Category Archives: USA

US: Tree planted to honour Elaine massacre victims cut down

TreeIn this June 15, 2019, photo, men work near a monument under construction honouring victims of the Elaine massacre that sits across from the Phillips County court in Helena, Arkansas [File: Noreen Nasir/AP]

Officials in Arkansas are investigating after someone cut down a willow tree that was planted to honour the victims of the 1919 Elaine massacre, one of the largest racial mass killings in United States history, US media reported this weekend.

The Elaine Legacy Center said the tree was chopped down at its base last week and a memorial tag was stolen. Memphis, Tennessee, television station WMC reported that police and state parks officials are investigating.

The tree was planted in April in remembrance of the victims of the massacre, which occurred during the summer of 1919, when hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mob violence during what became known as the “Red Summer”.

Events are planned for later next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre in Arkansas.

“Hacking down a tree is not graffiti. Graffiti is vandalism, okay? Hacking down a tree is a hateful act,” Arkansas judge and pastor Wendell Griffen told WMC. Griffen added that the incident warrants a hate crime investigation.

“They see us as having no value. Our feelings don’t matter. Our pain doesn’t matter. Our memories don’t matter. The folks that were massacred don’t matter and our families don’t matter,” Griffen told the local news station.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/tree-planted-honour-elaine-massacre-victims-cut-190826184017477.html

El Paso shooting: woman shot dead while saving her baby’s life

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Relatives of victims of the Walmart mass shooting wait for information from authorities at the reunification center in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday. Photograph: Andres Leighton/AP

A 25-year-old woman who was shot while apparently shielding her two-month-old son was among the 20 people killed when a gunman opened fire in a crowded El Paso shopping area, her sister said on Sunday.

The baby was injured, though not shot, and almost certainly had his life saved by his mother as she perished.

Federal prosecutors are treating the shooting at the Texas city on the Mexican border as an act of domestic terrorism and a possible hate crime. The lone, 21-year-old gunman was taken into custody on Saturday.

Leta Jamrowski, 19, of El Paso, learned on Saturday afternoon that her sister, Jordan Anchondo, had been fatally shot by the gunman who rampaged at a Walmart supermarket near the Texas border city, while the mother and her baby were shopping for back-to-school supplies earlier in the day.

Jamrowski spoke as she paced a waiting room at the University Medical Center of El Paso, where her two-month-old nephew was being treated for broken bones – the result of his mother’s fall.

“From the baby’s injuries, they said that more than likely my sister was trying to shield him,” she said. “So when she got shot she was holding him and she fell on him, so that’s why he broke some of his bones. So he pretty much lived because she gave her life,” Jamrowski told the Associated Press news agency.

Anchondo was the mother of three children.

Jamrowski spent the night desperately awaiting word of whether her brother-in-law, Andre Anchondo, had survived the attack that also wounded more than two dozen.

“They said that if he were alive, more than likely he would have gotten in contact by now,” Jamrowski said.

Local prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty for the suspect in the shooting.

The victims in the Texas shooting and another early Sunday, in Dayton, Ohio, have yet to be named by the authorities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/04/mass-shooting-el-paso-texas-woman-killed-saved-baby

US bishops call for new gun legislation after garlic festival shooting

BishopsCredit: Guy J. Sagi/Shutterstock.

.- After a shooting at a food festival in California on Sunday in which the gunman killed three people and injured 15, the US bishops’ representative for domestic justice called for legislation to prevent such losses.

Santino William Legan, 19, opened fire at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., 30 miles southeast of San Jose, the evening of July 28. He was shot dead by police shortly after beginning to fire a rifle. Police have been investigating reports of a second suspect.

Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose said July 29 that “our hearts are heavy with sadness in the wake of the horrific shooting … I am grateful for the first responders and individual citizens whose quick thinking and professional actions saved countless lives.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, survivors and their families in this time of sorrow. May God, the source of our faith and strength, grant comfort and hope to all those affected by acts of violence. May grief give way to healing and grace, as we work together to protect the innocent and prevent future massacres, so that peace may prevail in our hearts and communities.”

The Diocese of San Jose held a bilingual prayer vigil July 29 at St. Mary’s parish in Gilroy.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice in Florida, chair of the US bishops’ committee on domestic justice and human development, said July 30 that “our legislators must make changes to our gun policy to prevent the loss of life.”

