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Category Archives: War On Drugs
Posted: June 6, 2020 at 5:57 pm
Tens of thousands of people may have been killed during Rodrigo Dutertes war on drugs in the Philippines, according to a damning UN report that warns of impunity and calls for an independent investigation into abuses.
The anti-narcotics crackdown in the Philippines, launched by the president after he won the 2016 election on a promise to rid the country of drugs, appears to have resulted in widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings, the report says.
It adds that rhetoric by the highest officials has potentially emboldened police to behave as though they have permission to kill.
The report, the UNs strongest condemnation yet of recent abuses in the country, says there is an overarching focus on public order and national security, often at the expense of human rights, due process, the rule of law and accountability.
Despite credible allegations of widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs, there has been near impunity for such violations, the report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says.
Since mid-2016 in the Philippines there has been only one conviction for the killing of a drug suspect in a police operation. The report says police regularly raid homes and private property without warrants, and systematically force suspects to make self-incriminating statements or risk lethal force.
Witnesses, family members, journalists and lawyers said that they feared for their safety and described a situation where the practical obstacles to accessing justice within the country are almost insurmountable.
The government denies there is a policy to kill people who use drugs and states that all deaths occur during legitimate police operations.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, described the testimonies as heartbreaking. People who use or sell drugs do not lose their human rights, she said.
The report also raises alarm over the vilification of dissent, adding that attacks against perceived critics are being increasingly institutionalised and normalised in ways that will be very difficult to reverse.
The government has increasingly filed criminal charges against people criticising the government online, it says, including by using Covid-19 special powers laws. The UN Human Rights Office also documented that between 2015 and 2019 at least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists and trade unionists were killed in relation to their work.
The report says it could not verify the number of extrajudicial killings during the anti-drugs crackdown without further investigation. It says government figures indicate at least 8,663 people have been killed, but some estimates put the toll at triple that number.
Amnesty described the report as a vital step towards accountability.
There are growing calls among rights groups for the UN Human Rights Council which is expected to hold a session on the Philippines this month to order a further independent inquiry into abuses in the Philippines, as it has done in Myanmar and Venezuela.
Like the UN, we are deeply concerned by the total impunity enjoyed by those who have perpetrated these crimes, said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnestys Asia-Pacific regional director.
Posted: at 5:57 pm
President Trumps reelection campaign is seizing on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Bidens record as a chief sponsor and champion of punitive anti-drug laws that have contributed to mass incarceration.
In a blog post on Tuesday, the campaign attacked Biden as a typical Washington career politician who spent decades building up Americas mass incarceration system and poisoning the public discourse with race-baiting, divisive and inflammatory remarks.
Bidens role in authoring bills ramping up the war on drugs during his time in the Senate is also being featured in a Trump 2020 video adsignaling that the president is angling to present himself as the drug policy reform candidate as the November election approaches.
Biden hasnt just stoked Americas racial divisions over the course of his decades in Washington, the blog post on donaldjtrump.com, which was later shared on Twitter by the technically unaffiliated super PAC America First, states. Biden was the chief architect of mass incarceration and the War on Drugs, which targeted Black Americans.
Biden voted to extend minimum penalties for people under 21 charged with selling marijuana, and introduced the civil forfeiture legislation which allows the government to seize assets of citizens accused of drug crimes, the campaign blog post continues. Biden helped write the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which created the 100:1 crack cocaine sentencing disparity and disproportionately targeted minority communities.
Bidens self-imagined reinvention as a racial healer is laughable and requires memory-holing decades of racially inflammatory rhetoric.
In the video ad released last month, the Trump campaign said that mass incarceration has put hundreds of thousands behind bars for minor offenses. Joe Biden wrote those laws.
Joe Bidens policies destroyed millions of black lives due to his role in advancing anti-drug laws and other criminal justice policies, it states. Joe Biden may not remember. But we do.
The campaign first indicated it would be highlighting criminal justice reform when it aired an ad during the Super Bowl in February touting the presidents commutation of a person convicted of a nonviolent drug offense.
Drug reform advocates have made similar criticisms of the former vice president, arguing that his record does not bode well for the prospects of comprehensive policy changes in the U.S. criminal justice system. His ongoing opposition to adult-use marijuana legalization has also been a source of frustration, despite his recent support for more modest proposals such as decriminalizing possession, allowing medical cannabis, federal rescheduling, expunging past convictions and letting states set their own laws.
