Washington D.C. seeks retrial in concealed carry case

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The city is looking for a do-over after the courts overturned the District of Columbia’s strict “may-issue” policy for issuing concealed carry permits.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a petition with the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit asking that it vacate the pro-gun ruling handed down last month by a three-judge panel and rehear it in front of the full court.

“The District’s requirement that those requesting concealed-carry permits must have a ‘good reason’ for doing so is virtually identical to rules in other cities and states – requirements that four other federal appeals courts have left in place,” Racine said in a statement.

The three-judge panel in July issued a permanent injunction prohibiting city authorities from enforcing a “good reason” test as part of its gun licensing program, which has resulted in more permits declined than granted and has effectively barred most people from exercising Second Amendment rights outside their home.

“To be sure, the good-reason law leaves each D.C. resident some remote chance of one day carrying in self-defense, but that isn’t the question,” said Judge Thomas Beall Griffith in his majority opinion. “The Second Amendment doesn’t secure a right to have some chance at self-defense. Again, at a minimum, the Amendment’s core must protect carrying given the risks and needs typical of law-abiding citizens. That is a right that most D.C. residents can never exercise, by the law’s very design.”

Racine disagreed, characterizing the vanquished requirements as “common-sense gun rules” and saying they were in line with Supreme Court precedent on the Second Amendment. The petition argues that Washington, D.C. is unique because its dense population includes “thousands of high-ranking federal officials and international diplomats.”

The ruling came in the combined cases of Wrenn v. DC, backed by the Second Amendment Foundation, and Grace v. DC, backed by the Pink Pistols organization. Both sought to bar the city from applying the vague “good reason” test as part of its gun licensing program.

Alan Gottlieb, SAF founder, and executive vice president said Thursday his group expected the city to file the appeal.

“They have no intention of complying with any court decision that supports the right to keep and bear arms,” Gottlieb said. “It took the Heller decision to force them to allow a gun in your own home for self-defense. It took the Palmer decision, another SAF case, to force them to repeal their total ban on carry and now they are kicking and screaming about losing the Wrenn decision.”

As noted by the Washington Post, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department has approved 126 concealed carry permit applications as of July, rejecting another 417.

A majority of 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit, under Chief Judge Merrick Garland, would have to vote to rehear the case, a rarely granted procedure. If denied, the city could continue its appeal to the Supreme Court.

Trump pardons former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

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Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio on Friday, sparing the controversial former Arizona sheriff a jail sentence after he was convicted of criminal contempt related to his hard-line tactics going after undocumented immigrants.

The move drew outcry from civil rights groups, which accuse Arpaio of violating the Constitution in his crackdown on illegal immigration.
During last year’s presidential campaign, Arpaio was a vocal proponent of Trump’s candidacy, and used his national notoriety to advocate for Trump’s similarly aggressive stance on border security and deportations.
In a brief statement released late Friday evening, the White House praised Arpaio’s career.
“Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the statement read. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is (a) worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
“Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!,” he posted.
Arpaio continued: “I am humbled and incredibly grateful to President Trump. I look fwd to putting this chapter behind me and helping to #MAGA”
He said in a Fox News interview Friday that he would hold a news conference early next week to discuss the pardon

Trump did not consult Justice Department

The pardon is the first of Trump’s presidency, though he did not follow his predecessors’ practice of consulting with lawyers at the Justice Department before announcing his decision.
“This is the President’s pardon,” a source with knowledge of the decision said.

Under the Constitution, Trump is permitted wide leeway in issuing pardons. There are no requirements for consultation within the administration before a decision is announced.
“The President exercised his lawful authority and we respect his decision,” said Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman.
Trump hinted at his decision earlier this week during a raucous campaign rally in Phoenix.
So was Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job?” Trump queried his supporters. “I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK.”
Trump tweeted Friday night about his decision: “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!”

Comedian and Civil Rights Activist Dick Gregory Dead at 84

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Comedian Dick Gregory—who attacked racism through a biting and satirical style of comedy, and was equally well-known for his civil rights activism and advocacy of an austere health regimen—died Saturday, Aug. 19 at the age of 84. Gregory’s family confirmed his death with a post on Instagram.

Born Oct. 12, 1932, in St. Louis, Gregory grew up in an impoverished community in that city. He helped to support his family from an early age. In high school he excelled in track and field, earning a scholarship to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He set school records in the 1/2-mile and 1-mile races. His college career was interrupted when the U.S. Army drafted him in 1954.