“As Americans, we must be honest with ourselves that we have a sickness, almost a plague, with the problem of gun violence. As Christians, we must look to the cross, repentant of the ways that have led us to this point and, with God’s grace, abandon such senseless, inhuman acts. Let us resolve to make the sacrifices necessary to end the violent killing that saturates our nation.”

He added that “the Lord calls us to comfort those who mourn and to be peacemakers in a violent world. We pray, and we must, for the victims and their families. The Church should act in ways that heal and support all those affected by gun violence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/us-bishops-call-for-new-gun-legislation-after-garlic-festival-shooting-30833

Priests and sisters arrested with protestors at immigration demonstration on Capitol Hill

35C71CE3-098D-4E22-A9BE-167B8FF968D7Demonstrators during a “Catholic Day of Action” gather in the Russell Senate building on Capitol Hill, July 18, 2019. Credit: CNA

.- A group of Catholics were arrested at the Russell Senate Building on Capitol Hill on Thursday during a peaceful protest organized as a “Catholic Day of Action.” The group, including priests, religious sisters, and lay people, sought to draw attention to the situation at the southern border of the United States and the detention of children in particular.

“We felt like it was time for something more significant, and needing to take more of a risk to raise the consciousness of Catholics across the country,” demonstrator Maggie Conley told CNA during the demonstration, held July 18.

Conley, who works with the justice team of the Sisters of Mercy explained that she would like to see immigration reform presented as a pro-life issue, and expressed hope that Catholic members of Congress and the Trump administration will offer a more public witness on Catholic teaching and immigration.

“It’s challenging when we don’t hear [a call for action] coming from the pulpit as often as we want, and as integrated as some of the rituals of our faith,” said Conley.

Religious orders present included the Sisters of Mercy, the Bon Secours Sisters, the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Jesuits, and Franciscan friars. There were also several men at the protest wearing clerical collars, who did not appear to be part of any order.

Members of the group who intended to provoke arrest wore yellow bracelets, and many wore signs with pictures of migrant children who had passed away in U.S. custody and the date of their deaths. Five people laid in the center of the Russell Senate Building rotunda, forming the shape of a cross.

Among those arrested included Sr. Pat Murphy, age 90, a member of the Sisters of Mercy. Sr. Pat has worked in immigration and migrant advocacy in the past, and has held a weekly prayer vigil outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Chicago for over a decade.

Sr. Judith Frikker, a member of the Sisters of Mercy, was not one of the people who got arrested, but was still present at the protest “to stand in solidarity with my sisters, and more importantly, with immigrants.” This was not Sr. Judith’s first time participating in demonstrations of this kind, and she told CNA that she believes that “immigrants, detainees, their families–especially children–are being treated in a way that violates their human rights.”

Sr. Judith told CNA that she believes the crisis at the southern border is not about immigration itself but about how immigrants are received into the country as they try to enter.

“The crisis isn’t the people coming in, the crisis is what is happening to the people when they try to enter,” she said. “They’re seeking to live with dignity. Many people are seeking asylum and their rights are being denied. We have to act against that.”

Frikker said that she advocates for policy options to address immigration, asylum processing, and detention at the border which do not require changes to infrastructure.

“Instead of building a wall, I would increase our judicial system [in a way] that would allow the processing of immigrants and their asylum cases so they could enter here,” she said.

Katie Murphy, a local resident and Catholic, said she was attending the event out of “concern for the children, and also for the character of our nation, the soul of our nation.”

“I feel that the way we treat the most vulnerable is who we are, is like our character. I am deeply saddened and distraught over what our nation is doing. We have a crisis on the border, and we need to address that crisis in a way that dignifies the values that we stand for.”

The demonstration occurred just days after the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference publicly denounced action by the Trump administration to tighten rules on asylum seeking at the southern border, and to enforce court-ordered removals against thousands of people who had exhausted their legal appeals to remain in the country.

On Tuesday, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo issued a statement condemning a newly-announced rule which requires that those seeking asylum along the U.S. southern border first apply for asylum in any country they may pass through along the way.

“The rule adds further barriers to asylum-seekers’ ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection,” DiNardo said.

The cardinal also spoke out against a recent series carried out by ICE in cities across the United States.

