Poor People Can’t Be Jailed For Not Being Able To Pay Bail, Justice Department Says

By Lauren C. Williams

Jailing people before they are tried in court because they can’t afford bail is unconstitutional, according to federal appeals court documents the Justice Department filed Thursday.

The filings mark the first time the agency has openly criticized the bail industry. In its amicus brief, the Justice Department wrote, “Bail practices that incarcerate indigent individuals before trial solely because of their inability to pay for their release violate the Fourteenth Amendment” and “result in the unnecessary incarceration of numerous individuals who are presumed innocent.”

“Bail practices that incarcerate indigent individuals before trial solely because of their inability to pay for their release violate the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The agency’s comments follow its indictment of the private prison industry mandating their closure due to their high rates of corruption and excessive force. The DOJ’s brief Thursday seems to bolster the Obama administration’s objective of improving prison practices that often disproportionately affect minorities.

Read More: Poor People Can’t Be Jailed For Not Being Able To Pay Bail, Justice Department Says — ThinkProgress

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In Cleveland, Another Lily White Republican Convention Reflects GOP’s Math Problem

By Bill Barrow

After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, Republican Party heavyweights uniformly agreed that White voters alone do not hold the keys to winning the White House.

Yet in 2016, another overwhelmingly White gathering of Republican convention delegates — the makeup clear on television images or a walk through the Quicken Loans Arena floor — has nominated an all-White male ticket: businessman Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Trump leaned almost exclusively on white voters to win the nomination and, in the process, alienated swaths of minorities with his push for a border wall to stop illegal immigration, calls for a “deportation force” and proposals to ban non-citizen Muslims from entering the country.

“He offended so many people,” said Texas GOP delegate Adryana Boyne, who is Latina. “I think he needs to apologize and he hasn’t.”

At the ballot box, simple math is at play as the country becomes less White with each presidential cycle. The more Trump struggles with non-Whites, the more pressure there is for him to reach levels of white support no candidate has managed since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide.

Pence may shore up support among white conservatives, particularly evangelical Christians wary of Trump, but Trump’s running mate may not easily connect with non-white voters, and many of the elected Republicans who could play that role aren’t Trump allies.

Read More: In Cleveland, Another Lily White Republican Convention Reflects GOP’s Math Problem | Afro

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Baton Rouge Cop Killer Was a “Sovereign Citizen.” What the Heck Is That?

By Brandon Ellington Patterson

On July 17, in the second (at least) targeted attack on police in just over a week, 29-year-old Gavin Long shot six cops, three fatally, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The former Marine had posted YouTube selfie videos in which he commented on the need to respond to “oppression” with “bloodshed,” and praised the recent shooting of 11 officers in Dallas as “justice.” Long also appears to have been part of the so-called “sovereign citizen” movement. Last May, he filed official documents in Jackson County, Missouri, declaring a name change and identifying himself as a member of the Empire Washita de Dugdahmoundyah—a black group that espouses some of the movement’s ideas. According to the Daily Beast, Long was also carrying an ID card from the Empire at the time of the shooting. Here’s what you need to know about sovereign citizenship, and the branch Long subscribed to.

Sovereign citizen ideology is modeled on Posse Comitatus. A government-hating, right-wing Christian group, Posse Comitatus was founded around 1970 in Oregon. Its members claimed that white Americans, not Jews—whom members accused of manipulating government and financial institutions—were the true descendants of the Biblical tribe of Israel. Posse members rejected the authority of government officials, judges, and police officers. They claimed that because blacks were granted citizenship under the 14th Amendment (an act of government) they were bound by the government’s laws and were slaves to the state. But white citizenship predates the Constitution, the Posse claimed, so whites were bound only by “common” law, which made them “sovereign” and free—and not, for example, compelled to pay taxes.

Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks anti-government groups, says Posse members traveled around during the 1970s and 1980s teaching financially stressed whites—chiefly farmers who were losing their land during the agricultural crisis of those decades, or people facing foreclosure and debt—that the group’s ideology could help them out of their money binds. The Posse’s solution? Declare sovereignty and separate one’s legal “shell”—the named entity tied to social security numbers, birth certificates, and other forms of government identification—from one’s actual personhood. A person who did this, the Posse said, would no longer need to abide by rules of the state. Sovereign citizens played a major role in the formation, during the 1990s, of so-called “patriot” militia groups. (There was a resurgence of such groups after President Barack Obama was elected.)

Read More: Baton Rouge Cop Killer Was a “Sovereign Citizen.” What the Heck Is That? | Mother Jones

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What’s The Rent? NYC Housing Officials Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

By Cezary Podkul

Anyone who’s ever rented in New York City knows how hard it is to get reliable information about an apartment. How much has the unit rented for in the past? Does the building’s history entitle tenants to rent-regulated leases? If so, for how long?

