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    Atlanta's Gang Indictment Takes On an Institution / TheIntercept · 11:00 · 12 minutes

Jeffery Lamar Williams — the celebrated Atlanta trap recording artist better known as Young Thug — walked into Fulton County Jail in May to a standing ovation.

The arrest was an event. The jail, on Rice Street, shut down the intake of other arrestees to process him in. Atlanta’s city-contracted wrecker service diverted all its trucks to haul his many cars out of the rented property in Buckhead where police found him May 9. The entire city paused to take inventory on the massive gang arrest, with 27 other people — including a second superstar rapper, Sergio “Gunna” Kitchens.

Previous Fulton County prosecutors have been reluctant to invoke the law, concerned about the abuses of mass incarceration and its power to stigmatize Black defendants. But Atlanta today faces a rash of violence that distorts policies and murders good intentions.

While official claims about gang culpability for street violence ought to be taken with a grain of salt — such figures are often pulled out of thin air — Young Slime Life, the gang Williams is alleged to lead, left a trail of very real bodies, the victims of a seven-year gang feud.

Rising violent crime and the abuses attendant to gang prosecutions have received national attention amid the push for criminal justice reform following George Floyd’s murder. Local dynamics in Atlanta make discussions of such reforms — and of the abuses they target — especially fraught. On the one hand, a Black mayor and a Black prosecutor are charged with protecting poor Black people in Black neighborhoods, while white conservatives use Atlanta violence as a political punching bag. On the other hand, the machinery of rap music in Atlanta increasingly exploits real-world violence to promote the street “authenticity” of Atlanta trap, primarily to white audiences.

In the middle are austere jail cells, where Young Thug and many others now wait for their trials.

Violence is on the rise in Atlanta. The homicide rate is up by about one-third year-to-date and about 60 percent over pre-pandemic levels. The city is on pace for roughly 170 murders this year, compared with 99 in 2019 .

The problem, as can be gleaned from police reports, appears to be terrifyingly basic: The cops increasingly describe killings as targeted. A small subset of shooters want to make sure their victims aren’t just bleeding but dead.

Sometimes that can look like the casually brutal murder of Anthony Frazier, a security guard at a seafood restaurant on Cleveland Avenue who took a bullet point-blank in the back of the head last month. Or it can be a plain hit, like the murder of Shymel Drinks, whose body was found beneath an overpass just south of downtown in March. Police described him as a member of a gang, allegedly killed by rivals in Young Slime Life as an act of reprisal.

This is what Atlanta’s gang war looks like. It has been raging in varying forms since 2015 and went into overdrive during the pandemic, reversing more than a decade of the city’s gains against violence.

“The murder rate in Atlanta is over the murder rate in Chicago!” bellowed Republican former Sen. David Perdue in a gubernatorial candidates’ debate in April. “What we have in Georgia is a runaway crime situation that the governor is burying his head about. … We have the highest murder rate in the country!”

Atlanta’s murder rate over the last 12 months is higher than Chicago’s: 36 per 100,000 people killed to Chicago’s 27 per 100,000. None of the rest of what Perdue said is true. Atlanta doesn’t crack the top 20 cities over 100,000 residents for murders. Georgia isn’t in the top 10 states for murder rates. Kemp still engaged in a bidding war for “tough-on-crime” credentials.

The rhetoric from white conservatives has had one of its intended effects: blunting reform efforts. Atlanta’s relatively progressive, Black political leadership has incrementally turned away from talk about reform and toward whatever can get the body count down, now.

Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis photographed in her office on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. The prosecutor weighing whether Donald Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia officials to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory said a decision on whether to bring charges could come as early as the first half of this year. Willis said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that her team is making solid progress, and she’s leaning toward asking for a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid the investigation. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis in her office on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

Photo: Ben Gray/AP

Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, sees gang prosecutions and state RICO charges as the answer to the uptick in violence. RICO — short for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — is a law meant to take down drug cartels and mafia syndicates by piecing together individual crimes to argue that they’re part of a larger criminal enterprise. RICO cases — state or federal — are hard to beat.

The Young Slime Life, or YSL, indictment has 28 defendants, only a handful of whom can pay for a robust defense out of pocket. The wide net of the charges is designed to get people to fold and offer testimony to save their own skin.

Not everyone is convinced that it’s a good tactic.

“This sweeping indictment will come at a great expense to taxpayers and all Atlantans who would prefer violence intervention and thoughtful investment in solutions proven to be effective,” said Devin Franklin, an attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights. “The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has invested tremendously in crafting a narrative of dangerousness in Atlanta without providing data to the public substantiating the contention that so-called repeat offenders are primarily to blame for harm in Atlanta.”

Some critics hold that the targets in this case are Black people who have risen from poverty, that perhaps the charges are a prosecutorial overreach in the face of political pressure to act. These critics would argue that RICO cases should be reserved for people with institutional power, like transnational criminal cartels, mafia crews, and corporate malefactors.

Should Black criminal enterprises be immune to drawing a RICO charge? The idea is fundamentally insulting.

