Human Rights

Why this trial was different: Experts react to the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin

by Alexis Karteron, Rutgers University - Newark ; Jeannine Bell, Indiana University, and Ric Simmons, The Ohio State University

Scholars analyze the guilty verdicts handed down to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the 2020 murder of George Floyd. Outside the courthouse, crowds cheered and church bells sounded – a collective release in a city scarred by police killings. Minnesota's attorney general, whose office led the prosecution, said he would not call the verdict “justice, however" because “justice implies restoration" – but he would call it “accountability."

Race was not an issue in trial

Alexis Karteron, Rutgers University - Newark

Derek Chauvin's criminal trial is over, but the work to ensure that no one endures a tragic death like George Floyd's is just getting started.

It is fair to say that race was on the minds of millions of protesters who took to the streets last year to express their outrage and pain in response to the killing. Many felt it was impossible for someone who wasn't Black to imagine Chauvin's brutal treatment of George Floyd.

But race went practically unmentioned during the Chauvin trial.

This should not be surprising, because the criminal legal system writes race out at virtually every turn. When I led a lawsuit as a civil rights attorney challenging the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program as racist, the department's primary defense was that it complied with Fourth Amendment standards, under which police officers need only “reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity to stop someone. Presence in what police say is a “high-crime area" is relevant to developing reasonable suspicion, as is a would-be subject taking flight when being approached by a police officer. But the correlation with race, for a host of reasons, is obvious to any keen observer.

American policing's most pressing problems are racial ones. For some, the evolution of slave patrols into police forces and the failure of decadeslong reform efforts are proof that American policing is irredeemable and must be defunded. For others, changes to use-of-force policies and improved accountability measures, like those in the proposed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, are enough.

Different communities across the country will follow different paths in their efforts to prevent another tragic death like George Floyd's. Some will do nothing at all. But progress will be made only when America as a whole gets real about the role of race – something the legal system routinely fails to do.

Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd for 9 minutes, 29 seconds.

Why this trial was different

Ric Simmons, The Ohio State University

The guilty verdicts in the Chauvin trial are extraordinary, if unsurprising, because past incidents of police lethal use of force against unarmed civilians, particularly Black civilians, have generally not resulted in criminal convictions.

In many cases, the prosecuting office has been reluctant or halfhearted in pursuing the case. Prosecutors and police officers work together daily; that can make prosecutors sympathetic to the work of law enforcement. In the Chauvin case, the attorney general's office invested an overwhelming amount of resources in preparing for and conducting the trial, bringing in two outside lawyers, including a prominent civil rights attorney, to assist its many state prosecutors.

Usually, too, a police officer defendant can count on the support of other police officers to testify on his behalf and explain why his or her actions were justified. Not in this case. Every police officer witness testified for the prosecution against Chauvin.

Finally, convictions after police killings are rare because, evidence shows, jurors are historically reluctant to substitute their own judgment for the split-second decisions made by trained officers when their lives may be on the line. Despite the past year's protests decrying police violence, U.S. support for law enforcement remains very high: A recent poll showed that only 18% of Americans support the “defund the police" movement.

But Chauvin had no feasible argument that he feared for his life or made an instinctive response to a threat. George Floyd did nothing to justify the defendant's brutal actions, and the overwhelming evidence presented by the prosecutors convinced 12 jurors of that fact.

The 'thin blue line' kills

Jeannine Bell, Indiana University

Like other high-profile police killings of African Americans, the murder of George Floyd revealed a lot about police culture – and how it makes interactions with communities of color fraught.

Derek Chauvin used prohibited tactics – keeping his knee on Floyd's neck when he had already been subdued – to suffocate a man, an act the jury recognized as murder. Three fellow Minneapolis Police Department officers watched as Chauvin killed Floyd. Rather than intervene themselves, they helped him resist the intervention of upset bystanders and a medical professional. They have been charged with aiding and abetting a murder.

The police brotherhood – that intense and protective “thin blue line" – enabled a public murder. Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, unusually, broke this code of silence when he testified against Chauvin.

Research shows that even if officers see a fellow officer mistreating a suspect and want to intervene, they need training to teach them how to do so effectively. The city of New Orleans is now training officers to intervene. Once training is in place, police departments could also make intervention in such situations mandatory.

When some officers stand by as other officers ignore their training, the consequences can be dangerous – and potentially lethal – for civilians.

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Alexis Karteron, Associate Professor of Law, Rutgers University - Newark ; Jeannine Bell, Professor of Law, Maurer School of Law, Indiana University, and Ric Simmons, Professor of Law, The Ohio State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

George Floyd’s legacy: Derek Chauvin guilty verdicts could spell the end of police immunity

by Kent Roach, University of Toronto

The police killing of George Floyd begs for effective remedies that respond both to past harms while also preventing future harm.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of three counts in the killing of Floyd after he kneeled on the Black man's neck for more than nine minutes as he pleaded for his life in May 2020. But what will be done now to ensure no one else dies a similar death at the hands of police, especially given there have been several police killings following Floyd's murder?

As legal theorist William Blackstone famously wrote, “every right when withheld must have a remedy."

But American federal courts have never recognized Blackstone's truism because of a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity, which protects police or government officials from lawsuits by requiring plaintiffs to establish not only that their rights have been violated, but that state officials did so with a high level of fault.

