turned out for a rally in Times Square, New York City, on Thursday, April 4 to
demand the release of the full Mueller Report into Russian interference in the
2016 election and whether the Trump campaign directly or indirectly engaged. It
was one of hundreds of protests around the country in a “Nobody is Above the
Law Day of Action” to call for full transparency mobilized by the grassroots
activist organization, Indivisible, along with coalition partners including
MoveOn, Public Citizen, People For the American Way, and others.
“1 week later [after Mueller released his report] and we still don’t have the full Mueller report.But, here’s what we know: Mueller’s investigation has led to 34 indictments, 7 guilty pleas, and a conclusion that the President of the United States cannot be exonerated — and Attorney General Barr’s sanitized summary is not enough to close this case.”
Since then, the New York Times has reported that some Mueller investigators “have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.” (“Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed”)
“If the report weren’t damaging for Trump, his lapdogs in Congress wouldn’t be working so hard to suppress,” said the speaker from Stand Up America, a progressive grassroots organization that formed just weeks after the November 2016 election. Citing the numerous instances of collusion between Trump campaign and Russian operatives that were already known: secret real estate deal with the Kremlin during the campaign; seven officials meeting with Russian agents; passing secret internal strategy to Russian agents, he declared, “If this is not collusion, collusion has no meaning.”
Mueller investigators were also looking into obstruction of justice “and boy did he find it: firing FBI Director Comey to stop the Russia investigation.
“Collusion and obstruction is
included in the full Mueller report. Even Attorney General Barr said so.
“But instead of answers, gave Trump
ammunition to say ‘no collusion, full exoneration’ but we have learned we have
been taken for a ride. The report doesn’t let Trump off the hook.
“The Attorney General is nothing
but a lying White House waterboy.”
The Senate Republicans have blocked
the release of the Mueller Report – despite the House Judiciary committee’s
subpoena – for the fifth time.
“If it weren’t incriminating, Trump
would tweet it out, line by line.”
Here are highlights from the#ReleasetheReport
rally and march:
55 Long Islanders assembled in front of the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola
on Presidents Day to protest the anti-President, the illegitimate occupier of
the White House who has yet again fouled the office and undermined the
Constitution and the Rule of Law in his personal quest to see just how much
authoritarian rule he can muster to overcome his incompetence. We were just one
of more than 250 protests in 47 states that were held.
as Trump abused the claim of “national security” in order to usurp power to
implement an otherwise unconstitutional Travel Ban and overturned ratified
trade agreements (Canada, really!) and treaties (the Reagan-era
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia), Trump now perverts
“national emergency” in order to preempt Congress’ Article 1 power of the purse
in pursuit of building his political and personal monument, the southern border
wall. And to do it, he would rob other projects, deemed worthy of appropriation
by Congress: $2.5 billion in military narcotics funding and $3.6 billion in
military construction necessary to cure the decrepit housing.
very definition of “emergency” – and the clear intent when Congress passed it –
was to enable a President to react to immediate crises – a foreign attack, a
natural disaster – when Congress could not have time to.
after two years of Republican control of all branches – executive, legislative
and judicial – and not getting the appropriation to build the wall that even
Republicans recognized as wasteful and ineffective (when Trump nixed the
Democrats’ offer of $25 billion in exchange for DACA), and then a 35-day
government shutdown followed by weeks of deliberation in which the Congress
deemed $1.4 billion sufficient for “border fencing,” now he insists there is a
is more accurate is that there is a humanitarian crisis solely of Trump and his
thugs’ making, for which in a just world, he and Homeland Security Secretary
Kirstjen Nielsen, HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II, and anyone else involved in
conceiving and implementing the torturous “family separations” and “zero
tolerance” policies would be tried, convicted and jailed for crimes against
in pursuit of these human rights violations, Trump is also violating
international and US law. Those Trumpers who insist “why don’t they come in
legally as my grandfather did?” should recognize that Trump has shut down what
legal immigration system there was – in fact, it hasn’t functioned since
Reagan, which is why there are an estimated 11 million undocumented people.
