A federal appeals court decisively struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law on Friday, saying its provisions deliberately “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” in an effort to depress black turnout at the polls.
Election workers checked voters’ identification in Asheville, N.C., in March. Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times
The sweeping 83-page decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upended voting procedures in a battleground state about three months before Election Day. That ruling and a second wide-ranging decision on Friday, in Wisconsin, continued a string of recent court opinions against restrictive voting laws that critics say were created solely to keep minority and other traditionally Democratic voters away from the polls.
The North Carolina ruling tossed out the state’s requirement that voters present photo identification at the polls and restored voters’ ability to register on Election Day, to register before reaching the 18-year-old voting age, and to cast early ballots, provisions the law had fully or partly eliminated….
In the Wisconsin decision, Judge James D. Peterson of Federal District Court ruled that parts of Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law are unconstitutional. He ordered the state to make photo IDs more easily available to voters and to broaden the range of student IDs that are accepted at the ballot box.
A rally against voter suppression at Centennial Park in Tampa Bay, Florida, on August 28, 2012. Photo by George Zornick
The decision also threw out other rules that lengthened the residency requirement for newly registered voters, banned distributing absentee ballots by fax or email and sharply restricted the locations and times at which municipal voters, many of them Milwaukee blacks, could cast absentee ballots in person.
Judge Peterson’s sharply worded 119-page ruling suggested that Wisconsin’s voter restrictions, as well as voter ID restrictions in Indiana that have been upheld in the Supreme Court, exist only to suppress votes.
“The evidence in this case casts doubt on the notion that voter ID laws foster integrity and confidence,” he wrote. “The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections.’’
The court decisions — the third and fourth federal rulings in recent weeks against Republican-enacted voting restrictions — were made as the two political parties raced from their summer conventions into the critical final months of the campaign, with Wisconsin, like North Carolina, considered a contested state.
North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature rewrote the state’s voting rules in 2013 shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that had given the Justice Department the power to oversee changes in election procedures in areas with a history of racial discrimination….
Civil rights advocates and the Justice Department had sued to block the law, but a Federal District Court judge upheld it in April, writing that the state’s “significant, shameful past discrimination” had largely abated in the last 25 years.
On Friday, the three-judge panel emphatically disagreed, saying the lower court’s amply documented ruling had failed to consider “the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”
The judges noted that Republican leaders had drafted their restrictions on voting only after receiving data indicating that African-Americans would be the voters most significantly affected by them.
By Jabril Faraj, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
As sirens blare through the warm summer air on a recent Milwaukee night, a group of about 40 demonstrators gathered on the corner of North 7th and West Ring streets near a pedestrian overpass spanning the I-43 freeway….
“Black Lives Matter” was visible in illuminated letters from I-43 northbound. (Photo by Jabril Faraj)
The demonstration was a collaboration between Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Milwaukee and the Overpass Light Brigade (OLB) in solidarity with the family of Jay Anderson, a 25-year-old black man who was killed by police in June while sitting in his car at a Wauwatosa park. Other chapters of SURJ, a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice, held solidarity demonstrations across the country to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has called for the end of police violence against black people.
The demonstrators, diverse in age and race, displayed the words “Black Lives Matter” for drivers traveling north on the expressway using OLB’s signature lighted letters. Lane Hall, a member of the Overpass Light Brigade, called the demonstration “a celebration, and a vigil, and a witness.” Attendees held the signs for about an hour, receiving supportive beeps from many passersby.
Claire Von Fossen of SURJ. (Photo by Jabril Faraj.)
Claire Van Fossen, a white co-organizer of Milwaukee’s SURJ chapter, said the goal of the demonstration was to interrupt the daily routine of white people, “who can move so easily through our lives without having to be conscious of this kind of horror and terror that black people are enduring every day.” The Anderson family was expected to be present, but did not attend after seeing the video of Jay’s death for the first time, an experience Van Fossen, who has been in contact with the family, described as “horrible.”
Last week, the family, along with supporters, demanded that the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office release full video footage of the incident, the name of the officer who shot Anderson and other evidence relating to the case.
Turning a corner
A combination of images show the dying moments of Philando Castile, a black man shot by Minnesota police after he was pulled over while driving. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend broadcast the scene on her Facebook page. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In the wake of the recent police killings of two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, public opinion, particularly among white people, has started to shift, according to Van Fossen. She said 40 new SURJ chapters have formed in the weeks since the incidents, which set off another set of protests nationwide. Van Fossen said “several hundred people” have joined the local group’s Facebook page during that time, as well.
“We’ve received dozens of emails from white folks saying, ‘I’ve stayed silent on this too long,’” she said….
