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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Ron DeSantis Wants to Erase Black History. Why?

Ron DeSantis Wants to Erase Black History. Why?

Ron DeSantis standing at a lectern with a sign reading, “Freedom from indoctrination.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a crowd before publicly signing H.B. 7, also called the Stop Woke law.Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald, via Associated Press

By Janai Nelson

“Ms. Nelson is the president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF).

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An unrelenting assault on truth and freedom of expression in the form of laws that censor and suppress the viewpoints, histories and experiences of historically marginalized groups, especially Black and L.G.B.T.Q. communities, is underway throughout the country, most clearly in Florida. The state’s Department of Education recently rejected a pilot Advanced Placement African American studies course from being offered in Florida’s public high schools.

Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law — which would limit students and teachers from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender — Florida is at the forefront of a nationwide campaign to silence Black voices and erase the full and accurate history and contemporary experiences of Black people. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the A.C.L.U. of Florida and Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit on behalf of university professors and a college student opposing the “Stop WOKE” law and, along with a second lawsuit, won a preliminary injunction blocking Florida’s Board of Governors from enforcing its unconstitutional and racially discriminatory provisions at public universities.

Florida’s rejection of the A.P. course and Mr. DeSantis’s demand to excise specific subject areas from the curriculum stand in stark opposition to the state-issued mandate that all students be taught “the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition and the contributions of African Americans to society.”

While litigation continues, the various provisions of “Stop WOKE” and now the rejection of A.P. African American history could have devastating and far-reaching effects on the quality of education for Florida’s 2.8 million students in its public K-12 schools. The same reasons that the “Stop WOKE” law is blocked from enforcement in university settings hold for elementary and secondary schools. As a federal judge ruled in November, the law strikes “at the heart of ‘open-mindedness and critical inquiry,’” such that “the State of Florida has taken over the ‘marketplace of ideas’ to suppress disfavored viewpoints.”

Mr. DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law relegates the study of the experiences of Black people to a prohibited category. The canceling of any students’ access to accurate, truthful education that reflects their diverse identities and that of their country should chill every American. Not only do these laws offend First Amendment freedoms of speech and expression; to the extent they harm certain groups on the basis of race, gender or other protected status, they also violate principles of equal protection. And they are a chilling precursor to state-sponsored dehumanization of an entire race of people.

This disturbing pattern of silencing Black voices and aggressive attempts to erase Black history are one of the most visible examples of performative white supremacy since the presidency of Donald Trump. In 2019 the Florida legislature undermined Amendment 4, which a supermajority of Floridians supported and would have restored the voting rights of more than a million formerly incarcerated people. In its place, lawmakers put in place a pay-to-vote system that redisenfranchises hundreds of thousands of those citizens, many of them Black. Similarly, Florida’s antiprotest law, H.B. 1, was enacted in 2021 in response to the 2020 protests against police violence, when Black organizations and peaceful demonstrators in Florida — along with their allies — took to the streets with demands for justice.

What is happening in Florida is also happening in other states. Fifteen states now have active educational gag orders — and similar censorship measures are making their way through several state legislatures — with punishments including fines, civil suits, firing and criminal penalties for those who violate the broadly defined provisions. From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans listed 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 book titles. The content in most of the banned books involves prominent characters of color, L.G.B.T.Q. protagonists or themes and subject matter related to race and racism.

It’s no coincidence that these attacks are targeting not just historically marginalized people but also our very experiences of intersectionality. Mr. DeSantis recently rubbished the inclusion of “queer theory” in the A.P. African American studies course that was rejected, seeming to deny the need for future generations to learn about the contributions of queer Black American icons like Pauli Murray, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde and James Baldwin. Florida’s H.B. 1557, more widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, also limits conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms and, like “Stop WOKE,” makes clear that the State of Florida seeks to suppress and target people’s identities.

Meanwhile, teachers, librarians and school officials providing guidance on diversity, equity and inclusion are said to have been pushed out of their jobs and gotten death threats. Last year ProPublica reported the chilling story of a Black educator who was chased out of Cherokee County in Georgia by a group of people incensed that she was bringing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to the school district.

