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Protesters Topple Monuments Amid Calls for the Removal of Confederate Symbols

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  • Confederate and other slave-related monuments across the country—and even internationally—are being defaced and torn down by protesters.
  • In Richmond, Virginia, a judge ordered a 10-day injunction against Governor Ralph Northam after Northam announced plans to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee.
  • The Marine Corps has now banned the use of the Confederate flag, saying it has been “co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups.”

Protesters Are Toppling Confederate Monuments

Amid the massive surge of calls to end police brutality following the death of George Floyd, protesters are also renewing efforts to remove Confederate monuments and symbols.

In many cases, protesters have started taking the situations into their own hands by defacing the monuments with messages like “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace.” In other situations, protesters have skipped waiting for their local governments to remove them—a process that can take years in some areas—and toppled the statues themselves.

On June 6, a statue of Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham in Richmond, Virginia, was pulled down by protesters. In Birmingham, Alabama, protesters tore down a similar Confederate statue on May 31.

The removal of statues invoking the idea of slavery hasn’t only occured in the United States. In Bristol, England on Sunday, protesters tied ropes around a statue of Edward Colston, a local merchant who made most of his fortune from trading slaves in the late 1600s. They then pulled that statue down before rolling it down the street and dumping it in the harbor. 

In several images, black protesters stood atop the base of the monument where that statue had been.

Some, such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, called the protesters’ move a “criminal act” and promised to prosecute the individuals involved. 

Others, like one of the protest’s organizers Katie Finnegan-Clarke, told NPR that she found the action “poetic.” She added that Colston’s statue had been “dragged across the city and essentially thrown overboard into the water,” similar to how “so many people had suffered under his regime during the slave trade.”

Back in the U.S., overnight on Monday, local news agencies in Jacksonville, Florida reported that the monument of a Confederate infantryman had been removed. According to the city’s mayor Tuesday morning, he plans to take down more statues around the city. 

In Fredericksburg, Virginia, the city removed a 176-year-old slave auction block from downtown after it was defaced. 

In Mobile, Alabama, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the city decided to take down a statue of a Confederate naval officer after it was defaced. In a tweet, Stimpson addressed a common issue many take with removing statues, saying the move “is not an attempt to rewrite history.” 

The University of Alabama began removing plaques on Monday dedicated to students who served in the Confederate army and student cadet corps. It was also later reported that the university is reviewing all building names, with the Student Government Association urging it to change “the names of campus buildings with racist namesakes.”

Judge Blocks Northam’s Order to Remove Lee Statue

Richmond, Virginia has also stepped into the center of the debate on whether or not to remove Confederate statues. Last week, Governor Ralph Northam ordered that an iconic but controversial statue of Robert E. Lee be taken down. 

According to Northam, it would then be placed in storage while a decision was made on what to do with it.

Notably, the 12-ton statue has been a major focal point of the protests in Richmond, with demonstrators crowding around it, many defacing its 40-foot-tall pedestal.

In a move not uncommon for these types of situations, a lawsuit has been mounted against Northam for trying to remove the statue. Because of that, on Monday, a judge ordered a 10-day injunction preventing Northam from removing that statue. 

There, the judge argued that Northam’s directive is a violation of an 1890 deed filed in Henrico County, which states that the commonwealth “guaranteed” to place the 12-ton statue and its 40-foot pedestal in its existing location and to “faithfully guard it and affectionately protect it.”

Part of the uncertainty revolving around whether the state can legally remove the statue is because Richmond annexed it and the surrounding land to the state in the 1890’s. As part of the deal, the state then agreed to that deed. 

Still, according to Northam’s press secretary, Northam “remains committed to removing this divisive symbol from Virginia’s capital city, and we’re confident in his authority to do so.” 

Tuesday morning, in a tweet, Northam said, “Make no mistake: it will come down.”

Marines Ban Display of Confederate Flags

It’s not just Confederate monuments. Many are also calling for agencies and governments to disavow the use of Confederate namesakes and the Confederate Battle Flag. 

On Monday, the U.S. Army said that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are open to holding a “bipartisan conversation” about renaming nearly a dozen major bases.

Still, nothing has been officially confirmed. 

On Friday, the Marine Corps took a much more solid stance by banning the use of the Confederate flag—even on everyday objects like bumper stickers and mugs. 

“The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps,” the military branch said in a statement.

This order will not apply to historical paintings where the Confederate flag is depicted but not the subject. It also will not include flags which depict the symbol, such as Mississippi’s flag. 

In 2001, Mississippi held a vote on whether or not to keep that flag, but the state ultimately voted to keep it.

Because of that, Governor Tate Reeves has argued that it’s not up to elected leaders to change it. 

Still, activists argue that not only is the state’s population 38% black, currently, no one under the age of 37 in the state has ever been able to vote on whether or not to keep it.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CNN) (USA Today)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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