The New York City Council on March 25 passed five bills and three resolutions aiming to increase the transparency and accountability of the New York Police Department (NYPD). One bill ends qualified immunity for police officers, meaning that individual officers may be sued for rights violations. The move makes New York the first US city to ban the use of qualified immunity for police officers. The legislation also creates a new "local civil right," protecting residents from unreasonable searches and seizures as well as from the use of excessive force. Another measure requires the NYPD to issue quarterly reports on vehicle stops, including information on the demographics of targeted drivers, whether vehicles were searched with or without consent, and other information.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed suit in federal court against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Jan. 14 over its handling of peaceful protests and use of excessive force. In her complaint, James charged that the NYPD unjustifiably used pepper-spray and batons against Black Lives Matter protesters in violation of official department policies, asserting that such action caused protesters to suffer both physical and psychological harm. Additionally, James charged that officers corralled protesters without an opportunity to disperse, resulting in mass arrests without probable cause. James stated that this use of excessive force violated protesters' First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
In Episode 61 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg warns that following Trump's instrumented right-wing insurrection at the Capitol building, violence in the final lead-up to Inauguration Day could provide the expedient for execution of his long-planned coup d'etat—precisely as had been foreseen in the novel It Can't Happen Here. Despite fascist-abetting denialism from elements of the "left," even members of Congress are now asserting that the ransacking of the Capitol was carried out with complicity of elements of the security forces. Republicans meanwhile engage in despicable propaganda that equates the insufficient Democratic support for the Black Lives Matter uprising or protests against ICE putting kids in cages with Republican support for an attempted right-wing putsch. The statement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff holds out hope that leaders in the Pentagon may refuse Trump's orders. But a popular outcry to #StopTheCoup could be critical in giving them the courage to do so.
Police and demonstrators clashed in Paris Nov. 28 as some 45,000 filled the streets to protest a new security law, with large mobilizations also seen in Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and Nantes. The new law would severely restrict publishing of the images of police officers. The issue was given greater urgency by video footage of Paris police savagely beating local Black music producer Michel Zecler days earlier. President Emmanuel Macron said the images "shame us," but critics point out that their release could have been barred if his new security law had already been in force. Four officers have been suspended over the incident, but there have been no arrests. (Al Jazeera, NYT, EuroNews)
Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections, and the horrific realities of Russia's client state in Syria, is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. Syria solidarity activists have long been aware of the flood of pro-Assad disinformation on social media. Research from the University of Washington corroborated what activists have observed—it documented four times as many disinformation tweets about the Syrian White Helmets volunteer first-responder group in 2017 compared to factual tweets. In 2016, we saw the same pro-Assad sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated "Leftbook" social media and helped depress the progressive vote. Ten million fewer Democrats voted in 2016 than 2012—a decisive factor in Trump's win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some "left" sites, while Trump's incipient fascism is downplayed.
Another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit. The UN General Assembly has elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. China was supported by 139 of the 191 nations that voted, and was one of 16 nations that sought the 15 available seats. (The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones.) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with "abhorrent human rights records," stating: "These elections only further validate the US decision to withdraw and use other venues and opportunities to protect and promote universal human rights." The US left the Human Rights Council in June 2018. (Jurist)
The NYPD's violent mass arrest of peaceful protesters in the South Bronx this past June violated international human rights law and will likely cost New York City taxpayers several million dollars in misconduct lawsuits, according to a new investigation by Human Rights Watch. The in-depth report examines the June 4 incident in the Mott Haven district, where hundreds of demonstrators were "kettled" behind police barricades before being arrested. As riot police blocked protesters' path minutes before Mayor Bill de Blasio's 8 PM curfew, a second line of officers charged them from behind, "unprovoked and without warning...wielding batons, beating people from car tops, shoving them to the ground, and firing pepper spray into their faces before rounding up more than 250 people for arrest."
In Episode 57 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg makes the odious but essential case for a tactical vote to defeat Trumpism, a political phenomenon that represents an updated variant of fascism. This alone will not be sufficient, as Trump will almost certainly not leave office willingly, but attempt to cling to power by any means. If he succeeds, we could be at the moment Italy experienced in 1922, and Germany in 1933. Biden is a domesticated Beltway mediocrity, and even if he wins the country is still going to be in deep crisis. A mass movement strong enough to defeat Trump's power-grab could also be strong enough to press its offensive against Biden, and wrest concessions to a progressive agenda—or even (much more ambitiously) begin to build parallel power. But it begins with defeating Trump, and this must mean a sound electoral defeat as well as mass mobilization in the streets.