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Seeking Justice: Department of Justice Challenges Local Public Defense Programs

August 25, 2015
Lauren Kirchner
Displayed with permission from ProPublica

Shortly before Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation last September, he told an interviewer: “Any attorney general who is not an activist is not doing his or her job.” One of Holder’s more activist initiatives received attention last week when The New York Times highlighted how Holder’s Justice Department began the novel practice of filing arguments in state and county courts.

“[N]either career Justice Department officials nor longtime advocates can recall such a concerted effort to insert the federal government into local civil rights cases,” Matt Apuzzo wrote for the Times.

The agency has used so-called “statements of interest” to file arguments in existing court cases—sometimes cases brought by the ACLU, Equal Justice Under Law or other advocacy groups. One issue that’s garnered particular attention from Justice Department lawyers is fair access to legal defense, a right guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has filed four such statements in the past two years, a time in which bipartisan support has emerged for a renewed examination of how local and state governments are providing legal representation to the poor. The department maintains that it does not take a position on the facts of the case, but it argues larger points about civil rights issues with national implications.

“It’s very much like having an amicus brief, but it’s an amicus brief by the United States Department of Justice,” said Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “That carries a lot of weight. No municipality or state wants to be found to be violating Constitutional rights in the eyes of the Justice Department.”

As the Times story shows, local prosecutors and defense attorneys for the cities and states that suddenly come under this national microscope may not appreciate the attention, however. Nor do they necessarily agree with the Justice Department’s premise that it is not taking sides in the cases at hand. Scott G. Thomas, the attorney who defended Burlington, Washington in a suit challenging the city’s indigent defense program, objected to the way the case turned Burlington into a political symbol, telling Apuzzo, “it’s the Department of Justice putting their finger on the scale.”

Joshua Marquis, the elected district attorney in Clatsop County, Oregon, who also serves on the executive committee of the board of directors of the National District Attorneys Association, considers problematic indigent defense systems more episodic than epidemic. “The idea that this is somehow symptomatic of some sort of major civil rights emergency in America is just plain crazy,” he said. Where smaller jurisdictions lack funding for indigent defense, it follows that the prosecutors in those same jurisdictions lack funding, too. “To me, that’s just as dire a problem,” said Marquis, “and since, frankly, most victims are poor people and people of color, I would be really impressed to see the United States Justice Department pick that up.”

The Supreme Court ruled in the 1963 case Gideon v. Wainwright that each state had to establish means of representation for defendants who couldn’t afford it themselves. But the federal government only provides best practices, grants and training; it’s left to the states to decide how to interpret Gideon’s mandate and how much money to allocate to it. Some states leave the decisions about indigent defense and funding for it entirely to counties. As a result, the quality of one’s counsel heavily depends on the location of the alleged crime.

“It’s very difficult to explain the patchwork quilt that is the right to counsel in America,” said David Carroll, executive director of the Sixth Amendment Center, an advocacy group for indigent defense. “People watch TV cop dramas, where everyone asks for a lawyer in police lockup, and they come back from commercial break, and there’s the lawyer … The difference between what they believe and what’s actually happening is very broad.”

The gap between what many Americans consider to be adequate defense, and the reality on the ground in local courts, is what advocates say these lawsuits seek to close. The potential remains for many more investigations and filings, as well. “The DOJ could almost take a dart, and throw it at a map, and there would be a problem with indigent defense in that particular place,” said Ernie Lewis, executive director of the National Association for Public Defense. “And I don’t think I’m exaggerating.”

Here are the jurisdictions where DOJ lawyers have filed statements of interest in cases addressing indigent defense:

Washington (Cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington)
In an August 2013 statement of interest in Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon, the Justice Department asked a federal court in Washington to appoint an “independent monitor” to oversee new reforms to the indigent defense system there. This was the first statement of interest of this kind, and advocates say it had a huge impact — in signaling that the Justice Department was going to enforce this issue in a new way, and in tangible changes to the Washington system, as well. The judge in the case “took it and really ran with it, and there’s big changes now happening all across Washington,” said the Sixth Amendment Center’s Carroll.

In the conclusion of his decision, which refers to the 1963 ruling in Gideon, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik wrote: “The notes of freedom and liberty that emerged from Gideon’s trumpet a half a century ago cannot survive if that trumpet is muted and dented by harsh fiscal measures that reduce the promise to a hollow shell of a hallowed right.”

New York
Back in 2007, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a suit on behalf of 20 defendants against the state of New York, arguing that five counties were denying effective counsel to indigent defendants. Ontario, Onondaga, Schuyler, Suffolk and Washington counties did not have a public defense system or standards in place at the time; they had just contracted with private attorneys on an ad-hoc (and apparently inadequate) basis. The Justice Department joined the suit with a statement of interest in September 2014. A settlement followed within weeks, mandating the creation of a new public defense office, standards for defendant eligibility, and more state funding for the attorneys.

Alabama (City of Clanton)
With its statement of interest in February of this year, the Justice Department joined a lawsuit against the city of Clanton for its practice of setting bail without regard for a defendant’s flight risk or ability to pay. Christy Dawn Varden, a plaintiff in the case, was arrested for shoplifting at Walmart, and a judge assigned her a $2,000 bond—$500 for each of Varden’s four misdemeanor charges. Living on $200 a month in food stamps, Varden could not pay the bond, and so stayed in jail. “By taking action in this case, the Justice Department is sending a clear message: that we will not accept criminal justice procedures that have discriminatory effects,” said Holder in a statement. “We will not hesitate to fight institutionalized injustice wherever it is found.” As a result of the case, city officials agreed to reform the way it assigned bail.

In March, the Justice Department filed a statement of interest addressing the rights of juveniles accused of delinquency in Georgia. The complaint alleged that officials were denying the juvenile defendants’ right to counsel, by encouraging the children to waive a right that they didn’t really understood they had. It argued that these young defendants were subject to “assembly line justice”; acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta said “The systemic deprivation of counsel for children cannot be tolerated.”

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(Video) Donald Trump Kicks Jorge Ramos Out Of Press Conference: ‘Go Back To Univision’

August 25, 2015
Maria G. Valdez
Displayed with permission from Latin Times

At first we thought that Donald Trump running for president had to be a joke. Then he had to bring up the comment about undocumented immigrants and call them “rapists” and “criminals” among other nasty things. After that, everything he said just sounded ridiculous and at some point we were all hoping this was all a big joke. But The Donald is just getting worst. His latest bit was to refuse to answer a questionby Jorge Ramos at a press conference in Iowa and proceeded to send his security to escort the respected Univision journalist out.

