Democracy Now!

American Insurrection: Deadly Far-Right Extremism from Charlottesville to Capitol Attack. What Next?

A scathing new report by the Capitol Police’s internal watchdog reveals officials knew Congress was the target of the deadly January 6 insurrection, yet officers were instructed to refrain from deploying more aggressive measures that could have helped “push back the rioters.” Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports domestic terrorism incidents surged to a record high in 2020, fueled by white supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right. The Post found that, since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks, leading to 91 deaths. Reporter A.C. Thompson, who explores the threat of far-right extremism in the new PBS “Frontline” documentary “American Insurrection,” says there was a “massive pool of radicalized individuals” ahead of the January 6 attack who were being pushed toward violence by “an abundance of lies by the former president, by this entire conspiratorial right-wing media and social media ecosystem.” We also speak with director Rick Rowley, who says many white supremacist groups began to splinter during the intense backlash to the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, but Trump gave the groups new life ahead of the January 6 insurrection. “Many elements inside the white supremacist movement found in him a path into the mainstream,” says Rowley. “They took off their swastikas, and they wrapped themselves in the flag.”

Afghanistan: Biden Vows to End Nation's Longest War by 9/11 After Decades of Bloodshed & Destruction

The Biden administration has unveiled plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The War in Afghanistan has killed more than 100,000 Afghan civilians and over 2,300 U.S. servicemembers and has cost the U.S. trillions of dollars. The announcement comes just a week before the scheduled start of a new round of peace talks in Istanbul between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government, but the Taliban said it would boycott the talks because Biden is going back on a deal made by President Trump to have all U.S. troops out by May 1. Afghan American scholar Zaher Wahab says withdrawing is the right decision. “The United States and its allies should never have attacked and occupied Afghanistan,” Wahab says. “It was wrong. It was illegal. And I think it was immoral.” We also speak with Matthew Hoh, senior fellow with the Center for International Policy, who in 2009 resigned from the State Department in protest of the escalation of the War in Afghanistan. “This is a step that is necessary for the peace process to go forward, and that’s what the Afghan people desperately need,” he says. “It has been well over 40 years of fighting. Millions of Afghans have been killed or wounded. The devastation on the Afghan people is hard to imagine.”

Headlines for April 14, 2021

GOP Smears DOJ Civil Rights Pick Kristen Clarke in Latest Attack on Voting Rights & Racial Justice

We look at President Biden’s nomination of Kristen Clarke to become the first Black woman to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the conservative smear campaign against the veteran civil rights lawyer. The far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson has devoted at least five segments to attacking Clarke’s nomination, including baseless accusations of anti-Semitism. Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way and former president of the NAACP, says “the right-wing attack machine” springs into action whenever Black nominees are up for confirmation. “They make sport, quite frankly, of trying to defame their character, destroy their reputation, and they see women of color as being very vulnerable,” says Jealous. He also addresses the state of police-community relations in the U.S. and efforts to stop police impunity for killing Black people.

Derek Chauvin Trial Breaks Down "Blue Wall of Silence" as Police Officials Testify Against Ex-Cop

We get the latest on the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, with Minneapolis-based civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong. She says prosecutors in the case have successfully chipped away at the “blue wall of silence” by getting current police officials to testify against Chauvin. However, she says it’s likely that “the only reason that these officers have testified is because the world is watching.”

Killed over a Car Air Freshener: Outrage Grows over Police Shooting of Daunte Wright in Minnesota

Protests continue in the Minneapolis area after a white police officer shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, during a traffic stop Sunday in the suburb of Brooklyn Center. The deadly shooting took place about 10 miles from where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for killing George Floyd. Just before he was killed, Wright called his mother to say he was being pulled over — allegedly because an air freshener was obscuring his rearview mirror. The Brooklyn Center police chief claims Kimberly Potter, a 26-year police veteran who has served as the police union president for the department, accidentally pulled a gun instead of a Taser. The Star Tribune reports Daunte Wright is the sixth person killed by Brooklyn Center police since 2012. Five of the six have been men of color. “Unfortunately, there has not been a serious attempt to change the phenomenon of driving while Black, which is something that happens to Black people on a routine basis in the Twin Cities and across the state of Minnesota,” says Minneapolis-based civil rights attorney and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong. We also speak with Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who says policing in the United States is as dangerous to Black and Brown people as ever. “They are deadly. They kill Black and Brown people,” says Hussein.

