Tag Archives: police

Turkey Says They Beat the Crap Out of Protesters Because of a "Provocative Demonstration"

Mother Jones

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This would normally be big news, but it’s been overshadowed by all things Trump:

WASHINGTON – Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, including his government security forces and several armed individuals, violently charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here on Tuesday night in what the police characterized as “a brutal attack.”

Eleven people were injured, including a police officer, and nine were taken to a hospital, the Metropolitan Police chief, Peter Newsham, said at a news conference on Wednesday. Two Secret Service agents were also assaulted in the melee, according to a federal law enforcement official.

The current story from Erdogan is that his folks were acting in “self defense,” which is absurd. Eyewitness accounts, along with the testimony of Washington DC’s police chief, confirm that the protest was loud but peaceful until Erdogan’s goons waded in and attacked.

This was all happening while President Trump was hosting a visit with Erdogan in the White House. Naturally they haven’t said anything about this. Hell, Trump probably wishes he had a security force that would do stuff like this.

I don’t have anything non-obvious to say about this. The descent of Turkey into a strongman state is discouraging, and there’s no sign that it’s going to turn around any time soon. I just didn’t want to let this pass without at least a mention.

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Turkey Says They Beat the Crap Out of Protesters Because of a "Provocative Demonstration"

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Pence’s Perch Atop Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission Hints at Suppression Efforts

Mother Jones

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After claiming that as many as 5 million people voted illegally in the November election, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday to create a commission to address voter fraud. With widespread evidence that voter fraud is nearly nonexistent, voting rights groups have seen similar efforts as a pretense to suppress voting among young voters and minorities.

The announcement of the commission’s leadership team reinforced civil rights groups’ concerns that the panel’s work will be used to justify voter suppression techniques such as voter ID laws and registration purges. The commission’s chair will be Vice President Mike Pence. Last year, as governor of Indiana, Pence cheered the actions of state police and the secretary of state’s office as they shut down a voter major registration drive under the guise of protecting the integrity of the voting process.

Trump’s order instructs the new Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to study “vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.” Election law experts and civil rights groups quickly condemned the record of the commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has helped craft anti-immigrant laws, the post-9/11 “Muslim registry,” and voter suppression efforts in his state.

But the track records of Pence and another former Indiana official on the commission also hint at voter suppression—particularly since the state’s crackdown hinged on one of the targets outlined in Trump’s order: inconsistencies apparently caused in part by outdated voter registration rolls.

In April 2016, a group called the Indiana Voter Registration Project began a registration drive in the Hoosier State, focusing on underrepresented African American communities. By the summer, the group had about 100 canvassers in the state and was registering thousands of people. Under Indiana law, canvassers are required to turn in every voter registration form they receive to the county—they can’t withhold the forms of people who might not vote the way they want—and to sign each form and flag suspicious ones. Bill Buck, a spokesman for the Indiana Voter Registration Project, says canvassers were following all of these rules.

But by late summer, state officials had begun to investigate the group. On September 15, Indiana’s secretary of state, Republican Connie Lawson, warned local election officials about the group’s voter registration efforts. “Nefarious actors are operating here in Indiana,” she wrote. “A group by the name of the Indiana Voter Registration Project has forged voter registrations.” The state police opened an investigation, and canvassers reported that police were interrogating them in their homes.

On October 4, state police raided the group’s Marion County headquarters, seizing phones, computers, and papers. The raid halted the group’s registration efforts a week before the state’s registration deadline, preventing the group from registering an additional 5,000 to 10,000 people, according to Buck. The investigation eventually expanded to 56 counties in Indiana. In mid-October, a spokesman for the state police described vague evidence that the group had been forging registration forms: “The possible fraudulent or false information is a combination of made up names and made up addresses, real names with made up or incorrect addresses and false dates of births with real names as well as combinations of all these examples.”