Kirsten Maier, 25, said an eye-opening experience for her was being able to point the finger back at herself. “I think one important thing that happened for me was … I, at some point, gained the ability to say out loud that I do act and think in ways that are racist,” she said. “And that’s not me, as a person; that’s the institutions that raised me.”
Maier, who has been involved with SURJ Milwaukee for about a year, said it’s important for white people to educate other white people “who haven’t given much thought to the ways that our institutions are racist.” She said white people can support people of color by showing up to protests and other demonstrations, and to talk about these issues with friends, family and coworkers….
“I think we have turned a corner,” Van Fossen said. “I think we’re at a seminal moment in our history, as a people, and I’m hopeful that things will improve” as more people are ready to take action….
While the media has heavily covered Islamist terrorist activity and the recent deadly ambushes on police, it has largely overlooked increasingly brazen demonstrations and violence by the Far Right. In the last year, the level of violence has ramped up dramatically and is only now hitting its stride.
On July 7, Michael Strickland, a right-wing journalist who videotapes left-leaning protests and puts participants’ photos on the Internet, was arrested after waving a gun at a Portland Black Lives Matter rally. He claimed that he feared for his life. because someone allegedly shoved him while he was taping the peaceful demonstration.
After a late June confrontation with fascists who had secured a permit to rally at the California state courthouse, nine counter-protestors were hospitalized, with five of them stabbed. The fascists, operating under the banner of the Traditionalist Worker Party (but comprised mostly of members of the neo-Nazi Golden State Skinheads), fled after the clash with protestors. A loaded gun was left at the scene, which anti-fascists claimed neo-Nazis has dropped as they ran away.
Four months before, on February 28, three anti-racist activists were stabbed while confronting Ku Klux Klan members who were attempting to rally in Anaheim, California.
And all of this has happened barely a year after 21-year-old White supremacist Dylann Roof attended a bible study session at Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Emanuel AME Church, and then fatally shot nine Black worshippers.
This violence needs to serve as a wake-up call.
The media is not hiding these incidents, but they are reported in isolation from each other. Taken together, they paint a picture of a resurgent, armed radical right-wing movement, which ranges from Patriot Movement paramilitaries to neo-Nazis. In the last year, this part of the Right has become brazen in ways not seen in years. They have lost their fear of seizing federal facilities at gunpoint, stabbing anti-fascist protestors, and shooting at Black Lives Matter rallies.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks 892 hate groups currently active in the US.
While Donald Trump has “disavowed and will continue to disavow the support of any such groups associated with a message of hate,” the Republican presidential nominee has inspired and energized White supremacist organizers. In May, The Wall Street Journal reported that prominent fascist Andrew Anglin calls Trump “the Glorious Leader.” As Trump won multiple primaries in May, Anglin wrote on his Daily Stormer website, “White men in America and across the planet are partying like it’s 1999 following Trump’s decisive victory over the evil enemies of our race.” Mother Jones reports that William Johnson, the American Freedom Party leader whom Trump named as a delegate then rescinded the offer, has funded paranoid robocalls including one that decries how “the White race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist.'” “Trump’s candidacy has absolutely electrified the radical right,” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center has told The Wall Street Journal….
Paul Gardullo lifted an iron ballast from a Portuguese slave ship that sank in 1794 out of a crate Wednesday morning and hefted its weight in his hands.
Ballast blocks from the Saõ José slave ship, which sank in December of 1794 off the coast of South Africa. The Slave Wrecks Project
“Anytime I come into contact with the objects from the São José, it’s an incredibly moving experience,” said the curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Artifacts from the São José–Paquete de Africaarrived Wednesday at the museum’s storage facility after a research-and-recovery project that’s been going on since 2010.
The long, rectangular ballasts, used to hold the ship down, offset the weight of its human cargo and kept it balanced in the water as it carried 512 enslaved Mozambicans across the sea.
“In some ways, [they] stand, in the case of this particular ship, for the people who were enslaved on board,” Gardullo said. “This ballast that’s here with us … is incredibly important … because of its symbolic and almost spiritual status of standing in for human beings. It’s our job to recalculate the weight of this iron, not as slavers did, but according to a new moral compass—one that hopes to make the mute iron speak for the souls of those lost on board.”
Underwater archeologists explore the site where the slaver went down off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.
The São José sank in turbulent waters in December of 1794, so near to the shores of Cape Town, South Africa, that the vessel was able to signal for help. The captain, crew and about half of the captives were rescued, but 212 Mozambicans drowned. The survivors were resold into slavery in the Western Cape. Some of the ballasts from the vessel are among artifacts that are being loaned to NMAAHC for a decade. Researchers also found the remnants of shackles. This is the first historically documented shipwreck with enslaved Africans aboard….
