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Bars See Crowds After Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-At-Home Order

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  • After Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 26, the state legislature issued a legal challenge against that extension.
  • On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the legislature, ending the order immediately.
  • Many businesses, such as bars, later reopened the same night and saw crowds of people packing into small spaces without masks.
  • This is the second time the Republican-controlled state legislature has used the Supreme Court to strike down Evers’ coronavirus-related orders.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Stay-At-Home Order

People in Wisconsin flocked to bars Wednesday night, many of them crowding into small spaces while leaving their masks at home.

The sudden pilgrimage to bars began almost immediately after the state’s Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ (D) stay-at-home order.

Last month, Evers’ administration extended the state’s stay-at-home order from April 24 to May 26. Shortly after that, the state’s legislature brought forth a legal challenge against the state’s health secretary, Andrea Palm.

In that lawsuit, lawmakers argued that such long-term decisions on citizens’ lives should be decided by the legislature—not just Evers’ administration.

In court, an attorney for Evers’ administration argued that state law gives the Wisconsin health department the authority “to do whatever is necessary to combat a novel, deadly, communicable disease like the one we’re facing today.”

Right away, though, the situation wasn’t looking good for Evers’ or his administration. The seven-member Court is made up of five conservative and two liberal justices. On top of that, the legislature that brought the lawsuit is Republican-controlled. 

In hearings last week, conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley compared Evers’ orders to Korematsu v. United States, a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision during World War II to uphold Japanese internment camps.

“I’ll direct your attention to another time in history in the Korematsu decision, where the Court said the need for action was great, and time was short, and that justified—and I’m quoting ‘assembling together and placing under guard all those of Japanese ancestry in assembly centers during World War Two,” she said

Could the secretary, under this broad delegation of legislative power or legislative-like power order people out of their homes into centers where they are properly socially distanced in order to combat the pandemic?” she asked.

Even though the Court ultimately sided with the legislature, the decision was narrow with a 4-3 vote. That was because one of the court’s conservative judges broke to dissent with the majority opinion.

The Court’s justices wrote in the majority opinion that “in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the Governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely.”

Still, the Court noted that it wasn’t challenging the governor’s power to actually declare emergencies. 

In their dissent, Justice Rebecca Dallet said, “This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history. And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.”

Notably, the Republican-controlled legislature asked the Court for a six-day hold on its decision so they could negotiate stay-at-home orders with Evers, but the court shot that request down, reopening the state immediately. 

Bars Reopen to Crowds

To be clear, the Court’s decision only affects Evers’ executive order. Local municipalities can still issue their own stay-at-home orders.

In fact, at least five cities and counties have now announced they’ll be extending their stay-at-home orders, most of them until May 26th. That includes Brown, Dane, Racine, Milwaukee, and Kenosha counties. 

Many more cities and counties, however, are now free of stay-at-home orders. Because of that, many businesses started to reopen almost immediately after the decision was announced. 

Much of the coverage around reopened businesses seemed to culminate with bars, as many customers could be seen packing into small spaces. In these photos, masks are rarely or nowhere to be seen.

Bar owner Chad Ardnt told WISN that while he respects people’s decision if they don’t want to come back yet, he also said he decided to reopen because he hadn’t been able to pay his employees for two months.

In a separate interview, bar-goer Gary Bertram told WISN that it should be people’s choice where they want to wear a mask or socially distance.

“If people have an issue with social distancing, they should be able to be, you know, they can stay separate or stay home,” Bertram said. 

That logic goes against warnings from the majority of health experts who have noted that the spread of the coronavirus isn’t really that simple. That’s because the people who are going out to bars are also likely going to the grocery store and seeing family. They can then unintentionally spread the virus to people at those places even if other people are social distancing and only going out when necessary.

Evers Blasts the Court’s Decision 

As people flocked to those bars, Evers blasted the Supreme Court decision on MSNBC Wednesday night while speaking to Ali Velshi.

“Unfortunately, in this one fell swoop, four judges who didn’t really care what the statues talk about have thrown our state into chaos,” Evers said.

“We’re in the wild West, Ali,” he later added.