Several book bans and other antitruth measures introduced in the past two years target The New York Times’s 1619 Project (and curriculum), which was created by Nikole Hannah-Jones — who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work — and is a linchpin in today’s conversations about the role of systemic racism in America’s history and its enduring impacts. In Wyoming and Texas, lawmakers and school officials have proposed measures mandating that objectively horrific historic events like the Holocaust and the trans-Atlantic slave trade be presented to American children neutrally and without judgment. (The Wyoming measure failed to pass the state’s legislature.) But why would we want our children to look at these atrocities without judgment?

Contrary to those advancing a false morality of ignorance and hollow patriotism as justification for barring students from discussing uncomfortable facts, we know that young people of all races benefit from an accurate and inclusive education. Students who are taught factual history don’t see themselves as victims or villains; in fact, research into the effects of ethnic studies K-12 curriculums found that discussing race and racism in school increases academic outcomes for students, reduces prejudice among white students and students of color and improves feelings of belonging in students of color and even their beliefs about their academic abilities. On the other hand, research shows that education that ignores students’ awareness of race, racism and stereotypes leads to increased prejudice.

The losses to our nation, if this broad attack on our shared history is allowed to continue, are incalculable. Not only will it breed a generation of Americans indoctrinated by ignorance; it will deny them the analytical skills to understand the complex history of this experimental democracy, as well as the historical grounding to sustain it. Students will arrive at institutions of higher learning wholly ill equipped to engage with the historical foundations of this country, which include and are inextricable from the history of Black Americans. Moreover, it will deny future generations the full story of turmoil and triumph that is America. It will also sow the racial divisions that enable white supremacy, which the F.B.I. has identified as a major domestic security threat, to thrive.

The good news is that most Americans oppose policies like book bans and support teaching the history of race in America — positions that indicate they value and understand the importance of truth. However, we must also respond to the urgency of this moment. While civil rights lawyers won’t rest in our fight against “Stop WOKE” and similar laws in courts and state legislatures across the country, we all have a role to play. It starts with recognizing what is happening: This is bigotry and erasure aimed at robbing America’s children of their educational birthright and all of us of a better shared future. Recognize what is happening, call it out and resist erasure.“

Monday, January 30, 2023

Kevin McCarthy gets CRUSHED in brutal interview on national TV

“An Intolerable Situation”: Rashid Khalidi & Orly Noy on Israeli Colonialism & Escalating Violence | Democracy Now!


The Memphis cops charged with murder were Black. What does it matter? - The Washington Post

Black Memphis police spark dialogue on systemic racism in the U.S.

"As Memphis police released a graphic video showing the beating of Tyre Nichols, people in Memphis marched calling for justice and police reform. (Video: Jessica Koscielniak, Rich Matthews, Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post, Photo: Brandon Dill/The Washington Post/The Washington Post)

MEMPHIS — For the mother of Tyre Nichols, the fact that five Memphis police officers charged with beating her son are also Black has compounded her sorrow as she tries to cope with his violent death at age 29.

“It makes it even harder to swallow,” RowVaughn Wells said in an interview last week, “because they are Black and they know what we have to go through.”

The race of the five officers charged in the Nichols killing has prompted a complex grappling among Black activists and advocates for police reform about the pervasiveness of institutional racism in policing. Nichols died three days after he was pulled out of his car Jan. 7, kicked, punched and struck with a baton on a quiet neighborhood street by Black officers, whose aggressive assault was captured on body-camera videos released Friday.

The widely viewed videos of the Nichols beating provided fodder for right-wing media ecosystems that routinely blame Black America’s maladies on Black America, and spawned nuanced conversations among Black activists about how systemic racism can manifest in the actions of non-White people.

The Memphis Police Department, which has nearly 2,000 officers, is 58 percent Black, the result of a decades-long effort to field a police force that resembles the city’s 64 percent Black population. Unlike in several recent high-profile police brutality cases, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, who is Black, and other officials acted swiftly in firing, arresting and charging the Memphis officers in advance of the release of video footage.

Though some studies have shown that police officers of color use force less frequently against Black civilians than their White counterparts, analysts say the improvement is marginal.

“Diversifying law enforcement is certainly not going to solve this problem,” said Samuel Sinyangwe, president of Mapping Police Violence.

