Leaders want John Wayne name, statue gone from Orange County airport

28 0 30 Jun 2020

The Democratic Party of Orange County, California, is pushing to remove John Wayne’s name and statue from the county’s airport because of racist and bigoted comments the film legend made.

The Democratic Party of Orange County passed a resolution last week condemning “white supremacist, anti-LGBT and anti-Indigenous views” Wayne made in a 1971 interview.

The resolution asks the county’s Board of Supervisors to restore the international airport’s original name: Orange County Airport.

“Orange County is now a diverse region far different from the time when John Wayne was chosen as namesake for the airport,” the resolution states. It cites a recent annual survey that says 79 percent of respondents see the county’s increasing ethnic diversity as “a source of great strength.”

“An international airport that welcomes millions of people each year should not be named for someone whose beliefs oppose our nation’s values of equal opportunity and justice for all,” said Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.

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The effort is part of “a national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names” that is “reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, nonprofits, sports leagues and teams, as it is widely recognized that racist symbols produce lasting physical and psychological stress and trauma particularly to Black communities, people of color and other oppressed groups, and the removal of racist symbols provides a necessary process for communities to remember historic acts of violence and recognize victims of oppression,” the resolution says.

Politics in the county, which for decades was a Republican stronghold, have shifted in the last year. Data from the Orange County Registrar of Voters shows that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, 607,024 to 567,665.

Wayne, a longtime resident of Orange County, died in 1979 at 72.

In April 2016, a resolution to honor Wayne in California was shot down in the state Assembly after critics expressed concern about bigoted statements he had made against Black people, Native Americans and members of the LGBTQ community. A Republican Assembly member had sought to declare May 26, 2016, as John Wayne Day to mark the day the actor was born.

In a 1971 interview, Wayne told Playboy magazine: “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

He also said that although he didn’t condone slavery, “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”

Wayne called movies such as “Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy” perverted and used a gay slur to refer to the two main characters of the latter film.

Asked whether he felt any empathy toward American Indians, Wayne said: “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival.”

He added, “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Trumps white power retweet set off five alarm fire in White House

25 0 30 Jun 2020

President Donald Trump set off a “five alarm fire” in the White House Sunday morning after he retweeted a video of one of his supporters saying “white power,” according to two White House officials.

The video remained on the president’s Twitter page, where he has 82 million followers, for more than three hours because White House officials couldn’t reach him to ask him to delete it, the two officials said. The president was at his golf club in Virginia and had put his phone down, the officials said.

Aides also tried unsuccessfully to reach Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino to ask him to delete the retweet, officials said.

Republican Sen. Tim Scott added to the urgency when he called the tweet “indefensible” and demanded the president take it down during an interview on CNN, the officials said.

Once officials were able to reach the president, he agreed to delete it, they said.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and senior adviser Jared Kushner were among those trying to contain the fallout from the president’s retweet. McEnany said Monday that Trump had watched the video before retweeting it, but didn’t hear his supporter say “white power.”

Officials said the president receives a deluge of content from aides and allies, with one of them saying the “white power” incident was a “lesson to all of us in the White House to be more aware of what’s out there.”

In April, the president retweeted a posting that contained the hashtag “#FireFauci.” When asked at the time if he had noticed the hashtag when he retweeted it, the president said “Yeah, I notice everything.”

The Supreme Court Louisiana abortion decision is not a good reason to rely on John Roberts

25 0 30 Jun 2020

Chief Justice John Roberts shocked Supreme Court watchers Monday by unexpectedly providing a fifth vote to strike down a Louisiana law that would have forced most of the state’s few remaining abortion clinics to close. Though his ruling came after he joined with the court’s four liberals against the Trump administration’s effort to repeal the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and after he and Justice Neil Gorsuch also joined with the liberals to hold that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids discriminating against LGBTQ people, the decision was surprising because Roberts had, just four years ago, sided with the court’s conservatives in favor of the same law in Texas.

That said, Roberts didn’t join with the decision but concurred in a separate opinion, and his concurrence clearly signals that he believes abortion regulations should be evaluated by a standard that is very deferential to state anti-abortion forces. It also signals that he is open to finding other state approaches to restricting abortion access constitutional — though he seems more reluctant than expected to overrule Roe v. Wade altogether. Supporters of reproductive rights should be relieved today, but should also know that their struggle is far from over.

