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Diverse Protest Groups Unite As ‘The Majority,’ Aiming For Large-Scale Demonstrations On May 1st

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech in which he denounced the scourges of “poverty, racism, and militarism.” Exactly one year later, he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, while organizing alongside black sanitation workers and preparing to launch the Poor People’s Campaign.

Now, 50 years after Dr. King’s historic address, a new coalition called “The Majority” is emerging to tackle the triple evils identified by Dr. King and build a “multi-racial, cross-movement fight for justice, freedom and the right to live fully, with dignity and respect,” according to a statement emailed to AlterNet. This 50-organization-strong initiative includes the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Mijente, Fight for $15, Indigenous Environmental Network and many more organizations.

“The goal of the coalition is to create space where we can come out of our silos as people who do social and racial justice work,” said Chelsea Fuller, an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives and a member of The Majority, in an interview with AlterNet. “We want to come together to say that racism, anti-blackness, capitalism and militarism affect all of our communities. They are central to the issues that we are all fighting.”

Marisa Franco, director of Mijente, emphasized in a press statement, “The shared attacks our communities are facing mean that we have a shared fate and shared work to do together. We cannot defend ourselves if we do it alone, and we cannot build sanctuary for some of us without it being something that protects all of us.”

The initiative comes amid uprisings and protest. Trump’s inauguration was greeted with massive demonstrations and direct actions in Washington, D.C., and across the country, and then millions around the world took to the streets as part of the Women’s March. Since then, protesters have flooded airports, staged strikes and coordinated actions across the country, organized popular assemblies and mobilized to defend their neighbors.

Those organizing with The Majority coalition seek to unite front-lines movements and rally behind a vision rooted in historical perspective.

Organizers say they draw inspiration from King’s 1967 speech, but ultimately credit the broader social movement that he was part of. “While we use the date of Dr. King’s historic speech and tragic assassination as a beginning point for our 2017 mobilization, we reject any analysis that would suggest that Dr. King was singularly responsible for the movement,” said the Majority. “That’s why on April 4th, we will also teach and learn about grassroots organizers who were the backbone of the Black Freedom Movement, and other social justice movements in the U.S. and globally.”

The Majority’s new initiative, “Beyond the Moment: Uniting Movements from April 4th to May Day,” is book-ended by another historical marker: International Workers’ Day.

“May 1st or May Day (International Worker’s Day) emerged out of the fight for an eight-hour workday in 1886 in Chicago. On this day, striking workers clashed with police, resulting in several deaths—four of the protesters were later hanged,” writes The Majority. “In the context of a new president using grandiose promises of job creation to mask the fundamentally anti-worker and pro-corporation nature of his policies, it is imperative that we put forth a true, collective vision of economic justice and worker justice, for all people.”

“Between April 4 and May Day, there will be a combination of mass political education and direct actions that will take place across the country,” said Fuller. “Right now, folks are still planning their actions, teach-ins, seminars, protests and mass marches. The organizations taking part have membership and reach to groups all over the country.”

Meanwhile, momentum for a massive May Day strike appears to be growing. Earlier this month, a network of more than 300,000 farmworkers, servers, cooks and food-manufacturers, including a large local chain of the Service Employees International Union, announced that they will join the walkout “to stop the relentless attacks of the Trump administration and its allies in corporate America.” Immigrant justice organizations, including Movimiento Cosecha, or Harvest Movement, have spent months organizing across the country for Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes (A Day Without Immigrants) to win the “permanent protection, dignity, and respect of immigrants.”

“The time has never been more urgent for grassroots communities to fight for our lives and liberation together in a multi-racial and intergenerational movement,” said Cindy Wiesner of It Takes Roots, one of the many organization members of The Majority.

“We’re joining together with the Movement for Black Lives because our two movements have a common bond in fighting the racism that keeps down people of color everywhere,” said Latierika Blair, 23, a worker at McDonald’s in Memphis, earning $7.35 an hour. “McDonald’s conspires with police to try to silence us when we speak out for higher pay. Corporations and politicians act to keep workers and black people from getting ahead in America. We should be investing in our people and communities. That’s why we have to protest, and that’s why we will keep speaking out together until we win.”

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

You Might Be Surprised Where The Leading Areas Of Drug Overdose Are In The U.S.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

The number of premature deaths due to drug overdoses has skyrocketed in large suburban counties in the United States, which went from having the lowest to the highest rate over the past 10 years, according to a new study.

Released Wednesday morning by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health, the report draws the conclusion that premature deaths—caused by far more factors than just drug overdoses—are on the rise across urban and rural communities, as well as racial and ethnic groups.

The researchers note that “Premature death has consistently been highest in rural counties and among American Indian/Alaskan Native and black populations.” Young people aged 15 to 44 have seen the greatest spike in premature deaths in recent years.

“Drug overdose was by far the single leading cause of premature death by injury in 2015 and contributed to the accelerated rise in premature death from 2014 to 2015,” the study determines. “Large suburban metro counties went from having the lowest to the highest rate of premature death due to drug overdose within the past decade.”

Titled the “2017 Health County Rankings,” the report concludes that, in addition to large suburbs, “smaller metro and rural counties” also suffer the highest rates of lethal drug overdoses.

The annual study states that a key driver of premature death is “youth disconnection,” defined as young people “not working or in school” who are “disconnected from opportunities to live long and healthy lives.” This category correlates with profound disparities across race and class lines.

“Rates of youth disconnection are higher in rural counties (21.6 percent) than in urban counties (13.7 percent), particularly rural counties in the South and West,” the study notes. “Places with high levels of youth disconnection have higher rates of unemployment, child poverty, children in single-parent households, teen births, and lower educational attainment.”

“The main storyline here is that it’s happening across the country,” Jan O’Neill, an associate researcher and community coach at County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, told AlterNet. “It’s an equal opportunity crisis, but the accelerated rate is in suburban and smaller metro counties.”

“The contributors have to do with different community types,” she continued. “Drug overdoses are highest among certain demographics: white and American Indian/Alaskan Native populations. This is also rising because of an increase among 15- to 44-year-olds. For this younger generation, we’re also seeing an increase in car crashes, suicides and homicides, not just drugs. We can treat this as a public health crisis and not something that we need to punish.”

The findings are consistent with a rise in what some researchers refer to as “deaths of despair.” A separate paper recently released by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton determined that premature deaths due to drug overdoses, suicides, alcoholism and other factors are on the rise for middle-aged white people with a high-school education or less. By contrast, mortality rates are falling for white Americans with college degrees. The scholars identify a number of socioeconomic factors behind this trend, including an overall decline in the working class.

 

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

Is Trump Waging a Stealth War of Retaliation Against Sanctuary Cities?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

As Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubles down on President Donald Trump’s threats to crack down on sanctuary cities, evidence is mounting that the administration has already made them the target of retaliatory immigration raids as part of a backdoor effort to force compliance.

The term “sanctuary city” refers to the hundreds of jurisdictions across the United States that, to one degree or another, limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

CNN reported on March 25 that an unnamed “senior U.S. immigration official with direct knowledge of ongoing ICE actions” testified that federal authorities have descended upon sanctuary cities to pressure them to cooperate. Journalist Maria Santana wrote, “High-ranking ICE officials have discussed in internal meetings carrying out more raids on those locations [sanctuary cities].”

While Santana’s source did not reveal his or her identity, a federal judge proclaimed in open court on March 20 that he was told firsthand by federal agents that aggressive immigration raids in Austin this February were orchestrated in direct retaliation for sanctuary policies adopted by a local sheriff. U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin’s assertion was first reported by Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman.

In early February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out aggressive sweeps throughout Austin, arresting at least 51 people, as part of coordinated raids across the country. “They were pulling people over on the side of the road, apprehending them at their homes, knocking on doors and profiling people,” Cristina Parker, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet.

On January 20, the same day Donald Trump was inaugurated, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced a plan to reduce voluntary compliance with federal immigration detainer requests at the county jail. The initiative constituted a direct response to years of Austin-area grassroots organizing led by immigrant communities, which mobilized sustained resistance to a surge in deportations stemming from the implementation of a Secure Communities program in 2009.

While Hernandez’s plan, which went into effect February 1, was cheered by immigrant justice groups as a “step forward,” it falls short of organizations’ calls for a complete end to collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE, as it allows for continued cooperation for individuals charged with certain crimes.

Nonetheless, Judge Austin said he has firsthand information that the raids were conducted in direct retaliation against Hernandez’s policy.

Addressing ICE agent Laron Bryant during a hearing, Austin noted that he, along with another federal magistrate, was briefed in late January that “we could expect a big operation, agents coming in from out of town, that it was going to be a specific operation…It was related to us in that meeting that it was the result of the sheriff’s new policy that this was going to happen.”

“My understanding is,” Austin continued, “one of the reasons that happened was because the meetings that occurred with the field office director and the sheriff didn’t go very well.”

This assertion directly conflicts with claims made by Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Gillian Christensen that sweeps across the country—including Atlanta, Chicago, New York, the Los Angeles area, North Carolina and South Carolina—were “routine” enforcement actions.

“This retaliation was a vengeful tactic by ICE for all the progress the immigrant community has gained in this county in the last four years,” said the Travis County campaign, ICE Out of Austin. “This is as much an attack on the local democratic process, the immigrant community and their leadership as it is on our sheriff’s policy. We fought too hard and too long to let ICE intimidate us back into accepting our deportations. We will continue to struggle and fight to end deportations.”