There might be something to it, but to make that argument one must overlook the role of the music industry in Atlanta — an institution, one might say — and its intertwined relationship with the gang violence. Should Black criminal enterprises be immune to drawing a RICO charge? The idea is fundamentally insulting. Poor Black people’s lives lost in street warfare deserve the protection of the law.

When looking at the problem of street violence and its connection to Atlanta’s music industry as a question of racism, consider the corporate parentage of Young Thug’s label. Len Blavatnik is the owner of Warner Music Group, which owns the 300 Entertainment label that distributes the music of Young Thug on his YSL label. Blavatnik is a Russian oligarch who helped other oligarchs under sanctions divest their holdings. He donated $1 million to former President Donald Trump’s slush fund/inaugural committee.

If Atlanta’s musical infrastructure is cancerous because of the way street gangs are using their connection to music studios and recording executives to recruit new members into acts of violence, a RICO prosecution is an attack on structural power.

Young Thug’s rise to stardom ran in parallel with a gang war between feuding sets of Bloods. The conflict erupted in 2015, following the assassination of Bloods gang leader Donovan “Peanut” Thomas. Prosecutors allege that Williams — Young Thug — rented the car used by five gang members, including rising rap star Yak Gotti, to conduct the drive-by shooting that killed Thomas.

According to the indictment, Williams spoke with Kyle Oree, the leader of the cultlike gang Sex Money Murda, shortly after Thomas’s death. Prosecutors appear to have captured a call to Oree in jail, in which the hit is purportedly discussed. A few days after talking to Oree, Young Thug went on social media to argue that people who “get right into the courtroom and tell the God’s honest truth don’t get it, y’all n****s need to get fucking killed, bro, from me and YSL.”

Bringing charges against a group like the Young Slime Life gang proved challenging. Prosecutors had to disentangle YSL the music label, which is an imprint of Warner Music, from YSL the street gang, an outgrowth of South Atlanta organized crime around Cleveland Avenue, the latest iteration of previous gangs like Raised on Cleveland and 30 Deep.

Thomas’s murder divided Atlanta into two warring camps: YSL and YFN, another Blood gang in Atlanta loyal to Thomas. YFN is fronted by another popular rapper, Rayshawn Bennett, known as YFN Lucci.

The conflict only accelerated during the pandemic, though violence appears to have slowed down since the May 9 indictment and arrests.

Lucci is in Fulton County Jail — somewhere carefully isolated from Young Thug — awaiting trial on gang charges and a felony murder charge from a botched 2021 drive-by shooting on YSL gang members. Lucci allegedly drove the car. When their targets killed the triggerman in return fire, Lucci ditched the body in the middle of the street and sped away, the YFN gang indictment said.

Rapper YFN Lucci performs onstage on January 05, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Rapper YFN Lucci performs on Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta.

Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

The arrest of alleged YSL gang member Christian “Big Bhris” Eppinger on February 7 ended in a bloody affair, with Eppinger allegedly firing six shots into an Atlanta cop during the arrest. Eppinger’s arrest started a 90-day clock ticking, with court rules demanding an indictment before then to continue to hold him. Willis, the district attorney, used it to build the broader YSL gang case.

The cases are sure to leverage Georgia’s unique gang law. Normally, prosecutors can’t use rap lyrics or Instagram photos of men holding guns while throwing up gang signs as evidence of a crime in an armed robbery case or an assault, because alone these things have nothing to do with those crimes. A judge would consider it improperly prejudicial.

But in a gang terrorism case under Georgia law, the prosecution has to prove that other crimes were committed as part of gang activity. So all evidence of gang activity becomes admissible, and that evidence can be used in the trials of all the other alleged gang members charged under the same statute. The Georgia law can be devastating for the defense: Juries see mountains of evidence from a wide array of crimes, along with testimony about gang signs and initiations.

Police and civic leaders began 2022 with calls for Atlantans to engage in nonviolent conflict resolution, because the city’s murders appeared to be driven by inexplicable spontaneous rage and not, say, the more statistically predictable drug deal gone bad or robbery attempt.

“I mean, folks are going to the finality of any argument, like the end of the argument is to end you, to end your life,” said Andre Dickens, Atlanta’s newly elected mayor, at a “Clippers and Cops” barbershop forum in January. “We’re finding that the person that’s dead also had a gun. So the person that shot was thinking, ‘I’ve got to shoot you before you shoot me,’ because so many people have guns right now.” He added, “A lot of times I’m seeing these things happening because people just don’t know how to settle a dispute — without going to a gun.”

Historically, Atlanta voters have picked their mayors based on issues of housing, transportation, and city service problems. A poll ahead of the Atlanta mayor’s race last year, though, showed that 48 percent of people considered crime to be the most important problem in the city, with about 61 percent of respondents saying they live within a mile of an area where they’d be afraid to walk alone at night.

On the campaign trail, Dickens took a balanced approach to fighting Atlanta’s growing crime problem. “While arrests for violent criminals are of course necessary, we simply cannot arrest our way out of a crime wave,” he said in his crime policy platform. “We need a comprehensive approach. Diversion and police alternatives are an integral part of managing Atlanta’s criminal justice system.”

The city is pursuing an expansion of its pre-arrest diversion initiative, ramping up its new Office of Violence Reduction, and planning to create a hospital-based violence intervention program at Grady Memorial. The early days of Dickens’s term, however, have largely focused on enforcement.

