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“The GOP Ignores The Bigger Terror Threat—From The Right”: Why Won’t Republicans Acknowledge Radical White Terrorists?

I want surveillance of certain mosques,” bellowed Donald Trump to his followers at a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama, over the weekend. Ted Cruz recently declared that it would be “lunacy” to allow Muslim refugees into the United States because they “could be jihadists coming here to kill Americans.” And in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Marco Rubio exclaimed that in order to keep Americans safe, we need to be vigilant in our war against “radical Islam.”

The threat posed by ISIS is real and must be forcefully addressed. But if these Republicans truly want to keep us safe, why don’t they ever raise the issue of right-wing terrorists? After all, as The New York Times reported just a few months ago, “Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.

The reality, of course, is that talking about scary Muslims plays great with the GOP base. In fact, a recent poll found that three-quarters of Republicans think Islam is “at odds” with American values.

But talking scary white guys gets you nowhere in the GOP. Keep in mind that Trump wouldn’t even unequivocally condemn the white supremacist groups or leaders who have expressed support for him, such as former Klan leader David Duke. The best Trump would do is say to a reporter of Duke’s endorsement that he would repudiate it “if that would make you feel better.

We hear non-stop whining from the right about why won’t President Obama use the term “radical Islam”? Well, I have a question for Trump, Cruz, and Rubio: Why are you afraid to use the term “radical conservative” and address the threat posed to Americans from the right?

Some are likely asking what right-wing violence am I talking about? Trust me, if the perpetrators were Muslims you would know their names. So here are just a few recent incidents of terror from the right:

  1. Two white supremacist were arrested just two weeks ago for plotting a terrorist attack to bomb black churches and synagogues in Virginia. As law enforcement noted, these men were planning to shoot and bomb the “occupants of black churches and Jewish synagogues” in accordance with their “extremist beliefs.”
  2. Glendon Scott Crawford, a self-professed Klan member, was convicted in August for plotting a terrorist attack involving a weapon of mass destruction that would emit radiation in lethal doses. Crawford, who will be sentenced next month to 25 years to life, was planning to slaughter Muslim Americans in upstate New York.
  3. Craig Tanber, a white supremacist was arrested in September in the murder of Iranian-American Shayan Mazroei in California. Tanber’s girlfriend had reportedly called Mazroei a “terrorist” and said “fucking Iranians” before her boyfriend stabbed the 22-year-old Iranian American to death outside a pub in Irvine, California.
  4. The criminal trial of Robert Doggart, a Christian minister, will begin in Tennessee next January in connection with his plans to slaughter Muslim Americans in New York. His plot, which was thwarted by the FBI, involved working with far right-wing militia group members and using M-4 assault rifles, armor-piercing ammunition and even machetes to cut the Muslims “to shreds.”

And, of course, the most revolting terror attack from the right involved the case of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who in June murdered nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in hopes of sparking a race war. Roof, like ISIS, was using violence to accomplish his political goals.

Interestingly Trump continues to lie that “thousands” of Muslims Americans cheered in New Jersey on 9/11 but he doesn’t mention that some white right-wing Americans cheered the killing of these nine African Americans by Roof. And despicably we saw conservatives on social media cheering Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting because in their view the gunman was stopping abortions. (As of now, we don’t know for certain the motivation of the Planned Parenthood shooter but it could very well turn out to be another example of right-wing terrorism on U.S. soil.)

There are 784 active white supremacist groups in the United States per the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC.) And these groups are not just sitting around drinking Jack Daniel’s and cursing minorities. They have radicalized people to commit violent crimes in recent years, such as the six Sikhs gunned down at a temple in Wisconsin in 2012 and the three people murdered at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas in 2014 by white supremacists.

And that doesn’t even include the violent right-wing anti-government groups like the Sovereign Citizens movement that has in recent years killed police officers and attacked government offices.

But still not a peep from these GOP candidates. Yet Cruz has no problem finding time to demonize the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Just last month he claimed that some BLM protesters are “embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers.

And a BLM protester was assaulted at a Trump event Saturday night after the man yelled out “black lives matter.” Shockingly, Trump defended the assault saying, “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” adding, “It was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” Does Trump believe that an African America exercising his First Amendment rights is “disgusting”?

Within days of Trump’s defense of this assault, five BLM protesters were shot at a rally in Minneapolis by three white men that were reportedly white supremacists.

Now just so it’s clear, I’m not saying that these right-wing radicals are beheading people or carrying out massive attacks like we saw in Paris. But in some cases, it seems to be that that’s only because they were stopped before they could do just that.