That said, while the Trump administration has taken certain modest bipartisan stepssuch as signing sentencing reform legislation, granting clemency to certain individuals with prior federal drug convictions and voicing support for states rights when it comes to cannabis legalizationthe image of a uniformly pro-reform president that the campaign is attempting to present isnt the full picture.
Joe Bidens record on drug policy is quite abysmal given his role in the 1994 Crime Bill and as one of the lead advocates for increased mandatory minimum sentences and other policies that inflamed our crisis of mass incarceration in this country, Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. Unfortunately, despite not having a long legislative record like Biden for direct comparison, Donald Trumps history as it relates to racial justice and drug policy is also quite horrendous.
Trumps first attorney general, Jeff Sessions,rescinded Obama-era guidance known as the Cole memo. Under that directive, federal prosecutors were advised not to pursue action against individuals for state-legal cannabis-related activity, except under a select set of circumstances.
Also, while Trump has voiced support for medical cannabis legalization, hes on several occasions released signing statements on spending legislation stipulating that he reserves the right to ignore a long-standing riderthat prohibits the Justice Department fromusing its funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana programs.
Trump also asked Congress to end the medical cannabis protections as part of his fiscal year 2021 budget plansomething the Obama administration also previously did to no avail.
Despite his pledged support for medical cannabis and states rights, Trump evidentlyholds some negative views toward marijuana consumption, as evidenced in a recording from 2018 that was leaked two years later. In that recording, the president said that using cannabis makes people lose IQ points.
Another controversial administrative actionconcerns immigrants and marijuana. In April 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a memo stating that using marijuana or engaging in cannabis-related activities such as working for a dispensaryeven in states where its legalis an immoral offense that makes immigrants ineligible for citizenship.
In December 2019, the Justice Department issued a notice that it was seeking to make certain marijuana offenses, including misdemeanor possession,grounds to deny asylum to migrants.
In February 2020, the president applauded countries thatimpose the death penalty for drug traffickersa pointhes repeatedly been known to make, according to a report from Axios.
Meanwhile, though the presidents reelection campaign is presenting him as a criminal justice reformer, Trump himself in recent days has embraced the slogan of law and order as he has seemed to endorse violent law enforcement responses to people protesting police killings of black Americans.
Altieri of NORML said that despite these conflicting statements and administrative actions, the Trump campaign does seem to understand by putting forth this outreach is that marijuana law reform and ending our failed War on Drugs are popular positions with the majority of all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.
All candidates should be putting forth comprehensive plans on how they will address cannabis and criminal justice reform if they are in the White House in 2021, but as of yet weve seen mostly lip service and finger pointing in lieu of real solutions, he said.
The White House Is Reviewing CBD And Marijuana Research Guidance From FDA
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.
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Posted: at 5:57 pm
In light of the national and international outrage over the unjust killing of George Floyd, Boston Globe cannabis reporter Dan Adams called into Boston Public Radio on Wednesday, where he discussed the historic tie between pot use and America's racist justice system.
"One of the most common reasons police use to stop [Black people] has been, historically, the odor of marjuana, or planting marijuana right? Its one of the most common pretenses for police to get involved with people, to search your pockets, to search your car, to check for warrants, he said.
Adams noted staggering racial disparities in Massachusetts marijuana arrests, even after the drug was legalized in 2016.
Weve got the lowest overall marijuana arrest rate in the country, but the racial disparity within those arrests is truly appalling," he said. "If you look at the ACLU data Blacks are still four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in the state.
Read More: Minority-Owned Marijuana Business Owners In Mass. Are Being Crushed By The Wait For Licenses
Adams said Floyds death, and the outrage thats followed, serve as a reminder for white Americans of how racism permeates our nation's legal system, and why its crucial for state governments legalizing cannabis to enact and follow through on measures that support Black-owned marijuana businesses.
"Watching [the George Floyd protests] unfold as a cannabis reporter has been really striking, because I deal all the time with the history of the drug war, and theres a direct connection between whats going on with everyone on the streets and an idea that weve talked about on this show a lot, which is this whole idea of equity in cannabis licensing, Adams said.
"The basic idea from the legislature is hey, maybe we shouldnt let white guys from Wall Street make all the money off this thing, now that weve decided it should be legal and maybe never shouldve been illegal, after decades of throwing people of color in jail for it.
Adams is the cannabis reporter for the Boston Globe and author of the This Week in Weed email newsletter.
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Posted: at 5:57 pm
Because the seeds of mass incarceration were sown early.
