Seattle Police Chief Resigns Following City Council’s Vote to Defund the Police

Police Chief Carmen Best announced plans to retire Monday night, shortly after the Seattle City Council voted to cut the city’s police department budget by less than 1% after months of protests demanding that the city defund the police.

By a vote of 7-1, the council approved mid-year budget cut would reduce the police department’s $409 million 2019-2020 budget by $3.5 million. The plan will instead invest $17 million in community public safety programs.

“I look forward to seeing how this department moves forward through the process of re-envisioning public safety,” Chief Best said in an email to the force announcing her retirement.

Best, who is the first Black woman to occupy the city’s top policing job, said that she is “confident the department will make it through these difficult times.”

The revised police budget will reduce executive pay and eliminate 100 full-time police officers. It also decreases the budget for public affairs, travel, training, and recruitments and slashes the funding of specialized units like community safety officers in schools, harbor patrol, homeland security, mounted patrol, and SWAT teams. The budge also removes police from the city’s homeless outreach team.

The council approved the budge change after an inquest into the department revealed that 56% of 911 phone calls are for non-criminal activity and only 3% of calls result in arrest.

“This cut is a down payment for future potential reductions,” Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González said in a statement. “Reducing the budget of the Seattle Police Department is a response to the calls for advocating for racial justice and investments in BIPOC communities.”

Although these budget cuts are significant, they fall way short of the 50% cut being demanded by Seattle protestors.

Seattle has been the site of almost nightly protests since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25. The protests lead to the establishment of the Capital Hill Organize Protest (CHOP), a six-block area controlled by community members free of police presence, that lasted from June 8 to July 1. Although there have been a few violent skirmishes between police and protestors, the protests have been almost entirely peaceful.

This weekend, protestors marched into Chief Best’s suburban neighborhood to protest outside her house but were rebuffed by a group of armed white neighbors.

The approved plan also falls significantly short of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s June 24 request that the city council cut the police department budget by $20 million to address a $378 million city deficit related to the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, Mayor Durkan asked the police department to prepare for a possible 50% reduction of its spending in the 2020-2021 budget.

Chief Best had previously proposed a smaller cut of nearly 20% but vehemently opposed the council’s plans for deeper cuts.

Chief Best did not clearly state the reasons behind her retirement, which will be effective September 2, but Mayor Durkan said she was leaving in hopes of improving the department’s contentious relationship with City Council in her statement accepting Best’s resignation.

Sources: CNN 8/11/2020; Reuters 8/11/2020; Aljazeera 8/11/2020; The New York Times 8/11/2020

Court Rules that Trans Students Must Have Access to Bathrooms that Match Their Gender

On Friday, a federal court in Florida ruled that it is unconstitutional for public schools to ban transgender students from using the bathroom that best matches their gender identity. In a 2-1 decision, the Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued the ruling on the basis that “a public school may not punish its students for gender nonconformity.”

This is a major victory for trans students, whose rights are increasingly under attack by a hostile administration. The case also challenges so-called “bathroom bills,” which seek to restrict trans peoples’ access to sex-segregated bathrooms.

The case centered around Drew Adams, a 19-year-old transmasculine former student of Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Flordia. Adams used the boys’ bathroom at Nease High School for years without issue until an anonymous complaint was made against him. After the report, Adams was told by the school board that he would have to use gender-neutral bathrooms.

Adams worked with Lambda Legal to sue the school board in June 2017. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville ruled in Adams’ favor in 2018, but the school board appealed the decision last year.

The judges upheld the lower court ruling and said that the school board had violated the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal rights, and Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education.

“The School Board’s bathroom policy, as applied to Mr. Adams, singled him out for different treatment because of his transgender status,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Beverly Martin in the decision. “A public school may not punish its students for gender nonconformity. Neither may a public school harm transgender students by establishing arbitrary, separate rules for their restroom use. The evidence at trial confirms that Mr. Adams suffered both these indignities.”

According to a press release issued by Lambda Legal, this was the first case to go to trial about a transgender student’s right to equal access to restrooms in the country.

In 2016, President Obama issued an order mandating that public schools allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that align with their gender. President Trump rescinded that order in 2017. Since taking office, President Trump has rolled back protections for trans people in health care, education, employment, public housing, and the criminal justice system.

The Eleventh Circuit ruling cited the recent Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that the protections against workplace sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bostock confirmed that workplace discrimination against transgender people is contrary to law,” Judge Martin wrote. “Neither should this discrimination be tolerated in schools.”

Adams, who is now a student at the University of Central Florida, said that he’s happy to finally see justice prevail “after spending almost my entire career fighting for equal treatment.”

“High school is hard enough without having your school separate you from your peers and mark you as inferior,” Adams said. “I hope this decision helps save other transgender students from having to go through that painful and humiliating experience.”

Sources: CBS News 8/9/2020; The Washington Blade 8/8/2020; The Advocate 8/7/2020; Lambda Legal 8/7/2020

Trump Signs Order Aimed at Strengthening Telehealth and Rural Healthcare

On Monday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at empowering rural healthcare providers and expanding access to telehealth services.

Medicare has greatly expanded its coverage of telehealth services as part of its coronavirus emergency response, but that expansion is set to expire once the public health emergency is over.

The executive order calls on Congress to make that coverage permanent and increase the number of services available via telehealth to include things like emergency room visits, consultations with nurses, and speech and occupational therapy.

“One of the only good things that we’ve gotten out of this whole horrible situation is telehealth, has been incredible,” Trump said during a press briefing. He promised that his administration is “taking action to make sure telehealth is here to stay.”

The order will create an experimental system in which high-performing health care providers in rural communities would receive more predictable Medicare payments, a policy the Trump administration previously adamantly opposed.

The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services have also been charged with working together to empower rural hospitals.

This executive order is the most recent example of the administration’s newfound focus on healthcare. Last month, Trump recently signed four executive orders slashing prescription drug prices and released a report on the need for consumer protections against surprise medical bills.

Although this has signaled a new commitment to healthcare reform, it is clear that this is a pre-election bid meant to bolster the president’s record on an issue his voters care about. Many have also criticized the administration for failing to unveil a health plan of his own.

On July 17, Trump appeared on Fox News to discuss his intentions to “replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would strip benefits from tens of millions of families and leave millions uninsured. Repealing the ACA without a comparable replacement would also seriously undercut access to essential health care services by rescinding the requirement that insurance plans cover things like maternity care, reproductive health care, preventative services such as breast cancer screenings, and mental health treatment.

