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Still No Arrest In Killing Of Kenneth Bostick, Transgender Man Widely Misgendered In Reports

There are still no charges in the death of Kenneth Bostick, a transgender man fatally attacked in Chelsea on April 25, but the NYPD says a “person of interest” is in custody. Although the victim’s birth name, Brenda Bostick, was released by the NYPD and he was identified by the same in reports, a social services provider who worked with Bostick for years confirmed to the Voice that he identified as male and has been widely misgendered by advocacy organizations and the media (including the Village Voice) since his death. The provider, who is not authorized to speak to reporters, explained that they were seeking to set the record straight on Bostick’s behalf.

“For the people who knew him and worked with him, the media’s constant reference to him as ‘she’ is extraordinarily painful and difficult,” the provider told us.

Bostick, 59, who lived in a shelter at the Bowery Residents Committee on West 25th Street, was attacked on a Chelsea street corner with what police say was a metal pipe. The NYPD responded to an emergency call at about 10:30 a.m. on April 25 and found Bostick in front of a Five Guys restaurant on West 29th Street, not far from the BRC shelter, with a head injury. He spent more than a week in Bellevue Hospital before he died on May 4.

The person held in his death, Joseph Griffin, 26, according to the Daily News, has also faced homelessness. The paper’s police sources say he was allegedly observed by witnesses striking Bostick in the head with a blunt object: “The suspect walked away but turned back a second later and shouted, ‘Someone stole my bag.’ ”

The Bowery Residents Committee on 25th Street, where Kenneth Bostick lived
The Bowery Residents Committee on 25th Street, where Kenneth Bostick lived

According to the social services provider, Bostick was an only child, born in New Jersey and raised in the New York area, mostly by his grandparents. He appears to have drifted toward homelessness after their deaths, which came sometime in the late aughts. Substance abuse and mental health issues may have fueled that drift. Between stays in the shelter system, Bostick was a regular at Penn Station, where he lived off and on.

Beyond such basic information, however, little else has emerged. Advocacy groups who spoke to the Voice have also had trouble reconstructing much of Bostick’s life. Constrained by confidentiality rules, BRC staff members can’t talk about their client. He appears to have maintained no social media platforms.

For residents at the BRC shelter on West 25th Street, Bostick — he was widely known by his last name — was a shy, gentle presence.

“Really quiet, but super nice, very kind to everyone,” said resident Jason Rozycki, 31, noting that he considered Bostick a friend. “Never did anyone any wrong. Never bothered anybody. Just a really nice person.”

“It affected everybody when we heard,” Rozycki added.

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Brenda Bostick, Killed In Chelsea, Becomes The 10th Transgender Woman Killed In America This Year

The NYPD is investigating the death of Brenda Bostick*, 59, a transgender woman who was assaulted in Chelsea on April 25 and succumbed to her injuries on Thursday. She is the tenth transgender woman of color killed in the United States this year, according to GLAAD.

“This is a dispute between two individuals who reside in the same building on 27th Street,” an NYPD spokesperson told the Voice of the attack. No arrests have been made, and the assault is “not determined to be motivated by hate at this time,” the spokesperson said.

Police say they arrived at 373 Seventh Avenue around 10:30 p.m. on April 25, responding to a 911 call reporting an ongoing assault. Police later told the New York Post that Bostick, who was black, had been struck in the head with an unidentified object. She was taken to Bellevue Hospital but died of her injuries more than a week after the attack. The chief medical examiner has since classified Bostick’s death as a homicide, giving the cause of death as “complications from blunt impact injury” to the head. Some reports suggest Bostick may have been homeless and was staying at a shelter near where she was attacked. (A spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services did not immediately respond to our request for comment.)

In response to Bostick’s death, GLAAD released a statement highlighting the ten transgender women who have been killed this year, all of whom were women of color. The most recent before Bostick was Chay Reed, shot to death in Miami only a few days before the Chelsea attack.

GLAAD called on the media for “increased and accurate” reporting on the deaths.

“With violence against transgender people at an all-time high and rising, national media coverage is severely lacking,” the group said on its website. “The media must do a better job of reporting these murders and bringing needed attention to a community under vicious and violent attack.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2016 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people, with 22 violent deaths reported for the year.

“Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias,” the group wrote on its website. “In others, the victim’s transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as forcing them into homelessness.”

*UPDATE: After publication of this article, and many others in the press that identified Bostick by this name and gender, the Voice was contacted by a social services provider who worked with Bostick who clarified that he identified as male and by the name Kenneth Bostick. The Voice has subsequently run two articles correcting the record. We regret the error.

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Mayor De Blasio Is Super Chill About His Correction Department Taking Vacations With City Vehicles

Mayor Bill de Blasio vigorously defended Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte today after a report from the city’s Department of Investigation found that he and his staff were in the habit of taking trips to the Hamptons, coastal Maine, and the Mohegan Sun casino with city vehicles, a glaring violation of the rules.

“DOI’s investigation revealed 21 senior-level employees routinely abused take-home vehicle privileges and cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in wasted money spent on gas and tolls to cover personal trips,” the report said. “As a result, DOI is referring the findings for these 21 individuals to the appropriate enforcement bodies.”

De Blasio excused his commissioner, who has been tasked with cleaning up conditions on Rikers Island, during his weekly appearance on WNYC, saying Ponte had been misled about the rules.

“Commissioner Ponte, to the best of my understanding, was told by his own internal staff this was the right way to handle things,” de Blasio told host Brian Lehrer. “He was advised, he followed that guidance, that guidance was wrong.”

DOI Commissioner Mark Peters pushed back on the mayor’s statement almost immediately in a release on the agency’s website.

“City Hall is misinformed,” the statement read. “Our investigation conclusively demonstrated that Commissioner Ponte and others did not receive official ‘advice’ that they could use their cars for personal trips out of state. Indeed, one of the senior staff was previously fined by [the Conflicts of Interest Board] for related conduct.”

The DOI report says Ponte used his city-funded vehicle for 28 separate trips, many to his native Maine, often staying for “days at a time.” In total, Ponte’s trips kept him out of the state for ninety calendar days in 2016, nearly a quarter of the year. Ponte spent at least $1,043.44 on his city credit card for gas on out-of-state trips, and in total, the department estimates that the improper costs to the city for all the DOC staff amounted to more than $20,000.

Acting on an anonymous tip, DOI investigated records for 98 vehicles, “mapping over 2.4 million GPS data points, analyzing dozens of vehicle usage maps, vehicle assignment records, gas card data, and E-ZPass statements.” Improper travel was found for 40 percent of the vehicles examined, including “multiple trips to shopping malls, area airports on nights and weekends, beaches, spas, resorts, and other destinations without corresponding timesheets.”

Aside from Ponte’s trips to Maine, the report lists a whole bunch of other enjoyable destinations to which taxpayers generously whisked Ponte or his staff. DOC staff took no fewer than 16 trips to the outlet stores in Riverhead and Woodbury Commons, and also managed to sneak away to the Poconos and the Catskills.

Meanwhile, violence on Rikers Island was increasing from already epidemic levels, staff were ignoring medical emergencies leading to at least one inmate’s death, and guards were busy smuggling heaps of contraband for sale in their own private captive market. Ponte was hired in 2014, after managing a corrections system in Maine with 2,000 inmates; Rikers held 12,000 prisoners at the time.

Staff members questioned by DOI said they considered themselves to be on “24-hour call,” and so they viewed their use of city vehicles as reasonable, in case they needed to respond in an emergency. “However,” DOI noted, “no staff member reported having ever actually responded to any departmental emergency from the locations cited by DOI in its report.”

And as DOI’s report notes, the guidelines for use of personal cars are not exactly hard to find. The City Vehicle Driver Handbook, which prohibits the kind of personal travel DOI uncovered, is available to the public online through the city’s homepage, and provided by DOC to each driver at the time that they receive their vehicle,” the report says.

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In de Blasio’s New York, Transparency Laws Mean Nothing

In 2013, a self-styled crusader set out to raise the alarm over a lack of transparency in New York government. “The City is inviting waste and corruption by blocking information that belongs to the public,” the crusader said, angered that officials were ignoring the mandates of New York’s Freedom of Information Law, and doing so with few consequences and no meaningful oversight. “We have to start holding government accountable when it refuses to turn over public records to citizens and taxpayers.”