He pointed to many factors in the policing system that lead to a disproportionate response against people of color: directives to work in neighborhoods where more people of color live and a system that relies on the discretion of the officer to enforce things like traffic stops, opening the door for internal biases to play a role.

Conversations on Fox News over the weekend were less academic.

“Tucker Carlson Tonight” guest Jason Whitlock, a conservative sports culture blogger who is Black, blamed “young Black men and their inability to treat each other in a humane way,” as muted footage of the Memphis officers beating Nichols played side-by-side.

“It looked like gang violence to me. It looked like what young Black men do when they’re supervised by a single, Black woman,” Whitlock said, referring to Davis, the Memphis police chief, who is married.

Focus on the individual officers in the aftermath of police killing and not the institution the officer belongs to perpetuates the belief that policing’s problems are the result of a few bad apples — a narrative embraced by police, said Jeanelle Austin, who runs the George Floyd Global Memorial in Minnesota.

“This is what I fear: What’s going to happen in Memphis is what happened to Minneapolis — is that when Derek Chauvin and the other [three] officers were charged, the narrative turned from an issue of the police department to an individual issue,” Austin said. “That was a PR strategy.”

“What we’ve been screaming from our lungs for years is that the system and the culture of policing trains people’s minds regardless of the color of their skin to behave a certain way,” she said.

Systemic racism can be more difficult for the general public to grasp than explicitly visible White-on-Black crimes, said Craig Futterman, a clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School who studies policing and civil rights.

“We’d like to think in the binary — the good guys and the bad guys,” he said. “It’s far easier to consume the story in an uncomplicated way seeing a White officer shoot 14 shots at a young Black boy laying on the ground,” he added, referencing the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald.

From the protests in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 through those in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, activists have long sought to reform policing. But the lack of centralization between local, state and federal police entities, along with failures in congressional action, has not resulted in widespread changes.

Protesters across the U.S. marched to call for justice and police reform on Jan. 27, after Memphis police released the video of the beating of Tyre Nichols. (Video: The Washington Post)

More than two weeks after Nichols was killed after being pulled over for what police said was reckless driving, Ayanna Robinson drove 6 1/2 hours from Indianapolis to Memphis to join demonstrations she thought would include thousands of protesters angered by his recorded beating by officers. She arrived to find dozens, not thousands, of protesters and they seemed calm.

Robinson, 28, a manager at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, said the turnout was nothing like what she saw in Memphis after Floyd, a Black man, was murdered in Minneapolis police custody in May 2020. In a way, the city seemed too peaceful after the Nichols killing, she said.

“In order to get a reaction, there has to be a reaction, and right now there’s no type of action,” she said, looking around a park where 100 protesters gathered Friday evening.

Robinson said one of the major reasons she thought many people seemed more subdued in response to the Nichols death was that the five officers charged in beating him are Black. If the officers had been White, “All hell would have broken loose. The city would have been in war.”

Family and friends reminisced about Tyre Nichols, a joyful young man who died on Jan. 10 after a violent arrest by Memphis police three days prior. (Video: Hadley Green/The Washington Post)

Nikki Owens felt a similar frustration in the aftermath of the death of her cousin, William Green, who was shot to death while handcuffed by a Black officer in Prince George’s County, Md., in January 2020.

“In America we’re taught that racism is black and white,” said Owens, who now works with the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability. “And we are not taught about institutional or systemic racism, even though we see it everywhere. We are taught that if a Black person kills another Black person, it can’t be racist. It’s ‘Black-on-Black crime.’”

Owens said that attitude contributed to her struggles to inspire activism among area residents and in getting national and local media coverage of her cousin’s killing.

“There wasn’t the outrage,” she said. “Even when George Floyd passed away, nobody reached out to us.”

Owens said she felt as if the world viewed her cousin’s death as somehow different than other police killings. The officer’s criminal trial begins this year.

“When I was out in the community and I would talk to people, I could see their reaction when I told them the officer was Black,” she said. “And some people would ask what color the officer was, which is another indication of that lack of understanding.”

Some protesters said that while the racism isn’t explicit, Nichols’s death could be a moment for the nation to understand the way pervasive, institutional racism functions, and how it can compromise individuals.

Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina state legislator, civil rights attorney and CNN contributor, said the Nichols beating made him recall the Black Minneapolis police officer, J. Alexander Kueng, who knelt on Floyd’s back as Derek Chauvin suffocated him.

“He talked about how he thought he could make a difference in policing,” Sellers said of Kueng. “And then like three days after his hiring, he’s there watching George Floyd being brutalized and doing nothing about it.

“For many Black folks, the race of a cop is cop.”

Jason Sole, a community organizer in Minneapolis and former head of the local NAACP, said he’s never felt a sense of relief when encountering Black officers.

“I never had that feeling of ‘Oh great, it’s a Black cop, yay.’ No. I was born in ’78 and I never had that feeling, not once,” Sole said. “All your skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”

Regardless of color, Sole said, “we need people who are loving, people who are showing we care, people who understand that grace has to be shown to everybody.”

Foster-Frau reported from Washington."

The Memphis cops charged with murder were Black. What does it matter? - The Washington Post

Matt Gaetz, Political Arsonist, Has New Powers. What Will He Do With Them?

Matt Gaetz, Political Arsonist, Has New Powers. What Will He Do With Them?

“I am not some ‘Lord of the Flies’ nihilist,” said the far-right congressman and chief tormentor of Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Matt Gaetz wearing a blue suit while surrounded by reporters.
Representative Matt Gaetz describes his chief aim as bringing egalitarianism to a legislative process that is dominated by lobbyists and powerful committee chairmen.Kenny Holston/The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — The night before the start of a humiliating and historic five-day floor fight in Representative Kevin McCarthy’s quest to become speaker, Representative Matt Gaetz, Mr. McCarthy’s chief tormentor, handed him a list of demands from a hard-right faction ensuring that if Mr. McCarthy’s victory did occur, it would only be a pyrrhic one.

It was Monday, Jan. 2, and Mr. McCarthy, soon to move into his new suite of offices, rejected the list outright. “You just want to be speaker,” he told Mr. Gaetz, according to two Republican lawmakers with knowledge of the encounter.

Not so, Mr. Gaetz replied. Then he breezily added, according to the lawmakers: “You can have the portrait.”

It was a reference to the ceremonial paintings spanning two centuries of 54 House speakers on the walls of the Capitol, and the implication was obvious. Mr. McCarthy of California would be the 55th speaker but in title only, and a political hostage to Mr. Gaetz and his fellow rebels on the right.

In the three weeks since Mr. McCarthy ultimately agreed to the price of the portrait, Mr. Gaetz’s role in the melodrama has only entrenched his stature as an attention-craving political arsonist adored by the Trump wing of the G.O.P. — but also, House Republican leaders begrudgingly say, as a lawmaker with new powers.

Mr. Gaetz and his fellow antagonists demanded and got a deal allowing a single lawmaker to force a snap vote to oust the speaker, a commitment for a third of the seats on the powerful Rules Committee and an agreement that any lawmaker could force votes on changes to government spending bills. Taken together, the concessions drastically hamstring Mr. McCarthy’s ability to shape a legislative agenda.

Mr. Gaetz “had to be dealt with, even if he was not ever going to vote for Kevin,” said Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, one of Mr. McCarthy’s closest allies. “And coming out of the speaker fight, that’s still going to be the case. It may not be the outcome some of us would have preferred. But, for now at least, his stature has been elevated.”

The far right is exultant. “He handed McCarthy a blunt knife and forced him to castrate himself on national television,” Raheem Kassam, a British political activist and the editor of the far-right online journal The National Pulse, said in an interview.

Mr. Gaetz, left, standing face to face with Representative Kevin McCarthy.
Relations between Mr. Gaetz and Speaker Kevin McCarthy were never warm.Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

What the prankish and abundantly coifed 40-year-old Mr. Gaetz, a Florida Republican, plans to do with his new clout is a matter of intense speculation in Washington.

Will he continue in his role as an insatiable limelight seeker, one who boasted to colleagues that he began each day instructing aides to call Fox News bookers to determine what message du jour he should be trumpeting? Will he assert himself more on substance and push harder on his far-right agenda? Or is his only goal blowing things up?