Trump promised to present a “full and complete healthcare plan” of his own by last Friday, but it never arrived, and there is no evidence that a plan exists. Instead, the president announced on Monday he would release the plan by the end of August. Trump has been promising to implement a comprehensive healthcare plan to compete with the ACA since the beginning of his presidential campaign.

The expansion of telehealth services, however, has been celebrated as a way to protect vulnerable, high-risk communities during the pandemic. In April, Medicare telehealth visits skyrocketed from just a few thousand per week to more than 1 million.

Medicare Administrator Seema Verma predicted that telehealth will become increasingly normalized post-pandemic.

“In an earlier age, doctors commonly made house calls,” she said in a statement. “Given how effectively and efficiently the healthcare system has adapted to the advent of telehealth, it’s become increasingly clear that it is poised to resurrect that tradition in modern form.”

Sources: NBC News 8/3/2020; Politico 8/3/2020; PBS 8/3/2020; Washington Post 8/3/2020

Illinois Plans Overhaul of Juvenile Justice System to “Reduce the Harm of Incarceration”

On Friday, Governor JB Pritzker announced a four-year plan to overhaul the Illinois juvenile justice system by transferring incarcerated children out of large prison-like facilities and investing more in restorative justice practices.

The plan would repurpose the state’s five large juvenile facilities and move the children detained there to small residential centers based in their communities, making family and friend visits easier. These new “dorm-like, youth-friendly” facilities would hold no more than 50 detainees. State officials said the purpose is to “reduce the harm of incarceration.”

“We cannot continue to be a country that criminalizes the children who need the most help,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said. “We need to help our young people heal, to redirect their energy, to realize their potential and foster their dreams. It is time for a change.”

The announcement was made in front of New Life Community Church in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, the site of the fatal shooting of a young man last month. Two teenage boys, 15 and 16, have since been charged with murder as adults.

During the press conference, state leaders cited the failure of the current system as the reason for the reforms. They characterized the current system as “downright racist” and ineffective.

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) pointed out that 70 percent of children in juvenile detention are Black, even though Black people make up about 15 percent of the state’s population. Nationwide, Black children are four times more likely and Latinx children are three times more likely to be committed to juvenile detention centers than young white people. This has a devastating effect on communities of color.

The overly punitive system was also unsuccessful at reducing crime or rehabilitating young people. Between 2010 and 2018, approximately 55 percent of the children released by the state’s Department Juvenile Justice system ended up back in that same system.

“The facilities that should in theory be nurturing children and rehabilitating them in their adolescence instead exacerbate the trauma, interfere with their family relationships and create a culture of instability and violence,” said Pritzker.

The new model would be based on the tenets of restorative justice. Rethinking the way that juvenile justice is conceptualized is necessary to end the cycle of violence, Stratton said, stressing that perpetrators of violence are often also victims themselves.

The plan would also increase investments in social welfare, crime intervention, and victim services, especially in communities that experience higher levels of violent crime.

Camille Bennett, the director of the Corrections Reform Project at the ACLU of Illinois, said she felt hopeful this would be a “step forward to creating a humane and rehabilitative environment for young people in [Department of Juvenile Justice] custody.”

In 2012, the ACLU sued the state on behalf of children in juvenile justice facilities, alleging unconstitutional conditions and services. The lawsuit detailed cruel conditions in which some children were held in filthy jail cells for up to 23 hours a day. The lawsuit also accused the Department of Juvenile Justice of failing to offer adequate education or mental health services.

Despite this contentious relationship, Bennett said that the ACLU would work with the state to “create a system that truly seeks to recognize and develop the potential in young people committed to their care.”

“Now the real work begins,” she concluded in her statement.

Sources: Chicago Sun Times 7/31/2020; CBS Chicago 7/31/2020; WTTW 7/31/2020

Parents in ICE Detention Must Keep Their Children in Detention or Release Them to Sponsors

Hundreds of parents in ICE custody are being forced to decide whether to release their children to sponsors or waive their children’s right to be released.

Two court orders from separate human rights lawsuits have forced this choice. In the first decision, Federal Judge Dolly Gee in California demanded that ICE release all of the approximately 120 children in U.S. immigration custody by Monday, July 27. The order requires ICE to release all children who have been detained for more than 20 days because of their increased risk of contracting coronavirus.

Judge Gee issued the order based on the protection afforded to children detainees by the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement. These protections do not extend to their adult parents. Last Wednesday, a second federal judge in Washington, D.C. denied a motion to release all parents and children together, following ICE’s existing interpretation of the order.

As a result, parents have to decide whether to give up their children or keep them in detention. This “heart-rending choice” is the most recent iteration of the Trump administration’s cruel family separation policy.

“Moms are trying to figure out how their kids are most safe,” Shay Fluharty from Proyecto Dilley, who provides legal services to families at the Dilley detention center, told CNN. “Is it most safe to go to a stranger? Is it most safe to continue to be in detention as the virus is getting closer and closer?”

ICE has reported more than 3,700 diagnosed cases of coronavirus at its facilities. Four detainees and four guards have died as of July 22. ICE detainees are at increased risk for contracting the virus, in part because the agency has largely continued business as usual.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that ICE continuing deportations and detainee transfers had spread coronavirus, both domestically and internationally. Since March, ICE has chartered at least 750 domestic transfer flights and 200 deportation flights, shuffling around thousands of people even when they were exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. The report included descriptions of unsanitary, overcrowded detention centers where personal protective gear was nowhere to be found and social distancing was impossible.

As of July 27, there have been a total of 48 cases of the virus at the Karnes and Dilley family detention centers, both located in Texas, where children are held.

Lawyers with legal-aid groups ALDEA and RAICES say that ICE has effectively ambushed parents with the choice of whether to surrender their children to sponsors, demanding a decision before they were allowed to consult with lawyers.

In cases where no family member in the U.S. is available to sponsor a child, ICE asked parents if they would prefer to put up their children for adoption or send them to foster homes.

“We’ve been calling this ‘Family Separation 2.0,’” says Bridget Cambria, an immigration lawyer at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania, the third ICE facility that detains children. “It’s a Sophie’s choice, either you stay in a burning building with your child or you give your child away… it’s a false option.”

According to lawyers who represent detained parents, ICE has failed to release all detained children. On Saturday, the Trump administration asked Judge Gee to delay the order to allow for more time, but she refused.

