Aurora Officers Fired After Taking Photos Mocking Elijah McClain’s Death

Four Aurora, Colorado officers are no longer on the police force after photos showing them mocking McClain’s death have come to light

Three Aurora, Colorado police officers have been fired and one has resigned after photos showing them mocking the death of Elijah McClain — a 23-year-old Black man who died at the hands of Aurora, Colorado police in August 2019 — have surfaced. While McClain’s death is still under investigation, and the officers who were actually involved in his death have not been fired, the officers involved in this photo scandal are no longer with the police force.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson announced on July 3, 2020, that officers Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich, and Jason Rosenblatt were terminated on Friday, while officer Jaron Jones resigned on Tuesday before his disciplinary hearing. According to Police Chief Wilson, officers Marrero, Dittrich, and Jones posed for photos on October 20, 2019, near an Elijah McClain memorial site, and in the photos, the three officers are smiling while “reenacting a carotid control hold,” which was the same control hold used on McClain that led to his death.

Per CNN, the three officers in the photo sent the images to Rosenblatt — who was involved in McClain’s death. When Rosenblatt received the text with the images, he wrote back “ha ha.” In disciplinary hearings, the three officers claim they sent the photo to “cheer up” Rosenblatt and Rosenblatt claims he texted back “ha ha” because he was “nervous.”

The officer who suggested he put his arm around the other officer’s neck to mimic the carotid hold did not deny the act or try to explain it away and said “I realized afterwards that this was an incredibly, to say it was incredibly poor taste is an understatement.”

“To even think about doing such a thing is beyond, it’s beyond comprehension. It is reprehensible,” Police Chief Wilson said during a press conference on Friday. “It shows a lack of morals, values, and integrity, and a judgment that I can no longer trust to allow them to wear this badge.”

She went on to describe the situation as “a crime against humanity and decency.”

McClain died in August 2019 after being stopped by three Aurora police officers for “acting suspicious” while walking home from a grocery store. Officers said they believed McClain was reaching for an officer’s gun, so they placed him in a chokehold. McClain began vomiting and begging for his life. Officers called paramedics after he passed out, administered a dose of ketamine to sedate McClain, and he stopped breathing. McClain suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital, and he was declared brain-dead three days later.

Other than officer Rosenblatt fired today in the photo scandal, the Aurora County DA originally decided not to bring charges against any of the officers involved (those being Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema) in the killing of McClain. Because of this, protests have been occurring in Aurora, Colorado for several weeks — demanding that all the involved officers are fired and arrested.

An investigation into McClain’s death was announced last month. We sincerely hope justice is served.

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Cops In Riot Gear Use Force At Peaceful Violin Vigil For Elijah McClain

Jarring new video shows riot cops storming a peaceful protest in honor of slain 23-year-old Elijah McClain

The police department in Aurora, Colorado is once again under scrutiny for the use of excessive force. What started as a poignant homage to 23-year-old Elijah McClain on Saturday devolved into chaos as police descended on the crowd in full riot gear. A massage therapist known for playing violin to soothe shelter animals, McClain died last year after being detained and placed in a carotid hold by Aurora PD.

Now, nearly a year after his death, Aurora Police are once again being questioned over their tactics. Mark Sallinger, a reporter with 9News, captured the upsetting scene. “As police in riot gear were spraying protestors with pepper spray and using batons to push them back at the #ElijahMcClain protest in Aurora today, this man began to play the violin,” Sallinger tweeted. “One of the most surreal scenes I’ve ever seen. Music is powerful.”

In the footage, an unidentified violinist strikes up “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range as cops in riot gear push peaceful demonstrators back. Photos of the clash show the cops using pepper spray and smoke bombs, both of which the department has since confirmed.

Police officials say the chemical weapons were deployed in response to protestors throwing water bottles at the officers and arming themselves with sticks and rocks. According to Sentinel Colorado, Aurora police also deployed four rounds of rubber bullets against the crowd (although that claim remains unsubstantiated at this point).