Roberts’ concurrence with the liberal majority is interesting because Louisiana law was explicitly enacted after that state’s Legislature saw the Texas law — which required that doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic — succeed in shutting down a large number of abortion clinics in the Lone Star State. Louisiana’s law then, replicated Texas’ and, as happened in Texas before that case reached the Supreme Court, most of Louisiana’s abortion providers’ good faith efforts to obtain hospital admitting privileges were denied. That, of course, isn’t surprising, since the obvious intent of both statutes was to shut down clinics, not to ensure doctors had personal access to an area hospital.

After Louisiana passed its replica law, though, the Supreme Court struck down the Texas law on which it was based in the 2016 Whole Woman’s Health decision, because of the swing vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Opponents of reproductive rights in Louisiana (and elsewhere), however, took heart when Kennedy resigned in 2018 and was replaced by the more reactionary Brett Kavanaugh — which meant that the new “swing” vote in the court and on the case would be Roberts, who had sided with the state of Texas in the Whole Woman’s Health case.

But Roberts disappointed those conservatives Monday, filing a concurrence that did not join Justice Stephen Breyer’s plurality opinion but merely agreed that the Louisiana law was unconstitutional. Roberts somehow reiterated his view that Whole Woman’s Health was wrongly decided, stating that the court erred by considering both the burdens the law placed on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion (considerable) and the benefits the law provided for a woman’s health (none.) Roberts suggested he would instead prefer to consider only the former, which would give states more leeway to pass restrictions using bad faith “health” pretexts. But, he concluded, since the two laws were identical, he was obligated to apply the directly relevant precedent to the case at hand, as precedent should be rejected only under “special circumstances.”

This is, notably, not always precisely how precedent works at the Supreme Court.

Breyer’s opinion, of course, applied the precedent of Whole Woman’s Health without the reluctance, stating that the Louisiana law was unconstitutional. If allowed to remain in force, it would have left at most two (and possibly only one) remaining clinic for a state with more than 4.5 million residents. As Breyer points out, that lack of options would have been compounded by an array of other arbitrary restrictions the state imposes on the procedure, including that a woman obtain an ultrasound and wait 24 hours after a mandatory counseling session before going through with an abortion, which already makes it difficult for women with inflexible work and/or caregiving schedules and those lacking ample financial resources to obtain abortions, even before the added burden of traveling the long distances that would’ve been the end result of the law.

These burdens in Louisiana, as with those in Texas, were justified by claims that they were meant to protect women’s health — but those claims are easily exposed as a total sham. Fewer than one woman a year in the state was transferred to a hospital following an abortion because abortion is a very safe procedure that does not justify having unique and onerous burdens placed on it. (And, in the rare cases that a woman needs to be admitted to the hospital, she can be irrespective of whether her doctor had admitting privileges.) The difficulty abortion doctors had in obtaining such privileges, however, underlines that the intent — as well as the effect — of the law was to shut down abortion clinics and hence make abortion less safe, not to protect the health of Louisiana’s women.

All four of the dissenting men produced their own opinions, recycling arguments the court has heard before, including that doctors should not have the standing to challenge the law (a weak argument given that doctors are the ostensible target of the law) or that the law should be allowed to go into effect because, although the state had so far denied most abortion doctors in the state admitting privileges, it might not do so in the future. That they were farcical on their face might have something to do with the fact that none of their authors could convince Roberts to side with them on the law instead of with the liberals with whom he clearly disagrees on the politics.

In retrospect, going to the Supreme Court with a law identical to one that was recently struck down does seem like a major tactical blunder on the part of the abortion opponent litigators (albeit an understandable one, given Roberts’ vote in Whole Woman’s Health). But celebrations by supporters of abortion rights should be tentative, given Roberts’ general sympathy to state regulations of abortion — even though this is a major and unexpected victory for the reproductive freedom of American women.

