Wednesday, July 24, 2024



With so much happening in the world today, along with the mistrust we have for mainstream media - clear news analysis is really needed today.

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Private prison operator holds close ties with lawmakers as it sidesteps state law

 By Sam Stockard

CoreCivic expanded in Tennessee with three local government contracts

Flush with donations from CoreCivic, Tennessee’s lawmakers have spent the past three years enacting tough-on-crime policy that could help the state’s private-prison operator in spite of complaints that profiting on the backs of inmates is bad business.

Moves to create laws that require teenagers to be tried as adults for certain crimes and remove rewards for prisoners’ good behavior are likely to lead to higher incarceration rates, critics say. 

The changes are expected to put Brentwood-based CoreCivic, a national prison operator, in better position to continue to exploit a little-known state loophole that allows it to run four Tennessee prisons. 

Privately-run prisons have been a point of contention in Tennessee since the mid-1980s, so much so that state law prohibited more than one state contract with Corrections Corporation of America — the company’s name until rebranded as CoreCivic in 2016 — when it obtained its first Tennessee deal with the help of Republican and Democratic state lawmakers.

The company contracts with Tennessee to run one of its prisons and has deals with two local governments to operate three other state prisons. 

The agreement has allowed CoreCivic to circumvent the original state law, enabling it to make $233 million last year from its Tennessee prison contracts. 

Overall in 2023, CoreCivic generated about $1.9 billion in revenue through state and federal contracts, though it recently lost a deal in Texas to run an immigrant holding facility there.

The company continues to hold a close relationship with Tennessee lawmakers, mainly Republicans, giving to them lavishly over the last 15 years. 

CoreCivic’s CEO, Damon Hininger, spoke at the most recent state Republican annual fundraising dinner, making overtures for a gubernatorial run in two years. 

CoreCivic also was one of the main sponsors at Tennessee’s recent Republican National Convention delegate dinner in Milwaukee. U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson of Franklin and House Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville were among the speakers at the dinner. 

Other sponsors of the RNC dinner were FedEx, Lee Beaman and Julie Hannah, The Coggin Group, Eastman Chemical and Cash Express founder Garry McNabb.

Sexton was the main proponent of harsher sentencing laws that reduced early releases for inmates who showed good behavior and often got out after doing only 30% of their time. The Crossville Republican also is sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would eliminate bail for numerous violent offenses, requiring defendants in most criminal cases to stay in jail until their court date. 

The company has donated $44,500 to Sexton since he first came into office in 2011. 

How the loophole works

CoreCivic contracts with Hardeman County in West Tennessee to run Hardeman County Correctional Facility at a rate of $51 million annually, Whiteville Correctional Facility for $46.4 million a year and with Trousdale County to operate Trousdale Turner for $77.7 million annually. 

Those entities, in turn, contract with the state for prison services. 

CoreCivic’s only contract with the Tennessee Department of Correction is for $47.8 million annually to run South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton.

The department received approval from lawmakers last year to increase payments to CoreCivic with the stamp of approval from Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Frank Strada who told the Lookout he is satisfied with the company’s efforts to improve their policies and operations.

The state boosted its payout to CoreCivic by $7 million despite a bad audit that showed persistent personnel shortages, the second weak report it received from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office in the last few years. For instance, the prison company sustained a 146% turnover rate in 2023 because of difficulty hiring correctional officers, making it harder to monitor prisoners and avert safety risks.

Frank Strada, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction: "Very comfortable" with private prison contract CoreCivic. (Photo: John Partipilo)
 Frank Strada, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction: “Very comfortable” with private prison contract CoreCivic. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Lawmakers approved the increase even though CoreCivic paid $20 million in liquidated damages in recent years for failing to meet contract requirements.

Parents of three inmates who died in CoreCivic-run prisons in a four-month period in 2021 accused the private company of prioritizing profits over safety in a lawsuit against the state.

Yet Brian Todd, a spokesperson for CoreCivic, said the partnership with the state has been a success.

“We’re proud of the innovative solutions we’ve provided to those individuals that the Tennessee Department of Correction has entrusted to our care, which help prepare them to successfully return to their communities, while also saving taxpayers money,” Todd said.

Todd did not specify what types of savings the company makes for the state. He pointed out the state determines prison capacity and operational needs and works with the governor’s office and lawmakers to address them.