Headlines for April 13, 2021

Remembering LaDonna Brave Bull Allard: Standing Rock Elder Helped Lead 2016 Anti-DAPL Uprising

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Standing Rock Sioux tribal historian, has died of cancer at the age of 64, and we look back on her work, through interviews on her land and in the Democracy Now! studio. Allard co-founded the Sacred Stone Camp on Standing Rock Sioux land in April 2016 to resist the Dakota Access pipeline, to which people from around the world traveled, making it one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous peoples in a century. “We say mni wiconi, water of life. Every time we drink water, we say mni wiconi, water of life. We cannot live without water,” LaDonna Brave Bull Allard said in a September 2016 interview with Democracy Now! “I don’t understand why America doesn’t understand how important water is. So we have no choice. We have to stand. No matter what happens, we have to stand to save the water.”

Ramsey Clark, Former U.S. Attorney General Turned Fierce Critic of U.S. Militarism, Dies at Age 93

Former U.S. attorney general and longtime human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark has died at the age of 93, and we look back on his life. Clark was credited as being a key architect of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. He served as attorney general from 1967 to 1969, during which time he ordered a moratorium on federal executions and opposed J. Edgar Hoover’s wiretapping of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., though he was also involved in the prosecution of antiwar activists. After leaving office, Clark became a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy. “The world is the most dangerous place it’s ever been now because of what our country has done, and is doing, and we have to take it back,” Ramsey Clark said while addressing a protest against the inauguration of George W. Bush on January 20, 2005. We also play an excerpt from an interview with Clark about defending the Hancock 38, a group of peace activists arrested at a U.S. drone base near Syracuse, New York.

"We Need to Give the Workers a Fair Shot": Jane McAlevey on What Went Wrong in Amazon Union Vote

Labor organizer and scholar Jane McAlevey says there were many warning signs that the historic Amazon union drive in Bessemer, Alabama, would fail. Workers at the Amazon warehouse voted overwhelmingly against forming a union after a months-long vote by mail, with Amazon using widespread intimidation and misinformation to undermine the effort. But McAlevey says organizers made a number of missteps in their campaign and didn’t do enough to engage workers in the warehouse. “There’s a strategy and a method for every part of a hard campaign. Do we always win when we follow them? No. Do we stand a better chance of winning them? Yes,” says McAlevey.

Amazon "Broke the Law": Union Seeks New Election After Alabama Warehouse Organizing Drive Fails

The largest union drive in the history of Amazon has ended with the company on top. After a months-long battle, 738 workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse voted to unionize, and 1,798 voted no. Ballots from another 505 workers were challenged, mostly by Amazon. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union that led the drive says Amazon illegally interfered in the vote, and it plans to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Amazon, which is led by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, spent millions to defeat the closely watched election, and even got a private mailbox installed at the warehouse so it could pressure workers to mail their ballots from work and monitor votes. “It’s important that people don’t misread the results of this election,” says Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “People were not saying that they were satisfied with Amazon’s working conditions in any way. They were saying that they were afraid to vote for the union.”

Headlines for April 12, 2021

Biden Calls U.S. Gun Violence an "International Embarrassment." Will Congress Finally Act?

President Joe Biden has ordered a series of executive actions on gun control in the wake of mass shootings in Georgia, Colorado and elsewhere, calling gun violence in the U.S. an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment.” The most significant executive order aims to crack down on so-called ghost guns — easily assembled firearms bought over the internet without serial numbers, which account for about a third of guns recovered at crime scenes. Biden has also nominated gun control advocate David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but acknowledged this week that major new gun control measures, like an assault weapons ban and universal background checks, will require legislation from Congress. “We are calling on Congress to carry the torch here and pass additional laws to keep Americans safe and save American lives,” says Brian Lemek, executive director of Brady PAC.