Roksana Mun, director of strategy and training for the New York-based group, Desis Rising Up and Moving, told AlterNet, “We’ve seen a pattern of the administration targeting sanctuary cities and cities that have sanctuary policies without using that word.”

But some grassroots organizers emphasize that escalation is occurring across the board, and every jurisdiction faces increased threat.

Tania Unzueta, an organizer with the Chicago-based organization Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD) and the national group Mijente, told AlterNet, “We’ve been seeing more raids all over the country, whether the city is sanctuary or not. We’re seeing felony charges where people are getting picked up in raids and hit with felony reentry charges. The number of raids and the punishments are more severe. We’re seeing more shameless stuff, like picking up someone at domestic violence court, going after people doing community service, going to probation officers and street raids.”

“Things are getting more intense, and there is no accountability,” Unzueta continued, noting: “I think the political messaging of the Trump administration is to undermine sanctuary cities and punish the cities politically.”

This messaging was in full effect at a White House briefing on March 27, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions echoed Trump’s prior threats to withhold up to $4.1 billion in federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities, proclaiming: “Such policies cannot continue.”

Sessions statements repeated threats issued in a January 25 executive order, offering no new policy prescriptions. They came just one week after DHS released its first ever report on jurisdictions that do not comply with federal requests to detain individuals so that they can be placed in immigration and potential deportation proceedings (the list was riddled with errors).

Sessions’ threats to withhold funding were immediately assailed by legal experts, who say the Trump administration lacks the authority to take such action. “Despite the Trump administration’s bluster and threats, the federal government cannot coerce local police into becoming deportation agents, and should not try to scare local authorities into taking illegal actions that undermine public safety and subject them to liability,” Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability argued in December that the Trump administration may not have the authority to strip such funds without the consent of Congress.

Whether or not the Trump administration has the authority to punish sanctuary cities financially, organizers say now is an important time to defend—and expand—local sanctuary policies. The Movement for Black Lives is teaming up with Mijente to advance sanctuary campaigns across the United States that defend protections from criminalization at the hands of police and immigration authorities.

“ICE has been behaving so badly,” said Unzueta. “It’s the reason there needs to be protections for people.”

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

Steve King’s Statements Are Outrageous, But His White Nationalist Policies Are Even Worse

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Iowa Representative Steve King provoked widespread outrage this week for making, and then defending, white-supremacist statements in support of Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch fascist Party for Freedom, in the leadup to the Netherlands’ Wednesday election.

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” King tweeted Sunday, linking to a Voice of Europe website image depicting Wilders’ virulent Islamophobia as a defense of European “civilization.”

King’s remarks are in line with his long-standing track record of making racist claims that people of color, immigrants and Muslims pose a threat to “white purity.”

While King’s racist rhetoric has earned him the opprobrium of pundits and social media alike, lesser noticed are the far-right policies he is aggressively pushing, with the help of his Republican colleagues in Washington. From hardline anti-immigration bills to school privatization acts, King’s initiatives cast him as a representative of the Trump-aligned forces at the helm of America’s political institutions, positioned to inflict material harm on countless people through actions, not just words.

A Republican representative for northwestern Iowa since 2003, King first threw his support behind presidential candidate Ted Cruz before making the jump to Trump. He has emerged as an enthusiastic proponent of Trump’s proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a region already lined with walls and fences and featuring a heavily militarized U.S. presence.

King, who ran the company King Construction before his son took over, claims to have designed his own wall, stating on his website, “My concrete wall would function as both a human and vehicle barrier, inspired by the success of the concrete wall in Israel. My design is cost-efficient, easy to construct and impenetrable. This design would funnel illegal traffic to our ports of entry, where it can be reasonably controlled by our nation’s customs and border patrol agents.” He recently said he sent his construction plans to John Kelly, who now heads the Department of Homeland Security.

As vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, King introduced the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2017,” which targets the children of undocumented immigrants by terminating the process by which they are automatically granted citizenship if they are born in the United States. This is just one of several attempts by King to advance such legislation, and now he is doing so with 22 co-sponsors. If passed, the bill would rip families apart and put children at an increased risk of incarceration, abuse and forcible expulsion.

Notably, King appears to have allies in the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence said last fall that Trump’s then-proposed immigration commission would “look at all of our immigration laws, including the whole question of ‘anchor babies'” (a derogatory term referring to children whose parents are not U.S. citizens).

Like Trump, King is an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim hardliner who has received the political backing of European fascist leaders, as well as domestic white supremacists, including former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.

Since Trump’s inauguration, King has introduced a flurry of far-right initiatives that are in line with the new administration’s policies. These include an act advancing school privatization, a proposed repeal of the EB-5 visa waiver program and an anti-worker “national right to work act.” King recently introduced a bill allowing the U.S. government to revoke the citizenship of “Americans who knowingly join or provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations such as ISIS.” Notably, Ted Cruz presented the companion bill to the Senate, with the co-sponsorship of Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Lee (R-UT). King also proposed a “Resolution Rebuking the Courts’ Actions Against President Trump’s Executive Order” on immigration, a clear effort to shore up support for Trump’s travel ban targeting Muslims.

In light of these policy positions, King’s rhetoric throws into relief the racist forces taking power in the U.S. and Europe. In September 2016, King published a tweet showing a photograph of himself standing alongside the European fascist leaders Frauke Petry and Geert Wilders with the phrase, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.” The language is a reference to the racist tenet that “white purity” is under threat.

During an MSNBC panel discussion hosted by Chris Hayes in July, King argued that white people have made the most valuable contributions to civilization. “This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired,” he said. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

In September 2014, King called on the U.S. government to indiscriminately spy on mosques, allegedly to target ISIS recruitment. Speaking with the Deace show, he said of ISIS recruiters: “So they have a network that they flow in. And it isn’t that all Muslims are [supporters] of ISIS, but the network that flows through the mosques is certainly the communications center. We ought to be looking at this dot to dot. And we ought to have people in those mosques watching to see what’s going on.”

The surveillance of mosques and Muslim communities spread under the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. During the 2016 presidential elections, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump called for police to patrol Muslim neighborhoods, echoing King’s earlier policy prescriptions.

Muslims aren’t the only targets of King’s racist rants. In a 2013 interview with the right-wing outlet Newsmax, he insulted undocumented children by employing racist and xenophobic stereotypes. “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” he stated.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

‘White Genocide’: Debunking The Latest Breitbart-Promoted Racist Buzzword

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The false claim that there is a genocide against white people is a key rallying cry used by organized white supremacists to justify racist violence targeting people of color, Muslims and Jews. With the rise of Donald Trump, who promptly appointed white nationalist Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, those forces will soon have a direct line to the White House.

George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor of international politics and decolonization at Philadelphia-based Drexel University, recently found himself at the center of a smear campaign for mocking the concept of white genocide. On December 24, Ciccariello-Maher posted a tweet stating, “all I want for Christmas is white genocide.” He explained the tweet in a later statement: “For those who haven’t bothered to do their research, ‘white genocide’ is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it.”

Ciccariello-Maher’s tweet and other social media commentary was soon reported by the white nationalist publication Breitbart, which ran an article by Warner Todd Huston referring to the scholar’s Twitter feed as “hateful” and “obnoxious.” The comments section of the article included at least one death threat against Ciccariello-Maher, as well as hateful messages targeting LGBTQ people and African Americans. The story quickly spread to Reddit and 4chan, and before long George Ciccariello-Maher had become became the target of a coordinated campaign to contact his employer, Drexel University. Ciccariello-Maher said he awoke Christmas morning to death threats targeting him and his family.

But Drexel, instead of defending Ciccariello-Maher, appeared to be swayed by the pressure it received and publicly condemned his social media remarks as “utterly reprehensible” and “deeply disturbing.” The university’s statement did not include any mention of the white supremacist origins of the term Ciccariello-Maher was mocking—an omission that extended to numerous press outlets which covered the story.

Scholars of fascism and the racist right told AlterNet such omission is dangerous in the era of Trump, with implications far beyond Ciccariello-Maher. “This phrase and its broad dissemination these days is helping shape what Trumpism is politically and also, by its very framing, is something that can authorize any kind of violence against people of color,” Joseph Lowndes, an associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon in Eugene, told AlterNet. “We should mock it, expose it and delegitimize it.”

Term with a disgraceful history

“Fears of the decline of the so-called white race have been around for a long time, with different iterations,” Lowndes said. “In the American context, it goes back to fears of slave revolts. You can see it in Thomas Jefferson’s notes, when he describes slavery as holding a ‘wolf by the ears.’ He claimed that once you let the wolf go, it will turn on you and devour you.”

Such racist concepts were used as salvo against movements to abolish slavery. “In the 19th century, before the Civil War, you can look at how people who were anti-abolition were warning everyone about an impending genocide if slaves were liberated,” said Alexander Reid Ross, who teaches in the geography department at Portland State University and is the author of the forthcoming bookAgainst the Fascist Creep.

