100 Days of Hell: Beauregard Sessions

It’s exhausting to stay outraged about everything that has happened in Trump’s first 100 days, but at least Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps going out of his way to remind us how horrible he is.

Sessions has made it clear that fear mongering should replace facts when it comes to creating policy. Forget the antics of the rest of the administration; keeping up with Sessions’s decisions alone is almost a full time job. Here are some of the shitty things that shitty Jeff Sessions has done (and I won’t even talk about how I watched him dig around his nose and stare at his boogers when I was at his confirmation hearing): 

Tribal Sovereignty 

When Sessions was sworn in, President Trump signed a handful of executive actions that were right in line with Sessions’s beliefs. One was the Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers. In this order, the President called for “multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts” to deal with violence against police officers.

Never mind that violence against police is down. Never mind that there is no epidemic of unsolved crimes against cops. Facts clearly aren’t important to the Trump administration.

If facts mattered, the Violence Against Women Act wouldn’t have met so much resistance from Jeff Sessions back in 2013.  Until 2015, tribal officers could not prosecute non-Natives who committed crimes on tribal land — resulting in Native American women being sexually assaulted more than four times the national average, primarily by men who were not Native American. This was a problem the 2013 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act specifically addressed by allowing some tribal courts to sometimes prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence.

Sessions voted against VAWA, claiming that this tribal court provision was a “big concern” for him. But now, when he wants to convince the country that police are the ones we need to protect from violence, forcing multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts is fine. Cool. 

DACA

Created by Obama in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were born after 6/15/81 and who came to America before they were 16. Applicants have to be enrolled in school and pass a background check. The idea behind DACA was to help young people who were working to become valuable members of society by streamlining the citizenship process, especially since so many of the people eligible were primarily raised in the US.

Back in January, Donald Trump said that DACA recipients “shouldn’t be very worried.” By February, Juan Manuel Montes became the first DACA recipient to be deported. Now it’s April, and I’m still not convinced Donald Trump knows what DACA is — but I’m damn sure Sessions knows and hates DACA.

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Fellow racist Steve King never disappoints. Also, learn how to use your camera, Steve.

“I believe everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported…we’re going to focus first, as the president has directed us, on the criminal element,” Sessions announced on ABC’s This Week (emphasis mine).

Their first focus might be the criminal element, but Sessions has a pretty messed up perception of constitutes criminal activity.  Over 1.5 million undocumented people have told the federal government that they are here and applied for DACA. Now these same people have to place their trust in Sessions, who seems to have a burning desire to end the program.

Black Lives Matter

After high profile police killings, the DOJ will come into a city and investigate the police force. They will spend a year or two interviewing citizens and cops, doing ride alongs, holding meetings, and combing through documents to understand if there are problems within the structure of the department. After they create a report on their findings, they work with the city to make a consent decree — a legally binding contract that details how the city will address the issues the DOJ has found. Baltimore is, of course, one of the cities to be a recipient of such an investigation — and it has the unique position of having the process of creating and signing the consent decree spread between the Obama and Trump administrations.

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Right before Baltimore held a public hearing on their consent decree, the DOJ asked for a delay in the implementation of the consent decree, and a review of all active decrees. The judge denied the Baltimore motion, and the public hearing went on as scheduled. Despite having the motion denied, the DOJ decided to again bring up the possibility of delaying the process.

“Reasonable minds may disagree if this decree is the perfect way forward,” stated John Gore, the DOJ’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, describing the very  document his department created and signed. Gore added that the current administration has “grave concerns” over the decree, and reiterated the need for the already-denied motion for a delay.

The city responded that, not only was a delay was not necessary, but community input was the most important part of reform, and that both parties went to great lengths to involve the community in the creation of the consent decree. To delay it would shake the confidence the community has in the reform — of course, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes consent decrees “undermine respect for our police officers,” I assume that protecting the community is no longer a function of the DOJ.

Under any other circumstances, watching the DOJ argue against justice would have been unusual. In a way, Sessions’s DOJ helped bring residents and the police together: of the 49 residents who spoke at this hearing, the vast majority sided with the stance of the Baltimore Police Department.

In July 2015, I attended a very crowded town hall meeting at Sojourner-Douglass College. The first half of the meeting was a panel discussion, and the second half was community members sharing their stories with representatives from the Department of Justice. Many tears were shed as citizens repeated how grateful they were that the DOJ was finally there, that someone was finally listening to their stories. At the time, had you told me that these representatives would become the sabotaging enemies of reform, I would have laughed at you.

