NYPD under suit
(BrandonKleinPhoto/Shutterstock)

NYPD Sued for Years of Racial Abuse and Use of Excessive Force; Trump Administration Approves Discrimination Against LGBTQ individuals; and More

NYPD sued by Attorney General for years of racial abuse and use of excessive force.

In what’s been called a “landmark lawsuit,” The New York Times has reported that New York state Attorney General Letitia James is suing the city of New York, the mayor and the NYPD’s leaders, alleging that officers for years have committed civil rights abuses against the city’s citizens, including at protests last summer over the death of George Floyd. She is also seeking the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee NYPD’s policing tactics in the future.

The suit, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, names Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and Chief of Department Terence Monahan as defendants. It also details years of excessive force and false arrests conducted on their behalf. Gov. Andrew Cuomo tasked James with investigating the claims, including the many that arose over the summer protests.

In a press conference announcing the suit, James said her office found “an egregious abuse of police power, rampant excessive use of force and leadership unable and unwilling to stop it.” These problems were especially prevalent last summer, she added. “As the demonstrations continued, the very thing being protested — aggressive actions of law enforcement — was on public display.” 

According to NYT reporter Ashley Southall, the investigation by the attorney general’s office found that “police officers beat protesters with batons and bicycles, used a dangerous containment strategy called kettling and arrested legal observers and medics.”

“There was ample ability and opportunity for the city and NYPD leadership to make important changes to the way that officers interact with peaceful protesters, but time and time again, they did not,” James said. “They did not train, they did not supervise, they did not stop officers who engaged in this misconduct. And they did not discipline them either. Instead, they failed the people of the City of New York.”

 

LGBT families
(FotoAndalucia/Shutterstock)

Trump administration strikes parting blow to LGBTQ individuals and families.

In a final middle-finger to the LGBTQ community, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has approved a new rule allowing groups like adoption agencies, homelessness protection agencies, nursing homes, healthcare facilities and other groups that provide services to the public to legally discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to Dan Avery at NBC News, the group’s 77-page release, which was published Tuesday, Jan. 12 in the Federal Register, rolls back “Obama-era requirements that agencies refrain from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity and recognize same-sex marriages as legally valid.” 

The new rule, which is scheduled to take effect on Feb. 11, would allow private adoption agencies that receive taxpayer money to deny services to same-sex potential parents. Avery reported that the rule could also make it OK for a homeless shelter to turn away a queer teen or a senior center to refuse to drive an elderly gay man to his doctor’s appointment.

“Even as Trump administration officials abandon ship, HHS has announced yet another dangerous rule that invites discrimination against the very people federal grant programs are meant to help,” Sasha Buchert, senior attorney for the LGBTQ civil rights group Lambda Legal told NBC News.

“[It’s a] nasty parting shot that won’t stand,” said Julie Kruse, director of federal policy for LGBTQ advocacy group Family Equality. Kruse told Avery she is confident the measure will be overturned by the incoming Biden administration, but she added that “it does clog up the works; it does delay protections.”

Similar troubling moves from other federal agencies could still be on their way. “HHS was among nine federal agencies tasked by the Trump administration to draft guidelines safeguarding ‘religious freedom,’ along with the Departments of Justice, Education, Labor, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development,” Avery wrote.

The Department of Education got an early start with their efforts. That group issued a ruling in September 2020 that said religious universities and student groups were exempt from sex-discrimination statutes. And, Avery added, “HHS’s regulation change was announced the same day the Department of Labor’s own final rule took effect, expanding exemptions to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to any contractors — for-profit or nonprofit — who ‘hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose.’”

 

Accused Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse displayed white supremacist signs in public while awaiting trial.

18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is in trouble again. The Illinois teen who travelled to Wisconsin to take part in the protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake is alleged to have shot two men he encountered in the crowd (Anthony M. Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum) and wounded a third in what investigators say was a racist, white supremacy-motivated attack.

Currently free from jail and awaiting trial on a $2 million bail, Rittenhouse is now back in the news because of reports over his malicious behavior. CNN’s Omar Jimenez and Joe Sutton had reported that “Rittenhouse was seen at a local bar with his mother about 90 minutes after [his] arraignment, and his presence and behavior were confirmed by surveillance video.” They add that “Rittenhouse was seen with other individuals flashing ‘the ‘OK’ sign, which has been co-opted as a sign of ‘white power’ by known white supremacist groups,” and was “directly served a beer by the bartender.’”

Based on these reports, prosecutors have asked the Kenosha County Circuit Court to modify his bond conditions and prohibited him from possessing or consuming alcohol or being in any establishment that serves it; prohibited him from making any public display of any “white power” or “white supremacy” signs, symbols or hand gestures; and prohibited him from making contact with any known militia members or members of any violent white power/white supremacist groups.

Rittenhouse’s attorney has tentatively agreed to these requests, but the Kenosha County Circuit Court has not issued its final decision on the filing.

 

D.I. Fast Facts

57

Number of vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that pharmacist Steven Brandenburg destroyed because he considered the vaccine “unsafe.” The vaccine would have supplied more than 500 doses of the life-saving medication to people in and around the Milwaukee area. Although Brandenburg has not been criminally charged, he was arrested and a case is ongoing — his pharmacy license has also been revoked.
Associated Press

 

6 minutes

Frequency in which one resident in L.A. county (the area in the U.S. currently hardest hit by the pandemic) is now dying due to COVID-19. On average, public health officials also estimate that 10 people in the region are also testing positive for the virus every minute.
NBC News

 

2x

Rate at which Black and Latinx children are to experience economic and health related hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Child Trends

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

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