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Sallinger speculated that police were provoked when protestors “moved the fence barrier blocking Aurora PD headquarters.” At that point, the department says, “smoke was used to try and encourage people to move to the safe area.” Shortly after, an officer on loudspeaker declared the protest to be an “unlawful assembly.”

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

McClain was walking home from a local convenience store in Aurora, Colorado, on the night of August 24, 2019, when he was confronted by police. Reportedly responding to a call about a man who “looked sketchy,” Aurora PD placed McClain in a now-banned carotid hold. Fifteen minutes in, he was given a powerful dose of the sedative ketamine.

Video shows his body was limp when placed on a gurney and loaded into an ambulance. He survived two heart attacks en route to a nearby hospital, was pronounced brain dead three days later, and died on August 30.

McClain was never suspected of or implicated in any crime in connection to the incident. The three police officers involved claim he reached for one of their holstered handguns (while being pinned down with disturbingly excessive physical force).

Video footage is limited, as the officers say all three of their body cams fell off at some point in the struggle. The officers — identified as Aurora PD’s Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema — were placed on administrative leave but have all since been reinstated.

However, facing the renewed uproar over the injustice of McClain’s death, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado re-opened the case. To that end, Polis appointed the state’s attorney general, Phil Weister, to re-examine the details surrounding McClain’s death. He also gave Weiser the authority to file charges, depending on what the re-examination reveals. “Elijah McClain should be alive today,” he said in a statement, “and we owe it to his family to take this step and elevate the pursuit of justice in his name to a statewide concern.”

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White House Economist Says ‘We Just Have To Live’ With Coronavirus

White House economist Larry Kudlow says “we just have to live” with coronavirus and why is anyone listening to this non-expert?

As coronavirus cases surge across the U.S., White House officials continue to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic which is infuriating at best and dangerous at worst. Clearly prioritizing economic health over physical health, states have reopened most, if not all, of their non-essential businesses, and only a smattering of states have made face masks mandatory, so it will come as no surprise that White House official Larry Kudlow, who is the National Economic Council director said that we all “just have to live” with coronavirus. Uhhh, K?

“There is no second wave coming. It’s just hot spots,” Kudlow, who is not a medical expert, said on CNBC on Thursday, June 25, 2020. “They send in CDC teams, we’ve got the testing procedures, we’ve got the diagnostics, we’ve got the PPE. And so I really think it’s a pretty good situation.”

He then went on to say, “We’re going to have hot spots, no question. We just have to live with that.”

Aside from mostly saying nonsense words like “they send in CDC teams” (whatever that means), let’s debunk the fact that it’s not actually a “pretty good situation” in the U.S. right now.

Kudlow also stated that, “I think nationwide the positivity rate is still quite low, well under 10%,” which isn’t accurate either because the CDC reports that the nationwide positivity rate (which means that out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19) is exactly at 10%, not under, and in the hotspot states, it’s worse.

According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the positivity rate is 22.95% in Arizona, 16.15% in South Carolina, 16.11% in Mississippi, and 14.40% in Florida, to name a few. These extremely high positivity rates could have to do with the fact that these hot spot states might only be testing their sickest individuals and they need to ramp up testing overall to get a more accurate picture, however, The Washington Post‘s data proves that seven states — Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas — are reporting the highest count of coronavirus hospitalizations since the pandemic began and Arizona hospital beds are filling up as health care personnel say they are running out of resources and running out of doctors.

Also, because the CDC has been testing people for COVID-19 antibodies as well as simply testing to discover who has the virus, the CDC now believes that the actual number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is about 10 times greater than expected.

“Our best estimate right now is that for every [COVID-19] case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said on a call with reporters Thursday (via NBC News).

Also, a simple look at any graph (like this one using New York Times data) of coronavirus cases in the U.S. will tell you that we certainly did not flatten the curve.

New York Times

The only good news is that new reported deaths by day in the United States are dropping. But to get back to Kudlow, no, overall it’s not a “pretty good situation.”

