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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Violent Clashes At Protests Across America

Violent Clashes At Protests Across America

 

 

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Protests have turned violent in several cities while clashing with right-wing groups. A Kalamazoo City Commissioner called out a Kalamazoo pastor who organized a unity rally the same day the Proud Boys planned to protest. The Southern Poverty Law Center considered The Proud Boys a hate group. Several fights broke out when the Proud Boys came face-to-face with counter protesters in downtown Kalamazoo Saturday Aug. 15, 2020. Nathan Dannison, who organized the prayer vigil and unity rally, said at the he did not know the Michigan People’s Defense League was coming.
Kalamazoo City Commissioner Erin Knott said violence may have been avoided if counter-protesters stayed home. “I think that only gave the Proud Boys the intention and the fuel they so desire. We know from researching the Proud Boys, they don’t start the fight, they finish the fight,” Knott said. The two groups violently clashed. Video showed members of the Proud Boys use pepper spray on counter-protesters and people using torn down street signs as bats. The violence was contentious and assaultive on both sides.
In Georgia, a pro-Confederacy rally drew armed, far-right militia members to the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial in Stone Mountain Park Saturday. Videos on social media showed far-right protestors attacking anti-facism protesters with pepper spray as the counter-protesters chanted “Go home, racists!” and anti-facism protesters grabbing Confederate flags and setting them alight. The protest dispersed when police in riot gear moved in on the crowd at around 1 p.m., and ordered demonstrators to leave or be arrested. Photos from the scene showed the National Guard moving in as well.
After a long day of peaceful protests, agitators descended on Chicago after many protestors went home. The riot resulted in 24 arrests after “multiple agitators” used black umbrellas, changed their appearance and assaulted officers by using skateboards, bottles, bicycles and other projectiles as well as mace. One peaceful protestor defended the actions of police, saying officers responded proportionately to get the situation under control and used pepper spray to deter agitators. Seventeen officers were injured during the clash.
In Portland, Oregon, right-wing extremists and members of the “alt-right” group Patriot Prayer organized a small rally, where they shot pellets from paintball guns and pepper spray against counter-protesters. Patriot Prayer and its leader, Joey Gibson, have organized three of the most violent protests in Portland’s recent history, on Aug. 6, 2017; June 30, 2018; and Oct. 13, 2018. He also organized a large Aug. 4, 2018 rally that led police to use crowd control agents on leftist counter-demonstrators, severely injuring several people with flash-bang grenades.
Protests have happened nightly in Portland for more than two months following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Police are looking for a suspect shown on video assaulting a driver until he was unconscious. Authorities had received a report around 10:30 p.m. of protesters chasing a truck a few blocks from the downtown federal courthouse. The driver crashed and was then assaulted. Video posted online showed the driver of the truck sitting in the street next to the vehicle. A crowd gathered around him and repeatedly punched and kicked him in the head until he was bloody. It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the crash or the confrontation. When police arrived, the man was unconscious. The victim of the assault has been released from a hospital and is recovering.

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Michigan Reaches $600 Million Settlement in Flint Water Crisis

Michigan Reaches $600 Million Settlement in Flint Water Crisis

 

 

 

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The state of Michigan has reportedly reached a deal to pay out about $600 million to victims of the water crisis in Flint. The crisis began in 2014 when Flint’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by then-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, switched the source of the city’s drinking water in order to save money. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency said it had found dangerous levels of lead — which can affect the heart, kidneys and nerves — in the water flowing into residents’ homes.
The water source move has been linked to at least 12 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, as well as widespread lead poisoning in residents, including 12,000 children. Dozens of lawsuits, including class-action cases, filed against Michigan and the city of Flint followed. Many cases emphasize the youngest victims — the children whose exposure to lead and toxins could lead to neurological disorders and learning disabilities, among other conditions.
The Supreme Court this year said it wouldn’t block a lawsuit by Flint residents seeking to hold city officials accountable. Lawyers for the city had asked justices to step in, saying their clients had immunity from such lawsuits. A previous ruling from a federal appeals court also sided with the residents. “Knowing the Flint River water was unsafe for public use, distributing it without taking steps to counter its problems, and assuring the public in the meantime that it was safe is conduct that would alert a reasonable person to the likelihood of personal liability,” the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals held.
In March 2017, nearly three years after the incident first came to light, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded $100 million to fund water infrastructure upgrades in Flint. A few weeks later, city officials declared the city’s drinking water was safe to drink. Six years later, the city has inspected more than 25,000 service lines and has replaced 85 percent of the pipes. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put work on hold. Residents are still scared to drink the water after city, state and federal officials have been accused of ignoring, denying or covering up complaints that started immediately after the switch.
Tens of thousands of Flint residents are expected to be eligible to receive money from the settlement. The settlement will establish a court-monitored victim’s compensation fund that will provide the direct payments to Flint residents. Nearly 80% of the money will go to those who were younger than 18 at the time of the crisis. Besides the state of Michigan, the settlement includes the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the individual defendants, including former Gov. Rick Snyder, according to a news release. Litigation will continue against other defendants, including two private engineering firms charged with professional negligence.

