Civil Rights

Friday, June 23, 2017

Louisiana lawmakers, activists urge Sens. Cassidy and Kennedy to condemn Senate health care bill

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 9:36 AM

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the bill "specifically disadvantages" Louisiana. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards said the bill "specifically disadvantages" Louisiana.

With the release of a 142-page draft early Thursday morning, the Senate finally revealed its much-anticipated (and, by many, dreaded) plan that could make good on the long-term Republican promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.

The bill's release offered the first opportunity for the public — and many underinformed senators — to view and critique the Senate's plan, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Before its reveal, the bill already had come under fire for an unusually secretive drafting process featuring no public hearings and little debate on the Senate floor.

Within its text: higher premiums for older people, the elimination of the individual and employer mandates (you won't have to carry insurance, and employers don't have to provide it for you), a year-long freeze on Planned Parenthood funding, fewer subsidies to help people buy insurance and cuts to federal Medicaid dollars which support the working poor, 40 percent of American children and people with disabilities. (An easy-to-read breakdown is being updated at The Washington Post.)

Throughout the state, a chorus of lawmakers, public health observers and activists have begun to speak out against this health care plan. But the power lies with Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy, who will now turn their attentions to the legislation ahead of a potential vote next week.

Perhaps due to the bill's length and complexity, they have yet to comment extensively on the bill's details. Instead, they've leaned on familiar rhetoric from the past several weeks.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Congressional Black Caucus, led by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, declines Trump's request for meeting

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 6:17 PM

The executive board of the Congressional Black Caucus meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in March. The group now has formally rejected a Trump administration request for another meeting. - THE WHITE HOUSE/BENJAMIN APPLEBAUM
  • THE WHITE HOUSE/BENJAMIN APPLEBAUM
  • The executive board of the Congressional Black Caucus meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in March. The group now has formally rejected a Trump administration request for another meeting.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), a group of 49 lawmakers led by New Orleans-area U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, today formally rejected a 12-day-old request from President Donald Trump to meet with the president.

According to POLITICO:
Lawmakers in the 49-member group each received an invitation last week from Omarosa Manigault, the-reality-TV-star-turned-White-House-aide who has pitched herself as an unofficial liaison to the CBC.

“As requested by the president, we would like to schedule a follow-up meeting with the entire membership of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss issues pertinent to your members,” Manigault wrote in the invitation, obtained by POLITICO.

But multiple CBC members said they were put off that she signed the invitation as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault,” saying she hasn’t earned that title nor has she helped raise the profile of CBC issues within the White House as promised.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Mayoral candidate Scurlock decries Indivisible NOLA for 'reverse racism'

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Frank Scurlock, mayoral candidate. - FACEBOOK/FRANK SCURLOCK
  • FACEBOOK/FRANK SCURLOCK
  • Frank Scurlock, mayoral candidate.

Mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock, who was excluded from tomorrow's town hall forum for declared mayoral candidates hosted by Indivisible NOLA, has accused organizers of "reverse racism" for not inviting him to the event. (Scurlock is white; the invited candidates, Michael Bagneris, LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet, all are black.)

"Are the Indivisible New Orleans decision-makers petty elitists and snobs?" Scurlock said in a statement. "Their action smacks of the worst kind of reverse racism and will only further divide New Orleans voters."

Indivisible NOLA founder Joyce Vansean responded, "We as an organization do not believe that reverse racism exists."

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

State lawmakers one step away from finalizing bill offering parole for some juvenile lifers

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 10:37 AM

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After months of negotiations over a controversial bill aimed to curb life without parole sentences for juveniles, lawmakers have reached a compromise.

Senate Bill 16, by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, will eliminate life without parole for juveniles convicted of second-degree murder, but retain the sentence for offenders convicted of first-degree murder. Those who are granted the chance at freedom will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of their sentence.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bill on domestic violence protections for 'dating partners' moves to full state Senate

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 1:40 PM

State Rep. Helena Moreno.
  • State Rep. Helena Moreno.

A Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee favorably dispatched a bill to the full Senate for final debate Tuesday that would provide dating partners the same protection afforded spouses.

Dating partners involved in domestic abuse cases only can be charged with simple battery under current law. Domestic abuse battery carries more severe penalties. Louisiana is one of nine states where domestic abuse law does not recognize dating partners and does not allow the same protection as spouses.
House Bill 223, by State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, creates a new section of law for dating partners, which is the same as the domestic spousal abuse law, except it does not ban the guilty dating partner from owning a firearm for 10 years.

The presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship increases the chances of a homicide by about 500 percent, according to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Moreno’s bill would trigger a federal ban on firearm possession for more intense acts of violence, such as burning or strangling the victim, or for repeat offenders.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

With the removal of Robert E. Lee's statue, what's next for the monuments and New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 10:00 PM

Robert E. Lee's statue was removed from its pedestal May 19. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Robert E. Lee's statue was removed from its pedestal May 19.

At 11 a.m, a single PA speaker packed into a wagon blasted Ginuwine's "Pony" and Blackstreet's "No Diggity" as a small crowd gathered outside Lee Circle to watch a fourth Confederate-era monument come down.