Gregory began to venture into comedy while in the Army, performing various routines in military shows. After briefly returning to Southern Illinois after being discharged in 1956, he moved to Chicago to join the national comedy circuit, without finishing his degree. He performed mostly in small, primarily black nightclubs while working at the U.S. Postal Service during the day. It was at one of those nightclubs that he met Lillian, the woman who became his wife in 1959. She and Gregory would have 10 children.

His big break came in 1961, when a one-night show at the Chicago Playboy Club turned into a two-month engagement. Time magazine profiled him, and he landed an appearance on The Jack Paar Show. Gregory was a new phenomenon: a black comedian performing for white audiences. He was also part of a new generation of black comedians, including Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby and Godfrey Cambridge, who shunned the stereotypical comedic minstrel show. In his routines, Gregory tackled issues of the day—especially racism and civil rights—head on. A sampling of his stand-up: “Segregation is not all bad. Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?”

During this time, Gregory became very active in the civil rights movement. He spoke before the voter-registration drive known as Freedom Day on Oct. 7, 1963, and made appearances at a number of other rallies, marches and benefits. In 1963 he was jailed in Birmingham, Ala. He was also an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War.

In 1964 Gregory released his autobiography Nigger, about his experiences with America’s color line, starting in boyhood; it has since sold more than 7 million copies. In response to his mother’s objection over the incendiary title, he wrote in the foreword, “Whenever you hear the word ‘nigger,’ you’ll know they’re advertising my book.”

Gregory’s political activism led him to run, unsuccessfully, for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and for the presidency as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party in 1968. Of his presidential campaign, he wrote in the 1968 book Write Me In! about how one-dollar bills that the campaign had printed with Gregory’s picture on them had made their way into the money supply. The federal government managed to seize most of the bills, and Gregory avoided criminal charges.

Throughout his life, Gregory remained outspoken on many issues, including world hunger, capital punishment, women’s rights (he marched for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1978), health care and drug abuse. In 2005, at a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, he called the U.S. “the most dishonest, ungodly, unspiritual nation that ever existed in the history of the planet. As we talk now, America is 5 percent of the world’s population and consumes 96 percent of the world’s hard drugs.” As a protester, Gregory never stopped putting himself on the front lines: In 2004, at the age of 73, he was arrested while protesting against genocide outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

In the 1970s, after moving to Massachusetts, Gregory became very interested in vegetarianism, nutrition and overall fitness, eventually advocating a diet of raw fruits and vegetables (this from a man who once weighed 350 pounds, drank heavily and smoked several packs of cigarettes a day). He was particularly opposed to the typical soul food diet, attributing to it much of African Americans’ disproportionate health challenges. In 1984 he launched Dick Gregory Health Enterprises Inc., which sold Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet, a very profitable weight-loss program. The business was shuttered, however, after a conflict with his business partners.

Gregory’s nutritional and political views often found common ground in his sometimes extreme fasting in protest of or support for various issues. During one hunger strike, which he embarked on in Iran in 1980 to obtain the release of U.S. Embassy staff who had been taken hostage, his weight dropped to a reported 97 pounds.

He was also an active proponent of conspiracy theories, no doubt fueled by the assassinations he’d witnessed in the 1960s. Gregory was particularly skeptical about the official U.S. report concerning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.: “One thing I know is that the official government story of those events, as well as what took place that day at the Pentagon, is just that, a story. This story is not the truth, but far from it.”

Gregory announced in 2000 that he’d been diagnosed with lymphoma, but he refused traditional treatment, instead turning to a nutritional regimen, exercise and other alternative therapies, and eventually declaring himself

cancer free. “An Evening of Reflections with Dick Gregory,” a gala held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., honored Gregory that same year. Celebrities in attendance included Bill Cosby, Cicely Tyson, Paul Mooney, Stevie Wonder and Isaac Hayes.

Gregory, who was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, is ranked at No. 81 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. He also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame and received numerous awards for his civil rights and health activism. Despite his abbreviated career there, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1989.

Will ‘BlackOut’ Be the Movement to Shut Down the NFL?

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This should be an interesting football season, and year, for that matter, as many American institutions are messily having their come-to-Jesus moments.

For the last two days, a video has been circulating on social media (primarily Facebook) with various black men – shades, ages, professions, geographical locations – covering their favorite NFL jerseys with a black T-shirt.

#Black0utNFL is part of a burgeoning and increasingly surging stand against the National Football League, whose owners have decided to make an example of former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who decided to stand for black lives so callously cut down with regularity and impunity.

Pastor Debliare Snell, of the First SDA Church in Huntsville, Ala., spoke openly on why he is behind the #BlackOut movement in the video.

