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Francis Reynolds | The Nation

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Francis Reynolds

Francis Reynolds

Radical multimedia. Send tips to frank@thenation.com.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Would You Want to Work on Thanksgiving?

You’ve heard of Black Friday, but what about Black Thursday? A new infographic by Erin Zipper and Von Diaz at Colorlines shows that many big-box retailers are keeping their stores open on Thanksgiving this year, meaning their employees will be working longer hours over the holiday. As Diaz explains, “Those working on Thanksgiving are likely to be working part-time for low wages, and despite their low income, many are also the primary earners in their households.” All so that retailers can kick-start their holiday profits.

Check out Imara Jones’s piece at Colorlines for more on how the Black Friday phenomenon is a consequence of this year’s government shutdown, and read our own Gabriel Thompson on his brief and stressful experience in an e-commerce fulfillment warehouse.

New York City Council Overrides Bloomberg's Veto of the Community Safety Act


Crowds outside New York City Hall. Courtesy: Molly Knefel.

Spencer Wolff contributed reporting to this piece.

In an afternoon session today, the New York City Council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the Community Safety Act, striking a major blow to some of the more controversial aspects of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy.

The City Council initially passed the Community Safety act in June. But when Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the bills last month, he set the stage for today’s vote.

More than two years in the making, the CSA is made up of a pair of bills, one that will create an independent inspector general position to monitor and review NYPD policies and practices, and make non-binding recommendations to the mayor and police commissioner; and another that will expand the categories of individuals who will be protected against profiling by the department. Currently, the department is banned from profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion and national origin. This second bill will extend protection based on age, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability and housing status, and allow individuals to bring discrimination claims against the department if they believe they’ve been unfairly profiled.

“I’m 61 years old,” community leader Carl Stubbs told The Nation. “I’m out here for my grandkids. I’ve been stopped six times. This vote made me feel better for the young ones that are growing up. We used to party with the police, but now we’ve lost that relationship. I feel good about this vote.”

The council’s override of Bloomberg’s veto comes just one week after a federal judge ruled the NYPD’s implementation of stop-and-frisk unconstitutional and racially discriminatory in the case of Floyd v. City of New York. Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to appeal that decision, and the city filed notices of appeal last week. Taken together, the CSA and the Floyd decision mark a major rebuke to the policing policies of Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

“No one on this floor is anti-NYPD, we’re anti policies that aren’t working,” Council Member Jumaane Williams said before the general session vote. “This is about civil rights.”

In her introduction of the inspector-general bill, Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn denounced stop-and-frisk as “a practice that is unconstitutional and must come to an end.” Today’s votes ensure that New York is at least one step closer to halting discriminatory profiling and bringing about more fair and effective policing policies.

Before this week’s vote, 18-year-old Brooklyn resident Keeshan Harley talked about the incredible strains regular police stops have placed on his own life and that of his family. After the council overrode Bloomberg’s veto, Harley told The Nation, “I feel optimistic, I feel joyful, hopeful, that we can make progress now.”

Watch the video to hear some of the injustices hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have been subjected to under stop-and-frisk.

Secret Recording of Stop-and-Frisk Makes it to Federal Court

In a major ruling on Monday, August 12, a federal judge found the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk-policy unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. In her decision in the landmark case of Floyd v. City of New York, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, determined that stop-and-frisk constituted “a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data,” and that “once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband.”

In a footnote to her decision noting the “frequent and ongoing notice of troubling racial disparities in stops,” Scheindlin also referred to an investigative documentary video published by The Nation last year:

In addition, as has been widely reported, a teenager named Alvin Cruz has made public an audio recording of his stop in Harlem on June 3, 2011. It appears to be the only known recording of a stop by a civilian. In the recording, the officers verbally abuse Cruz, threaten to break his arm, and appear to physically abuse him. After an officer asks Cruz if he wants to go to jail, Cruz asks why the officers are threatening to arrest him, and one replies: “For being a fucking mutt! You know that?” Ross Tuttle & [Erin] Schneider, Stopped-and-Frisked: ‘For Being a F**king Mutt’ [VIDEO], The Nation, Oct. 8, 2012 [page 190 in the PDF of the ruling]

The decision is a significant victory for civil rights advocates, even if New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared in a press conference yesterday that he will appeal the ruling.