The day after the Baltimore Uprising, people gathered around the riot police set up at Penn and North. There were prayers, debates, and crying — but there was also a feeling of cautious optimism.. People expressed hope that maybe now the government would do for Baltimore what it had done for Ferguson — a full investigation into the workings of the police department. Maybe now people would listen.

I would find it hard to believe that this sentiment is not expressed nationwide, every time a police shooting sparks large protests. So what happens when we take away the only government organization that listens?

When the next Freddie Gray or Philando Castile is killed, when the next city has had enough — will Sessions directly say, “sorry, but we no longer wish to help those who have been victimized by the police”? Did John Gore’s years working for Jones Day prepare him to be the one to tell people the official stance of the federal government is that their lives and struggles don’t matter?

Do you want a riot, Jeff Sessions? Because this is how you get a riot.

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Martin O’Malley: Rebuilding the American Dream, Like He Rebuilt Baltimore

I feel like I’ve been seeing way too much of Martin O’Malley lately. From being a guest on The Daily Show to playing the guitar on The View, O’Malley seems to not be deterred by his approval ratings. To the average person who only watches the debates and listens to the current soundbites, O’Malley sounds like a good candidate for Clinton’s cabinet (or whatever he’s aiming for at this point). I’ve seen many liberal leaning friends and news sources (especially those who consider police reform a primary issue) express their interest in O’Malley. His criminal justice reform plan even lists “build[ing] trust in law enforcement” as a top priority.

But the thing is, in Maryland we all know the truth about O’Malley.

How can the mayor that ordered mass arrests of innocent people and manipulated crime statistics possibly be the President we trust to understand and implement community policing?

How can the mayor who ruined community and police relations possibly be the President (or whatever position he’s going for) we trust to rebuild faith in the police force?

Back in April, I watched Martin O’Malley stop by West Baltimore for a photo op. Starting at the burned down CVS, he slowly made his way down Penn, shaking hands and smiling with the crowd that had gathered to protest the death of Freddie Gray. I’m sure he thought it was a great idea for him to do before announcing that he was running for President — until an angry protestor on a motorcycle started following him. “YOU DID THIS! YOU KILLED FREDDIE GRAY!” the man yelled. O’Malley quickly picked up his pace and escaped into the black SUV waiting for him at the end of the block.

He wasn’t wrong.

Nothing O’Malley has ever done shows he is capable of facilitating a community oriented policing program, or that he even knows what community policing is.

O’Malley now claims that he wants to make community policing a priority — though Baltimore didn’t get its Community Partnership Division until after O’Malley was long gone from Baltimore. O’Malley’s Baltimore focused on manufactured statistics and graphs, not human compassion or an understanding of how to treat the root causes of crime. Numbers get you noticed by White House, after all.

During the first Democratic debate, O’Malley assured us that in his Baltimore, arrests and crime fell.  He was half right — crime did fall in Baltimore, just like it did nationwide. But I don’t really know why he claimed arrests fell; in 2005 there were over 100,00 arrests in a city of roughly 600,000 people. How could crime possibly be falling if the police saw fit to arrest almost 1/6 of the city’s population? Under O’Malley the blanket policy of the BPD appeared to be “arrest everyone — or else.” People were not arrested for committing crimes, they were arrested and held for up to 54 hours with no charges ever filed. When people were assigned bail, they usually couldn’t pay it and would spend a month or two in jail until their cases would be dismissed. In 2006 the ACLU and NAACP filed a lawsuit against O’Malley for this practice. Spoiler alert: the city settled.

While O’Malley’s BPD were making mass arrests, they certainly didn’t prioritize arresting rapists. In 2010 the Baltimore Sun reported that police would aggressive question rape victims, causing 30% of victims to change their accusation to “unfounded” — which was five times the national average. On paper, the amount of rapes in Baltimore declined 80% versus the national average of 8%; the city didn’t even go for a believable, gradual decrease. 

Not to mention, O’Malley did his best to expedite the school to prison pipeline until political opposition was just too much to handle.

When you see Martin O’Malley talking on TV, please don’t let him blind you with charming jokes about the NRA or the honest good he did here with immigration and gay marriage.