In undated remarks published in a book of his writings and speeches, the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison expressed his outrage at such baseless fear-mongering:

Before I proceed any further, let me call attention to a remarkable exemplification of the insincerity and effrontery of the anti-abolition party in this country, as manifested this day. What have they not done, for the last five years, to cast odium upon our principles and measures? Have they not ridiculed without mercy, our demand for the immediate abolition of slavery as wild, chimerical, monstrous? Has not the idea of ‘turning loose’ so many unlettered, penniless, homeless creatures, seemingly filled them with horror? Have they not a thousand times declared, that a sudden emancipation would fill the land with blood, and be the signal for a war of extermination?… Though they have been prophesying ‘evil, and only evil, and that continually,’ of any and every scheme of immediate emancipation; though they have advanced it as a self-evident proposition, that bloodshed and ruin must be the inevitable consequence of letting all the oppressed go free at once, it seems, after all, that they knew nothing about the matter. What was beyond all doubt with them, a short time since, is now full of uncertainty: they wait for intelligence!

Following the Civil War, false claims about threats to the “white race” influenced the rising eugenics movement, Ross explained. This racist outlook was captured in the 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race, by eugenicist Madison Grant, who was a personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt’s. Adolf Hitler was a fan of Grant’s and often quoted from his work.

One can trace a direct line from the early 20th-century eugenicists to the racist movements of today. As the Southern Poverty Law Center points out, the Pioneer Fund was started in 1937 by Wickliffe Draper, a textile magnate, with the express purpose of pursuing “race betterment” by promoting the genes of people “deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.” The SPLC notes, “The Pioneer Fund has supported many of the leading Anglo-American race scientists of the last several decades as well as anti-immigration groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).”

Trump’s choice for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, “regularly” attends events hosted by FAIR, according to the SPLC, which has classified the organization as a hate group since 2007. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leader of Trump’s transition team, has served as counsel to FAIR’s legal arm, according to SPLC. “We can see how the Trump administration is only a stone’s throw from this kind of angsty rhetoric and the people who advance practical ‘solutions’ to these made-up problems,” said Ross.

According to Ross, fears of white genocide re-emerged “after World War II, with the decolonization process and war of liberation in Algeria, all the way through the liberation of Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, as well as during the anti-apartheid movement.”

Ross points to European intellectuals from the “European New Right” as playing a key role in “normalizing the notion of white genocide, arguing that an apartheid-style racial separation would preserve cultural integrity against ‘ethnocidal’ multi-culturalism and liberal democracy.”

Lowndes emphasized that in the U.S. context, fear-mongering over the supposed decline of the white race picked up steam after the civil rights and black freedom movements. “There was a return of language about what is going to happen to white people if black people get full rights.”

‘They are the actual racists’

Sophie Bjork-James, a researcher at Vanderbilt University with expertise in conservative social movements, told AlterNet that the meme of “white genocide” has become an “increasingly popular frame” over the past 10 years, because “it frames whites as victims in a very emotionally resonant way. It seems like it is getting a much broader audience, which is scary because that can make it seem like it’s a legitimate term. Some mainstream media outlets will use the term without referencing its white supremacist origins.”

Bjork-James emphasized that the concept of white genocide “dangerously deflects away from what’s actually happening in terms of economic stratification.” She explained, “If we look at how white people understand contemporary race relations, a huge percent think whites now experience more discrimination than people of color. It is not just white nationalists who see white people as victims of racial discrimination.”

“On the one hand, our society is completely structured by racism that privileges white people, and many white people don’t see that,” she continued. “I think it’s really telling that the U.S. was founded on the genocide of Native Americans, and now white people claim they are experiencing genocide.”

Last year, a group calling itself the White Genocide Project temporarily erected a billboard in Springvale, Alabama which stated “Diversity Means Chasing Down the Last White Person” with the hashtag #whitegenocide on the bottom. One of the individuals behind the billboard told SPLC that the group took inspiration from the prominent segregationist Bob Whitaker. Widely influential among white supremacists, Whitaker authored an article that claimed “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.”

Chillingly, baseless themes of white victimization were present in the manifesto of Dylann Roof, who massacred nine African-Americans churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015.

Reflecting on his experiences over the past several days, George Ciccariello-Maher noted that adherents of the mythical white genocide present the real danger. “White racists openly support the idea of a pure, white country led by white males, as Richard Spencer recently put it,” Ciccariello-Maher told AlterNet. “For them, anything is white genocide, from multiculturalism to intermarriage. They are the actual racists who uphold the ideas that have been used to carry out actual genocide.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

IMAGE: A member of the Ku Klux Klan gesture as he yells holding a Confederate flag during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina July 18, 2015.  REUTERS/Chris Keane¨

Immigration Movement Prepares For Bold Offensive Against Trump

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

“Right now, we are all on the defensive because we believe we are going to get hurt,” Carlos Saavedra, an organizer with Movimiento Cosecha (Harvest Movement), told AlterNet over the phone from Boston. “That is probably true. A lot of people are going to get hurt, especially the most vulnerable communities. But we have to remember that we are in a fight, and that means we can hit back too.”

Saavedra is part of a growing community of undocumented people, immigrants and Dreamers across the United States who are determined to go on the offensive during the Trump years, with the ultimate goal of launching “massive civil resistance and non-cooperation to show this country it depends on us.” Cosecha calls itself “a nonviolent movement that is fighting for the permanent protection, dignity, and respect of immigrants” and is determined to secure these values for the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

“Our overall strategy, our core belief, is that this country depends on the labor and consumption of immigrants in order to operate,” said Saavedra. “If people do stand up and start leveraging consumer power in massive numbers, if they wage a general strike of five to eight million workers for seven days, we think the economy of this country would not be able to sustain itself.” Now in the training and support-building phase, Cosecha aims to build towards a migrant boycott and general strike. Strategies of non-cooperation are especially important in light of the incoming Trump administration, say movement leaders.

Trump claims that, within the first 100 days of his presidency, he will “begin” deporting more than two million undocumented immigrants, and in a post-election interview with 60 minutes he said this number could reach three million. If he were to follow through on these threats, the mass sweeps and expulsions could impact one in four undocumented people living in the United States. On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to create a “deportation force” to expel 11 million people, and he claims that, in the first 100 days, he will escalate the criminalization of immigrants and undocumented people and “cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities.”

While it is difficult to predict exactly what these policies will look like in practice, his appointments—which have given organized white supremacists a direct line to the White House—signal a hardline stance. Trump’s pick for attorney general is Jeff Sessions, who was determined too racist to serve as a federal judge under the Reagan administration and has built his career on his draconian anti-immigrant policies.

Cosecha organizers are no strangers to tough battles. The initiative went public a year-and-a-half ago, emerging from the Dreamer movement, which was led by undocumented students demanding legal status and protections from deportation. The Dreamers ultimately pressed Obama to take executive action in 2012 and pass Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants limited deportation reprieve to some undocumented young people who came to the country as children. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to overturn DACA.

Yet, Obama also leaves behind the troubling legacy of an administration that oversaw more deportations than any other president in U.S. history, at more than 2.5 million forced expulsions. In 2014, the Obama administration made the mass detention of families a cornerstone of its response to large-scale displacement from Central American countries, where violence and poverty have been worsened by U.S. policies. These prison-like institutions have been compared to to the historical disgrace of Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. While such camps have dwindled in number, they continue into the president, and the Obama administration has vigorously fought legal challenges aimed at shutting them down.

Following sustained resistance during the Obama years, Saavedra said that Trump’s victory has left Cosecha grappling with “how to engage the millions of people in this moment who want to join a movement. Our organization is designed to absorb these people and bring them in very quickly. We do mass trainings all over the country,” said Saavedra, putting the number at 30 to 40 so far.

Cait Vaughan, a community organizer from Portland, Maine, recently attended a training in Boston. “Training leaders made clear that this movement is relationship-driven, grounded in truly collective processes of learning and risk-taking and flexible enough to take root and scale up quickly,” she told AlterNet. “They emphasized that victory is possible, not in spite of fear, but through facing it in the context of an accountable and bold community.”

Maria Fernanda Cabello, who is based in Maryland and is one of 15 full-time volunteer organizers with Cosecha, told AlterNet, “The way we are going to reach mass scale is doing trainings and a lot of public actions.” This includes building the Sanctuary Campus movement and staging creative direct actions like “Salsa Shutdowns,” she said, explaining: “We’re going to stores that profit highly from immigrants and dancing Salsa around the cash register so people are unable to make their purchase. It is a family-oriented action.”

While mobilizing for a general strike may seem ambitious, Cabello emphasized that it has already been done before. On May 1, 2006, immigrants across the United States staged a coordinated walkout, termed “The Day Without Immigrants,” to protest hardline anti-immigrant laws. “We are trying to replicate what happened in 2006 after the mega-marches, but at a bigger scale,” said Cabello. “These are really scary times for everyone, and we need to move faster and be bolder. Building movements is only way to protect our community in the next four years.”

“We know this strategy is bold. We are ultimately trying to pull of the largest strike in the history of this country, and it’s a goal that’s needed,” Carlos Rojas Rodriguez, an organizer with Movimiento Cosecha, told AlterNet. “An offensive strategy is needed now in these dark times.”

