Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, Breonna Taylor’s grand jury recordings were released. Trump refused to condemn white supremacists and appeared to insinuate that minorities and low-income people are ruining the “American Dream.” The governor of Texas sparked outrage, and lawsuits, as he limits drop-off locations for mail-in-ballots and a Montana federal judge calls voter fraud “fiction.” In Michigan, a report was released detailing inequities in the K-12 public education system and lawyers filed a class-action against a real estate firm preying on poor homeowners. The death toll of those in ICE custody is the highest it has been in 15 years.
Breonna Taylor’s grand jury recordings were released, including testimony from police and witnesses. Sam Aguiar, one of the lawyers representing Breonna Taylor’s family, praised the grand jury but accused prosecutors of obstructing justice. “This grand jury was great. Paid attention. Asked important questions. Sought critical evidence that was not made available to them. Had critical observations. And they were stonewalled every step of the way by a prosecution team that had a predetermined outcome and a disingenuous agenda.” (NBC News).
Report released detailing a significant lack of equity in Michigan’s K-12 education system. The report found a number of obstacles which contributed to inequality. Additionally, the report outlined recommendations and concrete steps to take so that equity can be achieved within the Michigan public school system. Stacie Clayton, Chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, said “not all children receive the kind of education they deserve as their birthright. We urge policy makers, educators and other stakeholders across the state to view this report as a roadmap they can follow to help schools achieve educational equity and give all Michigan children – regardless of household income, race, residency or ability – the education they need to lead productive and fulfilling lives.” (MLive).
Michigan real estate firm preys on poor homeowners. Leading civil rights groups are alleging that the firm, Vision Property Management, lied about the condition of properties and resold dilapidated homes to low income home buyers violating fair housing, consumer protection and civil rights laws. NAACP and ACLU lawyers filed a class-action this week again the firm claiming that Vision Property Management targeted people “who had been unable to obtain the dream of homeownership.” (CBS News).
Texas governor, Greg Abbott, limits drop-off locations for mail-in-ballots to one site per county, severely limiting access for many voters. “There is no reason for this decision to limit us to one drop-off location other than voter suppression” stated Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, the state’s largest county by population and democratic stronghold. (CNN).
Lawsuits challenge Texas governor restrictions on ballot drop-off locations. In their complaint, the Campaign Legal Center alleges that the governor’s order forces Texas absentee voters, including older voters and voters with disabilities, to risk exposure to Covid-19. Furthermore, the complaint alleges that order disproportionately affects minority communities. (CNN).
Far-right groups celebrated Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists during presidential debate. After remarks by Trump telling extremist white supremacist group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” supporters enshrined Trump’s comments in social media posts. Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group stated that Trump “legitimized them in a way that nobody in the community expected. It’s unbelievable. The celebration is incredible. In my 20 years of tracking terrorism and extremism, I never thought I’d see anything like this from a U.S. president.” (Washington Post).
ICE custody death toll is the highest it has been in 15 years, more than double the number of deaths in fiscal year 2019. “The deaths are a sign of deteriorating conditions, serious problems with medical care and ICE’s flawed approach to handling the pandemic,” immigrant rights advocates say. (CNN).
A Montana Federal Judge rejected efforts by Trump to stop the expansion of mail-in voting in the state. In his ruling, the Judge Christensen articulated that Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in US elections is “fiction.” There is substantial evidence from election experts and others that “the use of mail ballots present no significant risk of fraud,” added Christensen. (CNN).
Trump blames minorities and low-income people for ruining suburbia and the “American Dream” during a campaign rally. Trump seemed to insinuate that minorities and low-income people are invading suburban communities and displacing white voters that he has consistently tried to appeal to. “By the way, just so we can get this straight, 30 percent of the people in the suburbs are low-income people. Thirty percent of the people in the suburbs are minorities. And so we’re ruining this American dream for everybody,” Trump said. “They zone you out, they build low-income housing next to your house,” he continued. (Politico).
Activists accuse parent company of Olive Garden of violating the Civil Rights Act with its tipping policies. Activists aiming to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped employees — a practice that they say keeps workers in poverty, encourages sexual harassment and leads to racial discrimination — are taking a new approach in their campaign to end the two-tiered wage system in America: They’re arguing the lower tipped wage, sometimes as little as $2.13 an hour, is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Washington Post).