Instead, please remember his first legacy — the city of Baltimore.

Remember Freddie Gray. Tyrone West. George V. King. Officer William Torbit Jr.

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Take Flight

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but it’s only because there has been a ton of work to do. I’ve been going to committee meetings for police accountability in Annapolis, Baltimore, Fairfax County; I’ve been reading and researching and planning out what the next step is. One really awesome thing I’ve done during my writing absence was go with my friends to film their music video in Baltimore. My friend Cory has been protesting with me (and even came and stood by thecamera during my CNN interview to support me!), and he was inspired to create this video. My shirt is from Bmore Love, and all proceeds from their shirts go to Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore. Video by Dexter Jason Delfin Visuals.

I am the Activist who took the “Heartwarming” Picture of the Soldier and Little Girl in Baltimore

I’m the girl that took the picture of the soldier and child in Baltimore that went viral. I meant to capture a sad moment, one of wasted resources and failure. Who knew that so many people think all of our race and economic problems could be solved if someone would just think to smile at a child?

The accusations of being a pot stirrer, a know-nothing liberal, and race-baiter have been coming at me almost faster than I can read them. Good. Keep it coming. You wouldn’t hate me if I didn’t make you uncomfortable. Keep telling me to forget the misery and to just see the happiness; keep criticizing me for bringing it up. Keep talking about it, because that is the first step. But let’s keep it real when we talk about it.

How can you look at a picture from Baltimore that could easily be from Afghanistan and think it shows a promising future? The problems leading up to this picture continue to be swept under the rug while people mindlessly smile over a picture of a child. How about we focus on the fact that 86% of public school students in Baltimore get free/reduced lunch? How about we focus on the predatory payday loan and checks cashed establishments that people in this neighborhood are subjected to, continuing the cycle of poverty they are in? How about we focus on the fact that I took this picture on Fulton Ave about a month ago, and it’s pretty average for much of Baltimore:

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I don’t find my picture to be tragic because I hate the military or because I hate guns. It seems to me that 30 seconds of critical thinking would clarify that. I find it to be tragic because we don’t give a damn about these communities until the destruction threatens the rest of us. If this was a picture of a child on a field trip to the Pentagon, I’d see how it’s cute. Adorable, even. But that isn’t what this is. This is a community being told they are too vile and worthless for anyone to give a damn about them until they start to burn things down — and even then, people only care long enough to be keyboard activists with uninformed opinions.

Baltimore has a lot of problems, but being a city full of people that want to loot and riot isn’t one of them. I think it’s pretty clear why there was a riot — what did the police expect when they loaded up with riot gear, turned off public transit, didn’t allow children to leave, and instigated pissed off kids whose frontal lobes aren’t fully developed? Yet here we are, painting Baltimore as a city of lawlessness. If we’re going to talk about lawlessness in Baltimore, let’s talk about the millions of dollars used to settle and hide cases of police brutality.

I have watched news anchors and the internet in general wonder why people felt the need to burn the businesses in the community, consequently limiting their own options of where to shop. Over my week in Baltimore, I listened to and talked to a lot of people, from those who were pro-riot to those who were pro-peace. The impression that I got wasn’t that all people necessarily hate all businesses that aren’t black owned — it’s that they hate that the businesses won’t pay living wages or promote people of color. Without the ability to build capital (or even pay rent) and without the experience of being more than entry level employees, how are people supposed to start their own businesses? How will there ever be more black-owned businesses in primarily black communities?

In my opinion, the onus is now on wealthy business owners of all races in Baltimore and the surrounding area to do their part in making the city a more livable place. It’s on the middle and upper middle class residents of Maryland to change the way things are run. I saw an incredible amount of unity build up in one week of Baltimore protests; a level of unity that is rare for any kind of movement. The revolution is here, and “us vs. them” is not going to be black vs white. It’s going to the people who have hopped on board vs. those who haven’t. Do not stand on the wrong side. Support the organizations that are on the ground making a difference. Support the organizations working to feed the hungry children of Baltimore and working to make the streets safe. Do not shop at places that do not allow their entry level employees to grow. Nothing will change over night, but it’s time we start working to provide education and opportunities instead of casting judgement when most of us can’t even imagine what it would be like to live in West Baltimore.

Follow my Facebook and Twitter. You can subscribe to my blog here.  A version of this post also appeared on my Huffington Post blog.