“Sit down, you weren’t called. Go back to Univision,” Trump said as Ramos tried to ask a question that the candidate saw as being out of turn. Trump insisted that Ramos was “out of order” when several reporters asked him about the incident later. “You can’t just stand up and scream. He’s obviously a very emotional person. So I have no problem with it,” Trump said later. Ramos and Trump were having an exchange on immigration when the Univision reporter said, “You cannot deport 11 million people, you cannot build a wall, you cannot deny citizenship to children in this country,” before security approached him. “You cannot touch me sir, I have the right to ask a question,” Ramos told security as they escorted him out.

However, it is being reported that Ramos was able to return to the room and ask his question later. Take a look at the clip below.

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Real Heroes. Four Men (Three American) Receive France’s Highest Honor After Bravery on Train Stopping Terrorist

From the left, British businessman Chris Norman, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, and Alek Skarlatos a U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon pose at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
From the left, British businessman Chris Norman, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, and Alek Skarlatos a U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon pose at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France.  (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)

PARIS (AP) — The president of France pinned his country’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur, on three Americans and a Briton on Monday, saying they “gave a lesson in courage” by subduing a heavily armed attacker on a high-speed train carrying 500 passengers to Paris.

President Francois Hollande said that while two of the Americans who tackled the gunman were soldiers, “on Friday you were simply passengers. You behaved as soldiers but also as responsible men.”

Hollande then pinned the medals on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their longtime friend Anthony Sadler. All took part in subduing the gunman as he moved through the Amsterdam-to-Paris train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. British businessman Chris Norman, who jumped into the fray, also received the medal.

The Americans looked earnest and slightly overwhelmed — and a little under-dressed — for the unanticipated event in the ornate Elysee Palace. Their short-sleeved polo shirts and khakis contrasted with the gilded and velvet-curtained ceremonial hall as Hollande read out their names one by one — and kissed them on each cheek, in French style.

It was an unusual ceremony for the French president’s office too, as dozens of photographers loudly shouted out the Americans’ names as they approached Hollande standing on the steps of the palace— unlike the quieter, more-subdued welcome for visiting heads of state. The four men listened to a translation of Hollande’s speech through earpieces, and the visibly proud mothers of Stone and Skarlatos looked on.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley also attended the ceremony, along with the head of French national railway authority SNCF.

The men showed “that faced with terror, we have the power to resist. You also gave a lesson in courage, in will, and thus in hope,” Hollande said.

Norman said it was less a question of heroism than survival.

“I said to myself, ‘You’re not going to die sitting there doing nothing,'” he told The Associated Press after the ceremony. “I would do it again. But I don’t know — I think you never know the reaction you will have in those kinds of situations.”

The businessman said he “never thought I’d ever been given such a medal. I will try to be a credit to this honor.”

His arm in a sling and his eye bruised, the 23-year-old Stone has said he was coming out of a deep sleep when the gunman appeared.

Skarlatos, a 22-year-old National Guardsman who was recently back from Afghanistan, “just hit me on the shoulder and said ‘Let’s go,'” Stone said.

With those words, Hollande said, a “veritable carnage” was avoided.

“Since Friday, the entire world admires your courage, your sangfroid, your spirit of solidarity. This is what allowed you to with bare hands — your bare hands — subdue an armed man. This must be an example for all, and a source of inspiration,” Hollande said.

Stone left later Monday for Ramstein, Germany, where U.S. air power in Europe is based, and then went for a military medical check at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, according to spokesman Juan Melendez.

Skarlatos also traveled Monday to Germany “to accompany his friend after the traumatic experience they went through together,” Melendez said. Sadler’s plans were not made public.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday the U.S. military services are considering “appropriate awards to recognize their heroic actions.” Those recommendations would be up to each individual service. He added that it also will be up to each service’s uniform regulations to determine whether Stone and Skarlatos can wear the Legion of Honor; generally foreign awards are not worn except “under certain circumstances when you’re in dress uniform.”

Davis added that, “we continue to be very proud of Airman Spencer Stone and his friends, who took immediate action to stop that attack and subdue the armed gunman. Airman Stone is on the road to recovery. We do thank our French partners for taking care of him.”

The gunman, identified as 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani, is detained and being questioned by French counterterrorism police outside Paris.

El-Khezzani’s lawyer, Sophie David, told Le Monde newspaper the gunman is ill-educated, emaciated, and told her he had spent the past six months traveling between Belgium, Germany and Austria, as well as France and Andorra. She said he told her he only intended to rob the train with a cache of guns he came across in a public garden near the train station and is “dumbfounded” that it is being treated as an act of terrorism.

A French passenger was the first to try to stop the attacker and was also honored Monday, but he did not want his identity publicly known, Hollande said, who added “I understand” the decision.

Hollande said another passenger, French-American citizen Mark Moogalian, also intervened. Moogalian is hospitalized with a gunshot wound from the incident — and his wife told Europe-1 radio Monday that he, too, “is among the heroes in this story.”

Isabella Risacher-Moogalian described hiding behind train seats from the attacker and then seeing her husband wounded. “He looked at me and said ‘I’m hit, I’m hit.’ He thought it was over and he was going to die,” she said.


Lori Hinnant and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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(Video) $3.2 Billion to Military Contractors Off United States-ISIS War

ISIS Weapons

While the Dow Jones takes a small percentage plummet the past few days military contracting is booming. Lockheed Martin and AM General particularly, are reaping the rewards of the War against ISIS by selling weapons and vehicles. A percentage of which has fallen into the hands of the enemy. These weapons are not being tracked very well either. Simone Del Rosario from the Pentagon

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The Torture Conspiracy: The CIA and the American Psychological Association (APA) Collaborated to Break the Law

An independent review has found that leaders of the American Psychological Association (APA) covered up the extent of their involvement in post-September 11, 2001 “coercive interrogation programmes”, according to a report released on Friday.

Former APA president Joseph Matarazzo told the CIA that in his opinion "sleep deprivation is not torture on its own" [EPA]
Former APA president Joseph Matarazzo told the CIA that in his opinion “sleep deprivation is not torture on its own” [EPA]

High-level professionals from the APA – the largest association of psychologists in the US – secretly colluded with Pentagon and CIA officials to ensure the group’s ethical guidelines did not hinder members from taking part in interrogation programmes known to have included torture, the report found.

The seven-month probe, spearheaded by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman, has already led to the firing of at least one official – Stephen Behnke, APA’s ethics director – and is sending shock-waves nationwide.

The findings, first reported on Friday by the New York Times, appear to be a result of the most detailed investigation to date of behavioural scientists’ involvement in Bush era programmes that at times used torture as a form of extracting information.

The 542-page report “contains deeply disturbing findings that reveal previously unknown and troubling instances of collusion … between a small group of APA representatives and government officials”.

The investigation showed that APA officials collaborated with defence department officials “to defeat efforts by the APA’s legislative body to introduce and pass resolutions that would have definitively prohibited psychologists from participating in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other US detention centres abroad”.