Given the egregious nature of Floyd's killing, qualified immunity was not an issue in Floyd's case. This helps explain why Minneapolis City Council agreed to pay the family US$27 million in damages.

But courts and legislatures are increasingly finding fault with qualified immunity.

Decision overturned

The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that lower courts had erred when they dismissed damage claims by a Texas prisoner on qualified immunity grounds. It ruled that he can sue six prison officers who allegedly forced him to sleep naked in a cell covered with feces and sewage for days.

The court indicated that some violations are so egregious that they might merit damages even in the absence of clearly established law. Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

The court also recently decided that damages can be sought for free speech violations even when the violation does not cause calculable harm. And in another recent case, the court ruled that a woman shot by the police when fleeing was subject to an unreasonable seizure.

City councils and legislatures are also chipping away at qualified immunity measures that often prevent damages from being awarded to plaintiffs. New York City Council recently repealed qualified immunity provisions that have sheltered police officers from lawsuits.

The U.S. House of Representatives has also passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. If enacted, it would repeal qualified immunity. That means damages could be awarded even if the police acted in good faith or violated rights that were not clearly established.

Damages are important. They serve as a visible and reportable symbol that the state has violated rights. But they are not enough. Effective remedies must also prevent future violations.

Consent decrees

How? Consent decrees require some police departments to collect data about police practices that harm racialized people. Some require police to intervene when there are warning signs of officers abusing their powers.

The Minneapolis Police Department was not under such a consent decree. It should have been.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has indicated that it will seek more consent decrees to monitor police departments.

But more ambitious systemic remedies won't necessarily prevent police killings and brutality. There's no way of knowing whether a consent decree would have stopped Chauvin from killing Floyd.

In recent weeks there have been two fatal police shootings of unarmed Black young men in the United States, 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Minnesota and 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago, where a consent decree is in place.

More substantial systemic reform could be achieved by a two-track approach that combines individual remedies for the past and systemic remedies for the future.

Signs of change afoot?

The ultimate remedy for a police department that cannot or will not respect rights would be to disband it. Failing that, the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decisions are promising. They may allow courts to compensate the victims of the most egregious forms of police abuse.

But that alone will be inadequate.

The courts and, if not the courts, the people must demand governments take reasonable and measurable steps to prevent future rights violations. The damages paid to Floyd's family are an important step in remedying a searing injustice. But much more needs to be done to prevent similar violations in the future.

There are no easy or guaranteed victories when it comes to legal remedies. But that doesn't mean they aren't important or should not be vigorously pursued.The Conversation

Kent Roach, Professor & Prichard Wilson Chair in Law and Public Policy, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Immigrants aren't the real threat in the United States — ICE and the Border Patrol are

President Joe Biden has been lauded for his empathetic comforter-in-chief responses to the ravages of the coronavirus, economic pain and gun violence. But anyone worried about the fate of non-citizens in the US, or at the border, has observed not empathy but a toxic mix of indifference and willful commitment to pointlessly punitive policies.

From a failure to rescind the former president's Title 42, causing almost all recent asylum-seekers to be expelled from the US, to his equivocation on the 2021 refugee cap, it's almost impossible to find good news about immigration policy in 2021.

Biden isn't exceptional. For Democrats, "border security" is a familiar posture, whether or not immigration reform is on the table. Bill Clinton presided over the creation of a legal architecture leading to mass immigrant incarceration. Barack Obama pushed the limits of the deportation infrastructure that was built in the interim, deporting more people from this country than any president to this day.

But the very phrase "border security" is misleading, training our minds on ominous-sounding but imaginary threats from outside the US and distracting us from the very real threat posed by an enormous militarized force charged with policing immigration.

In fact, much of the devastation causing people to flee triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) is the direct result of the deportation of gangs formed in the US (notably, MS-13 and Barrio 18) as well as American interference with those three countries dating back to the early 20th century. Today, we're told we need border security forces to prevent trafficking, among other crimes. Too often, though, it is the border police themselves engaging in trafficking and related criminal activity.

Two agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), are responsible for policing immigration. They decide who gets arrested, who gets hearings, who is deported, and who will be jailed indefinitely. They are huge, awash in cash, poorly supervise and incentivized to be maximally cruel.

CBP alone constitutes the largest federal law enforcement agency in the US. Together, the two agencies consume nearly $20 billion a year, a non-trivial portion of which goes to shadowy private companies like Geo Group and Core Civic for incarceration and, increasingly, for so-called e-carceration that can transform any home or neighborhood into a penal outpost, often with very little protection for anyone's data privacy.

Even when they don't outsource their work, we underestimate the dangers posed by ICE and CBP. ICE is reported to generate thousands of sexual and physical abuse complaints each year. CBP agents are more famous for indifference to law. They are five times more likely to be arrested than other law enforcement agents. They have been found illegally cooperating with citizen militias that dress in police costumes and "patrol" areas where they think they'll encounter people they can harass and abuse.

CBP's lawless culture is likely in part an outcome of the fact that the US Congress and the US Supreme Court have affirmed a distinct interpretation of the 4th Amendment that gives CBP leeway, in many instances, to stop, search and question people without warrants or the kinds of suspicion required of all other law enforcement agents. Last year, CBP drones were seen flying over protesters in Minneapolis. ICE has also targeted and harassed journalists and lawyers who specialize in immigration issues.