of actually dealing with the immigration crisis – starting with reuniting
parents with their children, implementing a program to properly vet and
legalize the status of Dreamers and parents of American citizen children, the
tens of thousands who have been in the US legally for decades under the
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs, and those who have a legal claim to
asylum – Trump has actually closed access through legal ports of entry, while
declaring anyone who enters and then surrenders to border patrol, as having
committed a crime, and therefore ineligible for asylum. That violates US and
absurdity of Trump’s unlawful assertion of “national emergency” to build a wall
is the fact that he would only have one year before it expired – and the $8
billion he is expropriating would hardly be sufficient. Moreover, a wall takes
tremendous amount of time to build, even if it would actually keep out drugs
and gangs (which it won’t). Hardly a way to address an actual “emergency.”
Of course, Trump admitted as much when he betrayed his utter ineptitude when he declared the emergency when simultaneously declaring, “Of course I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.” The money, he said, could be reallocated from the many “unimportant” projects – like disaster aid to Puerto Rico and California, or cutting funding for 9/11 victims.
He then boasted about having so much money – even in the defense
you have that kind of money going into the military, this is a very, very small
amount that we’re asking for,” Trump said.
Here’s the question: if the Defense budget is so bloated (at
$719 billion), doesn’t that mean that Congress should allocate funding
elsewhere, like health care, infrastructure, child care, R&D? (Yes.)
addition to the Democratic-controlled House advancing a resolution rescinding
the declaration, and organizations like the ACLU bring suit, 16 states
(including New York), led by California, are now suing Trump. “We’re going
to try to halt the President from violating the Constitution, the separation of
powers, from stealing money from Americans and states that has been allocated
by Congress, lawfully,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra stated.
there was a cheering thought that Trump’s precedent would enable a Democratic
President (in just 2 years!) to finally address real emergencies, circumventing
the obstruction of the likes of Mitch McConnell – health care, climate change,
gun violence, humanitarian crisis posed by Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy
– that destroy tens of thousands of lives needlessly, tragically each year.
But then I realized that just as Trump’s sing-song description of how he expects to lose in the 9th circuit but expects to win at the Supreme Court, which going back to Bush has been stacked with “justices” who believe in a Unitary Executive (when a Republican is in office), that this same Supreme Court right-wing, Federalist Society majority, that would empower Trump’s “presidential discretion” today would beat back a national emergency claim by a Democratic president for these purposes, just as they contradicted the Constitution and precedent in Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, Heller, Bush v Gore.
is that we limit the president’s power to act when it really is necessary, when
it is not practical to bring the Congress into session on a moment’s notice,”
said Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence committee. “But
this president doesn’t care about future presidents. He only cares about
himself. And in this case, he only cares about placating his conservative
Tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the third annual Women’s March organized by the Women’s March Alliance, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice. (See also With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19)
The marchers got particularly animated outside of
Trump Tower Hotel on Central Park West, chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,”
extending a finger, and waving placards calling for “Indict, Impeach, Imprison.”
The protesters use their bodies as message boards. Here are highlights:
Thousands gathered at Times Square in Manhattan precisely at 5 pm on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, a day after Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and only two days after the Blue Wave swept over the House and into state houses across the country, and appointing Matthew Whitaker the Acting Attorney General, a sycophant who has been outspoken against the Muller “lynch mob” and the liberal “Russian hoax.”
Within minutes, the numbers gathered at Duffy Square in Times Square in Manhattan grew to the thousands; soon people were packed together, waving hand-drawn signs and chanting “Trump is not Above the Law,” and “Protect Mueller.” After about an hour, they marched down Broadway about two miles to Union Square through streets and crossroads that clogged with rush hour traffic, past stores and offices still busy with people – a contrast to typical protests which go through vacant caverns on a weekend morning. They were greeted with supporters all along the route.
New York City was one of about 1000 such rallies across the nation, a response to Donald Trump’s latest in-your-face lawless outrage: firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions in order to replace him with a sycophant, Matthew Whitaker, whose only “qualification” to be the Acting Attorney General is that he, like now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, expressed willingness to shield Trump, his family and associates from investigation.
The NYC Planning Team later reported that best estimates put the numbers at 6,000, part of a nationwide turnout of over 100,000 people who came out with less than 24 hours notice.