After three months in office, Dickens announced the creation of a repeat offenders unit in the police department to identify people most likely to commit an act of violence and get them off the street. The unit will direct citizen reviewers to follow the cases of recidivists, documenting the trials and reporting on the outcomes.

The worries about creating a stigma had been overcome by the politics of the crime surge.

Rap is still art, and artistic freedom is a hallmark of the First Amendment, said Devin Rafus, a criminal defense attorney at Arora Law. “Young men use lyrics and rap as a way to express their feelings, or how the community is growing up, or what they see on the street, and how to sort of break free from it,” he said. “To use that against someone in the future, and try and say, ‘Hey, you must be bad, or you must have committed this crime,’ because you talked about either committing a crime that’s similar or something totally different that’s bad as well. It’s just very prejudicial to a jury and to the defendant when they hear that information.”

“The statutes are stacked against us,” Rafus said. “I don’t think that just because someone writes a song, that that necessarily makes it true either then or in the future.”

“The statutes are stacked against us.”

That argument, though, has so far fallen flat in court. Deamonte “Yak Gotti” Kendrick’s lawyer made the connection between the case and the music plain in his ultimately unsuccessful argument for bond.

“They’re sending a message to every young kid today in the city who hopes to grow up and become a successful musician that whenever you go on YouTube and the internet and create as your art form, you’re going to have that used against you later,” Jay Abt, Kendrick’s lawyer, said. “And that is a shame on them. That is one of the greatest things that has blessed our city and our community and our state in the last two decades.”

The defense insists that this prosecution means to put rap on trial, and the aspirations of poor Black people who see music as the only way out of poverty along with it. They are arguing that Willis would prefer not to face the same fate as Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, cast out amid a perceived failure to be tough on crime.

The larger question is whether gang prosecutions tied to the music industry ultimately begin looking for targets in the music industry’s corporate penthouses. There are rich people at the top of this pyramid who are white, not from Atlanta, and profiting from Black misery, arguably being cultivated by these artists, in the name of selling records.

At some point, we must ask if the major labels are deliberately looking to promote artists who are themselves promoting violent street gangs because, in a fractured media landscape, “authentic” trap musicians are more reliably profitable.

The post Atlanta’s Gang Indictment Takes On an Institution appeared first on The Intercept .

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    More People Will Die / TheIntercept · 2 days ago - 21:04 · 4 minutes

A pro-choice supporter cries outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022. - The US Supreme Court on Friday ended the right to abortion in a seismic ruling that shreds half a century of constitutional protections on one of the most divisive and bitterly fought issues in American political life. The conservative-dominated court overturned the landmark 1973 "Roe v Wade" decision that enshrined a woman's right to an abortion and said individual states can permit or restrict the procedure themselves. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

A pro-abortion supporter cries outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022.

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

In a stunning, if expected, ruling, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, ignoring decades of precedent to deny Americans a fundamental human right. The decision cleared the way for states to outlaw abortion and criminalize those who seek one or help others get them.

The ruling will quickly make abortion illegal in several states. Thirteen — Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming — have so-called trigger laws on the books meant to make abortion illegal in the event that Roe fell. Texas and Missouri declared abortion illegal within hours of the ruling. Others still have restrictions in place that can now be revived.

Those who aren’t able to get the abortion they want, need, and deserve will see their lives irreparably damaged.

Here’s a stark truth that’s crucial to keep in mind: More pregnant people in those states will die.

Medication abortion is safe and effective , but states have already been working to restrict it. In desperation, many pregnant people in states that ban abortion will still do what they can to obtain one. Abortion won’t disappear, but for many it will become deadly. Even people experiencing pregnancy complications will get caught up and have their lives threatened if doctors refuse to give them the treatment they need, as has happened in countries like Ireland and Poland .

Those who aren’t able to get the abortion they want, need, and deserve will see their lives irreparably damaged.

One researcher’s estimate is that a quarter of those who would have sought and previously been able to get an abortion will instead give birth. They will watch as their life’s dreams slip away. Forced birth will lead to diminished economic prospects and severe destitution for parents and their children.

In the seminal Turnaway Study of women who sought an abortion, despite comparable financial footing, those who were unsuccessful in getting an abortion were three times as likely to wind up living in poverty than those who were successful. They were also more likely to end up unemployed. Years later, people who can’t obtain abortions wind up with more debt and are more likely to have gone bankrupt or been evicted.

Children will suffer too. Legal abortion reduced the number of children living in poverty and improved children’s lives by making it more likely they would graduate college and earn enough to live on. Growing up in poverty, on the other hand, has huge negative effects on children’s education, involvement in the criminal justice system, and lifelong earnings and job potential.

It’s also far more difficult to parent while living in poverty and after carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. The Turnaway Study found that the mothers who didn’t get abortions reported worse emotional bonding with the children they were forced to bear. Other research has found that legalizing abortion reduced instances of child abuse and neglect.

Access to legal abortion, on the other hand, has, until this point, dramatically changed American women’s economic opportunities. Women who get the abortions they seek are more likely to be able to follow through on their plans for education and careers.

