Aaron Cantú

10 Most Absurd Reasons We've Arrested Small Children

At this point, it's hard to be surprised by the extreme punitiveness of America's criminal justice system. One thing that can still shock, though, is how police manhandle actual children. Not only is treatment of children severe (police in Arizona recently mulled over the possibility of charging an 8-year-old as an adult), but our system is undiscerning; we can, and do, arrest kids for virtually anything, including completely normal childhood misbehavior. In fact, many youth, particularly people of color from low-income households, come into contact with their first handcuffs in school. Here are some of the stranger examples of this depressingly American practice. 

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State Puts Innocent Man on Death Row for 30 Years, Admits Error, Then Refuses to Pay a Cent in Compensation

Hours after Shreveport, Louisiana prosecutor Marty Stroud persuaded a jury to sentence Glenn Ford to death in 1984, he went out to celebrate, toasting his success with other revelers from his office. Ford, meanwhile, was about to be shipped off to prison for the next 30 years, many of them spent in solitary confinement. Three decades later, Ford was released following a 2003 DNA test confirming his innocence. But with only a few months to live because of lung cancer he developed in prison (which went undiagnosed until his release), Ford may as well have been sent to the gallows.

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Crooked Narco Cops: 10 Outrageous Ways Police Have Enriched Themselves on the Drug Trade

The drug trade is a great place to make tons of money fast. In 2003, the UN estimated the total worth of the global drug trade at $320 billion, a figure that has certainly grown in the last 12 years.

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30,000 March in New York City to Demand End to Racist, Violent Policing (Photos)

On Saturday, about 30,000 people poured into the streets of Manhattan to protest unaccountable, racist police violence. The march was organized by a group called Millions March. Prominent figures like the rapper Nas, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, showed up to a rally organized by grassroots activists, making it the scrappy counterpart to a glossier march happening the same day in Washington, DC, which was organized by Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

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Video: NYPD Uses Military-Grade Sonic Weapon on Eric Garner Protesters

Last night at about 1am, at the intersection of 57 East and Madison Avenue in Manhattan—a populated area about four blocks from Columbus Circle—the NYPD used a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) to disperse about 100 protesters who were on the streets.

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How Police Use Military Tactics to Quash Dissent

As we wait for the grand jury verdict on whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, schools in Ferguson are preparing to close, the police are stocked up on riot weapons and white supremacists are pledging to kill. A sand-colored, mine-resistant military vehicle was seen parked in front a local Dairy Queen. Protesters are organized and eschewing violence for clever forms of civil disobedience, but know they will likely face violenceMissouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency in Ferguson.

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7 Cities That Are Playgrounds for the Rich and Terrors for the Poor

Seven years after Wall Street’s near total collapse, housing markets in the world’s major cities are surging once again, driven by megadevelopers and superrich individuals flush with cash. Financial Times reports that investors spent $1.2 trillion on “high-end commercial properties in 2013,” an 80 percent increase from 2010. The seeds of the buying boom was planted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates and pumped commercial banks with cash in exchange for toxic assets (known as quantitative easing), relieving affluent buyers of risk in global property markets.

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I Went to Summons Court and Saw "Broken-Windows" at Work: How Cops Racially Profile for Trivial Arrests

On the same day I bought a new bike off Craigslist, the NYPD wrote me a summons for riding said bike on a sidewalk in my neighborhood. I was on the sidewalk for less than 10 seconds before a cruiser let out a single burst of its siren and accelerated onto the sidewalk behind me.

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Shocking Videos of Police Brutality Put Bratton and NYPD on Defensive

We’ve come to know the horror of the Israeli government’s campaign in Gaza through digital media over traditional news. Digital exchange also allows us to bypass the PR spin of law enforcement and bear witness to the brutality of American policing.

How will they adapt? At least one recent maneuver, tweeted by the NYPD, provides a clue: Two weeks after Eric Garner’s death, police and community leaders organized an impromptu memorial for Garner that momentarily cooled tensions between cops and community. But improvised stunts are not substitutes for actual change. 

More recently and distressingly, it seems NYPD officers are using social media to double down in defense of a culture of impunity. Vocative reports:

In the latest twist, to show solidarity, officers (and their friends) are being asked to change their Facebook profile picture to an upside-down and backward NYPD flag—a flag that was first introduced to the department in 1919. An upside-down flag is a signal of distress…the idea actually seems to be catching on, though it’s tough to gauge how pervasive the “United We Stand for NYPD” movement is just yet.