ICE still has the legal authority to release parents along with their children, but the agency has adamantly refused to do so. It remains unclear whether ICE has a plan to implement Judge Gee’s order to release all kids, although the original deadline has passed.

Sources: Mother Jones 7/28/2020; TIME 7/27/2020; CBS News 7/24/2020; CNN 7/14/2020

At Least 47 Arrested After Seattle Protests Declared a Riot

Seattle police arrested at least 47 people Saturday night at a protest against the presence of federal law enforcement in cities such as Portland, Oregon. The protestors are facing charges of assaulting officers, obstruction of justice, and failure to disperse.

Approximately 5,000 people attended the demonstration, which police claim escalated into a riot. Police said that protestors threw rocks, street cones, glass bottles, and fireworks at officers.

One protestor threw an unidentified explosive device into the East Precinct building, tearing an eight-inch hole in the wall. Others broke into a construction site and set fire to a portable trailer and other equipment.

The Seattle Police Department claimed that 59 officers were wounded while suppressing the demonstration, with injuries including abrasions, bruising, and burns. One officer was hospitalized for a leg injury. SPD released body camera footage of officers being hit with projectiles but has refused to release footage of the arrests. None of the reports mention injuries to protestors.

The demonstration in Seattle was one of many protesting the actions of federal agents in Portland this weekend. Since July 14, unidentified federal agents in military-style camouflage have been arresting Portland protestors at random, placing them in unmarked vans, refusing to explain the reasons behind their arrest, and driving away.

Many protestors and local officials, including Mayor Jenny Durkan, fear that Seattle will be the next city targeted by the Trump administration.

Seattle has been the site of demonstrations over state-sanctioned police violence and systemic anti-Black racism for more than six weeks. Protestors have refused to disband until their demands, which include defunding the SPD by 50 percent and dropping all charges against protestors, are met.

The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, but there have been occasional violent outbursts by law enforcement and counter-protestors. Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old protestor, was killed by a man who drove his car into a crowd on July 4.

On June 8, a group of protestors retreating from a wall of tear gas took control of the East Precinct building, which police had abandoned. This led to the establishment of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, also known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), a six-block area free of police presence filled with vendors offering free food, medic tents, community gardens, co-op shops, and memorials to victims of police violence. After a series of internal skirmishes, demonstrators were forced to abandon the zone on July 1. Police quickly cleared the area and arrested 31 people.

At least twelve families have filed financial claims against Seattle or King County police over excessive use of force. Protestors have been kettled, beaten, tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot with rubber bullets.

On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Seattle’s new law that would have prohibited police from using flash-bang grenades, tear gas, blast balls, pepper spray, and other violent crowd-control methods. The law, which was passed unanimously by Seattle City Council, would have gone into effect on Sunday.

Despite the announcement that federal agents are being placed on standby outside Seattle, peaceful protests resumed on Sunday.

Sources: King 5 Local News 7/27/2020; CNN 7/26/2020; Seattle Times 7/25/2020; New York Times 7/25/2020

Trump Threatens to Send Federal Agents to “Quell” Protests in More Cities

President Donald Trump announced plans to deploy federal law enforcement to Chicago and threatened to send troops to several other major cities run by “liberal Democrats” on Monday.

Governors and other elected officials have swiftly criticized the president’s threats, calling it an election-year stunt meant to mobilize members of his conservative base whose support he has lost in recent months. Many politicians vowed to pass legislation or file lawsuits to stop him.

Unidentified federal agents in military-style camouflaged vans have been sweeping the streets of Portland, Oregon, arresting protestors at random and driving away with them in unmarked vans without probable cause since July 14. These agents were sent by President Trump to “quell” the relatively peaceful protests in Portland against the police killings of Black Americans, which been ongoing since May 29.

These tactical teams are authorized to use brutal crowd-control techniques, such as tear gas, rubber bullets, and indiscriminate mass arrests, while local police are theoretically only allowed to use when they believe their lives are in danger.

Federal agents have seriously escalated the violence in Portland, in part because protestors have confused them for far-right extremists who wear similar unmarked military-style uniforms and use similar techniques to harass and intimidate protestors.

Jann Carson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, said that the federal agents’ actions are “flat-out unconstitutional.”

“Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street, we call it kidnapping,” said Carson. “Protestors in Portland have been shot in the head, swept away in unmarked cars, and repeatedly tear-gassed by uninvited and unwelcome federal agents. We won’t rest until they are gone.

Approximately 150 Homeland Security Investigations special agents are standing by to curb the protests in Chicago. President Trump suggested that he would also be deploying agents in Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, and New York.

The Department of Homeland Security previously sent at least 200 members of “rapid deployment teams” to Pennsylvania, Portland, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. in the last month. The agents were deployed under an executive order protecting Confederate statues that President Trump signed last month.

The administration currently has an additional 2,000 officials from the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Transportation Security Administration, ready to be deployed to cities across the United States.

The deployment of federal troops is President Trump’s most recent attempt to recast a national uprising over white supremacy and state-sanctioned police violence into an us-versus-them battle for law and order between himself and Democratic local governments.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who called the presence of federal agents a “blatant abuse of power,” has denied the president’s allegations that she is afraid of the protestors in her state. Governor Brown has defended the protestors, who President Trump has called militant anarchists, and their right to assemble.

“This is a democracy, not a dictatorship,” Governor Brown said in a statement to KATU News. “We cannot have secret police abducting people in unmarked vehicles. I can’t believe I have to say that to the President of the United States.”

All the cities cited by President Trump have been the sites of protests almost every night for the past two months. Despite consistent and unlawful violent escalation from law enforcement, the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful. As of today, Portland and Seattle are the only cities that have seen sustained altercations between protestors and law enforcement.

No president in the last decade has threatened to send in or deployed federal law enforcement against the wishes of local government. President Trump’s willingness to ignore this precedent is indicative of his willingness to embrace authoritarian tactics.

Sources: The New York Times 7/21/2020; BBC News 7/21/2020; Washington Post 7/20/2020; Feminist Newswire 7/17/2020

New Study Finds That Black Women Are Neglected by Social Justice Movements

Social justice movements owe everything to Black women, who have been the primary movement-builders, theorists, and front-line organizers fighting for justice and equity for decades. But the unique experiences of Black women are still disregarded and misunderstood by social justice movements, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

The study’s findings are based on interviews with 1,000 participants who were asked whether 41 racialized traits (such as aggression, ambition, hostility, or sexual promiscuity) were associated with different races or genders.

