On March 4th, the Justice Department released two reports on the policing and court practices in Ferguson, Missouri. The first report focused on the killing of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, while the second centered on the practices of the Ferguson Police Department. The reports stated that there was not a prosecutable case against Officer Wilson, but presented damning evidence of unconstitutional policing practices and discriminatory intent on the part of the Ferguson Police Department. According to the second report, African Americans are impacted a severely disproportionate amount in nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system. The report included racist emails sent by police officers and repeated examples of discrimination in law enforcement. It emphasized that the police department’s focus on revenue as opposed to public safety has compromised its institutional character, leading to policing practices that raise due process concerns.
Alabama and Gay Marriage
On March 3rd, the Alabama Supreme Court challenged a federal court order allowing same-sex marriage in the state. In a 134-page per curiam opinion, joined by seven justices, the court ordered a halt to same-sex marriage licensing. The opinion purports to overrule a federal judge who recently struck down the ban and ordered probate judges throughout the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court’s main arguments were that marriage equality finds no protection in the U.S. Constitution, and that states should define marriage democratically without the influence of the judiciary. Read the full opinion here.
This week marked the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”. The ceremonies on March 7 commemorated the attempted march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 when Alabama state toppers brutally stopped civil rights leaders and activists from crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge in their fight for the right to vote. President Obama’s speech at the anniversary event highlighted the brave acts of the men and women which led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The speech also noted that voting rights are being slowly curtailed at the federal and state levels, and that members of Congress should do more to protect the right to vote for all Americans.
Earlier this year the National Association for the Deaf filed a lawsuit against MIT and Harvard claiming that their online course content discriminates against the deaf and hard of hearing because the online content is not properly captioned according the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. According to some experts this case may have merit as it discusses how public places should address accommodations for the virtual spaces they control. Other news articles on disability accommodations include a Bank of America settlement for a deaf woman who wanted to communicate with the bank over email, and disability rights activists in Miami advocating for the licensing of sign language interpreters.
With contributions from Emma Rekart.