The officers and their supporters also plan to hold a rally on September 6 outside the Staten Island precinct to “protest the ‘unfair’ choke hold judgement" that ruled Garner's death a homicide. 

Such blatant and obtuse denialism will only alienate an alien police force even further from the communities it patrols. Regardless of the NYPD's next move, the victims of broken windows policing will continue documenting and broadcasting every abuse until something finally gives.

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Imagine What We Could Buy If We Didn't Have to Spend Billions on Police Brutality Cases

Every few weeks, a newspaper somewhere in America reports on a million-dollar settlement paid out in a case of police abuse. Sometimes the figures are jarring. In 2012, Chicago gave Christina Eilman $22.5 million after police released the bipolar woman into a violent neighborhood, where she was beaten and raped. Earlier this year, the NYPD agreed to pay out $18 million to various defendants roughed up at the RNC convention in 2004.

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The Feds Have Turned America Into a War Zone: 4 Disturbing Facts About Police Militarization

For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of “militarization.” They've upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and inculcated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces.

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Police Can Just Take Your Money, Car and Other Property - and Good Luck Getting It Back

Alda Gentile was driving back home to New York from Florida, after having viewed condos with her son and grandson ahead of a potential move. She had $11,000 in cash with her, which she brought in order to make a deposit on her new place. As she drove through Georgia, she was stopped for speeding, and upon hearing that she was carrying such a large sum of cash (which is legal, by the way), state troopers questioned her on the side of the road for a total of six hours. In the end she was sent on her way—without the cash, which the officers kept.

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How US Private Prisons Are Making Millions by Jailing Migrants in Deplorable Conditions

As states move for the first time in decades to address swollen prisoner populations, federal immigration detention centers are the new front in private prison corporations’ business strategy, and undocumented migrants their easy cash cows.

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How the Government Bribes Police to Arrest People For Smoking Pot

Activists have long claimed that cops have quotas for ticketing and arresting people, but evidence to support those claims varies from state to state. However, newly obtained documents reveal that local police agencies have indeed used the number of low-level drug arrests to sustain critical law enforcement funding from the federal government under a program called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.

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Activists Rally as Brooklyn DA Throws A Wrench in Bratton's Racial "Broken Windows" Policing

On Friday morning, the Drug Policy Alliance of New York gathered a group of elected officials, public defenders, activists and press in front of Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn. The rally was convened to support Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s decision to no longer prosecute low-level marijuana arrests.

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4 Disturbing Reasons the Private Prison Industry Is So Powerful

Since the early 1980’s, incoming revenue for private prison corporations has steadily grown, even through times of deep recession. As long as lawmakers were passing punitive laws to keep mostly young men locked in cages indefinitely, it seemed like the party would never end.

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Inside the Private Prison Industry's Alarming Spread Across America

On a recent Friday afternoon, with budget negotiations winding down, Arizona state representative John Kavanagh was racing against the clock. His position as House Appropriations Chairman afforded him the opportunity to stuff whatever minor extra provisions he wanted into the budget before it went to a vote the following Monday, and he only had a few hours left to do it.

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Pot Progress: NJ Prosecutors Reverse Age-old Position and Now Support Marijuana Legalization

Huge strides were made in the struggle for marijuana legalization on Tuesday: The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association said they support legalizing the possession of pot. This is significant because the association leads the prosecution of all marijuana related charges in the state. 

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South Carolina Lawmaker to 8-year-old: God Should Get Credit for the New State Fossil

South Carolina state Senator Kevin Bryant will not be comfortable designating woolly mammoth bone as the state fossil unless God gets a mention. 

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Straight From the NSA's Mouth: We Searched You Without a Warrant

In a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, NSA Director James Clapper finally admitted what had already been revealed in secret documents: the NSA has spied on Americans without first securing search warrants. 

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Despite 800 Spills in 10 Years, Oil Company Tries to Convince Town to Vote for a New Pipeline

Political campaigns aren't the only ones where vast sums of money are spent to sway people.

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Louisiana Lawmakers Want to Increase Mandatory Minimums for Heroin Possession

Lawmakers in Louisiana want to double mandatory minimum sentences for heroin-related crimes in response to rising rates of use in the state. The bill passed its first round of votes without dissent and is now on its way for a full House vote, where it is likely to receive bi-partisan support. 