The study found that Black women did not fit the participants’ vision of a “typical woman” and that Black women were more aligned with “masculine” traits. Simultaneously, a majority of participants believed that Black men and women are more similar than different.

This underdifferentiation between Black men and women is congruous with previous research, which suggests that Blackness is automatically associated with Black maleness.

“Black women are often overlooked in people’s conversations about racism and sexism even though they face a unique combination of both of these forms of discrimination simultaneously,” said Stewart Coles, lead researcher of the study, in a press release. “This ‘intersectional invisibility’ means that movements that are supposed to help Black women may be contributing to their marginalization.”

It is no secret that Black women have been neglected by white feminists for decades. Mainstream feminist movements have failed to adequately address racialized sexism and have prioritized issues that predominately affect white women in part because Black women are assumed to either have the same experience of sexism as white women or to only experience racism rather than a complicated combination of the two.

This also explains why movements against anti-Black racism are frequently criticized for not doing enough address the needs of Black women, who are assumed to share the same experiences of oppression as Black men.

Alexis Bass, a 22-year-old Black activist who is currently organizing with the Movement for Black Lives in Georgia, agrees with the study’s findings.

Bass pointed to the lack of attention given to Black women who have been murdered by police officers as evidence of this exclusion. The #SayHerName campaign, founded by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 2014, means to address this issue. Black women have been murdered by police in many of the same circumstances as Black men but have been largely ignored by the movement.

“All of these cases affect my community as a whole, but when it comes to Black women sharing experiences and injustices, our word and our lives suddenly don’t matter,” said Bass.

What the researchers describe as “one-size-fits-all” approaches to addressing social injustice fails people with multiple marginalized identities.

The exclusion of Black women, in particular, puts them at greater risk of harm. Black women have historically shouldered the majority of the organizing labor of social justice movements but lack the leadership roles that allow them to prioritize the issues that affect them.

“The key often starts with listening to Black women about their concerns and what their needs are and then delivering accordingly,” said Coles.

Sources: The New Yorker 7/20/2020; CNN 7/18/2020; American Psychological Association 7/18/2020

Trump’s Anti-Asylum Rule Will Harm Refugees Fleeing Gender Violence

In June, the Trump administration proposed a new rule that would make it virtually impossible for refugees to obtain asylum status in the United States.

If implemented, the new regulation would eliminate gender-based asylum entirely and forbid asylum judges from hearing any cases involving “private” disputes wherein the persecutors are not directly linked to the government. Women and families fleeing domestic violence, children fleeing gang recruitment, and LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution would no longer qualify for asylum in the United States.

The only people who would likely qualify for asylum status would be political or religious dissenters who have openly opposed their government and have been specifically harmed by their government or risk specific harm by their government if they were to return home.

United States asylum law, defined by the Refugee Act of 1980, is built on the idea that asylum should be as accessible as possible to anyone seeking it. Asylum cases are evaluated on a case-by-case basis and rely heavily on personal testimonies of persecution for this reason.

The new regulation, however, seeks to redefine broad swathes of refugees as being automatically ineligible for asylum regardless of their lived experience.

“The goal of this asylum regulation – far from reshaping the system to improve it – is to make asylum impossible to win,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, told CNN.

This regulation is the culmination of four years of unprecedented, malicious attacks on the asylum system by the Trump administration. Through memos, executive orders, and attorney general opinions, Trump has created a series of impediments at the border, in detention centers, and in immigration courts that have made obtaining asylum nearly impossible.

The Trump administration has only accelerated its war on immigration since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. A series of draconian policy changes have effectively blocked every avenue for legal immigration to the United States.

Refugee admissions were already at a historic low in the United States. The recent changes temporarily suspended the refugee program entirely and have since slowed asylum grants almost to a halt. Since January, fewer than 150 refugees have been allowed into the country.

The new regulation will limit this even further, and it will disproportionately affect women, children, and LGBTQ+ people.

“The proposal of ending gender-based asylum is such [an] attack on women and girls all over,” said Aicha, a refugee represented by the Tahirih Justice Center. “If this was in place or had taken effect while I was filing for my asylum, this could’ve probably ended my life. For women and children fleeing violence and still in the same places where laws of the country does not protect them, it is even more dangerous and cruel.”

Sources: Feminist Newswire 7/10/2020; Ms. Magazine 7/8/2020; Tahrirh Justice Center 6/10/2020; CNN 6/10/2020

Record-High Coronavirus Cases Straining Alabama’s Hospitals and Health Care Workers

Friday, July 10 marked the sixth straight day of record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state of Alabama. There were 1,183 people hospitalized Friday alone.

The number of coronavirus hospitalizations reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health has increased by 82 percent since the beginning of July. This is only expected to increase in the coming days as Alabamians continue to ignore social distancing guidelines.

The anticipated surge in infections caused by Independence Day weekend is only a few days away. With public schools set to open next month, public health experts are concerned that time to control the surge in cases is running out.

“I think we’ve got a very narrow window if we’re going to get a handle on it,” said Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association on Friday.

Williamson also expressed concern that coupled with the dwindling number of hospital beds, the strain on health care workers will diminish the quality of care. Alabama currently has less than 1,600 available hospital beds statewide, less than 20 percent of the state’s capacity.

“The last three days have given us the lowest number of available ICU beds in the state since this began,” he said. “There’s still people having strokes, heart attacks, babies, and automobile accidents. You can’t use all your hospital beds for COVID. You have to be able to continue to take care of other things.”

While other nations have been declared free of coronavirus, the number of cases in the United States continues to climb at alarming rates. The United States broke its record of more than 66,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day on Friday, which was set the previous day.

Last week, Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas all saw record-high daily coronavirus spikes and record numbers of coronavirus deaths in a single day.

During Senator Doug Jones’ weekly teleconference, Dr. Anthony Fauci criticized Alabama’s response to the spike in cases. The number of positive coronavirus tests among young people suggested that the spike was caused by Alabamians’ “risky behavior,” particularly more people going to bars and other large gatherings.

Dr. Fauci supported mandating that masks be worn in public, especially in larger cities. Lack of political will has prevented such policies from being instituted in Alabama.