If these GOP presidential candidates truly want to keep Americans safe, it’s time they stop ignoring the threat posed to Americans from the right. But who are we kidding? Expect more fear mongering about Muslims by the GOP. However, let’s not pretend later that we didn’t all see the warning signs about the threat of radical right-wing terror.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, November 29, 2015

November 30, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Islamophobia, Muslim Americans, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Clear And Present Danger”: The Biggest Threat To Americans? Other Americans With Guns

What do you think a mother would say is the greater threat to her child: Russia or guns?

I couldn’t help but ask myself that question on Friday when I heard the testimony of General Joseph Dunford, President Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. When Dunford was asked what was the greatest threat to the United States, he responded by ranking them in this order: Russia, China, North Korea, and ISIS.

Now, Dunford is undoubtedly correct when it comes to the global threats facing us, and those are the threats it’s his job to assess. But from a day-to-day perspective, our greatest threat, and I’d submit the more pressing one, is our fellow Americans. We kill far more of each other on a daily basis than any foreign actor has come close to doing in recent years.

Here are some numbers for you to consider:

1. Gun Violence: Every day 30-plus Americans are murdered with guns. We are talking over 10,000 Americans killed each year by gun violence. And every single day, including today, five children or teens are murdered by someone using guns; that is 11 times more often than children are killed by gun violence in other “high income” nations.

In fact, far more Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone (33,636) than all the Americans killed on U.S. soil by terrorists in the last 14 years, and that’s including 9/11. (2,977 Americans were killed on 9/11 and only 48 have been killed since by terrorism on U.S. soil.)

2. Other Gun-Related Deaths: Apart from gun violence, another 20,000 Americans use guns to commit suicide each year. (Suicides involving firearms are fatal 85 percent of the time in contrast to about a 3 percent fatality rate when using pills.) When you combine the above numbers with the 560 people accidentally killed by guns on an annual basis, that comes out to more than 32,000 Americans who die each year by firearms. These numbers really brought it home for me: Between 2000 and 2010, 335,609 people died from guns in our country; that’s more than the entire population of St. Louis, Missouri. (318,000.)

3. Driving Under the Influence: Each day nearly 30 people are killed in auto accidents that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. In 2013 alone, 200 children 14 and younger were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.

4. Domestic violence: Each day, three women are killed by their husband, boyfriend, or a person with whom they had been in a relationship. In fact, a study found that alarmingly, at least one-third of all women murdered in the United States in recent years were killed by their current or past male partners.

These killers of Americans are all distinct. There’s no one remedy that will reduce the deaths in all these cases. But there is one killer that truly jumps out as the greatest existential threat to Americans: Deaths involving guns.

Now I know that many on the right are preparing to regurgitate their tired talking point that this is a push to grab their guns. They are wrong. I fully support that the Second Amendment guarantees them the personal right to own firearms as recognized in the seminal 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller. (Amazing how many on the right applaud the Supreme Court when it renders decisions they like such as Heller but literally want to abolish the Supreme Court as we know it after the recent gay marriage ruling)

But how can we sit idly by as so many of our fellow Americans are killed by guns? It is as if we have collectively decided that these deaths are acceptable loses. Even after mass shootings nothing seems to change, generally due to political considerations.

And we see politics at play again over the heartbreaking shooting death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco last week by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a man who was not in the country legally. Many on the right, like Donald Trump, refuse to talk about the gun aspect of this crime and solely want focus on Sanchez’s immigration status because it plays to their political base. (I doubt Trump would ever mention that 70 percent of the guns recovered by the ATF in the Mexican drug war between 2007 and 2011 originated in the United States. Talk about exporting dangerous things to another country.)

So while we are confirming a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to protect us from global threats, isn’t it time to create a federal level “Department to prevent gun deaths” to protect us from this domestic threat?

The federal government’s current gun-related tasks would be unified and integrated into this new department in an effort to increase effectiveness, much the same way we saw the Department of Homeland Security bring together the responsibilities of 22 different agencies under its auspices.

For starters this new agency can ensure that the federal law barring federally licensed gun dealers from selling firearms to people convicted of crimes or with mental illnesses is fully functioning.  As we learned just last week, the Charleston shooter Dylann Roof should not have been able to legally purchase a gun as he did because of his criminal record. However, a background check flaw allowed that to happen.

