- The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that the Department of Homeland Security is planning to deploy roughly 150 federal agents in Chicago, Illinois this week, though the specifics of their duties is still unknown.
- The move comes after federal agents were deployed in Portland, Oregon, where they continually clashed with demonstrators protesting against racial inequality and police brutality.
- There have also been reports of unmarked police detaining people in similarly unmarked vehicles. Because of that, Oregon’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the action.
DHS Presence in Chicago
The Department of Homeland Security is planning to send around 150 federal agents into Chicago this week, according to The Chicago Tribune.
If true, the move would follow federal agents’ presence in Portland, Oregon, a city that has been the subject of nonstop massive protests for nearly two months. Those agents were first deployed following a June 26 executive order from President Donald Trump that seeks to protect federal monuments, statues, and memorials.
In Chicago, the scope of DHS is currently unknown. According to an anonymous Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, that deployment will include ICE agents; however, that official said those agents would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters as part of the deployment.
Like Portland, Chicago has also been a grounds for massive protests since late May when George Floyd died in police custody. It’s also possible that federal agents won’t stop with just Portland or Chicago.
In a leaked memo dated from July 16, DHS said, “Moving forward, if this type of response is going to be the norm, specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies.”
Oregon AG Files Lawsuit Alleging Civil Rights Violations
On Friday, the Oregon Department of Justice announced in a letter that state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum would soon be filing a lawsuit in response to accusations that people were being taken off the streets and put into vans by unmarked police officers.
The Oregon DOJ alleges that “federal authorities overstepp[ed] their powers and injur[ed] or threaten[ed] peaceful protesters on the streets of Downtown Portland.”
Later that same day, Rosenblum confirmed that she had filed that lawsuit. Notably, it was filed against a number of agencies, including DHS, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Protection Service. The lawsuit also lists 10 unidentified individuals as defendants.
“On information and belief, John Does 1-10 are employed by the United States government in a law enforcement capacity,” the lawsuit states. “They have made it impossible for them to be individually identified by carrying out law enforcement actions without wearing any identifying information, even so much as the agency that employs them.”
Overall, Rosenblum accuses these agencies of engaging in unlawful law enforcement tactics that threaten the civil rights of people in Oregon.
“Federal law enforcement officers including John Does 1-10 have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles, removing them from public without either arresting them or stating the basis for an arrest, since at least Tuesday, July 14,” the lawsuit alleges.
Specifically, the lawsuit references Mark Pettibone, a man who spoke to The Washington Post after claiming to have been confronted by men dressed in camouflage who then pushed him into an unmarked van on July 15. Pettibone was reportedly taken to the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse where he was read his Miranda rights.
Despite this, Pettibone has maintained that he was never told why he was arrested and that after he refused to speak to police without the presence of a lawyer, he was released without any paperwork, citation, or record of his arrest.
According to The Post, U.S. Customs and Border Protection later took responsibility for Pettibone’s detainment.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that other citizens beside Pettibone have also been detained “without warning or explanation, without a warrant, and without providing any way to determine who is directing this action.”
The lawsuit argues that these agencies are injuring citizens by taking away their ability to determine whether or not they’re being kidnapped or arrested. For example, if a person is kidnapped, they are legally allowed to engage in self-defense; however, if that person is arrested by police, they could be charged with resisting arrest for the same action.
That’s why Rosenblum is asking for federal agents to be required to identify themselves and their agency before making an arrest. She is also asking for those agents to be required to give an explanation as to why they’re detaining someone for an arrest.
In addition to this lawsuit, the Oregon DOJ is also seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent federal authorities from unlawfully detaining people in the state.
Also on Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon filed a separate lawsuit against DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service in an attempt to block federal law enforcement from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists and legal observers.
“This is a fight to save our democracy,” Kelly Simon, the interim legal director of Oregon’s ACLU, said. “Under the direction of the Trump administration, federal agents are terrorizing the community, risking lives, and brutally attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality. These federal agents must be stopped and removed from our city.”
The Legality of Federal Occupation
DHS was formed after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and since then, its job has mainly been to handle national security threats from abroad, as well as border security. Since Trump took office, it has largely carried out his immigration policies.
However, with Portland, its presence has been more focused on law-and-order.
For example, some of the agents deployed in Portland are part of a group known as BORTAC, Border Patrol’s equivalent of a SWAT team. Notably, it’s a highly trained group that is normally tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations, as opposed to protesters in cities. As a result, city and state officials have raised questions about whether it’s overstepping local law enforcement.
“I don’t have authority to order federal officers to do things,” Portland’s Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said. “It does complicate things for us.”
For his part, Trump has argued that he sent in federal agents because Portland police have failed to adequately respond to the protests. Despite that, the leaked internal DHS memo from Thursday states that those federal officers haven’t been trained in riot control or mass demonstrations.
