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Biden Inauguration: All 50 U.S. States on Alert for Armed Protests

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Barricades are being assembled around the US Capitol ahead of the 20 January inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. EPA

All 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) are on alert for possible violent protests this weekend, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

What We Know:

  • National Guard troops from across the country are being deployed to Washington, D.C. to prevent any repeat of the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6. The FBI has warned of possible armed marches by pro-Trump demonstrators at all 50 state capitols.
  • Trump, who lost both popular and electoral votes, encouraged his supporters to attend rallies. Later at the U.S. Capitol, throngs of people pushed past police who were trying to block them from entering the building as lawmakers inside debated counting electoral college votes confirming Biden’s victory. The mob was able to breach security and successfully enter the building, where one person was shot and later died.

  • Windows are boarded and fences are being constructed with hopes of preventing disturbances similar to those that played out at the Capitol building. One official in Vermont stated this is the highest alert his state has been on since the September 11 terror attacks. “There is a heightened state of alert and concern that we have not seen since 9/11,” Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling said.
  • While Vermont has not activated its National Guard, Schirling said they are ready if needed. Other states, like Kentucky, have already activated the National Guard. Connecticut has K9 teams conducting additional security lengths around government buildings and has increased the number of visible units inside and outside those campuses. Further, bike rails have been placed on the north and south sides of the Capitol building, forming a barricade between potential rioters and law enforcement.
  • The governors of Maryland, New Mexico, and Utah have all declared states of emergency ahead of possible protests. California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin are amongst those activating their National Guards, and Texas will shut its state capitol from Saturday until after inauguration day. Arizona has put up fences around the Capitol complex.
  • Social media companies have warned that there has been increased talks and organization from far-right users and channels planning possibly violent protests this weekend in hopes of obstructing the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
  • Parler is suing Amazon after the technology company booted the social network supported by the far-rights off its web-hosting services, alleging it’s being targeted for political reasons and to reduce competition.

“Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021,” Twitter said late last week.

While many are plotting in support of President Donald Trump, the president released a statement earlier this week requesting his supporters not to be violent at upcoming protests. Twitter said it was working to restrict the spread of posts about possible violent protests planned for January 17.

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Headlines

Illinois State Program Offers Health Coverage to Seniors Regardless of Legal Status

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Illinois has implemented a program that offers health coverage to low-income immigrant seniors regardless of their legal status in the U.S.

What We Know:

  • This is important because, under federal law, Americans who lack legal status are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or Obamacare enrollment. The bill was signed into law last year, and 2,200 people have enrolled since its institution. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services expects the policy to cover almost 4,600 people statewide.
  • According to Hayley Burgess of the National Immigration Law Center, Illinois is the first state to fully fund a health coverage program that focuses on noncitizen immigrant seniors. The health coverage bill is sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Delia Ramirez, who is also a member of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus. The program was successfully passed in 2020, notably due to the impact of COVID-19. Ramirez remarked, “Covid was killing people, and it was a human rights violation.”
  • As mentioned above, the program is state-funded, which means that patients don’t experience any copays or enrollment fees. Before the program was implemented, a clinic in Brighton Park, Chicago, revealed that the uninsured rate for older patients older than 65 was 31%. Two-thirds of Brighton Park’s senior population are immigrants, according to census data. With the increased expansion of the program, it’s possible to lower the rate of 31% down to 14.5%.
  • Currently, it costs 8,500 a year to ensure a senior citizen under the program. According to a recent study by FAIR Health, the average cost for an uninsured hospitalized COVID-19 patient reaches as high as $74,000 for a week visit. However, despite the number of costs the program saves patients, a few remain hesitant to apply.
  • This has caused concern to rise regarding fear of being deported, which can be attributed to Trump’s immigration policies. A study by the Urban Institute found 1 in 7 adults in immigrant families have reported not having enrolled in healthcare programs, even when they’re eligible for benefits. They fear enrollment could impact their legal status.

Only time will tell how successful the innovative program may turn out for many and if other regions in the U.S will follow by example.

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Judge Rules Only One George Floyd Family Member Allowed in Chauvin Trial at a Time

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Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police Officer, charged with George Floyd’s death, is set to stand trial on March 8th.

What We Know:

  • The ruling issued by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill on Tuesday mandates that only one of Floyd’s family members be allowed in the courtroom at a time. Different family members can rotate in the position throughout the trial with the proper credentials. The order applies to the family of Chauvin as well. Jury selection for the trial will begin on Monday, with opening arguments beginning no earlier than March 29th. 
  • Access to the proceedings by family members will be restricted by necessity, as space inside the courtroom during the highly anticipated trial will be limited due to covid protocols. In addition, the order forbids “any mask or article of clothing that contains any image, logo, letters, or numbers that are visible.”
  • Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three of the other officers present during the incident–Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, have been charged with aiding and abetting Floyd’s death and will stand trial together in August.
  • The family’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci related the Floyd family’s sentiments in a joint statement Tuesday, “while they understand the judge’s reasons to limit attendance in the courtroom, the family is understandably disappointed by this ruling. The family is looking forward to the start of the trial as a critical milestone on the path to justice and a step toward closure in this dark chapter of their lives.”

The death of the late Minneapolis resident, who was killed last May during a confrontation with police over allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, has continued to be the staple of nationwide protests over police brutality over the past year.

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Crime

Dallas Police Officer Arrested and Charged in Connection with Two 2017 Murders

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A Dallas police officer has been taken into custody for allegedly ordering the deaths of two people.

What We Know:

  • According to NBC News, Officer Bryan Riser, 36, was arrested on Thursday morning and charged with two counts of capital murder. Riser is believed to be connected to the murders of Lisa Saenz, 31, and Albert Douglas, 61. Saenz was found shot to death in the Trinity River in March of 2017. Douglas was reported missing in February of 2017, but his body was never found.
  • Despite being murdered just two weeks apart, the incidents are believed to be unrelated. Dallas Police Department Chief Eddie Garcia held a press conference to address the public.

“We received information from a witness that implicated Riser in both murders,” Garcia stated. “The motive for these murders is unknown at this time, and this remains an ongoing investigation.”

  • According to the affidavit for the arrest warrant, Riser offered $3,500 for a hit on Albert Douglas and another $6,000 to one of the three people who was arrested in connection to Saenz’s murder in 2017. Riser instructed the witness and others to kidnap and kill both individuals and dump their bodies in the Trinity River.
  • Riser joined the department in August of 2008 and has been patrolling South-Central Dallas while under investigation for the killings. This is not Riser’s first known offense either. In May of 2017, Riser was arrested after being accused of misdemeanor assault family violence, causing bodily injury towards an ex-girlfriend. An Internal Affairs investigation was conducted at the time, but no further details have been released.
  • As the Internal Affairs administrative investigation continues, Riser has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome. The department is moving as quickly as possible toward termination. Chief Garcia said they would be looking deeper into Riser’s arrest record in light of the charges against him.

Jail records show Riser’s bond has been set at $5 million, $2.5 million per charge.

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