‘Curry favouring’

Hoffman also found that the collusion of the association’s ethics chief and others was made with the intent to “curry favour” with the defence department, and that may have enabled the government’s use of abusive interrogation techniques related to the Bush Administration’s “war on terror”.

Two former presidents of the APA were on a CIA advisory committee, the report also showed. One – Joseph Matarazzo – told the CIA that it was his opinion that “sleep deprivation is not torture on its own”.

The findings showed that “current and former APA officials had very substantial interactions with the CIA in the 2001 to 2004 time period” when the agency was using “techniques like waterboarding, harsh physical actions such as ‘walling’, forced stress positions”, and the intentional deprivation of necessities, such as sleep and a temperature-controlled environment.

The APA, which includes more than 125,000 members, expressed outrage at the report’s findings, saying it would make substantial internal changes that include revisions to its ethics policies and possibly a sweeping ban on psychologists from taking part in interrogations made by intelligence and military authorities in the US or abroad.

“The Hoffman report contains deeply disturbing findings that reveal previously unknown and troubling instances of collusion,” said Susan McDaniel, a member of a special committee set up by the APA to review the report.

The association review committee’s chair acknowledged that the APA’s internal checks and balances failed to detect the “collusion”, and that despite the ‘intent’ not to contribute to human rights violations, the result may have been just that.

“The actions, policies and the lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values,” Dr Nadine Kaslow said. “We profoundly regret, and apologise for, the behaviour and the consequences that ensued. Our members, our profession and our organization expected, and deserved, better.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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Baltimore Officer Charged with Attempted Murder in December Shooting

August 20, 2015
Justin Fenton and Colin Campbell
The Baltimore Sun
Displayed with permission from Tribune Content Agency

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore police officer has been charged with attempted murder in the shooting of an unarmed burglary suspect last December, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby and interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis announced Wednesday.

The officer, 13-year veteran Wesley Cagle, is accused of shooting Michael Johansen, 46, in the 3000 block of E. Monument St. after he had been shot by two other officers. Cagle was charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault.

Mosby said the first two officers were justified in shooting Johansen because he refused to heed commands and made a move toward his waistband.

But Cagle “on his own initiative” came out of an alley, Mosby said, stood over Johansen, called him a “piece of (expletive)” and shot him in the groin.

“Johansen was no longer considered a potential threat, as witnesses did not see Johansen make any aggressive or threatening movements,” Mosby said.

Both Cagle and Johansen are white.

The charges come months after Mosby filed charges against six officers in the arrest and transport of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Baltimore man who died in April after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in a police van.

The officer who drove the van was charged with second-degree murder; others were charged with manslaughter or lesser charges.

Cagle, 45, is the first Baltimore police officer criminally charged in an on-duty shooting since Officer Tommy Sanders, who was charged with manslaughter in the 2008 shooting of an unarmed man who ran to evade arrest. A jury acquitted Sanders of all charges in 2010.

Davis, the interim commissioner, called the charges a “punch in the gut” but said that when officers learn more about the case, they will “realize that this Police Department and state’s attorney’s office did the right thing.”

“It doesn’t make me feel very good at all,” Davis said. “But what’s really important here is that the integrity of our profession, the integrity of our agency, wins out.”

Cagle was taken into custody Wednesday, police said. Bail information was not available.

Gene Ryan, president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said that he “did not have all of the facts surrounding this investigation” but that “this officer will have his day in court, and I have faith that the judicial system will properly determine guilt or innocence.”

Ryan said it was his responsibility as union president “to represent and support each and every one of our members until such time as the evidence suggests otherwise.”

“As I have stated numerous times in the past, no one is above the law, but all citizens of our nation are entitled to due process.”

The shooting occurred about 4:30 a.m. Dec. 28. Officers were called to the Madison Eastend neighborhood for a report of a burglary at a corner grocery store.

Cagle and Officers Keven Leary and Isiah Smith took up positions on the side and rear while Officer Dancy Debrosse went to the front, Mosby said. Leary and Smith then went to the side door while Cagle went to the alley.

Debrosse looked through the front door of the store, saw a masked man near the cash register and watched him head toward a side door, Mosby said. Leary and Smith confronted him, she said, and told him to show his hands. When he didn’t comply and instead reached toward his waist, she said, they fired at him.

He fell to the floor, his body partially inside of the store and his feet on the steps outside.

While Leary and Smith were covering him with their guns drawn, Mosby said, Cagle walked in and stood over him with his gun drawn. The man said to Cagle, “What did you shoot me with, a beanbag?”

According to Mosby, Cagle replied: “No, a .40-caliber, you piece of (expletive),” and fired one shot.

At the time of the incident, the Police Department said the officers fired because they believed they saw Johansen holding a “shiny object,” and that he was shot at least once in the upper torso. Police did not mention the gunshot wound to his groin area.

Mosby said no weapon was recovered from the man.

Cagle joined the Police Department at age 32. He earned $76,021.76 in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Court records show he was among several officers sued in 2004. Records show a settlement was reached, but detailed information was not available late Wednesday.

In March 2014, Cagle filed for bankruptcy in U.S. District Court in Maryland, records show.

Court records show Johansen is awaiting trial on charges including second-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary and theft of less than $1,000. He is free on $20,000 bail pending a jury trial scheduled for Sept. 9. He had no attorney listed in court records.

Records also show that Johansen has been charged in a series of burglaries and thefts. In 2006 he received a 10-year suspended sentence for second-degree burglary.

Mosby drew praise and criticism in May when she filed charges against the officers in Gray’s arrest with violations ranging from misconduct in office to second-degree murder.

Mosby filed the charges after what she said was an investigation by her office, conducted parallel to a police investigation.

Supporters said the move helped to calm a city that had erupted in riots, arson and looting. Police union leaders warned that they could affect the ability of officers to do their jobs. Arrests in the city plummeted after the charges, and homicides and other violence have soared.

The six officers in that case have pleaded not guilty; a trial is scheduled to begin in October.

Of the charges against Cagle, Davis noted that the Police Department investigated the incident in conjunction with prosecutors.

Asked about the viability of the charges, Mosby said: “We’re going to let justice run its course, and that will be up to a judge or a jury to determine.”

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Seeking Justice: St. Louis Mayor, Police Chief Call for Calm, Peace after Police Shooting

August 20, 2015
Tim O’Neil
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Displayed with permission from Tribune Content Agency

ST. LOUIS — After a night of violence on Page Boulevard, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay gathered with a dozen black ministers at a nearby church Thursday to plead for calm. One block away, relatives and friends of a young man who was shot by police during a raid — the spark for the violence — met at the site to defend his name.