Deportation and detention may sound like problems for only non-citizens and mixed-status households, but as long as deportation forces have existed, those same forces have arrested and sometimes expelled US citizens. In the case of ICE, the number of citizens targeted for deportation is quite high. The Cato Institute estimates that over the course of 11 years, it is likely that more than 20,000 citizens were issued ICE "detainers" (i.e., requests from ICE or DHS to local law enforcement to keep people incarcerated who would otherwise be released so that ICE agents can pursue them).

There are many reasons that we find ourselves living with two sprawling immigration police forces that each year encroach further on the basic civil rights and safety of everyone in the US. But one important reason is that their very existence implies threats from outsiders that do not exist. For all the money, weapons and power that CBP and ICE have claimed, they have not reduced crime rates, ended the illegal narcotics trade, prevented the flow and use of deadly weapons, or in any other way made people safer. To the contrary, all too often is the immigration police who are committing crimes, trafficking illegal substances and compromising our security.

Ron DeSantis signs 'outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional' bill into law

Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill that civil rights groups warn is designed to crack down on peaceful demonstrations and criminalize dissent by redefining "rioting" in an overbroad way and creating draconian new felonies for protest-related offenses.

While DeSantis and the bill's Republican sponsors in the Florida legislature presented HB1 as a response to the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters earlier this year, critics say the measure—crafted well before the January 6 attack—is in fact a reaction against the racial justice protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd last May.

"Let's be clear: this is not an anti-riot bill, regardless of what supporters claim," Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement Monday. "It is a bill that criminalizes peaceful protest, and the impact HB1 will have on Floridians cannot be disputed. Each and every provision harkens back to Jim Crow."

Kubic went on to warn that under the new law—which is part of a wave of similar Republican measures under consideration nationwide—protesters could be arrested and charged with a felony if others at a protest or gathering became violent or disorderly, even if they themselves didn't." According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, HB1 defines rioting as a public disturbance by at least three people with "common intent to mutually assist each other in disorderly and violent conduct."

"The goal of this law is to silence dissent and create fear among Floridians who want to take to the streets to march for justice," said Kubic. "Every single Floridian should be outraged by this blatant attempt to erode our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. It is outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional. Gov. DeSantis' championing of and signature on this law degrades, debases, and disgraces Florida and our democracy."

As the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday, the new law makes blocking a highway a felony offense and "creates a broad category for misdemeanor arrest during protests, and anyone charged under that provision will be denied bail until their first court appearance."

The law also "grants civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road, which Democrats argued would have protected the white nationalist who ran over and killed counter-protester Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville tumult in 2017," the Sentinel noted.

Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones said in a statement Monday that HB1 "undermines every Floridian's constitutional rights, and it is disgusting that the GOP would rather empower vigilantes and silence voices than listen to the majority of Floridians who oppose this dangerous bill."

"The governor's spectacle is a distraction that will only further disenfranchise Black and brown communities," said Jones.

How the right wing invented a fictional 'migration crisis' — and tricked us into believing it

Most people seem to have accepted the truth about the so-called war on drugs. By that, I mean it was never about drugs. Its true target was non-white people, especially Black people. Its goal was social control. Slavery gave way to Jim Crow, which gave way to the mass incarceration of "undesirables." Illegal drugs were merely a pretext. These days, states are legalizing drugs. Some are even releasing people convicted of drug crimes. In all, we seem to be experiencing a new age of drug enlightenment.

I hope it does not take most people as long with "border security." Like the "war on drugs," it's not about security. It's about social control. It's about having a legal reason to put non-white people in jail, kicking them out or just acting barbarously toward them. Drugs did not threaten the national interest until the government said they did. Same with the southern border. People used to pass freely, wherever the seasonal work took them. It did not threaten the national interest until the government said it did.

If it isn't already, please permit me to make it clear. When the Republicans talk about "illegal immigrants," they're not talking about illegal action. They're giving voice to their real objectives. They want to punish immigrants for who they are. They can't outlaw them outright, of course. The Congress, the law, the courts and popular opinion would prevent that from happening. But they can expand the scope of political conflict so that legal behavior seems illegal, thus forcing the government to respond. The result is billions spent every year on securing a border that will never be secure. The result is billions wasted annually on punching down on the poor, the weak and the brown.

For instance, "unlawful entry." That's the offense of crossing the border without proper authorization. It's a misdemeanor. (I'm serious.) So is overstaying your work or student visa. These are crimes, to be sure, but hardly serious crimes. They don't rise to the level of a felony. They are not deserving of being ripped from one's family or community—presuming the point of the law is justice. It isn't for the Republicans. The point is dominance. So for a decade and more, they have expanded the meaning of a minor criminal offense so that it looks like a dangerous way-of-life threatening crime.

The same thing is being done to "refugees." Fact: Anyone traveling to the southern border to request political asylum is a temporary legal immigrant. Full stop. That's the law. Indeed, the statute requires US Customs and Border Protection to open a process by which the agency tries reconnecting refugees with family in the US. But what began with the Trump administration is being continued by the GOP. Anyone traveling to the southern border is being called "illegal," even if they're children. Another fact: Every one of those 22,000 migrant children in government custody is here legally.