The Indiana Voter Registration Project, run by a liberal super-PAC called Patriot Majority USA, suspected that the discrepancies were caused by outdated information in the state’s voter rolls. The group was turning in new information it collected, but that information may not have matched older data in the state system. So the group hired a data analysis firm, TargetSmart, to assess the rolls. TargetSmart’s report showed that Indiana’s data was woefully out of date, including more than 800,000 instances in which the voter rolls did not contain the newest federal data. “We were turning in up-to-date data and it didn’t match their old, flawed data,” Buck told Mother Jones last fall.

But Indiana authorities presented the situation as much more insidious. “I’ll tell you, in the state of Indiana right now, we’ve got a pretty vigorous investigation into voter fraud going on,” Pence, campaigning as the Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee, said in Iowa in October, a week after the raid shut the registration drive down. Shortly before leaving office, he awarded Lawson the state’s highest civilian honor. Lawson will also serve on Trump’s new commission.

The state police stated in affidavits released after the election that they believed that among the thousands of registration forms the group turned in were some that appeared to have been forged. From the evidence presented, it seemed likely that a few canvassers had fraudulently filled out applications. But Patriot Majority USA claimed it was vindicated by the release of these documents because, in addition to apparent evidence of forged applications, they also showed that the group’s staff had flagged suspect applications for county authorities. Buck concedes it’s possible that a few canvassers had broken the rules and forged applications, but that that could not account for the accusation of large-scale fraud from the Lawson’s office. “Thousands of dates of births and first names were changed,” Lawson said in a statement last October. “We believe this may be a case of voter fraud and have turned our findings over to the State Police, who are currently conducting an investigation into alleged voter fraud.” Buck says the claim that thousands of voters had their information altered is an indication that the rolls were out-of-date. “Their theory was that we were paying people to sit around and make up forms,” he said. “Why would we be doing this? What would we have to gain?”

There is no evidence that any fraudulent ballots were ultimately cast. It wasn’t even clear how forged registration forms or mismatched registration data could lead to in-person voter fraud, since Indiana has a law requiring voters to present identification. In late January, the state police finished their investigation and turned it over to the Marion County prosecutor to determine whether to file any charges. Contrary to Pence’s statement, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office stressed that the police had not investigated voter fraud. “The Indiana State Police investigated alleged voter registration discrepancies prior to the November 2016 election,” Peg McLeish told Mother Jones in an email. “The investigation was not into fraudulent voting, that being ballots cast improperly.” McLeish says the prosecutor has not yet decided whether to press charges.

Other states have used outdated voter registration to pursue legally dubious purges of their voter rolls that disproportionately affect minority voters, who more often vote for Democrats. In 2010, Georgia instituted a policy of automatically rejecting a voter application form if the name, birth date, driver’s license number, or last four Social Security number digits didn’t exactly match the state’s existing data. Over a three-year period, this resulted in 34,874 canceled applications, more than 75 percent of which were from minority applicants. In February, the state agreed to modify the practice as part of a court settlement with civil rights groups.

Voting rights advocates condemned Trump’s order on Thursday. “As President Trump’s own lawyers have said, ‘All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake,'” Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “Signing a piece of paper will not make Trump’s false statements about voter fraud true. This commission, to be co-led by King of Voter Suppression Kris Kobach, is a sham. We call on professional elections administrators, serious academics, and elected officials to refuse to participate in what will be a pretext for disenfranchising Americans.”

The “only good news,” election law expert Rick Hasen wrote on his blog, is that the “Administration’s credibility is so low that few except the true believers are likely to believe anything produced by the likely worthless report.”