The Smithsonian’s [Director Lonnie] Bunch said that the artifacts will remind people that the effects of slavery still exist in everything, from the way race relations have played out in America to the fact that the economic engine for almost every nation in the world was the slave trade. It’s a global story, Bunch said, but he wants the exhibition to have a special message for African Americans.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in a grand ceremony on September 24, 2016.
“The key here is I want to help people overcome any fear, any stigma, any sense that ‘I’m a little embarrassed that my ancestors were enslaved,’” Bunch said. “When I walked down the ramp that they walked down and … saw that beautiful ocean … I was trying to imagine what it was like to basically look back and realize you’re never going to see your land again, but you’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Bunch added: “That notion of ‘I wish I was as strong as my enslaved ancestors’ is what I hope a lot of people will get out of this.”
The artifacts from the São José will be featured at NMAAHC in the exhibition “Slavery and Freedom” when it opens Sept. 24, 2016, which coincides with South Africa’s celebration of Heritage Day.
U.S. state and local spending on prisons and jails grew at three times the rate of spending on schools over the last 33 years as the number of Americans behind bars ballooned under a spate of harsh sentencing laws, a government report released Thursday said.
U.S. Secretary of Education John King said the report’s stark numbers should make state and local governments reevaluate their spending priorities and channel more money toward education.
Between 1979 and 2012, state and local government expenditures grew by 107 percent to $534 billion from $258 billion for elementary and secondary education, while corrections spending rose by 324 percent to $71 billion from $17 billion, the U.S. Department of Education report found.
In that same period, the population of state and local corrections facilities surged more than four-fold to nearly 2.1 million from around 467,000, more than seven times the growth rate of the U.S. population overall. The prison population shot up following the widespread adoption of mandatory minimum sentence laws in the 1990s.
Seven states – Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia – each exceeded the average rate, increasing their corrections spending five times as fast as they did their pre-kindergarten to grade 12 education spending.
In just two states – New Hampshire and Massachusetts – growth in corrections expenditures did not surpass P-12 expenditures, even after accounting for changes in population. The report did not analyze different state policies that could explain these exceptions, King said on a conference call.
State and local spending on postsecondary education has remained mostly flat since 1990, the report said. Average state and local per capita spending on corrections increased by 44 percent as higher education funding per full-time equivalent student decreased by 28 percent, it said.
Two-thirds of state prison inmates did not complete high school, the report said.
A 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates would result in a 9 percent decline in criminal arrest rates, King said.
The United States spends about $80 billion a year on incarceration, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett said on the conference call.
“One in three Americans of working age have a criminal record,” she said. “That creates an often insurmountable barrier to successful reentry.”
Cameron Sterling being comforted at a vigil near where his father, Alton, was killed by the police in Baton Rouge, La., last week. Credit Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
In the past week alone, there was the 4-year-old girl in Falcon Heights, Minn., who was captured on video consoling her mother after they watched a police officer shoot the mother’s boyfriend through the window of a car. And there was the 15-year-old boy in Baton Rouge, La., who sobbed uncontrollably in front of television cameras after the similar shooting death of his father.
Then there were the four brothers, ages 12 to 17, whose mother was shot by the sniper who opened fire on officers in Dallas on Thursday night while the family was protesting police violence against blacks. The mother, who survived, threw herself atop one boy, as the others ran for their lives.
Again and again, children are finding themselves enmeshed in the country’s roiling debate over police treatment of African-Americans. The close-up views of violence, obviously traumatizing, are giving rise to a generation of young people who distrust authority, grow up well before their time and suffer nightmares that seem too real.
“As a mother, I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father,” said Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of the boy in Louisiana who sobbed over the death of his father, Alton Sterling. “That I can’t take away from him.”
While adults around them protest and demand criminal justice reform, young witnesses of the carnage are reeling from their losses and harboring pent-up depression that often comes pouring out in panic attacks and breakdowns, relatives say.
The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week. Credit Eric Miller/Reuters
The list of young people burdened by these tumultuous times includes Tamir Rice’s teenage sister, who lost 50 pounds after watching the police shoot him in 2014; the daughter of Oscar Grant III, killed by a transit officer while lying down on a California train platform in 2009, who as a 5-year-old would ask playmates to duck when she saw the police; and the 9-year-old nephew of Sandra Bland, who began sleeping in his mother’s room after Ms. Bland’s death last year in a jail cell.