Taking aim at CoreCivic

Private prisons leave a bad taste with many members of the state Legislature, even though many prefer not to speak about the situation publicly.

Democratic state Rep. G.A. Hardaway of Memphis has opposed CoreCivic’s arrangements for years.

“I’m not comfortable with anybody making money off of prisons. Any time you have a profit incentive, that’s directly counter-intuitive to making the best decisions for your clients who are a combination of the inmates and the public,” Hardaway said.

Hardaway contends “justice” should be paid for and managed by the public/government.

“That’s the only way it’s gonna be balanced,” he said. “You can’t always make decisions that are going to be profitable for the management. That’s why you’ve gotta keep private management out of it.”

Democratic state Rep. Justin J. Pearson of Memphis argues that several criminal justice bills approved this year are “intended to fund the corporations who are profiting off of the backs of Black folks, white folks, poor folks and everyone in between.”

I’m not comfortable with anybody making money off of prisons. Any time you have a profit incentive, that’s directly counter-intuitive to making the best decisions for your clients who are a combination of the inmates and the public.

– Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis

While state officials continue pouring money into CoreCivic contracts, Pearson argues the “litany of unjust laws” won’t get at the root causes of crime or lead to rehabilitation.

“Our state should invest in its people and our future, not promulgate destructive policies that only incarcerate,” he said.

Both parties brought CoreCivic in

Despite criticism from today’s Democrats, both parties played a role in the company’s ascension in Tennessee, though Republicans have been its biggest boosters.

Founded as Corrections Corporation of America in the early 1980s, it obtained its first contract with the state in 1985 under Lamar Alexander, the former Republican governor and eventual U.S. senator. His wife was a stockholder in the company, as was then-House Speaker Ned Ray McWherter, a Democrat who in 1999 became a board member of Prison Realty Trust, the holding company for CoreCivic, years after leaving office.

When Republican Don Sundquist became governor in 1994, the company made more inroads around 1995 but had to find a way around the state law allowing only one contract with a private prison operator. 

It started working with local governments.

Access through donations

CoreCivic and its predecessor have long been a financial backer of the state’s top leaders, and the practice continues. 

Prison Legal News reported that during the Sundquist era, company executives gave nearly $60,500 to state lawmakers, $38,500 of that to Sundquist’s election campaign in 1994. 

At the time, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Randy Rinks received $2,000, and Democratic Sen. Jim Kyle of Memphis, chairman of the Select Oversight Committee on Corrections, received $1,350 from executives, according to a Prison Legal News article.

Sundquist supported the local government deal in 1995 allowing CoreCivic to contract with Hardeman County for a 1,540-bed facility paid for with $47 million in municipal bonds backed by the state. The former governor’s chief of staff, Peaches Simpkins, also reportedly held company stock in that era, and House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh’s wife, Betty Anderson, was a company lobbyist, Prison Legal News reported.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, has received $65,000 from private prison contractor CoreCivic over the last 15 years. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, has received $65,000 from private prison contractor CoreCivic over the last 15 years. (Photo: John Partipilo)

The relationship between CoreCivic and top lawmakers remains tight.

Since 2009, the company has given $138,000 to Republican Party and caucus political actions committees and $7,500 to the Tennessee Democratic Caucus.

Gov. Bill Lee has been its biggest beneficiary over the last few years, receiving $69,000, including a donation to his inaugural funds, according to a Tennessee Lookout analysis of campaign finances.

But Lee has not always been a proponent of harsher sentencing, running on a criminal justice reform platform in 2018. He did not support the law making it harder to be released for good behavior, but instead of vetoing it, he let it become law without his signature. 

Other top recipients since 2009 include

  • Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, $65,000 over the past 15 years
  • Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager of Kingston: $17,500
  • Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin: $14,500 
  • House Republican Majority Leader William Lamberth of Portland: $14,250
  • Rep. Johnny Shaw, a Bolivar Democrat, $13,500. Two prisons are located in his West Tennessee district.
  • Senate Republican Majority Leader Johnson of Franklin: $9,000 
  • Republican Rep. Bud Hulsey of Kingsport: $8,500 
  • Republican Sen. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald: $8,000
  • Republican Sen. Bo Watson of Hixon: $7,500, 
  • Republican Sen. Ed Jackson of Jackson: $7,200, 
  • Republican Rep. Mary Littleton of Dickson $7,000.