The legalization of abortion after the original Roe decision better enabled women to get higher levels of education, increased their participation in the labor force, boosted their earnings, and upped their ”occupational prestige,” in the words of two economists.

The reasons behind those trends aren’t hard to follow. Being a parent is difficult and expensive, especially in this country. Pregnancy itself is frequently penalized at work. Very few workers are offered paid family leave when their children are born, and there is no guarantee they’ll get paid sick leave when their children fall ill. The cost of child care has risen dramatically in recent decades, and that’s for parents who don’t live in a child care desert and can actually find a spot. Very few children are enrolled in public preschool.

Mothers in particular often fall subject to the motherhood penalty that sees them as less dedicated and competent workers and damages their pay relative to women without children and fathers — just when they need more income to support a family. One paper found that “children impose significantly larger penalties on the career trajectories of women relative to men.”

These outcomes will only be magnified for unwanted pregnancies and forced births.

The ability to control pregnancy and one’s own body is a bedrock right that Americans deserve regardless of the economic outcomes. But it is also true that, as well as denying pregnant people in this country a fundamental bodily right, the Supreme Court and the states that ban abortion are condemning them to financial suffering and possible death.

The post More People Will Die appeared first on The Intercept .

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    With the Corpse of Roe Still Warm, Far Right Plots Fascistic Anti-Abortion Enforcement / TheIntercept · 2 days ago - 19:35 · 5 minutes

UNITED STATES - JUNE 24: U.S. Capitol Police in riot gear return to their staging area after clear a path back to the Capitol for House Democrats after they spoke in front of the Supreme Court following the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturning Roe v Wade was handed down at the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

U.S. Capitol Police in riot gear are seen in Washington, D.C., following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.

Photo: Bill Clark/AP

Given the makeup of the far-right Supreme Court, it has for some years been clear that Roe v. Wade would fall. Following Friday’s 6-3 decision to destroy all constitutional abortion rights, 22 states will enact their readied trigger laws for total or near-total abortion bans, with more expected to follow. Fascistic anti-abortionists have won in the courts, but they are already making clear that a victory in law is nothing to them if the laws are not brutally enforced to forge a Christian-nationalist nation through and through.

With the end of Roe achieved, the fascist right is setting its sights on shutting down and criminalizing all crucial sites of abortion solidarity and assistance that reproductive networks are fighting to build.

To get a sense of their expansive, draconian agenda, we need only look at the model legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Coalition — the sort of laws that Republicans in state houses will be no doubt swiftly proposing.

“Traditionally, abortion laws relied on criminal enforcement to make pro-life laws effective,” the powerful anti-abortion organization wrote. “However, current realities require a much more robust enforcement regime than reliance on criminal penalties.”

That is, for these groups, criminalization of abortion providers is not fascistic enough.

For these groups, criminalization of abortion providers is not fascistic enough.

The model legislation would seek to use Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations — or RICO — laws against anyone with any involvement in someone accessing an abortion. People could come under criminal suspicion for offering telehealth appointments; mailing or transporting abortion pills across state lines; potentially giving advice online about how to self-administer an abortion; or even “hosting or maintaining a website, or providing internet service, that encourages or facilitates efforts to obtain an illegal abortion.” All these activities would fall under “aiding and abetting.”

Drawing attention to the model law on Twitter, historian Thomas Lecaque noted , “IT DOESN’T STOP THERE THIS IS A BLUEPRINT FOR A CHRISTIAN NATIONALIST SURVEILLANCE STATE.”

The model legislation also makes clear that the route to enforcement should be vigilantism, following the lead of Texas’s vile Senate Bill 8 . The law permits anyone to file a civil suit against any person who could be deemed to “abet” an abortion — potentially including an Uber driver who takes someone to an abortion appointment, or a therapist or pastor who has counseled a person on ending a pregnancy. The plaintiff need have no personal connection to the abortion seeker or fetus at all. The Texas law incentivizes anti-abortion crusaders to act as bounty hunters, promising $10,000 to those who bring successful suits against abortion performed in violation of the law.

We can expect a spate of such laws to pass in red states, and without Roe on the books, they can no longer be challenged on constitutional lines. The enemies of abortion access, in other words, won’t be letting up anytime soon — and reproductive rights will continue to be stripped from more and more people.

The Texas law was not built on a new concept. White supremacist, patriarchal rule in this country has always relied on the coalition of government forces, official police, and state-endorsed vigilantism.

There are many examples. The Jim Crow South, for instance, depended on the threat of lynching and mob violence to enforce white rule. From the fabled Texas Rangers to Klansmen to today’s right-wing militia groups armed with assault weapons, vigilantes have worked in tandem with immigration enforcement agents to hunt down and round up immigrants trying to cross the border. Before Kyle Rittenhouse shot dead two anti-racist protesters, he was thanked by police for his heavily armed presence in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Federal agents were advised by the Department of Homeland Security to publicly support the right-wing teen and claim that he “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.”

As with the intersecting enforcement of racial hierarchy, we are seeing the shoring up of patriarchal power through a most American vigilantism, both outside of and inscribed into law.