Mansur Ball-Bey, 18, of Spanish Lake, north of St. Louis, was shot at midday Wednesday by two officers who helped serve a search warrant on a residence in on Walton Avenue, just south of Page. Police said Ball-Bey fled the building and pointed a pistol at the officers before they fired, fatally wounding him. He died at the scene.

Police Chief Sam Dotson said the address was well known as a place “for drugs and guns.” He said police had served a warrant there about 18 months ago and found several firearms. This time, he said, they found cocaine and four guns, three of them stolen, including the one they allege Ball-Bey was holding.

Relatives said Ball-Bey was visiting cousins who live there. They denied it was a drug house and called him a good young man who had a job as a package handler for FedEx.

The shooting touched off tense protests on Page Boulevard Wednesday afternoon and violence after dark, including the burning of a vacant building and a parked car. Dotson said some in the crowd threw bricks and water bottles at police, who fired tear gas and made nine arrests.

On Thursday, Slay and Dotson joined members of the St. Louis Clergy Coalition at the West Side Missionary Baptist Church on Page. That’s one block east of, and within sight of, the scene where Ball-Bey was killed. They asked for an end to violent protests.

“It has been very difficult to see and experience this,” said the Rev. Ronald Bobo, a coalition member and pastor of West Side. “Residents are afraid. There are many good people in this community. They are still here, and they still want to see that (the neighborhood) is good.”

Slay said the Fountain Park neighborhood has been the scene of shootings and violence in recent weeks, including the carjacking Sunday of a Tuskegee airman, 93, who had gotten lost. On the same block of Walton, a toddler shot himself in July with a gun that had been left out by an uncle. The child survived.

Peace “is not going to happen unless we all work together as a community,” Slay said. “The wider community supports the protest goals, but we have to be mindful of the fact that criminals use a peaceful cover for their criminal activity.”

He said his thoughts were with Ball-Bey’s family but also with “the police officers who were caused to have to respond and be in a position to have to shoot the young man,” Slay said. Officers, he said, “are in our neighborhoods every day trying to bring peace in our community.”

The Rev. Charles Brown, president of the Clergy Coalition, backed the police but called for communication between officers and protesters.

“We let the police know that we are in support of them. They have a mammoth job,” said Brown, pastor of Mount Airy Missionary Baptist Church. “But until there is a dialogue between the police and the young people, this won’t be solved. Everyone is at fault.”

Dotson denounced those who broke windows of shops, stole from a corner market and burned a building and car Wednesday. He said police didn’t want to use tear gas, but felt they had to. He called for patience during the investigation.

“We are open and transparent, we have some of the most progressive policies in the country (to address officer-involved shootings),” Dotson said. “Police work is difficult.”

He noted that, despite the tension Wednesday night, no one was injured.

Other ministers who spoke were the Rev. Earl Nance, a past president of the coalition and pastor of Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, and the Rev. Rodney Francis, pastor of Washington Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. Slay left to attend a family funeral, and the ministers stayed for a private discussion of the tensions.

One block west, relatives of Ball-Bey gathered at the same time outside at the two-family flat on Walton. With them was Jerryl Christmas, a lawyer representing the family. A few protesters, one of them masked, waved signs a few feet away at the Page-Walton traffic light. Teddy bears were tied to a fence as a shrine.

Christmas also is the lawyer for the family of VonDerrit Myers Jr., 18, who was fatally shot by police on Oct. 8 in the Shaw neighborhood. Occurring two months after Michael Brown was shot to death in a confrontation with a Ferguson police officer, the Myers killing compounded the conflict over relations between police and young black men in the St. Louis area.

Christmas said Ball-Bey recently graduated from McCluer South-Berkeley High School and dropped by the Walton residence after he got off work. A FedEx spokesman confirmed that he worked there part time.

“He got off work and just came over here to holler at some of his cousins,” Christmas said. “He isn’t any drug dealer. He isn’t a gunman. He’s a kid from a good family.”

Christmas said Ball-Bey’s parents and four siblings live in a home in Spanish Lake. He said Ball-Bey was wearing a FedEx uniform when he was killed, although a police spokeswoman said that was not true.

On Thursday, police announced a charge against Roderick Williams, who was arrested in the search of the home on Walton. He is a accused of unlawful possession of a firearm. A woman who was also at the home was released, police said.

Debbie Ball, an aunt of Ball-Bey who lives at the Walton residence, called the chief’s accusation about drugs and guns “a lie.” Ball said she was not home when police raided her apartment. Shonetda Ball, another relative who owns the building, also disputed the chief’s accusation, and said that police often harass young men in the neighborhood.

“They’re scared and they run,” said Shonetda Ball.

Attorney Denise Lieberman of the Advancement Project alleged that the “militarized response” by police Wednesday night was “designed to intimidate peaceful protesters so they can’t exercise their right to free speech.”

Brendan Roediger, a law professor and staunch ally of the protest movement, claimed that the use of tear gas violated a post-Ferguson federal lawsuit settlement that put restrictions on city and county police and the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Anyone exposed to tear gas should “get to lawyers as quickly as possible” to pursue damages, said Roediger, who teaches at St. Louis University.

Dotson said police followed the agreement, providing protesters with advance warning and escape routes. “The settlement talked about not using tear gas during a lawful assembly,” he said. “Our officers were being assaulted, hit with bricks, so that’s when it became an unlawful assembly.”

Minister Todd Irons-El, grand sheik of Moorish Science Temple of America, went to the Walton address Thursday afternoon and said he had known Ball-Bey and his family since the young man was born. Irons-El said the youth was a regular at the temple and assisted in youth programs.

“He was an excellent young man, very respectful,” Irons-El said.

Many members of the Moorish Science denomination add “Bey” or “El” to their last names. Irons-El said the temple has no connection to Jerry Lewis-Bey, who is serving a life term for running a narcotics gang in St. Louis during the 1980s and using a different temple as cover.

Democratic Alderman Sam Moore took part in the Slay-clergy news conference and then dropped by the Walton residence. He noted that city workers were cutting brush and trees in the area, something he said he had been pushing for a long time. He said the ward has many problems, including poverty and vacant buildings.

To the sound of chain saws on a nearby block, Christmas, the lawyer, said, “It’s not until somebody dies that the city pays attention to this neighborhood.”

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Women in Weed

August 20, 2015
Displayed with permission from Newsweek

It seems fitting that a plant called Mary Jane could smash the patriarchy. After all, only female marijuana flowers produce cannabinoids like the potent THC chemical that gets users buzzed. Pot farmers strive to keep all their crops female through flowering female clones of one plant, called the Mother. And women are moving into the pot business so quickly that they could make it the first billion-dollar industry that isn’t dominated by men.