Student debt crisis creates a vicious cycle of inequality in Black, Latino neighborhoods, report finds

22 0 30 Jun 2020

Students of color are more likely to take on student debt and disproportionately struggle to pay it back at higher rates than their white counterparts, perpetuating a “vicious cycle” of economic inequality along racial lines, research released Monday suggests.

The report by the Student Borrower Protection Center, a consumer advocacy group, analyzed previous borrower data prepared by regional Federal Reserve banks and the city governments of New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and San Francisco and found a commonality that students in majority Black and Latino neighborhoods are more reliant on student loans and shoulder a greater debt burden.

For instance, in Washington, 6 of the 8 neighborhoods in which student debt is growing the fastest are majority nonwhite, including Anacostia, Deanwood and Congress Heights. Average student debt balances increased by as much as 217 percent in several majority-Black neighborhoods, compared to a 30 percent decrease in some of the whitest neighborhoods.

A similar trend played out in New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia, according to the analysis. In New York, six neighborhoods in the highest tier of student loan delinquency are majority nonwhite and mostly concentrated in the Bronx, which also has the highest 90-day delinquency rate of any area in the city despite the fact that borrowers have smaller median loan balances.

A student loan is considered delinquent when a payment is not made by the due date, and the borrower can be considered in default if a payment isnt made for an extended period, typically 120 days for a private loan and 270 days for a federal loan.

In Philadelphia, the rate of student loan default is more than twice as high in majority nonwhite neighborhoods as it is in majority-white neighborhoods. And in San Francisco, the rate of student loan delinquency is more than 7 1/2 times higher in neighborhoods with the biggest nonwhite populations.

“America’s student debt crisis is a civil rights crisis,” the report argues.

The struggle for many Black and Latino borrowers to pay down their debts can be traced back generations.

“Racial disparities throughout the student loan lifecycle begin long before a promissory note is signed or even before the financial award letter arrives,” according to the analysis. “From the start of borrowers’ lives, these disparities are spurred by the racial wealth gap.”

Economic scholars over the years have examined such a gap, concluding that discriminatory and racist policies from slavery through the Jim Crow era and more recent decades have prevented Black families from building generational wealth and is exacerbated by wage disparities in employment and the lack of educational opportunities, including in higher education, which has historically been a path to lifting up a household’s income.

The redlining of neighborhoods — in which federal agencies in the 1930s allowed for unjust lending practices that disenfranchised Black home buyers — gave way to the segregation that exists today, which the analysis says only mirrors the worst effects of the student debt lending crisis.

“Borrowers in different areas of the same city may live only blocks apart, but they may face wholly inequitable outcomes of their loans,” the report says.

The typical white family’s net worth is $171,000, nearly 10 times greater than that of a typical Black family and eight times a typical Latino family, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve study.

In turn, it’s unsurprising that a Black or Latino student would have higher student loans and not have the means to pay off their debt, said Calvin Schermerhorn, a history professor at Arizona State University and author of “Unrequited Toil: A History of United States Slavery.”

Schermerhorn said the years of studies on racial debt disparities make it clear that the nation must “ease or erase Black and Latinx student debt” and invest in students so they can leave college debt free and have an easier path toward financial mobility.

“If you’re looking to rectify historical racial injustices, you have to think in those terms,” he added. “There should be a way to forgive the debt of those people who have been subject to structural racism and marginalized and disadvantaged.”

Ninety percent of Black students and 72 percent of Latino students take out loans compared to 66 percent of white students, according to the report. But on average, 20 years after starting college, the median Black borrower still owes 95 percent of the initial student loan balance, while the median white borrower has paid down almost 95 percent of the balance.

The median Latino borrower, meanwhile, still owes more than 80 percent of the student loan balance 12 years after graduating, compared to the median white borrower who owes 65 percent at that same time, according to the report.

America’s shared student debt burden, which affects some 45 million borrowers owing an estimated $1.7 trillion, is just one piece of the “severe economic hardship” that has “unevenly” hit communities of color, Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, said.

“This cost is uniquely borne by borrowers of color, particularly Black and Latinx borrowers — all incurred simply because they chose to pursue the American dream,” according to the study.

Russia intel mystery: How strong is the case that Russia bribed the Taliban to kill Americans?