We can be certain, too, that anti-abortionists will not wait to see whether all aspects of their bans and criminalization plans stand up in federal court before enacting them. The right makes laws realities through violence, and violent realities through law.

The right makes laws realities through violence, and violent realities through law.

S.B. 8 went into law while Roe was still on the books, despite being in clear violation of its now-dead protections. And a 26-year-old woman was arrested in Texas on murder charges in connection to a “self-induced abortion.” The charges were dropped, since no such murder statute currently exists in the state, but the incident highlighted the ways in which zealous law enforcement already polices and criminalizes abortion . This will only get worse, and poor women of color will suffer the most under the right’s forced-birth regime.

This is not to say that bold legislative efforts in abortion-protective states cannot work in effective opposition to block some of these Christo-fascist fantasies. The end of Roe, as a forthcoming and crucial paper in the Columbia Law Review notes, brings about an entirely new battleground of interstate juridical conflict. States that support access rights will move to pass laws that protect abortion providers who treat out-of-state patients, while anti-abortion states will seek to pass laws to prosecute out-of-state providers.

Legislators in Connecticut, for example, recently passed a bill designed to protect abortion providers who assist patients seeking refuge from abortion-ban states. Those of us in other blue states must push our legislators to do the same. The far right’s plans to criminalize interstate travel and online abortion solidarity must be forced to contend with robust protections for those activities where such protections can be made into law.

As is all too clear, however, when it comes to Congress and the federal government — and most any case that reaches the Supreme Court — the fascists have the upper hand against feckless Democrats. The ever-steeper uphill battle for universal abortion access will thus rely on the wisdom, experience, and cunning of those who have already been fighting on the front lines for reproductive justice, in the legal gray areas, in the streets and by the side of anyone seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy, in the collective struggle for lives worth living.

The post With the Corpse of Roe Still Warm, Far Right Plots Fascistic Anti-Abortion Enforcement appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Right-Wing Supreme Court Continues Its “Great Fraud” About the Second Amendment / TheIntercept · 2 days ago - 16:01 · 7 minutes

Twenty-four hours before the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion on Friday, it significantly expanded gun rights with its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. In the Thursday ruling, the same six conservative justices who struck down Roe v. Wade voided an 111-year-old New York law that required applicants for a concealed carry permit to demonstrate that they had a special, specific need for self-defense.

This in turn will require other states with significant gun regulations — California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Hawaii — to change their laws. Other restrictions on guns will likely fall to lawsuits.

President Joe Biden then released a milquetoast statement : “I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling … the Second Amendment is not absolute.” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said , “I’m sorry this dark day has come — that we’re supposed to go back to what was in place since 1788 when the Constitution of the United States America was ratified. And I would like to point out to the Supreme Court justices that the only weapons at that time were muskets.”

These responses should drive anyone concerned about America’s horrifying gun violence berserk with frustration — because they concede nearly the entire argument to the right before they begin. It is not the case that the Second Amendment was intended to grant individuals the right to carry arms, and thus present-day supporters of gun control now have to figure a way around that. On the contrary: The Second Amendment was never meant to have anything to do with individual gun rights. (It’s also distressing that Hochul, who graduated from law school, does not seem to know that while the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, the Bill of Rights wasn’t until 1791.)

The Second Amendment was never meant to have anything to do with individual gun rights.

The right argument for politicians to make on this issue — what’s both factually accurate and politically important — is that of Warren Burger. Burger was a Republican who was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon in 1969 and served for 17 years until 1986. In retirement in 1991, Burger said that the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

“The very language of the Second Amendment,” wrote Burger , “refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires. … The Framers clearly intended to secure the right to bear arms essentially for military purposes.”

Understanding this requires some knowledge of U.S. history, but not that much.

The 13 original U.S. states were first bound together by the Articles of Confederation, which were ratified in 1781 just as the American Revolution effectively ended. But the system didn’t work well, with the central government so weak that the “united” part of the United States was largely a joke.

An effort began, led by James Madison, to create a new governing structure. This eventually became the Constitution, which was drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. But then it had to be ratified by the states.

This was by no means a sure thing. One key point of contention between the Federalists who supported the Constitution and the Anti-Federalists who opposed it were concerns over a standing army. “Standing armies are dangerous to the liberties of a people,” the Anti-Federalists stated . “The truth of the position might be confirmed by the history of almost every nation in the world.” And the Constitution gave the prospective new federal Congress the power “to raise and support Armies.”

Madison did not claim this was not an issue. However, he argued in Federalist No. 46:

The State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger … citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.

Madison then pointed to the success of the American Revolution itself as proof of the effectiveness of militias against a regular army.

To assuage the concerns of those on the fence about the Constitution, Federalists in various states proposed that its ratification be linked to the adoption of amendments limiting the power of the federal government. This was crucial: As the National Archives explains it , “The Constitution might never have been ratified if the framers hadn’t promised to add a Bill of Rights.”

This was the context for the writing of the Second Amendment. The Bill of Rights was partially based on the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights . As the Library of Congress says , the Virginia Declaration was “uniquely influential” and “used by James Madison in drawing up the Bill of Rights.” Section XIII of the Declaration read:

That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and be governed by, the civil power.