CoreCivic’s spokesman points out the company supports local elected officials “in accordance with all applicable laws. Any insinuation otherwise is false.”

Adam Friedman contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in Tennessee Lookout on July 23rd, 2024

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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Rights Group Says Netanyahu Visit Puts US Complicity in Spotlight

"U.S. officials are well aware of the mounting evidence that Israeli forces have committed war crimes in Gaza," said Human Rights Watch.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington, D.C. ahead of his planned speech to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, a leading human rights organization said Tuesday that the visit by Israel's deeply unpopular leader shines a spotlight on the American government's complicity in atrocities committed in the Gaza Strip.

"U.S. officials are well aware of the mounting evidence that Israeli forces have committed war crimes in Gaza, including most likely with U.S. weapons," Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Tirana Hassan said in a statement. "U.S. lawmakers should be seriously concerned about the liability risks of continuing to provide arms and intelligence based on Israel's flimsy assurances that it's abiding by the laws of war."

With Biden out, Kamala Harris becomes the new Democratic Party choice for President

By Natalia Marques

The Democratic Party seeks to distance itself from the unpopular presidency of Joe Biden with his withdrawal from the upcoming elections, but does Harris really represent a significant change?

On Sunday, following nationwide pressure and pressure from within top leaders of his own party, Joe Biden withdrew from the presidential race. 

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your President,” Biden said in a statement. “And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term.”

Later on in the day, Biden endorsed his Vice President, Kamala Harris, as the nominee from the Democratic Party. “My very first decision as the party nominee in 2020 was to pick Kamala Harris as my Vice President,” Biden said in a post on X. “And it’s been the best decision I’ve made. Today I want to offer my full support and endorsement for Kamala to be the nominee of our party this year. Democrats—it’s time to come together and beat Trump. Let’s do this.”

The beginning of the end for Biden was marked by a humiliating debate performance against the Republican Party choice for president, former President Donald Trump, on June 27. President Biden’s slurred words and nonsensical responses called his fitness for office into question. Biden continued to produce embarrassing political gaffes at the NATO Summit earlier in July, when he called Ukrainian President Zelenksy “President Putin” and called Kamala Harris “Vice President Trump” at a press conference. 

Biden’s fate was further cemented after the attempted assassination of Trump at a campaign rally. Trump’s reaction to the attempted assassination, in which he pumped his fist and shouted “Fight, fight, fight!” was a sharp contrast to Biden’s frailty. 

Polls showed that the vast majority of Democratic voters wanted Biden to drop out. For the Democratic Party establishment, Kamala Harris is shaping up to be the most logical second choice—a younger, more diverse option who in many ways, is just as conservative as the candidate she is replacing. 

Who is Kamala Harris?

Harris’ career in the upper echelons of the California criminal justice system is one of further entrenching the state’s reputation as one of the worst in terms of mass incarceration. According to the Prison Policy Institute, California’s incarceration rate of 494 per 100,000 people means that the state “locks up a higher percentage of its people than almost any democratic country on earth.”

As California’s Attorney General, Harris personally championed a harsh statewide truancy law that enabled highly punitive measures against parents whose children were not attending school. This law sought to make an example out of parents, who were often working people whose children could not attend school due to a variety of circumstances. These included a mother, Cheree Peoples, of Orange County, arrested and walked out of her home in her pajamas in front of cameras, whose daughter could not attend school regularly due to sickle cell anemia.

Also in her time as California’s Attorney General, Harris spent years defying a Supreme Court ruling to decarcerate the state, a defiance she undertook for one of the most nefarious reasons possible—to maintain the adequate levels of cheap and forced prison labor. California as a state is plagued by wildfires, and forces its massive population of prisoners to take on dangerous jobs on the frontlines of fighting these fires. When Harris was running for President, a memo emerged from 2014 in which lawyers from her office argued that nonviolent prisoners needed to stay in prison because their freedom would “would severely impact fire camp participation.” This would be “a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought,” Harris’ lawyers argued. 

