AS PROTESTS DENOUNCING POLICE BRUTALITY against unarmed Black people spread to thousands of cities, it was videos of police violence — this time, directed at protesters — that went viral. Clips showed officers launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, shooting pepper spray from moving vehicles and firing foam bullets into crowds.
ProPublica looked at nearly 400 social media posts showing police responses to protesters and found troubling conduct by officers in at least 184 of them. In 59 videos, pepper spray and tear gas were used improperly; in a dozen others, officers used batons to strike noncombative demonstrators; and in 87 videos, officers punched, pushed and kicked retreating protesters, including a few instances in which they used an arm or knee to exert pressure on a protester’s neck.
While the weapons, tactics and circumstances varied from city to city, what we saw in one instance after another was a willingness by police to escalate confrontations.
Experts said weapons that aren’t designed to be lethal, from beanbag rounds to grenades filled with pepper spray, can make officers more willing to respond to protesters with force and less disposed to de-escalate tense situations. Not only can some of these weapons cause considerable injury to protesters, particularly if misused, but experts say the mere presence of the weapons often incites panic, intensifies confrontations and puts people on all sides at risk.
And of course, unlike a mass demonstration urging action on an issue like climate change, the protests over police brutality are directed squarely at the officers standing watch. Any use of force can remind protesters what brought them into the streets in the first place and redouble their outrage.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called on the Senate on Thursday to support an amendment to the next coronavirus relief bill that would bar states that do not implement mask mandates from receiving stimulus funding.
In a statement from the senator’s office, Feinstein announced her intention to introduce the amendment and stated that it was time for Congress to step in and force states to implement such mandates to stop the virus from spreading.
“Wearing masks in public should be mandatory. Period. [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] said the Senate will take up the next coronavirus economic relief bill later this month. At that time, I intend to offer an amendment to prohibit sending funds to states that haven’t adopted a statewide mask requirement,” said Feinstein, a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration.
“My hope has been that other governors would show the leadership to institute their own mask mandates, but so far that hasn’t happened. It’s time for Congress to step in. This is a matter of life or death, and partisan politics shouldn’t play a role,” she continued.
Hundreds of teen-agers are raped or sexually assaulted during their stays in the country’s juvenile detention facilities, and many of them are victimized repeatedly, according to a U.S. Department of Justice survey.
The teens are most often assaulted by staff members working at the facilities, and fully 20 percent of those victimized by the men and women charged with protecting and counseling them said they had been violated on more than 10 occasions.
“Today’s report illustrates the fundamental failure of many juvenile detention facilities to keep their youth safe,” said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, a California-based health and human rights organization.
The Justice Department survey — covering both secure juvenile detention facilities and group homes, the less restrictive settings into which troubled youngsters are often ordered — involved more than 8,500 boys and girls. In all, 1,720 of those surveyed reported being sexually assaulted.
Allen Beck, the author of the report, said that the rates of staff-on-inmate abuse among juveniles are “about three times higher than what we find in the adult arena.”
The highest incidence of staff sexual misconduct occurred in Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia and Illinois, while other states like New York, Massachusetts and Delaware, reported no abuse. At the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Georgia and the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio, one in three youngsters surveyed said they’d suffered sexual abuse at the hands of staff members.
Next month marks the beginning of the 2020/2021 academic year in several US states, and pressure is mounting to reopen schools even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Florida, for example, is now considered the nation’s No. 1 hot spot for the virus; yet on Monday, the state’s education commissioner issued an executive order mandating that all Florida schools open in August with in-person learning and their full suite of student services.
Many parents are balking at back-to-school, choosing instead to homeschool their children this fall.
Gratefully, this virus seems to be sparing most children, and prominent medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have urged schools to reopen this fall with in-person learning. For some parents, fear of the virus itself is a primary consideration in delaying a child’s return to school, especially if the child has direct contact with individuals who are most vulnerable to COVID-19’s worst effects.
But for many parents, it’s not the virus they are avoiding by keeping their children home—it’s the response to the virus.