This new agency can also be charged with investigating gun trafficking across state lines, formulating comprehensive programs to reduce suicides by guns, and cracking down on federally licensed gun dealers that consistently sell guns used in crimes. Astoundingly, 1 percent of gun dealers account for nearly 60 percent of the guns used in crimes.

We have numerous federal agencies dedicated to keeping us safe from global threats. Isn’t it time we had a federal agency dedicated to protecting us from the clear and present danger posed right here in our nation by guns?

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, July 13, 2015

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Gun Violence, Terrorists | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We’re Part Of A Long-Running Story”: Racism In The Obama Era: “You’re Taking Over Our Country”

It’s hard to believe that just three months ago we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. But today I’m thinking of something President Obama said at the time.

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950s. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress, this hard-won progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

That one goes down a little harder today than it did three months ago. As I noted earlier, the shooting at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston this week evokes memories of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church 52 years ago in Birmingham. Combined with the recent high-profile police shootings of unarmed Black men, it’s no wonder that people are starting to question whether things have really changed much.

As I do so often at moments like this, I go back to something Derrick Jensen wrote in his book The Culture of Make Believe.

From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement…

Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, “normal,” chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.

Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.

So we must ask ourselves, “what is it that has threatened the entitlement?” In other words, what was Roof talking about when he said “you’re taking over our country?” To approach an answer to those questions, I think about something Jonathan Chait wrote after watching the movie 12 Years a Slave.

Notably, the most horrific torture depicted in 12 Years a Slave is set in motion when the protagonist, Solomon Northup, offers up to his master engineering knowledge he acquired as a free man, thereby showing up his enraged white overseer. It was precisely Northup’s calm, dignified competence in the scene that so enraged his oppressor. The social system embedded within slavery as depicted in the film is one that survived long past the Emancipation Proclamation – the one that resulted in the murder of Emmett Till a century after Northup published his autobiography. It’s a system in which the most unforgivable crime was for an African-American to presume himself an equal to — or, heaven forbid, better than — a white person.

The situation Chait is describing is what the Obama era represents and involves a whole different kind of challenge than the one’s we’ve dealt with in the past over slavery, segregation and Jim Crow. With the election of our first African American president, white people are having to deal with a black man as not only our equal, but our leader. Too many of us are prepared for neither. While most white people would not support slavery or legal discrimination, we’re not really ready to look black people in the eye as equals, much less see them in positions of authority over us. That is what decades of programming has done to our collective consciousness…we assume deference.

I’m not suggesting that the election of Barack Obama as president is the sole reason we’re seeing this explosion of hatred. I think Tim Wise did a pretty good job of explaining what’s happening when he talked about “the perfect storm for white anxiety.” But what has prompted the Third Reconstruction that Rev. William Barber talks about is clearly rooted in the racism evoked by the idea of our first African American president.

David Remnick – who, as Barack Obama’s biographer, perhaps knows him better than any other journalist – suggests that the President is well aware of all that.

Like many others, I’ve often tried to imagine how Obama’s mind works in these moments. After one interview in the Oval Office, he admitted to me that he was hesitant to answer some of my questions about race more fully or with less caution, for just as a stray word from him about, say, monetary policy could affect the financial markets, so, too, could a harsh or intemperate word about race affect the political temper of the country.

Obama is a flawed President, but his sense of historical perspective is well developed. He gives every sign of believing that his most important role in the American history of race was his election in November, 2008, and, nearly as important, his re-election, four years later. For millions of Americans, that election was an inspiration. But, for some untold number of others, it remains a source of tremendous resentment, a kind of threat that is capable, in some, of arousing the basest prejudices.

Obama hates to talk about this. He allows himself so little latitude. Maybe that will change when he is an ex-President focussed on his memoirs. As a very young man he wrote a book about becoming, about identity, about finding community in a black church, about finding a sense of home—in his case, on the South Side of Chicago, with a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson. It will be beyond interesting to see what he’s willing to tell us—tell us with real freedom—about being the focus of so much hope, but also the subject of so much ambient and organized racial anger: the birther movement, the death threats, the voter-suppression attempts, the articles, books, and films that portray him as everything from an unreconstructed, drug-addled campus radical to a Kenyan post-colonial socialist. This has been the Age of Obama, but we have learned over and over that this has hardly meant the end of racism in America. Not remotely. Dylann Roof, tragically, seems to be yet another terrible reminder of that.

In an interview with Remnick last year, President Obama gave us some idea of how he sees his role in the long process of “perfecting our union.”