Along with communities across the country, Cosecha is also organizing a preemptive defense against escalated raids and deportations, including by pushing for the the expansion of sanctuary movement in religious congregations, schools and cities. According to Saavedra, “Safety doesn’t come from the government giving you something. Safety comes from an organized community. It’s really easy in these moments of pain to get isolated with your pain and let the fear lead you. The only answer to fear is having a community.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

IMAGE: J Valas images/Flickr

Billionaire Heir Of Right-Wing Dynasty Picked For Education Secretary

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he is appointing as education secretary Betsy DeVos, the billionaire Republican who is a major champion and founding funder of the modern education privatization movement. Bringing no significant experience in public education, DeVos is a billionaire member of a family that has cultivated extensive power and influence in conservative circles thanks to its fortune from the Amway Corporation.

Trump’s appointment immediately provoked objection, with writer and historican Diane Ravitch slamming DeVos as someone who “does not hide her contempt for the public schools.”

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, declared Wednesday that DeVos has “done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers—which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.”

“By nominating Betsy DeVos,” said García, “the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.”

Trump has also appointed white nationalist Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist, overt racist Jeff Sessions as attorney general and hawkish anti-Muslim crusader Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

DeVos is among a handful of billionaires who have created and underwritten the rapid expansion of charter schools since 2000. As detailed in an e-book published this fall by AlterNet’s parent organization, Who Controls Our Schools? The Privatization of American Public Education, DeVos has long supported using taxpayer funds for voucher programs, parochial schools and charters, all of which undermine and replace public schools and locally-elected school boards. She neither attended public schools nor sent her children to them. (Click here to read the ebook for free.)

The former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, DeVos backed a failed ballot initiative in 2000 to amend the state constitution to allow students to use taxpayer dollars to attend nonpublic schools. She heads the American Federation for Children, which was described in Political Research Associates by Rachel Tabachnick:

The American Federation for Children is now the umbrella organization for two nonprofits that have been at the center of the pro-privatization movement for over a decade. In addition to the renamed Advocates for School Choice, it includes the Alliance for School Choice, formerly known as the Education Reform Council. Both entities received extensive funding from the late John Walton, one of the Wal-Mart heirs. The boards of the two related entities included movement leaders Betsy DeVos–scion of a Christian Right family who married into the Amway home goods fortune–William Oberndorf, Clint Bolick, John Kirtley, Steve Friess (son of Foster Friess), James Leininger, John Walton, and Cory Booker.

In a 2013 interview, Betsy DeVos indicated that she found inspiration in the article by notorious libertarian economist Milton Friedman titled, “The Role of Government in Education.” Notably, Friedman stated in that article, which was published in 1955, that he is amenable to racial segregation in “privately conducted” schools. He wrote, “So long as the schools are publicly operated, the only choice is between forced nonsegregation and forced segregation; and if I must choose between these evils, I would choose the former as the lesser. Privately conducted schools can resolve the dilemma … Under such a system, there can develop exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools, and mixed schools.”

But to understand DeVos’s political footprint, it is necessary to examine her powerful family dynasty, whose well-heeled members chair the Orlando Magic.

As Benjy Hansen-Bundy and Andy Kroll previously noted in Mother Jones, “Members of the DeVos family rank among the most generous benefactors of the conservative movement and the Christian right, up there with the Bradleys, the Coorses, and the Kochs. Not only has billionaire Amway cofounder Richard DeVos Sr. cut checks to anti-union and anti-tax efforts, but these days he’s also a fixture at the Koch brothers’ invite-only donor summits. Name an organization—Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, the arch-conservative Heritage Foundation—and odds are a DeVos family member has donated to it.”

Betsy DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary company Blackwater that profited off of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Four of the company’s employees were found guilty for a 2007 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, including a child as young as 9. Following bad publicity, the company has since changed its name to Academi, and Prince, no longer working there, is reportedly under investigation for money laundering.

Betsy DeVos’s husband Dick played an instrumental role in pushing in 2012 for legislation to make Michigan a right-to-work state, and disgraced Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder responded to her appointment with accolades.

“Donald Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education proves that having a shortage of experience means nothing as long you don’t have a shortage of money,” Progress Michigan executive director Lonnie Scott said Wednesday. “The DeVos family has been using their deep pockets to influence the Michigan legislature for years and it looks like they have finally bought their way into a presidential administration as well. The DeVos family education plan has been a disaster for Michigan and we are truly saddened that Trump decided to import their failed ideas to Washington D.C. Progress Michigan remains committed to holding the DeVos family accountable and fighting for all children to have access to excellent public schools.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) stands with Betsy DeVos after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar

Caught On Camera: Donald Trump’s Anti-Muslim Agenda Revealed

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an adviser for Donald Trump’s transition team, has drafted a plan for the incoming administration to impose sweeping Islamophobic policies, including the revival and expansion of a Bush-era Muslim registry, as well as forced interrogations and ideological screenings of immigrants “regarding support for Sharia law.”

He is also calling for a redefinition of the term “criminal alien” to include “any alien arrested for any crime, and any gang member,” a dramatic expansion that could ensnare countless numbers of people before they face trial or conviction.

The plan was revealed when Associated Press photographer Carolyn Kaster captured an image of Kobach entering a private meeting with Trump on Sunday, carrying a binder and papers. Held in Bedminster, New Jersey, the meeting was aimed at discussing “border security, international terrorism and reforming federal bureaucracy,” according to the Trump transition team. Some text on one of those pages, although partially obscured by Kobach’s hand, is legible when the image is enlarged.

The document appears to lay out Kobach’s plan for his first year, if he is tapped to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The top bullet point, titled “Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists,” calls for DHS to “Update and reintroduce the NSEERS screening and tracking system (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) that was in place from 2002-2005. All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked.”

As a staffer in George W. Bush’s justice department, Kobach pushed for the 2002 creation of NSEERS, a registry for men over the age of 16 who hail from countries deemed to pose a terrorist danger to the United States. Of the 25 countries included on the list, 24 had majority-Muslim populations.

By the time DHS announced in 2011 that it was indefinitely suspending the program, it had ensnared nearly 100,000 people and led to thousands of deportations. According to Chris Rickerd of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, NSEERS “mandated ethnic profiling on a scale not seen in the United States since Japanese-American internment during World War II and the ‘Operation Wetback’ deportations to Mexico of 1954.”

President Obama has continued the practice of registering Muslims through the expansion of the federal government’s terrorist watch listing system, which disproportionately targets Muslims.

Unlike Bush and Obama, who have falsely maintained that they were not creating Muslim registries, the Trump campaign has been far more overt. Reuters reporters Mica Rosenberg and Julia Edwards wrote Tuesday that Kobach, who helped author Arizona’s draconian SB 1070 anti-immigrant law, “said in an interview that Trump’s policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.”

Carl Higbie, a prominent Trump supporter and spokesperson for the Great America PAC, recently told Megyn Kelly on Fox News that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is a “precedent” for a potential Muslim registry.

Kobach’s written plan also calls for DHS to “Add extreme vetting questions for high-risk aliens: question them regarding support for Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women, the United States Constitution.” The text is disturbingly similar to Trump’s campaign trail calls for an ideological screening of Muslim immigrant and visitors.

“Conspiracy-minded Islamophobia”

Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, explained to AlterNet that, “For more than a decade, Muslim immigrants in the U.S. have been subject to extra scrutiny and suspicion by federal agencies. The new plan will further ramp up that profiling. Interrogating ‘aliens’ about their views on sharia, jihad, the equality of men and women, and the U.S. constitution will do nothing to prevent terrorism. For President-elect Trump to seek to exclude Muslim ‘aliens’ for not respecting gender equality or the constitution would be ironic to say the least. This is not an anti-terrorism policy but an anti-Islam policy that has its origins in the conspiratorial thinking of the far right.”

Michael German, a former special agent with the FBI who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, agreed. “This document reflects the conspiracy-minded Islamophobia that shouldn’t be part of any government proposal,” he said.

The document appears to recommend that the Trump administration deport a “Record Number of Criminal Aliens in the First Year.” Going further, Kobach calls for the term ‘Criminal Aliens’ to be redefined “as any alien arrested for any crime, and any gang member.” In other words, one could be determined a criminal alien before facing trial or conviction.

German emphasized that the reference to the “gang database” is particularly troubling, explaining, “What we know about the gang database is that it is full of people who are placed there arbitrarily.”

The plan also recommends that the U.S. bring the “intake of Syrian refugees to zero” and calls for a “rapid build” of Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border with Mexico.

Trump’s appointees indicate that he plans to give white nationalists and anti-immigrant hardliners a direct line to the White House. So far, he has nominated white nationalist Steve Bannon as chief strategist, and Jeff Sessions, who was found to be too racist to serve as a federal judge under the Reagan administration, as attorney general. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has proclaimed he is “open” to torture, is Trump’s appointee for the role of national security adviser.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

IMAGE: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks in his Topeka, Kansas, U.S., office May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup/File Photo

Militarized Police Are Collaborating With Oil Companies At Standing Rock

Reprinted with Permission from AlterNet

Today’s militarized crackdown on water protectors in Cannonball, North Dakota stems from high levels of coordination between the extractive industry, state officials and police departments. It was waged against a frontline camp seeking to block the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which would cross beneath the Standing Rock Sioux reservation’s main drinking water source and bisect the community’s burial grounds. The attack took place under cover of a media blackout, with reports emerging that police were disrupting cellular phone reception.

Water protectors have already endured dog attacks, military-style checkpoints, low-flying surveillance planes, invasive strip searches, national guard deployments, and mass arrests. “What’s happening today is a travesty on the human rights of Indigenous people,” Tom Goldtooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, told AlterNet. “I see this as glaring evidence that the law enforcement of this county and state is more concerned about protecting corporate rights of the extractive industry than tribal nations.”

