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Holcomb Visits E.C.

Posted on February 18, 2017 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)

EAST CHICAGO — Gov. Eric Holcomb’s visit Friday was filled with optimism and promises of more aid for residents living in the lead- and arsenic-contaminated USS Lead Superfund site and a cash-strapped city grappling with crisis.

"We will bring all there is at our disposal ... I feel like when we come out of this on the other end and get this right, we will be in a better place," Holcomb said Friday at a roundtable with state legislators, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland, along with other local officials and representatives from East Chicago community groups.

Holcomb’s visit comes a week after issuing an emergency declaration Feb. 9 providing 30 days of enhanced state assistance to help relocate the remaining 86 families from the West Calumet Housing Complex, secure money to demolish the complex, seek funding to replace lead water service lines and other aid.

The order also authorizes state agencies to coordinate an emergency response, petition EPA to provide grant money for the replacement of lead pipes, engage the new federal administration for greater assistance and provide more blood testing.

His predecessor, now-Vice President Mike Pence, was heavily criticized for leaving office without issuing such a declaration.

The Rev. Cheryl Rivera, executive director for the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations, thanked Holcomb for the declaration.

“We want to thank you for acknowledging the cries of the people because we knew the city did not have all the resources needed to address this man-made catastrophe,” she said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the 322-acre site to the Superfund list in April 2009, but it wasn't until this past summer that the city told more than 1,000 residents at the West Calumet Housing Complex — located in the first of three residential cleanup zones — they had to move out after sampling revealed soil in some areas contained more than 200 times the EPA's allowable limit for lead.

Residents living at more than 1,000 properties in zones 2 and 3 have not been told to relocate, and the EPA began excavating contaminated soil from their yards in October.

The governor’s visit was welcomed Friday by community leaders and affected residents, but many of their questions — centered on urgent needs of homeowners, such as water filters, and how to address long-term health effects of those exposed to these toxins decades before the crisis came to light last summer — went unanswered.

Asked by reporters, Holcomb shied away from fully committing to providing state funds for water filters in light of EPA finding elevated lead levels in some homes’ drinking water last year. He did say he’s “keeping an open mind” and is in talks with federal officials about options.

Mayor Copeland said he is working with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to conduct comprehensive testing of the city's entire water supply.

As part of Holcomb’s declaration, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, said he is working closely with HUD and local officials in securing emergency funds to demolish West Calumet.

Holcomb’s declaration, issued Feb. 9, provides for 30 days of enhanced state assistance for residents who have yet to relocate from the lead contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex, as well as other lead-impacted citizens in the affected area.

Holcomb told The Times he will re-evaluate the situation at the end of the 30 days to see if an extension is necessary.

Holcomb also ordered state agencies to seek federal approval for more lead testing sites throughout the city, promote the development of new, affordable rental housing in East Chicago and create a one-stop website for residents to keep up with federal, state and local progress reports. In addition, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is empowered to obtain any services needed on an emergency basis from any level of government.

A total of 86 of 340 families remain at the West Calumet Housing Complex, where people were told last summer they had to relocate because of lead and arsenic contaminated soil. Housing Authority officials want residents out by March 31.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland told reporters Friday the city is rehabbing public housing units in the North Harbor area to relocate families that remain at West Calumet beginning March 31.

Under a civil rights agreement reached by the East Chicago Housing Authority and a Chicago-based housing justice watchdog in November, the local housing authority can temporarily relocate the remaining families starting March 31, but the emergency transfer is subject to HUD review of vacancies.

Akeesha Daniels, a mother of three who remains at West Calumet, argued at Friday’s roundtable that there are too few housing options available to move out by March 31. She fears moving her three sons to the Harborside area due to gang tensions between the two communities.

“I’ve looked at over 40 properties on my own without no help,” Daniels said. “I haven’t been successful in finding a place to move to.”

After Superfund homeowners laid out serious health ailments potentially caused by long-term lead exposure, East Chicago Health Commissioner Gerri Browning said the heavily industrialized community has long suffered an “inordinate amount of health problems,” questioning elected officials’ immediate focus on relocation and demolition.

“What about the health of all the people who lived in the area all of these years?” he said. “It’s well known to us, both anecdotally and factually, that East Chicago has its fair share of disease. It’s no secret that our people who are either black, brown or poor, are living in these industrial areas … and we’ve suffered health-wise because of that.”