Amnesty Int'l: COVID-19 Exacerbates Inequality in Americas as U.S. Policy Drives Refugees to Border

A new Amnesty International report lays out how the pandemic has significantly exacerbated inequality across the Americas over the past year. Over 1.3 million people have died in the region from COVID-19, making the Americas the hardest-hit area in the world. Women, refugees, migrants, underprotected health workers, Indigenous peoples, Black people and other groups historically excluded and neglected by governments have borne the brunt of the pandemic, according to the report, which also points out the rise in gender violence and lethal crackdown on human rights defenders. “It’s not a surprise that the Americas has been the region worst hit by the pandemic,” says Erika Guevara-Rosas, a human rights lawyer and Americas director for Amnesty International. “Growing inequality, corruption, violence, environmental degradation and impunity created a fertile ground for the Americas to become the epicenter.”

How Cuba Beat the Pandemic: From Developing New Vaccines to Sending Doctors Overseas to Help Others

Since last year, approximately 440 Cubans have died from COVID-19, giving Cuba one of the lowest death rates per capita in the world. Cuba is also developing five COVID-19 vaccines, including two which have entered stage 3 trials. Cuba has heavily invested in its medical and pharmaceutical system for decades, in part because of the six-decade U.S. embargo that has made it harder for Cuba to import equipment and raw materials from other countries. That investment, coupled with the country’s free, universal healthcare system, has helped Cuba keep the virus under control and quickly develop vaccines against it, says Dr. Rolando Pérez Rodríguez, the director of science and innovation at BioCubaFarma, which oversees Cuba’s medicine development. “We have long experience with these kinds of technologies,” he says. We also speak with Reed Lindsay, journalist and founder of the independent, Cuba-focused media organization Belly of the Beast, who says U.S. sanctions on Cuba continue to cripple the country. “Cuba is going through an unbelievable economic crisis, and the sanctions have been absolutely devastating,” says Lindsay.

Headlines for April 9, 2021

"Vaccine Passports": ACLU Warns of Privacy Nightmare That Could Create "Two-Tiered Society"

As people try to find a safe way to gather and travel during the pandemic, there is growing interest in documenting who has been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19. The World Health Organization has warned so-called vaccine passports may not be an effective way to reopen, and healthcare professionals argue vaccine certificates may further exacerbate vaccine inequality. New York is already testing a digital vaccine passport app made by IBM called the Excelsior Pass, while countries including the U.K. and Israel have issued their own versions of electronic vaccine certificates. The U.S. government has ruled out the introduction of mandatory vaccine passports at the federal level, but many private companies are now developing COVID-19 tracking systems. ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley says smartphone-based vaccine passport apps “raise a lot of questions” around privacy, access and discrimination. “We have systems in place already for proving you’ve been vaccinated,” he says. “Is that system so broken that we need to construct an entirely new electronic system?”

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams Slams Biden Admin for Claiming Landmines Are a "Vital Tool"

The Biden administration is facing criticism from human rights groups after it announced this week it will leave in place a Trump-era policy to allow military commanders to use landmines across the globe. A Pentagon spokesperson described landmines as a “vital tool in conventional warfare” and said restricting their use would put American lives at risk, despite Biden’s campaign promise to promptly roll back Trump’s policy. Jody Williams, recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, says landmines were invented “in order to maim people” and have a devastating impact on children, women and the elderly around the world. “It is an indiscriminate weapon that has no place on this planet.”

Ex-Iranian Diplomat: Revived Nuclear Talks Must Start with U.S. Lifting of Crippling Sanctions

The United States and Iran are holding more indirect talks as part of a push to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, after former President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord nearly three years ago. The two countries agreed to set up two expert-level working groups along with other signatories of the 2015 deal, which is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. While Iran formally remains in the JCPOA, it has faced international criticism for increasing production of nuclear materials it says are for peaceful purposes. The United States has imposed some 1,600 different sanctions on Iran in a move that has also made it harder for Iranians to import food and medicine, a situation that became even more dire during the pandemic. The main hurdle to reviving the nuclear deal is doubt over the U.S. commitment to diplomacy, says Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Middle East security and nuclear policy specialist at Princeton University and former spokesperson for Iran on its nuclear negotiations with the European Union. “The U.S. needs to do some serious steps to revive the trust,” Mousavian says.

Headlines for April 8, 2021

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