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Colbert Report Tweet Sparks Campaign to Reexamine Casual Racism on Twitter

A tweet from the Colbert Report’s official account has ignited a campaign to reexamine casual racism against Asian Americans—at least on Twitter. 

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John Boehner: States That Give Food Aid to Neediest Are 'Cheating'

When the farm bill passed through Congress earlier this year, Republicans were sure it would lead to savings by slashing $8.5 billion to food and heat assistance for the nation's most vulnerable--low income families, children, the elderly, and the disabled.

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4 Shocking Examples of Police Militarization in America's Small Towns

For nearly half a century, the general trend within America’s police precincts has been toward greater militarization, a transformation initiated by the culture wars of the 1960s and facilitated by the war on drugs, fear of inner-city crime, and anxieties over the threat of terrorism.

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Insane New Gun Law in Georgia Will Allow Guns in Bars, Schools, Churches - Just About Anywhere

Straight out of Georgia comes one of the most far-reaching gun laws to ever surface in a legislative body. The bill passed both the state House and Senate last week, and Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign it into law soon.
The law allows those with a weapons permit to carry a firearm virtually everywhere: airports, schools (for staff members) and even bars, so long as gun-carriers abide by the curious condition that they not drink while patronizing a drinking establishment. 
While the NRA, which pushed for the bill, called the law a "major victory for the Second Amendment," others thought the pro-gun lobby might have over-reached. Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence told the New York Times that the bill is “so extreme and people do have such a strong reaction to it. I don’t think over all it’s a victory for them.”
Originally the law also allowed for the carrying of guns on college campuses, but that part of the bill was removed; the bill also sanctioned the presence of weapons in churches, but that was amended to apply only to churches that allowed their congregation to tote guns during worship. An Atlanta-Journal Constitution poll which found that more than 70% of voters opposed those two measures. 
The law was fiercely opposed by a broad coalition in the state, not just gun-control advocates, but also police unions, church congregations, and the federal Transportation Security Administration. A number of polls indicated the majority of Georgians also opposed the bill. 
The New York Times reports that the bill may be the climax of the wave of pro-gun legislation that has washed over 21 states in response to the push for stricter gun control following a spate of mass shootings cluminating in the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
From the New York Times: 
In the past year alone, 21 states have passed laws expanding the rights of gun owners, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Three allow guns in churches, two allow them on college campuses, four in bars and eight in schools.
There was a flurry of gun-control legislation after 26 children and educators were shot to death in Newtown, Conn., by a well-armed, mentally disturbed 20-year-old. But in the 12 months immediately afterward, states passed 39 laws to tighten gun restrictions and 70 to loosen them.
The NYTimes also reported that on the day the bill was passed, shots were fired during a fight at a listless bar in an Atlanta suburb, wounding one innocent bystander.
Read more here.

Disturbing New Report: Air Pollution Killed 7 Million People in 2012 - Or About 1 in 8 Premature Deaths

About 7 million deaths were attributable to air pollution in 2012, according to new estimates released by the World Health Organization. This more than doubles the figure from 2011.

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Uruguay to Accept Five Prisoners From Guantanamo

Yesterday, President José Mujica of Uruguay announced to Uruguayan press that he would accept a request from President Obama to receive five inmates from Guantánamo Bay. 

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It Starts Early: Black Preschoolers Suspended at Much Higher Rate Than Whites

Across institutions, economic indicators and rates of crime, racial gaps abound. Now, new data from the US Department of Education reveals that unequal treatment can begin as early as preschool. 

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Deadly Influence: Powerful Oil Companies Force EPA to Undercount Methane Emissions

A new study published in Science magazine reveals that the Environmental Protection Agency has been drastically undercounting the amount of global temperature-boosting methane gas in the air by as much as 50%--the amount equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 252 coal power plants over a 20-year time period. 

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New Report: Fortune 100 Companies Have Received a Whopping $1.2 Trillion in Corporate Welfare Recently

Most of us are aware that the government gives mountains of cash to powerful corporations in the form of tax breaks, grants, loans and subsidies--what some have called "corporate welfare." However, little has been revealed about exactly how much money Washington is forking over to mega businesses.

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