In Washington, Greta Carter says she’s the mom with the most mother plants and the most lucrative female flowering crops of any legal pot farm in her state. A former Citibank vice president and mother of five, Carter is just a little bit country: She has a gap-toothed smile and a shaggy platinum bob the same hue as Dolly Parton’s. Of the 2,400 people who applied for the first recreational marijuana growing facility licenses in the Evergreen State in 2012, Carter was the 71st approved. Her first weed ranch, the 45,321-square-foot farm Life Gardens near Ellensburg, is now one of the biggest and oldest legal recreational marijuana farms in the world.

Three years ago, Carter had a vital and potentially dangerous mission: find as many still-outlawed marijuana strains as possible in just 15 days. The 2012 ballot initiative that authorized the recreational sale of marijuana didn’t specify where the newly certified growers could obtain them, and there was just a 15-day window during which Carter says the government agreed to “close its eyes.” To start their weed farm, Carter and her partners had to acquire plants from illegal dealers—and did they ever. They amassed about 1,600 plants of 70 or so different strains.

The hardest part was smuggling the contraband to her farm. “It was scary,” says Carter. “We had so many plants that, technically, we weren’t covered under Washington law.” She loaded her 1,600 plants into the back of a semi and didn’t look back until she reached Life Gardens. “It was such a relief when I arrived home,” she says. “Everything within those fences is protected by the state. Otherwise, the feds could have arrested me.”

Carter would know: She helped write Washington’s Initiative 502, the measure that legalized pot for anyone 21 and older, and hatched the state’s first marijuana trade organization, the Coalition for Cannabis Standards & Ethics. She says that when sales of recreational pot were proposed in 2012, the state Liquor Control Board approached the CCSE for information. “The board didn’t know the difference between butane extract and cannabinoids,” she says. “We all kind of grew together. I was able to influence some of the rules and regulations, and I’m still influencing those rules and regulations.”

Carter didn’t birth I-502 alone: The author of the measure was Alison Holcomb, a director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and self-described “soccer mom.” You might not expect a Venn diagram containing “soccer moms” and “weed” to have much overlap, but a decade ago, Jenji Kohan created a TV dramedy exploring that odd intersection. Weeds, which ran on Showtime for eight seasons, starred Mary-Louise Parker as a “hemptress” who dealt dope in an upper-middle-class, white suburban neighborhood. “We scream inappropriate,” Kohan told about the show. “And there are consequences for the impropriety.”

Not so much anymore. During the past few years, hundreds of women have been screaming along with Weeds—but as models of propriety in the newly regulated marijuana industry. Indeed, many female entrepreneurs are striking Acapulco Gold. Though the industry is still predominantly male and employment statistics are somewhat vaporous, the power and influence of women are, by all signs, on the upswing. In the summer of 2014, Women Grow—a professional marijuana women’s networking group—launched with just 70 people; today, the monthly chapter meetings in 30 cities attract more than 1,000 women nationwide. The two-year-old Marijuana Business Association, a Seattle-based B2B trade group, started a Women’s Alliance in 2014 that now boasts 500 members. In just two years, Women of Weed, a private social club in Washington, has seen its membership swell from eight to 300.

Drug reform activist attorney Shaleen Title says half of the employees at her marijuana recruitment agency, THC Staffing, are women. “I am especially seeing more women with corporate ‘mainstream’ experience looking to join the marijuana industry,” she says. “With time, there will be more women with marijuana experience.”

Just like in Washington, women in Colorado were important players in the crafting and implementation of the legalization measure amendment. Title joined the Amendment 64 campaign in the summer of 2012. “As a senior staffer, I worked with several other women on the campaign,” she says. Most notably, attorney Tamar Todd, now the director of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance; Betty Aldworth, the primary spokeswoman and now executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which supports other young women activists; and Rachelle Yeung, now an attorney with Vicente Sederberg, a marijuana-focused law firm. Title says women were chosen deliberately in order to reach women. “Betty had a particular ability to relate to the mainstream. I had previously helped with California’s Prop 19 campaign in 2010, where we had trouble securing women’s votes before the initiative ultimately failed. We knew that women’s votes were crucial.”

In Colorado and Washington, the key demographic in the legalization movements were 30- to 50-year-old women, according to a study by the Wales-based Global Drug Policy Observatory. “I think women can help demonstrate that it’s a reasonable choice for a lot of people,” Title adds. “And it’s not going to turn you into Cheech or Chong.”

Most recently, Title helped draft an initiative in Massachusetts to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Another pending ballot initiative, for California in 2016, is sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project.

Marijuana legalization has been billowing through the states in the past three years faster than most people can say “Sensi Star.” “It’s one of the fastest-moving social issues I’ve ever seen,” says Nevada Representative Dina Titus, a pot advocate in Congress. To date, 40 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug in some form, primarily for medicinal purposes. In four of those states (Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington) and D.C., recreational marijuana is allowed and anyone over 21 can purchase it. But the war on drugs is still being fought, and when it comes to ending it, “we have a long way to go before we get there,” Titus says.

Despite its illegal federal status, the marijuana business is one of the nation’s newest and fastest-growing industries. Regulated weed (medical and recreational) made $2.7 billion in nationwide revenue in 2014 alone, up from $1.5 billion in 2013 (medical only, the first recreational shops weren’t open in Washington and Colorado until January 2014). By 2019, the pot sold in all states and districts with legalization is projected to reach nearly $11 billion yearly, according to estimates by ArcView Market Research, an Oakland, California-based pot-focused investor network and market research company.

As pot legalization spreads, women are taking over more roles in the industry. There are female cannabis doctors, nurses, lawyers, chemists, chefs, marketers, investors, accountants and professors. The marijuana trade offers women a shortcut to get ahead in many avenues, and women in turn are helping to organize it as a viable business. Eloise Theisen in Lafayette, California, started the American Cannabis Nurses Association. Emily Paxhia analyzes the cannabis financial marketplaces as a founding partner at the marijuana investment firm Poseidon Asset Management. Meghan Larson created Adistry, the first digital advertising platform for marijuana . Olivia Mannix and Jennifer DeFalco founded Cannabrand, a Colorado-based pot marketing company. In Berkeley, California, three female lawyers—Shabnam Malek, Amanda Conley and Lara Leslie DeCaro—started the National Cannabis Bar Association, and Conley and Malek also started Synchronicity Sisters, which hosts Bay Area “Tupperware parties” to sample pot products made by women for women.

Among the most successful pot pioneers are the women who spot a void in the marketplace and fill it. In Washington, Carter’s latest marijuana brainchild is a co-op, along the lines of the autonomous associations that unite the state’s apple and produce farms. Within the marijuana community, it’s believed that the federal government will legalize marijuana soon, and Carter plans to open cultivation and processing centers in Nevada, Alaska and Florida.

Maureen McNamara is starting a statewide certification program in Denver for people in the pot business. Many marijuana edible chefs take her Food Safety classes and her Sell Smart program is popular among marijuana retailers. She has been working directly with Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, and her curriculum is awaiting approval to become the first certified responsible vendor program, much like those in the bar and alcohol business.

