Indigenous leaders march to demand climate change action. Photo credit: Shadia Fayne Wood.
Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. This week, indigenous activists marched to the White House to demand action on climate change, California will begin requiring free menstrual products in public schools, workers are striking across the country for fair pay and access to rights, redistricting maps in Texas decrease the voting power of people of color, Julius Jones is now on “death watch,” and more.
On Monday October 11th, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, hundreds of indigenous leaders protested at the White House demanding that President Biden cease fossil fuel projects that are threatening Native communities. In addition to climate change, leaders expressed that these projects violate treaty rights and consent, and contribute to increased Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Police arrested more than 135 marchers.
The Dayton Police Department announced an investigation this week into the conduct of police officers who dragged Clifford Owensby, a Black man who is parapalegic, from his car. When officers stopped Mr. Owensby and told him to get out of his car, he informed them that he is parapalegic and requested the assistance of a supervisor. Officers became frustrated and yanked Mr. Owensby by his hair and arms out of the car, dragging him on the street while he was handcuffed and begging for help. The Fraternal Order of Police defended the conduct of the officers. Mr. Owensby filed a complaint with the NAACP, who will also investigate.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memorandum on Tuesday October 12th ordering that ICE cease conducting mass immigration raids at workplaces where people who are undocumented are employed. Mr. Mayorkas cited concerns that the raids “were used as a tool by exploitative employers to suppress and retaliate against workers’ assertion of labor laws,” and although advocacy organizations applauded the order, they also called for more permanent protections.
This week, the Texas legislators re-drew district maps into a “doughnut shape,” decreasing the voting power of Black, Latinx, and Asian voters. Speaking about the redistricting map in Senate Bill 6, Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, stated “This strange-shaped doughnut denies folks their voting rights.” Negotiations continue in the upper and lower houses before Governor Greg Abbot can sign the bill into law; voting rights advocates are expected to raise challenges to SB 6.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that will require public schools and colleges to provide free menstrual products for people who menstruate. In describing her legislation, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia stated “Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in virtually every public bathroom, so should menstrual products.”
The Department of Justice announced this week that it will ask the Supreme Court to halt the new Texas abortion law, SB 8. Although US District Court Judge Pitman temporarily barred the enforcement of this law last week, two days later the 5th Circuit placed an administrative stay on Judge Pitman’s injunction. SB 8 is currently in effect, with wide-ranging implications for people of color and people experiencing poverty.
On Tuesday October 12th, President Biden’s administration approved Colorado’s request to include gender-affirming care among the guaranteed healthcare benefits that must be provided, using a Trump-era policy that allows states to define what must be covered under the Affordable Care Act. The Center for American Progress found that due to gaps in coverage nation-wide, 56% of trans people of color reported they were denied gender-affirming care; in Colorado beginning January 1st, many private insurers must cover transition-related procedures.
More than one hundred thousand workers are engaged in strikes across the country, advocating for fair pay, safe working conditions, and greater access to rights. Workers are also concerned about companies engaged in or proposing two-tiered wage systems. People participating in strikes include nurses, factory workers, production teams, and more, and span companies such as John Deere, Kellogg, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
This week Gaige Grosskreutz, one of the protestors shot by Kyle Rittenhouse, filed suit against the City of Kenosha, Kenosha County, and several law enforcement officers claiming that they “condoned the efforts of white nationalists to violently dispel demonstrators protesting a police shooting.” The federal lawsuit by Grosskreutz alleges that authorities were not only aware that “armed vigilantes” would be patrolling the Black Lives Matter protest, but that authorities also encouraged and “deputized” this participation.
Julius Jones, a Black man sentenced to death yet raising compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted, is on “death watch” for the month before his execution date, starting Friday October 15th. Mr. Jones has spent more than 20 years on death row for a crime he insists he did not commit. In September, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended that Governor Kevin Stitt commute the capital sentence imposed on Mr. Jones to life with the possibility of parole; Governor Stitts plans to make a determination after the clemency hearing for Mr. Jones on October 26th.