23 0 29 Jun 2020

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s handling of Russia-related matters came under renewed scrutiny Monday as officials acknowledged that U.S. spies obtained intelligence about a Russian bounty program in Afghanistan — but said the president wasn’t told about it.

One official familiar with the intelligence told NBC News it shows that American service members and Afghan civilians died as a result of Russian payments to the Taliban, but other officials said the intelligence has not been corroborated.

The official did not offer details, and the CIA and other agencies declined to comment. The president and his own spokeswoman offered contradictory descriptions. President Donald Trump said in a tweet late Sunday that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me” or Vice President Mike Pence.

At a White House briefing Monday, spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said “there was not a consensus” among the intelligence community about the information, which was first reported Friday by The New York Times. She added that there “are dissenting opinions,” and the intelligence “was not verified.” The deaths resulting from the Russian payments was first reported Sunday by The Washington Post.

Presidents are frequently briefed on intelligence that isn’t fully verified, current and former officials said. In the spy world, saying intelligence is unverified doesn’t automatically bear on whether it is credible.

Members of Congress from both parties have demanded that the Trump administration respond, and have questioned why the president wouldn’t have been in the loop. The Director of National Intelligence is expected to announce an interagency review of the matter, a senior official told NBC News.

McEnany’s comments are consistent with what multiple officials told NBC News: That there is intelligence about Russians offering a bounty to kill Americans, but that officials disagree about the implications and significance of the plot.

Two senior administration officials told NBC News the U.S. received “raw intelligence based on limited sourcing” suggesting Russia was offering cash for deaths of American troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The officials said the intelligence was not corroborated broadly within the intelligence community, and there was disagreement about it.

A UH-60 Blackhawk lands to pick up the Commandant of the Marine Corps at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan, June 20, 2017.Sgt. Justin Updegraff / U.S. Marine Corps file

Some officials thought the intelligence was valid, while others disagreed, the officials said.

The issue came up at a meeting of low-level staffers at the National Security Council in March, the two officials said. That meeting was about Russia’s malign activity broadly, and this intelligence was part of the discussion.

The NSC officials examined options for responding if the intelligence was verified.

Trump learned about the matter only after it became public in news reports, the officials said.

The Taliban denies that there was a bounty program, and President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov pushed back in an exclusive interview with NBC News, calling reports of such a program “ridiculous.”

“It’s a little bit rude, but this is 100 percent bulls—,” said Peskov. “It’s as simple as that.”

U.S. defense and intelligence officials say Russia has been supporting the Taliban for years, and the Russian military intelligence unit in question — Unit 29155 — is believed to have been involved in assassinations around the world, including the 2018 poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in England.

It’s therefore not surprising, these officials say, that this Russian group would be plotting violence against the U.S.

That world-weary view does not explain, however, why the president wouldn’t be briefed about intelligence of a lethal program run by one of America’s top adversaries.

“This information was circulating among his most senior advisers, and they had an obligation to bring that to him so that he could have a part in the discussion,” said Nick Rasmussen, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and an NBC News contributor.

Rasmussen said Trump’s dismissal of the matter was disturbing.

“I’m not sure either of (the president’s) answers — nobody told me or I wasn’t aware — should give the American people much comfort.”

Keir Simmons contributed.

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The New York Times pulls out of Apples news app

29 0 29 Jun 2020

The New York Times said Monday that it was ending its partnership with Apple News, depriving the iPhone giant of the ability to post its articles in its curated news app.

The move comes as the Times is investing in its subscription business and weaning itself off of advertising revenue, the majority of which now goes either to or through tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

Apple had touted its news app as a way to bolster the struggling news industry, but the Times said the relationship failed to satisfy its needs, including its desire to have direct access to its readers and their data. (NBC News publishes multiple articles a day on Apple News.)

“Core to a healthy model between The Times and the platforms is a direct path for sending those readers back into our environments, where we control the presentation of our report, the relationships with our readers and the nature of our business rules,” Meredith Kopit Levien, the Times’ chief operating officer, wrote in a memo to employees.

“Our relationship with Apple News does not fit within these parameters.”