The crusader in question was Bill de Blasio, who, almost exactly four years ago, as Public Advocate, issued a scathing report condemning government agencies across the city for their records on FOIL. During his time in City Hall, de Blasio’s words have come back to haunt him, as his administration has proved decidedly less transparent than he once promised. Publications from the New York Post to the New York Times have criticized his reflexive secrecy — and sometimes taken him to court over it.

Now a wide-ranging survey of city agencies by the Village Voice has found that the problems de Blasio himself identified in his 2013 report remain unaddressed as the mayor heads toward the close of his term. A review of thousands of pages of FOIL records shows the city’s system for handling public information requests remains haphazard, under-resourced, and often excruciatingly slow. And the mayor’s own office is the slowest of all.

FOIL, when it operates well, provides a critical window into the functioning of government. In just the past few months, records obtained under the law have exposed how Donald Trump profited from the same kinds of energy efficiency subsidies he now attacks, and how lax enforcement allows bad nurses to thrive in New York State. Just last month the de Blasio administration lost a FOIL lawsuit brought by NY1 that saw the mayor’s office attempting to shield the release of emails from so-called agents of the city — a dispute that continues and has helped reveal the close relationships between the mayor’s office and developers. Beyond journalism, FOIL allows the public to pry open government’s black box and see how officials act in their name.

In April 2016, the Voice contacted two dozen city agencies seeking a copy of their FOIL logs — spreadsheets used to track the receipt and disposition of information requested under state law. The goal was to find out how transparent agencies were about their FOIL procedures and how fast, on average, they responded to requests from the public. To do so, we evaluated them in two stages: first, how quickly (or — in some cases — if) they responded to the request for the logs; and second, on the data those logs contained.

Major problems surfaced the moment the project began. In submitting our requests, we found a hodgepodge of contact points. Some agencies, like the FDNY and NYPD, only accepted FOIL requests via snail mail, a violation of state law. Some asked for requests via email, while others accepted requests only through web forms. Some publicly listed the names and addresses of FOIL officers; many others didn’t. (A new online portal, fully operational in the past year, means records can be requested electronically for all agencies, according to the mayor’s office. More on that system later.)

While you might expect the mayor’s office to be attentive to what de Blasio has called a critical government function, it was actually among the slowest, producing its log only after 84 days. The Administration for Children’s Services was slowest of all, at 183.

Most prompt were the Department of Emergency Management and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, both of which produced their FOIL logs in under 5 days. But on average, it took 64.8 days to fulfill what should have been a simple request. And that average doesn’t include the agencies that ignored us entirely: Six of them, including the FDNY and Department of Correction, never responded at all, as of the end of our survey period, on March 17. (Some have since produced the requested records after being notified about this article.)

Norman Siegel, a prominent civil rights attorney who has spent a career tangling over public records (and who has represented the Voice in FOIL matters), expressed little surprise at our results. Some city agencies are so notorious for stonewalling FOIL requests that he and others have simply stopped trying.

“My experience is that the FDNY and the NYPD, for example, they thumb their nose at FOIL law,” Siegel says. “And that’s unacceptable.”

When we analyzed the logs themselves, we discovered that the mayor’s slow response to our request was not an anomaly. The logs showed that de Blasio’s office has the second slowest response time of any agency in the city. The mayor’s office took an average of 66 days to respond to FOIL requests from the public, more than double the 31-day combined average for other agencies.

Natalie Grybauskas, a City Hall spokesperson, defended their record.

“We take our FOIL obligations seriously and endeavor to respond to all requesters promptly,” she told the Voice via email. She pointed out that the mayor’s office is often on the receiving end of complex requests — email chains that can stretch back years, for example — something that might be less common, she argued, at other agencies. “Many requests [received by City Hall] are expansive and open-ended,” she wrote. “Under the FOIL statute, we are required to review each individual document to prevent release of personal information or something that may harm the public welfare.”

As Grybauskas points out, it can be difficult to compare response times for various agencies. But according to Bob Freeman, director of the state Committee on Open Government and one of FOIL’s original drafters, that shouldn’t matter all that much.

“I understand that they have other things to do and this may not be at the top of their list of priorities,” Freeman says. But too often, he adds, agencies say short staffing keeps them from following up with what is, after all, state law. “Compliance with FOIL is a governmental obligation,” Freeman notes.