“I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past,” he said. “But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we’re on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have.” The long view again. “But I think our decisions matter,” he went on. “And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn’t been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”

Perhaps that’s why I’ve always loved the pairing of this song with these images. It captures that “long-running story” and ends with the moment that sparked both the hope and the threat that Remnick described. We just need to add a clause at the end…”to be continued.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 21, 2015

June 25, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Racism, White Americans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Of The Most Powerful Tools White-Power Groups Have”: A History Of Hate Rock From Johnny Rebel To Dylann Roof

What makes a young man a racist killer? Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old charged for the murder of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston last week, was “normal,” his cousin told a reporter, “until he started listening to that white power music stuff.” It’s not clear exactly what Roof was listening to or how it influenced him. But it wouldn’t be surprising if music were one of the channels through which his racism crystallized; hate rock is one of the most powerful tools white-power groups have to spread their ideology to young people.

Christian Picciolini was a middle-class teenager from the suburbs of Chicago who loved punk rock. In the late 1980s he started listening to Skrewdriver, a British band formed in the regular punk sphere that morphed into a notorious neo-Nazi group. “When I heard the white-power lyrics I felt like they spoke to me,” Picciolini recalled. “My neighborhood was rapidly changing, I knew people whose parents were out of work because of minorities taking their jobs—at least, that’s what I thought at the time.” He was attracted to the aggressiveness of the music, to the way it channeled his angst. Yet he perceived its message to be a positive one. “It seemed like they were asking people to stand up and protect their neighborhoods and families. I realized later they were calling for violence.”

Picciolini says that music was the “primary” reason he became a skinhead; he didn’t come for the racism, but he absorbed it and in turn used music to bring other kids in the Rust Belt into the fold. “Music for us was the most powerful tool—definitely the most effective recruiting method,” he says. Within a few years Picciolini was the front man for the first American white power band to play in Europe. “There’s white pride all across America/White pride all across the world/White pride flowing through the streets/White pride will never face defeat!” he sang to 3,000 skinheads in Weimar, Germany, when he was 18. After selling hate rock out of his backpack for a while, Piccionlini opened a record store, where he kept the white-power music behind the counter. He estimates that it accounted for 75 percent of his revenue.

The scene that Picciolini was a part of has been associated with various acts of racial violence. Wade Michael Page, who murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, was a member of several bands, including Youngland, a popular group that performed around Orange County. Youngland was known mainly for its song “Thank God I’m a White Boy,” a worked-over version of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Page sang vocals on “Activist or Terrorist,” a track on Youngland’s 2003 album Winter Wind that concluded: “Activist or terrorist depends which side you’re on/Defend against the invader this war will greet your son/Hey you gotta go not your home anymore/If you don’t move quietly you’ll be forced to war.”

Most white-power bands today play what sounds like punk or heavy metal, but white nationalists have channeled their ideology through everything from country to Celtic folk. The scene’s locus has historically been Northern Europe, but crackdowns on hate speech abroad eventually drove the scene to the United States. Distinctly American contributions include a Cajun musician from Louisiana called Johnny Rebel who pioneered a racist strain of country music in the 1960s in response to the civil-rights movement. His early singles include “Nigger Nigger,” “Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way),” and “In Coontown.” He made something of a comeback after 9/11 with a song called “Infidel Anthem,” a promise of vengeance that, while heavier on the profanity, is similar in thrust to Toby Keith’s mainstream country hit, “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American).”

In the late 1990s leaders of white-nationalist groups became more intentional about using music as a recruiting tool, particularly to middle- and upper-class kids like Picciolini. “I am overjoyed at the success we are seeing with the White Power bands,” wrote David Lane, a member of the neo-Nazi group The Order, in a fanzine in 1998. “I must confess that I don‘t understand the phenomenon, since my preference runs to Wagner and Tchaikovsky, but the musical enjoyment of us dinosaurs is of no importance. White Rock seems to reach and unify our young folk, and that is the first good news in decades.” In 1999 the leader of the National Alliance, William Luther Pierce, acquired a label called Resistance Records, which advertised itself as the “soundtrack for white revolution.”

Though white-nationalist rockers sometimes billed their music as an alternative to the “corporate” music business, certainly the music’s potential to raise revenue along with new recruits was not lost on its backers. Resistance was bringing in close to $1 million a year for the National Alliance in the early aughts, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which “helped to take the National Alliance to an all-time high in terms of membership and funding.”