Her record as Vice President proved to be a continuation of her deep conservatism. Not only has she been a fierce supporter of Israel for her entire political career, but she has been just as complicit as “Genocide Joe” Biden in continuing the US’ policy of unconditional arming and funding of Israel as it carries out genocide in Gaza. She has also been a hardliner on immigration, famously telling Guatemalan asylum seekers “do not come,” warning migrants that they would be turned away at the border.

headline from the Wall Street Journal from 2020, when Kamala joined Biden’s presidential campaign reads “As Harris Joins Biden Ticket, Wall Street Exhales in Relief.” Her key supporters throughout her political career have indeed been the rich and powerful, with the “social and legal elites” of San Francisco funding her first campaign to become the city’s District Attorney. Her popularity with the upper classes continued, with billionaires bankrolling her bid for president in 2020.

In response to Biden’s endorsement of Harris, Claudia De la Cruz, a socialist running for president against both Biden and Trump on the ticket of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, wrote, “Let’s remember Kamala may be a Black woman, but class interests matter! She has contributed to the mass incarceration of our Black and brown people and has been complicit of genocide. She isn’t kin nor is she a sister of working women!”

This article originally appeared in People's Dispatch on July 22th, 2024

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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Trump’s Shooting Should Not Silence Warnings About His Threat to Democracy

By Julie Hollar

Immediately after the attempted assassination of Donald Trump, when little was known about the white male shooter (except that he was a registered Republican), right-wing politicians directly blamed Democratic rhetoric for the shooting.

Israeli Lawmakers Vote Against Palestinian Statehood

By Jessica Corbett 

"In essence, the Israeli Knesset voted to continue to wipe Palestine off the map," said one critic.

While Israel's troops wage what has been widely decried as genocide on the Gaza Strip, Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing "the establishment of a Palestinian state" west of the Jordan River.

The measure passed Israel's legislature, the Knesset, 68-9. It was spearheaded by Knesset Member Zeev Elkin of New Hope - The United Right, who shared the key messages from the resolution on social media along with a photo of the final tally.

According to Religious Zionism-affiliated Israel National News:

The proposal says, "The Israeli Knesset firmly opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan. The establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of the land of Israel will pose an existential threat to the state of Israel and its citizens, perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and destabilize the region."

"It will only be a matter of a short time until Hamas takes over the Palestinian state and turns it into a base of radical Islamic terrorism, working in coordination with the axis led by Iran, to eliminate the state of Israel."

"The promotion of the idea of the Palestinian state will be a reward for terrorism and will only encourage Hamas and its supporters who will see this as a victory thanks to the massacre of October 7, 2023, and a prelude to the takeover of jihadist Islam in the Middle East," the proposal reads.

Since the Hamas-led October attack on Israel, Israeli forces have killed at least 38,794 Palestinians and wounded another 89,364, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health. Thousands more remain missing and believed dead beneath the rubble of bombed buildings.

In addition to destroying civilian infrastructure across the Hamas-governed coastal enclave, Israel has restricted the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, even as people starve and the remaining hospitals operate at a limited capacity.

Israel faces a South Africa-led genocide case at the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders.

"What is happening in Gaza is going down as the most documented genocide in history," Riyad Mansour, Palestine's permanent observer at the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday. "When will the world denounce the crimes and stop tolerating their reoccurrence?"

The Knesset vote against a two-state solution comes as Netanyahu prepares for a trip to the United States—whose government has provided political and weapons support for Israel's war. The prime minister is supposed to meet U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House next Monday before addressing a joint session of Congress, though the American leader is isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday.

"The measure was intended as a way to apply pressure on Netanyahu, since he is likely to face opposite pressure from U.S. officials on a hostage deal that could include future discussions of Palestinian sovereignty," The Jerusalem Postreported Wednesday. "Netanyahu himself was not present at the vote."

As the newspaper detailed:

Notably, National Unity chairman MK Benny Gantz supported the proposal alongside three other members of his party, which is considered centrist. The three were MKs Michael Biton, Pnina Tameno-Shete, and Chili Tropper.

Gantz said after the vote, "National Unity is committed in any future political scenario, as long as it exists, to preserve the Jewish and democratic identity of the state of Israel, and to stand up for its historical right and security interests."

Members of various other parties—Netanyahu's Likud, Otzma Yehudit, Religious Zionism, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Yisrael Beytenu—also voted in favor of the resolution.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Part I: Was Eric Garner resisting arrest or resisting harassment?