Holcomb said while “a tall order,” alleviating the crisis in East Chicago is achievable.

"Hoosiers help Hoosiers. We're going to prove it,” he said.

 

NAACP Sit-In

Posted on January 4, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

NAACP Stages Sit-In To Protest Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions

“The NAACP has chosen not to remain silent on this critical matter.”

 

Several NAACP leaders including president Cornell William Brooks were arrested Tuesday evening after one day of protest, according to the organization.

 

Sessions in Mobile, Alabama to speak out against his nomination by President-elect Donald Trump for attorney general.

Several leaders of the civil rights organization have thus far participated in the protest, which kicked off Tuesday morning, including NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, and Alabama state NAACP President Benard Simelton. Brooks posted a tweet Tuesday morning declaring that he will continue to occupy the office until the protest results in either Sessions’ withdrawal or their arrest:

Trump offered Sessions the attorney general position in November. The move sparked outrage among many who have denounced Sessions’ history of racism and voter suppression.

Sessions was appointed by Reagan for a federal judgeship in 1986. But Sessions was deemed to be too racist for the role and his nomination was later rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee following a series of confirmation hearings during which he addressed numerous allegations, including that he once called a black attorney “boy,” joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was ‘OK’ ― that is, until he discovered that members smoked marijuana ― and referred to civil rights groups, like the NAACP, as “un-American.”

Sessions was also accused of suppressing black votes in Alabama just one year prior to his nomination by Reagan, which became a case that has since haunted his career. In 1985, during his time as a U.S. Attorney in Mobile, Sessions was accused of targeting black voters after his office pursued charges of voter fraud against several African Americans, including Albert Tuner, a long-time civil rights activist who helped lead the 1965 voting rights march in Selma. Turner’s brother, Robert, told USA Today in November that his brother and other black residents who were charged with voter fraud were only trying to assist poor, illiterate and elderly voters in casting ballots. Meanwhile, anger among black critics flared at the time as they accused Sessions’ office for rigorously pursuing cases of voter fraud among African Americans while failing to do the same among white voters. Sessions and those who worked in his office eventually went to trial, during which they denied the claims, and were later acquitted. The outrage over Sessions’ troubled past, especially among liberal groups like the NAACP, never subdued.

“As a matter of conscience, the NAACP has chosen not to remain silent on this critical matter,” Birmingham NAACP head Hezekiah Johnson said outside Sessions’ office on Tuesday, according to AL.com.

“Our main concern is centered around the reality of voter suppression,” he added. “We have found no evidence of his ability, past or present, to be impartial and unbiased as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, especially in the areas of civil rights, voting rights and equal protection under the law.” 

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Standing Rock

Posted on December 12, 2016 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)


E.C. Residents Demand Answers

Posted on November 23, 2016 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

East Chicago residents demand City Hall answers Garland, a .

 

A group of residents and local activist groups delivered a list of demands to Mayor Anthony Copeland's office Friday afternoon. The mayor did not meet with the group and instead will meet with them Wednesday.

 

The residents said their health and well being was not a priority for the city and have scarcely heard from city officials. Copeland has lacked visibility in the community since an August forum in the early days of the clean up and relocation processes at the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site, residents said.Arlene Lowe, a resident of a senior home near the superfund site, tells a group of protestors that seniors in her home are testing for high levels of lead and Resident Pamela Berry said the citizens who live in and around the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site want to speak with Copeland about being more transparent and better meet the needs of residents.

 

"Our demands are not being met. We're not being heard," Berry said. "The citizens are growing very anxious."

 

From her perspective, Sara Jiminez said the cleanup is not moving fast enough. She said there aren't enough contractors and the money should be there to get the work done quickly.

 

People throughout the neighborhood have a litany of health concerns and it's not safe for them to remain in their homes while the work is underway, they say.

 

"This is very emotional for all of us here," Jimenez said. "The mayor really needs to come out and talk to us."

 

Jimenez said it doesn't appear there's a set direction on how all of the issues around the site and city are going to be solved, and that's why residents went to his office Friday. "We need answers," Jimenez said.peaks to a group of

 

The Community Strategy Group, made up of residents, demanded the mayor declare a state of emergency for residents at the Superfund site; use the demolition money for the West Calumet Housing Complex to provide relocation services for residents; provide a means for residents to cover their health care costs; give homeowners the ability to relocate and recoup the value of their homes; make support available for senior, disabled and vulnerable residents; and give residents mental health assistance.