Whitaker had been auditioning for the job in appearances on TV – the recruitment ground for any number of Trump appointees, including his Director of Communications, the ex-Fox News executive Bill Shine – expressing disdain for Mueller’s team as a “lynch mob”, and declaring in interviews in 2017 that the Russia investigation was a liberal hoax, and while there may have been interference by Russia into the election, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign. No one bothered to ask how Whitaker, who said he wanted to come to Trump’s attention in order to get a job with the Administration in Washington, would have any direct knowledge of the “evidence” to support his claims.
Whitaker was critical of the investigation in an August 2017 CNN op-ed, saying that Mueller investigating Trump’s finances would be crossing a red line, even though the question of whether the Trump empire is built on money laundering for Russian oligarchs loyal to Vladimir Putin is key to whether there was in fact a conspiracy, or collusion, between Russia and the Trump campaign, and whether Trump’s foreign policy decisions are impacted by whether other governments have sway over him (a partial list: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Russia, China, India, Turkey, Panama. Yet Whitaker is now the highest law-enforcement officer in the country.
Whitaker also defended Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian officials promising opposition research against Hillary Clinton, stating, “You would always take that meeting,” demonstrating not only his bias (and conflict of interest) but his ignorance of law (it’s illegal to take anything of value from a foreign power; the “dirt” on Hillary Clinton was illegally obtained, which would render the Trump campaign a co-conspirator). But defending illegality is not new: he served on a board of a company that, like Trump University, existed to bilk its customers, and which used Whitaker’s position as a federal prosecutor to bully those who would have sued. And yet, he is now the highest law-enforcement officer in the country. (But dishonesty, along with blind loyalty to Dear Leader, seem to be the prerequisites for a Trump appointment.)
Whitaker, as a 2014 candidate for US Senate from Iowa, had promised he would vote for federal judicial nominees who have “a Biblical view of justice.” He also expressed disdain for the notion of the Judiciary as a co-equal branch of government, and blasted the original decision, Marbury v Madison from 1803 which established the Supreme Court as the arbiter of constitutionality. (I’ll bet he thinks differently now that Trump has put two Federalist Society judges on the court for a long-term conservative majority.)
Trump had to jump over the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of the Mueller investigation, in order to pluck Whitaker, who was a chief-of-staff to Sessions for a matter of months. Despite basically carrying out Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant, anti-civil rights agenda, Sessions was pilloried by Trump for having recused himself from the Russia probe, since Sessions was part of the Trump campaign and lied to Congress during his confirmation hearing about having had contact with Russians. The likelihood is that Trump deliberately planted Whitaker in the post precisely for this maneuver.
On the other hand, many legal scholars have said Whitaker is not legally allowed to be the Acting chief-law-enforcement officer for the nation since he has never gone through a confirmation process. Again, Trump is likely thinking he can get anyone through the Republican-controlled Senate.
Some 19 different organizations, including Moveon.org, Need to Impeach and Democracy for America,, sent out the “Emergency. Break the Glass” notice, triggered when Trump moved to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, to rally people in New York City and around the country.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 12) was among those who addressed the protesters in Union Square. Also, among the organizers, a Brooklyn College student, a mother from Connecticut with an autistic child; and Therese Okoumou, who scaled the Statue of Liberty last July 4 to protest Trump’s family separation policy.
Here are more photo highlights from the New York City rally and march to protect Mueller:
The Women’s March the day after Trump’s Inauguration in January 2017, in Washington and across America, was the largest day of protest in American history; subsequent protests throughout his tenure – for climate action, gun reform, immigrants – have also been massive.
The Women’s Movement has been rekindled with the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Trump has signaled he has had enough of protest. He prefers what Putin and Kim Jong-un have: a way of suppressing all opposition, be it a free press or protest.
It filters down from Trump (or from Fox to Trump) to the Republican talking heads eerily mimicking the same phrases and charge: the protesters were paid by George Soros (versus the astroturf Tea Partyers literally paid by Koch Brothers). We can’t have “mob rule.” We must uphold the “Rule of Law” – a laughably ironic statement coming from this mobster-in-chief, whose kinship with Kavanaugh – credibly accused of sexual assault, and now vulnerable, as Trump is, to blackmail – is cemented by Kavanaugh’s promise to shield Trump from investigation or indictment, and his pronounced threat against the “conspiracy” of liberals, Democrats and Clinton supporters. “What goes around, comes around,” the pretender “umpire calling strikes and balls,” menaced.
