Ferguson Streets Explode and More

“The real challenge here is to take this understandable and justifiable frustration and anger, and channel that into changing the system. Into changing the way police forces do their work, the way police officers are recruited, the kind of oversight that exists. To change the entire culture of fear and hatred between races that allows this kind of a situation to develop.”

– Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association on the rising anger over police violence in communities of color after the grand jury in Ferguson voted not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson

Ferguson Streets Explode in Anger After Grand Jury Opts Not to Indict Darren Wilson

MP3 Interview with Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, conducted by Scott Harris


Not long after St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the decision of the Missouri grand jury not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9, the streets of Ferguson exploded in anger and violence. After a dozen buildings were looted and set on fire, and more than 150 gun shots were heard, local police fired tear gas on protesters and arrested 82 in a night filled with chaos and rage. Since the grand jury announcement, mostly peaceful protest rallies have been held in more than a dozen cities across the U.S.

An attorney representing Michael Brown’s family, Benjamin Crump, responded to the grand jury decision by charging that the jury process itself was “broken.” Many attorneys and legal observers across the country echoed Crump’s criticism, noting that prosecutor McCulloch’s decision not to recommend any charges to members of the grand jury was highly unusual. McCulloch was also criticized for remarks blatantly attempting to discredit several witnesses during the grand jury announcement. A Justice Department investigation into the possible violation of Michael Brown’s civil rights – and the Ferguson Police Department’s alleged use of excessive force is ongoing.

In remarks in Chicago the day after the grand jury announcement and riots erupted in the streets of Ferguson, President Obama condemned the violence while pledging to redouble his efforts to find solutions to the distrust between law enforcement and minority communities. The president observed that “the problem is not just a Ferguson problem. It’s an American problem.” Obama has assigned Attorney General Eric Holder the task of leading regional discussions to address the root cause of the crisis in Ferguson. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Here, he discusses the repercussions of the grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson and the larger national issue of police violence in communities of color.

See the Unitarian Universalist Association president’s statement following the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.

Related Links:

  • mp3 Interview with Rev. Peter Morales, conducted by Scott Harris, Counterpoint, Nov. 24, 2014 (32:22)
  • “Michael Brown family’s lawyers condemn handling of grand jury case,”Los Angeles Times, Nov. 25, 2014
  • “Officer Darren Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.” Vox, Nov. 25, 2014
  • Millennial Activists United on Tumblr at Millennialau.tumblr.com
  • Millennial Activists United on Twitter at twitter.com/MillennialAU
  • “Why We Won’t Wait,” Counterpunch, Nov. 25, 2014
  • Hands Up United at Handsupunited.org
  • “Ferguson news and updates,” Daily Kos, Nov. 25, 2014
  • Race, Racism and the Law (Vernellia Randall website), at Racism.org
  • “Ferguson leaders: ‘We’ve got work to do’4 America.aljazeera.com, Nov. 25, 2014
  • “Could Public Outrage at Michael Brown Shooting Death and Widespread Police Brutality Inspire New Civil Rights Movement?”Between The Lines, Aug. 27, 2014

    Obama Immigration Executive Order Provokes GOP Rage, Inspires Activists to Agitate for Comprehensive Reform

    MP3 Interview with Daniel Altschuler, Long Island coordinator with the group, Make The Road New York, conducted by Scott Harris


    President Obama announced his long anticipated executive order on immigration in a televised address from the White House on Nov. 20. Undeterred by the Democrats recent loss of the U.S. Senate in the midterm election, Mr. Obama offered temporary legal status to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants, along with an indefinite reprieve from deportation and the issuing of work permits. The response from the Republican Party was immediate and hostile, with GOP Congressional leaders threatening to do everything possible to block Mr. Obama’s initiative. A handful of conservative legislators talked about launching impeachment proceedings, while others openly discussed having the president arrested for violating the constitution – and predictions of violence erupting across the country in response to the order.

    The president explained that he took executive action because of the House GOP leadership’s ongoing refusal to hold a vote on comprehensive immigration reform legislation that had passed in the Senate with bipartisan support in June 2013. He asserted it was important that he act unilaterally to prioritize the deportation of criminals and recent arrivals, while sparing those who have lived in the country without documentation for at least five years and have roots, including children who are U.S. citizens.

    Obama and his supporters maintain that there is a long history of presidents, both Democratic and Republican issuing executive orders exercising “prosecutorial discretion” dating back to Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Grassroots pro-Immigration groups across the country took credit for the presidents executive order, pointing out the pressure they had applied in their years long campaign that included protests and civil disobedience actions. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Daniel Altschuler Long Island Coordinator with the immigrant rights group Make The Road New York, who examines the scope and impact of President Obama’s executive order offering temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants.

    Find more information on Make The Road New York and comprehensive immigration reform by visiting maketheroadny.org.