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Campuses in US Switch to Virtual Learning Amid Outbreaks

Campuses in US Switch to Virtual Learning Amid Outbreaks

 

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The U.S. reported another 43,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,300 deaths from COVID-19 on, bringing the official U.S. death toll to nearly 172,000.  Public health officials are expressing alarm as the number of daily COVID-19 tests across the country has dropped 17% since mid-July, making it harder for states to track the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control is warning infection rates are “steadily increasing” in children as millions of students have started or are preparing to return to school.

As global confirmed coronavirus cases topped 22 million, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday that young adults and children are increasingly driving the spread of COVID-19. WHO officials said recent outbreaks in Australia and the Philippines were sparked mostly by people younger than 40, while WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove warned younger people are not immune to the worst effects of the virus.

A surge in coronavirus cases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has forced the school to switch to remote learning, after 177 students tested positive for COVID-19 during the first week of in-person classes.  The school said in a statement that the Covid-19 “positivity” rate jumped to 13.6% from 2.8% just a week before.  At the time of the announcement, the school had tested 954 students, with 177 in isolation and 349 in quarantine, both on and off campus.

In Indiana, the University of Notre Dame canceled all in-person classes and said it would move to online-only instruction. The university’s sole testing site has been inundated since students returned in early August, identifying a total of 336 coronavirus cases.  Notre Dame contends that most infections stem from two off-campus parties thrown by seniors but cases have surged as students introduce the virus to new social groups, straining the school’s resources.

Michigan State University announced it would require undergraduates to study remotely (graduate students and students who take part in athletics are exempt from the mandate). According to NPR, the directive was issued before many students returned to campus, as classes don’t resume until early September. The university released a statement on Tuesday saying, “Given the current status of the virus … it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if our undergraduates return to campus.”

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people had an age-adjusted COVID-19 hospitalization rate about 5.3 times that of non-Hispanic white people. COVID-19 hospitalization rates among non-Hispanic Black people and Hispanic or Latino people were both about 4.7 times the rate of non-Hispanic white people.  While there’s no evidence that people of color have genetic or other biological factors that make them more likely to be affected by COVID-19, they are more likely to have underlying health conditions. Having certain conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, increases your risk of severe illness with COVID-19. But experts also know that where people live and work affects their health. Over time, these factors lead to different health risks among racial and ethnic minority groups.

A summer of waning social distancing restrictions has caused a surge in Covid cases among those under 35.  Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead and an infectious disease epidemiologist warns “We are seeing people, even young people, who are ending up with severe disease. We are seeing young people who are ending up in ICU. And we are seeing young people who are dying from this virus.”

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Covid 19 Cases Rising Worldwide

Covid 19 Cases Rising Worldwide

 