President Richard Nixon first declared war on drugs in 1971, but Tricky Dick was just following in the footsteps of someone else, who decades earlier set the tone when it came to drug prohibition in the United States. The vilification of marijuana truly began in 1937 when the nations first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, wroteMarijuana Assassin of Youth,an article in The American Magazine, later reprinted inReaders Digest, that ascribed murderous effects to marijuana and hashish.
He wrote of a young girls suicide in Chicago, blaming marijuana use for her fatal leap from a window. He told gory stories: Two boys high on marijuana had killed a cop, while another had chopped up his whole family with an ax. Anslingers fever dream pointed to two culprits: The devil weed itself, and the Black jazz musicians he was sure were responsible for its widespread use.
His language seems farfetched in an era when marijuana is mostly legal. Consider this passage: Marijuana is the unknown quantity among narcotics. No one knows when he smokes it, whether he will become philosopher, a joyous reveler, a mad insensate or a murderer. Anslinger almost single-handedly turned what at the time was a non-issue into the reason why so many Americans are incarcerated or have lost their jobs today.
Law for [Anslinger] represented the enforcement of protection for white enclaves and the ordering, you might say control, of communities of color through judicial and carceral mechanisms.
Alexandra Chasin, author ofAssassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslingers War on Drugs
As America moved toward repealing prohibition in 1933, the agents who had enforced the alcohol ban didnt know where theyd end up. Harry worked for the Treasury, says Niko Vorobyov, author ofDopeworld: Adventures in Drug Lands. When he saw the dry law wasnt going to last, he realized hed be out of a job or at very least his department would be defunded. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the predecessor of the Drug Enforcement Administration, was formed in 1930, before prohibition was even over, and President Herbert Hoover appointed Anslinger to run it.
Anslinger was an original law-and-order guy, says Alexandra Chasin, author ofAssassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslingers War on Drugs. Law for [him] represented the enforcement of protection for white enclaves and the ordering, you might say control, of communities of color through judicial and carceral mechanisms. Anslinger also nursed a lifelong suspicion of Sicilians that spurred him to identify a crime syndicate, the Mafia, even before then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
The bootlegging eras poster boy was Al Capone. The narcotics problem needed specific enemies and Anslinger labeled Lucky Luciano the face of Americas illicit drug problem, says Christian Cipollini, author ofLucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend. But after six years of chasing the infamous mafiaso, Americas top drug cop turned his attention to Mary Jane.
Anslinger was behind a propaganda campaign that portrayed marijuana as this madness-inducing drug on par with crystal meth. Vorobyov says. He lied or deliberately misrepresented evidence, and he ignored experts who called him out on it.
His aggressive approach carried a racist bent that came to define the drug war: he targeted jazz music in particular. Musicians brought the habit northward [from Mexico] with the surge of hot music demanding players of exceptional ability, especially in improvisation, Anslinger wrote in Marijuana Assassin of Youth.One of his most famous targets was the Black jazz singer Billie Holiday, who had a tough life and got addicted to alcohol and heroin. At Anslingers urging to make a high-profile bust, his agents hounded her to the very end as she lay dying in withdrawal in 1959.
Anslingers campaign against marijuana rebranded from cannabis to its Spanish name, to give it a foreign tinge helped result in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which allowed the government to start cracking down on dealers as tax cheats and resulting in the criminalization of the drug overall.
Anslinger stayed on the job until he retired at age 70 in 1962, having been drug czar under five presidents. The War on Drugs was under way if not declared, as incarceration rates among nonwhites were rising though not yet skyrocketing as they would later in the century.
Weve gone so far beyond those early days, says Vorobyov, even [the architects of the drug war] might be shocked.
From Iceland Iceland-Backed UN Report Condemns Filipino Government’s War On Drugs – Reykjavk Grapevine
Posted: at 5:57 pm
Presidential Communications Operations Office
A UN investigation backed by Iceland has condemned the Filipino governments war on drugs that has caused thousands of deaths.
Iceland spearheaded a UN resolution criticising the Filipino drug crackdown and calling for a report into possible human rights violations in June 2019.
The UNs Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right (ONCHR) released its damning report on serious human rights violations on June 4th. According to the report, government officials rhetoric can be seen as permission to kill anyone suspected of drug-related activity.
Despite credible allegations of widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs, there has been near impunity for such violations, the report states. The government cited just one case in which police were convicted for an extrajudicial killing related to the campaign since 2016.
A conservative estimate based on government data suggests that 8,663 people have been killed since Rodrgio Duterte came to office in July 2016, according to the report. The OHCHR cannot verify the true number of deaths without further investigation, but notes that other estimates put the death toll three times higher.