For now, Mr. Gaetz seeks to project a victor’s air of comity. “I am not some ‘Lord of the Flies’ nihilist,” he said in a recent interview.

His chief aim, he asserted, is to bring egalitarianism to a legislative process dominated by lobbyists and powerful committee chairmen. As a conservative, he said, he and his allies intend to use this push for greater transparency “to draw the American people into our vision.”

Mr. Gaetz became cagier when the subject turned to how he intended to use his influence on the burning issues of the day, including the debt ceiling and funding for Ukraine. “Well, I mean, we’ll see,” he replied.

In the past, Mr. Gaetz has said the United States should not be providing funds to Ukraine for its military defense against Russia. He has supported the fantastical idea of abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax. But he has also said that failure to raise the debt ceiling would have negative consequences for the economy, although he has said the same about failures to cut government spending.

His past, recent and otherwise, is not that of a judicious legislator who might be depended on to hold a fractious and wafer-thin Republican majority together.

Two years ago, The New York Times reported that Mr. Gaetz was the subject of a Justice Department investigation over allegations that the congressman had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, a violation of federal sex-trafficking laws. Mr. Gaetz denied the allegation and has not been charged.

Last month, Joel Greenberg, a Florida tax collector and Gaetz confidant who has been cooperating with the sex-trafficking investigation, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. It remains unclear what the sentence means for Mr. Gaetz, whose lawyers have tried and failed to learn from the Justice Department whether the case remains active or closed.

Mr. Gaetz has in the meantime propelled forward, as quick to offend as ever. Last summer he told a conference of conservative college students that abortion supporters are less likely to get pregnant because they are unattractive. “Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb,” he said. “These people are odious on the inside and out. They’re like 5-2, 350 pounds, and they’re like, ‘Give me my abortions or I’ll get up and march and protest.’”

Yet he can be as quick to surprise as to repel. He has received accolades from animal rights groups for his opposition to federally funded animal testing. Colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee say they regard him as a productive member, and he was recently seen on the House floor having a lengthy discussion with Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican and former member of the Navy SEALs, about providing veterans with access to psychoactive drugs.

During votes in the House chamber, he tends to sit by himself, with no visible signs of discontent. Friends of Mr. Gaetz maintain that three terms of political seasoning on Capitol Hill, in addition to his 2021 marriage to Ginger Luckey, a sales analyst he met the previous year at Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald J. Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., have matured the congressman’s approach to politics and the way he conducts his personal life.

A Bombastic Adolescent

Republican colleagues remember how swiftly Mr. Gaetz sought to ingratiate himself in 2017, his first year in Congress, with Speaker Paul D. Ryan — how, at a dinner Mr. Ryan hosted for the new members, Mr. Gaetz showed exaggerated concern for a minor sports injury Mr. Ryan had suffered on his hand.

Mr. Gaetz also displayed a lawyerly deftness when it came to cajoling the House Steering Committee into awarding him a seat on the Armed Services Committee. But he could also be boorish, as when he bragged about his sexual conquests and even showed photos of them on the House floor, according to one member.

Mr. Gaetz was 34 at the time and not far removed from the chubby and bombastic adolescent raised in the Florida Panhandle town of Niceville (and whose devotion to high school debate was attested to by his now-defunct AOL address, which began with “MLG2debate”).

He was born into affluence: His father, Don Gaetz, co-founded a national chain of hospice programs that he sold in 2004 for approximately $400 million.

As the elder Mr. Gaetz went on to find a second career in Florida politics — from the Okaloosa County superintendent of schools to president of the Florida Senate — his son, a graduate of Florida State University, was entering William and Mary Law School. One classmate, Carolyn Fiddler, recalled Mr. Gaetz as bright and hard-working but also someone who found opportunities to tell everyone of his family’s stature in northwest Florida.

“In property law class, he brought up the fact that his dad owned the house where Jim Carrey lived in ‘The Truman Show,’” Ms. Fiddler said. More than 30 of his fellow class of 2007 law school graduates, including Ms. Fiddler, would later sign a petition denouncing Mr. Gaetz as “the antithesis of a citizen lawyer.”