“They are aware of what’s going in the world, of how you can leave your house and you can very well end up in a body bag,” said a sister of Ms. Bland’s, Shante Needham, whose four children continue to struggle with the death of their aunt. “They watch the news. They see all the stuff going on on Facebook. And it’s sad that kids even have to think like that, that if I get stopped by the police, I may not make it home.”…
In Baton Rouge, La., a memorial to Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by the police on Tuesday. Credit William Widmer for The New York Times
The vast majority of interactions between police officers and civilians end routinely, with no one injured, no one aggrieved and no one making the headlines. But when force is used, a new study has found, the race of the person being stopped by officers is significant.
The study of thousands of use-of-force episodes from police departments across the nation has concluded what many people have long thought, but which could not be proved because of a lack of data: African-Americans are far more likely than whites and other groups to be the victims of use of force by the police, even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account.
The report, to be released Friday by the Center for Policing Equity, a New York-based think tank, took three years to assemble and largely refutes explanations from some police officials that blacks are more likely to be subjected to police force because they are more frequently involved in criminal activity.
The researchers said they did not gather enough data specifically related to police shootings to draw conclusions on whether there were racial disparities when it came to the fatal confrontations between officers and civilians so in the news….
Aislinn Sol, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement in Chicago.
African-American activists who have demanded greater police accountability since the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., set off days of rioting, said Thursday that the study was critical to the conversation, but far from surprising.
“It’s kind of like, ‘Is water wet?’” said Aislinn Sol, organizer of the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter. “But what we gain with each study, each new piece of information is that we are able to win people over who are on the fence. The evidence is becoming overwhelming and incontrovertible that it is a systemic problem, rather than an isolated one.”…
The study found that the overall mean use-of-force rate for all black residents was 273 per 100,000, which is 3.6 times higher than the rate for white residents (76 per 100,000) and 2.5 times higher than the overall rate of 108 per 100,000 for all residents.
For those who were arrested, the mean rate of use of force against blacks was 46 for every 1,000 arrests, compared with 36 per 1,000 for whites….
IT is clear that you, white America, will never understand us. We are a nation of nearly 40 million black souls inside a nation of more than 320 million people. We don’t all think the same, feel the same, love, learn, live or even die the same.
But there’s one thing most of us agree on: We don’t want the cops to kill us without fear that they will ever face a jury, much less go to jail, even as the world watches our death on a homemade video recording.
A combination of images show the dying moments of Philando Castile, a black man shot by Minnesota police after he was pulled over while driving. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend broadcast the scene on her Facebook page. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
You will never understand the helplessness we feel in watching these events unfold, violently, time and again, as shaky images tell a story more sobering than your eyes are willing to believe: that black life can mean so little. That Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile, black men whose deaths were captured on film this past week, could be gone as we watch, as a police officer fires a gun. That the police are part of an undeclared war against blackness.
You can never admit that this is true. In fact, you deem the idea so preposterous and insulting that you call the black people who believe it racists themselves. In that case the best-armed man will always win.
You say that black folks kill each other every day without a mumbling word while we thunderously protest a few cops, usually but not always white, who shoot to death black people who you deem to be mostly “thugs.”
That such an accusation is nonsense is nearly beside the point. Black people protest, to one another, to a world that largely refuses to listen, that what goes on in black communities across this nation is horrid, as it would be in any neighborhood depleted of dollars and hope — emptied of good schools, and deprived of social and economic buffers against brutality. People usually murder where they nest; they aim their rage at easy targets.
It is not best understood as black-on-black crime; rather, it is neighbor-to-neighbor carnage. If their neighbors were white, they’d get no exemption from the crime that plagues human beings who happen to be black. If you want interracial killing, you have to have interracial communities.
After back-to-back killings of black men by police officers this week, scores of African-Americans declared on social media that they would be equipping themselves with a powerful tool: FacebookLive.
Philando Castile was the supervisor of a school cafeteria, much beloved by both the students and staff.
Facebook’s new live-streaming service and similar apps, like Twitter’s Periscope, offer the ability to not just record but to broadcast events as they are unfolding.
Viewers saw this firsthand when a woman streamed her boyfriend, Philando Castile, clutching his bloodied chest during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., on Wednesday, moments after he was shot by the police. As of Thursday, the video had been watched nearly four million times.
Those wrenching images on Facebook, along with the police shooting of Alton Sterling a day earlier in Baton Rouge, La., uploaded to YouTube and other platforms, reinforced the power of video, especially when live, in drawing public attention.
After news of the two shootings spread, many in the active black community on Twitter vowed to begin making live recordings of every interaction they had with the police….
Video has increasingly enabled citizens to document their interactions with the police. In 1991, the plumber who captured footage of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King used a Sony Handycam, and then sent the videotape to a local news station. Even with powerful digital cameras in smartphones, it still often took hours or days for footage to find its way online as recently as two years ago.