The OHCHR also found that police routinely entered homes without search or arrest warrants and systematically forced suspects to make self-incriminating statements or risk facing lethal force.
Duterte is yet to respond to the report, but he has strenuously denied breaches of human rights laws in the past and criticised the UN resolution.
Icelands role in introducing the resolution caused a breakdown in Icelandic-Filipino diplomatic relations last summer. Duterte launched numerous rhetorical attacks on Iceland in the days following the passing of the resolution, Reuters reported.
What is the problem of Iceland? Ice only, he told corrections department officials. You have too much ice and there is no clear day or night there. So you can understand why there is no crime. There is no policeman either, and they just go about eating ice. These idiots, they dont understand the social, economic, political problems of the Philippines.
The report calls on the international community to grant the OHCHR a mandate to continue to monitor human rights breeches in the Philippines and to put pressure on the Filipino government to immediately halt its brutal war on drugs.
Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, its become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevines journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining ourHigh Five Club.
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Posted: at 5:57 pm
George Floyds death has reignited a long-standing conversation many Americans have been trying to have for several years and decades: The Black and white experience has largely remained separate and unequal in our country.
In the words of Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett and the demonstrations by Colin Kaepernick, Black NFL players dont feel free in the land of the free.
While eyes are opening to the realities of inequality and excessive police brutality, structural racism has affected and shaped the lives of several Seahawks players in the past and present. Here are a few examples offering a glimpse into the complex difficulties Black Americans face all over the nation.
Former Seahawks guard D.J. Fluker grew up in New Orleanss Ninth Ward, a historically poor Black neighborhood that exemplifies the structural racism Black neighborhoods experience due to economic isolation and marginalization. Here is a 2003 quote from a non-profit consultant and Ninth Ward resident responding to the areas 9% higher poverty rate relative to the rest of the city:
Poverty is closely tied to ethnicity and race in this country. If you look anywhere where there is a majority of black people in a community, you are going to see higher concentrations of poverty, and it is going to be higher because of the historical relationship between black people and white people and the economic development of this country. Racismthe fact that black people were not paid at all and later not paid equitably for the work that they did, means that black communities do not have the wealth that has been accumulated in non-black communities. For the amount of work African-Americans have done in this country, they don't have the accumulated wealth that other groups do, relative to the amount of work performed.
The Ninth Ward was disproportionately devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many homes were uninsured, and the area has hardly been revitalized in the 15 years since. According to a 2016 NPR feature story, some streets are so filled with potholes, cars can't drive down them. There are a few convenience stores and fast food stands, but no supermarkets or grocery stores," a common feature of Black neighborhoods blighted by poverty and ignored by governing bodies.
Katrinas storm surge was so strong it knocked homes completely off their foundations,"effectively destroying the neighborhoodincluding the uninsured Fluker family home. Less than half the population has since returned, with Fluker among them. He became a hurricane refugee and was homeless with his family for over a year while they lived in the family car.
In a 2014 Sports Illustrated profile, Fluker remembered "nights when the family would have no food and would eat out of the garbage dumpsters at fast food restaurants." Other times, he said, he and his siblings would wear pants smelling of urine because they had nowhere to wash their clothes.
Fluker continued to thrive in football due to the graciousness of a high school coach who opened his spare room to him, and he worked endlessly to become the football star that he is today. But Flukers background as a Ninth Ward resident and a Katrina refugee was inevitably shaped by New Orleanss marginalization of its Black residents, many of whom have struggled to survive the life-altering devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Seahawks rookie Jordyn Brooks also experienced homelessness during his teen years in Houston. Prevalent homelessness, even if only temporary, is not an uncommon NFL story. Raiders running back Josh Jacobs notably bought his single father a house after being homeless during his youth. Its also a story that is disproportionately found among Black Americans.
The National Alliance To End Homelessness states that Black Americans make up 40% of the homeless population despite only representing 13% of the general population and this imbalance is not improving over time. Financially speaking, millions of Americans are a disaster away from experiencing homelessness, as the Federal Reserve reports that nearly 40% of survey respondents would have to accrue debt in some way to cover a $400 emergency.
With 20.8% of Black families living below the poverty line, which is about $25,000 for a family of four, and the economic insecurity highlighted by the Federal Reserve, homelessness becomes a distinct threat to the Black community as families work to break the poverty cycle. Brooks was able to do so, but the normalcy of going to school and playing football is disrupted by the instability of homelessness.