 

Sheilah Garland, of National Nurses United, which has advised residents, questioned the city's desire to get money to demolish the complex but not seek emergency assistance for residents. She said the lack of transparency at all levels of government is stunning.

 

"This situation is a total disaster that should have been handled very differently a very long time ago," Garland said, in a statement.

 

"We're asking Mayor Copeland to reassure us that our lives are worthy and that we matter," Berry said.

 

Berry said Copeland should take time and meet with residents affected by chemical contamination throughout the city and advocate for them. She said the worse thing he could do is simply try to pacify the situation.

"Copeland needs to stand up and be our leader," Berry said.

Lead & Arsenic Contaminated East Chicago Housing

Posted on November 4, 2016 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Civil Rights Deal Give East Chicago Residents More Time To Move

Families living at the lead- and arsenic- contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex will have more time to move and no longer have to pay rent under a civil rights settlement reached this week between the East Chicago Housing Authority and a Chicago-based fair housing organization.

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law first filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Aug. 29 on behalf of six former and current residents and a coalition of concerned citizens, Calumet Lives Matter.

The complaint alleged the East Chicago Housing Authority — uncommitted at that time to covering security deposits, moving expenses and assisting with the housing search — was noncompliant with federal law.

Katherine Walz, director of housing justice with the Shriver Center, said the agreement — which also offers protections to eligible former residents — represents the organization’s “collective best efforts” to protect families.

“The hard-fought battle was by the residents themselves,” Walz said Friday. “You can’t imagine how difficult it is to sue the very program that provides you housing.”

Residents are calling the agreement — approved Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — a significant victory for the more than 1,000 being forced to relocate from the complex, which was built in the early 1970s on the footprint of a former lead smelter. The complex and Carrie Gosch Elementary School are part of the first zone of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.

Sherry Hunter, a community activist with the coalition Calumet Lives Matter, said rent abatement and an extended relocation deadline were key battles she fought for, and won.

“People have come to me and hugged me and thanked me. I keep telling them you don’t need to thank me for something that should have been done anyway by (ECHA),” Hunter said.

Jewel Harris Jr., attorney for ECHA, said all parties had the same goal in mind, which was to make sure residents had protections.

“It was just a question of how and how do we get that plan in writing,” Harris Jr. said Friday. Settlement highlights

Under the agreement, residents have until March 31 to find housing and will receive assistance with the search. The local Housing Authority also agreed to waive rent owed between July 22 and March 31, 2017, and reimburse any rent paid for this month. They also cannot be evicted, threatened with eviction or charged with late fees.

ECHA will offer relocation benefits to eligible residents, including those who moved out before city officials announced last summer the soil contained unsafe levels of lead and arsenic.

Residents who moved out before the announcement will qualify for benefits if they can demonstrate they left because of lead- or arsenic- related health concerns or have children younger than 6.

Harris Jr. said the ECHA staff is unsure how many families left for that reason.

“We don’t have a list of people. They would have to come forward and demonstrate that’s why they left,” he said.

Families that have not found new housing by March 31 can transfer out of West Calumet on an emergency basis. Those families will have until July 1 to take their housing vouchers to a new location, according to HUD.ECHA may initiate emergency transfers to other public housing units, but only after units are inspected for lead, according to the agreement. City and Housing Authority officials have said in the event of an emergency transfer, the plan is to relocate residents to Harbor side Apartments on Guthrie Street — but only as a last resort.

“We not only want to move them out of a place that caused the lead poisoning, we also want to ensure they don’t move into other housing with ... lead contamination,” Walz said.

Residents with disabilities or with elevated blood lead levels will be offered additional time and assistance to move.

Prospective apartments that have been inspected by ECHA will be reinspected, and the Indiana State Department of Health will facilitate risk assessments before anyone with elevated blood lead levels moves into a new unit. I just want a safe home’

Krystle Jackson, a mother of four who left the complex in mid-July because of her son’s elevated blood lead levels, is one client named in the initial complaint. She said ECHA staff told her earlier this year she was ineligible for assistance because she left prior to the city’s announcement on July 22.

“With my son, in March, they didn’t do anything. But they (knew the EPA) had taken soil samples,” Jackson said. “They wanted nothing to do with it.”

She said her daughter, now 3, also tested positive for lead about a year ago.