By Charles Brooks

Last week, the body of Mr. Eric Garner was laid to rest after funeral services were held in Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Garner was the latest victim of NYPD's use of excessive force. His death attracted international attention and triggered considerable outrage for several reasons. Mr. Garner was an unarmed African American,  accused for selling cigarettes individually out of the pack – a long time practice called selling “loosies” – or as media reports state – selling untaxed cigarettes. For that, he was placed in an illegal police maneuver, the notorious chokehold.  Although NYPD officials say he “resisted arrest”, the question that needs to be asked is whether Mr. Garner was actually resisting repeated police harassment?  

Mr. Garner is the latest victim killed by police in general, and by NYPD in particular. Across the country, there have been countless incidents of brutality and murder – just in recent weeks alone there have been several incidents caught on video for all to see.  Both black men and women viciously attacked by the police - a disregard of their humanity - and their human rights. Mr. Garner's case is one that simply unnerves you a bit because of that gnawing question around whether Mr. Garner’s death was preventable? With his last gasps of life - he cried out that he couldn’t breathe - several times, hoping the police officers would have some sense of humanity and allow him to regain his breathing.

No, the officers refused to hear Mr. Garner’s call for them to recognize his humanity as he struggled to breathe his last gasps of air. He finally died after the officers pressed their collective weight on a seemingly dying body.  There was a video tape and although the Police Benevolent Association Union president says the tape is not enough – he is wrong. 

It didn’t take long at all for NYPD’s Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch to warn against reading too much into videos of arrests.  Mr. Lynch stated: "Videotapes never present all of the facts in a situation.  They never capture the criminal act or offense that brings police action to the scene.  They present an isolated period of a police interaction but never the entire scenario.  That's why it is necessary when video tapes surface to have a complete review of the facts in every case before arriving at any conclusion." Mr. Lynch also said that officers cannot walk away when they have to make an arrest and that what people are interpreting as a chokehold is actually the officers bringing a non-compliant arrestee to the ground in order to rear cuff him and that no conclusions can be drawn until all the facts are determined by an investigation.

But the tape shows us enough to know what happened in the critical moments before Mr. Garner was met with a violent death.

In the few seconds before Mr. Garner was placed in an illegal chokehold and wrestled to the ground, you can see one of the officers with handcuffs in hand and approaching Mr. Garner. Perhaps it’s the low audio of the videotape but what is not clear is the officers’ adamant demand that he turn around and place his hands behind him.

In the beginning of the incident, you can slightly hear the officer say to Mr. Garner that they were going to take him in – and Mr. Garner’s reaction to that. But the officers clearly were not moving in on Mr. Garner at that point – they let Mr. Garner say his peace – while maintaining their distance.  The question here is what was the turning point – what was said to Mr. Garner in those critical moments before the officers became violent. The video indicates that Mr. Garner is reacting to the officers moving in on him – and his hands, his open palms were in clear view – and were not used to assault the police officer.  Mr. Garner’s resistance to arrest is not so evident but his resistance to the apparent harassment – the stop and frisk encounters – is clearly evident.  Furthermore, what is not so clear - why was the illegal chokehold used on Mr. Garner? Was there no other way to secure and contain Mr. Garner without the inevitable loss of his life?

NYPD’s Patrol Guide clearly states: “Members of the New York City Police Department will NOT use chokeholds. A chokehold shall include, but is not limited to, any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”

The Patrol Guide code also states: Members of the service are required to maintain control or intervene if the use of force against a subject clearly becomes excessive. Failure to do so may result in both criminal and civil liability. EXCESSIVE FORCE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. All members of the service at the scene of a police incident must:

 a. Immediately establish firearms control

b. Use minimum necessary force

c. Employ non-lethal alternatives, as appropriate.

But we can see from the video there is also some history between Mr. Garner and the officers in question: “…Every time you see me you want to wrestle with me. I’m tired of it…it stops today…I’m minding my own business officer, please leave me alone…I told you the last time, please leave me alone…”  The ‘it’ reflects the harassment that Mr. Garner was subjected to or targeted for.

