News Politics

Alveda King: Civil Rights Apply to Fertilized Eggs, Not to Income Inequity

Robin Marty

King has taken a brief break from her anti-choice crusade to argue that Occupy Wall Street is not a part of the civil rights movement.

Anti-choice activist Alveda King has long been using her family name and relationship to the great civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to bolster her own anti-abortion activities.  Now, she’s taken her self-declared reputation as arbiter of what is and isn’t part of the civil rights movement a step further and chastised the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s support of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Via Politico:

Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece says the Rev. Jesse Jackson should stop comparing the Occupy Wall Street protests to the civil rights movement, arguing that her uncle would not have condoned the movement.

“I believe that Rev. Jackson is doing a disservice,” Alveda King said on Fox News Monday morning. “My uncle, the whole [civil rights] movement, was founded in prayer, in crying out to God in a peaceful movement. And this [Occupy] movement is not peaceful.”

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King, the director of Priests for Life African American Outreach, said she believes ACORN — which was fined earlier this year for organizing an illegal voter-registration program — to be “somewhere in the mix” with the Occupy movement and that her uncle “certainly could not have condoned voter fraud.”

So, just so we are clear: fighting against income inequity and the growing poverty level, which disproportionately effects minorities—not civil rights.  Groups that help the poor and people of color register to vote—not civil rights.  Forcing women to continue pregnancies against their will?  Now that’s civil rights.

Analysis Race

Black Lives Matter Activist’s Mayoral Bid Elicits Praise—and Skepticism

Kanya D’Almeida

From addressing racial disparities in the city’s public school system to overhauling its response to crime and ending the "war on drugs," DeRay Mckesson's website reads in many places like a manifesto for the movement itself.

DeRay Mckesson, the prominent Black Lives Matter activist who is running for mayor of Baltimore, has unveiled a campaign platform just over a week after announcing his bid.

From addressing racial disparities in the city’s public school system to overhauling its response to crime and ending the “war on drugs,” the DeRayForMayor website reads in many places like a manifesto for the movement itselfand highlights the ways in which Black Lives Matter has brought U.S. politics to a critical tipping point.

“I think [Mckesson’s bid] is a sign that Black Lives Matter is a movement not a moment, one of many examples of how the conversation about an alternative direction for this country is deepening,” Eugene Puryear, a Washington D.C.-based activist and author of Shackled and Chained: Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America, told Rewire.

“The question before the movement is whether we are creating space only, or fighting to take power and change our lives. To the extent it is the latter, fighting in the electoral arena as well as the streets is going to be a necessary tactic,” added Puryear, who is also the 2016 vice presidential candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “No movement that truly wants to fight for the power to change things can avoid having people assume positions of some prominence.”

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There is a long history of civil rights activists seeking public office: Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale ran for mayor of Oakland, California, back in 1973. He lost, but the race brought out “more black voters than any other election in the city’s history,” according to the New York Times. And as Matt Ford notes in the Atlantic, “While Mckesson is the first civil-rights activist of his generation to seek higher office, he follows in well-worn footsteps. John Lewis, Julian Bond, Andrew Young, Marion Barry, and Jesse Jackson are among the most prominent figures in the civil-rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s to win major elections, and countless other activists of the era also sought transitions into governance.”

In entering the Baltimore race, Mckesson has squeezed himself into an already crowded room—he is one of 13 Democratic candidates out of 30 overall competing in the April 26 election to replace the outgoing mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D). If elected, he will join some 500 African-American mayors representing 48 million constituents across the United States.

Mckesson’s crowdfunding appeal has already secured over $115,000 from more than 2,100 donors, a testament to his popularity in the virtual realm—within a single year, the 30-year-old has grown his Twitter following from 85,000 to over 300,000. This he accomplished through a combination of providing real-time updates from sites of popular protest—including Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 and his native Baltimore during the wave of unrest that followed the 2015 death in police custody of Freddie Gray—and sustained online commentary in the aftermath of protests about the growing movement to end police brutality.

His most recent endeavor, Campaign Zero, created jointly with fellow BLM activists Johnetta Elzie, Brittany Packnett, and others, offers solutions to the scourge of police violence. Among its ten proposed policies, the data-driven platform calls for ending “broken windows policing,” which disproportionately criminalizes low-income communities of color; ending for-profit policing by clamping down on civil asset forfeiture abuse, which has been known to disproportionately punish Black communities; and demilitarizing police departments.

His own campaign, a three-pronged approach involving youth development, community prosperity, and public safety, echoes many of the same sentiments. The mayoral hopeful wants to overhaul the Baltimore Police Department’s use-of-force policies, implement mandatory anti-racism training for law enforcement personnel, and enact an “ordinance making chokeholds and ‘rough rides’ (leaving a person unrestrained in a police vehicle) by police officers illegal.”