A DHS spokesperson said on Sunday that the missions of these federal agents were “aligned with their appropriate training,” and that officers received “additional training for their deployment in the city” to assist the Federal Protective Service.
Still, that hasn’t convinced Democrats. In fact, Sunday, several House Democrats penned a letter to the inspectors general of the DOJ and DHS. In it, they called for an investigation “into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the attorney general and the acting secretary of homeland security to suppress first amendment protected activities in Washington DC, Portland and other communities across the United States.”
Since then, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has denounced the Trump administration’s use of federal agents in Portland, saying, “We cannot give up liberty for security.”
See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (The Washington Post) (AP News)
All U.S. Adults Officially Eligible for COVID Vaccine
- As of Monday, every adult in the U.S. who would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can get one.
- According to the CDC, more than 131 million people, roughly half of all American adults, have already gotten at least one shot. Around 84.3 million, about a quarter of the population, is now fully vaccinated.
- The U.S. is currently on pace to vaccinate 70% of its population by mid-June, but experts worry that herd immunity could be complicated by vaccine hesitancy and when the shots are approved for children.
- While vaccine hesitancy has decreased in recent months, it is still alarmingly high in some areas. Meanwhile, pending FDA approval, experts have said that they believe all children will not be able to be vaccinated until the first quarter of 2022.
U.S. Opens Vaccine Eligibility
Adults in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico who want a COVID-19 vaccine can now get one after the last few states opened eligibility Monday, officially meeting a goal set by President Joe Biden.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 131 million people — half of all American adults — have already received at least one shot. Around 84.3 million, or about a quarter of the population, is now fully vaccinated.
The open eligibility deadline, which was initially set for May 1, comes as the vaccination rate has risen substantially in the last few months after a slow initial rollout. This month, the CDC said the U.S. has been administering an average of 3.2 million doses every day, up from around 2.5 million last month.
At the current rate, the country is also on track to meet another accelerated goal of Biden’s: administering 200 million doses by his 100th day in office — a number that was originally set at 100 million.
Right now, the U.S. is on track to vaccinate 70% of its population by mid-June.
Barriers to Herd Immunity
However, there are two major factors that will impact the country’s ability to achieve herd immunity: when the shots are approved for children and vaccine hesitancy.
Currently, 16- and 17-year-olds can receive the vaccine but only Pfizer’s version. Notably, Pfizer announced earlier this month that it applied for an emergency use authorization for children ages 12 to 15 eligible for its vaccine, and Moderna is set to release results from its trial on adolescents soon.
Experts worry the full administration could take a while, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who said Sunday that he does not expect children of all ages to be eligible until the first quarter of 2022.
As far as vaccine hesitancy is concerned, polls have found that more people are willing to take the shot than before. Specifically, hesitancy has decreased in Black and Latino communities, where it was previously quite high.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey from the end of last month found that 61% of adults said they were vaccinated or wanted to be — an increase of 55% from the month before, which was largely driven by the change of interest among Black Americans.
At the same time, the poll also found that fewer than half of Republicans said they have received at least one dose or intend to get it. Additionally, a recent analysis of data in nearly every U.S. county conducted by The New York Times found that both vaccination rates and willingness were lower on average in counties that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020.
“In more rural — and more Republican — areas, health officials said that supply is far exceeding demand,” the report noted. “And in interviews with more than two dozen state and county health officials […] most attributed low vaccination rates at least partly to hesitant conservative populations.”
Now, public health officials are also concerned that hesitancy will only get worse as officials investigate whether Johnson & Johnson’s shot is linked to a rare blood-clotting disorder. Experts have said the risk is exceedingly low, even if some connection is found, including Dr. Fauci, who said Sunday that he believes federal regulators will likely resume J&J jabs later this week after they were paused last week in all 50 states.
Still, many believe the bad press will likely spell trouble for vaccine-hesitant populations — not just for J&J but for all COVID vaccines — a fact that is especially worrisome as cases in the U.S. have spiked recently. Over the past seven days, the country has averaged 67,000 new cases a day, a significant jump from over 54,000 a month ago.
Others are more optimistic that the expanded eligibility will drive demand in states where it is low, and as a result, those numbers will drop.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Bodycam Footage Shows Adam Toledo Wasn’t Holding Gun When an Officer Shot Him
- Chicago officials released body camera footage Thursday which showed that 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot and killed by police last month, had put his hands up in the air right before the officer opened fire.
- The graphic video showed the officer, who has now been identified as Eric Stillman, yelling at Adam to stop as he chases him through an alley.
- The teenager obeyed and stopped by a fence, where he can be seen holding what appears to be a gun behind his back. Stillman ordered him to drop it, and then shot him a split second after Adam raised his empty hands in the air.
- The footage prompted renewed outrage, protests, and calls for an investigation. A lawyer for the Toledo family called the killing “an assassination,” while Stillman’s lawyer defended the officer, and claimed he acted appropriately.