The same thing is happening with respect to the "open border." Fact: There is no such thing. It is a complete fiction. The border is tightly regulated. The Democrats in the Congress are not trying to open it. The Biden administration wants nothing to do with the idea. What it does, however, is follow laws entitling asylum-seekers to a legal process. But because the Republicans have defined refugees as "illegal," that gives the impression the administration, which is following the law, is opening the border.

If 22,000 children are refugees, if they're entitled to ask for asylum and if the government is required by law to try connecting eligible refugees to family if possible, why is everyone talking about a "migration crisis"? Great question! There is currently no such thing as a migration crisis. Yet our national discourse is dominated by this fiction.

Partly, it's because the press corps is laundering right-wing talking points in order to get a reaction out of a Democratic administration. Partly, it's out of genuine concern about "social cohesion."1 But mostly, it's because the Republicans have expanded the scope of conflict by way of nonstop lying. It has made legal action seem illegal. Which brings us back to "border security." It's not about security. It's now about forcing a Democratic administration into acting in ways preferred by the Republican Party.

It nearly worked. The White House said last week it would cap the number of refugees allowed into the country at the same level established by the previous administration, at 15,000. This is almost certainly the result of the Republicans making it seem like the Biden administration was opening the border even as it was merely following the law. Fortunately, there was an enormous reaction from not just liberals but moderates like Dianne Feinstein. By Friday, the White House reversed course and did so in a hurry.

This seems to be the first step in a process that might bring "border security" to a similar level of awareness that the war on drugs has achieved. That first step is refusing to give liars the benefit of the doubt. Drugs were never a threat to the national interest. Immigrants will never be either. What is a national threat, however, is the harmful Republican pursuit of "border security" that just makes everyone less free.

Are mass shootings an American epidemic?

by Lacey Wallace, Penn State

The U.S. has suffered yet another mass shooting, with a deadly attack in a FedEx facility in Indianapolis. This was the fifth mass shooting in five weeks, including a shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado that took the lives of 10 people on March 22 and just days earlier, eight people were killed in a series of shootings at spas in Atlanta, Georgia. Public outcry about gun violence, gun rights and racism and what to do about these issues is high.

As a criminal justice researcher, I study gun purchasing and mass shootings, and it's clear to me that these events are traumatic for victims, families, communities and the nation as a whole. But despite the despair about their slightly growing frequency, they are actually uncommon incidents that account for just 0.2% of firearm deaths in the U.S. each year.

Mass shootings are rare

Killings are not the only kind of gun violence, and are in fact a relative rarity when compared with other forms of gun violence in the U.S. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 470,840 people were victims of crimes that involved a firearm in 2018, and 481,950 in 2019. Each person is counted separately, even if several of them were part of the same incident, and this tally does not require the gun to be fired or anyone to be killed.

When it comes to people killed by firearms, police data reported to the FBI estimates that guns were used in 10,258 of the 13,927 homicides that occurred in 2019.

That's much higher than even the uppermost count of mass shootings in 2019, the 417 recorded by the Gun Violence Archive. That group counts all incidents in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter, regardless of whether the shooter is killed or injured. It also includes events that involve gang violence or armed robbery, as well as shootings that occurred in public or in private homes, as many domestic violence shootings do.

A Mother Jones magazine database that defines mass shootings more restrictively lists only 10 for 2019.

Even the FBI's own data – which uses yet another set of criteria focused on people who continue to shoot more people over the course of an incident – records just 28 active shooter incidents in 2019.

The most recent research on frequency of mass shootings indicates they are becoming more common, though the exact number each year can vary widely.

But not all experts agree. Some argue that mass shootings have not increased and that reports of an increase are due to differences in research methods, such as determining which events are appropriate to count in the first place.

Speaking about school shootings specifically in a 2018 interview, two gun violence researchers said that those events have not become more common – but rather, people have become more aware of them.

The same may be true of mass shootings more generally. In any case, some researchers have found that mass shootings are becoming more deadly, with more victims in recent attacks.

Suicide is the leading form of gun death

In 2019, the 417 mass shootings tallied by the Gun Violence Archive resulted in 465 deaths.

By contrast, 14,414 people were killed by someone else with a gun in 2019. And 23,941 people intentionally killed themselves with a gun in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Every year, homicides – one person killing another – make up about 35% of gun deaths. More than 60% of gun deaths are suicides.

Mass shootings can get more attention than these other, more common, types of firearm deaths both because of human nature and the news media. People are naturally curious about violent events that appear random, with no clear explanation. Those incidents often spark fears about whether similar things could happen to them, and a resulting desire to know more in an effort to understand.

In addition, cases with higher death counts or unusual characteristics, such as a shooter manifesto or video footage, are more likely to get press attention and extended coverage.

Americans' opinions are split on whether mass shootings are isolated incidents or part of a broader societal problem.

And Americans are divided about how to reduce their frequency. A 2017 poll found that 47% of adults believed that reducing the number of guns in the U.S. would reduce the number of mass shootings. But a follow-up question revealed that 75% of American adults believe that someone who wants to hurt or kill others will find a way to do it whether they have access to a firearm or not.

With those diverging views, it will be hard to develop solutions that will be effective nationwide. That doesn't mean nothing will change, but it does mean the political debates will likely continue.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on March 29, 2021.