A flier distributed by Communities United Against Police Brutality in the Minneapolis area urges people to film their interactions with the police.
Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Mr. Castile, said during another Facebook Live session on Thursday that she put the video online to hold the officers accountable.
“I wanted to put it on Facebook and go viral so that the people could see,” said Ms. Reynolds, who uses the name Lavish Reynolds online. “I want the people to determine who was right and who was wrong.”…
Michelle Gross, the president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, based in Minnesota, said the spread of apps that instantly store video online represented a transformation in holding police accountable.
Ms. Gross’s group has distributed fliers encouraging residents in the Minneapolis area to download the Bambuser app, which immediately saves video online and protects it with a password. She said her group had heard of police officers confiscating and erasing images from cellphones.
Ademo Freeman, the founder of CopBlock, a group dedicated to documenting police actions, said that he had recommended dedicated apps like Bambuser but that Facebook, with more than a billion active users, had a big advantage.
“Facebook is something that everybody has, so it is very easy,” Mr. Freeman said. “Just because of the sheer number of people and its convenience, Facebook is probably going to become more popular for these types of videos.”…
Alton Sterling, 37 years old, was the father of five children.
Arthur Reed, the leader of the anti-violence group that released the cellphone video of the Baton Rouge shooting, said the case demonstrated the power that regular people had at their fingertips.
Mr. Reed’s group did not use a live-streaming app to capture the encounter, but decided to circulate the footage online to counter reports in which the police said Mr. Sterling had reached for a gun.
“We don’t have to beg the media to come and report on the stories,” Mr. Reed said. “We can put it out on social media now, and the story gets told.”
Binghamton, N.Y. — FOR more than two centuries, we have been reading the Declaration of Independence wrong. Or rather, we’ve been celebrating the Declaration as people in the 19th and 20th centuries have told us we should, but not the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams wrote it. To them, separation from Britain was as much, if not more, about racial fear and exclusion as it was about inalienable rights.
The Declaration’s beautiful preamble distracts us from the heart of the document, the 27 accusations against King George III over which its authors wrangled and debated, trying to get the wording just right. The very last one — the ultimate deal-breaker — was the most important for them, and it is for us: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” In the context of the 18th century, “domestic insurrections” refers to rebellious slaves. “Merciless Indian savages” doesn’t need much explanation….
Upon hearing the news that the Congress had just declared American independence, a group of people gathered in the tiny village of Huntington, N.Y., to observe the occasion by creating an effigy of King George. But before torching the tyrant, the Long Islanders did something odd, at least to us. According to a report in a New York City newspaper, first they blackened his face, and then, alongside his wooden crown, they stuck his head “full of feathers” like “savages,” wrapped his body in the Union Jack, lined it with gunpowder and then set it ablaze.
The 27th and final grievance was at the Declaration’s heart (and on Long Islanders’ minds) because in the 15 months between the Battles of Lexington and Concord and independence, reports about the role African-Americans and Indians would play in the coming conflict was the most widely discussed news. And British officials all over North America did seek the aid of slaves and Indians to quell the rebellion.
A few months before Jefferson wrote the Declaration, the Continental Congress received a letter from an army commander that contained a shocking revelation: Two British officials, Guy Carleton and Guy Johnson, had gathered a number of Indians and begged them to “feast on a Bostonian and drink his blood.” Seizing this as proof that the British were utterly despicable, Congress ordered this letter printed in newspapers from Massachusetts to Virginia….
Adams, Franklin and Jefferson were essential in broadcasting these accounts as loudly as they could. They highlighted any efforts of British agents like Dunmore, Carleton and Johnson to involve African-Americans and Indians in defeating the Revolution….It was a very rare week in 1775 and 1776 in which Americans would open their local paper without reading at least one article about British officials “whispering” to Indians or “tampering” with slave plantations.
So when the crowd in Huntington blackened the effigy’s face and stuffed its head with feathers before setting it on fire, they were indeed celebrating an independent America, but one defined by racial fear and exclusion. Their burning of the king and his enslaved and native supporters together signified the opposite of what we think of as America. The effigy represented a collection of enemies who were all excluded from the republic born on July 4, 1776.
This idea — that some people belong as proper Americans and others do not — has marked American history ever since…. All the African-Americans and Indians who supported the revolution — and lots did — were no match against the idea that they were all “merciless savages” and “domestic insurrectionists.” Like the people of Huntington, Americans since 1776 have operated time and time again on the assumption that blacks and Indians don’t belong in this republic. This notion comes from the very founders we revere this weekend. It haunts us still.