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Pence’s Perch Atop Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission Hints at Suppression Efforts

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This Is The Horrific Violence Trump Is Forcing Central American Refugees To Return To

Mother Jones

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While President Donald Trump has squawked about “bad hombres” invading America, the reality is that many migrants seeking to settle in the United States are not importing violence but fleeing it. As detailed in a new report from Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), an nonprofit organization focused on protecting children who enter the US immigration system, many Central American migrants, especially children, who head north are trying to escape extreme sexual and gender-based violence.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied child migrants reach the United States’ southern border every year. In 2014, their numbers peaked at more than 68,500. Last year, Customs and Border Patrol apprehended nearly 60,000 unaccompanied kids, the vast majority of them from Central America. The reasons these children are trying to enter the United States are grim. The Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, has some of the highest homicide rates in the world. In particular, girls, young women, and gay youth in the region face a barrage of sexual exploitation and violence, according to the KIND report.

In recent years, gangs have increased their control over the region, as well as their savagery. According to KIND, sexual violence is one of their main tactics to control territory and communities. Gang members may choose girls to serve as “girlfriends” against their will and with no way out. “These girls, many of them between the ages of 12 and 16, are forced into situations of sexual and domestic servitude by gang members. Girls are trapped into these relationships, and any attempt to leave is considered an offense against the gang and punished with violence or even death,” said Rachel Dotson, KIND’s gender and migration initiatives director, in a press conference on Thursday.

In other instances, according to KIND’s findings, gangs abduct girls to be raped and tortured. “Sometimes girls are held for days, or weeks. When the gang is finished with the girl, she may be killed, or she may be allowed to go, but under the threat that if she reports to the violence, she or members of her family will be killed,” says Dotson. The gangs also force teenaged girls into sex trafficking schemes.

It’s not just this kind of violence that drives people to flee, it’s also the Central American governments’ lack of response. Dotson says that “representatives of government agencies in all three countries acknowledge there is little their governments can do to protect them.” In some areas, as many as 95 percent of crimes go unpunished. Police and other authorities are often complicit in gang activities. Witness protection programs lack the capacity to protect victims. Some shelters for crime victims explicitly ban victims of gang-related violence because they can’t guarantee their safety, says Dotson. Kids in these circumstances have few choices. Fleeing for the United States is one of them.

But once these children arrive at the US border, another series of challenges begin. As Mother Jones reported earlier this week, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have allegedly been turning back asylum seekers at alarming rates—a trend that ballooned following Trump’s election:

According to multiple human rights lawyers and observers, CBP officials at border crossings have denied entry to refugees on a variety of pretexts. Some asylum seekers have been told they need paperwork from the Mexican immigration agency or that they’ll have to come back later because officials don’t have time to process them. Others have been told that the United States is no longer accepting people from their country or that it’s only admitting refugees from countries where Christians are being persecuted.

Lisa Frydman, the director of regional policy and initiatives at KIND, says she has been told that these “turnbacks” have affected some children as well as women fleeing sexual and gender-based violence. Even if the migrants are not turned away, she says, the process of entering the United States is harrowing. Because the federal government does not provide legal representation for asylum seekers, more than 50 percent of the unaccompanied minors who make it into the United States do not have attorneys—making it extremely difficult for them to explain that they are seeking asylum to escape the violence directed at them. “These are challenging cases, highly dependent on the evidence and the facts and being able to present a claim according to the legal standard, which really requires counsel,” says Frydman. To apply for asylum, migrants must show that they have a “credible fear” of persecution or violence if they return to their home countries.

All too often, the reasons people migrate to the United States are misunderstood. At an event at the Atlantic Council on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly implied that most migrants seeking asylum lie in order to be admitted to the United States. “The vast majority of people who come up here…the overwhelming number, say exactly the same words because they are schooled by the traffickers to say certain words, to give certain scenarios, which, generally speaking, will get you to remain in the United States, in the system, because of a credible fear claim,” he said. Olga Byrne, a senior associate at Human Rights First, responded in a statement, “There is no evidence supporting the claim that any significant proportion of asylum seekers presents false claims or otherwise attempts to defraud the system.”

“Very clearly,” argues Frydman, “violence is a huge driver of why these kids and other Central Americans are coming, and there continues to be a failure to understand that the Central American situation is a refugee situation.”