“In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick engaged in a silent nonviolent protest,” said Snell. “He did this to raise awareness to the number of brown and black individuals that had been beaten or killed at the hands of law enforcement across this country. Since the end of last season, as a result of this protest, Colin Kaepernick has been unable to find employment in the NFL. I find that strange seeing that the NFL has employed individuals that have been convicted of sexual assault, domestic violence, cruelty to animals, along with driving while under the influence.”

Snell goes on to say that he finds it “interesting” that certain NFL owners have come out on the record saying they are not hiring Kaepernick because they feel a “backlash” from a certain segment of their fan base but have no fear of African Americans, which Snell claims are 15 percent of NFL viewers (not to mention a majority of its players).

“My belief is simply this—if Colin Kaepernick was willing to take a stand for those of us who are noncelebrities who have to interact with law enforcement on a day to day basis …certainly we can take a stand and stand with him.”

The #BlackOut movement advocates four actions steps:

1. Boycott the NFL (no games, no fantasy football, no jerseys, no nothing).

2. Commit to one-two hours during the NFL season to using the time you would have watching games to mentor young black boys and girls.

3. Spread the word to others.

4. “Take a knee” in prayer at 6 a.m. each morning.

On Aug. 23, Spike Lee and others are planning to march on the NFL headquarters in New York City to protest against what many say is a hypocritical and, in a word, racist, NFL. Additionally, some players have begun sitting out the National Anthem during NFL preseason games.

NYPD Rally, Sing ‘Black National Anthem’ in Support of Colin Kaep

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Some have confused Colin Kaepernick’s stance against police violence as an edict against police.

Yet, a contingent of mostly black police officers … and NYPD whistleblower Frank Serpico … gathered Saturday in New York to show the blackballed former QB much love.

The cops and a slew of activists, politicians and others came together under the Brooklyn bridge to stand with Kaepernick, who many feel risked his livelihood by taking a stand against injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem during the 2016 football season.

And in what would surely delight many, the dozens of officers, donning black shirts with the logo “#ImWithKap” sang the “Black National Anthem,” formally known as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson

“What Colin Kaepernick did is try to bring awareness that this nation unfortunately has ignored for far too long,” said NYPD Sgt. Edwin Raymond, who helped organize the Brooklyn event, according to the New York Daily News.

“And that’s the issue of racism in America and policing in America. We decided to gather here today because of the way he’s being railroaded for speaking the obvious truth,” Raymond added.

Frank Serpico, famously played by Al Pacino in the 1973 film, Serpico, also turned out in support.

“I am here to support anyone who has the courage to stand up against injustice and oppression anywhere in this country and the world,” said the 81-year-old former detective who exposed corruption in the New York City police.

Support for Kaepernick seems to be coming to a crescendo just three weeks before the official start of the season, with the #BlackOutNFL movement and a planned protest in front of the NFL headquarters in New York on Aug. 23.

 

“The fact that this man is no longer in the NFL has nothing to do with stats on the football field, but for taking a knee and pointing out some of the flaws that have been tormenting people of color in this country for decades,” said Darius Gordon of the Justice League NYC.

 

 

 

Charlottesville police ignored pleas to protect church from Nazis

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A Charlottesville synagogue was denied extra police protection and had to hire private security to guard against white supremacists gathered for last weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally.

According to a blog post by Alan Zimmerman, president of the Congregation Beth Israel in the Virginia town, police promised to provide “an observer” near the synagogue for Saturday’s rally after groups of neo-Nazis and white supremacists had gathered with torches Friday night to protest the removal of a statue of confederate General Robert E. Lee. The police failed to keep that promise, Zimmerman said, and so the group was forced to hire private security.

Zimmerman described the fear he and others felt as the hate group members marched by the synagogue, chanting “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic slogans, some carrying Nazi flags and symbols. As around 40 people prayed inside during services, Zimmerman stood outside with the armed security guard and tried to make sense of what he was witnessing.

“For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple,” he said. “Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either.”

Zimmerman noted a man with a white polo shirt lurking outside the building and became worried he was eyeing the synagogue for an attack. He would recognize the same polo shirt on the neo-Nazi who later drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters 200 feet from the synagogue, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others. Though it was a different man, Zimmerman suspected the attacker and the man casing the building were part of the same hate group.

“Even now, that gives me a chill,” Zimmerman said.

After the services ended, the group inside the synagogue had to leave the temple through the back door for safety reasons, a move that broke Zimmerman’s heart.

“This is 2017 in the United States of America,” he added.

In America’s South the militias are preparing for war

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Each month, Chris Hill gets together with friends to spend a few days in a remote forest in Georgia, deep in the heart of the American South.

They trade stories over a campfire, feast on barbecue food — and practice raids with semi-automatic rifles in case the government decides to come for their weapons.

