Thick black smoke billowed and flames rose from two chemical storage tanks at the Marathon Petroleum refinery between Reserve and Garyville, Louisiana, on Friday. Geraldine Watkins saw the towers of smoke through the passenger seat window of a car that morning, while she was on her way to a court hearing about whether another tract of land in St. John the Baptist Parish, where Garyville is located, would be zoned for heavy industrial use. Despite the alarming view, no community-wide alarms had sounded when a naphtha leak started a fire at the refinery earlier that morning.
As discussions over the newly instituted “strong mayor” system in Minneapolis are back in the news, local politicians, policy aides, activists, and pundits have been sharing their perspectives on the changeover. A month ago, Minneapolis City Council Member Robin Wonsley sat down with Unicorn Riot and discussed her thoughts on the government restructuring, corruption in the city and acts of political retaliation within the halls of power.
Over 100 people are dead in Florida after Hurricane Ian ripped through the state, making landfall on September 28 as a Category 4 storm. Over 202,000 Florida homes and businesses are still without power. The hurricane caused damage that Biden claimed could rank as “the worst in the nation’s history,” with economic damage that could cost up to $75 billion—possibly among the five costliest storms in US history. The death toll combined with the imagery of utter destruction paints a harrowing picture of the fate of Floridians after this storm. Cities such as Fort Myers were leveled, Sanibel Island completely cut off from the mainland, and 3.4 million homes and businesses experienced power outages across several states and a boil water notice was issued in the hardest hit county.
On Tuesday, October 26, Black Lives Matter joined fellow civil rights leaders to engage with and discuss tangible policy proposals to transform current approaches to public safety with senior officials from the White House and the Department of Justice. While we appreciate the invitation to speak and discuss solutions, we call on the White House to be courageous as it moves towards Executive Action to move us towards the kind of transformation that this moment demands — the kind of transformation that the spirits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Dijon Kizzee, Wakiesha Wilson, Andrew Joseph III, and so many others demand. A transformational approach to public safety requires that we not expend energy tinkering around the edges of a fundamentally unjust system, but we upend it and dare to imagine and build new systems that invest deeply in resources: like youth programs, good jobs, mental healthcare, housing…resources that actually make our communities safe.
Calls to “defund the police” reverberated throughout communities across the US in the summer of 2020, when millions took to the streets to protest a brutal, unchecked, and racist system of police violence and control. Then came the backlash. Since the initial push by activists and protestors to get the public to consider alternatives to endlessly increasing police spending, a forceful chorus has pushed in the opposite direction, demanding more funding for more police who should be given more power over our lives. “Defund the police” has been criticized for being not only a “bad slogan” but a political pipe dream that fails to reckon with the messy realities of maintaining “public safety.” However, as Geo Maher argues in his latest book, A World without Police: How Strong Communities Make Cops Obsolete, America’s policing system is a demonstrably terrible way to keep people and communities safe.
Last year after George Floyd’s murder, community organizers spurred a national conversation on the role of policing and public safety. The collective outrage and sustained protests led to democracy in action. In Tuesday’s election, Minneapolis voters have a chance to change the way the city handles public safety. Organizers like Miski Noor want voters to embrace the opportunity to change how the city deals with public safety and vote in favor of the public safety amendment known as Question 2. Noor, an organizer with Black Visions, spoke with NewsOne over the weekend in between get out the vote events. Reflecting on the energy of early voters in line to cast their ballots Saturday, Noor says Minneapolis has been waiting for this change.
Spurred by the brutal and senseless murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans, people are demanding that we redirect money away from police budgets into sustainable community-driven solutions. Policymakers, communities, residents, and organizations are committing themselves to finding solutions that build safety, limit the use of police, and are rooted in anti-racist practice. The Center for Court Innovation has worked with communities to build public safety for decades. Based on lessons learned, we believe that this is not the work of a moment, but rather a long-term shift in both thought and action. And it will take many different strategies to achieve change. Jurisdictions should rethink public safety—what it is and how to achieve it. Solutions should be locally-driven. Communities must no longer be subject to systemic racism and oppression, and their residents, especially Black and brown people, must have the ability to live without the undue harm of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to writer, academic and activist Philip McHarris about the latest calls for police reform in the US. McHarris says the entire system of policing has to be unearthed. He argues there is no way to tweak or reform our way out of mass incarceration or the current policing apparatus and the culture of surveillance. The broader culture of punishment and control is actively harming certain people while also failing to provide public safety. Along the way to remaking the entire system, there are certain steps that can be taken in order to begin dismantling and shifting resources and power.
