News Race

Peace, Organizing, and Outrage Mark ‘National Moment of Silence’ Vigils

Emily Crockett

Nationwide vigils for Michael Brown and other victims of police violence were a time for peaceful mourning, but not without moments of outrage.

Read more of our coverage related to recent events in Ferguson here.

Organizers of the National Moment of Silence (NMOS), a nationwide, 90-city event held Thursday evening to remember victims of police brutality like Michael Brown, were adamant that the event should be a peaceful vigil to mourn the dead, not a protest. They rejected the “Day of Rage” framing, pushed by the online “hacktivist” group Anonymous; there was already plenty of civil unrest and anger over the shooting death of the unarmed teen at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson, and peaceful demonstrators didn’t need more police aggression.

“[Protesters in Ferguson] are being treated like animals … and I felt that we needed a moment where we all come together,” said organizer Feminista Jones in an interview with Feministing. “In that solidarity, we will let our voices be heard that we are tired of this, that this is a national emergency, that the police state of this country is problematic.”

By and large, the vigils went off in exactly that spirit, including the one in St. Louis, of which Ferguson is a suburb. Still, rage and conflict were not wholly absent—shouting protesters interrupted a gathering in Washington, D.C., and the specter of police overreach manifested itself in New York City when NYPD officers threatened to arrest thousands of marching demonstrators.

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In D.C., organizers read the names and told the stories of people killed by police: Tarika Wilson, killed by a SWAT team that also shot and injured her 1-year-old baby. Shantel Davis, shot point-blank after a car chase, unarmed and begging not to be killed, by an officer with a history of aggressive behavior. Rekia Boyd, shot in the head by a possibly-drunk off-duty officer. And in much more recent memory, Eric Garner, killed by an illegal chokehold that has been ruled a homicide.

But when it was almost time for the moment of silence—coordinated across the country, 7:20 p.m. Eastern and 4:20 p.m. Pacific—a few people around the fringes of the D.C. gathering started shouting. Not everyone in the crowd of 1,500 at Malcolm X Park could hear them, but the gist seemed to be that this kind of rally wasn’t enough to make real change. 

Then somebody close to the center of the gathering piped up, and kept it up until 7:20 p.m. had come and gone. “We need more than peace and chants! They’re killing us! They’re killing our babies!”

The organizers and most of the crowd begged the shouters to stop for just 60 seconds, one minute to mourn the dead. There would be protests soon, they promised, but not now. 

“When you feel anger, there is one way to build power, and that’s to organize people,” said one speaker. To thunderous applause, he called for a “freedom movement,” urged attendees to start doing the hard work that such a movement would require, and passed around a sign-up sheet for people to join the organizing drive. 

During a call for audience members to speak, a young Howard University alum named Justice Woods shouted from the wall he stood on top of with other alums, holding an American flag. 

“Two nights ago my friend got shot in the head, protesting silently in Ferguson!” he said, referring to Mya Aaten-White, a Howard alum who survived what police said was a drive-by shooting, while some social media reports alleged a cover-up. 

“If you want to do something, that don’t mean you’ve got to get violent!” Woods said. “If I can sit here right now, and have my friend shot in the head, with a real bullet, that I went to class with, that I kicked it with, that I ate with, drank with, chilled with, talked about this shit with—and I ain’t fighting nobody, I’m out here, talking to y’all and waking y’all up!”

The Howard community is “up in arms, literally” Woods quipped to Rewire, referencing a widely circulated photo of Howard students holding their arms up in the “don’t shoot” posture that has become a symbol of protests against Brown’s shooting. “If there’s one thing you learn at Howard, it’s how to take action and stop talking,” Woods said.

Some action happened sooner than people thought. After the vigil, hundreds of attendees spontaneously flooded the streets, flanked but not interfered with by D.C. police as they marched and shut down half of 16th Street, then U Street, then 7th, finally parking on the steps of the Smithsonian American Art Museum for more speeches. Other demonstrators headed to Howard for a somber vigil.

The NYPD was not as accommodating when a similar spontaneous demonstration followed New York City’s vigil. Twitter erupted with reports of “kettling,” the practice of blocking protesters’ possible exits in order to release them a few at a time, or to arrest large numbers of them. At least four protesters were arrested Thursday evening. 

Other vigils were less chaotic, but no less fraught with the memories of fallen community members. In Austin, a few hundred people gathered outside the capitol building and mourned the 2013 police murder of Larry Jackson. In Oakland, infamous for police brutality, the mother of Alan Blueford spoke movingly about his death. “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired,” she said. 

Andrea Grimes from Austin, Texas, and Zoe Greenberg from Oakland, California, contributed to this report.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”