Law

I'm Polite, Middle-Class and Harassed By Police. Here's Why.

The targeting of citizens by authorities based on racial stereotypes is a serious issue that needs refocusing—an issue that needs to be looked at starting from the root and not the leaf.

(AP Photo/The Progress-Index, Patrick Kane)
(AP Photo/The Progress-Index, Patrick Kane) I was eighteen, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was dark, and I was driving with my sister when I got pulled over by the police. We were visiting relatives in Mississippi and had just left our cousins’ house, heading back to an aunt’s house to meet up with our parents. My mother had let us go out for a drive in her car, a red Eddie Bauer Edition Ford Explorer. Driving in that car, I felt a certain level of freedom and prestige. So, being the teenagers that we were, music blasting, rehashing the night’s events with each other, my sister and I made our way back, feeling carefree. We stopped at a stop sign, then proceeded to go forward when a police siren from across the street grew louder, as a squad car sped toward us. Not thinking that it was me they were after, I slowed down to let the cop car pass me. When the policeman turned on his horn and shot his light toward our car, I immediately froze. We were in the Deep South, two...

The Ferguson Police Department's Top 10 Tips For Protester Relations

A man is detained after a standoff between protesters and police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) 1. If there's any chance that there might be violence, it's best to have your officers put on all the military gear they've got, including their body armor and camouflage outfits , because that's totally badass. Being decked out like that won't at all affect the way they think about their primary mission (to protect and serve the people of the community), and when protesters see it, they'll know that the officers are trained professionals who take their jobs seriously. 2. Park your armored personnel carriers in the middle of the street . That sight will let everyone know that you mean business, and won't in any way contribute to an atmosphere of tension. 3. When a protester approaches you with his hands up, it's best to point your rifle in his face . Round here, we call it the "Ferguson howdyado." It's a friendly way of saying, "I respect your First Amendment rights, but I'm also thinking about killing you." 4. Don't forget to position snipers with their guns...

'Leave It to the States': Admirable Moderation, Or Cowardly Cop-out?

Ah, the majesty of federalism. (Map from Wikimedia Commons)
As everyone knows, opinions on same-sex marriage have been changing rapidly, which also means that the positions of politicians have to change to keep up. Now that pretty much every Democrat running for anything is in favor of marriage equality, they're done changing. Republicans, on the other hand, are going to have to keep tweaking their stance, confronted by the almost impossible challenging of signaling their open-mindedness to general election voters while not alienating a conservative base that, for a while anyway, is still opposed to gay people getting married. So what's the answer to that problem? "Leave it to the states." Is that an admirable bit of live-and-let-live, let-a-hundred-flowers-bloom approach to governing, or is it a cowardly cop-out? It's kind of both. It wasn't too long ago that Republicans were advocating a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. But few people in the GOP mainstream say that anymore. If you want to know where...

What Judges Know: The Fault for Underfunded Pensions Lies With Politicians, Not Workers

We can’t count on politicians to stick to their word. It’s promising that judges are forcing them to.

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
(AP Photo/Mel Evans) Union members carry protest signs as they march outside the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse before arguments Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Trenton, N.J., over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's plan to use pension payments to balance the budget. Public employee unions on Wednesday tell the court the current budget has unspent funds that could go toward pensions. A dvocates of gutting public pensions are running into the same wall over and over again. From California to Illinois to New Jersey and beyond, pension gutting efforts are being overturned by judges who recognize that breaking promises to workers isn’t just regrettable, it’s illegal. Pension opponents castigate the courts as the enemy while conveniently ignoring why legal protections exist in the first place—to protect public employees from politicians who spent years playing politics with their retirement savings. For decades, elected officials across the country skipped pension payments, often while...

The Government Program That's Equipping Police Like an Occupying Military Force

A chilling index from the Institute for Southern Studies.

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes) Protesters raise their hands in front of police atop an armored vehicle in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. This index was originally published by Facing South , a website of the Institute for Southern Studies. ( Click here to subscribe to their newsletter.) Year in which Congress initially authorized the Defense Department to give excess arms and ammunition to law enforcement agencies for counter-drug activities, leading to the creation of what's come to be known as the 1033 program: 1990 Number of law enforcement agencies the program has given equipment to: more than 17,000 Percent of U.S. states with agencies participating in the program: 100 (Photo from the Richland County Sheriff's Department website.) Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County, South Carolina and members of his department's Special Response Team with the military vehicle they call "The Peacemaker." Value of military equipment the program has transferred...