Can the 1911 United Super PAC Register a Million Voters for Obama?

When two historically black fraternities celebrated their hundredth anniversary, the members asked themselves what they could do to show their appreciation to the community that had supported them for a past century—and they decided they could help people re-elect Barack Obama. That’s what Sinclair Skinner tells me, as he leans back at the driver’s seat on the massive 1911 United bus. Sinclair, the group’s treasurer, says that because fraternities are limited by their 501C(7) status, members wanted to take advantage of the Citizens United ruling to get out the vote. So they formed a Super PAC.

The bus is making its rounds in predominantly black neighborhoods in the seven swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Colorado. For Sinclair and the half-dozen people on the bus, the goal is to recruit 1,000 volunteers to get 100 people to register, and vote to re-elect Barack Obama. The Super PAC has a modest budget: some $90,000 have been raised so far, and that counts for about half of what 1911 United hopes to raise before the election. We caught up with Sinclair Skinner as the bus made its round in the

The Right Goes Viral

CampusReform.org has many of the features you would expect from a university review site: you can rate your teacher, comment on textbooks, and let other students know about exciting upcoming events. But unlike sites such as College Prowler or Students Review, on CollegeReform, you can also report leftist abuses on campus, organize a Tea Party and "raise awareness about America's slide to communism." That's because CampusReform, launched last month by Morton Blackwell's conservative Leadership Institute, is a social networking site with an agenda: to provide training to future leaders of the political right by harnessing the ground-level organizing capabilities of social networking sites such as Facebook, twitter and Myspace.

According to the site's mission statement, "CampusReform.org is designed to provide conservative activists with the resources, networking capabilities, and skills they need to revolutionize the struggle against leftist bias and abuse on college campuses." To this end, CampusReform has sub-sites for 2,376 four-year colleges in the US, all easily accessible from the site's main page. From the sub-sites, students can connect with conservative groups in their area, rank faculty on a scale from conservative to leftist, and rate textbooks for their degree of liberal bias (reviewers should be on the lookout for "Politically Correct Language," "Radical Feminism" and "Reverse Discrimination"). Students can also network with alumni to find jobs and internships with conservative organizations.

Blackwell, the site's mastermind, told the American Spectator that he started CampusReform because institutions of higher education "have become left-wing indoctrination centers" and that "many, many students can go their entire college educations and never see any representations of conservative principles on their campuses." Judging from the list of Activism Ideas on the site, making conservative principles a part of campus life involves organizing Anti-Anti-War rallies, Anti-Vagina Monologues events, Anti-UN days and Global Warming Beach Parties, where students can draw attention to climate change "inaccuracies." The site even provides tips on how to organize an Islamo-Fascism awareness week, an event conceived and promoted by David Horowitz's notorious Freedom Center.

The danger of CampusReform is that Blackwell's Leadership Institute is not as fringe as it may seem: the Institute has actually been fairly successful when it comes to cultivating future conservative leaders. Blackwell himself got his start organizing the youth vote for Reagan's 1980 campaign, and has spent the last thirty years training young conservative leaders since founding the Leadership Institute in 1979. According to the Institute's site, "At least 555 current state legislators" are graduates of their seminars and workshops. Notable alumni include Republican strategist Karl Rove, Sen. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Grover Norquist, head of the anti-health care reform lobbying group American's For Tax Reform.

What's more, by the Institute's own accounts, CampusReform is the largest program the organization has ever created. The site is impressive in its ambition: to serve as a central hub for conservative students to connect with each other and from which they will be able to launch coordinated actions. Plus, it has the funds to back up that ambition: the Leadership Institute spent $4.6 million last year toward seminars and workshops for students from around the country, and this year, before CampusReform even launched, the Institute received 2,000 contributions toward the project, with an average donation of $692. To foster interest in the site, from now until the end of the month, CampusReform is awarding $100 a day to the students who submit the best "liberal abuse" stories. Beyond the site itself, CampusReform also employs 11 regional organizers to help spread the conservative gospel.

Such an organized and well-funded operation should make progressive students ask "Where's our CampusReform?" Why doesn't the young left have a site where we can inform ourselves on issues that effect students as a whole, stay connected to alumni and organize across campuses? To protect the basic interests of progressive students in a time of rising tuition and widespread reductions in secondary education funding, we need it more than ever.

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