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NY, NJ, & CT To Quarantine Visitors From COVID-19 Hotspot States

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut announce 14-day quarantine for any visitors coming from coronavirus hotspot areas

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will now collectively enforce a two-week quarantine period on anyone traveling to the region from one of the states experiencing a surge in new coronavirus cases. In a joint press conference on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the new travel restriction in an attempt to keep the coronavirus pandemic in the Northeast region under control.

“The Northeast region has taken this seriously and that’s allowed us, as a region, to power through and get out positivity rates very low,” Lamont said during the press conference. “But we’re not an island. As we look at the rest of the country, we’ve seen not just spikes, but community spread.”

According to the travel advisory, the impacted states are those “with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average,” though the list of states subject to the quarantine will be updated regularly as coronavirus cases rise and fall across the U.S.

Currently, the nine “coronavirus hotspot” states that are subject to the 14-day travel quarantine include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas. “We welcome visitors but only if they self-quarantine from highly infectious states,” Lamont added. Relatedly, South Carolina is also facing another restriction as United Airlines just announced that it will “temporarily suspend service” to Myrtle Beach “due to demand conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The quarantine will begin tonight, June 24, 2020, at midnight and this basically means that if you travel from Florida to New York tomorrow, you will be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in New York.

In Connecticut, the 14-day quarantine will be voluntary and you will not be fined if you violate the order, however, Lamont said that “if we find that’s not working, if we find that people are abusing that, we’ll consider some stricter measures for enforcement.”

However, if you fail to self-isolate for 14 days after entering New York, you will be hit with a fine that Governor Cuomo says can range anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 dollars. “If you’re violating a quarantine, you can be subject to a judicial order and mandatory quarantine,” Cuomo said. “You could have to pay the costs of quarantine. There are also fines that can go along with violating the quarantine.”

Cuomo stated that all lodging facilities in New York will be made aware of the new quarantine and there will be signs at the airport and on the highway reminding travelers to quarantine. Cuomo added that if you aren’t following the quarantine in New York, you could be found by hotel clerks or police pulling over motorists to enforce the order. New Jersey’s governor has not yet announced how he will enforce the order in the Garden State.

Other states like Vermont have quietly enacted quarantine rules for travelers and I would not be shocked if more states and airlines begin to follow suit as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus.

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2 Million People Want Justice For Elijah McClain And His Story Is Gut-Wrenching

A new petition calls for ‘a more in-depth investigation’ and the removal of the officers involved from duty

Nearly a year after the murder of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died at the hands of Aurora, Colorado police, a new petition calls for a new investigation into his death. More than two million people have signed it, and local law enforcement agencies are receiving tens of thousands of calls demanding justice for Elijah.

On the night of August 24, 2019, Elijah was walking home from a local convenience store, according to the petition. According to the McClain family, Elijah, who was anemic, preferred to wear a ski mask to keep his face warm while he was walking. The Aurora Police Department received a call about a “suspicious man.”  This call resulted in his death after officers physically apprehended Elijah, who weighed just 140 pounds, with a carotid hold and threatened to sic their K-9 on him.