Court Rules NC Voting Rights Rollback to Stay In Place Until After Midterm Elections

Since taking control of state government in 2011, Republicans rolled back North Carolina's progressive voting laws. A new regime of fewer voting days and voter ID requirements will be in place for November's legislative and congressional elections.

©Jenny Warburg
©JennyWarburg While a federal judge in Winston-Salem heard testimony about North Carolina’s new voting restrictions last month, activists gathered at a nearby plaza to protest the law. A federal judge has temporarily authorized North Carolina to implement a sweeping new law that threatens to reduce access to the polls, particularly for African-American, Latino, and young voters. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, is an early test of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, which overturned key parts of the Voting Rights Act. In 2000, North Carolina started rolling out efforts to make it easier to register and vote, only to yank those efforts back thirteen years later. When the state legislature was controlled by Democrats, it authorized counties to conduct up to seventeen days of early voting, including Sunday voting, which enabled black churches to transport parishioners to the polls. It also allowed citizens to register and...

Could the Ferguson Conflict Produce Actual Reform on The Limits of Policing?

Flickr/Elvert Barnes
Every once in a while, a dramatic news story can actually produce real reform. More often the momentum peters out once the story disappears from the news (remember how Sandy Hook meant we were going to get real gun control?), but it can happen. And now, after the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missiouri, turned to a chaotic nightmare of police oppression, we may have an opportunity to examine, and hopefully reverse, a troubling policy trend of recent years. The focus has now largely turned from an old familiar story (cops kill unarmed black kid) to a relatively unfamiliar one, about the militarization of the police. The images of officers dressed up like RoboCop, driving around in armored assault vehicles, positioning snipers to aim rifles at protesters, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at Americans standing with their hands up saying "Don't shoot!" has lots of Americans asking how things got this way. This issue offers the rarest of all things, an...

If You Are Black or Brown in America, Your Parents' Warnings Can't Keep You Safe

Our mothers and fathers tell us how to behave when—not if—we are stopped by police. But sometimes it's no use.

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson) Terrell Williams El embraces his daughter Sharell, 9, next to his wife, Shamika Williams, and daughters Tamika, 6, and Shanell, 2, in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 after Terrell Williams El confronted police during a protest. This article was originally published by the Crunk Feminist Collective . W hen we are young, often too young to fully understand the anxiety in their voices and the fear in their eyes, many of us listen to our parents tell us how to behave when, not if , we are stopped by the police. Usually these cautions beseech us to be aware of our surroundings, comply and assert our compliance out loud, to be polite and cooperative, not combative or defiant. They tell us the things they think will protect us. They tell us not to be alone. They tell us to be vigilant. They know what we will face. They are black, brown, immigrant, documented and undocumented. They have survived wars. They are our mothers and fathers...

Affirmative Action, Race or Class: An Exchange

Should universities shift their recruitment focus away from race and onto poor neighborhoods?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
T o the Editor: I wish to respond to Richard Rothstein’s critical review of my book, Place, Not Race , in your magazine. While I appreciate that he concludes that the book is “worth reading” and that my proposals are possibly even a “wise” response to the political and legal assault on affirmative action, I believe he mischaracterizes my argument in ways that would be misleading to anyone who doesn’t bother to read the book. Rothstein insists throughout the review that I focus exclusively on low-income African-Americans while ignoring middle class ones. That is not true. As I argue in the book, only about 30 percent of black children live in middle class neighborhoods and not all of these children are poor. As Rothstein himself points out, proximity to poverty is a common, lived experience for African American families of varying incomes. If universities were to follow my proposal of giving special consideration to any high achiever that lives in a neighborhood or goes to a school...

A New Phase In the Marijuana Legalization Debate

Flickr/Brett Levin
O n Sunday, the New York Times editorialized for the first time in favor of a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, and did so in dramatic fashion, with a statement on the front page of the Sunday Review section and two more pieces going into greater detail. It wasn't particularly surprising, given the generally liberal bent of the Times editorial page and the fact that support for legalization has moved firmly into the mainstream. But it's still important, because the Times remains the most influential news outlet in the country, and they have an unrivaled ability to set the agenda for the rest of the media. There is a shift going on in this debate, and it isn't just that mainstream politicians and newspapers can now support legalization. It's also that the central question of the debate has changed, and changed to what legalization advocates have been asking for a long time. Instead of asking "Is smoking marijuana good or bad?", we're now asking "Is marijuana prohibition better or...