Robert E. Lee's statue —  16 feet tall, 8,000 pounds, in his Confederate uniform, arms crossed, facing north — would remain on his pedestal, where the statue stood since 1884, for only a few more hours. At a few minutes after 6 p.m. May 19, a crane lifted Lee off the tower to cheers from a growing crowd.

At 3 p.m., Mayor Mitch Landrieu addressed an invitation-only crowd inside Gallier Hall, his period at the end of a nearly three-year sentence arguing for the removal of Confederate-era monuments from New Orleans' public space. In his impassioned 20-minute address, Landrieu challenged the city to acknowledge and reconcile its ugly past while building a more inclusive society. If not, he said, "then this will all have been in vain." Meanwhile, two members of the construction crew tasked with their removal placed the crane's hook to the straps wrapped around Lee's statue.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New barricades go up across from the Jefferson Davis monument

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 3:17 PM

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The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has erected new barricades — reminiscent of the ones put up on Lee Circle this weekend — on the neutral ground across Canal Street from the Jefferson Davis statue. Temporary "No Parking" signs also have gone up on Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway near the statue, in effect through May 12.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Former Gambit editor Michael Tisserand weighs in on monuments in The New York Times

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 2:29 PM

Michael Tisserand.
  • Michael Tisserand.

Michael Tisserand, former Gambit editor and author of the recently acclaimed book Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White, has an opinion piece about the Confederate monument controversy in today's New York Times, "In New Orleans, Racism’s History Is Harder Than Stone." An excerpt:
My son’s school is racially diverse, but it still bears the last name of Robert Mills Lusher, a fierce segregationist who championed education as a means for maintaining white dominance. I enjoy art markets and crawfish boils at a park named for Benjamin Palmer, a Presbyterian minister who on Thanksgiving in 1860 preached that it was the South’s holy duty to protect and extend slavery.

Over time, these tributes to white supremacy become just part of the landscape. “I never even notice them,” white friends have told me, and often I could say the same. As I drive these streets, I am reminded of the observations of Chuck Berry, who celebrated the city in his songs but shrewdly wrote in his autobiography that in New Orleans “segregation was practiced in a more polite manner, with some strategy.”
Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lee Circle march faces white supremacist groups as New Orleans prepares to take down Confederate-era statues

Posted By on Sun, May 7, 2017 at 11:00 PM

At Lee Circle May 7, white supremacist groups and monument supporters were separated from a massive group calling for the removal of Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • At Lee Circle May 7, white supremacist groups and monument supporters were separated from a massive group calling for the removal of Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans

The horns of the New Creations Brass Band powered a massive march to celebrate the removal of four Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans. Winding through the French Quarter from Congo Square to the steps of Lee Circle, hundreds of people joined the "second line" led by longtime civil rights advocates who have fought for years against white supremacist statues in New Orleans.

Last month, the city removed the first of four monuments scheduled for removal from the city's landscape following two years of debate, legal challenges and court rulings that ultimately gave the city approval to take them down.

The May 7 march was met by a few dozen white supremacists and monument supporters who gathered at the foot of the Robert E. Lee monument to wave Confederate flags and flags bearing the symbol of white nationalist group League of the South. Some wore baseball helmets, face masks, shin guards and armored vests — the uniform of an emerging paramilitary arm of the emboldened "alt-right" — and came armed with flagpoles, shields, pepper spray and guns.

With some traveling as far as California, the mostly out-of-town crowd of monument supporters came prepared to do battle with "antifa" and deliver a bloody response in the wake of April's clashes in Berkeley, California, while narratives on right-wing websites hyped a new "Battle of New Orleans."

Instead they were met by members and supporters of Take 'Em Down NOLA and other civil rights and workers groups — many of the same people who have marched repeatedly against the monuments, police violence, and Donald Trump's administration and policies, among other issues — all dancing alongside a brass band and a DJ blasting music from a truck.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Report: No charges against officers in Alton Sterling death

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Hundreds of people rallied at Lee Circle in 2016 following the death of Alton Sterling.
  • Hundreds of people rallied at Lee Circle in 2016 following the death of Alton Sterling.

As Baton Rouge braces for a decision nearly a year after the killing of Alton Sterling by police and the heavy summer that followed, The Washington Post reports the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will not bring charges against the two officers.

Sterling was killed by police July 5, 2016 after they had pinned him to the ground outside Triple S Food Mart, where Sterling sold CDs and family and supporters have gathered in the months following his death. On July 6, the DOJ announced it had opened a civil rights investigation.

If the feds refuse to bring federal charges against the officers, the decision could rest with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to decide whether to bring state charges. On Twitter, Landry said his office will not comment until the DOJ makes a formal announcement. Gov. John Bel Edwards also has declined to comment pending confirmation from the DOJ.
According to The Washington Post and several Louisiana outlets, Sterling's family was not notified of the DOJ decision prior to media reports. In a statement, newly elected Baton Rouge mayor Sharon Weston Broom said she is "appalled that this news, whether true or false, has been disseminated without a formal decision being relayed to the Sterling family first." U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond said the report and lack of an announcement to the family "is an indictment on [the] DOJ."

"It completely undermines the credibility and transparency of [the Justice Department]," he said on Twitter.

Following Sterling's death and police response, thousands of people participated in demonstrations in Baton Rouge (where they were met with heavily armed and armored state and local police) and around the U.S. and in New Orleans, where hundreds of people gathered at Lee Circle to rally against police violence.

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