These are important questions that every renter should be able to answer before they sign a lease. Except that there’s no one place to find the information.

But there could be. And, in fact, according to New York law, for many apartments, there should be.

Since 2007, there’s been a statute on the books that requires the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to collect and make public key data on the thousands of new apartments built each year under the city’s single-biggest housing subsidy. But the provision has been ignored by HPD: The agency simply hasn’t done it.

The requirement is part of section 421-a of New York’s property tax law — the legislation that can slash landlords’ tax bills by upwards of 90 percent. In exchange, owners of the estimated 83,000 city apartments covered by the tax break must agree to limit rent increases on all their tenants and set aside a portion of the units for “affordable” below-market rents in certain high-priced city neighborhoods.

The housing department’s decision to ignore the law’s reporting requirement has deprived New Yorkers of vital information on the apartment buildings that benefit from the subsidy, which costs taxpayers $1.2 billion a year in lost revenues.

Source: What’s The Rent? NYC Housing Officials Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – ProPublica

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The Myth of Upward Mobility in America 

By Sarah Lazare

Soaring inequality in America has been accompanied by a plummet in upward mobility since the early 1980s, with those who earn modest incomes in their first jobs likely to remain trapped in low-wage work for decades, a troubling paper concludes.

Published in May by economists Michael D. Carr and Emily E. Wiemers, who hail from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, the study is based on data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation and examines the years 1981 to 2008.

“Though increasing through much of the 20th century, we show that intragenerational mobility has been declining since the early 1980s across a variety of rank-based measures,” the scholars write. “Mobility has declined for both men and women and among workers of all levels of education, with the largest declines among college-educated workers. In the presence of increasing inequality, falling mobility implies that as the rungs of the ladder have moved father apart, moving between them has become more difficult.”

The paper, published by the Washington Center for Economic Growth, concludes that this decline is particularly pronounced for the so-called middle class.

“One striking feature is the decline in upward mobility among middle-class workers, even those with a college degree,” the scholars write. “Across the distribution of educational attainment, the likelihood of moving to the top deciles of the earnings distribution for workers who start their career in the middle of the earnings distribution has declined by approximately 20 percent since the early 1980s.”

Read More: The Myth of Upward Mobility in America | Alternet

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The Coming War on ‘Black Nationalists’ 

By Yohuru Williams

After Gavin Long’s attack on officers in Baton Rouge, Police Chief Carl Dabadie observed that police “are up against a force that is not playing by the rules.” I understand and share his anguish for the loss of life, but I could not help being struck by his choice of words. To what force was he alluding? On Meet the Press following the Dallas killings, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani laid the blame squarely at the feet of Black Lives Matter. On CNN Tuesday morning, Wisconsin representative and former reality-TV star Sean Duffy went a step further and suggested greater scrutiny of the Black Lives Matter movement, which he argued is a prime instigator of violence against police.

All of this rhetoric is part of a rising chorus after the Texas and Louisiana killings, an effort to define a new category in the war on extremism—so-called black-nationalist terrorism. Proponents struggle to manufacture a domestic equivalent for Al Qaeda. Efforts to link the violence against law enforcement to some mythical, larger black separatist movement, which has made retaliatory violence against police one of its chief aims, is weak at best and irresponsible at worst.

The Republican National Convention nonetheless built much of its opening night on Monday around this idea, with its theme of “Make America Safe Again.” Giuliani impliedthat the Black Lives Matter movement has “targeted” police and put a target on their backs.” Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke was offered as a black law-enforcement spokesperson supporting the notion that the movement represents dangerous extremism.

To be clear: The black lives movement unapologetically focuses on the dignity and worth of black lives. The careless and dishonest way Duffy, Giuliani, Clarke and others chose to frame that movement creates a context that shifts attention away from the very police practices that nonviolent protesters are demonstrating against. More significantly, the possibility of legislators addressing the actions of two mass murders by doubling down on nonviolent protesters may exacerbate an already tense situation, put into place more oppressive polices and procedures, and inflame police-community relations.

Read More: The Coming War on ‘Black Nationalists’ | The Nation

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On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart

Pew Research Center

Almost eight years after Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president –an event that engendered a sense of optimism among many Americans about the future of race relations1 – a series of flashpoints around the U.S. has exposed deep racial divides and reignited a national conversation about race. A new Pew Research Center survey finds profound differences between black and white adults in their views on racial discrimination, barriers to black progress and the prospects for change. Blacks, far more than whites, say black people are treated unfairly across different realms of life, from dealing with the police to applying for a loan or mortgage. And, for many blacks, racial equality remains an elusive goal.