Second-round pick Darrell Taylors family was rocked by yet another issue that disproportionately affects Black families: His father was incarcerated while he was growing up.
Once again, this is not a unique story. Black men comprise 34% of the correctional population at five times the rate of white men, with 2.3 million in the prison system, according to the NAACP. Another issue is how the war on drugs has imprisoned thousands of men on non-violent drug charges, when other means of rehabilitation are safer and more effective. In countries that have decriminalized some or all illicit drugs, drug-related crime and arrests drop, as do overdoses and drug-related diseases, public safety and health improve, and taxpayers save money.
The criminalization of drugs also bears the marks of racial inequality: Black men are charged with drug offenses at six times the rate of white men, despite both groups reporting the same amount of usage. The war on drugs has torn thousands of men from their families when there are more evolved methods availableaside from drugs, the U.S. private prison system is widely noted as a for-profit enterprise that needs more inmates to make more money. This fuels the desire for more prisoners, and it has wounded millions of families across America, including those in the NFL.
The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmad Aubrey and Breonna Taylorthree unarmed, non-threatening individualsare a distinct result of racial profiling and criminalization of Black and brown Americans by the police force. This too is something with which Seahawks players are all too familiar.
Quarterback Russell Wilson shared earlier this week that his father advised him at a young age to keep his hands out of his pockets at the gas station to protect himself.
"The fact my dad even had to tell me that is a problem," Wilson told reporters.
Along with Wilson, linebacker Bobby Wagner also recalled being pulled over in college while at Utah State. The officer's demeanor changed once he realized Wagner was a football player, but he understandably wondered what would have happened in that situation if he wasn't a star athlete.
"We still are scared as everybody else," Wagner reflected. "We still have those thoughts and feelings as everybody else. So we still go through those things, as everybody else."
In high school, Doug Baldwin was pulled over for what was mistakenly believed to be a stolen car. He followed the officers instructions and complied, but so often, those who comply are still killed, like the close-range shooting of Philando Castile when he was reaching for his wallet at the request of the officer.
Baldwin knew exactly how to act in this situation because his father, a former police officer in Pensacola, Fla., instructed him on how to act when detained by an officer. While the elder Baldwins sage advice helped to deescalate a potentially dangerous situation, the fact remains that Black people find themselves in this situation exponentially more often than white people.
A 2020 ACLU report conducted by Campaign Zero indicates that Black people are stopped at a 219% higher rate than white people in San Diego. The San Diego police department was 23% more likely to search Black people for contraband than white people (despite Black people being less likely to have it), and they were more likely to use force and more severe forms of force against Black citizens than white.
The ACLU report refers to a disturbing statistic from a 2019 study: 1 in 1,000 Black American men can expect to be killed by police.
A common rebuttal to calls for police reform is that these stories of Black unarmed citizens being murdered by police is purely anecdotal. But when the data is gathered, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear: Black Americans live in what is effectively a police state based on assumptions and feara state that harasses them regularly and goes so far as to threaten their lives.
In response to these statistics and experiences, Baldwin started a Building Bridges campaign with Seattle police officers and was supported by the Seahawks and the Washington state attorney general. He called all 50 state attorney generals to review their police training policies. This was in 2016.
Since then, conversations about police brutality have flared with each unjust death, but have hardly translated to widespread, fundamental change.
Baldwins 2016 press conference responding to the deaths ofKeith Lamont Scott and Terrence Crutcherhas becomea haunting reminder that the criminalization of Black Americans has gone on far too long:
"When you see numerous instances like this happen, and again, you don't know all the context, but you're asking questions," Baldwin said. "And we also know that the laws that are in place and policies that are in place that protect the law enforcement from any persecution, we understand that there's an inherent risk that comes with being a police officer.
"But that should not be the case of being a citizen in the United States. There should not be an inherent risk when you have an encounter with law enforcement. There should not be a concern or worry that the law enforcement is not there to protect you. And I think that we're raising a culture or society right now that is questioning that very sentiment. And so as a human being, I can't help but sit up here and tell you how I feel and let you know that it's not OK."
Every NFL player overcomes near-impossible odds to earn a roster spot. But these current and former Seahawks, and their fellow Black athletes, have it that much harder because of a system that desperately needs drastic reform.
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Gardai start special war on drugs operation in Finglas as ‘horrific’ day time images surface online – Dublin Live
Posted: at 5:57 pm
Gardai are set to start a war on drugs operation in one Dublin area after several "horrific images" of people allegedly taking substances emerged online this week.