Taking a different tone, Wisconsin’s Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said in a joint statement that they urged the Evers administration to begin working with Republicans to begin drafting guidance in case the state sees a surge of COVID-19 cases. 

“Wisconsin now joins multiple states that don’t have extensive ‘stay at home orders’ but can continue to follow good practices of social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizer usage and telecommuting,” they added. “This order does not promote people to act in a way that they believe endangers their health. 

President Donald Trump backed the Court’s decision Thursday morning, saying on Twitter that Wisconsin “was just given another win.”

“Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open,” he said. “The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!”

The Court’s decision highlights the current relationship between Evers’ administration and the legislature, which has been described as “bitterly divided.”

The legislature previously sued Evers for trying to delay the state’s April 13 primary, and like the decision being seen now, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the legislature.

Before Evers took office in 2019, the legislature voted to strip power from the governor’s seat following his election win. 

See what others are saying: (WISN) (The Washington Post) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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Soldier Charged With Assault After Shoving Black Man in Viral Video

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  • Authorities charged Army soldier Jonathan Pentland with third-degree assault and battery on Wednesday after a viral video showed him shoving a Black man while yelling at him to leave a South Carolina neighborhood.
  • Many people, including dozens who protested outside Pentland’s home this week, condemned the confrontation as another instance of someone being attacked for “walking while Black.”
  • Pentland and others claimed the unidentified man was picking a fight with neighbors, which the man denied, but police said nothing that may have happened earlier justified Pentland’s actions.
  • If convicted, Pentland faces a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

Viral Video

A U.S. soldier was charged with assault on Wednesday after a video that circulated online showed him yelling at and shoving a Black man in a South Carolina neighborhood.

Footage of the April 8 incident was posted to social media Monday. It shows the Army soldier, Jonathan Pentland, confronting the unidentified man and telling him to leave the neighborhood. 

The other man explains that he’s just walking through the area and doing nothing wrong, but Pentland becomes increasingly aggressive. “You better walk away,” he shouts at the man after shoving him.

“You either walk away, or I’m gonna carry your ass out of here,” he continues before adding, “You’re in the wrong neighborhood motherf*ker. Get out!”

The man then tries to tell Pentland that he lives in the neighborhood, and Pentland then asks for his address, which he does not give.

The confrontation continues with Pentland cursing and getting in the man’s face. As he does so, the man says that Pentland smells drunk. 

It’s unclear what exactly led up to the confrontation, but in the video, a woman off-camera says the man “picked a fight with some random young lady that’s one of our neighbors.”

“I don’t even know who she is. Nobody picked a fight when someone ran up on me,” the man replies. Another woman off-screen then encourages the man to leave with her, saying, “What’s your name? Come on. You don’t want no trouble.”

Video Triggers Protests Outside Pentland’s Home

After this video spread online, many social media users condemned it as another instance of someone being attacked for “walking while Black.”

In fact, protesters even began demonstrating outside of Penland’s home. Those protests started off peaceful, but deputies were then called after 8 p.m. because unknown individuals vandalized the house. That forced police to shut down access to the area and remove Pentland’s family to another location.

As far as the viral video, deputies were told that the man approached “several neighbors in a threatening manner” and that someone had asked Pentland to “intervene.”

Police did confirm that there are two reports of alleged assault against the unnamed man Pentland shoved that are being investigated. However, they also added that the man has “an underlying medical condition that may explain the behavior exhibited in the alleged incidents.”

Pentland Charged

Either way, police said whatever happened earlier did not justify Pentland’s actions. He was ultimately arrested Wednesday morning and was charged with third-degree assault and battery. He faces a $500 fine and 30 days in jail if convicted.

“We’re not going to let people be bullies in our community,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a news conference Wednesday. “And if you are, you’re going to answer for it, and that’s what we’ve done in this case.”