Mr. Gaetz went on to practice civil litigation in a northwest Florida firm headed by Lawrence A. Keefe, a registered Republican who also donated to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. (In 2019, Mr. Keefe was appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida by Mr. Trump, thanks to heavy lobbying on the part of Representative Gaetz.)

Less than three years into his legal career, Mr. Gaetz followed his father (and his grandfather Jerry Gaetz, a former North Dakota state senator) into state politics when he won a special election for a vacant Florida House seat by 635 votes. After three terms as a standard-issue conservative who received A grades from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Gaetz ran for Congress in 2016 in the state’s deeply conservative First District.

Though his first campaign ad positioned him as a “fighter” against “spineless politicians” and “lawless bureaucrats,” Mr. Gaetz received hundreds of thousands in donations from a who’s who of national trade associations and Washington lobbying groups.

Within months as a congressman, Mr. Gaetz found a wider audience by styling himself as a self-described “tireless defender of President Trump” and as a cohort of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, though he chose not to be an actual member. His résumé as a resident Capitol thespian during the Trump years would include barging into a secure facility where the House Intelligence Committee was hearing testimony during the 2019 impeachment inquiry and strolling onto the House floor wearing a biohazard mask during the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

Former President Donald J. Trump standing behind a lectern.
Mr. Gaetz has described himself as a “tireless defender of President Trump.”Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Mr. McCarthy’s Majority Committee PAC had contributed $10,000 to each of Mr. Gaetz’s first two congressional campaigns, but relations between them were never warm. They worsened, Mr. Gaetz’s friends say, when the legally embattled congressman took note of Mr. McCarthy’s tepid defense of him when the sex-trafficking investigation became public.

“Right now, Matt Gaetz says that it’s not true, and we don’t have any information,” Mr. McCarthy said at the time. “So let’s get all the information.”

Animus between them intensified this past April, when audiotapes were released of a conversation four days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, in which Mr. McCarthy could be heard telling fellow House Republican leaders that Mr. Gaetz’s denunciation of Trump critics like former Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming was “putting people in jeopardy.”

The second-ranking Republican leader, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, had chimed in that Mr. Gaetz’s rhetoric after the riot was “potentially illegal.” Mr. Gaetz fired back, “This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders.” A day later, Mr. Scalise offered a public apology — with the result, according to a close associate of the two men, that they had made peace. The same did not hold true with Mr. McCarthy, the associate added.

To what extent those personal misgivings factored into the recent speaker showdown carries implications for how Mr. Gaetz will work with Mr. McCarthy going forward. From the outset, Mr. Gaetz framed his opposition as a matter of principle. After Mr. McCarthy initially rejected the list of concessions that Mr. Gaetz had presented, 19 to 20 Freedom Caucus members and allies proceeded to oppose him through three days and 11 rounds of voting. Mr. Gaetz was the most vocal among the dissidents, but also the most tactically agile.

“He was the intellectual and emotional spear to demand more and to withhold longer,” Mr. McHenry said.

At the same time, Mr. Gaetz’s dislike of the aspiring speaker — “I’m never voting for you,” he vowed to Mr. McCarthy a day after voting began — had become a hindrance in negotiations. By midweek, the McCarthy team turned to Representative Chip Roy of Texas as the preferred stakeholder among the Never Kevin group. Mr. Gaetz and his chief ally, Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, were excluded from the Wednesday night discussions, which yielded nearly all the concessions originally demanded by the hard-liners.

“Everything got fruitful with the Freedom Caucus when he stopped being included in the meetings,” Mr. McHenry said of Mr. Gaetz.

By Friday afternoon, Mr. Roy and 13 others had thrown their support to Mr. McCarthy. Yet Mr. Gaetz, Ms. Boebert and four other Republicans continued to hold out through two more rounds of voting that carried on past midnight.

On the 15th ballot, Mr. Gaetz and his five allies finally all voted “present,” which enabled Mr. McCarthy to eke out victory. Mr. Gaetz told reporters he dropped his opposition because “I ran out of things to ask for,” but Mr. McHenry said Mr. Gaetz had not asked for or received any “things” that had not already been handed over. What he had done instead, Mr. McHenry said, was demonstrate his singular ability to bring everything to a screeching halt.

