Issue #15

State violence, Black economics, Meek Mill, Just Mercy

This is The Dossier.

Each Sunday we deliver the latest developments in world affairs, political economy, and culture straight to your inbox, served with a generous side of soul.

We spend the week scouring the internets for essential information and meaningful content to keep you informed, inspired and mildly entertained.

Breonna Taylor would have turned 27 years old on Friday June 5.

The final memorial services for George Floyd will begin in Houston on Monday. On Tuesday, he will be buried next to his mother.


📰 Week in brief

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Ferguson elects Ella Jones as first African American and first woman mayor

New York Times: Veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledges to dismantle the Police Department

NPR: Chauvin And 3 Former Officers Face New Charges Over George Floyd's Death

Vox: Protesters — and public officials — are tearing down Confederate monuments amid nationwide protests

CNN: Prosecutor wants grand jury to review case of Omaha bar owner who fatally shot black protester

ESPN: New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson granted stay on improper benefits inquiry

Bloomberg: Colin Powell Latest Notable Republican to Lean Away From Trump

POLITICO: The coronavirus pandemic has forced roughly 42.6 million workers onto jobless rolls in just 11 weeks

CNBC: Why The Stock Market Is Up With 42 Million Americans Out Of Work


🎶 Meek Mill: Artistry and Activism

Meek Mill is no stranger to the criminal justice system and has spoken openly about how laws and law enforcement unjustly target Black people. 

  • Meek Mill was raised in Philadelphia in what he said was a “ruthless environment,” a neighborhood where he was exposed to drugs and violence at a young age.

  • Meek Mill was first arrested as a juvenile for trespassing; he was attempting to attend school while suspended. 

  • In 2007 Meek was sent to jail for pulling a gun on several officers conducting a drug raid.  He was sentenced to a county jail sentence followed by 7 years of probation.  

  • While on probation he violated several times.  Meek was sentenced in November 2017 to 2-4 years in prison for a violation which involved two misdemeanor arrests (both were eventually dismissed).  He served five months and was granted bail after he won his appeal

  • Finally in August 2019, Meek Mill pled guilty to a misdemeanor firearm charge in Philadelphia and all remaining counts against him were dismissed by prosecutors ending a 12-year legal battle. 

Meek Mill has explained that his experiences being arrested and being put on probation are what have fueled his criminal justice reform advocacy efforts; this week Meek Mill released Otherside of America and it appears to be a timely and poignant soundtrack to his experiences as a formerly incarcerated Black man in America.  


🦠 ‘Rona still outchea

The United States has more than 1.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases, with a confirmed death toll surpassing 110,000.

As New York City begins reopening, some states are seeing a worrying spike in coronavirus cases. Florida has now reported over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for the fifth consecutive day.

According to Johns Hopkins University:

  • 47 states have racial data on coronavirus cases

  • 43 states have racial data on coronavirus deaths

  • 4 states have racial data on coronavirus testing 

In a phase 3 trial, Gilead’s remdesiver showed some benefits for covid-19 patients who received the drug for five days. It is unclear whether the drug benefits patients receiving a 10-day course of treatment. “For most clinicians when we see this, it’s heartening,” Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston Medical Center, told STAT news. “But at the same time it’s frustrating to get the data through a press release rather than to see the data.”


📉 Black economic indicators

Economists expected Friday’s unemployment report for the month of May to top 20%. Instead, May reportedly saw a decline in unemployment, from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May.

Still, May’s unemployment rate is 30% higher than peak unemployment during the Great Recession (10%).

However, while overall unemployment declined, Black workers saw a slight uptick in unemployment from April (16.4%) to May (16.6%). 

This was largely driven by a 25% increase in unemployment among Black youth (from 28% in April to 34.9% in May) and a slight increase in unemployment for Black women (from 16.4% in April to 16.5% in May).

Black men saw a decrease in unemployment from 16.1% in April to 15.5% in May.

Currently, the Black unemployment rate is just below its peak of 16.8% during the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has hit black businesses particularly hard. The Washington Post recently reported that the number of working black business owners has fallen by more than 40%—nearly double the national average.