Cannabis science seems to be where women are making the most progress the fastest. Genifer Murray, a scientist who runs a Colorado cannabis testing facility called CannLabs, says she employs mostly women with advanced science degrees. “In a typical science, like environmental or medical, it would take them 20 to 30 years to become something,” she says. “We’re in the infancy. My scientists are going to be cannabis experts—some already are.”

Murray insists that women are better suited for the cannabis industry and will keep flocking to it . “ This is a compassionate industry, for the most part, especially if you’re dealing with the medical side. The medical patients need time and consideration, and women are usually the better gender for that. T he industry is flat-out geared for women.”

Amanda Connor is an attorney who, along with her husband, launched a Nevada-based practice that focuses on weed business law. Though particularly adept at navigating the murky waters of the regulated marijuana industry, Connor calls the weed industry a “legal minefield,” because anyone who gets into the trade is a criminal in the eyes of the feds.

A former kindergarten teacher, Connor is a mother of two who lives on the grounds of a country club in the Vegas burbs. At the elementary school her children attend, some parents won’t let their kids hang out with hers. “The mothers and fathers don’t approve of my work. You’ve got to be willing to have taboo associated with you. Not that I feel like I’m committing any crime at all.”

Pot is currently classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I drug, which, according to the agency’s website, is “the most dangerous of all drug schedules,” with a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.” Marijuana shares that classification with heroin, bath salts and what CNN has called the “ flesh-eating Zombie drug,” Krokodil. Crystal methamphetamine and cocaine are Schedule II drugs—which means the feds consider meth safer than marijuana.

“On account of its federal status, most big law firms don’t want to touch weed,” Connor explains. “Ethically, lawyers aren’t supposed to give advice about illegal activities. Major firms are afraid to lose clients.” Her boutique firm may be the only one in the country that takes marijuana providers through the entire byzantine process, from licensing to opening a shop.

Another renegade is Boulder, Colorado-based marijuana tax law attorney Rachel Gillette. She recently sued the IRS—and won—on behalf of a client who was denied an abatement of a 10 percent penalty for paying his taxes in cash. But cash was the only option: Because of federal law, marijuana enterprises deal only in cash, as banks shun them. “It’s a difficult situation for many marijuana businesses, with regard to banking,” says Gillette. “Most banks do not take marijuana business accounts, even in states where it is legal. They can’t afford the compliance cost. It’s too risky.” So far, Gillette has been the only marijuana attorney to beat the IRS on this issue.

Women face more problems than just snoops from the DEA or IRS—they also have to worry about Child Protective Services. Fortunately, there are women working in cannabis-specific roles to fix that too. “There’s an incredible amount of misogyny in both the political movement and the industry,” says Sara Arnold, co-founder of Family Law & Cannabis Alliance, which helps mothers who have had their children taken away by CPS due to an association with medical marijuana.

Arnold became involved with the issue when she was investigated by CPS for her medical marijuana use. “At the time, no one else was talking about CPS, custody battles or anything regarding cannabis and parental rights,” she says. “So I started talking and writing about it, and then helping people on my own…. I consider this my life’s work.”

The scariest moment of Dale Sky Jones’s career was when she thought she’d have her kids taken away. Sky Jones, a longtime-marijuana activist and founder of the California medical marijuana training school Oaksterdam University, was pregnant with her second child and watching after her first kid ( 2½ at the time) when she was asked to participate in a press conference on pot. She took her toddler with her to the conference (there wasn’t any marijuana there, only a room full of reporters) to discuss legalization in Mexico.

Later, one of the reporters, columnist Debra Saunders, called her and told Sky Jones the subject of her article was the fact that she had brought her son to a pot press conference. “I started to cry because I knew what she could do,” Sky Jones says. “I could get my kids taken for bringing one of them to a cannabis conference. She put a target on my back and on my kids’ foreheads. [But] nothing ever happened. Thank God.”

The standard-bearing men in the weed industry have taken notice of all the new women. “It’s common to find women running businesses throughout the industry and holding key positions in dispensaries, retail stores, cultivation operations, infused products companies and ancillary firms,” says Chris Walsh, founding editor of Marijuana Business Daily, a marijuana news source and host of a national industry conference . “When planning our Marijuana Business Conference & Expo these days, we have a wealth of women leaders to choose from.” ArcView CEO Troy Dalton says he’s seen a flood of women in the marijuana industry over the past year, and adds that it ’s also “become very unfashionable very quickly to have scantily clad women repping products at B2B trade shows.”

But women’s presence in the pot industry does more than just close the gender gap—their participation is necessary to legitimize marijuana as a business. “The mom in her 40s is the one with the power to push marijuana into the mainstream once and for all,” says Title, the drug reform attorney.

During the Great Depression, a New York society dame named Pauline Sabin played a key role in overturning Prohibition. She had been part of the national temperance movement, composed mostly of women, who believed that drinking liquor was destructive and that banning it would solve America’s social ills. But after the 18th Amendment was ratified, in 1919, Sabin became distressed by the hypocrisy of politicians, the ineffectiveness of the law and the growing power of bootleggers and gangsters. In 1929, she founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. She testified before Congress, lobbied both political parties and built support for the amendment’s repeal. By 1932, the WONPR had 1.5 million members. Sabin was so formidable that Time magazine ran her picture on its cover. Drinking suddenly had a new face—and it belonged to an exceedingly proper lady.

Today, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws annually bestows its Pauline Sabin Award on a female activist “in recognition of the importance of women in leadership positions in organizations dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition.” This year’s award recipient was Ellen Komp, deputy director of NORML California. Komp says she received the award for her longevity: She’s been speaking out about marijuana reform for 22 years—or, as she puts it, “since the days when I was often one of the only women in the room.”

But the woman who appears to have united the most women in the marijuana industry this year is Jane West, the founder of Women Grow. West, by her own admission, is “one part Martha Stewart and one part Walter White.” In 2012, she was fired from her corporate job in Denver after vaping on camera in a local news interview. It was the night Amendment 64 passed, making pot legal in Colorado. A clip of the segment played on national TV. Afterward, she launched her own marijuana event-planning company, Edible Events. “When I first entered the industry, I joined all the women’s groups,” she says. “I tried and waited for four months in Denver, but there wasn’t a single meeting. Weed had just become legal, and all of the women in the Women’s CannaBusiness Network told me they were now too busy with their businesses to hold meetings. That’s when I decided to start Women Grow.”

Soon after, she was joined by Jazmin Hupp, whom she met at a National Cannabis Industry Association conference. Hupp had previously started a group for female founders in tech called Women 2.0, the group West modeled Women Grow on.