“On March 15, when the first Lee County case was announced the news spread like wildfire and people were buying every cleaning agent they could find at the store,” said East Alabama Medical Center President and CEO Sarah Grill. “[On Thursday], Alabama announced 2,164 new cases in the past 24 hours – by far the most in a single day – and people are still debating the merits of wearing a mask, calling the virus a hoax and questioning qualified health officials on whether an asymptomatic person can spread the virus. It’s all very frustrating.”

Hospital systems being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients has been the leading concern among health experts since the beginning of the pandemic.

Hospitals in Houston, Texas have already begun to turn away emergency responders with new patients due to over-crowded emergency rooms and inadequate staffing. Alabama hospitals are likely to face similar problems in the coming days.

Sources: Politico 7/12/2020; Alabama News Online 7/11/2020; Montgomery Advertiser 7/10/2020; ABC News 7/8/2020

Trump Administration Is Now Blocking Most Legal Pathways to Immigration

In the last four months, the Trump administration has used fear of the coronavirus pandemic to severely restrict most avenues for legal immigration, effectively making it impossible to legally migrate to the United States.

In early March, the administration issued a public health order that mandates the immediate removal of migrants, including children and asylum seekers, apprehended at U.S. borders.

Refugee admissions were already at a historic low in the United States before the pandemic, but this change has stopped them almost entirely in the last four months. Fewer than 150 refugees have been allowed into the country and more than 90 percent of people detained at the border have been expelled.

In June, the administration issued a sweeping order halting temporary employment-based visas for workers in specialized and seasonal fields through the end of the year. The Department of Homeland Security also released a new rule preventing asylum seekers who previously crossed the border illegally from seeking work authorization.

As a result, non-immigrant visas allowing foreigners to travel to the United States for temporary work or study have dropped more than 94 percent in the last four months.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that approximately 167,000 temporary workers will be barred from entering the United States and 26,000 green cards will be denied every month under this new policy.

The administration has since targeted international students with these restrictions. On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a rule that prohibits international students from remaining in the United States if their college chooses to exclusively offer online classes. The order will leave more than 1 million students with F-1 and M-1 student visas at risk of deportation.

In mid-June, the United States government also quietly ended its contract with the companies that print the documents proving legal residency, including green cards. As a result, the government has failed to print more than 125,000 authorization documents already promised to immigrants, turning legal immigrants into undocumented ones.

The administration has justified these draconian immigration policies by citing concerns of spreading the coronavirus and a desire to prioritize American workers during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Public health experts have widely criticized this justification, suggesting that these policies are entirely politically motivated.

Immigration advocates and civil rights lawyers do not doubt that the administration is using the pandemic as an opportunity to advance its hardline, anti-immigration stance and overhaul the immigration system.

“Whether it’s restrictions to legal immigration or further gutting the asylum system, the goal to reduce immigration to its lowest level possible continues to be at the forefront of this administration’s decision making,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel to the American Immigration Council.

This patchwork of abrupt, restrictionist policy changes, and bureaucratic foot-dragging has left thousands of people who legally migrated or are trying to legally migrate to the United States confused and frightened.

Sources: CNN 7/9/2020; Washington Post 7/9/2020; The New York Times 6/12/2020

Dozens Killed by Gun Violence Over Independence Day Weekend

The United States experienced a wave of gun violence over the Fourth of July weekend in which dozens of people were killed and injured in both cities and rural communities. Amid national protests over police violence, the shootings have reignited calls for gun control from elected officials and activists.

There were 63 shootings in New York City, at least nine of which were fatal. In Philadelphia, there were 20 people wounded and six killed, two of whom were children. The city of Chicago saw the most violence with a total of 75 people wounded and 13 people dead, including nine children under the age of eighteen.

The youngest person killed was seven-year-old Natalia Wallace, who was shot in the head at a family gathering on Saturday night. She was one of at least six children who were killed doing everyday things this weekend, most of whom were celebrating the holiday with family.

“Tonight, a 7-year-old girl in Austin joined a list of teenagers and children whose hopes and dreams were ended by the barrel of a gun,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lamented on Twitter. “As families gather to commemorate the founding of our nation, we must ask ourselves: is this who we are as a city or as a country? We cannot grow numb to this. We are making progress in slowing shootings, but we have to do better, every single one of us.”

There were also fatal shootings in Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Greenville, South Carolina, Jackson, Mississippi, San Francisco, and Washington, DC between Friday morning and Sunday night.

This surge of gun violence was particularly shocking in part because homicide and violent crime rates had dropped significantly since stay-at-home orders were passed in early April.

Violent crime has increased as restrictions have eased. This phenomenon has exacerbated the increase in homicides that typically occur at the beginning of the summer.

The wave of shootings has been immediately politicized amid protests against the police killings of Black Americans. Those who support the police have argued that the murders illustrate why defunding police departments endangers people living in high-crime communities and why the police need more support rather than less.

Simultaneously, critics are arguing that the shootings are proof of the need to support community-based programs that address underlying problems contributing to violent crimes, including homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, and drug use. Many have attributed the increased violence to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color.

Activist Aniya Spears told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the recent uptick in gun violence is a clear indication that the police are failing the public.

“Police come after the crime has happened,” she said. “They don’t prevent crime. They can’t help us.”

Sources: CNN 7/6/2020; New York Times 7/6/2020; ABC News 7/5/2020; Chicago Tribune 7/5/2020

Women in Viral Video Sue Indianapolis Police for Excessive Use of Force

Two women have filed an excessive force lawsuit against four Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers who were captured on video using batons and pepper balls to subdue them at a protest against police violence on May 31.

The federal lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern Indiana on behalf of Ivoré Westfield and Rachel Harding on Friday. Three IMPD officers and one sergeant, all unnamed and referred to as “John Doe,” are listed as the defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Harding was part of the Black Lives Matter demonstration and Westfield was there to photograph the event. They hadn’t met before that night, but Westfield asked Harding for a ride after learning that a city-wide curfew had gone into effect and she would not be able to get home.

The women were walking to Harding’s car when they were arrested at approximately 8:45 PM. The lawsuit states that both women were “passive and cooperative” because they knew they had violated curfew, but the officers were aggressive.

Video of the incident shows officers firing pepper balls at Westfield, who is Black, after one officer yelled “hit her.” Two officers then beat Westfield with batons until she fell, at which time an officer pinned her face-down on the sidewalk with a baton at the back of her neck.

A white woman, Harding, is shown yelling nearby: “Why her? Why her?” The video then turns to show an officer rush Harding, shouting “back up,” before shoving her to the ground.

