civil rights

Dispatch From Charleston: The Cost Of White Comfort

Jun 24, 2015

How hard can it be to hold hands with someone, even a stranger, if you know it's just for a couple minutes? For a few terrible moments in Charleston last week, I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET

Ireland has become the first-ever country to approve same-sex marriage by referendum, voting overwhelmingly to approve it despite opposition from clergy in the heavily Catholic nation, according to official results announced today.

Reuters says in Friday's vote "more than 60 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot, the highest turnout at a referendum there in over two decades."

Earlier, both sides in the debate acknowledged that the "yes" vote had succeeded.

Voters in Ireland are deciding whether the country will amend its constitution to make same-sex marriage legal.

The vote on Friday follows months of debate in the heavily Catholic country. Opinion polls suggest the referendum will pass and Ireland will become the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in a national vote.

But, as NPR's Ari Shapiro points out, "Polls in this part of the world have been totally wrong in the past.

Lawmakers working on fixes to the justice system say that unrest in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore is pushing them to act.

"The whole idea of a young man dying in police custody, the confrontations with police, the looting and burning of innocent minority owned businesses," Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said on the Senate floor this month. "The question arises, what can we do?"

Baltimore police seem to ignore injuries suffered by detainees by the hundreds.

That's according to a review of records by The Baltimore Sun.

According to a report published by the paper this weekend, from June 2012 through April 2015, the Baltimore City Detention Center refused 2,600 detainees brought in by police because they were injured.

The federal investigation into Baltimore's police force is one of the first steps some in the city believe will rebuild the relationship between officers and residents.

Some faith leaders are optimistic that can be done, and past police programs have helped. But other residents are skeptical that West Baltimore residents' trust can be regained.

The 1950s was a hinge decade for noteworthy and nation-changing civil rights events across the United States, including Brown v. Board of Education in Kansas, the bus boycott in Alabama and the National Guard-protected integration of Central High School in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, there was also a revolution brewing in bookstores and public libraries.

By design or by happenstance, a handful of children's picture books were focal points of the American movement toward integration in the '50s.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced today that she was lifting a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in the city imposed nearly a week ago amid civil unrest over the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody.

"I want to thank the people of Baltimore for their patience," she said.

The emergency curfew was put in place after riots that took place in West Baltimore on Monday.

Updated at 2:10 p.m. ET

Hundreds in Baltimore began a "victory rally" to celebrate a decision by the city's top prosecutor to charge six officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, the young black man who died from a spinal injury he sustained in police custody.

The rally began at 2 p.m. in the West Baltimore neighborhood where Gray lived and was making its way to City Hall.

The death of Freddie Gray was a homicide, and six Baltimore police officers now face criminal charges that include second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, Baltimore chief prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby says.

Mosby announced the charges Friday morning, citing her office's "thorough and independent" investigation and the medical examiner's report on Gray's death. She said warrants were issued Friday for the officers' arrest.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said he was racially profiled by police "countless times" as a youth and young man in Rhode Island's capital city.

"It's just part of growing up in the city -- which is very unfortunate and sad," Elorza, a son of Guatemalan immigrants, said Thursday during a taping of Rhode Island Public Radio's Political Roundtable. "I've been pulled over a number of times, so I'm sensitive to that."

It's really hard to catch up with Nick Mosby.

The young Baltimore Democrat walks fast, which I discovered when I finally managed to catch up with him. It was early Wednesday afternoon, and Mosby was in the lunchroom of Carver Vocational-Technical High School in West Baltimore, fresh from a TV hit on CNN.

The unrest in Baltimore and other cities regarding alleged police misconduct has prompted new calls for law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. Such recordings could provide accountability and transparency in potentially controversial circumstances.

At least, that's the idea.

The Baltimore Police Department says the van transporting Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who suffered a serious spine injury while in police custody and later died, made one more stop than previously thought.

Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said the stop was made at the corner of Fremont Avenue and Mosher Street. A private camera helped make the discovery, he said.

The stop was one of four made by the van that was transporting Gray who suffered a spine injury at some point after his April 12 arrest on a weapons charge.

Updated at 7:40 p.m.

Protesters who have turned out in the streets of Baltimore for several days to express anger over the police custody death of Freddie Gray have gathered in their largest demonstration to date Saturday afternoon.