There is evidence of close coordination between the companies backing the $3.8 billion crude-oil Dakota Access Pipeline and police departments. Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company for Dakota Access LLC, said Tuesday it intends to work with police to forcibly clear a frontlines water protectors’ camp. Energy Transfer Partners threatened that “in coordination with local law enforcement and county/state officials, all trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from the land.”

Challenging the company’s charges of trespassing, the frontline Sacred Stone Camp says it is taking back “unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie as sovereign land under the control of the Oceti Sakowin.”

“We have never ceded this land,” Joye Braun, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a press statement. “If DAPL can go through and claim eminent domain on landowners and Native peoples on their own land, then we as sovereign nations can then declare eminent domain on our own aboriginal homeland.”

Today’s events indicate that Energy Transfer Partners is not bluffing when it says police are siding with the company. In fact, law enforcement has vocally rallied behind the pipeline, which is backed by Enbridge. “At some point the rule of law has to be enforced,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said Wednesday,according to the Associated Press. “We could go down there at any time. We’re trying not to.”

The companies backing the pipeline already have private security under their employ. Dakota Access LLC confirmed to AlterNet in September that it had hired the notorious multinational security firm G4S during a period that overlapped with the protests, but would not state where its forces were located. Attorneys representing the Standing Rock encampments identified the companies behind the Dakota Access company’s brutal dog attacks, captured on video, as private security firm 10-Code Security, LLC and attack dog contractor Frost Kennels.

But according to Peter Kraska, professor and author of Militarizing The American Criminal Justice System: The Changing Roles of the Armed Forces and Police, the extractive industry also has taxpayer-funded security, in the form of police.

“We have romantic notions of the relationships between government and the private sector and tend to think the old days of police supporting owners of capital—the railroad companies instead of the workers—are from a bygone era,” Kraska told AlterNet. “Situations like these show that corporations and energy interests are exercising a monopoly on violence to continue the fossil fuel industry unabated.”

Steven Salaita, professor and author of the forthcoming book Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine, put it this way: “The current buildup of tremendous force at Standing Rock should be understood as a military invasion of a sovereign nation on behalf of a foreign oil company.”

The heavy-handed response does not stem from local coordination alone. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said in a press statement released Sunday that, “Due to escalated unlawful tactics by individuals protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Morton County has requested additional law enforcement assistance from other states. The state of North Dakota made an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request to states for assistance on October 7th.”

Remarkably, the EMAC program is supposed to be used to allow “states to send personnel, equipment, and commodities to help disaster relief efforts in other states.”

According to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, “Several states have responded and have arrived or will be arriving to support Morton County. States that are currently assisting Morton County are: Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Indiana and Nebraska.” AlterNet could not immediately reach Morton County for comment.

In Minneapolis, news that local law enforcement officers were being sent to Standing Rock sparked protests on Wednesday. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that, “At the request of the State of North Dakota, and as approved by the State of Minnesota, on Sunday, Minnesota Sheriff’s Deputies from the Hennepin, Anoka, and Washington Counties’ Sheriff’s Offices were deployed to assist in Morton County, North Dakota.”

Those counties cover the bulk of the Twin Cities area, where local police been accused of placing protesters in danger, through a far-reaching culture of incitement against the Black Lives Matter movement. In one incident, St. Paul police officer Jeff Rothecker was forced to resign in February after he was caught encouraging drivers to run over Black Lives Matter protesters slated to gather for a Martin Luther King Day mobilization. Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the Minneapolis Police Officer’s Federation who has ties to a white-power-linked biker gang, has repeatedly referred to protesters as “terrorists.”

As police departments around the country send reinforcements to North Dakota, the appeals of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe for federal protection from law enforcement violence appear to have had no effect. In a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch earlier this week, the water protectors asked the Department of Justice to intervene.

“To many people, the military tactics being used in North Dakota are reminiscent of the tactics used against protesters during the civil rights movement some 50 years ago,” the letter states. “But to us, there is an additional collective memory that comes to mind. This country has a long and sad history of using military force against indigenous people—including the Sioux Nation.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: A line of police move towards a roadblock and encampment of Native American and environmental protesters near an oil pipeline construction site, near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Rob Wilson

High School Football Players Across The U.S. Join Kaepernick, Refuse To Stand For National Anthem

Published with permission from AlterNet.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick declared last month, explaining why he chose not to stand during the national anthem on August 26. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Since Kaepernick spoke these words, his protest has caught fire across the country, with NFL players from Miami to Seattle to Boston showing solidarity by kneeling or raising their fists in the air during the song. Meanwhile, players from other sports have joined in, with soccer star Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the national anthem, telling American Soccer Now that the gesture was “a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now.”

But getting far less attention are the high school football players across the United States, who, inspired by Kaepernick, are refusing to stand during the national anthem to protest racism and inequality. Many of those leading the protests are black and brown students who have grown up with images of young people who look like them being shot and killed by police.

Coaches and most members of the South Jersey Tigers high school football team, Woodrow Wilson, knelt during the national anthem on Saturday. “I am well aware of the third verse of the national anthem which is not usually sung, and I know that the words of the song were not originally meant to include people like me,” Tigers coach Preston Brown told NBC 10 on Saturday.

The third stanza states, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” As the Intercept’s Jon Schwartz pointed out, Francis Scott Key wrote those words during the war of 1812, in direct reference to U.S. slaves who fought for the British, “who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their ‘owners.’” Schwartz continues: “So when Key penned ‘No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,’ he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.”

The Tigers’ protest is captured in the following video:

On Friday, numerous players for Watkins Mills High in Montgomery County, Maryland also kneeled during the national anthem. “We just wanted to make a statement that America is not what you think it is,” said junior quarterback Markel Grant.

Players from Maury High in Norfolk, Virginia to Auburn High in Rockford, Illinois have taken similar action. While these young people are certainly not the first to use their roles as athletes to protest racism and injustice in the United States, they are part of a fresh wave of resistance amid the ongoing movement for Black Lives Matter led by young people in cities and towns across the U.S. In some cases, individual players are making the decision to stage small protests of one or two, as in the case of Lincoln, Nebraska player Sterling Smith, highlighted in thisnews report.

Rodney Axson, a high school player at Brunswick High School in Ohio, reportedlydecided to kneel during the national anthem after he witnessed his teammates using racial slurs to degrade opposing players. The 16-year-old says he faced severe backlash as a result, including anti-black racial epithets.

Unfortunately, Axson’s case is not an isolated one. According to a local media report, the announcer for a Friday football game at McKenzie High School in Alabama’s Butler County suggested that those who do not stand for the national anthem deserve to be shot. “If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you,” said the announcer, Pastor Allen Joyner of Sweet Home Baptist Church.

Mike Oppong, a player for Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Mass.,says he was initially suspended for a game for refusing to stand during the national anthem, but this punishment was revoked after public outcry. He told reporters, “We are disrespected and mistreated everywhere we go on a daily basis because of our skin color, and I’m sick of it.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: Screenshot.

DHS To Revisit For-Profit Immigrant Prisons: Will It Also Revisit Mass Detentions?

The Department of Homeland Security said Monday that, taking a cue from the Department of Justice, it will review its widespread practice of incarcerating immigrants and refugees in for-profit detention centers.

The announcement was hailed by human rights campaigners as a positive development, put on the map by immigrants forced to resort to hunger strike to protest their cruel conditions of confinement. Yet, the DHS statement also left some wondering whether the federal agency will take meaningful action to curb the Obama administration’srecord levels of deportations and mass incarceration targeting people fleeing war, violence and poverty, given that the announcement includes no indication of future plans to reduce detentions.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who has overseen an escalation in raids and deportations this summer targeting refugees fleeing Central America, released astatement Monday which said, “On August 18, the Department of Justice announced that the Bureau of Prisons will reduce and ultimately end its use of private prisons.” Johnson was referencing the DOJ’s recent claim that it will phase out or reduce for-profit prison contracts in the future. The move affects only 13 facilities, most of them Criminal Alien Requirement prisons that lock up non-U.S. citizens, and will not reduce the overall prison population. That DOJ decision followed a searing report from the Office of Inspector General that exposed widespread human rights abuses in privately run BOP prisons.

“On Friday, I directed our Homeland Security Advisory Council, chaired by Judge William Webster, to evaluate whether the immigration detention operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement should move in the same direction,” Johnson said. However, Johnson made no explicit commitment to change DHS policies, instead stating that he will set establish “a Subcommittee of the Council to review our current policy and practices concerning the use of private immigration detention and evaluate whether this practice should be eliminated.”

It is not clear, at this point, what impact Johnson’s announcement will have on the people incarcerated in immigrant detention centers, which rights campaigners say are more like prisons or even internment camps.

The incarceration of immigrants, migrants and refugees is the area of greatest growth for the private prison industry in the United States, with the companies Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group making windfall profits. According to the latest figures from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more than 70 percent of all ICE beds are operated by for-profit companies.

In turn, these corporations have been instrumental in pressing the U.S. government to adopt heavy-handed immigration policies. A report released last year by the organization Grassroots Leadership, which opposes prison profiteering, reveals that the for-profit prison industry in 2009 successfully pressured Congress to adopt the congressional immigrant detention quota, which today directs ICE to hold an average 34,000 people in detention on a daily basis.