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This Is The Horrific Violence Trump Is Forcing Central American Refugees To Return To

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I’m a Trans Woman of Color, and I’ve Never Been More Scared to Live in North Carolina

Mother Jones

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Lara Americo has lived in North Carolina most of her life. The 32-year-old activist, artist, and musician was in Charlotte last year when state lawmakers passed one of the country’s most sweeping anti-LGBT laws, House Bill 2, which banned her from the women’s bathroom because she’s transgender. She was still there late last month, when they replaced that law with another one to appease critics who called it discriminatory. The new law was framed by the governor as a repeal, or a compromise, since it does not explicitly require trans women like Americo to use the men’s room. But LGBT activists have called it HB2.0 because it prevents cities like Charlotte from passing nondiscrimination ordinances that would guarantee her access to the women’s room. This week, Americo reached out to say that while the NCAA and others seem to believe the situation has improved for transgender people, she’s never been more scared to live in the Tar Heel State.

I used to tell everyone I wasn’t going to make it past 30 because I was convinced that I wasn’t. I was suicidal and pretty much a hermit—everything was wrong but I didn’t know why. Then I realized it was because I wasn’t living as a woman, so at 29 I decided to transition. I started to go out and meet people, and I learned that North Carolina isn’t really friendly toward transgender people. People just get quiet around you, they whisper. And my family was in shock. They tried to be supportive, but I don’t think they could cope with missing the son they had loved and raised—we haven’t really talked much since.

I was still sort of in the closet until last year, when Charlotte’s City Council started talking about a nondiscrimination ordinance that would allow trans people to use their preferred bathrooms. I testified in support of it—that was when I began to be public about being trans. When it passed, it felt like we were finally going in the right direction. But then North Carolina lawmakers started considering HB2 which blocked Charlotte’s ordinance. I testified at the Senate, begging them not to, but they did. I kept using the women’s bathroom anyway—it was a protest against the law every time. Also, if I were to go into the men’s bathroom, there was the potential of outing myself as a transgender woman. While I don’t really keep it a secret anymore, I don’t make it so obvious in public because it can be dangerous for me, especially in the climate we’re in now.

After HB2 passed, it got scarier. Anytime I have to drive in North Carolina, there are 50-mile stretches without a city, just back roads and small towns, and I can’t stop the car because if I do, I’ll have to worry about someone noticing me. Transgender people, especially people of color, face high rates of violence, so I’ve had to be mindful of my presentation, making sure my clothes are right and my mannerisms are perfect and my voice doesn’t drop too low. And I have to worry about the police pulling me over, discriminating against me. Because while there was always a risk, now they’re emboldened.

A majority of people who don’t really follow the issues that closely, they think there’s been a repeal. But I don’t think it was a repeal—I think transgender people are in even more danger now. When you don’t allow cities to give people protections, you put people in danger. Our state government made it clear that they put profit and sports ahead of our safety, and that mentality trickles down. We still don’t have the protections we need—all we have is a spotlight on us, so that people who don’t like us can target us. I feel less safe now than I did a few weeks ago, and so do a lot of people. I work with the Trans Lifeline, a suicide hotline, and after the new replacement law passed, there was a spike in callers.

I don’t like to show that these laws have affected me, but they do: I don’t want to stop at a gas station when I’m running out of gas. I don’t want to join the YMCA or the swim team because I worry about someone seeing my body. My partner worries—when I leave the house, I can usually count on her texting me within an hour, and if I don’t respond she gets really upset. I’ve had instances where I’m in a bar and I try to use the bathroom, and someone will look at me funny, and I’ll have to leave the bar to avoid a confrontation. Recently they proposed a bill that would increase trespassing punishments for people in the bathroom, and that bill could be used to target transgender people. I try to be optimistic, but our state has a Republican super-majority with extreme beliefs, so I do worry it’s going to pass and that transgender people will be criminalized.