In 2004, a white power label called Panzerfaust Records launched “Project Schoolyard USA” with the tagline, “We don’t just entertain racist kids: We create them.” Panzerfaust made 100,000 copies of a mix CD priced at 15 cents apiece, in the hopes that fans would buy them in bulk to distribute to middle and high schoolers. “[W]e know the impact that is possible when kids are introduced to white nationalism through the musical medium,” Panzerfaust’s owner Bryant Cecchini (who also went by the name Byron Calvert) wrote on his website. The CD included bands like the Bully Boys, who sang about “Whiskey bottles/baseball bats/pickup trucks/and rebel flags/we’re going on the town tonight/hit and run/let’s have some fun/we’ve got jigaboos on the run.” The following year, Panzerfaust collapsed amidst a debate about whether the label’s cofounder was actually white.

White-power groups have struggled to get their music onto the airwaves and into record stores and concert venues. The Internet now offers a cheap and easy way to reach listeners. There’s Micetrap Radio, for instance, which prides itself on being “the very first internet radio program to play White racial music.” Its website streams “the noise of our white generations” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The SPLC has had some success cutting off online distribution networks: Apple started to pull white-power groups from iTunes late last year after the SPLC identified dozens of hate bands whose music was being sold through the service. The group is still pressing Spotify and Amazon to remove a number of bands.

C. Richard King, a professor at Washington State University who studies white supremacist culture, says that music is “one of the two most important pathways by which someone goes from wherever they’re at to being engaged or committed to something we might call white power.” The other pathway is the Internet, and the two are often bundled together. “If you wanted to be into white power thirty years ago, you had to show up at a bookstore or go to a Klan rally or a Nazi march. Now, one can simply log on and hit some keywords in Google and you can find the music and the websites,” King explained. While white-power music circulates now through online communities instead of between teenagers’ backpacks, King said that live shows, by giving people a reason to get together, continue to nurture white-supremacist communities in the real world.

Should the white-power music scene be more heavily policed? First Amendment free-speech rights protect hate rock to a greater extent in the US than in Europe, where authorities have taken an aggressive stance. In Germany, police developed a smartphone app to alert officers when one of some 1,000 neo-Nazi songs indexed in a federal database is played at a club or on the radio. But stricter regulation of hate speech in Europe hasn’t silenced white-power bands or dismantled neo-Nazi groups; it’s just led them to adopt more deeply coded racial language, King said.

In the United States, a better approach to burying the subculture might be to drag it into the light. “The thing that America really needs is to talk about and engage race, and to take seriously what the foundations of the music are. The music is not the product simply of disturbed individuals or people who are disaffected,” said King. “It emerged out of a much longer history of how blacks and blackness get thought about and how whites think about whiteness.”

American popular music expressed many of the ideas about race that permeate what is now defined as a fringe genre well into the 20th century. As King and his co-author David Leonard write in Beyond Hate: White Power and Popular Culture, it was only once overt racism became impolite that there was reason for “white power” music to occupy its own subculture. In the contemporary era too the boundaries between white-power music and mainstream punk and rock are more porous than one might assume. For instance, Skrewdriver was influential in wider punk circles before the band’s racial politics fully crystallized.

If American popular culture and white-supremacist ideology are no longer in explicit alignment as they once were, the idea that white America needs defending still pervades mainstream politics and culture—the way the right talks about immigration is a clear example. “We need to get those myths, those ideas, that history out. We need to talk about them and engage them seriously,” King agues. Rather than dismiss the genre, “we need to have more conversations about the content of the music—why it’s being produced, why people are listening to it, what is it that makes a young guy in this day and age wear flags from Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa.”

For Christian Picciolini, what led him to the white-nationalist movement was ultimately what took him out of it. At his record store he talked with customers he might have otherwise avoided—people who were black, Jewish, or gay. As he found himself bonding with someone over a punk or a rockabilly record, he became increasingly embarrassed about the stock of hate music behind the counter. “I couldn’t deny the feelings that I felt for these people,” he says. He dropped out of the skinhead scene, and stopped selling white-power music. His revenue plummeted and the store went bankrupt. In 2010 he co-founded a peace advocacy group called Life After Hate, and this spring, he released a memoir.