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*TRIGGER WARNING: violence/murder and a graphic image on slide 8.* DEMAND JUSTICE FOR ELIJAH. Link in my bio with Aurora officials’ numbers you can call, a GoFundMe for Elijah’s mother, and a petition to sign. Slide 2: Elijah’s last words, spoken as police tortured him and held him in a carotid choke hold (transcribed from bodycam footage) Slides 3-5: what happened to Elijah Slide 6: Elijah playing the violin for cats at the pet shop next door on his lunch break. He believed the music put them at ease Slide 7: sign at #blackout2020 in Aurora on 6/6/20, a demonstration to demand justice for Elijah and others. Slide 8: TRIGGER WARNING⚠ Elijah in hospital following the police attack Slide 9: painting of Elijah surrounded by some of his favourite things or things that represent him, by @mattymillerstudio Slide 10: recent news regarding the investigation. – I recently saw this first video on Twitter along with a few words about #elijahmcclain, who was murdered by AURORA POLICE in August 2019, and since then I haven’t been able to get him and his case out of my mind. It’s so obvious from this video that Elijah was a sweet, gentle, innocent soul with a personality that radiates positive energy. When I started to read more about him, this became even more clear. He was a massage therapist and a self-taught violinist. Friends and family described him as “a spiritual seeker, pacifist, oddball, vegetarian, athlete, and peacemaker who was exceedingly gentle”. Every person who dies at the hands of police deserves justice, whether they are a great person or a terrible one. But the fact that Elijah was seemingly an angel on earth who wouldn’t even hurt a fly (this is actually something he TOLD officers as they attacked him) makes his case extra heartbreaking. Your voice matters: Elijah’s case didn’t get much publicity for the first 8 months after his death, but now people are finally talking about it. Because of this, progress is being made. Police departments are making new rules and a new investigation is being launched for Elijah. But we cannot stop talking about Elijah, and others who suffered a similar fate, until justice is served and the system is changed.

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“He is laying on the ground vomiting, he is begging, he is saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’ One of the officers says, ‘Don’t move again. If you move again, I’m calling in a dog to bite you,'” Mari Newman, the McClain family attorney, says in the petition.

According to the Colorado Sentinel, Elijah did not heed initial police commands to stop walking, and the interaction escalated physically from that point. Two different officers attempted to place McClain in a carotid control hold, cutting off blood flow on the side of his neck until he briefly fainted.

A disturbing and graphic body cam video shows Elijah struggled with officers for nearly 15 minutes — repeatedly sobbing and vomiting — before he was sedated with 500 milligrams of ketamine and loaded into an ambulance. He survived two heart attacks en route to a nearby hospital, but he was pronounced brain dead three days later and died on August 30.

Elijah was never suspected of any specific crime in connection with the incident, and he was unarmed. Two Aurora police officers claim Elijah reached for one officer’s holstered handgun while he was being pinned down with excessive physical force to the point of unconsciousness.

Below is a transcription of Elijah’s last words. They’re absolutely gut-wrenching.

“I can’t breathe.
I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain.
That’s my house. I was just going home.
I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all.
I’m so sorry.
I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people, I don’t judge people who do eat meat.
Forgive me.
All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you.
Try to forgive me.
I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work.
(*crying*) Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t trying to do that.
I just can’t breathe correctly.”

Authorities were unable to determine whether McClain’s death was an accident, a result of natural causes, or if it’s a homicide directly related to the police department’s use of a carotid hold. The officers on the scene were placed on temporary leave in the aftermath of the incident, but are currently back to work in the field with no charges against them.

The petition specifically calls on Adams County District Attorney Dave Young, Mayor Mike Coffman and the Aurora Police Department, to conduct “a more in-depth investigation” and remove the officers involved from duty.

In the wake of national protests for George Floyd and every Black person murdered by police, Elijah’s story is finally gaining the national attention it deserved last summer. People all over social media are sharing his story in hopes the DA will reopen the case and provide the grieving McClain family with the justice they were initially denied.

The district attorney’s office has been slammed with thousands of emails and calls and the local police department has received hundreds of complaints. “I don’t open up investigations based on petitions,” district attorney Young told Colorado Politics. “Obviously, if there is new evidence to look at, I will look at the evidence in any case.”

In regard to the massive national outrage over George Floyd’s death, Elijah’s mother said Coloradans didn’t seem to feel the same way about the murder of her son.

“I cannot speak on George’s death because Colorado didn’t care about Elijah’s death,” she told The Sentinel. “Colorado fails in accountability for their own residents but urges justice for someone in a different ZIP Code.”

You can donate to a GoFundMe set up for the McClain family in honor of Elijah here.