At this time, this is what we know: Medical examiners have not yet determined the cause of death, but police said he went into cardiac arrest on the drive to the hospital. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Mr. Garner with the illegal chokehold has had his gun and badge taken away and he’s reassigned to desk duty; Mr. Pantaleo was sued twice for alleged civil rights violations; the other officer, Justin Damico has been taken off street duty but still holds his gun and badge; four emergency workers have been suspended without pay; the investigation is being conducted by the Staten Island District Attorney, NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, New York Inspector General of police and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.  The Wall Street Journal has reported the  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder saying the Justice Department is "closely monitoring" these on-going investigations into the Mr. Garner’s death. In addition, NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has ordered a “thorough review” of NYPD’s training procedures.

We also know that NYPD banned chokeholds in 1994 after the death of Anthony Baez, who was killed by an officer who used the illegal maneuver.

But we also know that in despite of the ban against the illegal chokeholds, there were nevertheless over one thousand complaints filed with the NY Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) in the last four years between 2009 and 2013.  The CCRB has announced they will conduct a comprehensive study of the chokehold complaints.  




Part II: Eric Garner: Resisting arrest or Resisting harassment

By Charles Brooks

The tragic death of Mr. Eric Garner that came as a result of the choke hold, an illegal police maneuver banned since 1994, continues to provoke nationwide outrage, particularly in black communities across the country.  Consider for a moment the reasons igniting this outrage – the excessive use of force leading to yet another death of an unarmed black man, along with the political support for police in the face of a blatant lack of accountability to these seemingly routine acts of police misconduct and murder.  But there’s deeper factor to consider, the historical roots that branches out to the limbs of indifference afforded to black life.

Mr. Garner’s death continues to spark outrage because of the many people who can relate and connect through personal experience – the thousands who have been stopped and harassed by the police - and lived to talk about it. The thousands of stories about controlling that feeling that just grips you when you see the bright flash of the red and blue lights in your rear view mirror. Or the harassment that comes with being repeatedly stopped and frisked.  Or the feeling of being fully aware that even the slightest encounter with the police can turn bad…and sometimes fatal.  This connection was played out when the video was being played over and over again to the collective nods of approval. People are outraged because they connected with Mr. Garner when he crossed his arms in front of him and told the police officers that it stops today…we all knew what he meant by ‘it’. Mr. Garner said to the officers: "...Every time you see me you want to wrestle with me.  I'm tired of stops today...I'm minding my own business officer. Please leave me alone...I told you for the last time, please leave me alone."

 This is why Mr. Garner’s death continues to resonate with the public consciousness - because of their connection to a shared experience.  The outrage grew in the aftermath of Mr. Garner’s death when more videos displaying similar criminal acts by NYPD were released as well as chokehold statistics – 1022 chokehold incidents between 2009-1013.

There is nationwide  as well as international outrage at the indifference the police officers and medical personnel granted to Mr. Garner – they killed him and then watched him die. And thank goodness the indifference to Mr. Garner’s humanity was captured on video for all to see. Think about it for a second or two, despite all that occurred in the last 30 seconds or so before he was brought down to the ground – Mr. Garner thought the police would recognize his humanity, his cry out for help, seven or eight times he said he couldn’t breathe – but instead, the world witnessed the failure of the police officers to recognize his humanity.  The dismissal of Mr. Garner’s human rights for all to see has clearly struck a raw nerve in the collective public consciousness.

The video shows the police officers continuing to apply the pressure of their collective weight on him as he slowly breathed his last gasps of air. Then to further compound the tragedy – medical personnel appeared on the scene – and did nothing.  Further proof of Mr. Garner’s human rights denied for all to see, thanks to yet another video shot on the scene.  In the few minutes before Officer Daniel Pantaleo would apply the notorious chokehold that led to Mr. Garner’s death, you heard Mr. Garner say that ‘it’ stops today.  The ‘it’ rang loudly for all those who experienced encounters with the police – understanding that each encounter with NYPD is a possible life and death situation.  The ‘”it” represented the hundreds of thousands of incidents stemming from the harassment that came with being stopped and frisked.   What the public witnessed was not what appears as a resistance to arrest but a deeper resistance to police harassment. The people clearly understood what Mr. Garner said – and that he spoke for everyone who was harassed and killed by NYPD.   There is a considerable amount of weight behind Mr. Garner’s words when he said that I’m tired of this.                                         

The issue of police brutality has long roots in the black community going back many years when the police were the enforcers of Jim Crow and legal segregation.  The police were on the front lines of resistance to black liberation during the social movements of the Sixties – the socially transformational Civil and Black Power movements.  The police departments were an integral part of the COINTELPRO program.  The ‘it’ spoke to the long history of contentious relations between minority communities, particularly black communities and the police, not just in New York City but nationwide as well. But the ‘it’ also spoke to the nationwide capacity to protect the impunity of police violence visited on predominately black communities and the political support of the right to exert that police hostility and police violence. Oh yes, when Mr. Garner said, it stops today – he was speaking to and for all of us.