In La Casa Azul, “The Blue House” in East Point, Atlanta, organizers with the Racial Justice Action Center meet in what they call “the war room;" a room where they discuss political strategy, conditions, challenges, and ultimately decide which campaigns they want to take on. Founded seven years ago in order to train and support directly impacted people who want to organize grassroots campaigns to transform policies and institutions, the Racial Justice Action Center focuses on three prongs of the criminal justice legal system for reform: policing, courts, and jails.
Study: Enactment Of California’s Medical Marijuana Law Associated With Sustained Decline In Traffic Fatalities
Irvine, CA: The enactment of California's 1996 medical cannabis access law is associated with a significant and a sustained decline in motor vehicle fatalities, according to data published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology. A team of investigators from the University of California at Irvine assessed the relationship between the enactment of California's medical cannabis law and statewide traffic fatalities. They estimated that California experienced a greater decline in fatal accidents compared to synthetic controls.
Evil pharmaceutical companies bending blue-collar workers to their whim sounds like the stuff of a sci-fi novel, but more and more it's becoming our reality. At first, it was the actions of "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli that captured the public eye. If only a small part of the Big Pharma puzzle, Shkreli is a convenient poster boy for the arrogant actions of American drug manufacturers. But things are escalating quickly. To see just how deep the cracks run, you have to look closer.
By the Sugar Shack Alliance. Massachusetts - In an early morning action carried out yesterday at the site of the Kinder Morgan/TGP Connecticut Expansion Pipeline Project, 21 members of the Sugar Shack Alliance successfully blocked construction traffic for almost 3 hours in 2 directions on Cold Spring Road in Sandisfield MA, hindering access to work zones for employees, and, for a short time, disrupting ongoing pipeline construction. The day’s action—undertaken by Sugar Shack Alliance members in the interest of public safety—resulted in the arrest of 10 activists. One major safety concern for the Sugar Shack Alliance and their allies is the apparent lack of an evacuation plan in the event of a potentially catastrophic accident. In 1981, as many Sandisfield residents may recall, during construction of a second of two pipelines, workers accidentally ruptured an existing “live” pipeline, resulting in a serious threat of a gas leak and requiring the evacuation of many townspeople.
By Zenobia Jeffries for Yes! Magazine - This summer will mark the third anniversary of the death of Eric Garner, a New York man who was killed by police officers outside of a neighborhood convenience store in Staten Island (he was suspected of illegally selling loose cigarettes). Garner’s death is one of many that has raised Americans’ concerns about the increasing number of Black men, women, and children killed by U.S. law enforcement officers. At only 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans are killed by police, incarcerated, live in poverty, and have poor health at higher rates than White Americans, who make up the majority populace. These numbers and conditions are much the same as those attributed to other disenfranchised citizens, including Latino Americans, who are 17 percent of the population. Contemporary movements continue to address these tragedies. Black Lives Matter is campaigning against the criminal justice system, calling for an end to racial profiling, police brutality and killings, and for officers to be held accountable for their actions.
By We Are Cove Point. June 24, 2017 was a turning point for We Are Cove Point. After years of meeting with legislators and state officials to ask for a safety study (known as a Quantitative Risk Assessment or QRA) on Virginia-based Dominion Energy’s fracking refinery, power plant and gas export terminal being built in Cove Point, we learned that the Governor “supports the project and will not order a safety study.” We believe it is possible for the Governor to support the project and have concerns about the health and safety of the thousands of families living close to Dominion’s facility. We can’t accept “no” as an answer because this is the first facility of its kind anywhere in the world to be placed in such a densely-populated area.