Jackson, who said she was homeless at one point over the summer, is now expected to receive a housing voucher within the next five days and receive priority access to a vacant public housing unit in East Chicago, other than at West Calumet.

“Even once I get my voucher, I hope I can move in a timely manner. I just want a safe home for me and my kids,” she said. “It’s been crazy. I’ve been trying to keep a straight face in front of my kids. That’s the hard part.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Holcomb under fire after declining interview with black newspaper

Posted on October 29, 2016 at 2:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Eric Holcomb under fire after declining interview with black newspaper

 

The Indianapolis Recorder published a column Friday taking the Republican candidate for governor to task for declining interview requests over a period of two weeks ahead of the 11,000-circulation newspaper's special Nov. 3 political issue.

 

Check out this story on IndyStar.com: http://indy.st/2eW46qg

Moving Due To Lead

Posted on September 28, 2016 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Official: East Chicago polling place will be moving due to lead

 

Reaching voters in the process of relocating from the lead-contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago to inform them of their voting rights is proving more difficult than expected, a county election official said. Michelle Fajman, director of Lake County's Board of Elections and Voter Registration, said election board staff is searching for a new polling site for East Chicago 14, which includes all of the West Calumet complex and a handful of neighboring streets, because the current site is at the complex's community center where lead contamination is prevalent. "We know for a fact the polling place will be moved," Fajman said.


Voters will have to be notified of the emergency change in polling places, but that will be a challenge, she said. A large number of the letters sent earlier this month to the 578 registered voters in the EC-14 precinct informing them of their voting rights if they move before the Nov. 8 election have come back unable to forward. The letters included an explanation of the voting process for those who move and a federal voters registration application.


A second letter to voters informing them of the precinct change will be needed. Fajman said the new information also will be posted online and in local newspapers in an effort to reach as many voters as possible. Staff is still researching a site that meets criteria including parking and American with Disabilities Act compliance.


Barbara Bolling-Williams, president of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and treasurer of the James C. Kimbrough Bar Association, attended the meeting and thanked officials for their forethought in reaching out to voters in the affected area so they are not disenfranchised come November. "The reality is over 300 families don't know if they will be able to find adequate housing in that time frame," Bolling-Williams said.


Since so many cannot be reached by mail, she encouraged the board to send a representative to one of the various community meetings that are taking place for West Calumet residents to help keep them informed of the different aspects of their situation. "It is important someone from the board goes out to a community meeting," she said.


West Calumet voters who relocated anywhere in Lake County have the option of returning to their old polling place to vote one last time before registering their new address. They must fill out a form at the polling place to do so. Registered voters who leave the county or the state will have to register again by Oct. 11 in order to vote in the Nov. 8 election.


Fajman asked and received permission for the elections board to hire additional clerks for the precinct for the Election Day to help with questions and potential delays created by paperwork needed for voters who have moved elsewhere in Lake County and returned to vote one last time in their old precinct.

 

East Chicago Lead Crisis - We Need Your Help!

Posted on September 18, 2016 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

The Indiana State Conference, thanks to the efforts of our State Environmental Climate Justice Chair, Denise Abdul Rahman, is fully engaged.  Delivery of fresh fruits has been initiated to two Calumet area community based food banks: First Baptist Church and Friendship Baptist Church. Strack and VanTil and Whole Foods have each donated to the churches' food banks for distribution to the residents that have been hardest impacted.  We express our sincere appreciation to all. 

We have also established a GoFundMe on line Account for those who wish to assist the residents of the West Calumet Housing residents who have been informed that they must move to get out of harm's way and to stop the ongoing and continuous exposure to lead and arsenic.  Many cost associated with moving are not covered by aid that has been given by the State such as apartment security deposits, utility deposits, packing materials, etc.  Further, those who move within a fifty (50) mile radius of their former home are not eligible for assistance.  The purpose of the GoFundMe campaign is to help with those out of pocket expenses. 