Organizers and supporters, who vowed to "shut down" the city, were using social media to share video of crowds gathering to protest the April 12 death of Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in custody.

J E Theriot / Creative Commons

Known to many as the “first lady of the black press,” Ethel Payne fearlessly documented the struggle for civil rights in twentieth-century America. This hour, we take a look at a new biography, which celebrates the life and legacy of the pioneering journalist. 

The Post and Courier

The video of white North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager shooting black, unarmed Walter Scott in an open field has ripped open the national wound over race relations and law enforcement abuse. Slager now faces a murder charge after he shot Scott eight times in the back while the 50-year-old father ran away following a traffic stop.

Updated at 6:21 p.m. ET

Lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas have approved changes to their respective "religious freedom" measures designed to answer critics who charged the laws were meant to discriminate against gays and lesbians by allowing businesses to refuse them service.

The amendments were passed by Legislatures in Indianapolis and Little Rock after a day of wrestling over the details of amendments to the measures.

Starwood

Connecticut’s Starwood Hotels and Resorts is one of the companies condemning efforts by state legislatures to pass discriminatory legislation. 

Despite criticism and protests, Arkansas legislators passed a religious freedom bill on Tuesday that is similar to the one passed by Indiana.

NBC News reports:

"Protesters gathered outside the governor's mansion in Little Rock on Tuesday morning. A final vote in the state House could come later in the day.

Update, 11:17 p.m. ET

The Indianapolis Star's editorial board is weighing in on the matter, rather loudly, in tomorrow's edition.

Update, 8:55 p.m. ET:

Two Democrat-dominated state governments, Connecticut and Washington state, joined the boycott against Indiana on Monday.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said two police officers were shot and seriously wounded shortly after midnight outside the Ferguson, Mo., police department. The shooting occurred as a protest outside the police station had begun to wind down.

A St. Louis County police officer and an officer from nearby Webster Groves, Mo., were shot, according to Belmar. He did not identify them by name.

A federal civil rights investigation of the Ferguson, Mo., police force has concluded that the department violated the Constitution with discriminatory policing practices against African Americans, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the report.

The investigation, the source says, concluded that blacks were disproportionately targeted by the police and the justice system, which has led to a lack of trust in police and courts and to few partnerships for public safety.

Duke University Archives

A professor is offering a course later this semester that explores the power of music on major civil rights movements around the world.

University of Hartford associate professor of ethnomusicology Anthony Rauche said much of the focus will be on the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, when a confluence of cultural movements came together to give the civil rights movement its collective voice.

Christian Haugen / Creative Commons

Between the late 18th and early 20th centuries, millions of young, Jewish men left their homelands in search of more promising futures. They threw sacks on their backs and traveled door to door, peddling their way across the New World. 

The Justice Department is poised to declare that former police officer Darren Wilson should not face civil rights charges over the death of Michael Brown, law enforcement sources tell NPR. Wilson, who is white, shot and killed Brown, who was black, in August. Brown was not armed.

"Two law enforcement sources tell NPR they see no way forward to file criminal civil rights charges" against Wilson, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports. She adds, "Those charges would require authorities to prove the officer used excessive force and violated Brown's constitutional rights."

Discrimination claims from people across Connecticut led the U.S. Attorney’s Office to announce that it would form a working group to investigate possible civil rights violations by public and private schools and childcare programs.

King's Last March

Jan 19, 2015

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, WNPR's Where We Live presents a documentary special from American RadioWorks, "King's Last March." It explores the final year of King's life.

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a landmark speech from the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York. He called for an end to the Vietnam War.

Exactly one year later, King was assassinated in Memphis. He was 39 years old. King’s speech in New York set the tone for the last year of his life. 

It's morning meeting time. "When Dr. King was little, he learned a golden rule," sings a class of 4- and 5-year-olds with their teacher, Carolyn Barnhardt.

John Eaton Elementary School, a public school in Washington, D.C., is unusual. It sits in one of the District's wealthiest neighborhoods, but the majority of students hail from different parts of the city, making it one of the most racially and economically diverse elementary schools in the nation's capital.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The success of a society depends - at least in part - on the civility of its members. Mutual respect, openness to different viewpoints...civil conversation is what we try to promote here on our show. 

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