Every few weeks I hear about a person who is making plans to leave the state, and I’ve considered it myself, but I have to wrestle with the thought of being forced out of my home, because I love North Carolina and I don’t want to leave. It’s a beautiful state. And I would hate it if I gave in to fear tactics and discrimination. There are many people here who don’t care that I’m transgender and they don’t care who uses the bathroom with them. It’s those people who make me want to stay here and be a part of this and fight for the transgender kids who live here and are going to public schools and worry about all these things, and make sure they don’t have to deal with this when they’re 30.

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I’m a Trans Woman of Color, and I’ve Never Been More Scared to Live in North Carolina

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

Mother Jones

In Shots Fired, the buzzworthy police drama premiering March 22 on Fox, federal agents investigate a black cop who has gunned down a young, unarmed white man. By the numbers, police actually kill more white people than they kill black people, but they kill black people at a far higher rate. Using population data from the Census Bureau and police shooting data from the Washington Post‘s 2015 database, we calculated that black men between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.2 times as likely as white men the same age to be killed by a police officer. And while black men make up only about 6 percent of the US population, last year they accounted for one-third of the unarmed people killed by police.

We’ve obviously got some policing issues, but the Trump administration seems inclined to look the other way. Last month, in his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions made clear that his Justice Department will curtail the monitoring of problem-plagued police departments that the Obama administration used as a tactic to combat civil rights violations by police. (Sessions suggested the monitoring had undermined “respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult.”) Lest readers have forgotten just how divisive the racial disparities in law enforcement have been, and continue to be, we put together this brief history of recent police violence and backlash to it.

July 2013
Sickened by the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, labor organizer Alicia Garza writes on Facebook, “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter.” Her friend Patrisse Cullors turns the last bit into a hashtag.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire via AP Photo

March 2014
In a Pew poll, 46 percent of Americans agree that “our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.”
July 2014

Eric Garner is choked to death by an officer on Staten Island, New York. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” become a civil rights slogan.

Bruce Cotler/ Globe Photos/Zuma

Aug. 2014
A white cop in Ferguson, Missouri, kills black teen Michael Brown, sparking weeks of protest. Police deploy riot gear, armored vehicles, and sniper rifles, while demonstrators adopt a “hands up, don’t shoot” posture based on claims that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. On Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter takes off.
Oct. 2014
A Chicago cop shoots Laquan McDonald 16 times. Police officials claim the teen was approaching officers with a knife—a union rep says he “lunged”—but the city won’t release dash-cam footage.
Nov. 22, 2014

Tamir Rice, 12, is killed by a Cleveland officer as he plays with a toy gun in a park.
Nov. 24, 2014
A Ferguson grand jury declines to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Michael Brown‘s killer. More protests. Critics of #BlackLivesMatter respond with #AllLivesMatter.

Darren Wilson St. Louis County Prosecuter’s Office/Reuters

Nov. 30, 2014
Five St. Louis Rams players walk onto the field for a game in the “hands up” position.
Dec. 3, 2014
The NYPD officer who choked Eric Garner escapes indictment. Days later, LeBron James and other NBA players don “I Can’t Breathe” shirts at pregame warmups.

Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire via Zuma Images

Dec. 18, 2014
The White House announces a new task force to “strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Dec. 20, 2014
Two NYPD officers are ambushed. Their killer, a black man, had posted a photo of his gun on Instagram: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today.”
Jan. 2015
#BlackLivesMatter tweets average 10,000 a day.

Erik McGregor/Zuma

March 2015
A Department of Justice report says Ferguson police employees sent racist emails and targeted black residents with nuisance citations to generate revenue.
April 2, 2015
A white sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shoots black suspect Eric Harris after a foot chase. “I’m losing my breath,” Harris pleads in a video. “Fuck your breath,” another officer responds.
April 4, 2015

Walter Scott is fatally shot as he attempts to flee from Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Walter Scott in his Coast Guard days Courtesy of the Scott family

April 19, 2015
Freddie Gray dies of his injuries after a “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van.
May 2015
“I have heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace,'” prosecutor Marilyn Mosby says as she announces charges against six officers in the Gray case. The White House task force releases its report: Police must “embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset.”