It is yet another example of Trump (and Republicans) accusing opponents of the criminality they themselves commit – “Rigged election.” “Politicized FBI.” “Pay to Play” (Lock her up!). Voter Fraud (a red-herring to justify Voter Suppression). And the most laughable: accusing Democrats of “unprecedented” obstruction, as if being a Democrat means you are a persona non grata in Trump’s America.
Trump has used this technique to intimidate Democrats from questioning the 2016 Election, accused Democrats of obstructing his agenda and appointments (while also boasting he has gotten a record number of judges appointed), and basically ignoring the majority of Americans in this supposed democracy on everything from gun reform to environmental protection to health care.
He has used his words to raise suspicion and discredit the Mueller investigation, about the FBI and CIA intelligence, about the New York Times and Washington Post’s investigations into campaign finance activity and now the tax evasion (and fraud) that enabled him and his family to cheat the American people out of $500 million. Now he expects this technique to either shut down protest or discredit whatever investigations and reports emerge.
Trump has been playing the “victim” card that he attacks women for: Oh pity the poor, aggrieved white men who need to fear being held to account for wrong-doing. Can’t have that.
He has attacked Senate Democrats who were doing their due diligence in investigating Kavanaugh’s fitness (unfitness) for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court attacking them as “evil,” and accusing them of “con” (that’s really rich).
“Honestly, it’s a very dangerous period in our country,” Trump said at the New York City press conference, just ahead of the Kavanaugh vote. “And it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people. Some of them are Democrats, I must say. Because some of them know that this is just a game that they’re playing. It’s a con game. It’s at the highest level. We’re talking about the United States Supreme Court.”
He is desperate to use Kavanaugh to turn out his voters because he fears a Blue Wave will result in investigations, actual oversight and maybe even impeachment if Democrats get a majority in Congress. So he manufactures a message of aggrievement, of discrediting victims of sexual violence, which is a form of subjugation
More menacingly, he is signaling that he will summon the forces of the state to suppress opposition.
I watched as dozens of protesters on the Capitol steps arrested (300 on Thursday, 124 on Saturday) while Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed with the smallest number of votes ever, a mere 50. Nearly 300 had been arrested on Thursday, after the sham FBI report was “released” using a level of secrecy that Trump did not see fit to use to protect the Russian investigation’s sources, methods and lives. You would think the arrests contradicted the Constitution’s protection of the right to assemble and petition our government.
How does exercising the Constitutional right to assemble and petition our government warrant arrest? But in Trump’s America, can’t have that.
Kavanaugh becomes one of four sitting Supreme Court Justices named by presidents (George W. Bush and Trump) who lost the popular vote; meanwhile, those 50 Senators who confirmed Kavanaugh represent about 40% of Americans but now, those Justices have the majority to control the lives of millions of people for generations to come.
So a minority is exerting its tyranny over the majority – taking over each and every one of its institutions, the White House, the Congress and now the Supreme Court (and all the other lesser courts).
So people are taking to the streets. And Trump can’t have that.
This faux “Law and Order” Putin-wannabe is signaling with his use of terms like “mob rule” and screams that protest somehow violates the “Rule of Law” (as opposed to his own evasion of accountability for sexual assault, tax evasion, campaign finance violations, conspiracy with a foreign adversary to steal the election) that he will call out enforcement to shut down protest. In his mind, even not applauding his State of the Union is tantamount to treason.
He will use all the tools and powers at his command, including whatever is possible to suppress the vote, under the guise of preventing voter fraud, or just impeding access to the polls.
Techniques the Republicans have used effectively include locating polling places so they are less accessible to certain voters, purging voter lists, challenging voter IDs if the name isn’t exact (an excellent technique to prevent women from voting); limiting hours, having employers refuse to give time off (or pay) to go vote, having too few voting machines, forcing people to stand on line for hours, then shutting the doors when time’s up, and even having thugs stand outside. Wouldn’t put it past them to set up road blocks.