“And in that crucial moment, when everything came down to him, he knew the gig was up and saw that the deal on the table was the best he was going to get,” Mr. McHenry said.

If Mr. Gaetz’s principal aim was to cement his reputation as the right’s pre-eminent warrior, he appears to have achieved that objective. “He showed that he was the one with the cojones to take all the blows,” said Mr. Kassam, the National Pulse editor.

A week after the final speaker votes were cast, the Florida congressman became the first sitting member to guest-host the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s “War Room” podcast. It was the ultimate reward in the MAGA universe, a fellow Republican member ruefully observed, for Mr. Gaetz’s obstructionist antics.

A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 30, 2023, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Going Up Against McCarthy Got Gaetz Clout. What’s Next?. “

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Georgia is seeking to define ‘Cop City’ protests as terrorism, experts say | Atlanta | The Guardian

Georgia is seeking to define ‘Cop City’ protests as terrorism, experts say

"Actions by police match rhetoric from state politicians seeking to define a largely peaceful protest movement as terrorism

Protesters march against ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta, Georgia, on 21 January.
Protesters march against ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta, Georgia, on 21 January. Photograph: Cheney Orr/Reuters

When author and environmental movement expert Will Potter saw the Atlanta police chief, Darin Schierbaum, tell a recent press conference “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an attorney to tell you that breaking windows and setting fires is not protest – it’s terrorism”, he could not believe his ears.

The problem, Potter told the Guardian, is that while you may not have to be a rocket scientist, “the reality is, it’s been difficult to come to an understanding of what terrorism is and what political violence is for decades”.

Schierbaum was speaking about a march through midtown Atlanta, Georgia, last Saturday night that began peacefully, only to see several protesters separate and begin breaking windows of businesses and lighting fire to a police car. The marchers were protesting “Cop City”, an 85-acre, $90m training facility planned for South River forest, a wooded area south-east of the city.

They were also protesting the fatal police shooting of Tortuguita, a fellow activist, less than a week earlier, on a raid in the Atlanta forest where dozens have been tree-sitting and camping for more than a year.

The march, arrests of 18 activists charged under a state domestic terrorism law, a series of raids on the forest in recent weeks and Tortuguita’s killing have escalated tensions over Cop City. They culminated Thursday afternoon in the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, declaring a state of emergency. Under the order, up to 1,000 national guard troops will be available until 9 February or upon further order.

These actions have also been matched by a strident rhetoric from police and politicians in Georgia, seeking to define a largely peaceful protest movement – often focused on environmental and racial justice issues – as terrorism and those who participate in it as terrorists. It has shocked many observers including Potter, who see a crude attempt to use as powerful tools as possible to crush opposition.

“I can’t help but think it’s to shut the protest down and remove them from the public spotlight,” Potter said of Kemp’s order Thursday.

Potter has looked at changing federal government approaches to pursuing terrorism charges against environmental activists in his book, Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. These efforts culminated in attempts to charge activists with domestic terrorism during the 2000s on at least 70 occasions – succeeding in only 18, according to a 2018 report by the Intercept.

On Saturday night, six activists in Atlanta were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, bringing the total since December to 18. All have been charged under a Georgia statute, marking the first time state law has been used this way in the history of environmental movements in the US.

Activists hold a vigil for Tortuguita.
Activists hold a vigil for Tortuguita. Photograph: Jake Lee Green/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

On 18 January, Tortuguita also became the first environmental activist killed by police in US history, experts said. The Georgia bureau of investigation said Tortuguita, or Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, had shot an officer first, and in recent days has produced photos of a gun and a Firearms Transaction Record that appears to be in Terán’s name. The agency charged with investigating Georgia police shootings also said ballistics evidence from the wounded officer matches the gun – and that there is no body-cam or other footage of the shooting.

The arrests come on the heels of at least a year’s worth of rising public chorus from Kemp, law enforcement officials and others using the term “terrorist” to describe the protesters, even as opposition to the Cop City project has grown since Atlanta city council approved it in late 2021.