We need your help to make donations, to spread the word to your friends, family, social media contacts, and community about this crisis and about the fund.  Be ready to come to East Chicago and help in this effort.  We need all hand on deck.  Stay tuned for other efforts.  But for now, please Share this link to giving: http://link.email.dynect.net/link.php?DynEngagement=true&H=2yXDNJGqur8t3mjNQGens%2Fyt5IVdrYevjvBxWdDrBsIIHsBcrIQf2PzcX1RioqOXE3qCncko5e%2FhTg%2BSq2A6%2Bk2Fx54%2BNrxs6AnsMJxTWbR%2FnOp3de1BK1IDgwr%2BDsMv&G=21&R=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gofundme.com%2F2hhtxydg&I=20160916210117.000007cbbf6a%40mail6-40-ussnn1&X=MHw3NzY2NjI6VEVNUElEXzcwMDI7MXw3NzY2NjM6UVVFVUVJRF82MzY0MTkwMjU7Mnw3NzY2NjQ6RE9NQUlOX2FvbC5jb207&S=3tHNr7jUtFdNYivjwqD39gwamlc2CKEqI4mmfaH7UmM

Thank you,

Barbara Bolling-Williams

East Chicago Lead Crisis

Posted on September 7, 2016 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Indiana State Conference of the NAACP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

September 6, 2016 Contact

Barbara Bolling-Williams, State President

(219) 614-4889, [email protected]

                                or

Denise Abdul-Rahman, State Environmental Climate Justice Chair

[email protected]

Gary, Indiana- The Indiana State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

 The Indiana State Conference of the NAACP is deeply alarmed to learn that the lead levels in the soil, surrounding and beneath the West Calumet Housing Complex in the City of East Chicago, IN, are 228 times greater than EPA’s limits. According to reports, the residents at this site have been impacted by the exposures to lead, arsenic and other containments for over 40 years. The disregard for the health well being of the residents of the complex is a tragic failure of the duty to protect the residents of West Calumet Housing Complex, Calumet, and the City of East Chicago, Indiana in general. As a result, the Northwest Indiana Times reports preliminary tests showing children in the area have blood lead levels as high as 33 micrograms per deciliter, Since the lead crisis in Flint, the “acceptable” level has been lowered from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5 according to the Center for Disease Control. The City Attorney, Carla Morgan, shared that only 420-450 children have had their blood tested. There is no safe level of lead in the body, even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect I.Q. We encourage parents and caregivers to get their children and themselves tested.

There are approximately 1500 children aged 6 and younger living within a 1-mile radius of the USS Lead Smelter site. Located in a food desert, with no grocery store within a 1-mile radius of the community, the residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex lack access to healthy fruits and vegetables. Data shows that children poisoned by lead need fresh food and vegetable to mitigate the impact of lead in their systems.

Furthermore, lead exposure is dramatically known to impact children’s ability to learn. The local public school Carrie Gosch Elementary has low and still declining Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) and only 39% of their students passed the 2014—2015 ISTEP. 

Barbara Bolling Williams, President of NAACP Indiana stated “we are outraged by this total disregard for the health and safety of a generation of people who have resided and continue to reside in and around the West Calumet Housing Complex. It is the sincere goal of the NAACP to extend our support in making the community whole and to assist in the reduction of the countless additional burdens now bestowed upon the estimated 346 families and their children.”

“This is too frequent, these hazardous contaminations occurring within black, brown, and vulnerable communities, it is a systemic pattern I see across the nation. This challenge must be addressed at the root of the socio-economic and political underpinnings of these types of systemic inequities that disproportionately impact communities of color and low income communities,” says Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP Director of Environmental Climate Justice Program.

Reverend James H. Hunter, Sr. has lived in East Chicago and pastored the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church for 54 years. He expressed his support for the efforts to give people descent housing and EPA’s effort to decontaminant the housing, “I am concerned about people getting descent housing and about their health conditions.”

The NAACP Indiana will further engage residents, community leaders, faith leaders and public officials. “We must apply the lessons learned from the environmental injustice imposed upon the citizens of Flint. There are best practices the NAACP would like to share with the East Chicago communities” said Denise Abdul-Rahman, NAACP Indiana Environmental Climate Justice Chair.

The NAACP will continue investigating this incident, as well as advocate for culturally competent service provision, transparency of the administration of funds, and establishment of local hire and disadvantaged business enterprise provisions for all work/contract opportunities in the response to this travesty. The NAACP will also work directly on securing healthy fruits and vegetables for distribution through community centers and local church pantries, and documenting community concerns by recording complaints and convening community forums.

The NAACP founded in 1909, is a civil rights organization committed to fight for equality and the elimination of racial discrimination. The Indiana State Conference is the governing body for the 22 Branches, 6 Youth Councils, Jr. Youth Council, High School Chapter and 6 College Chapters. ###

 

North Carolina Voter ID

Posted on July 29, 2016 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down North Carolina Voter ID Requirement

JULY 29, 2016

 

Election workers checked voters’ identification in Asheville, N.C., in March. Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times

A federal appeals court decisively struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law on Friday, saying its provisions deliberately “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” in an effort to depress black turnout at the polls.