This actually has happened where those entrusted with enforcing the law does the bidding of those wielding political power.
At the New-York Historical Society, there is a chilling exhibit, “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow,” a punch-to-the-gut examination of how the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil War, and most significantly, Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, led to an institutionalized system of terror and subjugation of African Americans. This included the complicity of the Supreme Court which issued decisions dating back to Dred Scott, that perpetuated subjugation.
The 1857 Dred Scott case ruled that though Scott was in territory that did not have slavery, Scott had no right to sue because he was not a US citizen, and no black person, free or slave, could be a US citizen. (This was overturned with the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause that covered any person in the US, which is why undocumented immigrants also have rights under the Constitution). :“All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States…No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”)
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court for a century was complicit in systemic subjugation of blacks, minorities, immigrants and women.
Despite the 15th Amendment guarantee of voting rights (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude”) states which had allowed non-propertied white men to vote in 1828 (where is the Constitutional amendment for that?), now passed laws restricting voting only to white men, which the Supreme Court did not overturn.
After Congress, in 1875, passed a civil rights act banning discrimination in public places, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1883.
In 1882, the federal government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, restricting Chinese immigration and prohibiting the courts from naturalizing Chinese as citizens. (No doubt, Kavanaugh will raise this as “precedent” for backing a Muslim Travel Ban.)
In 1884, The Supreme Court ruled that the 14th and 15th amendments do not grant citizenship to Native Americans. (Today, new Voter ID laws could limit access to polls by Native Americans in North Dakota and Trump’s Justice Department is no longer prosecuting voting rights abuses.)
In 1890, as Mississippi and other southern states formalized disenfranchisement of African Americans, the Supreme Court upheld them because voting restrictions did not specifically mention “race.”
In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v Ferguson that it’s A-OK for segregated facilities to be “separate, but equal.”
Meanwhile, the Ku Klux Klan was rising, terrorizing Blacks, especially those who sought to run for political office. Blacks were lynched for nothing more than being accused of looking at a white woman (making Trump’s faux victimization of white men credibly accused of sexual assault even more absurd). More than 4,000 African Americans were publically lynched from 1877 to the 1950s, in a great many cases, aided and abetted by local police.
Interestingly, anti-lynching efforts were led by women’s organizations, and an anti-lynching bill was put forward in 1937, though none got passed the filibusters of the southern Dixiecrats.
Just as today, the Ku Klux Klan and White Supremacists used the guise of righteous “glory be to God” to subjugate, terrorize and retain power.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went nuclear in overturning the filibuster, even as the United States’ gap in populations of large and small states mushroomed from the time of the Founders’ compromise that gave each state, large and small, two senators each. Wyoming with a population of 579,000 has equal voting power to California with 40 million. A similar imbalance in the Electoral College shows the fraud of “one-person, one vote” (a Wyoming voter has 4 times the weight of a Californian), and the lie to the Republicans’ false flag of “voter fraud” to justify its voter suppression. The majority no longer rules, not in the White House, not in the House, where gerrymandering entrenches the minority Republican party, not in the Senate and not in the Supreme Court.
As for that ridiculous assertion by Senator Susan Collins of Maine that a PAC accumulating money to use against her reelection in 2020 was akin to bribery? What a joke, since the pro-Kavanaugh right-wing groups, led by the Judicial Crisis Center, spent $7 million on its campaign to get Kavanaugh confirmed. The imbalance in campaign spending, thanks to the Scalia Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, has given special interests ownership of politicians and policy. Glad to hear Collins is upset about that, but I doubt she will do anything about it.
This Kavanaugh battle has illustrated a number of things: Might makes right. Power begets power. Women who have been assaulted or harassed will get no justice. There’s no such thing as “No man is above the law” which means that there is no actual “Rule of Law.”