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I Wasn’t A ‘Bad’ Cook — I Was A Poor One

I’ve always been “that” person who rolls up to barbecues with my infamous store-bought veggie and fruit trays. If I’m feeling really fancy, I might even pick up some Kroger-brand sugar cookies, put them into my own Rubbermaid container like the trickster I am, and call it a day. I guess you could say that I’ve never been one to boast about my cooking or baking skills, because quite frankly, I’ve been led to believe that I have about as much culinary expertise as that of a drunken monkey. 

It’s not that I’ve yet to give cooking a real chance, because I have (the many burnt and undercooked casseroles my family has braved their way through is proof of that). It’s just that, up until recently, my family has lacked the time, space, and money needed in order to cook comfortably. 

We’ve lived in a “fixer upper” (my gentle way of saying a real dump) for years with the hopes that we could remodel it to sell in the near-ish future. When my husband and I first moved in, we bought our stove and refrigerator secondhand from our neighbors for $50 combined, if that tells you anything about our financial situation. And while I would never judge a person because of something as materialistic as their home, finances, or even the quality of their meals, personally, my cooking and dysfunctional kitchen quickly became a source of shame for me.

Our kitchen was so old that, no matter how many hours we spent cleaning it, it still looked dirty. Plates would shatter regularly because we didn’t have the space for everything, and slicing onions meant sitting on the floor with a raised flat surface and a cutting board. And don’t even get me started on the hell that is hand-washing dishes for a family of six every single day. 

Recently, though, things have started to look up for our family. We’ve paid off some debt, increased our income a bit, and my dream of restoring our kitchen has finally become a reality.

Throughout this season, I’ve learned something. After spending so much of my time believing that I was a bad cook without hope, it never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t “bad” — maybe I was just poor and lacking what I needed. 

This isn’t to say that poor people = bad food… not at all. It’s just that, for me, as someone who didn’t have what was necessary to cook in the kitchen, the funds to get me there, or the experience built from a lifetime of growing up with a cooking family, the result of my family’s financial brokenness didn’t allow me the tools required to learn much of anything. 

I wasn’t able to afford the spices needed to add extra flavor and a little “zing” to dishes. I didn’t have good-quality meat. I didn’t have a dishwasher or the necessary plates, pots, and pans needed to cook for my big family. The oven was sketchy, the pantry and cabinet shelves were falling apart, and all of this made cooking for anyone feel like a complete impossibility. 

My husband and I aren’t “rich” by any stretch of the imagination at this point. In fact, nearly all of our extra cash flow has been directed into renovating our house. We still have a strict budget, take advantage of the clearance section, and have our moments where we stress out over money. I’ll be saving my pitch for the Food Network until a later date — but for now, we’ve finally been able to fix our kitchen up in a way that allows for smooth and stress-free cooking.

To so many of us, food is comfort. Whether it be a holiday, birthday, or even just Gram’s Sunday brunch, we all have at least one memory of how a home-cooked meal made with love made us feel warm and fuzzy. For so long, I wanted to love my family in that way. And now that I’m able to and learning how to do that, I can’t help but wonder how many other families are sitting where I once was — on the kitchen floor, slicing onions and longing to do just about anything to simply cook comfortably and “normally” for their family. 

An inability to work “harder” for the change desired isn’t the problem with people who are poor — poor people work hard for the things they have. Please, trust me, lower income families are anything but lazy. The problem is, it’s a struggle to obtain the things we need and desire when we’re constantly trying to catch up from last week. 

Living paycheck to paycheck makes it difficult to go to the grocery store and buy more than a few days’ worth of food. Because of this, it makes one cringe to think that you will wind up spending more money on things like gas, transportation and food items of a lower quantity, just because you couldn’t get everything you needed at once.

What so many fail to realize rings true: it costs more money to be poor.

Sure, it’d be more cost-friendly in the long run for families to buy their groceries in bulk, but this is unrealistic when so many parents can’t pull themselves over a financial hump. 

