Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, a federal district judge issued an injunction against the impending executions of federal death row prisoner, in order to allow them time to challenge the government’s proposed method of lethal injection. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe refused to sign into law a Down syndrome-related abortion restriction after it was passed by the state legislature. The discussion surrounding disinformation and political advertisements continued, as Google issued a new policy.
The Emmett Till memorial in Mississippi will soon be protected by bulletproof glass, cameras, and alarms in response to several shooting incidents. The Till memorial is one of many monuments to civil rights figures around the country forced to invest in heightened security measures following vandalism incidents. Till was lynched in 1955 after being falsely accused of whistling at a white woman. After his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, news of his murder galvanized the civil rights movement. (U.S. News)
Aaron Cody Smith, a white Alabama police officer was found guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Greg Gunn, an unarmed black man. Smith initiated a stop-and-frisk as Gunn was walking home following a late-night card game. Smith then deployed his taser three times, struck Mr. Gunn with his baton, and fired seven bullets, five of which struck Mr. Gunn. This is one of at least a dozen fatal police shootings in Alabama since 2015. (NY Times)
A District Court of D.C. judge issued an injunction on Wednesday against the scheduled executions of federal death row prisoners. Judge Tanya S. Chutkan found that the executions scheduled to take place in December would preclude those on death row from challenging the government’s single-drug lethal injection protocol. The single-drug method would replace the traditional three-drug protocol, in light of lawsuits stemming from botched executions. Attorney General Barr intends to appeal the issuance of the injunction, citing the need to deliver swift justice to families of victims. (NY Times)
The Democratic primary candidates discussed Georgia’s ongoing voter suppression issues during this week’s debate in Atlanta. Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race was characterized by reports of disproportionate lines at polls in majority-black districts, and voter roll purges. The debate’s location gave the candidates an opportunity to discuss the fight against voter suppression, a fight currently championed by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams. Senator Klobuchar reiterated her call for automatic voter registration of all 18 year olds. (NY Times)
Following a foiled knife attack on Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus intends to push for the passage of hate crime legislation. Police have described a 16-year-old high school student’s plan as racially-motivated, and she now faces a charge of attempted murder. However, she will not be charged with a hate crime as Georgia is one of only four states without hate crime legislation on the books. (CNN)
A confederate monument was removed from outside of a courthouse in Pittsboro, North Carolina on Wednesday. A judge recently ruled that the statue’s donor, the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, did not provide sufficient basis for its continued presence. The county’s Board of Commissioners voted for its removal in August. A fight erupted on Saturday between opponents and proponents of the statue’s removal, resulting in 11 arrests, but only a few dozen were in attendance for Wednesday’s removal. (CNN)
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that would have restricted women from seeking abortions after a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. The Bill was passed on Wednesday by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, and Governor Wolf vetoed it the following day. Women in Pennsylvania can currently seek abortions for any reason but gender selection until the 24th week of pregnancy. Proponents of the legislation argue that providers pressure families into aborting fetuses with a Down syndrome diagnosis, but abortion-rights groups expressed concern about the possibility of forcing parents to raise a child with the genetic disorder. (AP News)
Google joined Facebook and Twitter in issuing new political ad policies. Google announced on Wednesday that it will limit the extent to which campaigns can target search engine users based on political affiliation. This decision was made in light of growing privacy concerns, but critics say that the decision does not sufficiently address the issue of disinformation. Others even suggest that Google’s new policy will prevent factually accurate campaigns from reaching their intended audience. (NY Times)
A branch of the NAACP and four black Mississippians brought suit against District Attorney Doug Evans, asking that he be permanently barred from using peremptory strikes against black potential jurors. Evans tried Curtis Flowers six times for the murder of four employees at Flowers’s former workplace in Winona, Mississippi. In June of 2019, the United States Supreme Court threw out the conviction that resulted from the sixth trial on account of patterns of racial discrimination across the six trials. In one of Flowers’s trials, Evans used all 15 peremptory strikes to eliminate all black potential jurors. Moreover, American Public Media’s “In the Dark” podcast has reported that from 1992 to 2017, Evans used peremptory strikes to remove 50% of black potential jurors, while only striking 11% of white potential jurors. (AP News)
Students at Syracuse University fear a sharp increase in racist and antisemitic vandalism and hate speech, and look forward to the upcoming holiday as an opportunity to flee campus. The campus has been plagued by daily reports of racially-motivated vandalism, and a Jewish professor received an email threatening that he ought to “get back in the oven where you belong.” As of Friday, police and the FBI have yet to resolve any of the incidents. The increasingly hostile environment has prevented a significant portion of students from attending class. (AP News)