This past February, West’s newsletter featured an open invitation to accompany her to Washington, D.C., and help lobby Congress for cannabis legalization. She didn’t expect anyone to show, but 78 women—all wearing red scarves to show solidarity—came from 14 different states for the three-day event. Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Representative Jared Polis of Colorado spoke at the news conference Women Grow hosted at the National Press Club.

This month, Representatives Titus and Eleanor Holmes Norton, of the District of Columbia, spoke at Women Grow events. Norton believes groups like Women Grow and the women in the legal pot business increase the chances of federal legalization. She says she’s noticed that the female potrepreneur population is “growing faster than” the marijuana legalization movement itself. She’s equally impressed by the number of women who have entered the D.C. cannabis industry “so early on.” (D.C. legalized recreational marijuana only a few months ago.) “How in the world are there so many women entrepreneurs in this very new commercial field?” she asks. “Women aren’t even seen as particularly entrepreneurial.” She was even more excited about how these women “pioneers” were changing the public perception of the pot business.

For Norton, legalizing marijuana is more than just creating a booming business with gender equity in her district. It’s also about ending the war on drugs and reforming a racially biased criminal justice system. “A concern in the District of Columbia was the disparity in who gets arrested. We think we’ve licked that with the legalization that we have been able to do.

More than $51 million is still spent annually by the U.S. on the war on drugs. Five years ago, police in the U.S. made a pot-related arrest every 37 seconds. According to the ACLU, 7 million citizens were busted for weed in this country between 2001 and 2010. Studies have shown that although marijuana usage rates among blacks and whites are roughly equal, blacks are almost four times more likely to be booked. But Norton says that her colleagues’ reports show that since D.C. legalized marijuana, the illegal market has pretty much dried up. “Even teenagers smoke less than they did before legalization,” she says. “So what’s to be against here?”

Marijuana legalization and the recent efforts to reform the DEA have become bipartisan issues. For Democratic pot advocates, it’s “tied to criminal justice reform,” says Titus. “For the Republicans, it’s more tied to issues of states’ rights.”

Recently, Congress passed three legislative amendments to prevent the DEA and the Department of Justice from undermining state marijuana laws. Some $23 million was trimmed from the DEA’s budget, which is shifting its attention to child abuse, rape kits, the national deficit and internal police corruption cases.

Titus is skeptical, though: “It’s an ideological as well as a pragmatic problem. I don’t know if any of these budgets or appropriations are going to really move forward.”

She says Women Grow is inspiring her to bring together other women in Congress to push for legalization and drug reform laws. She’s teamed with Representative Barbara Lee of California, the only other woman who’s advocated for weed in Congress. Will they start their own Women Grow in Congress? “I think that’s a possibility, and that’s what we should be working on,” Titus says. “I have traveled with Barbara in California, and I think she’s amenable to that. So I guess we need to get Eleanor on board too.”

Earlier this summer, I visited Gecko Farms in that other Washington. Gecko Farms is a charter member of Greta Carter’s co-op. The first thing I noticed was the ladybugs crawling all over the pot leaves, their bright red shells conspicuously juxtaposed against the greenery. “Ladybugs eat mites off marijuana plants,” Carter explains.

Buzzing and crawling, the cute insects instantly changed my perception of the grow house from an illicit drug den to a charming indoor or outdoor garden. Slowly, the ladybugs speckled my arms and legs with a Lily Pulitzer-like pattern.

And just like the ladybugs in the grow house, women in the brave new legal world of marijuana are doing important work while helping to alter perceptions of this Schedule I drug.

Within the immense covered garden, horticulturists misted the leaves by hand. Nearby, in Gecko’s drying rooms, counterculturalists got dressed in what looked like hazmat suits. Contamination is a big concern, Carter explains, and s tate inspection is stringent. “It’s funny how scared people are of a plant,” she says

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(Videos) How Hillary Clinton and Other Candidates Talk About Black Lives Matter

After an August 11 rally in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, met with activists from the grass-roots Black Lives Matter movement. A video of the exchange surfaced August 17 on YouTube. In the clip, three activists press Clinton on her plans to address violence against blacks by law enforcement. Clinton discussed the ways in which she could help support the movement, which led to some disagreement, as the two sides appeared to talk past each other.

“Once you say…this country has not recovered from its original sin, which is true…the next question is…What do you want me to do about it? What am I supposed to do about it? That’s what I’m trying to put together, in a way that I can explain it and I can sell it. Because in politics, if you can’t explain it and you can’t sell it, then it stays on the shelf.”

“This is—and has always been—a white problem of violence,” one organizer said. “There’s not much that we can do to stop the violence against us.” In a conversation marked by interruptions and palpable tension, Clinton responded with her own views.

“Well, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with the very real problems,” she said.

“What you just said is a form of victim blaming,” the organizer argued.

Comparing the Black Lives Matter activists with their civil rights predecessors, Clinton went on to say that legal action is the most effective method to solve the problem in the short term. “I don’t believe,” she said, “you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not.”

Clinton didn’t make clear what specific reforms she might pursue as president, nor did the activists ask her to advance a specific policy agenda. She went on to argue that improving economic opportunities for “people who deserve to have them”—to “live up to their own God-given potential…to have a decent school, to have a decent house, to have a decent future”— would be an important part of the equation. The second part of the two-part video can be viewed here:

The organizers’ exchange with Clinton underscores how the Black Lives Matter movement has affected the 2016 presidential campaign. Activists have used the upcoming election to drum up support from voters and candidates for reforming law enforcement practices and changing federal drug policies, among other issues.

Here’s how some other major candidates have responded to the movement.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders was interrupted at a rally in Seattle by Black Lives Matter protesters, who forced him to give up the microphone and asked the crowd to “hold him accountable” for not doing enough to address police violence against blacks. Sanders, who has been involved with the civil rights movement going back to his college days, left the stage.

The Sanders campaign apologized to Black Lives Matter, but Sanders himself later retracted the apology, which was emailed out by a campaign staffer, by saying it wasn’t necessary.

In an interview with The New York Times Magazine published Tuesday, Sanders was asked about the hashtag “BernieSoBlack”—a Twitter meme that comments on Sanders’s past civil rights activism and history representing the mostly white state of Vermont—and steered the conversation in a more serious direction:

“As a nation, we have to move away from a situation where black women are dragged out of their cars, thrown to the ground, assaulted and then die in jail three days later for the crime of not signaling a lane change,” the candidate said, referring to Sandra Bland.

Sanders’s official campaign website attempts to differentiate his position from Clinton’s by emphasizing the experience of victims. Under the tag “racial justice,” the site reads, “We must pursue policies that transform this country into a nation that affirms the value of its people of color. That starts with addressing the four central types of violence waged against black and brown Americans: physical, political, legal, and economic.”