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Lacey Wallace, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Penn State

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Joe Biden's big betrayal of a key promise comes at a terrible time

After a steady increase in pressure from outside groups and questions from the media, the Biden administration officially decided on Friday to break its pledge to lift President Donald Trump's strict limits on refugee admissions for the fiscal year ending in September.

Despite previously pledging to raise the cap on refugees from the extremely low level of 15,000 to 62,500, Biden has reversed himself. During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to raise the cap to 125,000 in the next fiscal year, and as recently as February, Secretary of State Tony Blinken had told Congress the level set under Trump for this fiscal year would be increased more than fourfold.

Many observers had become increasingly worried about Biden's commitment to following through on this objective as the weeks dragged on without official action. Some reports indicated Biden was worried about the "optics" of raising the refugee cap. CNN's Kaitlan Collins on April 8 pressed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the issue given the delay, and Psaki insisted Biden was committed to the increase:

Collins: My last question, sorry, is on the refugee cap that the President has proposed raising to 62,500, but he's not actually formally signed the paperwork yet. Is the White House still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year?
Psaki: Yes.
Collins: And so we should expect that before October? And it's not going to change from 62,500? -- is my other question.
Psaki: I don't anticipate that. It is -- that it would change, I should say. It is -- remains -- the President remains committed to raising the cap.

But on Friday, the fears of refugee advocates were realized.

The New York Times reported:

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the decision-making, said the administration grew concerned that the surge of border crossings by unaccompanied minors was too much and had already overwhelmed the refugee branch of the Department of Health and Human Services. But migrants at the border seeking asylum are processed in an entirely separate system than refugees fleeing persecution overseas.

It also noted:

The administration will change subcategories for refugee slots created by the Trump administration that gave priority to Iraqis who had worked for the U.S. military and people, primarily Christians, who are facing religious persecution. But the classification also disqualified most other Muslim and African refugees. As a region, Africa has the most displaced people needing resettlement. An administration official said the change would allow the Biden administration to fill the cap of 15,000, although it would also leave thousands of additional refugees cleared to fly to the United States stranded in camps.

This broken promise from Biden is a cowardly betrayal of his many supporters who were horrified by Trump's aggression toward and disregard for asylum seekers and refugees. Prior to the revelation of Biden's reversal, The Atlantic writer Adam Serwer said on Twitter: "Biden's delay in reversing Trump's discriminatory refugee restrictions is a violation of his campaign promises and the reasons he gave for running in the first place." In a new piece, he wrote:

Restoring "the soul of the nation" cannot mean simply unseating Trump. It also has to mean reversing the policies his administration put in place in an attempt to codify into law his racial and sectarian conception of American citizenship. If Biden cannot do that, then he has restored little more than Democratic control of the presidency. And should he fail to rescind these policies simply because he fears criticism of those who enabled Trump's cruelty to begin with, it will be nothing short of cowardice.
"My faith teaches me that we should be a nation that once again welcomes the stranger and shows a preferential option for the poor, remembering how so many of us and our ancestors came here in a similar way," Biden wrote in 2019. "It's not enough to just wish the world were better. It's our duty to make it so."

So far, Biden has done a lot that is popular — accelerating vaccine distribution, passing the American Rescue Plan, proposing a big infrastructure and spending package. And he may fear that increasing the refugee cap is unpopular and will derail the momentum that he has. Indeed, one Morning Consult poll found that increasing refugee admissions was the only major Biden priority that was unpopular.

But one reason for passing popular policies that meet people's needs is to have more cover and trust with the public when taking values-based policy steps that might trigger some discontent. And it's not as if raising the cap is a bait-and-switch for Biden — he campaigned on letting in more refugees, so he shouldn't feel the need to shy away from it now. It is one of the easiest ways for a president to drastically improve a large number of human lives, saving families from dire conditions in refugee camps, with little or no downside.

And there's likely no upside at all to breaking this promise. The anti-immigrant right wing will not give Biden any credit at all for backing down; instead, it will likely just encourage them to increase their demands even further. They'll cite Biden's capitulation on this promise as evidence that refugees really are a problem, and perhaps say that letting in any refugees is a problem.

This is a particularly terrible time for Biden to be retreating on the immigration issue, too, because anti-immigrant bigotry is resurgent. Fox News's Tucker Carlson, an influential leader in conservatism, is openly endorsing the white supremacist "replacement theory," which Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson recently echoed. And on Friday, a group of far-right Republicans announced the launch of new, openly nativist caucus based on "Anglo Saxon political traditions."

Maybe this increasing sentiment on the right, combined with manufactured right-wing outrage about the border, has spooked Biden into capitulating on this issue. But appeasing this bigotry won't work. It will only embolden it.

The brutal history that went into killing 13-year-old Adam Toledo

Adam Toledo, 13, is one of about 1,000 people every year who are killed by police officers. Video of the incident was released reluctantly Thursday by the Chicago Police Department. It shows a cop, who is white, shooting Toledo once in the chest after the Hispanic youngster obeyed his commands by dropping his gun and raising his hands. People are still arguing about whether Toledo's death was justified. (It wasn't.) There is no argument, however, about its place in the racist history of policing in America.

Of the 6,211 people killed by police since 2015, about 10 percent were unarmed. Over half were not attempting to flee. While white Americans account for nearly half, Black people, men as well as women, are killed at almost twice the rate of white people. Native Americans and Latino men also face a higher risk of being killed by police than white people. Alternatively, 295 officers were killed in the line of duty last year. The average death toll for police for the last six years was 190, making the public more in danger from police officers than police officers were in danger from the public.