Amid soaring profits, private immigrant detention centers have been rocked by protests and hunger strikes against inhumane conditions. Mothers held with their children at the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas have staged repeated protests against nearly free labor, lack of legal representation and contaminated drinking water. In 2014, numerous women detained at the prisonalleged that guards sexually assaulted them. These protests have been instrumental in raising the public profile of abuses committed in these facilities.

However, Tania Unzueta, organizer with Mijente and #Not1MoreDeportation, told AlterNet that the human rights violations that plague private detention centers also extend to publicly operated ones. “We see the same problems in public prisons to various degrees,” said Unzueta. “For example, there has been a large movement led by transgender women to end the detention of transgender women because of the high rate of sexual assault and rape that they face at all centers. We also see the abuse of women and other so-called vulnerable populations, as well as a lack of accountability at both private and public prisons.”

Because of the role the private prison industry plays in lobbying for harsh immigration policies, any step toward reduce its role in the mass detention system is likely to bring positive human rights results, say campaigners. “Corporations like GEO Groups or CCA are constantly pushing for more incarceration,” Brenda Perez, organizer with Comite Popular-Nashville, told AlterNet. “This [DHS] announcement is, minimally, a step in the right direction. But we need to move away from mass detention overall.”

From immigrant detention to the war on drugs, the U.S. public is growing increasingly weary of mass incarceration. Some groups say they hope DHS will not just shuffle undocumented people from private to public facilities, but take meaningful steps to curb mass detentions.

“There are a lot of things that DHS can do right now to reduce reliance on detention, things like reviewing the high amounts that immigration courts set for bonds for immigrants,” Unzueta told AlterNet. “We’re talking about $50,000 bonds that people can’t afford.”

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, told AlterNet that DHS should “end private prison contracts while reducing the number of people detained. And we need to end the practice of family detention and deprioritize detentions completely.”

Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has overseen the deportation of more than 2.5 million immigrants, marking a 23 percent increase over the George W. Bush presidency and surpassing any other president. Starting in 2014, the Obama administration made the mass detention of families a cornerstone of its response to large-scale displacement from Central American countries where violence and poverty have been worsened by U.S. policies.

“It’s past time that DHS end the practice of detaining immigrants and this review should move it in that direction,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, Mijente field director on behalf of the Not1More Deportation Campaign. “Whether it is in the CCA-run Eloy facility where a series of suspicious deaths sparked hunger strikes and four recent sexual assault cases remain uninvestigated or in the Berks family detention center where refugee mothers demand their freedom, or the trans pods in Santa Ana where detainees face abuse, the country’s detention system represents a major crisis made worse by companies profiting from the suffering of the people kept inside.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: Photo Credit: sakhorn / Shutterstock.com

Why Mylan’s Alleged Solution To Its EpiPen Price-Gouging Scandal Is A Scam

Published with permission from AlterNet.

The pharmaceutical giant Mylan has a public uproar on its hands over its 500 percent price increase for a life-saving device known as EpiPen, which delivers emergency shots of the hormone epinephrine to treat potentially deadly anaphylaxis.

In response to the Martin Shkreli-style PR disaster, the company announced Thursday it has devised a supposed solution to the prohibitively high costs of the essential medicine. According to a statement from the corporation, the company plans to “further enhance access to EpiPen” by establishing a discount card and patient assistant system. Here’s how it’s described:

The company is reducing the patient cost of EpiPen® Auto-Injector through the use of a savings card which will cover up to $300 for their EpiPen 2-Pak®. For patients who were previously paying the full amount of the company’s list price for EpiPen®, this effectively reduces their out-of-pocket cost exposure by 50%. Mylan also is doubling the eligibility for its patient assistance program, which will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for uninsured and under-insured patients and families as well.

However, there is a key problem. The reform will not change the base-level cost of EpiPen for consumers. Since Mylan acquired EpiPen from Merck KGaA in 2007, it has hiked the price from $93.88 to $608.61. Under the company’s new plan, the dramatic price increase will not be reversed.

The high price is exacerbated by the fact that EpiPens generally have to be replaced annually, due to expiration.

Robert Weissman, the president of the corporate watchdog organization Public Citizen, was not impressed by the company’s supposed solution. “If the company wants to calm public outrage over its contemptible and unconscionable price spikes for EpiPens, there’s only one course of action: actually lower the price,” he said in a statement released Thursday.

“Coupons, discount cards and patient assistance programs are a false solution for consumers hit with gigantic out-of-pocket costs,” Weissman continued. “First, many consumers will not use the coupons or the programs. Second, many consumers with high deductibles or no insurance will still need to pay far too much for EpiPens—$300 for a set of two—a problem made worse by the facts that many families purchase multiple sets of EpiPens and that EpiPens must be replaced every year.”

Ida Hellander, director of health policy and programs at Physicians for a National Health Program, told AlterNet that she agrees.

“This is not a solution at all,” said Hellander. “Pharmaceutical companies do this for a lot of products. They say that if anyone needs help, we will provide assistance. But they make the guidelines about who can be helped and under what circumstances. And there are so many hoops to jump through that it is a totally inadequate, false solution.”

“The real solution,” said Hellander, “is that they need to drop the price dramatically, but of course they are not going to do that because they are having record profits, and that is their goal. Voluntarily they are not going to do anything. This is another reason we need a single-payer health system where we can negotiate prices with drug companies.”

In Canada, where pharmaceutical prices are subject to regulation by the Patent Medicine Prices Review Board, EpiPen sells for just over $100 per device, distributed by Pfizer Canada via a license from Mylan. According to Weissman, even $100 per pen is “an excessively high price, but at least within the bounds of reasonability.”

EpiPens are commonly used by people with life-threatening allergies, with nearly 4 million prescriptions written last year alone. The spike in prices is forcing people living with allergies, as well as EMTs and other first responders, to resort to more affordable manual syringes—a development that doctors warn presents public health dangers, including an increased risk of the wrong dosage.

Meanwhile, according to Hellander, “you see people hanging on to old EpiPens, not getting new ones when they expire or not having them at all.”

While the price of EpiPen has climbed dramatically, this spike has been outpaced by the salaries of top executives. Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, saw her compensation jump 671 percent from 2007 to 2015.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: EpiPen auto-injection epinephrine pens manufactured by Mylan NV pharmaceutical company for use by severe allergy sufferers are seen in Washington, U.S. August 24, 2016.  REUTERS/Jim Bourg

These Activists Are Hoping FCC Regulations Can Stop Unjust Police Spying

Published with permission from AlterNet

A coalition of civil rights organizations is pursuing a novel strategy for preventing the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) from using tools of war to monitor and surveil city residents.

Color Of Change, Center for Media Justice and New America’s Open Technology Institute filed a complaint this week with the Federal Communications Commission, charging that the BDP’s use of mass cell phone surveillance devices known as Stingrays violates regulations of radio waves and cellular networks.

Also known as Cell-Site Simulators, Stingrays are used by numerous federal agencies—including the police, Army, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement—to conduct warrantless and dragnet surveillance. They are described by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as “devices that masquerade as a legitimate cell phone tower, tricking phones nearby into connecting to the device in order to log the IMSI numbers of mobile phones in the area or capture the content of communications.”

While the exact number of government bodies that employ this technology is unknown, the ACLU says it has identified “66 agencies in 24 states and the District of Columbia that own stingrays.” However, the organization says that “because many agencies continue to shroud their purchase and use of stingrays in secrecy,” their estimates are likely a dramatic underrepresentation.

Given that Stingray technology was first developed for U.S. military and intelligence purposes, rights campaigners say its broad use is compounding the militarization of police departments nationwide.

“I think it’s a scary, slippery slope, the ways in which police departments are using military-grade equipment, or gear designed for military uses, on communities here,” Chinyere Tutashinda, national organizer for the Center for Media Justice, told AlterNet. “There’s this idea that police are there to protect and serve our communities, but they are increasingly surveilling, occupying and terrorizing communities, and they are using technology to do this across the country.”

According to an article written last year by Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton, Baltimore police have used the technology at least 4,300 times since 2007.

Now, the civil rights organizations are arguing that the BPD’s dragnet use of this technology violates the FCC’s most basic regulations.

“BPD’s operation of CS simulators violates the Communications Act in at least two ways: first, BPD fails to obtain appropriate legal authorization to use CS simulators to transmit over radio frequency bands exclusively licensed to cellular carriers; second, BPD’s use of these devices interferes with the cellular network, including with emergency calling services,” the groups said in a press statement released this week.

“Worse, these harms fall disproportionately on Black neighborhoods where BPD disproportionately exercises its enforcement authority in a racially biased way,” the organizations continued.

On these grounds, the groups formally filed a complaint with the FCC on Tuesday. The move came just days after the Department of Justice released the findings of their searing investigation into the BDP’s systematic violations of the civil rights of residents, disproportionately targeting African Americans with unjustified stops, searches, arrests and violent force, and committing horrific acts of degradation. The Department of Justice concluded in their probe that “there is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.”

“For far too long, the Baltimore City Police Department has made a frequent habit out of flouting federal spectrum law and disrupting availability of the cellular network to Black communities in Baltimore,” said Laura Moy, who is a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation, which represents the groups’ complaint. “The FCC should not sit idly by while police departments in Baltimore and other cities systematically undermine Americans’ fundamental rights by intercepting cell phone traffic on licensed spectrum without a license.”