The video, which was shot by a WISH-TV report and posted on Facebook, has since gone viral online alongside other videos of police violence against protestors.

Harding and Westfield were taken to the Marion County Jail with a group of arrested protestors. The IMPD wanted to charge them with violating the curfew order, a misdemeanor, and Westfield with felony battery against a public safety official and resisting law enforcement. The Marion County prosecutor declined to file charges.

The IMPD is one of many departments across the country being sued for violence against protestors. Similar excessive force lawsuits have been filed in Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and Richmond, among others.

“[The police’s] actions, while unconstitutional in any context, are even more pernicious here because the use of this dangerously excessive force specifically targeted peaceful demonstrators who assembled to protest police brutality, particularly law enforcement violence that disproportionally targets Black and Brown people,” said Mark Silverstein, the Legal Director of ACLU Chicago, who is suing the city of Denver on behalf of Black Lives Matter.

Westfield and Harding are suing IMPD on two counts of excessive force and one count of failure to intervene, which identifies “Sargent Doe 1” as failing to stop the other three officers from using excessive force. The women are seeking actual and compensatory damages, punitive damage, reasonable attorney’s fees, and litigation costs and expenses.

Sources: The Indianapolis Star 6/30/2020; ABC News 6/29/2020; The Indy Channel 6/29/2020; CBS News 6/23/2020

China Using Widespread Forced Birth Control on Uighurs to Suppress Population

The Chinese government is subjecting hundreds of thousands of women to forced birth control methods as part of its campaign to decrease birth rates among Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, according to a report by the Associated Press. This campaign is one part of the country’s far-reaching attack on its Muslim population.

In the far west Uighur-majority region of Xinjiang, minority women are being subjected to pregnancy checks and forced intrauterine devices, sterilizations, and abortions while the country’s Han majority are being incentivized to have children. The widespread, systematic campaign amounts to what some experts are calling “demographic genocide.”

“It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide,” said Joanne Smith Finley, a professor at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. “These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uighur population.”

According to government statistics and state documents, China is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into increasing birth control use among minorities, particularly in Xinjiang. While sterilization rates dropped dramatically in the rest of the country, they increased seven-fold in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2018. During that same period, the number of IUDs inserted yearly in Xinjiang increased more than 60 percent from 200,000 to 330,000.

As a result, birth rates in Xinjiang decreased by nearly 24 percent in 2019 alone – compared to 4.2 percent nationwide. Birth rates in the Uighur-dominated regions of Hotan and Kashgar also plummeted more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018.

Authorities use detainment in internment camps both as a threat and as punishment for failure to comply. The AP found that having lots of children, which is considered a “sign of religious extremism,” is a major reason why people are sent to Chinese internment camps.

Once in internment camps, people are subjected to forced labor and political and religious re-education curriculum, including lectures on how many children they should have. Women are routinely force-fed birth control pills, injected with unknown fluids they believe to be Depo-Provera, given IUDs, and forcibly sterilized.

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman called the AP report “fake news.” Government authorities have previously said that the new population control measures are meant to allow Han Chinese and minorities to have an equal number of children.

Before President Xi Jinping came to power, China had one of the world’s most extensive minority entitlement systems, which included laxer birth control restrictions. Under China’s one-child policy, government officials incentivized and often forced Han women to use contraceptives, undergo sterilization, and obtain abortions after having one child. But ethnic minorities, including Uighurs, were permitted two children – three if they came from the rural countryside.

Those benefits have since been rolled back and replaced with a state-orchestrated campaign to forcibly assimilate Uighurs in internment camps.

Zumret Dawut, a former detainee who was unknowingly sterilized, believes that this draconian birth control program is an essential part of the campaign to eliminate Uighurs.

“They want to eliminate us, but they can’t kill all of us,” she said. “They’re doing it step by step with policies such as sterilization, imprisonment, and separating men and women and making them work as forced laborers.”

Sources: AP News 6/29/2020; Aljazeera 6/29/2020; CBS News 6/29/2020

Protesters Remove Racist Monuments Across the United States

Protests over the epidemic of police killings of Black Americans have fueled a national movement to remove statues and monuments that symbolize white supremacy, anti-Black racism, colonialism, and oppression in the United States.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that the statue of President Theodore Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City will join the ranks of monuments to be taken down. The bronze statue features President Roosevelt on a horse flanked by a Native American man on one side and a Black man on the other.

“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” de Blasio’s office told CNN. “The city supports the museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”

Although calls to remove Confederate monuments have existed since the Jim Crow era, there was a national movement in 2017 to get rid of racist monuments in the wake of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Activists demanded that elected officials get rid of statues of racists in cities from Baltimore to New Orleans. According to a 2019 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least 114 Confederate statues were removed, but many remain.

Today, community members and protestors are taking the matters into their own hands, forcibly removing the statues with chains and ropes.

Demonstrators in Portland, Oregon pulled down a statue of President Thomas Jefferson, who owned over 600 slaves over the course of his life, outside of Jefferson High School last Monday. On June 11, protestors toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Attempts to remove a statue of Juan de Oñate, a 16th-century conquistador exiled from New Mexico over his cruel treatment of Native Americans, ended in gunfire on Tuesday.

According to a running tally by NBC News, protestors have removed or requested the removal of more than 130 monuments. Even more have been defaced, beheaded, vandalized, set on fire, and occupied by protestors.

Many politicians have shown their support for the efforts by announcing the removal of statues themselves. Members of New York City Council wrote a letter to Mayor de Blasio demanding the removal of a statue of President Thomas Jefferson from City Hall last week.

Although the mayor’s office has not responded to this demand, the decision to allow the American Museum of Natural History to take down the Roosevelt statue indicates that the Jefferson statue could be removed as well.

“Over the last few weeks, our museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd,” the museum’s president, Ellen Futter, said of the decision. “We have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism. Simply put, the time has come to move it.”

Sources: CNN 6/23/2020; The New York Times 6/23/2020; NBC News 6/22/2020

Chrystul Kizer, Teen Charged with Killing Sex Trafficker, Released on Bail After Two Years

Chrystul Kizer, a 19-year-old Black teen facing charges for murdering her sex trafficker, was released from a Wisconsin jail on Monday after two years awaiting trial.

Four activist organizations, Chicago Community Bond Fund, the Chrystul Kizer Defense Committee, Milwaukee Freedom Fund, and Survived & Punished, paid Kizer’s $400,000 bail, which was originally set at $1 million.