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Worldwide there are over 19 million confirmed cases and over 780,000 deaths. Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have topped 5.3 million and 166,000 deaths — by far the highest caseload in the world. Brazil has over 3 million confirmed cases and 165,000 deaths, the second highest number of cases behind the US. As the new school year starts or approaches for kids across the US, a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that nearly 100,000 children contracted COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July.
Across five US states, more than 2,000 students, teachers and school employees have been quarantined, after hundreds tested positive for the coronavirus at the start of the school year. That includes nearly 1,200 people quarantined in the Cherokee County School District outside Atlanta, Georgia. In another Georgia school district, a high school that recently suspended two students for posting images of classmates ignoring social distancing guidelines and not wearing masks announced it is implementing remote learning for part of the week, after at least nine students and staffers tested positive for COVID-19.
A school district in Arizona canceled its plans to reopen schools after several dozen teachers staged a “sick out” in protest. “We have received an overwhelming response from staff indicating that they do not feel safe returning to classrooms with students,” Gregory Wyman, the superintendent of the J.O. Combs Unified School District, said in a letter to families posted online Friday. “In response, we have received a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns.” All classes, including virtual learning, will be canceled, though breakfasts and lunches will be available for pickup, he said. Arizona has over 190,000 confirmed cases and over 4,000 deaths.
In California, the director of the Department of Public Health abruptly resigned Sunday, following the discovery of a computer system failure that led to an undercounting of California’s COVID-19 cases. California has a recorded 630,000 cases and 11,545 people have died. With cases still surging, most schools in California will not be reopening for in-person education this month.
Across the globe in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned Auckland may go back into a lengthy lockdown, after 13 new community coronavirus cases were detected. New Zealand spent more than 100 days without reporting any cases, after health officials responded early and aggressively to the pandemic. They have 1,458 confirmed cases and just 22 deaths.
In Australia, Melbourne remains on a strict lockdown as the country reported a record 21 coronavirus deaths. Sixteen of the deaths are linked to outbreaks in nursing homes. Australia has over 23,000 confirmed cases and over 400 deaths recorded.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force said the US is in a new phase in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the deadly virus is more widespread than when it first took hold in the US earlier this year. “What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas.” Birx stressed that Americans need to follow health recommendations, including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Birx would not give a projection of how many deaths the US would see by the end of year, but she said a death toll largely depends on southern and western states to maintain and accelerate their mitigation efforts. Those states have become hot spots for the virus

 

 

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Mass Resignations After Lebanon Blast

Mass Resignations After Lebanon Blast

 

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Protests raged following the catastrophic explosion at the Port of Beirut, which killed at least 200 people and injured over 7,000 thousands more and leveled neighborhoods. The explosion was triggered by 2,700 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate left unattended in a warehouse for six years and left more than a quarter-million residents homeless.  An investigation into what triggered the explosion is under way, and early reports suggest that it was probably a nearby fire.

Protesters stormed three ministries as security forces unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets on demonstrators.  Public anger mounted after the blast, focusing on the carelessness that led to one of the worst explosions in Lebanon’s history.  The Port of Beirut and customs office is notorious for being one of the most corrupt and lucrative institutions in Lebanon where various factions and politicians,

The mass resignation of Lebanon’s top government officials, including Prime Minister Hassan Diab has failed to quell anger over a crushing economic crisis, record rates of COVID-19 infections and last week’s catastrophic blast.  Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion and has left nearly 300,000 people homeless.

The highly explosive material that leveled the city found its way to the warehouse in 2013 when a ship transporting it stopped at the Lebanese port to pick up more cargo as it was headed to Mozambique.  There was a legal dispute over port fees and the shipping company was in debt so the 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, was impounded and unloaded; the Russian crew had to stay on board for nearly a year and was then released.

The port’s customs director says he sounded several alarms about the material. Since the blast, some port officials have been placed under house arrest.  The New York Times reports an American contractor working with the U.S. Army warned over four years ago about the hazard posed by over 2,700 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer left unattended at Beirut’s port. The U.S. State Department reportedly then failed to pass along the warning to U.S. allies.

An official letter circulating online showed the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that the huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in the port was a danger and had asked judicial officials for a ruling on a way to remove it.  In the letter, the customs chief warned of the “dangers if the materials remain where they are, affecting the safety of port employees” and asked a judge for guidance. He said five similar letters were sent in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The letter proposes the material be exported or sold to a Lebanese explosives company. It is not known if there was a response.

Lebanon already was on the brink of collapse amid a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Many have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis. Food security is a worry, since the country imports nearly all its vital goods and its main port is now devastated.   Drone footage showed the blast tore open a silo structure, dumping its contents into the debris. Estimates suggested about 85% of the country’s grain was stored there.  Economy and Trade Minister Raoul Nehme said all the wheat was contaminated and unusable.

 

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Sexual Assault Advocate Daisy Coleman Commits Suicide