While there has been increased interest in police brutality in the last decade, racist police violence and police brutality dates back to the inception of police forces in this country. The first modern organized force in the United States was the New York City Police Department in 1845 with New Orleans, Cincinnati, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Baltimore following soon after. Urban police forces were encouraged by nativist anti-immigrant concerns and capitalist desires to protect private property.

By 1860, the NYPD was deeply involved in partisan politics, corruption and ethnic resentments, even among Irish and German immigrants who had made inroads into the department. This corruption and politicization of policing and criminal punishment encouraged officers to mete out their own "curbside" justice in the form of beatings rather than arrests. Irish Protestants were more likely to support Republicans, leading to a violent police response to the Catholic Irish protests of Republican Irish parades in 1870-1871. Unfortunately, police brutality did not lessen after 1870 when the police department was once again controlled by Democrats.1

By 1865, the press started reporting on police brutality and complaints made by citizens. Between 1865 and 1894, the Times reported more than 270 cases. Three quarters of these involved an officer clubbing a suspect, usually unarmed, with a baton or nightstick. Wrongful shooting accounted for 7 percent of incidents. Almost 10 percent of victims died. While most police violence was committed against men, 20 percent was against women and 4 percent of reported incidents were sexual assault.2

Police brutality was racialized even at the beginning of police force history. While 68 percent of victims were English/Scottish or Irish, that ethnic group accounted for 91 percent of the police committing the violence, with Irish officers committing a full 50 percent of police brutality incidents, despite being only 22 percent of the police force. About 15 percent of incidents were committed against Jews, Black Americans and Italian immigrants, who had virtually no representation in the police department.3

Police violence became more racialized after the turn of the century. Predominantly Irish police officers joined violent white crowds in attacking Black people, Jews and other immigrants in the early 20th century. Riots in 1900 and 1903 led to police violence against Black Americans in New York's Tenderloin district and the city's old San Juan Hill neighborhood's, respectively. A virtual pogrom broke out during the Hoe Riot when Irish cops joined Irish workers on the Lower East Side in violence against a Jewish funeral march. This legal racist violence by police became a method of assimilation and whiteness for many Irish immigrants. Police forces continued to protect capitalist interests by committing violence as strikebreakers as well as serve nativist political concerns by enforcing increasingly racist immigration laws.

Before organized police departments in the North, some colonial governments appointed constables to protect the community from Native Americans. Some communities also created night watches or used the local militia to protect citizens from outside threats, not to police the behavior of citizens. Policing in the South developed to enforce the slave system and protect against slave rebellions rather than to provide public safety. The first slave patrol was formed in South Carolina in 1704, but soon spread throughout the colonies and lasted until the Civil War in Southern states. Slave patrols were meant to return runaway slaves, deter slave revolts and maintain some discipline among slaves who might violate plantation rules. Slave patrols supported a vigilante style of policing that continued after the Civil War. Vigilance committees formed in the West to police the frontier and were often sanctioned by governments. Slave patrols also contributed to Jim Crow and segregation policing that led to lynchings that went unchecked by governments.

Policing has violent racist origins in all parts of the United States. Rather than general public safety and law enforcement, police departments were created to enforce racial boundaries and the political concerns of white supremacy. Rather than tools of justice and peacekeeping, police forces have historically acted as state-sanctioned vigilantes or to support truly extralegal violence. Most of us think police were created to deal with rising crime and urbanization, but they always served the needs of the white elite to protect property with violence and enact their own racist animus. Government-sanctioned police brutality is embedded in our policing structures. You should know about this history. It's what powered the bullet that flew into Adam Toledo's chest.

Chicago officials release horrifying video of police officer killing 13-year-old Adam Toledo

On Thursday, after weeks of protests and calls for answers and action, the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) released footage of the shooting death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago Police officer on March 29, 2021, in the predominantly Latino community of Little Village. The video is graphic, and disturbing, and Adam Toledo is clearly a child. He runs from the police officer, who chases him down an alley with a chain-linked fence along the right side. Toledo stops at the fence, slightly turned away from the officer. The officer screams at him to turn around and Toledo turns around, his hands bare and both up in the air at his shoulders—and he is shot. Once in the chest.

Before releasing the video, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a public plea for calm, saying: "We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace," and "No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child's last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place." The video was released with the consent of the Toledo family.

Chicago is going to see unrest tonight. They are going to see unrest because the video is devastating. They are going to see a very small 13-year-old shot and killed, seemingly murdered, by a law enforcement officer. They are going to see an unarmed 13-year-old boy slump down and die in front of their eyes. And besides being fed up with it all, and besides being gaslit over and over again, they are going to remember one thing: Every goddamn thing that law enforcement and city officials said about this shooting was a lie. Every. Goddamn. Detail.

At the time of the shooting, the 13-year-old was called an "offender." For two days, they didn't inform his mother that her son had been killed by police. Police say they were responding to a "shot spotter" alert, a technology that triangulates the sound of gun shots. The Chicago Police even tweeted out an image of a gun against the fence where Toledo was killed, implying he was armed when the officer shot him. The unnamed police officer is reportedly on a month's paid administrative leave.