Many requests to City Hall — the mayor’s daily schedule, for instance — were straightforward, and were often closed in a day or two. But others dragged interminably. Thirty-nine percent of requests took more than 60 days, and 17 percent took more than 120 days. A few took nearly a year.

Analysis of the FOIL logs from other agencies yields results all over the map. Average response times ranged from 3.6 days to 69 days, with just over half of the agencies in the survey coming in under the 30-day mark. That disparity was one of the primary problems identified in de Blasio’s 2013 report.

Because of inconsistent recordkeeping, our survey has significant limitations. Most agencies don’t record whether a request was denied or fulfilled. Redactions to some of the records also varied wildly. Some agencies redacted the names of requesters, some redacted only a few names here and there, and some didn’t redact anything.

Even that suggests a problem, Freeman says. “Our general view is that the request itself is public, including the identity of the applicant,” he says, except in extraordinary circumstances. If someone requests documents related to personal medical information, for example, that could be properly redacted. But many agencies went far beyond that.

The NYPD’s logs were among the least complete of the agencies that responded — unsurprising, given that the department is routinely sued for noncompliance with FOIL and is notorious for knee-jerk denials of even clearly public records. (The NYPD did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

Its logs demonstrated that opacity, often containing only vague, cursory descriptions of the records sought; “various documents” was frequently the only notation. The department also redacted the names of requesters entirely, making it impossible to say whether they were journalists, attorneys, victims of crimes, or even other law enforcement agencies. Beyond that, the logs contained obvious errors that throw their accuracy into doubt. One entry, for example, was listed as being processed and closed on September 5, nearly a month before it was received. In the end, the department had a comparatively good response time of 34 days, though that’s tempered significantly by all the recordkeeping muddle.

Last year, as part of an effort to streamline FOIL’s functioning, the de Blasio administration launched OpenRecords, a platform that allows requests to be submitted to any city agency from a single online portal. But OpenRecords still isn’t fully operational; all agencies currently accept requests through the site, but they may not respond through its automated system, according to Grybauskas.

When the Voice used OpenRecords to submit some of the requests for this project, we found the results weren’t appreciably faster. In fact, of the four agencies that took the longest to respond to our initial request — as long as 183 days, or nearly five months — all were contacted through the portal.

A common complaint of city agencies is that they lack the personnel to handle what seems to be an ever increasing volume of FOIL requests.

“I’ve had some FOILs where they say they need a year to get back to us,” Siegel said, speaking generally of city government. “When we pursue it, they say, ‘We don’t have the staff.’ My answer is: Get the staff. This is the law.”

We asked agencies how many people they had working on responses, but higher staffing levels didn’t always mean better performance. The Department of Correction, for example, said it had one attorney devoting about half their time to FOIL, along with two assistants, and six other lawyers devoting about 10 percent of their time. That’s more than a lot of agencies, and yet they ignored our FOIL back in April; a spokesperson later told the Voice that the main FOIL officer was on vacation when it arrived, and it somehow got lost in the shuffle. (The department has since complied.) According to Grybauskas, the mayor’s office has seven staffers handling FOIL, either full- or part-time, and one more full-time staffer on the way, and that didn’t seem to help them, either.

“My instinct is that people in government generally don’t take FOIL seriously, and they get away with not taking it seriously,” Siegel says. In that sense, nothing has changed since Public Advocate Bill de Blasio found most city agencies “in breach of law” in 2013.

There was a notable exception, however, in our survey. Even with a comparatively high volume of requests — more than two thousand over our survey period — the Taxi and Limousine Commission managed an average response time of under four days, far and away the best of the group.

Asked for her secret, Sonal Sahel, the TLC’s assistant general counsel, makes it sound pretty simple. Her office tries to focus on its “legal obligations pursuant to the FOIL statute,” she says.

“We don’t like to think of it as an option, I guess.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story included a chart erroneously stating that the Department of Transportation did not respond to our request for their FOIL log. In fact it did, in August of 2016.