Once Kizer’s case ends, the bond money will be used to establish a fund housed by the National Bail Fund Network for criminalized survivors of domestic and sexual violence, the Chicago Community Bond Fund announced in a statement Monday. A percentage of the returned money will go to the Milwaukee Freedom Fund for its ongoing bail fund.

The Chicago Community Bond Fund was able to pay Kizer’s bond in part because it has been flooded with donations in recent weeks to support their efforts to free protestors jailed during demonstrations over police violence against Black Americans.

“The better world [that] protestors are struggling for is one that protects not punishes young, Black survivors like Chrystul,” said Mia Noel of the Milwaukee Freedom Fund in a press release. “Her case deepens the current calls for justice and the need to keep fighting to transform our society. While the systems designed to hurt Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and People of Color communities still exist, bail funds and mutual aid projects are a necessity.”

Kizer was arrested in June 2018 for the murder of Randall P. Volar, a 34-year-old white man. Prosecutors charged Kizer with arson and first-degree international homicide, an offense with a mandatory life sentence in Wisconsin.

Kizer met Volar when she was 16 after posting an ad on the website Backpage, which has since been taken down by the FBI. After contacting her on the site, Volar sexually abused Kizer for more than a year while giving her cash, gifts, and drugs. Volar also sold her to other men by posting ads on Backpage and confiscating the money that they paid her.

At the time that they met, Volar was already under investigation by the Kenosha Police Department for abusing nearly a dozen underage Black girls as young as 12 years old. Volar was arrested in February 2018 but was released without bail that same day.

He remained free until Kizer, then 17, came to his house and shot him twice in the head, lit his house on fire, and fled in his car. District Attorney Michael Graveley, whose office had video evidence of Volar’s abuse but failed to charge him, believes the crime was premeditated, and part of a plan to steal Volar’s car.

Kizer’s case has attracted international attention from celebrities and activists behind the #MeToo movement. As of this week, a fundraiser for Kizer has raised more than $63,000. Demands to #FreeChrystul have gone viral on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. A Change.org petition under the same name has received nearly 1 million signatures.

Kizer walked out of the Kenosha County Detention Facility carrying two trash bags full of artwork, books, letters, and encouraging words from supporters on Monday afternoon.

No trial date for Kizer has been set. Her public defenders are waiting for a decision from an appeals court that will determine if she can argue that her crime was a direct result of the abuse that she experienced under Wisconsin’s affirmative defense law.

Sources: The Hill 6/23/2020; Washington Post 6/22/2020; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 6/22/2020

Trump’s Controversial Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma Has “Embarrassing” Turnout

President Donald Trump held his first campaign rally since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday evening. Despite claims that nearly one million people registered for tickets, the Tulsa Fire Department reported that about 6,2000 people attended the rally.

President Trump is reportedly “furious” about the “underwhelming” crowd. The rally was supposed to be his triumphant return to the campaign trail after a three-month break.

Many attributed the low turnout to fears about the spread of coronavirus, which were only heightened by the announcement that six Trump campaign staffers who worked on the event tested positive for the coronavirus.

President Trump’s plans for the rally had already been derailed by controversy. Amongst nation-wide protests over the epidemic of police killings of Black Americans, Trump chose the site of one of the most horrific acts of white supremacist terrorism in United States history.

On the night of June 1, 1921, a mob of white people raided the affluent Black neighborhood of Greenwood, known in Tulsa as the “Black Wall Street.” The riot began after a group of armed white men stormed the Greenwood courthouse and lynched Dick Rowland, a Black teenager who was arrested earlier that day after being falsely accused of rape by a white woman. The horde then fired indiscriminately on Black civilians and systematically torched nearly 40 square blocks, destroying homes, churches, businesses, a public library, and a hospital.

As many as 9,000 Black Tulsans were left houseless. The mob massacred approximately 300 people. Most of the bodies have never been recovered.

The rally was also originally planned for Friday, which happens to be Juneteenth. The holiday commemorates the day that federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to ensure that all enslaved people were freed, more than two years after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Although his campaign team eventually changed the date, many believe that Trump chose the date and location for his rally intentionally.

“I think his actions speak for themselves,” said Oklahoma state senator Kevin Matthews, who is chair of the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. “If it were an accident then you could correct that. If you didn’t intend it, then don’t come on this weekend and interrupt one of the most sacred holidays for Black people in this state.”

A wave of TikTok users, K-pop fans, and other social media users flooded the Trump campaign with ticket reservations before the event with no plans of attending in protest, which could have contributed to the low turnout.

Black Lives Matter protestors also demonstrated outside the rally on Saturday. One protestor, a 62-year-old art teacher named Sheila Buck, was arrested following demands from the Trump campaign, despite having purchased a ticket. President Trump’s son Eric Trump, who also spoke at the event, referred to the protestors as “animals” during his speech.

Despite the Tulsa rally being a “major failure,” the Trump campaign plans to move forward with more events this summer. Trump’s next rally is set for Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, despite pleas from the city’s mayor to reconsider due to a recent resurgence of coronavirus in Phoenix.

Sources: Democracy Now 6/22/2020; NBC News 6/21/2020; New York Times 6/21/2020; The Guardian 6/19/2020

Trump Administration Ends Funding for New Lung Treatments Amid Pandemic

At its most severe, coronavirus attacks a patient’s lungs and fills them with fluid, causing a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). But the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a federal health agency, recently halted funding for lung therapy treatments.

The policy change was announced quietly on a government website on June 3. The agency said it would no longer accept research proposals “immunomodulators or therapeutics targeting lung repair. This area of interest is suspended until further notice.”

Funding for vaccine research has taken priority. Out of the $6.5 billion allocated to BARDA by Congress, the agency has pledged more than $2.2 billion to partnerships with five biomedical manufacturers working on developing a coronavirus vaccine and only about $359 million toward COVID-19 treatments.

The new policy is indicative of how the Trump administration has favored the development of vaccines over treatments for the sickest, most vulnerable patients.

Some clinicians and researchers support the shift away from lung treatments because a vaccine would be most effective at stopping the global spread of the virus. Other experts believe that failing to fund treatment research will result in unnecessary deaths.

“We think failing to focus on lung repair is not wise,” Janet Marchibroda, president of the Alliance for Cell Therapy Now, told the New York Times. “The majority of patients who are in hospitals are dying because of lung injury.”

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 118,000 people in the United States and 450,000 people worldwide. There is a significant correlation between patients who develop ARDS and those who die.