“Enforcement actions like those anticipated this week by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities,” said DiNardo.

“I condemn such an approach, which has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the country. I recently wrote the President asking him to reconsider this action.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/protestors-gather-for-catholic-day-of-action-on-capitol-hill-32449

 

When They See Us: Central Park Five prosecutor resigns from college post

Park Image captionElizabeth Lederer’s prosecution of five black and Hispanic teenagers for a rape they did not commit was overturned in 2002

The prosecutor of five teenagers convicted for the brutal rape of a female jogger in 1989 – depicted in Netflix’s When They See Us – has left her job at at Columbia Law School.

Lawyer Elizabeth Lederer led the prosecution, but in Ava DuVernay’s series she is seen expressing doubts about their guilt.

The boys, known as the Central Park Five, said police coerced them into confessing and were exonerated in 2002.

They were all black and Hispanic.

Columbia University’s Black Students Organisation had set up a petition asking the school to fire Ms Lederer amid outcry generated by the series.

The New York Times reported that the school’s dean emailed students saying Ms Lederer “decided not to seek reappointment as a lecturer”.

She is also a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Gillian Lester, the dean of the school, said Ms Lederer wrote that the Netflix series had “reignited a painful – and vital – national conversation about race, identity, and criminal justice.”

The New York Times said the email included a statement from Ms Lederer saying she had enjoyed her years teaching at Columbia but would not be returning.

She said: “Given the nature of the recent publicity generated by the Netflix portrayal of the Central Park case, it is best for me not to renew my teaching application.”

The BBC has contacted Ms Lederer, Columbia Law School and Manhattan district attorney’s office for comment.

When They See Us, a four-part mini-series, has proved hugely popular on Netflix, and in the US the series has been the streaming service’s most-watched show since it debuted. In the UK it is the second-most watched after Black Mirror.

What happened in the Central Park Five case?

The victim, a white 28-year-old investment banker, was severely beaten, raped and left for dead in a bush. She had no memory of it.

Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise – then aged between 14 and 16 – were arrested and interrogated for hours without access to lawyers or their parents.

They confessed to the crime but later recanted, saying their admissions were the result of police coercion.

The 1989 interrogation was conducted by another prosecutor and police.

The convictions were overturned in 2002 after a serial violent offender named Matias Reyes confessed to the attack and said he had acted alone.

A US judge in 2014 approved a $41m (£32m) settlement between the five and New York City.

This is the second job loss for someone connected with the case since the series was released.

On 4 June, Linda Fairstein, a former US prosecutor involved in the case, resigned from several boards.

She observed the teenagers’ 1989 interrogation, which was conducted by another prosecutor and police. She was Manhattan’s sexual crimes top prosecutor at the time, and has since maintained they were not coerced and defended the authorities’ conduct.

When They See Us inspired a #CancelLindaFairstein movement on social media amid renewed outcry over her role in the case.

On 8 June, Ms Fairstein, who is now a crime novelist and children’s author, was dropped by her publisher.

Two days later she wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Ava DuVernay’s miniseries wrongly portrays them as totally innocent – and defames me in the process.”

Ava Duvernay was asked about Linda Fairstein during an interview by Oprah Winfrey, and said: “I think that it’s important that people be held accountable.”

But she added: “She is part of a system that’s not broken, it was built to be this way… the real thing that we are all trying to do.. is to be able to say, ‘Go America…Let’s do this. Let’s change this.’

“You can’t change what you don’t know, so we came together to show you what you may not know.”

“That’s our goal.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48637219

Jurors refuse to convict activist facing 20 years for helping migrants

HumanitarianScott Daniel Warren, a 36-year-old college geography instructor, was charged with conspiracy to transport and harbor migrants. Photograph: Kelly Presnell/AP

A US jury could not reach a verdict on Tuesday against a border activist who, defense attorneys say, was simply being kind by providing two migrants with water, food and lodging when he was arrested in early 2018.

Scott Daniel Warren, a 36-year-old college geography instructor, was charged with conspiracy to transport and harbor migrants in a trial that humanitarian aid groups said would have wide implications for their work. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors maintained the men were not in distress and Warren conspired to transport and harbor them at a property used for providing aid to migrants in an Arizona town near the US-Mexico border.

The case played out as humanitarian groups say they are coming under increasing scrutiny under Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies.