Locals in Finglas have said that the drug problem is getting seriously out of hand with suspected drug users spotted "goofed off" on road sides and in parks as children pass them by.
In one picture, one person can be seen laying motionless on the ground with what appears to be tin foil and pipes all around them.
One resident told Dublin Live: "Go to any park in the area at any time of day and you will find drug use, it's a joke. Not even trying to hide it anymore, it's in view for all to see. It's horrific."
But there is some promising news for the area as Finglas Councillor Noeleen Reilly has been informed by Gardai that they are preparing to clamp down on the open drug taking in the area.
She said: "Finglas Garda have just responded to me in regards to residents' drug concerns in the area.
"They have advised me that a list of key locations have been identified to be monitored by community Gardai.
"They have also requested the assistance of the National Public Order Unit to monitor these key locations and I will continue to liaise with them on this."
In another picture, residents were left outraged after two suspected drug users were believed to be smoking crack cocaine in one of Dublin's busiest parks over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Parents had to try and shield their children from the pair at the busy Kildonan Park in Finglas on Saturday morning.
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Residents have blasted the drug use as an "everyday occurrence" in the area which they feel will only get worse when the park is renovated next month as there will be "more places to hide in".
Councillor Reilly told Dublin Live last week that the problem is not just tied to Finglas or the north Dublin circles.
She said: "County-wide, crack cocaine has become a huge issue.
"There is a massive problem across Dublin unfortunately.
"A lot of kids would have witnessed this as it is a popular family place. There are many playing pitches there where children would kick a ball about or go for a walk or a run."
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"It's a great park that is very appreciated and highly used by locals. Sadly, some are mistreating its amenities.
"It's a great park that is very appreciated and highly used by locals. Sadly, some are mistreating its amenities.
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Posted: at 5:57 pm
Ashley D. Williams pulled her face mask below her chin, took a deep breath and hollered a rousing challenge to hundreds of protesters gathered at Haskell Park on Tuesday night:
We're not here for entertainment, Williams said. We want change.
The 13th Ward: 12,000 people, but only 400 voted. Where are you all at? Get in the votes and I bet you we tip the scales. All of you 17 and older are you ready? We need to vote.
The crowd responded to Williams with an affirmative roar. The entire exchange lasted no more than 90 seconds.
In fact, 601 ballots were cast in Rockford's 13th Ward in the March 17 primary, representing a 12.3% voter turnout. Voter turnout in the 13th Ward was 23.2% in the 2016 primary and 43% in the general election that year. Williams' figures may have been a bit off, but that doesn't take anything away from her message.
The May 25 killing of a black man named George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has stirred Williams and countless other protesters across the country to exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.
We can thank James Madison, the father of the Bill of Rights, for our freedom to protest. Williams reminds us that there is another way to make change. Lawmakers manufacture laws, but it's voters who manufacture lawmakers. If we want change, it seems we'll have to make it ourselves, and that means exercising our right to vote.
Ninety-one percent of Americans said that the right to vote was essential to their personal freedom, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll. Yet, in a wonderfully insightful NBC News column published Thursday, David Litt points out that the number of Americans stripped of the right to vote has surged in recent decades.
Thanks primarily to the wave of mass arrests and convictions caused by the war on drugs and the so-called tough on crime laws that came with it, 6 million adults 3 million of whom were no longer even on probation or parole who would otherwise have been eligible to vote were unable to cast ballots in 2016, says Litt, a former senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama.
Moreover, notes Litt, America's backlogged immigration system has swelled the ranks of long-term residents immigrants who pay taxes, build businesses, create jobs and serve in the military, but cannot cast a ballot to decide how the country is run. Voter suppression laws, partisan gerrymandering and demographic shifts have created even more inequities in our country's electoral system.
None of these obstacles minimizes the urgency of Williams' call to action. Those who can vote must do so. And voting in local elections is the easiest way to manufacture change.
This November, Winnebago County voters will elect a state's attorney who, for the next four years, will decide whether to investigate and charge instances of police misconduct, assault, stalking, cyberbullying and hate crimes.
Next year, Rockford voters will elect a mayor and 14 aldermen. It is the mayor who appoints, and City Council that confirms, members of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. The commission has the sole power to hire, fire and discipline the city's police chief and fire chief. Reviewing police misconduct and penalizing those found guilty is also part of the commission's role.
Additionally, the mayor plays an active role in negotiating labor contracts between the city and its police union. The City Council approves these contracts.
These critical local government functions are often quite dull to watch. And like most obligations, voting isn't much fun, either.