On top of that, the Justice Department reportedly was investigating. Pentland’s Commanding General even issued a statement condemning his behavior, adding that Pentland “brought disrespect to @fortjackson our Army and the trust with the public we serve.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (Huffpost)

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Texas Students Created Snapchat Group To ‘Slave Trade’ Black Classmates

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  • Freshmen at a Texas high school set up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates. 
  • A screenshot showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”
  • That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer while a second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”
  • The school faced backlash for initially describing it as “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment,” without acknowledging the racism. The district later issued a stronger condemnation and said the students were disciplined but did not list specific consequences.

Racist Snapchat Group

Aledo high school students at Daniel Ninth Grade Campus in Northern Texas are making headlines for setting up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates. 

A screenshot reviewed by several local news outlets showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”

That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer. A second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”

Screenshot of group chat message via KXAS

At least one student who was mentioned as being “sold” in the chats was later sent screenshots of the conversations.

According to a report from the Star-Telegram reported last week, when the issue was brought to Principal Carolyn Ansley, she sent parents an email that didn’t mention the Snapchat group but only cited “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment.”

That caused frustrations because parents felt the issue of racism wasn’t being addressed or acknowledged.

Mark Grubbs, a father of three former students, told KXAS he was sickened by the students’ actions. Grubbs, who is Black, also said he had taken his children out of the district over other racist incidents in the past.

“My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter,” he said.

District Responds

After the incident garnered media attention, the Aledo Independent School District issued a statement.

The district said it learned of the incident more than two weeks ago and started an investigation that involved law enforcement.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,” it added. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

District officials spoke with the students responsible as well as their parents, saying they “made it clear that statements and conduct that targets a student because of his or her race is not only prohibited but also has a profound impact on the victims.”

The district also said it assigned disciplinary consequences, though it did not explicitly state what those consequences were or state how many students were involved.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC) (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

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What You Need To Know About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause

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  • The CDC and the FDA have issued a joint recommendation to pause distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine amid reports that six women experienced “extremely rare” blood clots after receiving the single-dose shot.
  • The vast majority of the 6.8 million Americans who were given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have reported minor to no side effects, and no direct link has been established between the vaccine and blood clots at this time. 
  • The two agencies are expected to release updated guidance in the coming days.
  • Several states and cities are now automatically giving the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to people who were scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. 

CDC and FDA Recommend J&J Vaccine Halt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, released a statement Tuesday recommending a pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, 6.8 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, most with zero or only mild side effects.

The updated guidance comes after six women, all between the ages of 18 to 48, experienced what both agencies described as “extremely rare” blood clots six to 13 days after being vaccinated. One of those women has died and another is in critical condition.

Neither the CDC nor the FDA has confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the cause of these blood clots; rather, they said this guidance comes “out of an abundance of caution.”

That’s also in line with Johnson & Johnson itself, which said it’s aware of the reports but added that “no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events.” As a precaution, Johnson & Johnson has also now delayed the rollout of its vaccine in Europe. 

What Happens From Here?

Principal Deputy Director of the CDC Anne Schuchat said further recommendations will come quickly.

FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock echoed that statement, saying, “We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.”

Wednesday, a CDC committee will convene to discuss the cases and assess their potential significance.

When asked if the government was overreacting to just six cases out of nearly 7 million vaccinations (a criticism made by some online), Schuchat said the CDC pulled its recommendation specifically because the type of blood clots seen in these 6 women requires special treatment, so “it was of the utmost importance to us to get the word out.”

In the meantime, both agencies are urging Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients to contact their doctors if they experience any combination of severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath. 

What If I Had A J&J Appointment?

Both agencies, as well as other health officials, are still urging unvaccinated people to take the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines when available in their area.

The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator has said that 28 million doses of those vaccines will be made available this week. Notably, that’s more than enough for the country to continue giving 3 million shots a day. 

If you had an appointment scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’re likely not completely out of luck.

For example, while D.C. vaccination sites are canceling all Johnson & Johnson appointments between Tuesday and this Saturday, the health department there has said it’ll send out invitations on Wednesday to reschedule.

Similar situations were reported in Virginia and Maryland, though some vaccination sites in Maryland are still honoring existing appointments by automatically giving people Pfizer instead. That’s also a process that is now being conducted in places like New York State and Memphis.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (NBC News) (The Washington Post)

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