Feeding the family can become a day-to-day hustle, one that won’t even allow you to look toward tomorrow because there are hungry kids and an impossible kitchen to work with right now. From the get-go, being poor and cooking for your family can make you feel defeated before you’ve even begun.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Beyond seeing if your family qualifies for government assistance, churches, charities, Craigslist, furniture banks, and organizations such as Freecycle, an online group that allows members of communities to connect with those in need, are great resources available for a little extra help with appliances and everyday cooking needs.

Food insecurity is real, and it hurts. Having a dysfunctional kitchen is real, and it hurts. Knowing you will spend more money in the long run just so your kids can eat today is a real struggle, and it, too, hurts — parents have enough on their minds without worrying about how tonight’s meal is going to go.

We all move forward at our own pace and with a unique set of circumstances. But no matter our financial status, at the end of the day, we are all deserving of a warm, home-cooked meal made with love.

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Greta Thunberg Calls Black Lives Matter Protests A ‘Social Tipping Point’

Teen activist Greta Thunberg fully supports the Black Lives Matter protests, calling them a ‘social tipping point’

While Greta Thunberg‘s main mission in activism focuses on the environment, the heroic Swedish climate activist says she’s fully supportive of the Black Lives Matter Movement. In a new interview, the 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who recently donated $100,000 to children impacted by COVID-19, explains that she believes the recent protests are a sign that things are changing in society and people are finally starting to confront the issue of racism head-on.

“It is always the fight for justice. It feels like we have passed some kind of social tipping point where people are starting to realize that we cannot keep looking away from these things,” Thunberg told the BBC in an interview aired on Saturday morning. “We cannot keep sweeping these things under the carpet, these injustices.”

“People don’t want to hear me talk about this and people won’t be able to handle this so they are going to try to silence me and some people know no limits,” Thunberg continued. “They are trying to silence you for a reason and that reason is because you are too loud and if you are loud that means you are having a difference you are having an impact.”

“People are starting to find their voice, to sort of understand that they can actually have an impact,” she said.

During the interview, Thunberg also touched on how the coronavirus pandemic has given her hope due to the fact that people in power reacted promptly. She only wishes that they would do the same with matters of climate change.

“It shows that in a crisis, you act, and you act with necessary force,” she said. “Suddenly people in power are saying they will do whatever it takes since you cannot put a price on human life. The main message that underlines everything we [as climate activists] do is, ‘Listen to the science, listen to the experts,’ and all of a sudden you hear everyone everywhere is saying that. It feels like the corona crisis has changed the role of science in our society.”

Thunberg, who revealed earlier in the pandemic that she was likely infected with COVID-19, has used the last several months to focus on her studies.

“I thought, I’m just home anyway, so I might as well just jump in the class … in my free time, as a bonus. It doesn’t really count, but I love studying so much,” she said. “I’m really the last one to complain because I haven’t been that affected by this.”

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San Francisco Police Will Stop Responding To Non-Criminal Calls, And Our Entire Country Should Follow In Their Footsteps

I was 12 when I had my first interaction with the police. The crime: allegedly putting gum in a classmate’s hair. My family had just moved from the South Side of Chicago to a predominately white town in Southern Illinois. I was the Black girl from Chicago, and no one ever let me forget it.

This particular day, the principal called me into the office, explained my crime, ignored my pleas of innocence, and left me isolated in a room. Lunch time came, and an office worker delivered a tray of unappealing food to my makeshift jail cell. I picked over it as a police officer walked into the room.

He never sat down. He stood tall when he asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I don’t remember which answer I gave him (I bounced back and forth between doctor and writer back then), but I do remember he told me I could be charged with assault and my future would be over.

I spent what I think was the next two weeks, though it felt like a year, eating lunch alone in the office as punishment. The goal was to make me feel like a criminal, and it happens to Black children at an alarming rate. That interaction, however, should have never happened.

Across America on any given day, there are too many police interactions occurring that shouldn’t involve law enforcement at all. School discipline, disputes between neighbors, and noncriminal matters involving homeless people and mental health crises often end up with some level of police involvement.