Physicians and researchers still know very little about how to help coronavirus patients. There is evidence that remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug initially developed to treat MERS and SARS, is effective at treating coronavirus patients with severely low oxygen levels. It is currently the only drug with emergency use authorization from the FDA.

Earlier this week, the FDA pulled its emergency use authorizations of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, the controversial antimalarial drug President Donald Trump falsely claimed could be used to treat coronavirus.

There are currently more than 200 experimental coronavirus treatment trials underway. Most of the lung treatment studies involve stem cell regeneration therapies, the effectiveness of which is disputed.

According to Dr. Mangala Narasimhan, the director of critical care medicine at Northwell Health in New York, studies for lung therapies are essential to prevent coronavirus deaths. Most of the patients admitted to intensive care for COVID-19 have serious respiratory distress.

“You’re going to need other forms of treatments for a lot of those people, and I feel like that’s where there’s going to be a gaping hole,” Narasimhan said.

She also noted that people will continue to contract coronavirus even if a vaccine is developed and approved quickly because not everyone can be immediately vaccinated. In the meantime, people will continue to get seriously sick and die from COVID-19.

Sources: New York Times 6/19/2020; Alajazeera 6/19/2020; Politico 6/16/2020

Mississippi Could Ban Abortion Based on Race, Sex, or Genetic Anomalies of Fetus

The Mississippi Legislature is advancing a bill to ban abortions from being performed based on race, sex, or potential physical disabilities caused by genetic anomalies.

The Republican-led Senate passed the bill Wednesday by a 33-11 margin. The House is expected to send the bill to Republican Governor Tate Reeves later this week.

Senator Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall) said the legislation is an attempt to ensure that fetuses have the same civil rights as people.

“They should have the same protection in the womb,” Fillingnane said.

Opponents claim that the purpose of the bill is to limit abortion rights and deter people from seeking abortions. The bill would require physicians to ask patients if they were seeking an abortion based on the anticipated race, sex, or genetic anomalies of the fetus. The doctor would be prohibited from performing the abortion if she answered affirmatively and could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years for knowingly violating the ban.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, nine states have bans prohibiting abortions based on sex, two states ban abortion based on race, and two ban abortions in cases of potential genetic anomalies.

Some bans prohibit physicians from performing abortions when they suspect a person is seeking one based on race, sex, or potential disability, even if the person denies this is their motivation. Most require that healthcare professionals report these incidents to law enforcement.

“While nominally aimed at combating discrimination, U.S. bans on sex- and race-selective abortions send the message that women, and especially women of color, cannot be trusted to make their own medical decisions,” writes the Guttmacher Institute in their report. “They place women’s motivations for having an abortion under suspicion, thereby opening the door to discrimination toward and racial profiling of women of color and immigrant women.”

If passed, this bill would mark the third consecutive year that the Mississippi Legislature has passed bills seriously restricting abortion rights. Mississippi’s law banning abortions after 15 weeks, passed in 2018, could be the first of its kind to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although federal court rulings have blocked most of these new laws in recent years, the Mississippi Legislature continues to aggressively pursue laws to limit abortion rights.

Laurie Bertram Roberts, co-founder and director of Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, which helps people pay for abortions, criticized the bill and the authors’ claim that it will advance civil rights protections.

“As a disabled Black mother, I reject the disingenuous invoking of race, gender, and disability while lawmakers refuse to enact policies to create true equity and equality,” said Roberts in a statement Wednesday. “It’s time that Mississippi lawmakers top wasting time and energy on trying to police the reproductive lives of Mississippians.”

Sources: Associated Press 6/18/2020; Mississippi Today 6/18/2020; Biloxi Sun Herald 6/17/2020

Tens of Thousands Show Up for Black Trans Lives in Marches Across U.S.

Tens of thousands of people across the United States rallied to demand justice for Black transgender women on Sunday. The demonstrations hoped to call attention to the fact that trans people of color are disproportionately the victims of violent crime.

Approximately 15,000 people gathered for a “Brooklyn Liberation” rally outside the Brooklyn Museum in New York City while an estimated 25,000 marched alongside the Hollywood Wall of Fame in a Los Angeles demonstration. Rallies also took place in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio.

The marches came after the killing of two Black trans women within 24 hours. The dismembered body of 27-year-old university student Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was found Monday in the Schuylkill River in York, Pennsylvania. Riah Milton, 25, was found dead on Tuesday in Liberty Township, Ohio. She had been shot multiple times and killed by two men and a 14-year-old girl during an attempted robbery.

These women are the most recent victims of what activists have called an epidemic of violence against transgender people, especially Black trans women.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 14 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been fatally shot or violently killed so far in 2020, an increase from last year. In 2019, advocates tracked at least 26 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people due to fatal violence, 91 percent of whom were Black transgender women.

These rallies took place among a swell of global protests against police violence against Black Americans, inspired in part by the murder of George Floyd.

Many activists pointed out the relative lack of response to the police killing of Tony McDade, a Black trans man who was murdered by police in Tallahassee, Florida, two days after Floyd’s death. The Los Angeles march, organized by the Black LGBTQIA Advisory Board Council, was in McDade’s honor.

The Brooklyn march also honored the life of Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old Black woman, who was found dead after experiencing an epileptic seizure in solitary confinement at Rikers Island last April. According to NBC News, new surveillance footage released last week shows that guards neglected to provide medical care that could have saved her life.

Polanco’s sister, Melania Brown, was one of the speakers at the Brooklyn march.

“Black trans lives matter! My sister’s life mattered! All of the loved ones that we have lost, all of those beautiful girls that we have lost, their lives matter. We have to protect them,” Brown said in her speech. “If one goes down, we all go down – and I’m not going anywhere.”

The Brooklyn march was organized by a group of approximately 150 young LGBTQ+ activists working under the direction of Black queer-led organizations like Gays and Lesbians Living In a Transgender Society (G.L.I.T.S.), the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, and the Okra Project.

Raquel Willis, a writer and activist who spoke at the rally, called the organizing effort a “new, grander version” of the power that LGBTQ+ communities of color have always had.

“I believe in my power. I believe in your power. I believe in our power. I believe in Black trans power,” Willis chanted, as people in the crowd changed the words back to her. “Let today be the last day that you ever doubt Black trans power.”

Sources: The New York Times 6/16/2020; CNN 6/15/2020; The Guardian 6/15/2020; USA Today 6/15/2020

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