As WGN 9 reported on Thursday before the release of the footage, "During a bond hearing for 21-year-old Ruben Roman, who was with Adam the night of the shooting, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney James Murphy described the altercation in a proffer: 'The officer tells [Toledo] to drop it as [Toledo] turns towards the officer. [Toledo] has a gun in his right hand.'" The WGN report came with the new information that the state's attorney's office said that the statement was made in error. This is what they actually said:

"An attorney who works in this office failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court."

Then he should be fired or seriously censured I'm guessing, right? That's a super big legal mistake. Prosecutors have also told the judge in that case that Toledo had gun residue on his right hand. Maybe that's true? Maybe he was the one that set off the shot spotter? Maybe the fact that the Chicago police department and the state's attorney's office haven't been honest at any step of this process means that I don't believe them. The burden of proof is on them, not on Adam Toledo. Not on his mother, his grandfather, or the two siblings he leaves behind.

Adam Toledo was 13 years old. He was a seventh-grader at Gary Elementary School.

There's only one way to exit the forever war honorably

The courage of President Biden's decision to bring our troops home from Afghanistan should not be underestimated. But neither should that withdrawal be mistaken for the end of the "forever war" that the United States and its NATO allies have endured there for so long. We will leave, but the Afghans aren't going anywhere -- and our responsibility for what happens there won't disappear either.

Biden surely knows there will be bad prospects for the government in Kabul when our troops go, even though we will continue to finance its army and air force. Most Americans, who devote little attention to what happens in Afghanistan, probably don't know how limited the reach of that regime is today (which is why our veterans sometimes call it #Forgotistan). After two decades, $2 trillion and the loss of more than 2,000 of our troops, it scarcely rules over more than the capital itself. The Taliban and other hostile forces control the rest.

That obviously doesn't bode too well for the future, and as Biden also knows, his Republican critics will blame him should the Kabul regime fall. They will conveniently forget that his predecessor not only insisted on an Afghan withdrawal but also set a departure date too abrupt to be met.

No doubt Donald Trump will join that chorus, turning around and shamelessly attacking Biden for "abandoning" Afghanistan, because that's what he does. So will figures like Sen. Lindsey Graham, a military strategist whose insights lured us into Iraq, a far worse disaster than Afghanistan. Graham now predicts that pulling out will result in terror attacks -- but the biggest threat to America is from white supremacists within our own borders, a menace he denies. We don't have to occupy another nation to fight extremist enemies here or abroad.

Biden's critics will also forget the most salient fact about the Afghan war, which is how it began. I will confess to supporting the initial invasion following the 9/11 attacks, because I regarded the destruction of al-Qaida and the punishment of the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden as essential to American and world security. Like many others who endorsed the war in its earliest stages, I have long believed that the administration of former President George W. Bush -- obsessed with overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq -- ensured failure at the start.

Yet honesty compels me to say that those few who opposed the U.S. action back then may have been right all along. After such a long and costly misadventure, it isn't certain that what once seemed imperative was ever prudent, or just. What could have been done and what should have been done are no longer relevant -- except to the Afghan people, who have suffered gravely without any end in sight. More than 150,000 of them have died in the war, with almost a third of the dead civilians.

Those Afghans were innocent of the terrorist violence that struck our cities on Sept. 11, 2001, and that level of death and destruction seems like a high price compared with what happened on 9/11, a day I remember too well. While most of the Afghan dead were killed by the Taliban, that doesn't absolve our responsibility. We also owe a deep and permanent debt to the veterans who served -- the great majority of whom want us to bring their brothers and sisters home.

Discharging that debt will oblige us to rescue as many Afghans as we can from the vengeance of the Taliban, especially but not only those who served alongside our troops. For years now, Taliban assassins have murdered Afghan interpreters and others who assisted allied forces. They ought to have gained asylum here, but the Islamophobic prejudices of the Trump administration put obstacles in their way.

Now that must end. The United States should grant "immediate refugee status to all Afghan nationals that have helped us in the last 20 years," says Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat. "We can't let them be targets." Gallego, a Marine veteran of Iraq, is painfully aware of how Iraqis who worked with U.S. troops there were later hunted down by Islamic State group killers. He is right to demand that we start protecting the Afghans left behind.

We can hope that Afghanistan fares better than expected, but hope won't save any lives. Already the Taliban, which has not improved with age, is assassinating those who might dissent from its medieval ideology. If and when its mullahs regain state power, they may well kill many thousands more -- unless we welcome them to this country.

There is no other honorable exit from the forever war.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


How the Derek Chauvin trial broke down the 'blue wall of silence'

We get the latest on the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, with Minneapolis-based civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong. She says prosecutors in the case have successfully chipped away at the "blue wall of silence" by getting current police officials to testify against Chauvin. However, she says it's likely that "the only reason that these officers have testified is because the world is watching."

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we continue to talk about what's happening in Minnesota, now to the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, on trial for murdering George Floyd. The trial is taking place 10 miles from where a white police officer killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, Sunday.

On Monday, a cardiologist called as an expert witness in the Chauvin trial by the prosecution testified George Floyd died due to oxygen deprivation after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for over nine minutes. George Floyd's brother Philonise also testified and talked about how close George was to his mother, who died in 2018.

