal agents sent to Kenosha, but history shows militarized policing in cities can escalate violence and trigger conflict

Sending in the feds to quell unrest often increases conflict on the ground, as it did this summer in Portland, Ore. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Angélica Durán-Martínez, University of Massachusetts Lowell

The U.S. Justice Department has dispatched federal agents and U.S. marshals to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a police shooting left an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, paralyzed. The Aug. 23 shooting triggered fury, protest and nights of deadly conflict.

Kenosha is the latest city to see federal intervention in demonstrations against police violence. Citing its responsibility to stop “violent anarchists rioting in the streets,” the Trump administration sent armed Justice Department agents to Portland and Seattle in July. In May, after the police killing of George Floyd, it deployed National Guard troops to Washington, D.C. Continue reading

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‘This is the Opposite of What Americans Fought a Revolution For’: Tennessee to Strip Right to Vote from Protesters

‘If our votes didn’t matter they wouldn’t work so hard to silence us.’

By Common Dreams. Published 8-22-2020

Gov. Bill Lee says a measure that stiffens penalties for some protests, including overnight sit-ins like the one that took place this summer near the Tennessee State Capitol. Photo: Office of Gov. Bill Lee via Facebook.

Tennessee protesters will face harsh penalties, including losing the right to vote, as punishment for participating in protests under a law enacted by the Tennessee  GOP-dominant General Assembly.  Right-wing Governor Bill Lee quietly signed off on the bill Thursday, AP reports.

Under the new law, demonstrators who camp on state property can now be charged with a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, rather than a misdemeanor it was previously. Continue reading

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The other epidemic: white supremacists in law enforcement

Law enforcement agencies have been breeding grounds for far-right ideology for decades, and it’s not just an American problem.

By Simon Purdue,  Published 8-6-2020 by openDemocracy

George Floyd protests on their ninth day in Miami. Photo: Mike Shaheen/Wikimedia Commons/CC

 

As protests continue to bring cities across the United States to a standstill, the problem of racist policing is more evident than ever before. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis PD was just the latest in a long line of violent assaults on people of color by law enforcement, and his name joins an ever-growing list of people who have been killed by those who are sworn to protect and serve. The United States is grappling with the issue of police racism in front of the world, and the scale of the conversation currently happening is unprecedented, and sadly still not enough.

While the unconscious bias of some officers of the law has been laid bare for all to see, the conscious and hateful bias of others has remained largely in the shadows. The systemic issue of racial profiling is evident, but the hidden epidemic of far-right activism in police forces around the country is an insidious and even more dangerous threat. The links between the police and organized racism are as old as the institutions themselves. Continue reading

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Prohibited From Holding Police Officer to Account, Federal Judge Calls on Supreme Court to Overturn ‘Qualified Immunity’

“Those who violate the constitutional rights of our citizens must be held accountable. When that day comes we will be one step closer to that more perfect Union.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-7-2020

Image: change.org

Handing down a ruling to dismiss a civil lawsuit which alleged a police officer violated a Black man’s Fourth Amendment rights during a traffic stop in 2013, a federal judge in Mississippi made clear that he sided with the plaintiff—and demanded the U.S. Supreme Court overturn legal precedent that makes it nearly impossible for the judicial system to hold officers accountable for rights violations. 

Calling for an end to qualified immunity, which dates back to a 1982 ruling and shields police from civil liability in most cases, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves turned his ruling into a plea for justice for plaintiff Clarence Jamison as well as countless other Black Americans who have faced violent abuse and deadly use of force by officers. Continue reading

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Federal Crackdown in Portland Provokes Solidarity Protests Across the Country

“This is my first protest,” said a 45-year-old woman who joined the “Wall of Moms” at a Saturday demonstration in Seattle.

-By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-26-2020

Oakland protest – late night/early morning of July 26, 2020. Photo: Amber Stewart/Twitter

People took to the streets in communities across the United States on Saturday in solidarity with ongoing protests against police brutality in Portland, Oregon that have been met with a forceful and widely criticized response from federal agents deployed by President Donald Trump, who has said he will send teams to other major U.S. cities.

Early Saturday evening, speakers at the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, California delivered remarks about systemic racism, police misconduct, and racial injustice before the crowd marched past murals of Black Americans killed by law enforcement to the city’s police headquarters, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Continue reading

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Trump Threat to Unleash Secret Police in Other US Cities Slammed as Scheme to ‘Steal the November Election’

“The exercise also has the advantage for Trump of entrenching a new form of secret police and of turning federal agents into instruments of his authoritarianism.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-20-2020

Screenshot: ABC News

Amid mounting criticism over the deployment of unidentified federal agents to Portland, Oregon—where they have been driving around in unmarked vehicles and snatching people off the streets—civil liberties advocates are increasingly concerned that President Donald Trump will similarly send “secret police” to other Democrat-led cites across the country as part of a 2020 campaign strategy to sow chaos and further his law-and-order message.

“Part of Trump’s reelection strategy is to scare the white suburbs, which polls show have soured on him, with ‘urban’ (read: minority) violence,” University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole wrote Monday for his website Informed Comment. Continue reading

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