While there’s a fierce battle for the public perception around Mr. Garner’s death – the resistance to police brutality must frame these acts of police murder as human rights violations and recognize the humanity of black life.  There must be indictments and incarceration that comes with accountability – but this must be framed within a human rights context.  So the next time you hear or read news coverage about Mr. Garner’s resistance to arrest – just for a moment think to yourself: Was he resisting arrest or was he resisting harassment”? 

Resisting arrest or Resisting harassment (Part I)

65% of Democratic Voters Want Biden to Step Aside: Poll

A majority of respondents said they want both Biden and Trump to quit the race, and were not confident in the mental fitness of either candidate.

A majority of U.S. voters want both President Joe Biden and Republican nominee Donald Trump to drop out of the 2024 presidential contest, with nearly two-thirds of Democrats favoring the Democratic incumbent's withdrawal amid mounting concerns over his mental fitness, a poll published Wednesday revealed.

The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey of 1,253 U.S. adults conducted between July 11-15 found that 70% of all respondents want Biden to step aside in favor of an alternative nominee and 57% think Trump should quit the race. Broken down by partisan affiliation, 73% of Republicans, 70% of Independents, and 65% of Democrats want Biden to stand down, while 26% of Republicans, 51% of Independents, and 86% of Democrats say Trump should withdraw.

"I just feel like these two individuals are a sad choice," Alexi Mitchell, a 35-year-old civil servant in Virginia and self-described Democratic-leaning Independent, toldThe Associated Press, adding that Biden has "put us in a bad position where Trump might win."

Black Democrats are Biden's strongest supporters—50% want Biden to continue running—while only 25% of all Democratic voters aged 18-44 want him to stay in the race.

A majority of respondents said they were not confident in the mental fitness of either candidate. Seventy percent of voters said they had little or no confidence in Biden's "mental capacity to be an effective president," while 51% said the same thing about Trump.

The former president was recently convicted of 34 felony charges in New York state related to the falsification of business records regarding hush money payments to cover up sex scandals during the 2016 presidential election. Trump still faces dozens of federal and state charges in connection with his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, cases that could be impacted by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling granting presidents "absolute immunity" for acts committed in their official capacity.

Earlier this week, a Trump-appointed federal judge dismissed a case involving Trump's alleged mishandling of classified documents—a decision Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has led the case since Trump announced his current campaign, is appealing.

Trump was also impeached twice by the House of Representatives—but not convicted by the Senate—during his first presidential term.

A separate survey by Data for Progress published Wednesday found that "swing" voters are increasingly more concerned about Biden's age than Trump's criminal charges.

According to Data for Progress:

Before the debate and before Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts, we found that swing voters were more concerned about Trump's criminal charges (48%) than Biden's age (41%), with 11% unsure.

After the debate, swing voters have flipped. Now, 53% say they are more concerned about Biden's age, a 12-point increase from our last survey of swing voters. Only 37% say they are more concerned about Trump's criminal charges, an 11-point decrease.

Notably, the new AP-NORC survey was conducted before Saturday's attempted assassination of Trump at a Pennslyvania campaign rally. The deadly shooting seemed to take some wind out of the sails of the burgeoning movement of Democrats urging Biden to withdraw from the race: In the four days before the incident, over a dozen Democratic U.S. lawmakers called on Biden to step aside. In the four days since the assassination attempt, only one more has joined the list, Rep. Adam Schiff of California.

"Our nation is at a crossroads," Schiff told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "A second Trump presidency will undermine the very foundation of our democracy, and I have serious concerns about whether the president can defeat Donald Trump in November."

A Pew Research Center poll published last week showed that more than 6 in 10 U.S. voters see both Biden and Trump as "embarrassing" choices and nearly 9 in 10 said that the 2024 election campaign "does not make them feel proud of the country."

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams on July 17th, 2024

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