In a statement, Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr sought to downplay the Times’ contribution to the Apple News product, saying it had “only offered Apple News a few stories per day.”

“We are committed to providing the more than 125 million people who use Apple News with the most trusted information and will continue to do so through our collaboration with thousands of publishers, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and we will continue to add great new outlets for readers,” he said.

“We are also committed to supporting quality journalism through the proven business models of advertising, subscriptions, and commerce.”

The Times is the first major news media company to sever ties with Apple, but it is unclear if other publications that have increasingly come to rely on subscriptions and direct-to-consumer relationships will follow suit.

An enduring coronavirus mystery: Why do only some get sick?

40 0 29 Jun 2020

Months into a pandemic that has caused more than 500,000 deaths worldwide, scientists are still trying to answer crucial questions about the coronavirus.

Chief among them: Everything about asymptomatic patients.

People who contracted COVID-19 but did not get sick and had no symptoms have been one of the most confounding factors of the ongoing public health emergency. The United States currently has more than 2.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases, but it’s likely that many asymptomatic people have fallen through the cracks of official counts.

Now, scientists say that without a better understanding of how many people have been asymptomatically infected, it’s difficult to know precisely how these individuals contribute to the spread of the virus and whether asymptomatic patients have developed antibodies or other protections that would confer some type of immunity against reinfection.

Dr. Jorge Mercado, a pulmonologist and critical care doctor at New York University’s Langone Hospital Brooklyn, said most of these questions stem from the fact that scientists still aren’t sure why some people who have been exposed to the virus get very sick, while others develop no symptoms.

“We really don’t know much about this disease,” he said. “We know a little more than we did three months ago, but there are still a lot of things we don’t have answers to.”

Public health officials are still struggling to get a handle on the true number of people who have been infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — including those that are asymptomatic — may be 10 times higher than what has been reported, meaning the true case count could be closer to 23 million.

“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said Thursday.

Early on, many asymptomatic cases went unnoticed because states were dealing with dire shortages of test kits and supplies that limited testing capacity to only the sickest patients. As such, many asymptomatic people likely had no idea they were ever positive, said Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta.

“We tend to pick up asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people when we do contact tracing, so when we get someone who is positive and we start testing people they’ve been in contact with,” she said. “I think it’ll be a long time before we know for sure what the true percentage is.”

Sexton added that the virus’ long incubation period has also led to some confusion over how “asymptomatic” is defined. According to the CDC, it could take up to 14 days after exposure for someone to show any symptoms.

“There are people who are positive but truly have no symptoms, and there are people who go on to develop very mild or atypical symptoms, and then there are people who think they are asymptomatic until you query them about some of the more unusual manifestations of COVID-19,” she said. “But sometimes, these all get lumped together as ‘asymptomatic.’”

It’s thought that people in all three of those categories — including those who are presymptomatic — can transmit the virus, though there was again some confusion on the nature of asymptomatic spread. In early June, the World Health Organization was forced to clarify that the coronavirus can be spread by people with no symptoms after one of the agency’s top infectious disease epidemiologists, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, stated that she thought asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 was “very rare.”

Van Kerkhove’s assessment was roundly criticized by scientists around the world. A day later, she explained that her response was based on several studies that had not undergone peer review and made clear that the WHO’s guidance still stands.

Yet, even if scientists are sure that asymptomatic people can be so-called silent spreaders — transmitting COVID-19 even if they show no symptoms — it’s not known to what degree these individuals are contributing to the outbreaks.

“It’s been very hard thus far to nail down how much of transmission is due to asymptomatic people and how much is due to people who get quite sick,” Sexton said.

Another big unknown is how asymptomatic people’s immune systems respond to the coronavirus, and whether they will develop antibodies or other protections against the virus.

A study published June 18 in the journal Nature Medicine was the first to examine the immune responses in asymptomatic coronavirus patients. The researchers followed 37 asymptomatic individuals in China’s Wanzhou district and compared them to 37 people who had symptoms.

Though it was a small study, the scientists found that the asymptomatic patients did develop antibodies, which are protective proteins that are produced by the immune system in response to an infection. But the researchers discovered that antibody levels among these individuals diminished within two to three months.