Sexual Assault Advocate Daisy Coleman Commits Suicide

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Daisy Coleman, a high school sexual assault survivor who was featured in the documentary “Audrie & Daisy,” has died at the age of 23 by suicide. After announcing her death, Daisy’s mother Melinda wrote, “She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair. My baby girl is gone.” Daisy’s sexual assault prompted her to become an advocate for sexual assault victims and she co-founded the non-profit organization SafeBAE, which was aimed at preventing sexual assault in schools.
The Coleman family have suffered tremendous loss over the years far beyond Daisy’s sexual assault at a party in 2012. Melinda’s husband and father to her four children, Dr. Michael Coleman, was killed in a car crash in 2009, then Daisy’s younger brother Tristan died in a car accident at the age of 19 in June 2018 and now the loss of Daisy. The family had originally moved to the small town of Maryville from Albany, Missouri in 2009 after Michael Coleman’s death in hopes of making new and better memories than those the town of Albany held. Instead, they found themselves at the center of a sexual assault case that shocked the nation. Daisy and her friend were invited to a party in January 2012 where they became heavily intoxicated and both were sexually assaulted.
After the assault, Daisy was left intoxicated on her porch in 22-degree weather with no shoes or socks; when her mother found her she had frostbite. Sheriff’s deputies arrested two teens within hours and charged them with felonies. Matthew Barnett, a 17 year old high school senior and the grandson of former state representative Rex Barnett, was arrested for the rape and sexual assault of Coleman, who was 14 at the time. A 15-year-old boy was accused of doing the same to the girl’s 13-year-old friend Paige, and a third boy admitted to recording Barnett’s alleged assault on a cellphone. The video which was never retrieved by law enforcement, was deleted after reportedly being passed around the school.
The identities of alleged sex assault victims are generally not published, but Coleman’s family decided to go public with her identity and accusations. According to the Coleman’s, the torrents of hatred came only days after the case went public and the case divided the community. All four children experienced intense bullying and threats. Melinda Coleman, a veterinarian, lost her job because the case had become too contentious for the local veterinary clinic that was also the subject of threats. Mrs. Coleman says her three sons – Daisy’s brothers – were threatened at school and booed on the field – often by boys they had counted as friends’ just weeks earlier. Daisy became the target of daily bullying in school and was suspended from the cheerleading squad. She was hounded on social media, called a skank and a liar, and urged to kill herself, which she tried to do multiple times.
The relentless bullying prompted the family to move from Maryville back to Albany, Missouri. Shortly after moving, the family’s house in Maryville that they were trying to sell mysteriously burned to the ground 8 months after the moved. The case caught national media attention in October 2013 when the Kansas City Star reported that prosecutor, Robert Rice, dropped the rape charges – citing insufficient evidence. The state at the time appointed a special prosecutor to re-investigate the case, which ended in Barnett pleading guilty to the misdemeanor of charge child endangerment on Jan. 9, 2014. Barnett and his attorney maintain that the sexual encounter was consensual and the fact that two independent investigations have cleared him proves that he didn’t do anything wrong that night except for leaving Coleman outside in the cold. Daisy’s friend Paige’s rapist confessed and was convicted in juvenile court, after Barnett was convicted in adult court on the lesser charge of child endangerment during the 2nd investigation.

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Research On Long-Term Effects On Covid 19 Begin As Cases Surge

Research On Long-Term Effects On Covid 19 Begin As Cases Surge

 

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The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has topped 156,000 as the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 soared in July by nearly 50%. There are now over 5 million confirmed cases in the US with California, Florida and Texas each reaching over 500,000 confirmed cases, nearly double the cases reported in New York City, the former leading epicenter of the pandemic in the US. Nearly half of the US confirmed cases have recovered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that a significant number of COVID-19 patients do not recover quickly, and instead experience ongoing symptoms, such as fatigue and cough. Eight months into the global pandemic, we’re still measuring its effects only in deaths. Non-hospitalized cases are termed ‘mild’ and are largely not followed up. Recovery is implied by discharge from hospital or testing negative for the virus so ongoing ill health in those classed as ‘recovered’ is going largely unmeasured as the focused has mainly been on slowing the infection rate.
Research that follows COVID patients after discharge from hospital is starting but there is still a gap in quantifying and characterizing COVID-related illness in those not hospitalized. The few studies on those who have recovered indicate that previously healthy people with persistent symptoms such as chest heaviness, breathlessness, muscle pains, palpitations and fatigue, which prevent them from resuming work or physical or caring activities, are still classed under the umbrella of ‘mild COVID’. As many as a third of patients who were never sick enough to be hospitalized are not back to their usual health up to three weeks after their diagnosis. Many with long-term symptoms are otherwise young and healthy. Among those surveyed between ages 18 and 34, about 20 percent experienced lasting symptoms.
Among the patients who experienced lasting symptoms in a CDC report, 71 percent reported fatigue, 61 percent had lasting cough, and 61 percent reported ongoing headaches. Although clinicians and researchers have an idea of who is at increased risk of dying from COVID, we don’t know who is more likely to experience prolonged ill health following symptomatic, or even asymptomatic, infection. The CDC still states that preventative measures, such as physical distancing, face masks and frequent hand-washing, continue to be important to slow the spread of COVID-19. They warn that worldwide, millions of those still alive who got ill without being tested or hospitalized are simply not being counted.
The World Health Organization reports cases are now doubling every six weeks. The United States, Brazil, and the United Kingdom have been among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. The global death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 700,000, with nearly 19 million confirmed cases, as the pandemic continues to accelerate. During the month of July, more than 8 million people tested positive — almost as many as in the first six months of the pandemic combined. Nearly 12 million of those confirmed cases have recovered.
The top White House coronavirus adviser Deborah Birx has warned the country has entered a new phase in its fight against the pandemic. A new model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests the U.S. coronavirus death toll is on pace to reach nearly 300,000 by December. The institute projects 66,000 lives could be saved if 95% of people in the United States wear face coverings. The U.S. death toll currently stands at the highest total in the world.