Dylann Roof walked away from what might have been a similar redemption. According to reports, he spent an hour with his victims inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before he shot them. He “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” sources told NBC News. The day after, a crowd assembled at the Morris Brown AME church in Charleston for a prayer service. They sang “My Hope is Built,” a hymn that ends, “On Christ the solid rock I stand/ All other ground is sinking sand/ All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, June 23, 2015

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Hate Rock, Jonny Rebel, White Nationalists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Still Remains Popular Within The State”: South Carolina’s Complicated Relationship With The Death Penalty

If prosecutors convict Dylann Storm Roof and then seek the death penalty—and despite calls from Governor Nikki Haley, it’s not clear they will—the Charleston shooting suspect could be sitting on death row for a long time. The last execution in South Carolina was in 2011, despite a list of 44 people awaiting execution. The pace of executions has slowed to a crawl, in a state that has put 282 people to death over approximately the last century. And the reasons that this slowdown has happened may also give prosecutors pause in this case.

In its earliest days, South Carolina was notoriously expansive in its definition of what qualified for the death penalty; a slave could be put to death for destroying grain, for instance. It is still one of the top 10 states for per capita executions, following the Supreme Court suspension of the dealth penalty in 1976 and its subsequent reinstatement. But South Carolina’s relationship with capital punishment has gotten complicated, some for reasons that align with national trends and some specific to the state. On one hand, it’s a place where, just last year, a judge posthumously exonerated a black boy executed in 1944—the kind of case that has led some states to move away from the death penalty. On the other hand, months later, a state legislator sought the reintroduction of firing squads to make it easier to execute criminals.

One cause of the statewide drop in executions helps explain why there would even be a doubt about whether Roof will face the death penalty: It’s expensive. In 2012, one South Carolina prosecutor who had intended to seek the death penalty changed his mind because of the cost. “Once you file for the death penalty, the clock gets moving and the money, the taxpayers start paying for that trial,” he said, reflecting broader angst in the state about the price of death penalty trials, appeals, and retrials, compared to a life sentence. Mathematically, if fewer prosecutors seek the death penalty, the result is fewer executions. Roof’s case would seem a likely candidate to set aside the question of cost, and some predict the death penalty will indeed be sought. But then, it would surely be one of the costlier death penalty trials, because there’s a link between a case’s prominence and its price. (The prosecutor leading the Roof case is controversial with the black community.)

But there are other reasons for the decline in the execution rate, according to South Carolina government officials, namely the difficulty in acquiring drugs needed for lethal injections. “Right now, what we’re doing is we are looking and reaching out to pharmacies and suppliers et cetera to try to find pentobarbital,” S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said, explaining how the shortage contributed to the slowdown. “We have thus far not been successful at that.” The availability of drugs is an issue other states are confronting, too. Overall, the drop in executions in South Carolina and the reasons for that are “consistent with across the country,” says Emily Paavola, executive director of the state’s Death Penalty Resource and Defense Center.

But the death penalty still remains popular within the state. Nationwide, public support for capital punishment has fallen, partly stemming from the number of exonerations of death row inmates and partly stemming from declining crime rates; that has, in turn, driven politicians in many states to oppose capital punishment. But even death penalty opponents admit that the same shift has yet to happen in South Carolina, except, Paavola says, with regard to the use of the death penalty for the mentally ill, the subject of a poll by her group in 2009.

Opponents of the death penalty have tried to seize on the case of South Carolina’s George Stinney to shift public attitudes. Even among historical exonerations, Stinney’s case stands out: The 14-year-old was electrocuted more than 70 years ago after a two-hour trial that convicted him of beating two white girls to death; in 2014, he was posthumuously exonerated by a judge who cited the all-white jury and a compromised confession. “The case has haunted the town since it happened,” the Washington Post wrote, and “Stinney’s case has tormented civil rights advocates for years.” One of the defense attorneys working the case said the state needed to correct the record. “South Carolina still recognizes George Stinney as a murderer,” Matt Burgess told CNN. “We felt that something needed to be done about that.”

But the Stinney case hasn’t put a halt to a steady stream of bills introduced in the Statehouse that meant to make capital punishment easier, like the legislation introduced by State Representative Joshua A. Putnam to allow firing squads to be used when lethal injection drugs aren’t available. Overall, Paavola’s group has watched the list of factors that makes a case qualify as death-eligible grow since 1976. “The Legislature has, over the years since the death penalty was reinstated, expanded that,” she said, but she noted that individual prosecutors have used their discretion differently. ”From our perspective, the result is, often, very arbitrary selection.”

The Death Penalty Resource and Defense Center isn’t commenting on the Roof case, at least not yet. But on the day of the Charleston shooting, the group called it a “sad day for all in SC.” And the group noted that it had just recently started working with State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was among the murdered. He had been helping them fight a bill that would hide information about how lethal injections are carried out from the general public.

 

By: Tim Starks, The New Republic, June 19, 2015

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, South Carolina | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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