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NYPD Issues Statement After Video Shows Officers Throwing Protester into an Unmarked Van

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In a video surfacing on social media, New York City police officers are seen aggressively forcing a teenage protester into an unmarked van on Tuesday.

What We Know:

  • The incident happened in Manhattan on Tuesday at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 25th Street. Protesters are seen on video drawing attention to the incident as additional officers are seen on bicycles trying to “fend off” protesters. The victim, Nicki, is an 18-year-old transgender woman. These events are similar to those in Portland, Oregon with the use of federal agents to stop protesters.
  • According to a witness, Derrick, a 32-year-old protester, “Four guys jumped out and a line of police bicycles came out from down the block — we hadn’t seen them. They pushed us back. They grabbed Nicki like she was a rag doll…They had her arms on her neck and then they drove off.” Other witnesses also say the woman did not partake in what she is being accused of by the NYPD.
  • A tweet issued by the NYPD stated that the woman was “wanted for damaging police cameras” and for assaulting the department’s Warrant Squad with rocks and bottles. The statement the NYPD released advised that she was charged with criminal mischief and making graffiti.

  • New York City councilwoman Carlina Rivera confirmed early Wednesday that the woman had been released. She, among other city officials have called for a review of the incident and for the reason behind police using unmarked vans to detain protesters.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the video is troubling, but that no one is allowed to damage police property and that protesters should “protest peacefully”.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

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Texas Governor Signs Voting Restrictions Bill into Law

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Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law a bill that bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting, imposes new hurdles on mail-in ballots and empowers partisan poll watchers.

What We Know:

  • Texas joins Florida and Georgia, in enacting new restrictive voting measures, instigated by former president Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud.  At least 10 other states are considering similar laws in their state houses.  Opponents of SB1 said its provisions will disproportionately restrict voting access for marginalized voters, particularly black and brown people of color and those with disabilities.
  • Democrats in Texas fled the Capitol in Austin for weeks in an effort to stymie the bill — first preventing the passage of a similar measure at the end of the state’s regular legislative session in May, then forcing Abbott to call two special sessions to tackle what the governor called “election integrity.”  The election overhaul in Texas comes as Republicans seek to hold onto power in a rapidly changing state where people of color make up virtually all of the population growth — and that growth is concentrated in large cities that tend to vote Democratic.
  • The new law directly targets Harris County, the home of Houston (22.6% Black), which last year offered drive-thru voting and 24-hour early voting. The bill restricts the hours counties can offer early voting to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. while also prohibiting tactics that aide voter participation and engagement.  In the 2020 general election, Harris County used a garage at the Toyota Center, enabling voters to vote from their cars amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“SB 1 is an appalling, anti-democracy effort by Texas Republicans to construct barriers to voting for people they believe will not support them. What makes this bill and similar ones Republicans are pushing across the country even more un-American is that Republicans are using the ‘Big Lie’ about the 2020 election as a pretext to support them. The reality is that these bills have nothing to do with election integrity or security, but rather are discriminatory measures making it harder for all people to vote. These bills will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color.” –Eric Holder, US attorney general for US President Barack Obama

  • Senate Bill 1 also blocks counties from sending unsolicited mail-in voting applications, even to those over the age of 65, who are immediately eligible to vote-by-mail, per law.  The rules include restrictions for those who previously helped persons with disabilities and enables partisan poll watching, a tactic long used by republicans and white supremacists to intimidate Black people from voting.

 

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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Police officers and medics indicted by grand jury in 2019 death of Elijah McClain

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Police and paramedics in suburban Denver will face charges in the case of Elijah McClain, the young Black man who died in 2019 after he was detained and placed in a chokehold by officers, following eight months of a grand jury investigation convened by Colorado’s top prosecutor.

What We Know:

  • State Attorney General Phil Weiser said Wednesday that two current officers, one former with the Aurora Police Department and two paramedics will be charged with one count each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, as well as other charges. The indictment is a total of 32 counts.  This announcement comes two years after the death of McClain, who was 23 when he was killed.