The latter is a direct reference to Gray, who died of spinal injuries sustained while being driven around, without a seat belt, in the back of a Baltimore police van on April 12, 2015. Gray’s death touched off a public outpouring of grief and anger over police brutality, which often saw Mckesson in the spotlight. In a widely watched interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Mckesson called the protests an expression of Baltimore residents’ “pain … and mourning”—a direct challenge to the mainstream media’s portrayal of the situation as a “riot.” When the CNN anchor pushed him to denounce the “violent” tone of demonstrations, Mckesson said, “You are suggesting that broken windows are worse than broken spines,” adding, “I don’t have to condone it to understand it.”

Mckesson claims his understanding of the beleaguered city runs deep. In a Medium article announcing his bid, Mckesson recalled a childhood immersed in the city’s joys and also its pain. He revealed himself to be the child of “two now-recovered addicts,” who has “lived through the impact of addiction” and who, like so many other residents, has “come to expect little and accept less.”

And although the city is currently nursing a 24 percent poverty rate, according to U.S. Census data, Baltimore is, in Mckesson’s mind, a place of “promise and possibility.”

“I am running to be the 50th Mayor of Baltimore in order to usher our city into an era where the government is accountable to its people,” Mckesson wrote. “We can build a Baltimore where more and more people want to live and work, and where everyone can thrive.”

His campaign website suggests to some locals that these are not empty words, but reflect a deep commitment to his native city. “After one week he has a better plan than a lot of the establishment candidates have after running for months,” Lawrence Brown, a Black professor at Morgan State University, reportedly told the Guardian soon after Mckesson released his platform. “It’s the craziest thing.”

In an interview with Rewire, Rukia Lumumba, daughter of the late civil rights lawyer and Mississippi mayor Chokwe Lumumba, called Mckesson’s bid a “bold move.”

“It probably wasn’t an easy decision to make, and it won’t be an easy run,” Lumumba said in a phone interview. “But anytime a younger person steps up to represent [Black communities], especially someone who has a strong understanding of people power and human life and is capable of dreaming bigger than what our current government looks like, it signals a positive change.”

Lumumba, who has held numerous institutional posts and organized nationally in the field of criminal justice reform for over a dozen years, added, “One of the many things my father taught me is that the center of any human rights struggle is the will and the need of the people—whoever is running for office with the goal of building freedom and self-determination needs to remember that.”

When Mckesson officially entered the mayoral race at the 11th hour on February 3, he sparked a wave of speculation as to whether, or to what extent, he was truly in touch with the needs of his constituency.

Slate’s Lawrence Lanahan claims Mckesson’s bid drew “derision from … local black activists who were working in disinvested communities and drawing attention to racial inequity and police brutality before the deaths of Michael Brown or Freddie Gray.” (Mckesson himself deemed those deaths responsible for pushing him into full-time movement work.) Lanahan goes on to quote Dayvon Love, director of the local think tank Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, casting doubt upon Mckesson’s ability to mobilize at the grassroots level: “It’s one thing to be able to show up to an event in a major mainstream media moment,” Love said, according to Slate. “It’s a different thing to get people from Baltimore to go to Annapolis for a hearing on police reform on a Tuesday at 1 in the afternoon.”

Shortly after Mckesson announced his bid, Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun reported that one of the front-runners in the upcoming race, Sheila Dixon, had never even heard of the activist until he threw his hat in the ring. Whether Dixon’s claim was genuine or a political ploy aimed at deriding a newcomer into an already stiff contest, it goes to the heart of a larger critique among some Baltimore residents that an activist who has a bigger presence online than he does in the political establishment may not stand a chance at the polls.

Mckesson himself appears well aware of this critique, and even addressed it in the Medium post announcing his bid, when he wrote: “I have come to realize that the traditional pathway to politics, and the traditional politicians who follow these well-worn paths, will not lead us to the transformational change our city needs. Many have accepted that our current political reality is fixed and irreversible — that we must resign ourselves to accept the way that City Hall functions, or the role of money and connections in dictating who runs and wins elections. They have bought into the notion that there is only one road that leads to serve as an elected leader.” 

Other commentators have noted that, though Mckesson has largely made a name for himself via social media and a number of appearances on popular talk shows, his résumé also displays several years of practical work. He has served as an administrator in Baltimore’s public school system and spent several years teaching at public high schools in East New York, experiences that have obviously informed his current campaign: His ambitious plans for strengthening Baltimore’s education system include scaling up public funding for pre-K education, investing heavily in after-school programs for middle and high school students, and expanding college and career support services in low-income communities.

While Mckesson is not formally tied to the official Black Lives Matter (BLM) network, which was founded in 2012 by three Black women with the aim of centering the leadership, lives, and voices of queer and trans Black women, his bid has elicited statements of support from other prominent voices within the broader BLM movement.

