By Robert A. Vella
Police under fire
This morning, Democrats in Congress announced specific measures to reform police practices in America as large protests against social injustices continue throughout the nation. In addition to a growing movement for municipalities to begin defunding police departments, some cities are even considering disbanding their existing law enforcement organizations. To say that the police are now under fire is no exaggeration, not from dangerous criminals but from the very communities they are tasked to serve. In all my years of watching public backlashes against police misconduct, which date back to the 1960s, I have never seen a reaction as powerful and persistent as the current one. And, it’s not just the police who are feeling the heat. President Trump and the Republican Party are squarely in the crosshairs of this movement.
Nine Minneapolis City Council members announced plans Sunday to disband the city’s police department. They did not offer a timeline or propose specific actions but said they are “taking intermediate steps toward ending” the force. The group represents a majority on the 12-person council.
Two weeks after George Floyd died in police custody in the city, protesters nationwide say their work is far from over. They continue to denounce entrenched bias in law enforcement and call for sweeping changes.
#Trump you projected your narrative that #TakingAKnee is disrespectful & #UnAmerican it was never about that! You are divisive & a coward. It takes true courage 2 stand 4 what is right & risk your life in the midst of a #pandemic #Proud2kneel #BlackLivesMatter @MSNBC @BostonGlobe https://t.co/nhNITHSrxo pic.twitter.com/h0PuUYVFwu
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) June 7, 2020
Racists symbols fall
The U.S. Marine Corps has issued details on its ban of public depictions of the Confederate battle flag on Marine installations.
The depictions that are banned include clothing, a flag, poster, bumper stickers and mugs.
“The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps,” a statement from the Marine Corps on Friday read. “Our history as a nation, and events like the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, highlight the divisiveness the use of the Confederate battle flag has had on our society.”
Trump’s secret soldiers
In Washington, DC, alone, there has been a dizzying array of security personnel deployed in the last few days. From members of the military to DC police to the US Bureau of Prisons, the streets have become an alphabet soup of acronyms when it comes to law enforcement and security personnel, all designated — by various levels of government — to seemingly promote safety. But, as Americans countrywide exercise their constitutional right to protest peacefully, unnecessary assaults on democratic freedoms and civil liberties have proliferated.
Amid the tear gas and rubber bullets, a dangerous Trump trend has arisen. While DC police are required by law to wear badges, unidentified federal law enforcement officials have been caught on camera with no badges, no identifying information, and with large firearms. Some refused to identify themselves or reportedly gave ambiguous answers after being called out publicly for their unattributable presence.
Unmarked officers and “secret police” have been used in authoritarian crackdowns throughout history. We used to refer to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unidentified proxies during his annexation of Crimea as “little green men” for wearing unmarked green uniforms. Unattributable shows of force just shouldn’t happen in American democracy. They’re dangerous on many levels both in the near and longer term.
Pandemic still rages
The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is nearing 2 million with more than 112,000 deaths. Worldwide, the figures are over 7 million and over 400,000 respectively. As “stay at home” orders and other restrictions have been eased over the last month, coronavirus is once again picking up speed even in some states which did a good job of containing the contagion from the outset (e.g. California). The pandemic’s trend is deeply concerning especially because the Trump administration has completely given up trying to combat it, most state governments have acquiesced to economic recovery urgings, and the massive George Floyd murder protests could potentially be a super-spreader vector mechanism for the virus.
Shutdown orders prevented about 285 million coronavirus infections in China and about 60 million in the United States, according to a research study published Monday that examined how stay-at-home orders and other restrictions limited the spread of the contagion.
A separate study from epidemiologists at Imperial College London estimated that the shutdowns saved approximately 3.1 million lives in 11 European countries and dropped infection rates by an average of 82 percent, sufficient to drive the contagion well below epidemic levels. Both reports were published Monday in the journal Nature.
The two reports provide fresh evidence that aggressive and unprecedented shutdowns, which caused massive economic disruptions, were necessary to halt the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus.
More than two months after passage of the $2 trillion Cares Act, funding for some key programs to address the economic devastation from the coronavirus is moving out slowly or not at all. Even after the United States added 2.5 million jobs last month, 20 million people remain out of work and federal bureaucracies charged with processing record sums of money to respond to the crisis are struggling to snap into action.
The Cares Act directed $850 million for food banks, but less than $300 million has been sent out so far, according to Democratic staff members on the Senate Appropriations Committee. That’s despite unprecedented demand, with the number of people served at food banks increasing by more than 50 percent from a year ago, according to a recent survey by the nonprofit group Feeding America.
Similarly, Congress appropriated $9 billion in March for the Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Solutions Grant programs, which fund health facilities, child care centers, and services for seniors and homeless people, among other things. Only about $250 million of that money has been obligated.