Eli Bennett and Joshua Schiffer, two Atlanta attorneys representing some of the activists, both told the Guardian the state statute is “overly vague”. Four of the 18 cases brought under federal domestic terrorism charges during the 2000s were dismissed due to allegations being too vague, according to the Intercept. “It’s too easy to abuse, and I strongly have issues with how domestic terrorism is thrown around” in the state law, Schiffer said.

Arrest affidavits obtained by the Guardian for seven activists arrested 18 January during the same police raid on South River forest in which Tortuguita was killed begin by alleging that the defendants were “participating in actions as part of Defend the Atlanta Forest (DTAF), a group classified by the United States Department of Homeland Security as domestic violent extremists”.

But a homeland security (DHS) spokesperson responded to a query by the Guardian: “The Department of Homeland Security does not classify or designate any groups as domestic violent extremists” – adding that the agency also “regularly shares information” regarding perceived threats to the “safety and security of all communities”.

Meanwhile, a White House bulletin issued early in the Biden administration underlined: “The two most lethal elements of today’s domestic terrorism threat are (1) racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race and (2) anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, such as militia violent extremists.”

Potter’s work looks at several decades of efforts by corporate leaders to create a legal and policy framework for prosecuting groups such as the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, which in the 1990s used tactics such as vandalism and even arson to defend animals and the environment – but never harmed a person. In the mid-2000s, corporations such as Pfizer, Wyeth and GlaxoSmithKline joined the United Egg Producers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and others in pushing Congress to consider these acts “terrorism”, he writes.

Broadening definitions and sentencing guidelines arising from these efforts resulted in a situation where “even writing pro-animal slogans on the sidewalk in chalk” could get you charged with terrorism, said Ryan Shapiro, co-founder of Property of the People, a national security-oriented nonprofit organization focused on transparency that has released thousands of FBI and CIA documents exposing government overreach.

Similarly, Bill McKibben, author of 20 books on climate change and other subjects, wrote this week that, according to Georgia’s domestic terrorism law, “lie down in front of a police car and you’re a terrorist who could spend many many years behind bars”.

Shapiro shared documents with the Guardian obtained through FOIA showing that lack of agreement on legal frameworks around terrorism inhibit DHS’s work.

In one email chain between a DHS agent and a regional director from 2021, the former says: “The lack of a consistent, applicable definition of DVE [domestic violent extremism] that has been coordinated and agreed upon” is the “greatest challenge in preventing … the DVE threat”. The agent goes on to write:, “Anyone can fall into any category based on an independent interpretation of what DVE term is being implied.”

The case in Georgia arises from another thread in the recent history of approaches to domestic terrorism, Shapiro noted. “The post-9/11 downward creep of national security justifications has provided local police with counterterrorism powers previously limited to the FBI and other federal agencies,” he said.

An additional aspect of the ongoing conflict in Atlanta worth noting is that activists opposing both the training center and separate plans to expand a film studio on the South River Forest land approach the issue from “two of the most targeted groups” by the FBI for decades, Shapiro said. Those are the racial justice and environmental movements.

The arrest affidavits appear predicated on the notion of arrestees allegedly belonging to a group that the state has linked to acts such as burning construction vehicles needed for the training facility or film studio, as well as vandalizing other property.

“Language matters,” said Potter. “Terrorism and violence have meanings. It’s misleading to characterize broken windows, even arson, in the same breath as murdering people in a nightclub.” Potter pointed to other political movements throughout US and global history that have used similar tactics – including women suffragettes and gay rights activists, he said. “How we evaluate these things really depends on how we see the movements,” he said. “We’re going to look at the tactics of prior movements differently now, because they’re more mainstream.”

Moving forward, another aspect of this movement may prove challenging to pursuing domestic terrorism charges due to supposed affiliation in a group, Potter noted.

Opposition to development in South River forest has included neighborhood associations, established environmental groups, local schools, Atlanta-area citizens, and many others, he said. As for those who have chosen to stay in the forest, attracting the most attention of law enforcement (and media): “They don’t have an official leader. They don’t have a spokesperson. We don’t know who’s classified as a member … or not,” Potter noted.

“It’s like trying to turn a political movement into a criminal organization,” Bennett said."

Georgia is seeking to define ‘Cop City’ protests as terrorism, experts say | Atlanta | The Guardian