The final language of the Second Amendment was, of course, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

A straightforward interpretation of this history was generally observed for a long time. In a key 1939 Supreme Court case, United States v. Miller, two men had traveled across state lines with an unregistered shotgun with a shortened barrel in violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934. A lower court held that part of the Act was an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment. In refuting this, the court declared that the “obvious purpose” of the Second Amendment was “to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of [state militia] forces. … It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.”

In the legal world more generally, no law review article from 1888 (when they were first indexed) through 1959 ever concluded the Second Amend­ment guar­an­teed an indi­vidual right to a gun.

It’s only recently that the Supreme Court has veered toward its current view. In a key 2008 case, the court held that the meaning of “a well regulated Militia” was “all able-bodied men.” Hence it was unconstitutional for the government to prevent an individual from possessing a weapon even if it was “unconnected with militia service.”

This perspective clearly requires bizarre mental gymnastics and a resolute commitment to ignoring basic historical facts. But that’s the bread and butter of the current Supreme Court. To get a sense of where they fall on the political spectrum, it’s useful to compare their perspective to that of Jay Bybee, a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a recent decision, Bybee wrote , “Our review of more than 700 years of English and American legal history reveals a strong theme: government has the power to regulate arms in the public square. … Indeed, we can find no general right to carry arms into the public square for self-defense.” Bybee is best known for signing off on the George W. Bush administration’s memos authorizing torture.

Meanwhile, away from the Supreme Court’s dense opinions, the case for eliminating limits on gun rights is simpler. On the wall of the lobby at the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Virginia, you will read the stirring words “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” I.e., the inconvenient beginning of the Second Amendment has been edited out.

So Warren Burger was certainly right to say in 1991 that “the American people should have a firm understanding of the true origin and purpose of the Second Amendment.” But the unfortunate fact is that they definitely do not. The conservative faction of the Supreme Court likes it that way, and even top Democrats don’t seem inclined to explain it to anyone.

The post Right-Wing Supreme Court Continues Its “Great Fraud” About the Second Amendment appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Deux ans après une vidéo virale, l’arrestation d’une femme enceinte arrive au tribunal / Mediapart · 2 days ago - 11:42

Jeudi, le parquet de Bobigny a requis trois mois de prison avec sursis contre Diatou M., une femme enceinte interpellée sous les yeux des usagers en gare d’Aulnay-sous-Bois, en juin 2020. Les agents de la sûreté ferroviaire mettent en cause son «comportement» ce jour-là, tandis qu’elle les accuse de violences illégitimes.
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    Plaidoiries au procès du 13-Novembre: «La perpétuité, c’est se prendre pour Dieu» / Mediapart · 2 days ago - 07:09

Les avocats de Mohamed Abrini, Marie Violleau et Stanislas Eskenazi, ont demandé une peine juste pour «l’homme au chapeau», qui a renoncé à participer aux attaques du 13-Novembre.
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    Case of 11-Year-Old Brazilian Girl Denied Abortion Holds Stark Warning for Post-Roe U.S. / TheIntercept · 3 days ago - 17:37 · 6 minutes

Women march shouting slogans against Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and holding a banner in favor of legalizing abortion, to mark International Women's Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Women march and hold a banner in favor of legalizing abortion, to mark International Women’s Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 8, 2022.

Photo: Andre Penner/AP

In recent weeks, a little girl has been fighting for her abortion rights in a Brazilian court.

The 11-year-old child was being forced by the courts to carry a pregnancy after she was raped, The Intercept Brasil reported . The girl, with the support of her mother, had sought an abortion as soon as the pregnancy was discovered — when she was just 10 years old.

A hospital in Santa Catarina, the southern state where they live, refused to perform the procedure without seeking judicial approval first, as the fetus was then 22 weeks old: two weeks past the hospital’s policy of not performing abortions after 20 weeks.

Though a directive from the Brazilian Health Ministry recommends a 20-to-22-week cutoff for abortions, the penal code allows for abortions in cases of sexual violence, without imposing any limitation on weeks of pregnancy and without requiring judicial authorization. The pregnant child, however, found herself before a judge, the growing fetus putting her young life at greater risk with every passing day.

Instead of allowing the mother to take the girl for a legal abortion, Judge Joana Ribeiro Zimmer ordered that the girl be separated from her family and go into a shelter — allegedly to protect her from further abuse. But Ribeiro Zimmer also made telling comments that the move to effectively block the abortion was to avoid what the judge incorrectly called a “homicide.”

Only after the Intercept Brasil’s reporting was a court decision enacted this week that permitted the girl to leave the shelter. She is now over 29 weeks pregnant.

Only after the Intercept Brasil’s reporting was a court decision enacted this week that permitted the girl to leave the shelter. She is now over 29 weeks pregnant.

Ribeiro Zimmer was then placed under investigation by a national judicial body. My colleagues in Brazil obtained footage of the hearing in which the judge denied the girl abortion access, including a particularly disturbing exchange. The judge’s remarks mirror the words of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has suggested that “safe haven” adoption laws justify banning abortions, since relinquishing a baby for adoption removes the “undue burden of motherhood.”