Hobby Lobby Decision Could Give License to Anti-Labor 'Biblical Economics' Practices

Religious Right leaders have been working hard to convince conservative evangelicals that the Tea Party’s anti-government, anti-union, anti-welfare agenda is grounded in the Bible, setting the stage for more "religious liberty" legal arguments by corporation owners.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais A demonstrator dressed as the 'Bible' stands outside the Supreme Court building awaiting the court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women. This article originally appeared on Right Wing Watch , the website published by People For the American Way. S upreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent in the Hobby Lobby case that the Court’s conservative majority had “ventured into a minefield” with its decision. Many of those mines have already been placed by right-wing leaders who claim a religious grounding not only for anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-contraception positions, but also for opposition to collective bargaining, minimum wage laws, progressive taxation and government involvement in the alleviation of poverty. In Hobby Lobby ,...

Getting the Government Out of Your Wedding

Awesome couple boldly goes, on the bridge of the Enterprise with Tasha Yar presiding from the captain's chair. (Flickr/Trek Radio)
Some years ago, I officiated at a wedding. It was a Quaker wedding, and since there are no Quaker ministers, the happy couple needed a kind of master of ceremonies to keep the program moving along. They handled most everything themselves; my job was mostly to say things like, "Now we're going to do the vows" and such. I wasn't breaking any laws, but a guy in the band did ask me afterward where my congregation was located, which, as a Jewish atheist, I found amusing. I've also been to a wedding or two that was officiated by a friend of the couple's who got ordained in the Universal Life Church (only $28.99 for the Ordination Package ), which is what you do in many states if you want to perform a wedding but you aren't a member of the clergy in one of the religions your state decides is legitimate. The question people inevitably raise on these occasions is, why the heck do we have this system in 2014? If you're going to have to go to city hall and fill out a bunch of forms to be...

Argentina's Loss to Germany Nothing Compared to Financial Rout By U.S.

As Merkel starves ailing European economies, SCOTUS is doing worse to Argentina's.

AP Photo/J Pat Carter
AP Photo/Jorge Saenz Argentina soccer fans watch in disbelief the final World Cup match between Argentina and Germany on an outdoor television screen set up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Mario Goetze volleyed in the winning goal in extra time to give Germany its fourth World Cup title with a 1-0 victory over Argentina. I f there were poetic justice in the world, Argentina would have beaten Germany in the last three minutes of World Cup play instead of vice versa. Germany represents everything that's wrong with the world financial system. Argentina is the epic case of countries whose economies are screwed by policies championed by Germany—and, unfortunately, by the United States, as well. Let me explain. When financial abuses crashed the global economic system in 2007-2008, there were two urgent needs, One was drastic reform to prevent the collapse from wreaking further havoc on the world's most damaged economies. The other was to clean up the banking system so...

Justice Samuel Alito's Deep Roots in the American Right

He's the most pro-corporate jurist on the Supreme Court. So decisions that grant companies religious rights or take aim at labor unions come quite naturally to him.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., delivers his remarks during a Federalist Society dinner gathering, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006, in Washington. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . S upreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ended this Supreme Court session with a bang, writing the majority opinion in two cases that gave for-profit corporations the right to make religious liberty claims to evade government regulation, and set the stage for the fulfillment of a central goal of the right-wing political movement: the destruction of public employee unions. Neither of the decisions was particularly surprising. Samuel Alito is the single most pro-corporate Justice on the most pro-business Court since the New Deal. Still, Alito's one-two punch was another extraordinary milestone for the strategists who have been working for the past 40 years to put business firmly in the driver's seat of American politics. Many would suggest that...

Courtroom Drama: Voting Rights Paid for in Blood Under Siege in North Carolina

“It was, bar none, the worst legislative process I’ve ever been through,” Rep. Rick Glazier told the U.S. District Court.

 

©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Norma Corley (center, in blue) of Winston-Salem was among several hundred people who attended a “March to the Polls” rally on July 7, 2014, after the first day of the preliminary-injunction hearing challenging North Carolina’s new voting law. Photographs by Jenny Warburg A t the U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem, Rick Glazier , a Democratic state legislator, took the witness stand on Tuesday, the second morning of a hearing on North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law , the enforcement of which the U.S. Department of Justice, the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters are seeking to halt. Glazier’s testimony, unflinching but emotional, offered a vivid look at the cavalier manner by which some in a torrent of new state laws have been enacted. In particular, Glazier laid out how his Republican colleagues—with almost no study or debate—stripped away more than a decade’s worth of reforms that had dramatically increased ballot access for African Americans. Voting rights...

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