PHILONISE FLOYD: And when we went to the funeral, it's just — George just sat there at the casket. Over and over again, he would just say, "Mama, mama," over and over again. And I didn't know what to tell him, because I was in pain, too. We all were hurting. And he was just kissing her and just kissing her. He didn't want to leave the casket. And everybody was like, "Come on. Come on. It's going to be OK." But it was just difficult, because no — I don't know who can take that, when you watch your mother, somebody who loved and cherished you and nursed you for your entire life, and then they have to leave you. We all have to go through it, but it's difficult. And George, he was just in pain the entire time.
STEVE SCHLEICHER: Sir, you indicated your mother passed away May 30. That was 2018. Is that right?
STEVE SCHLEICHER: Is that a picture of your mother and George when he was younger?
STEVE SCHLEICHER: Offer Exhibit 284.
JUDGE PETER CAHILL: 284 is received.
STEVE SCHLEICHER: Permission to publish? Sir, would you please describe this photo and what you know about it?
PHILONISE FLOYD: That's my mother. She's no longer with us right now, but — that's my oldest brother, George. I miss both of them. I was married. In May 24th, I got married. And my brother was killed May 25th. And my mom died on May 30th. It's like a bittersweet month, because I'm supposed to be happy when that month comes.

AMY GOODMAN: George Floyd's brother Philonise testifying Monday. Derek Chauvin's defense is due to call its first witnesses today.

To talk more about the trial of Derek Chauvin, we're staying with Nekima Levy Armstrong, the Minneapolis-based civil rights attorney, activist, executive director of Wayfinder Foundation, former president of the Minneapolis NAACP.

Can you talk about the wrapping up of the prosecution? Once again, one officer after another, the leaders in the Minneapolis Police Department, and then experts saying that it was not a heart attack, it was not drugs, it was the cutting off of the oxygen supply by Chauvin's knee — the significance of this? And also the significance of the defense asking to sequester the jury, given what happened with the murder of another African American man down the road? But, of course, the judge said no.

NEKIMA LEVY ARMSTRONG: Well, prosecutors finished their case as strongly as they started, in terms of humanizing George Floyd, putting on extremely emotional testimony from the bystanders early on, as well as from George Floyd's brother, who provided what's called "spark of life" testimony in the state of Minnesota. One of the things that I think is important as a result of the testimony of George Floyd's brother is the fact that his testimony paints a picture for the jury of what George Floyd's life meant to the family and to the community, and how his death has impacted them.

I also think that the state did a really good job of providing expert witness testimony in the form of medical evidence, as well as use-of-force testimony, and also helping to break what some may call the "blue wall of silence" by having so many police officers testify in the prosecution's case against [Derek Chauvin]. We know that through one trial, that blue wall of silence is not going to crumble, but it is a start. And Chief Arradondo has been able to set the tone for the department in terms of his expectations and sending a signal to officers that they will not be allowed to get away with this kind of behavior.

Now, on the flipside, there are folks who feel that the only reason that these officers have testified is because the world is watching. And I believe that there is a lot of truth to that, because some of the underlying issues within the Minneapolis Police Department, as far as the culture, have not yet changed.

Now, in terms of yesterday's motion hearings, we heard from the defense counsel Eric Nelson that the unrest that happened on Sunday night would have an impact on the jury, so he was recommending that the jury be sequestered. Judge Cahill made the best decision in refusing to sequester the jury and articulating that these are two separate incidences. What happened in Brooklyn Center as a result of the killing of Daunte Wright at the hands of the police is not the same as what is happening in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Nekima, I wanted to ask you, in terms of the decision by Governor Tim Walz to issue a curfew for several counties in the Twin Cities area from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. Tuesday, and given the fact that we're dealing with — this is the beginning of Ramadan, your thoughts about these restrictions?

NEKIMA LEVY ARMSTRONG: I think that the restrictions are ridiculous, from my perspective, as someone who has been out on the frontlines. I've been out both nights, along with Jaylani Hussein and many other activists and organizers.

It is really upsetting that the governor would issue a curfew rather than working proactively to curb police violence and set the tone by using his bully pulpit, pushing for policy changes and really advocating for the rights of Black people and other people of color who have been abused by police. Instead, what we're seeing is the governor push for more funding for law enforcement, bring in the National Guard, help to set up barricades and chain-link fencing around the courthouse and other buildings throughout the Twin Cities, and now this additional curfew.

Many young people last night intentionally violated the curfew because they're sending a signal that they are fed up with police violence in the state of Minnesota and not feeling safe as young Black people out in the community.

AMY GOODMAN: Nekima Levy Armstrong, we want to thank you being with us, Minneapolis-based civil rights attorney, activist, executive director of the Wayfinder Foundation.

When we come back, we'll be joined by the former head of the national NAACP, now president of People for the American Way. We'll be joined by Ben Jealous to talk about not only the Chauvin trial, but also the right-wing smear campaign targeting Kristen Clarke, President Biden's nominee to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Her hearing begins Wednesday. Stay with us.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: "When I'm 64" by The Beatles. This is Democracy Now!, I'm Juan González, with Amy Goodman. And, Amy, today we want to wish you a very Happy 64th Birthday! It seems only yesterday you were a young rebel reporter. Well, now you're a mature rebel reporter.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, thank you, Juan. And it's wonderful to spend this day with you, or at least this hour, with our listeners, our viewers and readers. But such difficult times that we have to deal with. But no better group of people to deal with these critical issues. So thanks so much.

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