Photo: Baltimore police officers standby on Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Milwaukee’s War On Black People

Published with permission from Alternet.

Donald Trump supporter and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke has built a national profile by openly declaring war on the Black Lives Matter movement, from the floor of the Republican National Convention to the pages of national media outlets, once even proclaiming on social media that racial justice protesters will “join forces” with ISIS.

Now that some Milwaukee residents have staged days of open rebellion against police violence following the cop killing of 23-year-old black man Sylville K. Smith, Clarke is ratcheting up his rhetoric. During a press conference on Sunday, he employed dog whistle racist language, stating that “the urban pathologies have to be addressed to shrink the growth of an underclass.” Clarke went on to argue that, from Baltimore to Ferguson Milwaukee, there is a “war on police”—and vowed to escalate his crackdown on demonstrators. Meanwhile, Governor Scott Walker on Sunday declared a state of emergency and activated the national guard against protesters.

But in a city that has been called the most segregated urban area in America, angry demonstrators are telling a different story: of a state-sanctioned war against poor, black residents. This perspective was articulated by Milwaukee man Sedan Smith, who identified himself to local outlet CBS 58 as the brother of Sylville Smith.

“It’s the police. This is the madness that they spark up. This is what they encourage. This is what they provoke. This is what you get. You take a loved one from something, this is what you get,” Smith declared on Saturday, standing in view of an auto parts store engulfed in flames. “I don’t know when it’s going to end. But it’s for y’all to start. We’re not the ones that’s killing us. Y’all killing us. We can’t make a change if you all don’t change.”

Before Sylville Smith was killed, Milwaukee was already reeling from former Milwaukee police officer Chistopher Manney’s killing of mentally ill black man Dontre Hamilton with 14 gun shots in 2014. While Manney was fired from his position, he did not face any charges for the murder, and Milwaukee residents staged Black Lives Matter demonstrations to protest his impunity.

Protesters taking to the streets today say that police violence against black residents of Milwaukee remains systemic. “You see anger, just the anger and the frustration of a community that has suffered atrocities and oppression on behalf of what they deem to be the police oppressive system, that has never seemingly been held accountable for taking the life, like the young man said, of their loved ones,” Muhibb Dyer, a community activist and co-founder of the organization Flood the Hood with Dreams, told Democracy Now.

But in Milwaukee, injustices against black people extend far beyond policing. A 2013 study from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee found that the state has the highest incarceration rate for black men in the country at 13 percent, thanks largely to Milwaukee’s stunningly high rates. Report authors John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn note:

The prison population in Wisconsin has more than tripled since 1990, fueled by increased government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment) and prison construction, three-strike rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth-in-sentencing replacing judicial discretion in setting punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities, and state incarceration for minor probation and supervision violations. Particularly impacted were African American males, with the 2010 U.S. Census showing Wisconsin having the highest black male incarceration rate in the nation. In Milwaukee County over half of African American men in their 30s have served time in state prison.”

Not surpringly, Wisconsin’s budget allots more for incarceration than for schooling. This is in a state where four out of every five African-American children live in poverty.

A report released last year by the University of California at Los Angeles found that schools in Milwaukee suspend black students at nearly two times the national average. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has the worst achievement gap between white and black students in the United States, thanks largely to the Milwaukee public school system, which has been systematically defunded and privatized for more than two decades.

Racial disparities extend to home lending. A study released in July by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found, “In the Milwaukee Metropolitan Statistical Area, whites represent 70 percent of the population, yet received 81 percent of the loans. African Americans are 16 percent of the population yet only received four percent of the loans.”

NPR’s Kenya Downs wrote an article last year raising the question, “Why is Milwaukee so bad for black people?” Downs wrote: “Milwaukee is a vibrant city known for its breweries and ethnic festivals and can be a great place to live — unless you’re black. Statistically, it is one of the worst places in the country for African-Americans to reside.”

When Baltimore erupted in uprisings last year following the violent death of Freddie Gray in police custody, angry protesters, most of them black youth, were widely demonized. Yet, a recently released Department of Justice investigation into that city’s police department vindicates protesters’ outrage, exposing law enforcement’s stunning and systematic atrocities against poor black communities, including systematic harassment, violence and degradation.

Now, like their counterparts in Baltimore, black youth of Milwaukee are being demonized as thugs and criminals by the police department entrusted to serve them. Bolstered by a hate-fueled presidential campaign, Clarke is escalating his demagogic incitement against the very people he and his city have failed.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: A burned down liquor store is seen after disturbances following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. August 15, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

‘We Want Safety, Dignity And Justice’: Black Lives Matter Protests Build Nationwide

Published with permission from Alternet.

“We don’t have the same rights as our white counterparts,” 17-year-old Myra Richardson, a student at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, told AlterNet over the phone. “There are still things holding us back. How can we call America the land of the free?”

Richardson is one of countless young people from Miami to New York to Minneapolis who took to the streets over the weekend to rally under the banner of Black Lives Matter, braving heavily armedpolice deployments and a charged political environment in which they are being demonized by some for exercising their right to protest.

For Richardson the cause is personal, as Alton Sterling was a known member of the community, and the Triple S Food Mart where he was shot to death by police is a popular spot.

“The youth have lived through so many atrocities, but we’re still optimistic, still trying to do work,” said Richardson, who is a member of a community organization called #thewave and said she speaks on behalf of fellow classmates Raheejah Flowers and Jeanette Jackson, both 15. “There have been marches and gatherings all over Baton Rouge. We’ve seen groups from all over the United States come down. We have all these things stacked against us, but there are still people mobilizing and trying.”

Richardson is part of a generation of young people who have grown up seeing images of black and brown youth who look like them shot and killed by police. Police killings of black people in 2015 outnumbered lynchings of African Americans during the worst year of Jim Crow, according to Quartz reporter Annalisa Merelli. During that year, 1,146 people were killed by police, the Guardian reports, in what is likely a conservative estimate due to theunderreporting of law enforcement killings. In 2015, young black men werenine times more likely to be killed by police than the general population, and black people overall were killed at twice the rate of their white, Latino and native American counterparts.

The fact that police killings are calculated by media organizations at all is a victory of the sustained protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite heightened visibility, the killing continues. According to the Guardian, 571 people have been killed by police so far in 2016. The Washington Post putthis number at 512.

These numbers were made painfully real with the back-to-back police killings of African-Americans Sterling and Philando Castile.

Campaigners say that now is an important time to mobilize. “Guided by love, we continue to stand together for justice, human dignity and our shared goal of ending all forms of state violence against black people,” declared the Movement for Black Lives in a widely circulating pledge. “We organize, occupy, demonstrate, march and chant for a new future: A future we can be proud of. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, who fought for their freedom and ours. Like them, we want a world where our lives matter.”

Yet in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting, protesters face an escalated crackdown, despite the fact that there are no proven ties between the gunman and the Black Lives Matter protesters. “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it,” the Black Lives Matter network said in a statement released July 8. “To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.”

Aesha Rasheed, a New Orleans resident and organizer with Southerners On New Ground, traveled to Baton Rouge over the weekend to join the protests. “In this moment, not only have we lost someone to police violence in such a wrong way, but we also are in position where they have made protesting illegal,” said Rasheed, referring to a controversial Louisiana “Blue Lives Matter” bill that will go into effect August 1.

“I was at the protest on the capitol steps and the youth from Baton Rouge were there telling their stories, making their demands about the change they want to see,” said Rasheed. “People are still dying, still being killed, don’t tell us to sit down and not continue to go out into the streets.”

Under the guise of public safety, police departments across the country have used the Dallas shootings to call for increased police militarization and surveillance nationwide. “This will cause complaints about violating people’s constitutional rights to free assembly, but it is the only way to guarantee safety,” Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, toldReuters.

But according to Mary Hooks, co-director of Southerners on New Ground and organizer with Black Lives Matter-ATL, “This is a moment to organize and challenge the conversation about what is public safety and who is defining it. We have to redefine it because it’s not the folks whose neighborhoods are being occupied having a say, instead it’s being defined by more police, more surveillance, more probation, being funneled into the municipal court system. Public safety feels like booby traps to us as black people. We pay a regressive tax with our time and our lives.”

“We want safety, dignity and justice,” Hooks told AlterNet. “For black folks in particular, we have a mandate: to avenge the sufferings of our ancestors, earn the respect of future generations and be transformed in the service of the work. That is what we are in the streets for. We’re going to take as much time as we need.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

“We don’t have the same rights as our white counterparts,” 17-year-old Myra Richardson, a student at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, told AlterNet over the phone. “There are still things holding us back. How can we call America the land of the free?”

Richardson is one of countless young people from Miami to New York to Minneapolis who took to the streets over the weekend to rally under the banner of Black Lives Matter, braving heavily armedpolice deployments and a charged political environment in which they are being demonized by some for exercising their right to protest.

For Richardson the cause is personal, as Alton Sterling was a known member of the community, and the Triple S Food Mart where he was shot to death by police is a popular spot.