🚨 License to kill

Police have arrested at least 10,000 people during nearly two weeks of protests after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd.

In characteristic fashion, police attempts to quell protests and civil unrest have placed on full display reckless police violence.

In Louisville, David McAtee, a black restaurant owner, was shot dead by Louisville police and the Kentucky National Guard. (You’ll remember Louisville police murdered Breonna Taylor on March 13 of this year.)

In Atlanta, officers needlessly tased two college students while dragging them out of their car. Video footage shows Atlanta police smashing the car’s windows and slashing the tires. Two officers were fired for use of excessive force and are currently facing criminal charges.

In Buffalo, officers pushed an elderly white man to the ground. Footage shows the man bleeding from the head as heavily armed officers step over him,

In Chicago, the Police Board President, who is black, was beaten by Chicago Police while taking a walk in his neighborhood.

This is a small sampling of the steady drumbeat of police murdering and injuring civilians during these weeks of protest. Vice reports that a lawyer and a mathematician have teamed together to catalogue videos of police violence in response to recent protests and uprisings.

To be clear, stories of widespread police violence have only increased in visibility over the last few weeks. Police have always had a license to kill, maim and otherwise brutalize innocent civilians.

We would like to call this behavior lawlessness. However, in America it is perfectly legal.


🏛 Posse Comitatus

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Section 1385 of Title 18, United States Code (USC)

If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.

I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital, Washington, DC. What happened in the city last night was a total disgrace. As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.

Donald Trump, Rose Garden (June 1, 2020)

There are exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act, notably the Insurrection Act of 1807 that gives the President the authority to use the military to suppress civil disorder, insurrection, or rebellion.

The last time the Insurrection Act was invoked was May 1, 1992 when President George H.W. Bush sent the Army and Marines to Los Angeles during the civil unrest that occurred after four LAPD officers were acquitted for beating Rodney King.

Posse Comitatus is intended to curtail the power of the president to do precisely what Donald Trump wants to do: use the military as a show of force and government power.

It is within the purview of governors to activate National Guard units to conduct operations within their respective states. Such operations can range from law enforcement, to disaster relief and, in recent weeks, COVID-19 testing.

Contrary to his Rose Garden speech, the president cannot send active duty military units into states and cities without a request from a governor.

Washington, D.C.’s unique status of not being a state gives the president more control over the District. The District of Columbia National Guard is singular in being the only National Guard unit that reports directly to the President of the United States. Thus, Trump was able to use the nation’s capital as an experimental example of his version of “one law and order” through a gratuitous show of force.


✊🏿 #BlackLivesMatter

Locked in an extended feud with the president over an appropriate response to protests in the nation’s capital, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser turned to art.

Bowser renamed two blocks of 16th Street Black Lives Matter plaza and deployed city workers and volunteers to paint an enormous street mural declaring “Black Lives Matter.”

Over the weekend, artist-activists modified the mural to say:

Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police

For the time being, it appears Mayor Bowser will let it stay.


🎥 Just Mercy

Just Mercy is a film adaptation of civil rights attorney Brian Stevenson’s New York Times best-selling memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

The film tells the story of Brian Stevenson’s fight to free wrongly convicted death row prisoner Walter McMillian. The movie stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as McMillian.

While reviews seem to indicate that Michael B. Jordan’s attempt to display artistic range were not entirely accomplished, the film does present good history.

Despite my complaints, I have some admiration for how much “Just Mercy” is willing to interrogate. It’s a lot, and I feel some commendation is in order for bringing these issues up at all. Adapting Stevenson’s memoir, Cretton and his co-writer Andrew Lanham touch upon activists for Death Row prisoners, the value of White lives vs. Black lives, veterans whose PTSD is left unchecked, corrupt law officials, justice system imbalances and, in a subplot anchored by Tim Blake Nelson, the idea that poor people are victimized by law enforcement regardless of what color the impoverished person is.

Odie Henderson, RogerEbert.com

The movie is available to rent for free in June on all digital platforms.


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