“I said our investigation would be guided by a commitment to the facts, by thorough and diligent work, and we would be worthy of public trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. These remain the guiding principles of this matter.” -Phil Weiser, State Attorney General

WHAT HAPPENED

McClain’s encounter with police began just after 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2019, after he bought iced tea from a corner store. At the time, McClain, a massage therapist, was wearing a ski mask — which he typically did because of a blood condition that made him feel cold, according to his family.  Three Aurora police officers were called to the area on a report of a suspicious person wearing a mask and waving his arms.

Bodycam video later released showed officers ordering McClain to stop. He responded that he was an introvert and to “please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.”

After questioning him, the officers grabbed McClain. One of them said he believed McClain had reached for a holstered gun, and McClain was brought to the ground. Aurora police said in a statement that he “resisted contact, a struggle ensued, and he was taken into custody.”

Authorities said officers applied a carotid control hold on McClain, a type of chokehold meant to restrict blood to the brain to render a person unconscious. Paramedics were called to the scene, and McClain was injected with ketamine to sedate him after police video showed him writhing on the ground saying, “I can’t breathe, please,” and vomiting. He apologized for vomiting.

About seven minutes after he received the drug, McClain was found to have no pulse in the ambulance and went into cardiac arrest, according to a report released in fall of 2019 by local prosecutor Dave Young. Medics were able to revive McClain, but he was later declared brain dead and taken off life support less than a week later.

  • The Adams County Coroner’s Office determined that McClain’s death was due to “undetermined causes,” and that the “evidence does not support the prosecution of a homicide,” according to Young’s report. Young declined to press charges against the officers.  McClain’s death prompted months of protests by local activists that dovetailed into national demonstrations demanding systemic changes in policing fueled by last year’s lynching of George Floyd.
  • Aurora police banned carotid control holds last summer, and separately, federal authorities said they were reviewing whether a civil rights investigation is warranted. A lawsuit filed by McClain’s family in August 2020 alleges that excessive force used by the officers over a span of 18 minutes caused an increase of lactic acid in his blood, and mixed with the ketamine injected into him, negatively affected his respiratory system.  An independent probe commissioned by the city of Aurora and released in February concluded police had no justification to stop or use force to detain McClain, and responding paramedics sedated him with ketamine “without conducting anything more than a brief visual observation.”

 

This is a Breaking News story and may be updated.

 

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Five Cuban Generals Have Died Recently, Sparks Discussion and Speculation

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Critics suggest the deaths that occurred between July 19 and 26 are due to Cuba’s current COVID-19 spike.

What We Know:

  • Within nine days, Cuban state media announced that five generals passed away. These generals were Armando Choy Rodriguez, Eduardo Lastres Pacheco, Ruben Martinez Puente, Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, and Agustín Peña Pórrez. The men, aged 58-87, served in the military under the communist regime and were considered war heroes. Despite their reputation on the island, the government has not released the causes of their deaths.
  • Cubans on the island and exiles wonder what happened to those generals. Many believe that a majority of their deaths come as a result of the pandemic. On August 1, Cuba reached 9,747 new coronavirus cases and 2,845 deaths. The Cuban government aims to slow the spread down by enforcing tight restrictions and creating their own COVID-19 vaccine. However, they have been unsuccessful, especially as more and more Delta variant cases pop up.
  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio mentioned the oddity behind the deaths in a series of tweets. Rubio mentioned that high-ranking military officials faced “some incredibly bad luck lately,” reporting the deaths of Lastres Pacheco, Martinez Puente, Verdecia Perdomo, and Peña Pórrez. When Cuba revealed that Choy Rodriguez died, he called the issue “very strange.”

  • The deaths also come weeks after islanders took to the streets to protest the regime on July 11. Among the several reasons for the protests include Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s ignorance on reducing the number of cases. Cuba elected not to join the World Health Organization (WHO)’s COVAX agency, which would have provided them coronavirus vaccines. Instead, officials chose to continue work on creating their own form of immunization. In addition, Cubans experience a hard time when trying to receive medical assistance in hospitals due to unsanitary or inaccessible medical supplies and a crumbling health system.

Since July 11, several human rights organizations and countries have condemned the Cuban government for its behaviors towards its citizens. U.S. President Joe Biden also sanctioned military leaders and began looking for ways to provide help in the form of internet access and remittances to the island.

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