The cruelty of such logic was plain to see in the Santa Catarina courtroom. “Today, there is technology to save the baby. And we have 30,000 couples who want the baby, who accept the baby,” Ribeiro Zimmer told the pregnant girl’s mother. “Today’s sorrow for you and for her daughter is the joy of another couple,” she said. The mother responded in tears, “It’s joy, because they are not experiencing what I am.”

The Brazilian case is a grim reminder of what it looks like to put the fate of reproductive justice in the hands of a right-wing justice system.

Brazil’s abortion laws are highly restrictive: Providers and abortion seekers are criminalized, with exceptions only in cases when the pregnant person’s life is at risk, in the case of rape, or when the fetus has anencephaly, a condition in which parts of its brain and skull are missing. Many states in the U.S. already operate with similar harsh restrictions. A post-Roe reality has been the de facto status quo for years in dozens of states where abortion can’t be accessed and abortion providers and seekers are already policed and terrorized. Forced births are common.

The girl’s case in Brazil has its counterparts in the U.S. In 2018, for example , U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement illegally denied a pregnant minor held in its detention the ability to go to an abortion clinic, until the minor and her guardian sued.

The fall of Roe v. Wade is imminent , and 13 states are ready with trigger laws on the books to automatically ban all abortions in the first and second trimesters — many with no exceptions for rape. The U.S. power structure is replete with Ribeiro Zimmers: ideologues so committed to coercive pro-natalism , that any life, even that of an actual living child, is deemed disposable in service of the unborn.

The Brazilian case clarifies, too, the risks of fighting only for marginal abortion access. A world of reproductive justice is not one in which abortions are only permitted in cases of rape or when there is a risk to the pregnant person’s life. No one should have to announce that they were raped to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Anti-abortion extremists in the judiciary will always run roughshod over technical exceptions. Consider the arrest earlier this year of a 26-year-old woman in Texas on murder charges in connection to a “self-induced abortion.” The charges were dropped, since no such murder statute currently exists in the state, but the incident highlighted the ways in which zealous law enforcement already polices and criminalizes abortion . After Roe falls, it will only get worse.

The Brazilian case clarifies the risks of fighting only for marginal abortion access.

The American right, with its Christo-fascist tendencies, has of course decimated reproductive rights in this country. Liberals share some blame, however, in ceding so much of the discourse to a right-wing fulcrum. As feminist theorist Sophie Lewis wrote in a recent essay , the Clintonian “safe, legal, and rare” framework pathetically cast abortion as the problem — the thing that should rarely happen — rather than unwanted pregnancies, for which abortion is the cure.

The new fight for abortion needs to reject the mealy-mouthed Democratic Party approach of recent decades. Reproductive freedom cannot be something we approach with timidity.

We must fight for abortions as more than a right. Instead, it should be recognized as a social good. The battle must go hand in hand with the fights for universal health care and against the carceral state.

The case in Brazil shows how these struggles are interconnected. The power to confine a person — be it in a shelter, a detention center, or a prison — enables the authorities to readily prevent access to reproductive freedom, even in cases of legal abortion.

We don’t, however, need to just look to Brazil to find horrifying examples of forced pregnancies, just as we do not need to rely on an example from outside of U.S. borders to imagine the horror of a post-Roe world. Rather, the Brazilian case is a reminder that the anti-fascist struggle for bodily autonomy is an international one. We can be certain that Christo-fascists from the U.S. to Brazil to Hungary and beyond share an agenda to shore up patriarchal rule.

The left in the U.S. would do well to look to Latin America not simply for troubling presages of a post-Roe reality, but for inspiration. Feminist movements in countries like Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico with historically draconian abortion laws have seen a wave of reproductive rights victories legalizing and decriminalizing abortion. These movements were explicit in tying the struggle for abortion to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and expanding access to citizenship — that is, against the intertwined fascist logics of border rule and denial of bodily autonomy.

It is within this robust, collective framework — not through limited calls for “privacy” and “individual choice” — that we in the U.S. should proceed. It is profoundly unconscionable that a raped child should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. The lesson is not, however, to only protect abortions for abused children. All forced births should be deemed unacceptable.

The post Case of 11-Year-Old Brazilian Girl Denied Abortion Holds Stark Warning for Post-Roe U.S. appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Will Black Elder Mutulu Shakur Die in Prison Because of Ideological Intransigence? / TheIntercept · 4 days ago - 15:16 · 6 minutes


Dr. Mutulu Shakur in 2012.

Photo: Courtesy of Friends and Family of Dr. Shakur

When Mutulu Shakur applied for compassionate release in 2020, the presiding judge told the Black liberation elder that he was not close enough to death. At the time, Shakur was 70 and had spent nearly half his life in federal prison, where a moribund parole system created interminable barriers for his release.

In 2020, he was sick with hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, and the aftereffects of a 2013 stroke while in solitary confinement. He also faced high risks of severe Covid-19 complications. The cancer in his bone marrow, though, was not yet killing him fast enough. It was understood to be terminal, but chemotherapy treatment had been successful in keeping it at bay.

As such, according to then-90-year-old Judge Charles Haight Jr. — the very same judge who had sentenced Shakur to prison over three decades before — the respected and beloved elder, who posed zero risk to society and held an impeccable institutional record, was not eligible for compassion.