Officer Bodycam Footage Made Public
Body camera footage released by Chicago officials Thursday showed that Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy killed by police last month, had his hands up when he was fatally shot.
The footage, which was released as part of a report by the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), showed officers chasing Adam, who was Latino, through an alley in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Little Village during the early hours of March 29.
The officer ordered Adam to stop. The teenager complied and halted by the side of a fence, holding what looks like a gun in one of his hands behind his back. The policeman yelled at him to drop it and show his hands.
Adam turned and lifted his empty hands, and the officer fired his weapon, striking the teenager once in the chest. The policeman is then seen administering CPR and asking him, “You alright? Where you shot?” while blood poured out of his mouth.
The COPA report published Thursday also identified the officer who shot Adam as 34-year-old Eric Stillman, who is white, and whose lawyer said he had been put on administrative duties for 30 days.
Stillman’s lawyer also argued that the shooting was justified, as did John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“He was 100% right,” Catanzara said. “The offender still turned with a gun in his hand. This occurred in eight-tenths of a second.”
Renewed Backlash and Protests
Adeena Weiss Ortiz, an attorney obtained by Adam’s family, said they are looking into taking legal action against Stillman.
“If you’re shooting an unarmed child with his arms in the air, it’s an assassination,” she said at a news conference Thursday.
Ortiz acknowledged the bodycam footage did appear to show Adam holding something that “could be a gun,” but argued the video must be independently analyzed to confirm.
“It’s not relevant because he tossed the gun,” she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois also echoed Ortiz’s demands on Thursday, calling for a “complete and transparent” investigation.
“The video released today shows that police shot Adam Toledo even though his hands were raised in the air,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois.
“The people of Chicago deserve answers about the events surrounding this tragic interaction. The anger and frustration expressed by many in viewing the video is understandable and cannot be ignored.”
Hours before the video was released, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pleaded for calm in the city, where anti-police protests have taken place in the weeks following the shooting.
“We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace,” she said. “No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place.”
Some businesses in downtown Chicago boarded prepared for violence ahead of the video’s publication by boarding up their windows. City vehicles stood by to block traffic.
However, the demonstrations that took place Thursday were small, peaceful, and spread out over several parts of the city. Organizers said they plan to hold more protests Friday.
See what others are saying: (The Chicago Sun-Times) (The New York Times) (The Chicago Tribune)
Eight Dead in Indianapolis Shooting
- Eight people were killed and several more were injured after a gunman opened fire at a FedEx Ground Facility in Indianapolis late Thursday.
- The gunman took his life after opening fire. Authorities have not identified his motive yet.
- According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2021, there have been 147 U.S. mass shootings, defined as verified incidents with four or more gunshot victims.
- President Joe Biden released a statement calling gun violence “an epidemic in America,” adding, “We should not accept it. We must act.”
Eight Killed in Shooting
Eight people were killed and several others have been wounded after a gunman opened fire at a FedEx Ground Facility in Indianapolis late Thursday.
The gunman killed four people in the parking lot then four people inside before taking his own life, according to local officials. Authorities have identified the gunman and are searching his home, but have not disclosed any potential motives.
“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” Deputy Chief Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said during a press conference. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”
Several witnesses told local outlets they initially thought the gunshots were engines backfiring or another type of mechanical noise until they saw the gunman. Some said they heard him shouting indistinctly before opening fire. The investigation is still in very early stages and victims have not yet been identified.
The facility employs 4,500 team members. It is unclear how many were working at the time of the shooting. FedEx released a statement expressing its condolences to the victims and their families.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our team members following the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis,” the statement read. “Our most heartfelt sympathies are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. The safety of our team members is our top priority, and we are fully cooperating with investigating authorities.”
Gun Violence in the U.S.
This tragedy follows a recent string of mass shootings in the U.S., including in Atlanta, Colorado, Southern California, and Texas. According to the Associated Press, this is at least the third in Indianapolis this year.
The Gun Violence Archive has logged a total of 147 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2021. The organization defines mass shootings as reported and verified incidents with at least four gunshot victims.
Several politicians have released statements about the shooting, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who said this pattern “must end.”
“Yet again we have families in our country that are grieving the loss of their family members because of gun violence,” she said. “There is no question that this violence must end, and we are thinking of the families that lost their loved ones.”
President Joe Biden also released a statement saying that, “Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation.”
“Gun violence is an epidemic in America,” Biden added. “But we should not accept it. We must act.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett echoed those remarks in a news conference.
“The scourge of gun violence that has killed far too many in our community and in our country,” he said.
“Our prayers are with the families of those whose lives were cut short,” he added on Twitter.
Hogsett is among 150 U.S. mayors who recently signed a letter asking the Senate to take up gun legislation, including expanding background checks.