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News 06.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 06.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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America was jolted out of its pandemic stupor this week by a dramatic cycle of police violence, protests, looting and retaliation—one that quickly jumped from city to city and crashed, literally, against the gates of the White House.

In some ways, this wave seems familiar: It echoes what happened in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in Los Angeles and in every other city that has exploded in anger after a killing by police. The sweep of the current protests—in hundreds of cities across all 50 states, lasting more than a week so far—and the sense that a moment of national change might have arrived have drawn comparisons to other waves of social unrest dating at least to 1968.

Despite the echoes, it’s also hard not to feel like we’re living through something disorienting and new. The protests and response have taken on complicated dimensions: the unprecedented backdrop of a global pandemic that has left people scared, pent-up and unemployed; the reported involvement of far left and far-right groups, or people posing as such to sow confusion; plus, the chaotic, confrontational politics of the Trump era and its blur of real and fake claims. Oh, and it’s a presidential election year.

To offer some context for what we’re living through, and why it feels especially unsettling right now, Politico Magazine asked a range of thinkers to tell us: What’s really different this time around?

Read the rest of this article at: Politico

News 06.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 06.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When we first spoke, in mid-April, María José Dueñas began weeping within seconds. Her parents’ home town, Santo Domingo de La Calzada, had the worst death rate from coronavirus in Spain, she told me on the phone. “I’m so scared,” she said. Dueñas told stories of police clambering through windows to rescue the dying, who were too weak to open their doors. Regional politicians, meanwhile, refused to give town-by-town figures for the dead, stoking anxiety and encouraging conspiracy theories. Santo Domingo’s locked-down residents, she claimed, were being deliberately kept in the dark as the virus silently stalked the town.

Dueñas does not live in Santo Domingo, a town of 6,300 people set among patchwork fields of cereal crops in the northern Spanish region of La Rioja. She was born there, but now lives 28 miles away in Logroño, the capital of this wealthy region, best known for the rich red wines that bear its name. Her angry, sometimes wildly conspiratorial outbursts on local Facebook groups – some of which have been deleted against her will – mean not all her old neighbours will welcome her back.

If Covid-19 increases tensions among neighbours in big cities, it can produce poisonous outbreaks of mistrust in small, more insular places like Santo Domingo. By the time Dueñas and I spoke again, two weeks later, the abbot from the town’s small cathedral had lodged a complaint against her for defamation. (She had claimed the church was covering up the role it had played in spreading the virus.) Even members of her own family were livid at the way she had aired Santo Domingo’s sorry status as one of Spain’s worst Covid-19 disaster zones.

Dueñas suggested I call Jorge Sánchez, a former town councillor and a well-known local figure, to get a sense of the scale of the disaster. On 9 March, he had met with a couple of friends, Enrique Ortega and Aldo Muga, at Muga’s bar. They had chatted about Ortega’s upcoming 51st birthday. “Now I am the only one left alive,” Sánchez told me. All three caught the disease, and the other two men both died at a hospital in Logroño on 21 March.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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It was a chilling split screen at the start of June: President Donald Trump preparing to give an address in the White House Rose Garden as dozens and dozens of protesters right outside were being pushed back on the streets by federal law enforcement firing what appeared to be tear gas.

Similar reports of police using tear gas against protesters have emerged across the United States over the past several days: San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit, Las Vegas, Orlando. A reporter for the Los Angeles Times in Minneapolis posted a video, her eyes red and raw, describing how Minnesota State Police had blasted her and other journalists at point-blank range with tear gas.

In the United States, what we call “tear gas” is often CS gas, a chemical compound credited to two American scientists, Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton, who discovered it in 1928. (The C and S in “CS” come from the first initial of each man’s last name.) But its use predates that, to the battlefields of World War I — from where it migrated not long after to America’s police forces. And there it has stayed, ever since.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

News 06.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 06.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The urban unrest of the mid-to-late 1960s was more intense than the days and nights of protest since George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis policeman. More people died then, more buildings were gutted, more businesses were ransacked. But those years had one advantage over the present. America was coming apart at the seams, but it still had seams. The streets were filled with demonstrators raging against the “system,” but there was still a system to tear down. Its institutions were basically intact. A few leaders, in and outside government, even exercised some moral authority.

In July 1967, immediately after the riots in Newark and Detroit, President Lyndon B. Johnson created a commission to study the causes and prevention of urban unrest. The Kerner Commission—named for its chairman, Governor Otto Kerner Jr. of Illinois—was an emblem of its moment. It didn’t look the way it would today. Just two of the 11 members were black (Roy Wilkins, the leader of the NAACP, and Edward Brooke, a Republican senator from Massachusetts); only one was a woman. The commission was also bipartisan, including a couple of liberal Republicans, a conservative congressman from Ohio with a strong commitment to civil rights, and representatives from business and labor. It reflected a society that was deeply unjust but still in possession of the tools of self-correction.