An article published by Black Youth Project, the Chicago-based organization that has been instrumental in heaping pressure on Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his administration’s role in covering up the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, called Mckesson’s mayoral bid proof that “he’s not just another person looking to point out problems with no intention to fix them,” and New York Daily News correspondent Shaun King said he was “enormously proud to see [Mckesson] take the plunge,” adding: “Local politics impact real people in the most critical ways and we need young, energized leaders all over the country to do what DeRay is going to try to do.”

Roundups Politics

Here’s How the 2016 Presidential Candidates Reacted to the Shooting at Planned Parenthood

Ally Boguhn

Republican presidential candidates dismissed any connection between the anti-choice movement's coordinated smear campaign against Planned Parenthood and the shooting that killed three people on Friday.

Those in the 2016 presidential candidate field responded to news of the Friday shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that left three dead and nine injured with mixed reactions, ranging from condemnation of the rampage to dismissal of how rhetoric may have enabled the violence.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, during an interview on Fox News Sunday, rejected any connection between the videos released by a discredited anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and the shooting, instead blaming the left wing for inserting the group into the conversation about the violence. Although she started by asserting that “it’s obviously a tragedy,” when asked by host Chris Wallace about pro-choice advocates linking the attack to extreme narratives against the health-care provider, Fiorina denied any connection and exploited the opportunity to again push debunked talking points about CMP.

“Well first it is not alleged, Planned Parenthood acknowledged several weeks ago that they would no longer take compensation for body parts, which sounds like an admission,” Fiorina said. “What I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is, this is typical left-wing tactics.”

But as has been made clear, collecting, donating, and accepting reimbursement for the costs of transferring fetal tissue from clinics to labs is completely legal; realizing profits from such donations is not. Numerous investigations into Planned Parenthood’s tissue donation programs have turned up no wrongdoing. Planned Parenthood representatives have said the decision to forgo reimbursement altogether is intended to counter the strategy of anti-choice groups and GOP lawmakers attacking Planned Parenthood’s funding.

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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Sunday labeled the attack “domestic terrorism,” but nonetheless held steadfastly to his anti-choice rhetoric when discussing the shooting on CNN’s State of the Union.

“What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable, especially to us in the pro-life movement, because there’s nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way on something like this,” Huckabee said. “There’s no excuse for killing other people, whether it’s happening inside the Planned Parenthood headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die, or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood.”

Donald Trump labeled the gunman an “extremist” during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. The business mogul quickly turned the conversation to CMP’s heavily edited videos, attempting to revive criticism over Planned Parenthood. “I will tell you, there is a tremendous group of people that think it’s terrible, all of the videos that they’ve seen with some of these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you’re selling parts to a car,” Trump said. “I mean, there are a lot of people that are very unhappy about that.”

When asked by host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week whether he agrees that “extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,” Republican candidate Ben Carson claimed the rhetoric was coming “from both sides” and that “there is no saint here in this.”  

“I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion,” Carson said. “If we can get rid of the rhetoric from either side and actually talk about the facts, I think that’s when we begin to make progress.”

Although Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) initially tweeted that he was “Praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs,” the candidate later commented on the shooting by denying any connection it may have to the anti-choice movement.

Cruz, speaking with reporters during a Newton, Iowa campaign stop, said there was “very little evidence” the shooting had anything to do with violent rhetoric against Planned Parenthood, going on to lament what he deemed “vicious rhetoric on the left, blaming those who are pro-life.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush condemned the Colorado attack in a statement, writing, “There is no acceptable explanation for this violence, and I will continue to pray for those who have been impacted,” according to Politico.

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted his condolences, writing that “Senseless violence has brought tragedy to Colorado Springs. I pray for the families in mourning and have hope our nation can heal.”

Speaking at the New Hampshire Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke out about the shooting, saying that “We should be supporting Planned Parenthood, not attacking it.”

“The shooting on Friday was at, as you know, a Planned Parenthood clinic, a place where lots of women get healthcare they need—breast exams, STD testing, contraception and, yes, safe and legal abortions,” said Clinton, according to the Hill. “In Congress and on the campaign trail, Republicans that claim they just hate big government are only too happy to have government step in when it comes to women’s bodies and health,” she added before calling for gun control laws that Republicans have continually rejected.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) briefly remarked on the shooting in Colorado, telling the audience at the same New Hampshire rally, “I am running for president because, in these difficult times, against vitriolic Republican rhetoric, we must protect a woman’s right to choose and we must defend Planned Parenthood,” before offering condolences to the families of those impacted by the violence.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley strongly condemned the shooting, labeling it an instance of “domestic terrorism” and saying that the United States “cannot treat these acts of terrible violence as isolated incidents,” CNN reported. Using the attack in order to discuss gun violence around the country, O’Malley said, “This most recent act of terrorism took place at a Planned Parenthood office. Others have taken place in classrooms, schools, in church basements.”

“We have to call them out for what they are; they are acts motivated by intolerance, racism, and hate,” he continued. “They are designed to prey upon the vulnerable and the unsuspecting. They are in fact acts of murder and acts of terror. And wherever it happens, it is an assault on all of us.”