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Lawmakers Respond To AG Sessions’ Threats Against ‘Sanctuary Cities’: See You In Court

U.S. attorney general and Deliverance extra Jeff Sessions engaged in some budgetary saber rattling yesterday, threatening to make good on a Trump Administration executive order that promised to withhold federal funding from cities that resist its hardline immigration stances.

In comments in the White House briefing room, Sessions pledged that grant programs for local police would be on the chopping block in “sanctuary” jurisdictions like New York that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in some instances.

“When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Sessions said. “I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws … public safety as well as national security are at stake, and put them at risk of losing federal dollars.”

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman didn’t seem too worried about Session’s threats. “Despite what Attorney General Sessions implied this afternoon, state and local governments and law enforcement have broad authority under the Constitution to not participate in federal immigration enforcement,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “As my office’s legal guidance makes clear, President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to states and cities just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio was among local officials across the country — in Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere — who dared Sessions to try and drain their federal funding.

“The Trump Administration is pushing an unrealistic and mean spirited executive order,” the mayor tweeted last night. “If they want a fight, we’ll see them in court.”

New York City’s sanctuary policies mean that it often refuses to cooperate with federal authorities in immigration enforcement. With exceptions for certain violent crimes and some drug distribution charges, city jails frequently don’t honor “detainer” requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and police officers are not supposed to inquire about immigration status.

However, the NYPD’s “broken windows” policing model routinely exposes New Yorkers to independent ICE activity, it just doesn’t pitch in to help the feds directly.

Sessions referred repeatedly to a Justice Department Office of the Inspector General [OIG] report, released last summer under the Obama administration, that argued that some sanctuary city policies violate federal law. The former administration never moved to actually curtail, let alone “claw back” funding, as Session’s threatened on Monday, but he suggested that theObama-era OIG report would be the basis of doing so in the future.

As a trio of immigration scholars explained in the Washington Post in December, the vast majority of sanctuary policies don’t violate federal law.

“Sanctuary policies are an exercise of basic state and local powers to regulate for the health, safety and welfare of their residents,” they wrote, and the Supreme Court has already held that the Tenth Amendment “prevent[s] the federal government from ‘commandeering’ state and local governments by requiring them to enforce federal mandates.” Schneiderman made similar arguments in a report published in January, when threats about sanctuary cities first surfaced in earnest. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center echoed those positions in a paper published last year.

The funds mentioned by Sessions are law enforcement specific, and programs like Community Oriented Policing Services are among the $185 million the NYPD got from the feds last year. The dollar amounts are large but ultimately only a small part, about 3.4 percent, of the department’s overall budget. As we’ve reported before, the grants at issue haven’t always been managed perfectly by the NYPD, and are perennially the focus of overheated rhetoric about terrorism. But in further comments today, de Blasio pledged to fight aggressively to prevent any cuts Washington might attempt.

“President Trump’s latest threat changes nothing,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We will remain a city welcoming of immigrants who have helped make our city the safest big city in the nation. Any attempt to cut NYPD funding for the nation’s top terror target will be aggressively fought in court.”

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ACLU: Trump’s Second Travel Ban “Shares The Same Fatal Flaws” as the First

President Donald Trump signed a revised version of his travel ban on Monday, more than a month after the original executive order caused chaos at the nation’s airports and was ultimately blocked by federal courts.

According to a fact sheet sent to Congress and published by several organizations, the new order again bans travel from a number of Muslim majority countries — Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen — for ninety days from the date of its signing. The order does not ban travel from Iraq, as the original order had, and exempts green card holders from the named countries, a provision that was not explicitly included in the original bill.

Unchanged from the last order is a halt, for 120 days, to the refugee resettlement program. The timeline for both the travel and refugee provisions begins today, and therefore represents an effective extension of the order.

The American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], which is among the groups that filed successful legal challenges to the original order, said the revised ban would also face lawsuits.

“The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws,” the group said, in a statement attributed to Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban.”

The second version of the order also elides some of the most noxious and confusion-inducing elements of the original, which was put in place with virtually no warning, and resulted in the deportation of an unknown number of people who had already been cleared for entry. The new order will not take effect for ten days, and those currently holding valid visas will be able to travel as planned. Also specifically exempted are legal permanent residents or green card holders. The new version of the order includes a new provision, titled “transparency,” which purports to be a mechanism to keep the public informed about how the ban is functioning. The administration plans to publish a list of “foreign nationals” suspected or involved of terrorism repeated offenses, as well as acts of “gender-based violence against women” to include “honor killings.”