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

June 2015
Rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video depicts him being shot by police. It garners about 70 million YouTube views and wins two Grammys.

July 2015
BLM activists seize the mic at a Democratic candidate forum to grill Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders on police violence.
Oct. 2015
Rapper Vic Mensa’s video for “16 Shots,” a song about Laquan McDonald, goes viral.

Nov. 19, 2015
A judge orders the release of dash-cam footage that appears to show McDonald walking away from police when he was shot. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires his police chief the next month.
Nov. 22, 2015
Presidential candidate Donald Trump tweets out a chart of fabricated crime statistics suggesting that black criminals are responsible for the vast majority of homicides against white people. It’s entirely bogus. Here’s Politifact’s summary:

Feb. 7, 2016
Beyoncé’s dancers adopt a Black Panther look for the Super Bowl halftime show. Police unions call for a boycott of the star.

via GIPHY

Feb. 24, 2016
BLM activists disrupt a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, demanding she apologize for her racially charged comments about “super predators” during the 1990s. Clinton appears irritated, but the next day she does just that.
May 2016
The first state “Blue Lives Matter” bill passes in Louisiana. Attacking a cop is now a hate crime.
June 2016
The police-van driver in the Freddie Gray case is acquitted.
July 5, 2016

Alton Sterling is fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while officers have him pinned to the ground.
July 6, 2016
During a traffic stop, a Minnesota cop shoots Philando Castile as he reaches for his wallet—that’s according to Castile’s girlfriend, who livestreamed his demise on Facebook: “You told him to get his ID, sir!”

July 7, 2016
A black gunman kills five cops at a Dallas protest against police violence. He holes up in a parking garage, where police kill him with an explosives-bearing robot.
July 12, 2016
President Barack Obama defends Black Lives Matter at a memorial for the slain officers. “We have all seen this bigotry in our lives at some point,” and “none of us is entirely innocent,” he says. “That includes our police departments.”
July 17, 2016
A black military vet who ranted online about the treatment of black people by police assassinates three officers (one of them black) in Baton Rouge.
July 18, 2016
At the Republican National Convention, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who is black, proclaims that “blue lives matter.” In an op-ed the same day, he calls Black Lives Matter the “enemy.”

Mike Segar/Reuters via ZUMA Press

July 18, 2016
A police officer in Florida shoots a black caregiver who was lying in the street with his hands up. A union rep explains that the officer had been aiming at the man’s autistic patient, whose toy truck he mistook for a firearm.
July 27, 2016
After further acquittals in the Freddie Gray case, charges are dropped against the remaining officers.
Aug. 2016
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick starts sitting out the national anthem to protest police violence. A few pros and countless high school and college athletes follow suit.

Kevin Terrell/AP

Sept. 2016
Clinton debates Trump: “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” she says. Critics pounce. “Yes, Hillary Clinton called the nation racist,” writes a Washington Times columnist.
Oct. 2016
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the DOJ will (finally) start collecting national data on police use of force.
Dec. 2016
A jury of 11 whites and one African American deadlocks in the trial of Michael Slager. A retrial is scheduled for late August 2017. A separate federal trial, to determine whether Slager violated Walter Scott’s civil rights, is slated to begin in May 2017.

Mic Smith, File/AP Photo

Feb. 2017
In his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions suggests that the Justice Department, under his watch, will discontinue its practice of monitoring police departments suspected of violating people’s civil rights.
March 2017
A new drama series, Shots Fired, debuts on Fox. “There were a lot of people who never saw Trayvon Martin as a kid,” one of the show’s co-creators tells Mother Jones. “He was painted as the victimizer, and Zimmerman Martin’s killer got donations from all over the country. So in doing a show that deals with police violence, the question was how do we make those people who sent in the donations see this kid as a human being? One of the things we came up with was to make one victim white.”

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

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