Under the first category (physical), the site lists a number of shooting victims, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown. “People are angry and they have a right to be angry,” the site says. Sanders’s website includes specific policy proposals, such as mandating that police reports on deaths that occur while a person is in police custody (such as the documents from the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury decision on the Brown shooting) be made publicly available. Sanders also advocates getting rid of for-profit prisons and mandating body cameras for police officers.

Scott Walker

The reason that Black Lives Matter activists have hit the campaign trail—and do things like interrupting Sanders or meeting with Clinton—is to try to force the issue of police violence into the national discussion.

During the first Republican presidential debate, moderators from Fox News posed the issue to Wisconsin Governor Walker, who framed it in terms of law enforcement practices and procedures:

“It’s about training. It’s about making sure that law enforcement professionals…have the proper training, particularly when it comes to the use of force…and that we protect and stand up and support those men and women who are doing their jobs in law enforcement, and for the very few who don’t, that there are consequences, to show that we treat everyone the same here in America.”

However, Fox cut to a commercial immediately after Walker’s response, and no other candidates had the opportunity to address the issue during the debate.

Jeb Bush

Critics of Black Lives Matter say that it promotes racial exceptionalism—valuing black lives over others. Last week, Newsweek covered a protest at a Jeb Bush rally in Nevada that saw “Black lives matter” chants countered with chants of “All lives matter.” During a visit to New Hampshire in July, Bush defended Martin O’Malley, a Democratic candidate, for saying “All lives matter” during a campaign speech. Bush argued that O’Malley should not have apologized for the comment after being pressured by activists, and criticized what he views as a national climate of political correctness.

“Political correctness” is one of the more divisive issues affecting the Black Lives Matter movement. The “All lives matter” crowd argues that the movement detracts from attention to other issues, like black-on-black violence, but most Black Lives Matter activists regard this kind of response as tone-deaf because it draws attention away from racial biases in the police system.

Like Clinton, Bush has come out in favor of improving educational opportunities for minorities when answering questions about police violence against unarmed African-Americans.

Ben Carson

Carson also said that it was “silly” for O’Malley to apologize for saying “All lives matter.” He has cited this as an example of political correctness run amok.

In the middle of the following NBC interview, Carson expresses his support for body cameras, which supporters say hold police accountable by automatically filming encounters that could lead to the use of force.

In the interview, Carson also said that “we need to look at the whole picture” rather than addressing only white-on-black violence. Carson talks about the Black Lives Matter movement by placing it in the context of other social problems facing many African-Americans, like black-on-black crime. In a Fox News segment, Carson told a reporter that “what we need to be talking about is how do we solve the problem—in the black community—of murder.”

Donald Trump

The loudest of the GOP presidential candidates hasn’t stepped into the fray on this issue to the same extent that he has on others, like immigration. Trump told Meet the Press that he could understand why African-Americans might not trust the police in today’s climate, but he also took a “law and order” stance.

“We have to give power back to the police because we have to have law and order,” he told the program’s Chuck Todd.

“You’re always going to have mistakes made,” Trump added. “And you’re always going to have bad apples. But you can’t let that stop the fact that police have to regain some control of this tremendous crime wave and killing wave that’s happening in this country.”

Trump’s go-to example of the supposed “crime wave” was a series of riots in Baltimore that took place earlier this year after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who went into a coma after suffering head and neck injuries in a police vehicle. Trump’s response framed the discussion around a major theme of his campaign: the perception that the U.S. is falling apart.

Marco Rubio

In an August 13 interview, Rubio expressed sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement to Fox News. Though he said the issues being raised by protesters might not have governmental solutions, he acknowledged the prevalence of racial profiling by police.

“We do need to face this. It is a serious problem in this country…. Because you have a significant percentage of our population that feels that they are locked out of the promise of this country, and the result is the anxiety and the frustration that you’re now seeing expressed,” he said.

About the protesters themselves, Rubio said, “I don’t know if this group has a detailed policy agenda, but it is a legitimate issue.”

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Ben Carson Surges in the Presidential Polls: Releases Official Video

August 18, 2015
Displayed with permission from PR Newswire
ATLANTA, Aug. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — As American citizens struggle to find a political figure to stand by for the 2016 presidential election, Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson has released his official promise of healing, change and the revival of the American Dream. Highly accredited and decorated pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Carson collaborated with Grammy Nominated Multi-Platinum Super Producer Kevin “Khao” Cates, founder of the non-profit organization Bridge Da Gap, to produce a powerful video sharing his message. The video transcends by echoing beyond the financial, business and political burdens plaguing the country, but more so develops a human connection between the cultural divide and evolution towards a brighter future. The mission not only has tremendous social influence and celebrity support, but Khao’s unique style has created a visionary masterpiece for capturing and stimulating the emotions behind the American people especially in the working class. The United States of America has been longing for leadership to establish a unified front as we face various daunting challenges at home and unprecedented threats abroad. America searches to reclaim our pride and status as a force to be reckoned with.

“Breath of Fresh Air” uses grassroots efforts in attempting to appeal to our Nation’s younger demographic. Through this inspirational montage, highlighting Dr. Carson’s strong values, impressive accolades and achievements, the video focuses on his rise from obscurity and underscores his objective to create the same opportunities in America once again.

“Government should respond to the people, not the other way around,” states Carson.

Widely proclaimed as a “non-politician,” Carson currently stands out as he climbed to the #2 spot in the primary polls behind media headliner, Donald Trump. The people have been jaded and lost trust in the campaign process thanks to false hope and candidates who simply could not deliver.

It is known actions speak louder than words, and so “Breath of Fresh Air” chronicles the early process of a true American Renaissance being put into action.

About Ben Carson

In 2001, Dr. Carson was named by CNN and TIME Magazine as one of the Nation’s twenty foremost physicians and scientists. That same year, he was selected by the Library of Congress as one of eighty-nine “Living Legends.” He is also the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the NAACP. In June, 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, the highest civilian honor in the land. Dr. Carson holds sixty-seven honorary doctorate degrees. He is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, the Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Science, the Horatio Alger Society of Distinguished Americans, and many other organizations. He sat on the board of directors of numerous entities, including Kellogg Company, Costco Wholesale Corporation, the Academy of Achievement, and is an Emeritus Fellow of the Yale Corporation, the governing body of Yale University. He was appointed in 2004 by President George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Council on Bioethics. Dr. Carson has spoken twice during the National Prayer Breakfast, in 1997 and again in 2013.

Author & Thinker

Dr. Carson is a prolific author, having published eight books, including his autobiography,  Gifted Hands, and two titles that were New York Times Bestsellers,  America the BeautifulRediscovering What Made This Nation Great, and  One NationWhat We All Can Do to Save America’s Future.Gifted Hands was the subject of the award-winning, made-for-television movie under the same title as the book in which Cuba Gooding, Jr. played Dr. Carson in the leading role.