But as Williams said: We're not here for entertainment.
Isaac Guerrero: firstname.lastname@example.org; @isaac_rrs
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Posted: at 5:57 pm
As riots across the US are making clear, rules in America dont apply to black and white people equally. They never have, and the greatest unequalizer since the early 20th century has been the so-called war on drugs.
Many police chiefs, myself included, want to make sure their officers can adequately confront the automatic weapons that they face. The problem with that is we are not to be at war with our people in the first place.
Those are the words former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper spoke to me three years ago when I interviewed him on police brutality in America.
Washington is ablaze. The death of George Floyd has shined the spotlight back on killings of African Americans at the hands of the authorities. But while the cameras are turned to the protests and riots, few seem to mention the long-term, systemic reasons this keeps happening.
On March 13, police burst into an apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. They allegedly didnt announce themselves as cops (the cops say they did, the defendant says they didnt), and when the surprised tenants used their stand-your-ground rights and opened fire on the armed intruders breaking into their home, the officers hit 26-year-old ambulance worker Breonna Taylor with a hail of bullets. Breonnas death was just the latest casualty of no-knock raids: the idea being the element of surprise wont give suspects a chance to flush drugs down the toilet. No drugs were in fact found at the scene.
The war on drugs is the greatest cause of racial profiling and police brutality in the United States. More black American men are now behind bars, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850, and a bigger percentage are imprisoned than South Africa in the final days of apartheid. Why?
Nowadays, polls show fewer and fewer Americans believe weed should be treated any stricter than booze. But back in 1937, Federal Bureau of Narcotics chief Harry Anslinger really didnt like jazz. Like the jungles in the dead of night, he called it. A lot of jazz musicians smoked the old reefer, so he pushed to get it banned to stop young whites going to jive bars and (gasp) mixing with coloured folk. Meanwhile, cocaine was banned not because it gave you heart attacks but after the New York Times claimed it made Southern negros go berserk, and since its also an aphrodisiac. Well horny black guys, innocent white girls you get the idea.
Other races didnt fare much better: opium-smoking was seen as a sinister Chinese hobby, and they even renamed cannabis marijuana (as in Tijuana) to make it sound more Mexican. Even the alcohol Prohibition that made Al Capone rich came about as a result of WWI-era jingoism against Germans.
The laws were applied unevenly from the start. As Johann Hari explains in Chasing the Scream, Billie Holiday had a tough childhood, growing up in a brothel and being raped at the age of 10, then struggled with alcoholism and heroin addiction the rest of her life. But she had the voice of an angel and sang songs such as Strange Fruit, about lynchings in the Deep South. Anslinger ordered for her to be made an example of, to make sure black musicians knew their place. FBN agents turned up to her shows as fans, then betrayed her trust by planting drugs. They hounded her to the very end even as she lay dying, cuffed to a hospital bed, questioning her for the name of her supplier. She passed away in withdrawal. Meanwhile powerful whites like Senator Joe Red Scare McCarthy got a free pass for their own morphine habit.
Under Nixon, the war on drugs was used to distract from the growingly unpopular war in Vietnam and was weaponized against black activists and members of the anti-war Left, such as John Sinclair of the White Panther Party. The FBN became the DEA and no-knock raids got the go-ahead from Congress, despite all the horror stories of cops kicking down the doors to the wrong house, opening fire and killing or wounding the families inside.
Nixon officially declared the War on Drugs, but Reagan took it to another level. Drug laws are sneaky because theres no obvious victim (who snitches on themselves buying a bag of coke?), and they appear race-neutral on the surface. In the 1980s, Reagan passed the Anti-Drugs Abuse Act 1986, which gave out minimum five-year stretches with no parole for just five grams of crack, compared to half-a-kilo of powder cocaine. Its no coincidence that regular coke was the favorite pick-me-up for white corporate execs and high-priced lawyers, while crack, despite being less pure, was better value for money and more popular in the ghetto. In other words, blacks were serving a hundred times the jail terms as whites.
Nixon and Reagan were Republicans, but for all their progressive credentials the Democrats were just as bad. Trying to stay ahead of the tough-on-crime race, President Clinton signed the 1994 Federal Crime Bill drafted by a certain Joe Biden. Between 1990 and 2000, the prison population nearly doubled.