Mayor London Breed said that in San Francisco, this will no longer be the norm. In the next few months, Breed will roll out her plan to limit these police confrontations, address police bias, demilitarize the police, and promote economic justice. Breed’s proposal also plans to redirect money to programs that serve the communities that have been “systematically harmed by past City policies,” Insider reported.

Black and Native American communities have been overpoliced, leading to increased tensions, interactions, and police brutality. Racist policies like redlining have kept Black people in cities yet segregated in poorer neighborhoods with low home values and underfunded schools. One in five adults experience mental illness each year. What all of these groups have in common is that they’re more likely to come into contact with the police.

About forty percent of adults with serious mental illnesses will come into contact with the criminal justice system during their lives. A vulnerable population in a country with limited mental health care options, plus high costs and lack of universal health care, needs more mental health care resources — not policing. Yet, states and the federal government have been gradually cutting funding for mental health resources for years. Local, state, and federal funding for increased police salaries, operations, and prison construction, however, hasn’t skipped a beat.

By divesting from policing and minimizing the role of police officers in the U.S., other American cities can follow San Francisco’s lead. We need to address the systemic racism that has long devalued and brutalized Black and Native American communities, care for the mental health of Americans before people end up in crisis, and cut off the school-to-prison pipeline that makes school a prison for Black children. The police should not be the default when dialing 911.

America is certainly in a state of emergency, but not one that calls for militarized policing. We can fix this with well-placed federal and state funding. Money — something police districts across the United States are in no shortage of. It calls for defunding the police and investing in communities of color as well as access to social workers and behavioral health specialists. It calls for changing the default so that when people call 911, they get the help they deserve — and often that doesn’t mean officers with guns.

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Trump Falsely Claims We Have An AIDS Vaccine

In a recent press conference, Trump falsely tells the nation that an AIDS vaccine exists

Today, during a press conference, Trump took the stage and told the audience that he predicts that by the end of the year, the country will have a very “successful vaccine, therapeutic, and cure” (for COVID-19). He goes on to say that he’s been “very closely” working with great scientists who have come up with “things.” For some reason, this is when Trump decides to discuss the many medical breakthroughs we’ve made over the years, like the “AIDS vaccine.”

“We’re making tremendous progress. I deal with these incredible scientists, doctors, very, very closely. I have great respect for their minds. And they have come up with things. And they’ve come up with many other cures and therapeutics over the years… They’ve come up with the AIDS vaccine. They’ve come up with — or the AIDS, and as you know there’s various things, and now various companies are involved. But the therapeutic for AIDS — AIDS was a death sentence, and now people live a life with a pill. It’s an incredible thing.”

Okay, so the thing is: We don’t have an AIDS vaccine. We don’t have a cure, but we do have highly effective treatments and medications that fight HIV and help keep the body’s immune system healthy, so that the body is equipped to combat serious complications that come with HIV. According to UCSF Health, “At this time, there is no cure for AIDS, but medications are effective in fighting HIV and its complications. Treatments are designed to reduce HIV in your body, keep your immune system as healthy as possible and decrease the complications you may develop.”

In terms of AIDS medication, UCSF Health states, “Although there is no cure for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), medications have been highly effective in fighting HIV and its complications. Drug treatments help reduce the HIV virus in your body, keep your immune system as healthy as possible and decrease the complications you may develop.”

Many have taken to Twitter to point out Trump’s blatant lie, including Eugene Gu, MD, who describes the drugs we *do* have in order to combat HIV and AIDS. This is very, very different than having a “vaccine.”

Although this wouldn’t be the first time Trump has fabricated statistics and spread lethal misinformation about science and medical advancements (let’s not forget when he claimed that it could be possible for COVID-19 patients to be cured with an injection of disinfectant and UV light and heat), many continue to be in awe that the president keeps making these kinds of wild claims — especially when so many folks in the U.S. live with HIV. According to, 1.1 million U.S. citizens live with HIV today. Between the 1980s and 2016, 675,000 who were tested positive for AIDS died, according to the CDC. In 2018, at least 40,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. alone. For Trump to claim that there is an AIDS vaccine is irresponsible and ignorant.