“Should it develop that Shakur’s condition deteriorates further, to the point of approaching death, he may apply again to the Court, for a release that in those circumstances could be justified as ‘compassionate,’” the judge wrote in his decision.

The judge is still alive and, astoundingly, on the bench. Shakur, meanwhile, is on the very edge of death.

Two years later, Haight is still alive and, astoundingly, on the bench. Shakur, meanwhile, is on the very edge of death, cancer disabling his every bodily capacity.

Bureau of Prisons-contracted doctors have given him less than six months. The prison chaplain has advised his family members to come “very soon” to say their final goodbyes. Shakur may not even be able to recognize them.

According to reports from prison staff, he is “hallucinating,” “confused,” at times “unintelligible,” needs assistance with all so-called “Activities of Daily Living,” and is “frequently incontinent.” The details of his condition were revealed by medical professionals and Shakur’s family members in an emergency motion for compassionate release, which was filed by his lawyers on Sunday,

Shakur weighs 125 pounds and is unable to get out of bed. His support team told me that he currently resides in the federal prison hospital at FMC Lexington, where “he is too ill to have visitors as his white blood count is too low and he is completely immune-compromised.” (In response to my request for comment on Shakur’s condition, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson wrote, “For privacy, safety, and security reasons, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) does not discuss information on any individual inmate’s conditions of confinement including medical care.”)

The time for true compassion — or anything close to justice — has long passed for Shakur, well-known as rapper Tupac’s stepfather and celebrated for bringing holistic health care and self-determination to the Bronx’s Black community in the 1970s. Like most Black liberation elders, the circumstances of Shakur’s conviction were colored by the government’s decadeslong, all-out war on the movement. This should not be forgotten, but it is also not relevant to the current grounds for Shakur’s long overdue release.

The question now is simply whether the federal punishment system will, against its own purported standards, force a dying man to expire behind bars out of ideological intransigence.

Shakur was a member of the Black nationalist organization Republic of New Afrika, which worked closely with Black Panther Party members and New Left activists. He was convicted of racketeering conspiracy charges alongside several Black liberationists and leftist allies for his involvement in the 1981 robbery of an armored truck during which a guard and two police officers were killed. He was also convicted for aiding in the prison escape of Assata Shakur. He has taken responsibility for his crimes and repeatedly expressed remorse for the lives lost and pain caused. All of his co-defendants have been released or have died.

Co-defendant Marilyn Buck, who was convicted on the same charges as Shakur, was granted compassionate release by the Bureau of Prisons on July 15, 2010. She died of uterine cancer on August 3 that year.

The harsh standard applied in Buck’s case was the same one that the judge used in denying Shakur’s release two years ago: Come back only when, like Buck, your only activity outside of prison walls will be dying. Shakur has now arrived at this tragic place. Anything but immediate release constitutes an abundance of cruelty.

Shakur’s release has been blocked by layer upon layer of institutional intransigence and procedural arcana. Even while a number former Black Panthers and other liberation elders — all incarcerated for all too many decades in state prison systems — have finally been released on parole in recent years, the strange vagaries of outdated federal rules, abuses of discretion, and administrative failures have foreclosed such relief for Shakur.

Shakur’s legal team has sought every avenue for his release, including the superannuated federal parole system, the Bureau of Prisons’ compassionate release process, the calculation of Shakur’s earned “good time” in prison, and even the unlikely route of presidential clemency — all to no avail.

As a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson wrote in response to my request for comment on its process for compassionate release motions, “At all times, the decision on whether to grant such a motion — whether brought on behalf of the Director of the BOP, or the inmate themselves — lies with the sentencing court.”

In the federal system, compassionate release rulings are determined by the very court —the very judge — that sentenced a defendant in the first place. Shakur’s fate is once again in his sentencing judge’s hands. Yet there is hope in the fact that Haight himself previously wrote that in circumstances of “imminent” death, compassionate release “could be justified.” As Shakur’s lawyers note in their motion, “It is now imminent.”

Both prior to and during his incarceration, Shakur has been respected as a mentor and a healer. In the emergency motion for his release, numerous men incarcerated alongside Shakur are cited, attesting to his profound positive influence on their lives.

“I recognize Dr. Mutulu Shakur not only as my father, but as the man who changed my way of thinking and saved my life,” wrote Ra’ Sekou P’tah, who was serving a double-life sentence plus 30 years for a nonviolent drug offense when he met Shakur. President Barack Obama commuted P’tah’s sentence after he had served 20 years. When reporting on Shakur’s case last year, I heard several similar stories of mentorship and care from men formerly incarcerated with the Black liberation elder.

The time has passed for Shakur to continue his healing community work as a free man. He will not live to see his mandatory release date in 2024. He is, as his lawyers note in their motion, “on the downward side of an end-of life trajectory.”

The least — and it is the very least — Haight, the judge, can do now in the name of decency would be to allow Shakur to die in the California home of his son and daughter-in-law, in the presence of loved ones, uncaged.

The post Will Black Elder Mutulu Shakur Die in Prison Because of Ideological Intransigence? appeared first on The Intercept .