Even though most individual cops arent racist, theyre part of a racist system. The war on drugs has made young African-Americans tempting targets for any local sheriff looking for easy arrest stats and confiscating cash. For civil asset forfeiture, you merely have to be suspected of a crime for the cops to requisition your stuff it's state-sanctioned robbery. Keeping drug money provides a perverse incentive for underfunded police departments to make more arrests, which they do by going after the usual suspects .i.e. young black males. This leads to fatal police encounters and the largest prison population on the planet, even ahead of supposedly tyrannical regimes like Russia and China. Even though studies show everyone sells and uses drugs at roughly the same rate, over half of prisoners sat in state penitentiaries for drug offences, and almost 80 percent in federal jails, are black or Latino. Once youve been inside its hard to find a normal job, so you go back to the dope game. With so many mothers and fathers locked up, is it really that surprising the only ones to look up to in the hood are the more successful criminals?
Inner-city crime becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, leaving neighbourhoods in never-ending cycles of fear and despair. Take something a lot of people want, ban it, drive the price up and make it worth shooting, stabbing and stealing for the same thing as what happened with liquor in the 1920s. Now parts of cities like Baltimore and Chicago have murder rates on a par with actual warzones. Most of the victims are young black men. And while gang members may have pulled the trigger, who created the situation for this to happen? Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Anslinger.
As lawyer Michelle Alexander explains in The New Jim Crow, in several states ex-convicts lose their right to vote, effectively disenfranchising one of 13 black Americans in much the same way the pre-civil rights laws did in the 1950s. It also poisons the well while in the past you had respectable activists like Rosa Parks and the preacher Martin Luther King, where can you find a respectable druggie or ex-con? Who wants to listen to them, or stand up for their rights?
Even today, the memories of innocent black people like Philando Castile, gunned down in front of his girlfriend during a routine road stop; Botham Jean, shot dead in his own home by an off-duty Dallas police officer; and Sandra Bland, who allegedly hanged herself in a cell after an argument with a traffic cop; are smeared by bringing up that they had weed in their system or apartment, as if that had anything to do with their deaths. Clearly, tales of the drug-crazed negro are not yet behind us.
Finally, America is the land of Big Macs and big guns, and local police are handed out army surplus to take on heavily-armed drug dealers literally, weapons of war. But unlike the grenade launcher-wielding kingpins seen in films like Scarface, in real life most gang members stick with handguns. The drug menace has created a warlike mentality among law enforcement, used to justify military-style operations and no-knock raids like the one that killed Breonna Taylor.
They dont go out and think Im gonna kill African-Americans today, but their mentality is were the police, youre not, Stamper told me. Were in charge. And that kind of mentality makes them arbiters of law, policy and practise.
Its not enough to kick out a few brutal or racist cops and call it a day when the problem is the whole system. The United States is at war with its own citizens.
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Posted: at 5:56 pm
Read: Teachers vs. prisons
Looking at cities, the numbers are at least sometimes similarly skewed: Oakland spends 41 percent of its general-fund budget on policing, Minneapolis 36 percent, and Houston 35 percent. Cops and courts are not just a cost for local governments, though. Fines, fees, and forfeitures are a major source of revenue, encouraging violent overpolicing and harassment, especially of black neighborhoods and black individuals. In 80 cities and towns across the country, fines and forfeitures account for half of general-fund revenue, a practice particularly prevalent in Louisiana, Georgia, and Texas. A Department of Justice investigation found that in Ferguson, Missouri, the town used the police and the courts as a kind of fundraising office, plugging budget holes with ginned-up traffic tickets and housing-code violations and charges for missed court dates.
America badly needs to rethink its priorities for the whole criminal-justice system, with Floyds death drawing urgent, national attention to the necessity for police reform. Activists, civil-rights organizations, academics, policy analysts, and politicians have drawn up a sprawling slate of policies that might help end police brutality, eliminate racist policing, improve trust between cops and the communities they work in, and lower crime levels.
A more radical option, one scrawled on cardboard signs and tagged on buildings and flooding social media, is to defund the cops. What might that mean in practice? Not just smaller budgets and fewer officers, though many activists advocate for that. It would mean ending mass incarceration, cash bail, fines-and-fees policing, the war on drugs, and police militarization, as well as getting cops out of schools. It would also mean funding housing-first programs, creating subsidized jobs for the formerly incarcerated, and expanding initiatives to have mental-health professionals and social workers respond to emergency calls.
Read: How to actually fix Americas police
More broadly, the demand to divest from policing doubles as a call to invest in safety, security, and racial justice. This week, cops in riot gear teargassed teenagers, Humvees patrolled near the White House, and military helicopters buzzed protesters. At the same time, health workers fought COVID-19 wearing reused masks. This is not serving. This is not protecting.
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