The commission’s report, written by the executive director, David Ginsburg, an establishment liberal lawyer of New Deal vintage, appeared at the end of February 1968. It became an instant million-copy best seller. Its language is bracing by the standards of any era: “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” The report called for far-reaching policy reforms in housing, employment, education, and policing, to stop the country from becoming “two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

It was too much for Johnson, who resented not being credited for his efforts to achieve civil rights and eradicate poverty, and whose presidency had just been engulfed by the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam. He shelved the report. A few weeks later, on the evening of April 4, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis. The next night, Johnson—who had just announced that he wouldn’t run for reelection—spoke to a country whose cities were burning from coast to coast. “It is the fiber and the fabric of the republic that’s being tested,” he said. “If we are to have the America that we mean to have, all men of all races, all regions, all religions must stand their ground to deny violence its victory in this sorrowful time, and in all times to come. Last evening, after receiving the terrible news of Dr. King’s death, my heart went out to his family and to his people, especially to the young Americans who I know must sometimes wonder if they are to be denied a fullness of life because of the color of their skin.” To an aide, he was more blunt in assessing the uprising: “What did you expect? I don’t know why we’re surprised. When you put your foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for 300 years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do? He’s going to knock your block off.”

King’s murder and the riots it sparked propelled Congress to pass, by an overwhelming and bipartisan margin, the decade’s last major piece of civil-rights legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which enforced fair standards in housing. Johnson signed it on April 11. It was too late. The very best reports, laws, and presidential speeches couldn’t contain the anger in the streets. That year, 1968, was when reform was overwhelmed by radicalization on the left and reaction on the right. We still live in the aftermath. The language and ideas of the Kerner Report have haunted the years since—a reminder of a missed chance.

The difference between 1968 and 2020 is the difference between a society that failed to solve its biggest problem and a society that no longer has the means to try. A year before his death, King, still insisting on nonviolent resistance, called riots “the language of the unheard.” The phrase implies that someone could be made to hear, and possibly answer. What’s happening today doesn’t feel the same. The protesters aren’t speaking to leaders who might listen, or to a power structure that might yield, except perhaps the structure of white power, which is too vast and diffuse to respond. Congress isn’t preparing a bill to address root causes; Congress no longer even tries to solve problems. No president, least of all this one, could assemble a commission of respected figures from different sectors and parties to study the problem of police brutality and produce a best-selling report with a consensus for fundamental change. A responsible establishment doesn’t exist. Our president is one of the rioters.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 06.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin dug his knee into the back of George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while Floyd pleaded for help, he was merely following the president’s advice.

“Please don’t be too nice,” Donald Trump told an audience of police officers on Long Island in 2017, in a speech largely focused on the MS-13 gang. The audience laughed. “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’”

Floyd’s killing has sparked nationwide protests, despite the fact that the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 100,000 Americans and left 40 million without work, is still killing about 1,000 people a day in the United States. Those Americans who were disproportionately dying from a plague came out in force to protest being murdered by their government. Trump, who ran as the “law and order” candidate, now presides over the very “American carnage” he vowed to end.

A different president might have tried to quell the unrest and unify the nation, but Trump is incapable of that. He cannot rally Americans around a common identity or interest, because his presidency is a rejection of the concept, an affirmation of the conviction that America’s traditional social hierarchies are good and just. He is hardly the first president to embrace those hierarchies as unassailably virtuous, but he is the first in decades to do so openly. Law and order, for this president, simply means that he and his ideological allies are above the law, while others, such as Floyd, are merely subject to it. The chaos sweeping across the United States has many causes, but the one over which the president has the most control is the culture of lawlessness and impunity he has cultivated and embraced. When you attempt to impose “law and order” without justice, you get chaos.

The moral core of the protests is a simple demand: that police who abuse their authority be held accountable, that black Americans be able to live free lives without fearing that they will be cut short by a chance encounter with law enforcement. This demand clashes with the history of the United States, in which the ideal of equal justice coexists uneasily with the tacit understanding of many Americans that guarding the color line is one of law enforcement’s obligations, a commitment that has existed from slavery to the beating of marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Ronald Reagan blamed the activist for his own murder, hissing that King’s death was the kind of “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order.”

When a white dog-walker in Central Park threatened to call the police on a black bird-watcher and tell them that “an African American man is threatening my life,” she was leveraging their mutual understanding that the police exist to protect white people from black people. This is why Chauvin and his fellow officers thought nothing of him being videotaped as he dug his knee into Floyd’s neck, and why authorities in Georgia saw no crime in the stalking and killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Integrating police departments was meant to help align law enforcement with its stated ideals, but as in every other area of public policy, correcting centuries of tradition is an arduous task, even if one is sincerely committed to it.

The president, a man who once called for the execution of five black and Hispanic teenagers for a crime they did not commit, is not just skeptical of reform. He views the violent enforcement of the color line as an honorable calling, and one that police officers should embrace rather than reject. Decades after taking out a newspaper ad demanding that New York “Bring back the death penalty and bring back our police!” the president still refuses to acknowledge the innocence of the Central Park Five. If they were not guilty of the actual crime, they were guilty of being the kind of people he wanted the police to crack down on.

Trump has few ideological convictions as consistent as his belief in the redemptive power of state violence against religious and ethnic minorities. During the 2016 campaign, Trump regaled audiences with tales of apocryphal war crimes against Muslims by American service members, then he pardoned service members who engaged in actual war crimes. He vowed to disregard the constitutional rights of anyone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant, then he pardoned Joe Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff famous for violating those rights.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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