A former member of the Black Panthers was released from prison on Feb. 19 after having spent a record 43 years in solitary confinement. Albert Woodfox had been held in solitary confinement since 1972 after being charged and convicted of fatally stabbing a prison guard. Authorities first moved Woodfox to isolation in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and later to "closed-cell restriction" at state jails. In June a federal judge ordered that Woodfox be unconditionally released, which included strong language barring any further trials on the original charges of murdering prison guard Brent Miller. He was able to be released after striking a deal in which he plead "no contest" to two lesser charges.
As officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a new wave of deportations of Central American migrants who entered the US illegally over the past two years, protests against the government action were carried out across the country. Dozensoccupied the intersection outside the Immigration Court on Varick Street in Lower Manhattan on Jan. 8, with seven arrested. An action was also held outside the West County Detention facility in Richmond, Calif., days earlier. At the close of the Jan. 2-3 weekend, 121 adults and children had been taken into custody in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, according to Jeh Johnson, head of the Homeland Security Department, who warned of thousands more to be deported within the next weeks because they have exhausted their legal appeals. Johnson added that the number of people trying to cross the border illegally has begun to climb again in recent months—despite just over than 330,000 migrants having been apprehended in 2015, the second-lowest number in more than four decades.
A group of self-styled "militiamen" made headlines over the weekend when they took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters building in eastern Oregon's Harney Basin. They are evidently led by Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher known for his 2014 standoff with the federal government (over unpaid grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management). They say they are acting on behalf of Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son of a local ranching family, who were sentenced to five years in prison for setting a fire on BLM land after the Ninth Circuit upheld the mandatory minimum for arson on federal lands. By various accounts, the fire was ostensibly set to clear invasive plants, or as a "backfire" (or "controlled burn") to keep a brush-fire form spreading to their property. But the Justice Department press release on the sentencing portrays a reckless act intentionally designed as a provocation to the feds. In any case, the Hammonds don't seem too enthusiastic about the action taken on their behalf. The right-wing militant Idaho 3 Percent was instrumental in the take-over, according to an early account on Central Oregon's KTVZ.
OK, here we go. Get ready for the tiresome semantic debate about whether the San Bernardino massacre was "terrorism," or not. As if that's the most important question we should be grappling with.... Was this yet another random "mass-shooting" motivated by some personal grudge and rooted in America's homegrown culture of vigilantism and personal revenge? (This kind of thing is so commonplace that the same day's shoot-up in Savannah, Ga., barely made the news because only four people were shot, one fatally, the WaPo says.) Or was it inspired or even directed by an extremist political tendency of one stripe or another? This question is pathologically politicized...
The response to the latest campus shoot-up is depressingly predictable, and it gets worse each time. Just heard some talking head on NPR (he's also been on Michigan's WPBN and Illinois' KHQA) intoning the "If You See Something, Say Something" mantra—this time regarding human beings exhibiting suspect behavior. So now it doesn't just apply to mysterious packages left unattended on subway platforms, but to people who seem "weird" or "off" or "loners" or "maladjusted" or "mentally ill" (all problematic labels). Rat-out culture is being extended and institutionalized, while the Gun Lobby makes it impossible to address the ubiquity of the instruments of death used in these routine massacres. (This latest punk had an AR-15 and five handguns.) So (count on it) within a year or two (maybe less), there will be round-ups and pre-emptive arrests of the socially awkward, the introverted, Asperger's diagnosees, etc... and you will still be able to walk into a gun show, slap down your money and walk out with an AR-15, no questions asked. So spare us your 100% bogus talk about "freedom," gun-fetishists.
The US Department of Justice and county officials in Phoenix on July 15 agreed to settle parts of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in 2012. The DoJ filed charges against the Sheriff's Office for discriminatory practices in traffic stops, work and home raids, and in county jails, as well as claims of retaliation. The settlementreached with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors did not address the allegation that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's agency racially profiled Latinos when making traffic stops in their effort to prevent illegal immigration. Supervisor Steve Gallardo said the settlement is in the best interest of saving tax-payer's money by avoiding an expensive trial. The remaining issue will proceed to a scheduled Aug. 10 trial in the US District Court for the District of Arizona.
In the wake of last week's massacre at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, there have been a few rare media mentions of the Gullah people of the Sea Islands, a barrier chain that stretches from South Carolina to Florida. Queen Quet Marquetta Goodwine, head of state of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, spoke to the Charleston City Paper after the massacre, saying that many members of Mother Emanuel are Gullah—as were some of the nine shooting victims. The church had once hosted a traditional Gullah libation ceremony to honor the people's ancestors. "Mother Emanuel has embraced me as a mother for many, many years on my journeys to Charleston," Queen Quet said, but added that after the bloodshed, "It will be difficult for me to re-enter those doors." She said she counted massacre victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church's pastor and a state senator, as a friend. WJCL of Savannah, Ga., also noted that the Gullah Geechee Commission of Johns Island, SC, expressed shock at the massacre and offered condolences to the survivors.
Amnesty International said June 18 that all 50 US states fall below international standards on police use of lethal force. The report indicates that many states have no regulation on police use of lethal force or ones that fall below international standards. UN principles on the use of lethal force limit force to "unavoidable instance in order to protect life after less extreme means have failed," but the majority of states do not require police to use less-violent means before lethal force nor do they require them to identify their intent to use lethal force. The report also indicated that 13 US states fall below the United States' own constitutional standards established in Tennessee v. Garner, which states that police may not use deadly force to prevent a suspect from escaping "unless the officer believes that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others." An investigation revealed that 522 people have been killed by police this year. Those statistics also indicate Black people were twice as likely as white people to be unarmed during the encounter.