The revisions are an attempt by the administration to avoid problems in the courts. In issuing a temporary restraining order in January, a federal judge in Seattle had focused in part on the haste with which the order had been put into effect. The Trump administration had initially vowed to fight the order, and Trump himself lashed out on Twitter at the judges who halted the ban.

But some of the changes seem to undermine their earlier arguments. The new version of the ban won’t take effect for ten days, for example, while the administration has earlier claimed that any ban needed to take effect abruptly, to prevent those with bad intent form sneaking on under the deadline.

The original order prompted massive demonstrations when it was put into place, with tens of thousands of protesters descending on airports throughout the country. For weeks, volunteer immigration lawyers camped out at JFK and other airports, offering free advice to travelers stranded or detained by DHS personnel.

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Hear Something About An Immigration Raid? Here’s How To Safely Report It

The threats posed to immigrant communities by the Trump Administration are real and metastasizing daily, and people are understandably on high alert for whatever might be coming next. Some of that well-warranted vigilance is amplified on social media, where people trying to get the word out about Immigration and Customs Enforcement activities have sometimes jumped the gun and passed along unverified rumors.

A Twitter user earlier today reported that ICE agents — or maybe NYPD officers — had stopped a subway train in Queens, and checked passengers for their “green cards.”

The reports that emerged on Friday were quickly knocked down by the NYPD. “The police department does not check anybody’s green card. Period,” a spokesperson told the Voice.

Asked about the stops, a spokesperson for the mayor, Rosemary Boeglin, referred us to the police department’s statement. “We understand that there’s a lot of fear in communities right now,” Boeglin said, noting that that the city is sending monitors into at-risk communities. She also encouraged New Yorkers to use the legal services the city provides. “It’s really important for New Yorkers to know their rights in these circumstances. They can always call 311, or go to Action NYC, or the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.”

Such unverified reports have been circulating occasionally on social media for weeks, says Fahd Ahmed, executive director of Desis Rising up and Moving [DRUM], an immigrant rights group based in New York.

“We were hearing from our own members, who are south Asian, working class folks, most of whom are undocumented, and we could sense the level of fear,” Ahmed says. “There were people saying, ‘I haven’t left my home, I’m not going out.’”

Last week, DRUM released a list of guidelines for sharing reports online. The goal, according to Ahmed, is to better organize information sharing. “For our communities to be organized, our communication exchange also has to be organized,” he adds.

The guidelines are pretty simple; don’t pass along information unless you have first-hand confirmation. His group and others collect and investigate reports of raids or other action. The guidelines suggest referring information to organization equipped to verify them. If reports pop up on line that aren’t coming first hand, the group says, reply with the guidelines as a reminder to only share solid information.

The risk is real, Ahmed says, and the fear in immigrant communities is well grounded. “The reason people are afraid is that ICE is doing raids, ice is making arrests,” Ahmed says. But provoking unnecessary fear can make people in immigrant communities feel more isolated, or may encourage them to doubt reports that are accurate. “They want to cause this fear and this panic,” Ahmed says of the authorities.

But Ahmed stresses that DRUM isn’t suggesting that people shouldn’t be vigilant.

“We want people to report,” Ahmed says. “We’re just saying, here’s a systematized way of reporting that minimizes misinformation, and allows us to better organize our communities.”

You can read the full guidelines below.

C4lx-BHVUAI4dO5 by 2joncampbell on Scribd

 

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Gavin McInnes Wants You to Know He’s Totally Not a White Supremacist

On February 8, Washington Square News (WSN), one of NYU’s student papers, ran a correction of sorts in an editorial, headlined: “McInnes: You Are Not a Nazi, Please Stop Harassing Us.”

It was a reference to an earlier story that implied that Gavin McInnes — one of the founders of Vice (he left the company in 2008), now a right-wing talk show host — was a Holocaust denier. McInnes is not. He responded to the story by loosing his army of 163,000 Twitter followers on the paper’s editor and threatening to sue the publication for libel.