Outside the courthouse, Warren thanked his supporters and criticized the government’s efforts to crack down on the number of immigrants coming to the US.

“Today it remains as necessary as ever for local residents and humanitarian aid volunteers to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees, and we must also stand for our families, friends and neighbors in the very land itself most threatened by the militarization of our borderland communities,” Warren said.

Glenn McCormick, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Arizona, declined to comment on whether Warren would face another trial. The judge set a 2 July status hearing for the defense and prosecution.

Warren is one of nine members of the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths who have been charged with crimes related to their work. But he is the only one to face felony charges.

In west Texas, a county attorney was detained earlier this year after stopping her car on a dark highway to pick up three young migrants who flagged her down. Teresa Todd was held briefly, and federal agents searched her cellphone.

Border activists say they worry about what they see as the gradual criminalization of humanitarian action.

Warren has said his case could set a dangerous precedent by expanding the definition of the crimes of transporting and harboring migrants to include people merely trying to help border-crossers in desperate need of water or other necessities.

Warren and other volunteers with the No More Deaths group also were targeted this year in separate federal misdemeanor cases after leaving water, canned food and other provisions for migrants hiking through the Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge in southern Arizona.

In Warren’s felony case, the defense team headed by Greg Kuykendall argued that Warren could not, in good conscience, turn away two migrants who had recently crossed the desert to enter the US.

Jurors said on Monday that they could not reach a consensus on the charges against Warren, but a federal judge told them to keep deliberating. They were still deadlocked on Tuesday and ultimately dismissed.

Thousands of migrants have died crossing the border since the mid-1990s, when heightened enforcement pushed migrant traffic into Arizona’s scorching deserts.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/11/arizona-activist-migrant-water-scott-daniel-warren-verdict

Fake Saudi prince Anthony Gignac jailed for $8m fraud

Fraud

For years, Anthony Gignac lived a life of luxury fit for a royal.

He wore expensive jewellery, travelled in private jets or cars with diplomatic licence plates, and carried business cards referring to himself as “Sultan”.

But the story of the self-proclaimed prince finally unravelled on Friday, as he was jailed for 18 years for fraud.

A Florida judge said Gignac, 48, was a con man who posed as a Saudi royal to swindle $8 million (£6.3 million) from investors.

“Over the course of the last three decades, Anthony Gignac has portrayed himself as a Saudi prince in order to manipulate, victimise, and scam countless investors from around the world,” US Attorney Fajardo Orshan said in a statement.

“As the leader of a sophisticated, multi-person, international fraud scheme, Gignac used his fake persona – Prince Khalid Bin Al-Saud – to sell false hope. He sold his victims on hope for their families, careers, and future. As a result, dozens of unsuspecting investors were stripped of their investments, losing more than $8 million,” Ms Orshan added.

Born in Colombia, Gignac was adopted by a family in the US state of Michigan at the age of seven.

By 17, he had already started taking on the persona of a Saudi royal, using his alter-ego to con credit card companies, shop staff and investors.

According to court documents, he has been arrested 11 times in the past three decades for “prince-related schemes”.

From as early as May 2015, he has been using the name Khalid Bin Al-Saud, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida says.

To support his fraudulent persona, he purchased fake diplomatic licence plates and papers for his bodyguards. He wore traditional Saudi clothes and expensive rings and watches.

He often travelled on private jets or luxury yachts, and collected expensive artwork.

His fake life was chronicled on an Instagram account, where he shared photos of his dog sitting in designer bags and Saudi royals with captions like “my dad”.

When meeting with investors, he would refer to himself as a prince and demand that royal protocols such as gift giving were followed.

Prosecutors said Gignac used his fake royal persona to convince people to invest in non-existent business ventures around the world.

However, the scheme started to fall apart in May 2017, when he tried to invest in a luxury hotel in Miami.

Over the course of the negotiations, the hotel’s owners became suspicious of Gignac, in part because of his willingness to eat pork products that would normally be off-limits to a devout Muslim prince, the Miami Herald reports.

They then hired a private security group to investigate him, which ultimately led to a federal investigation.

Gignac pleaded guilty earlier this year to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and impersonating a diplomat, court documents show.

In her statement, Ms Orshan said “justice spoke for the victims” in Friday’s verdict.