An overwhelming majority of blacks (88%) say the country needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, but 43% are skeptical that such changes will ever occur. An additional 42% of blacks believe that the country will eventually make the changes needed for blacks to have equal rights with whites, and just 8% say the country has already made the necessary changes.

A much lower share of whites (53%) say the country still has work to do for blacks to achieve equal rights with whites, and only 11% express doubt that these changes will come. Four-in-ten whites believe the country will eventually make the changes needed for blacks to have equal rights, and about the same share (38%) say enough changes have already been made.

Read More: On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart | Pew Research Center

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Tampa Bay’s black officers caught in middle of national debate over police and race

By Zachary T. Sampson and Dan Sullivan

St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway lost friends when he became a cop. He knows some people hate him for being one.

“They don’t see me as a black man, they see me as a police officer,” he said. “You’re working for the man.”

As a national race and policing debate swells, Holloway and other black officers find themselves in a thorny middle ground between a fiercely loyal law enforcement community and some minorities that do not trust authorities.

The difficult position was highlighted by a recent Facebook post from Baton Rouge police Officer Montrell Jackson. On July 8, after an ambush killed five officers in Dallas, Jackson wrote that he loved his Louisiana city but wasn’t sure it loved him back.

He was shot to death Sunday with two other cops.

“In uniform I get nasty hateful looks,” he had written, “and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

Some officers in the Tampa Bay area routinely face the tension of such a dual existence.

“I think in general, because of the position we hold, we’re not going to always make people happy,” said Hillsborough sheriff’s Deputy Monique Greco.

Greco, a Tampa native, has been a sheriff’s deputy for 16 years. Part of what attracted her to the job, she said, was a desire to bring change from within the ranks of police. Growing up in Town ‘N Country, she knew male family members who had negative encounters with cops.

Read More: Tampa Bay’s black officers caught in middle of national debate over police and race | Tampa Bay Times

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8,000 People Open Accounts At Black-Owned Bank In Atlanta

By Taryn Finley







In the weeks following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, more and more influencers, like Solange and Killer Mike, have started to #BankBlack and have transferred their money into black-owned banks.

Now, a historic black bank in Atlanta has seen a spike in business. In just five days, 8,000 people have submitted applications to join Citizen’s Trust Bank, according to 11 Alive.

“It’s a tremendous propel forward for the bank and the future of the bank and bringing new relevance to a bank that’s been here for 95 years. And, it’s a statement about what the next 95 years will look like,” Jay Bailey, chairman of the bank’s Next Generation Advisory Board, told the local outlet.

The bank’s CEO and president, Cynthia N. Day, thanked Killer Mike on Twitter  for urging people to collectively put $100 million in Atlanta’s only black bank just days before the increase in business.

Executive Vice President Fredrick Daniels said the bank, which was founded in 1921, has survived despite several economic hardships. Now, he said Citizen’s Trust is looking to grow and get more black people to keep their money in their communities.

Read More: 8,000 People Open Accounts At Black-Owned Bank In Atlanta

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‘On this side of town they harass you’: the Baton Rouge where Alton Sterling died

By Jesse Hardman

While most people are finishing up their work week, 47-year-old Terrell Griffin and his 19-year-old nephew Xavier Coleman are still working hard on the north side of Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

They are selling CDs, DVDs, popcorn balls, candy apples, peanuts, and some southern specialties, such as cracklin’ (fried pork fat), pecan candy and teacakes. They set up their wares on a collapsible table and metal hanger, out in front of a strip mall church, next to a Family Dollar store.

As a woman looks over their movie selection, Xavier, who is wearing a black dress shirt and gray slacks, dress shoes, and a gold chain over a tie, goes into salesman mode. “We create relationships with our customers,” he says. “It’s all about being positive and connecting with people – it’s what we do.”

There is one additional item on display: a framed, up-to-date license for the business, Just a Taste of the Fair, registered to his name. He wants everybody to know: “We’re legit.”

Griffin, a married father of 11 who also leads a successful gospel group, lives around the corner. Sometimes he works past midnight, bringing his wares to nearby gas stations and restaurants. Griffin says he’s been selling for 23 years. “I raised my kids off of selling this stuff,” he says.

Griffin and Coleman deal mostly in cash, which raises a question about safety. Griffin says he’s protected in two ways: “I’m covered by the blood of Jesus,” he says, and “I have a gun that’s legal, I have a permit.”

Read More: ‘On this side of town they harass you’: the Baton Rouge where Alton Sterling died | US news | The Guardian

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