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Portland Riots Spark Wall of Allies

Portland Riots Spark Wall of Allies

 

 

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Black Lives Matter protests continue into their third month in many cities across the US as federal agents drew down their presence in Portland, Oregon last week after a widely condemned violent crackdown on the demonstrators. For weeks, Portland activists have protested racial inequities in the criminal justice system. The Portland police chief stepped down and the Portland City Council slashed the police budget by millions. The Multnomah County district attorney stepped down five months early to make room for his reform-minded successor. The governor also called a special legislative session to address demands for police accountability.
Portland police and city leaders openly struggled with how to respond to nightly havoc wrought by a smaller core of demonstrators. The White House sent federal marshals to Portland to quell the protests. As the number of videos of excessive force used by federal marshals against peaceful protestors began to circulate on social media, so did the size of the protests. Tensions escalated after an officer with the Marshals Service fired a less-lethal round at protester Donavan La Bella’s head on July 11, critically injuring him.
Videos of La Bella’s assault and others prompted the Wall of Moms, a group of approximately 40 women, some pregnant, who first attended the protests in Portland to help protect protestors from the violence they had seen in their own city. Now, the Wall of Moms has grown to over 14,000 and they have popped up at protests in Boston, Chicago, Washington DC and many other cities across the US.
When videos out of Portland began circulating showing the Wall of Moms being sprayed in the face with tear gas while standing with arms interlocked in front of protestors, the Wall of Dads emerged, armed with leaf blowers to blow the tear gas away. The violence continued and video of navy veteran Christopher David emerged, showing him being pepper sprayed and repeatedly struck with a baton by a marshal when he walked up to them to ask a question. David suffered a fractured hand that will require surgery.
Within a week of David’s assault going viral, a new wall, the Wall of Veterans joined the frontlines in Portland to curb the violence by federal marshals. Their numbers swelled and they were soon joined by other burgeoning groups — green-shirted Teachers Against Tyrants, the pizza-box carrying ChefBloc, the Wall of Nurses, health-care workers in scrubs and Lawyers for Black Lives, who turned up at the protest in suits and ties.
Michelle Heisler, the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights said that typically, police fire the tear gas or pepper spray agent once or twice to clear crowds and encourage people to move away from an area, but in Portland, federal agents have been unleashing the chemicals repeatedly for hours. This sustained cascade makes it difficult for peaceful demonstrators to avoid being hit and runs the risk of ensnaring bystanders in the area.
The Marshal Service has acknowledged only the two instances of excessive force that were caught on video and are currently under internal review by the agency involving La Bella and David. Marshals and other law enforcement agencies have been criticized for their use of tear gas and other irritants on protestors. A representative for the Marshal service said they are defending themselves against coordinated attacks by a smaller group of organized protestors that stay behind after the peaceful protestors leave.wallmoms.jpg

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Protests Over Eviction Proceedings Spread Across US

Protests Over Eviction Proceedings Spread Across US

 