It’s not yet known if COVID-19 antibodies confer any kind of immunity, but if they do, the recent results suggest that those protections may not last long — particularly among those who are asymptomatic.

Mercado said it’s possible that even low antibody levels could afford some protection, though more studies are needed to know for sure.

“There’s a glimmer of hope that an antibody response can at least decrease the chances that you’ll progress to a severe disease,” he said.

Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said it’s not altogether surprising that asymptomatic patients would have a more modest immune response. But, he noted one intriguing finding from the Nature Medicine study that further muddies the definition of “asymptomatic” coronavirus patients.

In CT scans of all the study participants, the researchers found signs of lung inflammation, known as pulmonary infiltrates, even in people who showed no symptoms. Signatures of inflammation were observed in 57 percent of the asymptomatic group, a “surprising” find because it’s not common to conduct CT scans on people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory infection, according to Kuritzkes.

“It makes you wonder if they really were asymptomatic, because clearly they had some pneumonia,” he said. “It just goes to show that the absence of symptoms is not the absence of infection.”

Sexton said the recent study, though small, reveals some insights into the immune responses of asymptomatic patients, but the results also show how much remains unknown about this population.

“Until we know how much transmission asymptomatic people are responsible for, it makes an incredible amount of sense to keep stressing that everyone should wear a mask,” she said. “If you happen to be in that category and you’re wearing a mask, that’s going to keep you from infecting people and putting those viral particles out in the environment. And everyone else wearing a mask is doing the same for you.”

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NYCs Queer Liberation March draws thousands, clashes with NYPD

26 0 29 Jun 2020

When the marchers arrived at their final destination — a rally in Washington Square Park — they allegedly faced police brutality, according to witnesses and march organizers. Videos posted to social media and aired on local TV stations also appear to show police shoving and swinging batons at protesters with at least one officer using pepper spray.

NBC New York reported that after the “massive march,” the event took “a violent turn” after demonstrators began “shoving matches with police.” A cameraman for the station caught on tape a police officer shoving a demonstrator roughly off a bicycle with a baton and reporter Chris Glorioso asked the police present for comment on the shoving, reporting “still no context on that.”

According to NBC New York, the New York City Police Department confirmed three people were arrested for allegedly assaulting officers, adding that the use of pepper spray and force on protesters transpired after cops tried to arrest one of them for allegedly vandalizing a police vehicle.

The Reclaim Pride Coalition released a statement following the march alleging that as protesters passed by the Stonewall Inn — the site of the iconic 1969 Stonewall uprising, where patrons of the gay bar fought back against the NYPD amid yet another raid — and were entering Washington Square Park, “an NYPD officer stepped forward to arrest a marcher (reason unknown and the NYPD won’t say), and a crowd gathered to object, chanting ‘Let him go.’”

“Suddenly, a large crowd of NYPD officers rushed in and attacked with pepper spray. All that did was increase the crowd yelling at them to ‘go home,’ while marchers nursed their pepper spray wounds,” the statement read. “One NYPD member reached out to slam a woman on a bicycle to the ground. Other marchers were punched and violently shoved.”

Jake Tolan, one of the Queer Liberation March’s organizers, said the turn of events did not surprise him and said the NYPD “should be abolished.”

“I wish that I could say what I saw today was shocking, but how could I reasonably expect anything else from the NYPD?” Tolan said, according to the Reclaim Pride Coalition statement. “51 years after the Stonewall Rebellion, the NYPD is still responding to peaceful, powerful, righteous queer joy with pepper spray, batons, and handcuffs.”

Marti Gould Cummings, an LGBTQ activist and candidate for New York City Council, said they were present when the police pepper sprayed the crowd. As Cummings, who uses they/them pronouns, and their husband were leaving the rally on the north side of Washington Square Park, “everyone started putting their hands up and saying, ‘Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,’ and everyone took a knee, and we saw cops moving in, which was weird, because it was a calm, beautiful, peaceful day,” they said.

“The next thing we know, they were pushing people, some folks got pepper sprayed right in front of us,” Cummings said. “It was crazy! On the anniversary of Stonewall? Like, really?”

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