    Related Links:

    • mp3 Interview with Daniel Altschuler, conducted by Scott Harris, Counterpoint, Nov. 24, 2014 (23:30)
    • “What Will Happen to the Immigrants Left Out of Obama’s Executive Actions?” The Nation, Nov. 21, 2014
    • “On Immigration, Obama Fulfills His Promise to Progressives,” The Atlantic, Nov. 20, 2014
    • Can Obama’s executive order on immigration be undone? 11/21/14
    • United We Dream at unitedwedream.org
    • Fixing The System at WhiteHouse.gov, Nov. 20, 2014
    • “Obama Defends Immigration Executive Order,” Huffington Post, Nov. 23, 2014
    • “Obama’s Immigration Order: Lots of Sound and Fury, But Not Much Precedent,” Mother Jones, Nov. 24, 2014

      After Midterm Election Defeats, Pro-Choice Activists Brace for Renewed Efforts to Further Erode Access to Abortion

      MP3 Interview with Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel with the Center for Reproductive Rights, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


      The past two years have seen escalating attacks on abortion rights at the state level as conservative majorities took control of many state legislatures and governors’ offices. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more anti-choice legislation was passed between 2011 and 2013 than in the previous ten years. Now, in the wake of the 2014 midterm elections, Republican majorities and super-majorities will be taking control of even more legislatures and additional Republican governors have been elected to office.

      While anti-abortion activists in Tennessee celebrated state voters’ Nov. 5 passage of Amendment 1, a measure that gives state lawmakers more power to restrict abortions, pro-choice groups took credit for defeating so-called “personhood” ballot initiatives, in Colorado and North Dakota, which would have granted rights to human embryos and fetuses.

      Although the issue of reproductive rights were not the focus of most campaign debates in this election, just as they were barely mentioned in the 2010 midterms, once in office, many GOP legislators have made attacks on abortion rights and birth control a top agenda item. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel with the Center for Reproductive Rights. Here, she explains why many pro-choice activists are bracing for renewed efforts to further restrict women’s access to abortion when newly-elected conservative politicians take office.

      AMANDA ALLEN: You know, we will see a majority of anti-choice governors moving into the 2015 session and we will also see a majority of state legislatures governed by two houses that are likely to be anti-choice. What really happened this election is that we lost ground in a couple of states that really had legislatures that were mixed choice – that maybe weren’t super, super hard right anti-abortion, but that could be moving in that direction, so that is one of the reasons why we think we might be seeing more state legislatures that are, on the whole, more anti-choice.

      I can definitely answer that question not really with hard numbers or data, but I can definitely provide some examples of states where abortion access has deteriorated. So we’ve really seen abortion access limited to a very severe degree in states where there’s only one clinic left. Those states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, Missouri and Wyoming. North Dakota in particular, every year their legislature is in session, their legislators come in and propose and pass bill after bill after bill really, really directly attacking that remaining abortion clinic in the state. You might recall that North Dakota faced a six-week abortion ban last year that the Center for Reproductive Rights successfully got a federal court to block. That was one of several anti-abortion bills considered by the North Dakota legislature last year. Now, North Dakota only meets every other year and so we did not see those types of restrictions in North Dakota this year, but we are gearing up for another tough session there.

      Also, Mississippi is another of the states that have only one abortion clinic left, and that clinic is also hanging on by a court order. The Mississippi legislature back in 2012 passed a law that sounds like a good idea – it requires local abortion providers have local hospital admitting privileges. Part of the strategy is to make that kind of requirement sound benign and sound easy to comply with. But of course, the providers in the state have been unable to obtain privileges, not because they provide substandard care, but because abortion is such a politicized issue in the state that not a single hospital would grant those privileges. And so we’ve got a federal court order blocking that requirement from taking effect. But like I said, that clinic is also hanging on by a court order. So those are just a couple of examples of states in our country where abortion access really is depending on a woman’s zip code and where she lives.

      BETWEEN THE LINES: Amanda Allen, I know abortion rights had majority support among American voters for decades, but I think that’s changed…

      AMANDA ALLEN: Well, the polling is actually very compelling on this question. Seven out of 10 Americans do not believe that abortion should be banned and do not believe that Roe v Wade should be overturned. So those are the polling figures that we have. The other thing I would like to say is that, by and large, this election, when abortion rights and reproductive health were squarely before voters, we won. And there are two compelling examples of that at the ballot box in North Dakota and in Colorado. Voters in both of those states faced a question about whether they wanted to insert “fetal personhood” language into their state constitutions, which would of course ban abortion and could possibly ban other very common forms of contraception and in North Dakota even impact things like end of life care. In both instances in this election, voters overwhelmingly rejected those. So I think that really supports the overall numbers that we have on our side, which is again to say that 7 in 10 Americans do not want to see their politicians meddling with the constitutional right to abortion; they do not want to see those protections be overturned.

      BETWEEN THE LINES: But voters also support a lot of restrictions on access to abortion, right?

      AMANDA ALLEN: I think what we’ve found is these issues can be very complicated and our opposition has been able to frame their side as being on the side of women’s health and safety. But I think what we’ve seen is that once voters hear that the impact of these laws and the purpose and intent of these laws is actually to make abortion so difficult to obtain that it becomes really a right on paper rather than a right in reality, that they don’t support those kinds of measures.

      For more information on the Center for Reproductive Rights, visitreproductiverights.org.

      Related Links:

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