The sweeping 83-page decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upended voting procedures in a battleground state about three months before Election Day. That ruling and a second wide-ranging decision on Friday, in Wisconsin, continued a string of recent court opinions against restrictive voting laws that critics say were created solely to keep minority and other traditionally Democratic voters away from the polls.

The North Carolina ruling tossed out the state’s requirement that voters present photo identification at the polls and restored voters’ ability to register on Election Day, to register before reaching the 18-year-old voting age, and to cast early ballots, provisions the law had fully or partly eliminated.

The court also held that the ballots of people who had mistakenly voted at the wrong polling stations should be deemed valid.

In the Wisconsin decision, Judge James D. Peterson of Federal District Court ruled that parts of Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law are unconstitutional. He ordered the state to make photo IDs more easily available to voters and to broaden the range of student IDs that are accepted at the ballot box.

The decision also threw out other rules that lengthened the residency requirement for newly registered voters, banned distributing absentee ballots by fax or email and sharply restricted the locations and times at which municipal voters, many of them Milwaukee blacks, could cast absentee ballots in person.

Judge Peterson’s sharply worded 119-page ruling suggested that Wisconsin’s voter restrictions, as well as voter ID restrictions in Indiana that have been upheld in the Supreme Court, exist only to suppress votes.

 

 

“The evidence in this case casts doubt on the notion that voter ID laws foster integrity and confidence,” he wrote. “The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections.’’

The court decisions — the third and fourth federal rulings in recent weeks against Republican-enacted voting restrictions — were made as the two political parties raced from their summer conventions into the critical final months of the campaign, with Wisconsin, like North Carolina, considered a contested state.

North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature rewrote the state’s voting rules in 2013 shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that had given the Justice Department the power to oversee changes in election procedures in areas with a history of racial discrimination. Forty of the state’s 100 counties had been subject to oversight.

Civil rights advocates and the Justice Department had sued to block the law, but a Federal District Court judge upheld it in April, writing that the state’s “significant, shameful past discrimination” had largely abated in the last 25 years.

On Friday, the three-judge panel emphatically disagreed, saying the lower court’s amply documented ruling had failed to consider “the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”

The judges noted that Republican leaders had drafted their restrictions on voting only after receiving data indicating that African-Americans would be the voters most significantly affected by them.

“We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,” they wrote. “The court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees,” they stated. The panel stopped short of reimposing federal oversight on the state’s elections, saying that striking down the law was enough.

Voting rights advocates called the ruling, which Republicans say they will appeal, a resounding victory. Fresh from speaking Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention, the Rev. William J. Barber II, the president of the North Carolina branch of the N.A.A.C.P., which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, called the decision “a moral and constitutional vindication of our constitutional critique of this extremist legislature and our extremist governor.

“A political majority doesn’t give you the power to run roughshod over the Constitution,” he said.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who was in Baton Rouge, La., on Friday, also welcomed the decision, saying the law “sent a message that contradicted some of the most basic principles of our democracy.

“The ability of Americans to have a voice in the direction of their country — to have a fair and free opportunity to help write the story of this nation — is fundamental to who we are,” she said.

Republicans denounced the opinion as wrongheaded and politically motivated, particularly because the three judges who decided the case had been nominated to the appeals court by either President Bill Clinton or President Obama. (One of them, however, had originally been named by President George W. Bush in 2003 to a vacant seat on the Federal District Court in South Carolina.)

“We can only wonder if the intent is to reopen the door for voter fraud” in November’s federal and state elections, State Senator Phil Berger and the House speaker, Tim Moore, said in a statement. They pledged to appeal the ruling.

So did Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who is locked in one of the country’s tightest races for governor. “Photo IDs are required to purchase Sudafed, cash a check, board an airplane or enter a federal courtroom,” Mr. McCrory said. “Yet three Democratic judges are undermining the integrity of our elections while also maligning our state.”

Republicans say the restrictions were aimed at ending rampant voter fraud.

But on Friday, the appeals court dismissed that argument, saying the restrictions “constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist.” Academic studies have repeatedly concluded that fraud at the ballot box — the sort that photo identification requirements might reduce — is already vanishingly rare.