“The youth have lived through so many atrocities, but we’re still optimistic, still trying to do work,” said Richardson, who is a member of a community organization called #thewave and said she speaks on behalf of fellow classmates Raheejah Flowers and Jeanette Jackson, both 15. “There have been marches and gatherings all over Baton Rouge. We’ve seen groups from all over the United States come down. We have all these things stacked against us, but there are still people mobilizing and trying.”

Richardson is part of a generation of young people who have grown up seeing images of black and brown youth who look like them shot and killed by police. Police killings of black people in 2015 outnumbered lynchings of African Americans during the worst year of Jim Crow, according to Quartz reporter Annalisa Merelli. During that year, 1,146 people were killed by police, the Guardian reports, in what is likely a conservative estimate due to theunderreporting of law enforcement killings. In 2015, young black men werenine times more likely to be killed by police than the general population, and black people overall were killed at twice the rate of their white, Latino and native American counterparts.

The fact that police killings are calculated by media organizations at all is a victory of the sustained protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite heightened visibility, the killing continues. According to the Guardian, 571 people have been killed by police so far in 2016. The Washington Post putthis number at 512.

These numbers were made painfully real with the back-to-back police killings of African-Americans Sterling and Philando Castile.

Campaigners say that now is an important time to mobilize. “Guided by love, we continue to stand together for justice, human dignity and our shared goal of ending all forms of state violence against black people,” declared the Movement for Black Lives in a widely circulating pledge. “We organize, occupy, demonstrate, march and chant for a new future: A future we can be proud of. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, who fought for their freedom and ours. Like them, we want a world where our lives matter.”

Yet in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting, protesters face an escalated crackdown, despite the fact that there are no proven ties between the gunman and the Black Lives Matter protesters. “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it,” the Black Lives Matter network said in a statement released July 8. “To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.”

Aesha Rasheed, a New Orleans resident and organizer with Southerners On New Ground, traveled to Baton Rouge over the weekend to join the protests. “In this moment, not only have we lost someone to police violence in such a wrong way, but we also are in position where they have made protesting illegal,” said Rasheed, referring to a controversial Louisiana “Blue Lives Matter” bill that will go into effect August 1.

“I was at the protest on the capitol steps and the youth from Baton Rouge were there telling their stories, making their demands about the change they want to see,” said Rasheed. “People are still dying, still being killed, don’t tell us to sit down and not continue to go out into the streets.”

Under the guise of public safety, police departments across the country have used the Dallas shootings to call for increased police militarization and surveillance nationwide. “This will cause complaints about violating people’s constitutional rights to free assembly, but it is the only way to guarantee safety,” Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, toldReuters.

But according to Mary Hooks, co-director of Southerners on New Ground and organizer with Black Lives Matter-ATL, “This is a moment to organize and challenge the conversation about what is public safety and who is defining it. We have to redefine it because it’s not the folks whose neighborhoods are being occupied having a say, instead it’s being defined by more police, more surveillance, more probation, being funneled into the municipal court system. Public safety feels like booby traps to us as black people. We pay a regressive tax with our time and our lives.”

“We want safety, dignity and justice,” Hooks told AlterNet. “For black folks in particular, we have a mandate: to avenge the sufferings of our ancestors, earn the respect of future generations and be transformed in the service of the work. That is what we are in the streets for. We’re going to take as much time as we need.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: Protestor Ieshia Evans is approached by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016.   REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

At A Time Like This, Is There Anyone We Need Less Than Rudy Giuliani?

Published with permission from Alternet.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose tenure was marred by law enforcement killings of unarmed African-Americans, took to the national television circuit today to baselessly smear Black Lives Matter protesters as responsible for the killing of five police officers in Dallas.

The Donald Trump surrogate and hardline neoconservative told MSNBC’s Brian Williams, “Police officers in this country feel they have a target on their back. They’ve felt that way for over a year now.”

“And I think the reason there’s a target on police officers’ backs is because of groups like Black Lives Matter that make it seem like all police are against blacks,” Giuliani continued. “They’re not. They’re the ones saving black lives. Black Lives Matter are not saving black lives. It’s the police officers doing it.”

In fact, police killings of Black people in 2015 outnumbered lynchings of African-Americans during the worst year of Jim Crow, as verified by Quartz reporter Annalisa Merelli.

Giuliani’s remarks come despite the fact that there has been no proven tie between the Dallas shooting and the Black Lives Matter protesters, who gathered to condemn the back-to-back police killings of African-American men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

“Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it,” the Black Lives Matter network said in a statement released July 8. “To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.”

“There are some who would use these events to stifle a movement for change and quicken the demise of a vibrant discourse on the human rights of Black Americans,” the network continued. “We should reject all of this.”

Giuliani’s finger pointing at Black Lives Matter protesters is consistent with other recent remarks. In November 2014, he emphatically denied that there is a problem with police racism in America, instead pointing the finger at “black-on-black crime.”

His statements are remarkable given his prominent role as mayor of New York from 1994 to 2001 in overseeing large-scale abuse and extrajudicial killings of the city’s Black residents. Under his watch, the NYPD ramped up “stop and frisk” and “broken windows” policing that sparked large-scale protests led by communities of color.

Guilani provoked outrage when he refused to take meaningful action after 30-year-old black Haitian immigrant Abner Louima detained and tortured in a Brooklyn police precinct station in 1997. Numerous unarmed Black New Yorkers were executed by police under his watch, including: Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo, off-duty security guard Patrick Dorismond and Bronx resident Malcolm Ferguson.

When confronted with public outrage over the police slaying of Dorismond, Giuliani responded by releasing the dead man’s juvenile arrest record.

“He embodied this arrogant, pro-police, fuck communities of color, put-my-thumb-in-your-eye attitude for eight years,” Josmar Trujillo, a writer and grassroots organizer with New Yorkers Against Bratton, told AlterNet. “The ghosts of Giuliani still linger. People remember these issues—the cops lying, the brutality, the blue wall of silence, the culture of corruption.”

Beyond law enforcement, Giuliani made his name on slashing welfare benefits and social services, stating in 1995 that displacement of poor people was a desirable outcome. “A natural consequence of a reduction in benefits might very well be that that would happen,” he said. “That would be a good thing.”

Giuliani’s latest statements about Black Lives Matter are not the first time he has seized on national pain to gain visibility. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, he exploited the massacre to launch a lucrative post-mayoral career “exploiting his newfound celebrity advising corporations on how to protect against terrorism,” as Bill Moyers put it in 2011.

The attacks propelled him into a prominent role as a hardline neoconservative on foreign policy. He strongly backed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, called for Obama to “bomb the hell” out of Iran in 2012, has ardently supported right-wing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the immediate aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks, Giuliani urged intensified suspicionless surveillance of Muslim-American communities,proclaiming: “If you’re uncomfortable with police officers at your services, you must be saying things that are dangerous.”

More recently, during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, he parroted the now-presumptive GOP nominee’s false claims that Muslim residents of the United States celebrated in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attacks.

Giulini’s hardline positions, now directed towards Black Lives Matter amid mounting public outrage and pain at police killings of African-Americans, showcase what can be expected under a potential Trump presidency.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Following Brexit Vote, Hate Attacks Sweep the U.K.

Published with permission from Alternet.

In the immediate aftermath of the United Kingdom’s narrow vote to leave the European Union, reports are emerging that there has been a significant spike in hate attacks targeting Muslims, people of color, migrants and refugees.

The Muslim Council of Britain saidtoday it has compiled “over 100 incidents reported of hate crimes following the referendum result.”

“There have been countless incidents reported including a Polish center being daubed with racist graffiti, a racist demonstration outside a mosque in Birmingham, and many reports of Muslims and others being taunted with ‘go back home!’ or similar sentiments,” the organization stated.

Xenophobic graffiti was reportedly spotted on the Polish Social and Cultural Association in Hammersmith, west London, on Sunday. “We are shocked and deeply concerned by the recent incidents of xenophobic abuse directed against the Polish community and other UK residents of migrant heritage,” the Polish embassy said on Twitter.

Gareth Cuerden, who runs the hate crimes program for the charity Victim Support in Wales, told Time Magazine that “his team has received over 60 reports of hate crimes and incidences in Wales, including from non-European racial groups,” journalist Tara John paraphrased. “There are very obvious links from the outcome of the result and people using it like a catalyst to say things like ‘we are out of Europe so you now can’t be here’ or ‘go back home’” Cuerden explained.

Meanwhile, placards reading, “Leave the EU/No more Polish Vermin” werereportedly distributed to some homes and even schools in Huntingdon.

Numerous anecdotes circulated over social media, including the following documentation:

Heaven Crawley, a research professor at Coventry University, took to Twitter to describe an act she says her daughter witnessed. “This evening my daughter left work in Birmingham and saw [a] group of lads corner a Muslim girl shouting ‘Get out, we voted leave,'” she wrote.

The group Tell MAMA, which focuses on measuring anti-Muslim attacks, released a statement which declares, “The decision of the EU referendum was made by people for a variety of reasons and on a razor-thin majority. However, that has not stopped groups like the Front National jumping on the decision to promote and legitimize their rhetoric.”

“There will also be other parties in Europe who try and develop alliances with groups in the United Kingdom post the Brexit vote,” the organization continued. “This means that we have to remain vigilant and do everything possible to highlight and keep such groups away from trying to influence, gain a foothold or develop any association within our country. What we need now, are groups that can heal divisions, who can provide hope and tackle hatred and intolerance.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: Twitter user @CLeddyOwen.