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Housing activists across the country are demanding local protections against evictions during the pandemic. Many states have faced criticism for resuming evictions as millions of people are still out of work, many who still have children at home until the school year starts. Many companies have closed their doors indefinitely, taking jobs with them across the US. While some states and counties issued eviction moratoriums, they have expired and thousands face homelessness.
In New Orleans, members of the Renters Rights Assembly surrounded a courthouse that handles evictions, chaining themselves together under a banner reading “Evictions = Death,” and blocking several landlords from entering the building. In Maryland, more than 100 protesters marched through Mayor Tom Barrett’s neighborhood demanding a moratorium on evictions and other forms of housing protections. Beyond standard legal protections, tenants in Maryland have an extra layer of protection against eviction during the pandemic: an executive order from Governor Larry Hogan prohibits eviction so long as the state remains under the state of emergency — and so long as the tenants can prove that their income has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. A second layer of protection, a pause on eviction-related hearings in Maryland courts, expired on July 25.
In Missouri, protests brought proceedings to a halt at a Kansas City eviction court. All spring KC Tenants demanded relief for Kansas City renters left vulnerable by the coronavirus pandemic. They organized — virtually and in person — to shut down the state eviction court proceedings at the Jackson County Courthouse. KC Tenants leaders pledged to keep shutting down the eviction docket until they see action to protect vulnerable residents. “If our so-called leaders continue to lead our tenants into death digitally, online, via phone or even in person, we are going to continue to shut it down until we get what we want,” Mason Andrew Kilpatrick said in front of the courthouse. In St. Louis, protestors gather outside city hall for an “anti-eviction rally” heavily criticizing the court’s decision to restart evictions. “People aren’t working. People don’t have money,” said Sarah Watkins, a rally organizer with Action STL. “People haven’t paid rent since the pandemic began in April. People will be on the street.”
In Milwaukee, a march was organized by the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union to demand help for the many families still out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide ban on evictions expired two months ago and now, between 150 and 170 people are being evicted from their homes in Milwaukee every week. The state ($25 million), Milwaukee County ($10 million) and City of Milwaukee ($15 million) have poured millions into rental assistance programs, but advocates say vulnerable tenants need added protections. “The rental assistance is good, but it’s not enough,” said protest organizer Robert Penner. “It’s very slow, the systems are backlogged, and they’re over-saturated with cases. A lot of people lose their home before they can even get in contact” with such programs, he said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a second round of $15 million in rental assistance for people financially struggling during the COVID-19 recession Friday, one day after he declined to support a city-mandated eviction grace period for tenants to catch up on past-due payments. More than 3 million Texans have applied for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began. They have also relied on federal benefits from a congressional pandemic relief package, eviction moratoriums and rent assistance programs to remain housed.

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Minneapolis Investigating Unnamed Umbrella Man

Minneapolis Investigating Unnamed Umbrella Man

 

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Minneapolis police have issued an arrest warrant for a suspect known as “Umbrella Man” who was filmed smashing the windows of an auto parts dealership on May 27, two days after the police killing of George Floyd.  Video of the “Umbrella Man” went viral after protesters in Minneapolis confronted and filmed him while he was in the act of smashing several windows of an AutoZone store.  Investigators say the man is a white supremacist who sought to provoke violence against protesters.  The term “Umbrella Man” was coined on social media as people guessed at his identity, with some protesters speculating he was actually a member of the police force.

According to a search warrant, the man is associated with the “Aryan Cowboys,” which the Anti-Defamation League lists as a White supremacist prison and street gang. The warrant does not label them as a White supremacist group, but describes them as a “known prison gang out of Minnesota and Kentucky.”  A Minneapolis arson investigator wrote in the search warrant affidavit that the man also spray painted the words “free sh*t for everyone zone” on the doors of the AutoZone. Not long after he smashed in the windows, looting began, and a bit later the AutoZone was set on fire, the affidavit said.

“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Sgt. Erika Christensen, wrote in the affidavit.  “Until the actions of the person your affiant has been calling ‘Umbrella Man,’ the protests had been relatively peaceful. The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension. Your affiant believes that this individual’s sole aim was to incite violence.”

Police identified the 32-year-old suspect through a tip last week but the suspect has not been named. Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder told the Associated Press he could not confirm the name of the person involved, but said the investigation remains open and active.  The tipster told the investigator that the man was a member of the Hells Angels biker gang who “wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors.”  Police matched him to photos a Muslim woman took when she was harassed during an encounter with the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood, while eating burgers with her young daughter in Stillwater in June.

The riots spread to other parts of Minneapolis and led to Minneapolis’ 3rd Precinct burning down, and according to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, resulted in $500 million in property damage.  At least two people died — one a man who was fatally shot at a Minneapolis pawnshop and another man whose burned body was found in the ruins of another pawnshop.

Protests against police brutality and systemic racism continue in cities across the country in the wake of Floyd’s death.  The Black Lives Matter movement has drawn tens of millions into the streets to participate in protests taking place every day since May.  The protests have been plagued with violence from the start.  They continue to push for police reform and an end to systemic inequalities around race.  It has led to radical reform in recent months in many states and the faces of those they continue to seek justice for continue to change as more police shootings occur.

 

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