The reason WSN had written about McInnes to begin with was because of an incident the week before, when a speech he was scheduled to give on campus drew a crowd of Antifa demonstrators and quickly became a melee.

Both sides arrived primed for a fight. The demonstrators were outraged that a “Nazi” had been invited to speak at a progressive campus, and their goal was to shut the event down. When McInnes and a group of supporters from his fan club, the “Proud Boys,” approached the Skirball Center, punches were thrown, McInnes was sniped with pepper spray by a demonstrator, and eleven people — representing both sides of the conflict — were arrested.

After the confrontation, McInnes, 46, spent a few days doing interviews with right-wing media outlets like the One America News Network and Sputnik News, trying to differentiate his views from those of the white-nationalist fringe. As WSN conceded, McInnes does not identify as a Nazi. He calls himself a “Western chauvinist,” espousing the idea that Western civilization, which he associates with “Judeo-Christian values,” is superior to all others. Since his Vice days, McInnes has embraced the role of provocateur. He’s happy to toss off racist jokes about Susan Rice, tagging her on Twitter recently with the alt-right slur “dindu nuffin,” or to refer to Jada Pinkett Smith as a “monkey actress,” as he did on his radio show last year. He has also been a vocal supporter of closed borders and, in his Twitter bio, identifies himself as “anti-Islam.” Nevertheless, he rejects any comparison between his articulated beliefs and a philosophy of white-supremacist racism.

That kind of linguistic parsing makes McInnes a perfect figure for the Trump era. At a time when the Justice Department is arguing that an executive order barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries has nothing to do with Islam, we seem to be in an age of oratorical gymnastics.

McInnes was an early and prominent Trump supporter. He and I met during the presidential campaign, after I crashed a meeting of his Proud Boys at a bar in Brooklyn. Best described as a fan group for McInnes’s show, the Proud Boys exist primarily online, and in practice the group is mostly apolitical. The meetup I attended consisted of a handful of millennial men drinking beer, fighting outsiders, and reveling in an anti-p.c. space where they were free to toss around the word faggot to their hearts’ content. The Proud Boys, McInnes likes to point out, include men of different races, and that was true from what I saw.

We talked a few more times before the election and met again last month at an Irish bar called Sullivan’s in midtown Manhattan, where I found McInnes and a researcher draining Budweisers in front of a plate of nachos at 2 p.m. I’d asked for an interview because I was interested in a kind of schism that has emerged between people like him and the internet’s explicitly white-nationalist contingent (as embodied by Richard Spencer, he of punch-meme fame).

The harder-core like Spencer sneer at the McInneses of the world, among whom they would include other provocateurs on the right like Milo Yiannopoulos. “Alt-light,” they call them. And McInnes, in turn, hates being associated with Spencer. We didn’t get very far before McInnes’s frustration became apparent. “I’ve always been clear that I’m about Western chauvinism,” he said. “I mean, my wife’s not fucking white.” (His wife is Native American.) “My kids aren’t white.” When I pointed out that his defense — that he associates with people of other races — sounds like something of a cliché, he didn’t like that much, either.

“You know what pisses me off about you fucking people?” McInnes said. “You have these clichés, where you go, ‘Oh, that’s the classic this-argument,’ and you never back it up….Yeah, race mixing does exonerate you. Fucking having black friends does exonerate you.”

In McInnes’s view, liberals are too caught up with “microaggressions and ‘diet racism.’ ”

“What’s wrong with noticing a pattern with a race?” he asks. “Racism is saying, ‘This race is this way and there’s no exception.’ ”

However, McInnes’s own view of what constitutes racism appears so narrow that all manner of bigotry can filter through. The demonstrators at his speech last week weren’t all that interested in the finer points of his “Western chauvinism” — any more, of course, than he’s interested in sorting anarchists and sundry leftists from Democrats and “Obama worshippers.” But at a time when the language of thinly veiled bigotry is being written into executive orders and federal policy, and men like former Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon have the president’s ear, the taxonomy of nationalism seems beside the point. Whether McInnes and his ilk are bullshitting or gaslighting, the effects of the policies they espouse are the same, just as Trump’s ban is still a ban by any name.