Dressed in combat fatigues and armed with military-grade weapons, the twenty or so members of the “Georgia Security Force” have gathered on a scorching hot weekend to conduct patrols, fire live rounds and carry out an assault on a mock-up house.

“I’m prepared for civil war, civil unrest, EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack from North Korea, Russia, invasion from a foreign government, my own government turning its guns against the people in an effort to disarm,” says Hill, a 42-year-old paralegal who prefers the moniker “General Bloodagent” when leading the group he founded in 2008.

His is one of an estimated 165 armed anti-government militias currently operating in the United States. Their exact goals vary, but they are largely united by a distrust of government, a strong belief in individual liberties such as the right to bear arms, and, since last year’s presidential campaign, an affinity with Donald Trump.

Members come from near and far, though few maintain the beefy physiques seen in the soldiers they admire.

Confederate flags — controversial symbols associated with the racism of the Old South — are draped around the camp, as are black flags bearing the Arabic for ‘infidel.’

Rooster and Yvette DiMaria, a married couple who signed up recently, regularly journey from the neighboring state of South Carolina to be with what they refer to as their “family.”

For Rooster, the attraction lies in “being around like minds who all believe in the same thing, in the Constitution, they believe in Christianity and doing the right thing.”

His wife, Yvette, is the only woman in the militia this weekend, and maintains a perfect manicure as she unloads rounds from her assault rifle.

Both were disillusioned by politics until Trump announced his candidacy last year, and Yvette says she often found herself derided by her peers who called her views racist and homophobic.

“Instead of being at my home and griping about it, not doing anything, I joined a movement where I’m now out in the open. I can voice my opinion,” she explained.

Militias frequently provided security during Trump’s campaign rallies, to counter any possible protests by “Antifa” (anti-fascist) groups.

Carol Gallagher, a professor at American University in Washington DC, explains that many ultra-conservatives who had given up on mainstream politicians were attracted to the New York billionaire’s tough rhetoric on undocumented immigrants and US jobs going abroad.

“The typical person who’s in the militia movement is white working class, they’re not obviously poor but they have kind of a low paying job and for them Trump is attractive,” she said.

Some are survivalists, preparing for a dystopian future bereft of modern amenities, while others believe in hard right politics, including at times white supremacism.

“If you go back at American history these armed militia groups have been with us since the very beginning, and part of it has to do with when people came here, there weren’t established police forces, there weren’t established military forces so people created their own militias to protect themselves,” said Gallagher.

– Growing threat? –

These days, however, they are seen as extremist movements and are on the radar of law enforcement agencies like the FBI.

According to research carried out in 2016 by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an anti-extremism non-profit group, 623 anti-government groups operate in the United States, including the 165 militias.

And the shocking killing of a protester in violence surrounding a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12 has brought renewed attention to ultra-conservative forces — whether they identify as Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, the Alt-Right or simply call themselves a “Patriot militia” like the Georgia Security Force.

Asked whether any GSF members were at the event or provided security, Hill said, “No comment.”

Gun control groups cite Zimmerman as reason to block measure

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Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety over the weekend began running a meme showing a Florida state concealed weapon license purportedly owned by George Zimmerman layered over a person with a Marksman air pistol shoved haphazardly into the waistband of their jeans.

“Some states have low or no standards for who can carry a concealed weapon in public,” says the text over the ad.

The measures, the H.R. 38 and S.446, respectively, would expand carry rights nationwide, in effect forcing states and local jurisdictions to respect all valid concealed carry permits, a move the advocates feel is a mistake which would lead to a “race to the bottom” to recognize permits from states with no training requirements and slim vetting.

The groups, backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have retained a big-name Washington, D.C.-based advocacy firm to help with future legislative pushes and has promised to spend as much as $25 million to defeat the push.

Ironically, despite the one-two punch of the meme, Florida — once seen as the leader for concealed carry law reform — now has one of the more demanding processes in the country to obtain such a permit, especially among other “shall-issue” states.

Applicants have to prove they have had prior firearms training, pay as much as $112 in fingerprinting, licensing and convenience fees for initial licenses, and wait up to 90 days for a permit. The state denied 6,470 licenses in the year between July 2016-June 2017, about half for incomplete documentation, and half for “ineligible” applicants.

Further, Florida law prohibits both concealed carry without a license and open carry altogether except under narrow circumstances. By comparison, licenses in neighboring Georgia and Alabama are both generally cheaper and do not require training. Meanwhile, at least a dozen states, including Mississippi– just an hour away from the West Florida line– have adopted permitless carry laws, and 45 states allow for open carry.

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