by Pauline Canham and Lauren Ng
This week’s stories in focus:
Authoritarian police tactics threaten democracy in the US
The Mayor of Portland, Oregon, has called the strong-arm tactics of federal agents in his city as a “direct threat to democracy” and warns other officials that their cities could be next. Mayor Ted Wheeler has asked for the agents to be removed, stressing the tactics are “abhorrent” and “are leading to more violence”, rather than quelling it. Trump has responded by saying local leaders have lost control and he is trying to help.
Portland has seen a wave of protests since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May and rallies have become increasingly violent with clashes between police and protestors escalating in recent days. Language coming out of the White House has done little to calm the situation, with the Homeland Security Secretary calling protestors “anarchists” and Trump blaming democratic leaders for the chaos. Federal agents have appeared to snatch people off the streets into unmarked vehicles and detained them without justification.
A video has emerged of a Navy veteran being attacked by camouflaged agents, striking him with batons, which resulted in a broken hand, and pepper spraying him at close range directly into his face, without provocation. David Steel said he had wanted to talk to the officers about why they were “violating their oath to uphold the constitution” and he was standing still with his hands by his sides when he was attacked. This can clearly be seen in the video that’s been viewed over 3 million times.
The Oregon Attorney General has sued the federal government for unlawfully detaining protestors, requesting a restraining order to prevent federal agents from making any more arrests. Ms Rosenblum stated “These tactics must stop”, adding that the tactics used by The Department of Homeland Security, US Marshals Service, US Customs and Border Protection and Federal Protection Service, are preventing people exercising their First Amendment right to protest and are “out of character with the Oregon Way.” Meanwhile, the mothers of protestors have come out onto the streets to protect their children’s right to protest but linking together to provide a barrier between protestors and federal forces.
President Trump, however, has applauded the actions of officers in Portland, saying they’ve done a “fantastic’ job and threatened to use similar tactics in more liberal democratic cities.
1921 Tulsa Race Massacre – a new horizon for US reparations?
Nearly 100 years after one of the most brutal racial events in US history, a test excavation for the mass graves of the Tulsa Race Massacre victims will begin this week.
Between May 31 to June 1 in 1921, a white mob burned Tulsa’s local Greenwood community, a thriving black neighborhood, then known as the “Black Wall Street”, to ashes. Within 24 hours, thousands of Black Americans were displaced from their homes and an estimate of 300 people were killed.
For years, it has remained unknown as to where the victims of the massacre were buried. An investigation was initially initiated in 1991, yet discontinued shortly after. The Tulsa Race Riot Commission’s in 2001 made clear in their recommendations that officials should investigate the location of the graves, but Tulsa failed to comply.
However, due to the unresolved questions surrounding the massacre, Tulsan Mayor G.T. Bynum reopened the investigation in 2018. In December 2019, forensic scientists of the State of Oklahoma Archaeological Survey detected anomalies in the ground that could indicate the existence of two mass burials on city-owned property. The senior researcher of the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, Scott Hammerstedt, felt confident that this discovery was “something associated with the massacre”. While the test excavation was initially postponed in March due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Bynum announced it will be restarting this week:
“As a city, we are committed to exploring what happened in 1921 through a collective and transparent process – filling gaps in our city’s history and providing healing and justice to our community. In the past 99 years, no other agency or government entity has moved this far into an investigation that will seek truth into what happened in Tulsa in 1921.”
Furthermore, earlier in May this year, Human Rights Watch published a detailed report highlighting how city officials have continued to obstruct rebuilding of the Greenwood area and reject offers of medical and reconstruction aid. In addition, ongoing police brutality in the area have destroyed the prosperity and livelihood of the local community. It is hoped that unearthing this truth will allow the start to an important part of restoring justice for Black Americans – that of reparations.
Other stories making the headlines around the world
- ‘Inequality defines our time’: UN chief delivers hard-hitting Mandela day message (UN News)
- Rise in women prisoners and COVID measures, ‘making sentences worse’ (UN News)
- Protests predicted to surge globally as Covid-19 drives unrest (The Guardian)
- India’s Police Found Complicit in Anti-Muslim Mob Violence (Human Rights Watch)
- China’s UK ambassador denies abuse of Uighurs despite fresh drone footage (The Guardian)
- UN independent expert welcomes UK court decision to allow Shamima Begum to fight for citizenship (UN News)
- Spanish government denies spying on Catalan leaders (The Guardian)
- Sudan’s Law Reforms a Positive First Step (Human Rights Watch)
Australasia and Oceania
- Seven Years of Suffering for Australia’s Asylum Seekers, Refugees (Human Rights Watch)
- US Structural Racism Shapes Access to Water During Covid-19 (Human Rights Watch)
- Trump White House reportedly seeks to defund coronavirus testing and tracing – live (The Guardian)
- Stuck at Venezuela’s Border with Covid-19 All Around (Human Rights Watch)
- Colombia: Killing of rights defenders, social leaders, ex-fighters, most serious threat to peace (UN News)
- Yemen oil tanker wreck: Time running out to avert ‘looming environmental, economic and humanitarian catastrophe’ (UN News)