McInnes, for his part, seems to have embraced the newfound excitement. Outside a party on inauguration weekend, he punched a demonstrator, on camera, and then proudly shared the video. The morning after the protest at NYU, he posted a clip on YouTube entitled “Fighting ‘anti-fascists’ is fun!” It seems likely that he’ll continue to posture, at least, about meeting force with force. And he’ll probably have a few takers.

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Federal Judges Refuse To Reinstate Trump’s Travel Ban

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit denied the Trump administration’s bid to reinstate a ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. With the limited information so far presented in the case, the court wrote, “the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.”

The ruling doesn’t invalidate the ban entirely. The court has yet to rule on the merits of the claims of Washington and Minnesota, the two states suing in this case. But it’s sure to set off more unhinged tweeting from president Donald Trump, who has spent days attacking the Seattle judge who granted a temporary retraining order on the ban last weekend.

Legal challenges to the sweeping order began almost immediately, and important portions of it were halted by a Brooklyn judge barely 24 hours after it was signed. After a chaotic week, during which travelers with valid visas were detained and some deported, the order was blocked in its entirely last weekend, under a temporary restraining order issued by a judge in Seattle. As a result, the past week has seen families reunited as travelers from the seven targeted countries are once again permitted into U.S. ports of entry, albeit under invasive questioning. Some travelers reported being asked about religious affiliations and even about their views on the Trump administration.

UPDATE: Moments after the ruling came down, Trump predictably took to his twitter account:

Read the full ruling here:

17-35105 by 2joncampbell on Scribd

 

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Reminder: Recreational Marijuana is Considerably More Popular Than Governor Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo today reiterated his position on recreational marijuana in New York State, telling a reporter for Politico that legalizing the world’s most widely used illicit drug remains too risky to contemplate now that he’s stopped smoking it.

“You’ve talked a lot about making New York a progressive leader,” reporter Jimmy Vielkind said, according to an exchange published on Politico. “[But] you haven’t embraced recreational marijuana even as other states have, and I’m wondering, why are you kind of a stick in the mud about recreational marijuana?”

Cuomo, perhaps taken aback by the question, and responded with a joke.

“I support medical marijuana,” he told Vielkind. “I don’t support recreational marijuana. Apparently you do, which explains some of the stories you’ve been writing.”

Cuomo explained that his main concern about marijuana — which he views both as funny and also dangerous enough to warrant locking people up in metal cages — is that it leads to other, presumably not-funny drugs.

“The flip-side argument as you know is it’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” Cuomo said, stating that position than the government’s National Institute for Drug Abuse isn’t quite sure about.

Cuomo has been wary of marijuana’s danger since he stopped using it himself as “a youth.” New York’s access scheme, at the governor’s insistence, remains among the most restrictive in the country, with curbs on available forms of the drug and few approved access points.

A 2014 Quinnipiac poll found that the governor is somewhat outnumbered in his fear of the drug he once enjoyed, with 57 percent of residents saying they supported legalizing marijuana for recreational use; New York voters aged 18-29 supported legalization overwhelmingly, 83 to 14 percent. Cuomo’s approval rating stands at 40 percent as of September, according to a Wall Street Journal-NBC 4 New York-Marist poll, a gap of 17 and 43 percent, respectively.

Below is Vielkind and Cuomo’s full reported exchange about the drug the latter used to consume:

Q: You’ve talked a lot about making New York a progressive leader, and in your state of the state written message you talked about restructuring marijuana laws. You haven’t embraced recreational marijuana even as other states have, and I’m wondering, why are you kind of a stick in the mud about recreational marijuana?

A: Why am I a stick in the mud about recreational marijuana? That’s a sort of loaded question, wouldn’t you say Jimmy? It has an opinion in it. I support medical marijuana, I don’t support recreational marijuana — apparently you do, which explains some of the stories you’ve been writing. Recreational marijuana I think should be separated from the workplace, do we agree on that?”

Q: Absolutely, sir.

A: I just wanted to make sure.

Q: But you’ve smoked marijuana, you’ve said you’ve done so. Why not recreational marijuana? Lots of New Yorkers smoke marijuana unlawfully.

A: “The flip-side argument as you know is it’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true. There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana. If you choose to marijuana recreationally, you know the law, but again, as reporters, I think you should keep it out of the workplace. But it does explain a lot to me, Jimmy. I want you to know that.”