 

 

 

 

Fatal Shooting of Alton Sterling

Posted on July 12, 2016 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (0)

NAACP STATEMENT ON THE FATAL SHOOTING OF ALTON STERLING DURING POLICE ENCOUNTER IN BATON ROUGE, LA

July 06, 2016

NAACP Statement on the Fatal Shooting of Alton Sterling During Police Encounter in Baton Rouge, LA

BALTIMORE, MD - NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks today issued the following statement regarding the fatal shooting of 37-year old Alton Sterling after an encounter with police in Baton Rouge, LA:

“Yet again Americans are confronted with another fatal shooting of an African-American at the hands of the police. Behind the latest horrific video and hashtag is the humanity of a young black man slain on film whose name was Alton Sterling. The death of another African-American – captured in shocking detail on video - at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community is heartbreaking. Beyond heartbreaking, this latest tragedy calls for officials to break the inertia that may paralyze local and state authorities in insuring justice for the family, friends and community of Alton Sterling.

“Specifically and first, all state and municipal authorities should be directed by Governor Edwards to cooperate with and actively support the ongoing Justice Department investigation. Second, the cooperation with the the federal investigation should be monitored by state authorities, and if the facts bear out, pursue the filing of state charges. Third, based on the results of all state and federal investigations, if and as the facts warrant, the police involved in the shooting of Mr. Sterling should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Fourth, the Baton Rouge Police Department should undergo a thorough and comprehensive review to insure that its policing practices adhere to the Justice Department protocols and the Presidential Commission on 21st Century Policing.

“Sadly, the video of Alton Sterling’s death appears to be an ugly replay and remix of so many tragedies involving the police. In 2015, 27 people lost their lives at the hands of police in Louisiana, 14 of those were African-Americans. In the same year, 1000 people lost their lives in police custody across the United States. These tragedies, as well as our communities and country, demand wholesale reform.

“This is precisely why the NAACP is calling for the Protect with Respect Policing Reform Agenda. First, we are calling on states to pass comprehensive racial profiling laws. One racial profiling law, co-authored and passed with the support of the NAACP in Missouri enabled the Department of Justice to hold the Ferguson Police Department accountable through its “pattern and practice” investigation.

“Second, we demand full support of and passage of two crucial pieces of federal legislation. Last summer, the NAACP led a 1,002 mile march from Selma, Alabama to Washington DC to demand members of Congress pass the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (LETIA) and the End Racial Profiling Act. LETIA addresses the issue of police accountability and trust between police departments and their communities. The legislation also provides incentives for police organizations to adopt standards to ensure that incidents of misconduct are reduced through management training and protocols. ERPA would create a federal prohibition on racial profiling, mandate data collection, provide funding for law enforcement retraining and withhold funding to law enforcement agencies that do not comply.

“Third, as the two presumptive presidential candidates criss-cross this country, we want them to clearly state their commitment to address criminal justice reform and the issues of racial profiling, use of excessive force, and stop and frisk abuses. As the two candidates lead rallies and fundraising events seeking our support and our vote, we must demand that they support legislation to reform our fractured criminal justice system and end the murder of black and brown men and women at the hands of police.

“Today, we mourn the tragic loss of the life of Alton Sterling and pray for his family and community. But we must also turn our anger and determination towards efforts to ensure there is a transparent and through investigation, demand our legislators and police officials support efforts to reform our criminal justice system at every level, and pass reasonable legislation that would end racial profiling.

“We applaud the efforts of the Baton Rouge NAACP, led by President Mike McClanahan, to support the community and lead the call for a thorough, independent investigation into the shooting death of Alton Sterling.”

 

Effective July 1, 2016

Posted on June 30, 2016 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Indiana lawmakers pass bill allowing police to withhold footage from body cameras, dashcams

INDIANAPOLIS (March 10, 2016) — Indiana law enforcement agencies will get the right to withhold all body and dash cam video recordings from the public under a bill that’s now headed to the governor’s desk.

The state Senate voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the bill, which allows a person to challenge an agency’s decision in court. The agency would then have to prove within 30 days that releasing the video would harm someone or hinder an investigation.

Law enforcement agencies say burdensome regulations would deter body cam use, but open-records advocates have pushed for greater police transparency. Bill sponsor Sen. Republican Rodric Bray of Martinsville says both sides have signed off on the final language as a compromise of their concerns.

 



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