The White House has yet to make a comment about Trump’s egregious error. Let this be another reminder for us all: Trump’s disregard for science is baffling — but it’s also incredibly dangerous. Remember this as you prepare to vote in November.

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Why ‘Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992’ Should Be At The Top Of Your Reading List

In college, I attended several classes where we discussed literature that came out after the ’92 Los Angeles riots. One piece of work in particular was Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. And I know what you are thinking: Does it have vampires in it? The answer is “no.” Not even close. It was published in ’94, long before Edward and Bella became a thing. This is the original Twilight, and it was nominated for the 1994 Tony Award for Best Play — and now, almost 30 years later, it might be the most relevant work I’ve ever read.

It is a one-woman play written by Anna Deavere Smith, and it consists of real oral histories from people who lived through the riots. And when I say people, I mean she interviewed hundreds to find the right mix of varied perspectives.

For those of you who are too young to remember, the Los Angeles riots happened in the wake of the first Rodney King verdict, issued April 29, 1992, when four white Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted of charges of assault and police brutality in connection with King’s roadside arrest and beating on March 3, 1991.

I was nine years old when I first saw the clip of four police officers savagely beating an unarmed Rodney King, in the night, on the side of the road. It was a clip of real abuse at the hands of the police. It captured the world, and frankly, it is difficult to watch, even now, let alone to imagine that the police officers who committed the act would be cleared of any wrongdoing. When those police officers were acquitted, the nation was left to wonder how far, if at all, the country had traveled since the epidemic of urban race riots in the late 1960s. And in Los Angeles, no convictions for the officers resulted in 60 long days of rioting.

Smith lays bare the voices of bystanders and commentators—the famous and the anonymous—to produce a diverse vision of this event, while also showing how troubled American race relations were at the close of the twentieth century. Public officials such as LAPD chief Daryl Gates and Congresswoman Maxine Waters are in this accounting, along with a nameless juror on the Rodney King police trial; various victims and instigators of violence in South Central, including white truck driver Reginald Denny, who was beaten; and residents of greater Los Angeles with their own view of the events. Smith memorized and delivered words in Korean to portray a Korean-American woman whose business had been burned down.

One element of this play that really stood out to me was how it is, in a very real sense, an historical document of a historic event —  but at the same time, throughout the play, the 1965 Watts riot in Los Angeles (which prompted the McCone Commission to ameliorate conditions in black ghettos) is a point of reference. When I look back on Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 and compare it to 2020, it is easy to realize that what happened to George Floyd, and the resulting protests and riots, is yet another sad and frustrating example of history repeating itself.

However, the most significant part of Twilight for anyone reading it now, in this moment, is an understanding that riots happen when people have had enough. They happen when a group of people have asked for help, asked for safety, asked for security, asked for the necessities of human life, but no one has listened. Riots happen when people keep saying the same thing calmly, when they have brought up injustice time and time again, in as many peaceful ways as possible, through protests, celebrities, and news coverage, but the message has fallen on deaf ears. They happen when the evidence of the injustice is clearly videotaped, but there are no convictions.

Those of you asking why a city is burning, I want you to read this play. And if reading isn’t your thing, you can watch clips of Smith performing it personally, online, for free. This is a one-woman play, and she does every single role. It’s remarkable, and entertaining, and heartbreaking. But more importantly, it is an exploration in empathy.

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 helped me, a white guy from rural Utah, to realize that riots happen when a group of people are unheard and unsafe, and their cries for justice are not taken seriously. They happen when the evidence of abuse is clearly there, on the screen, for everyone to see, and no one is held accountable. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 helped me realize the full scope of how this ugly history of racism continues to repeat itself, and that right now is the time to stand up and make it stop.

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