Women’s rights activists. Gun Rights Activists. Climate Activists. Workers Rights activists, Immigrant Rights activists cannot be cowed. Yes, it is crucial to turn out and vote in these midterms – and it will take a Blue Wave of more than 60% just to get to 51% majority in Congress. But if the Republicans are able to keep control with all the levers and advantages of using power to keep power (gerrymandering, voter suppression, campaign spending, propaganda and outright election hacking), then those peaceful protests protected under the Constitution may in fact turn into an angry mob of unleashed frustration and victimization.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was joined today by Nassau County leaders at a rally in New Hyde Park to fight to protect women’s reproductive rights. State and local leaders called on the Senate to return to Albany to codify Roe v. Wade into New York State Law. The rally follows the federal government’s decision Monday night to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Governor vowed to take action to defend New York’s progressive values against the extreme conservative agenda of the Trump Administration, including the fight to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law. New actions were also announced by the Governor on Monday to protect reproductive rights in anticipation of this Supreme Court Justice nomination.
“This federal government is threatening basic values New York and this entire nation were built upon, and while extreme conservatives in Washington make destructive decisions that violate the rights of our residents, New York is fighting to protect the progressive accomplishments that we have made,” Governor Cuomo said.“I call on every Senate Republican to come back and reconvene in Albany – no excuses. The Assembly will support codification of Roe v. Wade, I will sign the bill, the Senate Democrats will vote in favor of it and we will pass Roe v. Wade for New York.”
Noting that elections have consequences, Cuomo laid out the challenge to return to Albany to codify Roe into state law as a line in the sand.
“When you’re talking to our friends the Republican Senators, remind them in 1970, before Roe v. Wade, which was 1973, this state legalized abortion. 1970. With a Republican Senate and a Republican Governor because we understood it wasn’t a partisan issue, it was a fairness issue. It was a health issue. It was an equality issue. It was a woman being able to control her own body issue. We did it in 1970, don’t tell me in 2018 the Republican Senate is going to go backwards from 1970. We have to call to question. Elections have consequences and this is binary. They’re with us, they’re against us. And if they don’t come back, if they don’t codify Roe v. Wade, you know what we’re going to say?
“In the immortal words of President Trump, to the senators who won’t come back and sign a bill, you’re fired. We’re protecting the women in the state of New York. Women’s rights come first. Let’s sign the state Executive Order.”
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul who attended a similar rally to protective reproductive rights with Governor Cuomo in Yonkers earlier, said, “I lost my seat in Congress over my steadfast support of the Affordable Care Act and the contraception mandate, and I know how critically important it is to protect these rights at the state level. That is why I stand with the Governor and the women of this great state in fighting back to ensure protections and safety for women when it comes to their reproductive health. Given all that is happening in Washington, these actions will protect women’s reproductive rights. As President of the State Senate, I’m also calling on Senate Republican leadership to protect the women of this state and pass the Reproductive Health Act and codify Roe v. Wade. No one should tell us what to do with our bodies. Not now, not ever.”
For years, Governor Cuomo has pushed to codify the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings into state law to secure women’s access to reproductive health options, and noted that Republicans made a pretense of supporting women’s rights but blocked any consideration on the floor based on the federal protection under Roe. Now the Governor is calling their bluff and calling for the passage of legislation to protect the right of women to make personal health care decisions and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. The Assembly has passed legislation to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade for the last six years, including during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Additionally, through regulations by the Department of Financial Services and Department of Health, as directed by the Governor on Monday, New York State will ensure an insurer must cover over the counter emergency contraception in addition to all other contraceptive drugs, devices or other products for women approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration and, as well as the dispensing of 12 months of contraceptive at one time, all without co-insurance, co-pays or deductibles. The Executive Order signed by the Governor on Monday, in addition to today’s rally, builds on Governor Cuomo’s 2018 Women’s Agenda: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity.
The updated DFS regulation mandates that health insurers:
Expand coverage requirements for contraceptive drugs, devices or other products for women approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Require coverage for emergency contraception with no cost sharing when acquired in any lawful manner including on an over the counter basis from an out of network pharmacy;
Permit a woman to fill 12 months of a prescribed contraceptive at one time, removing the previously required three-month trial period;
Cover voluntary sterilization procedures for women and over-the-counter contraceptives without cost-sharing; and
Do not place restrictions or delays on contraceptive coverage not otherwise authorized under the regulation. This provision would prohibit quantity limits and other such restrictions.
The regulation codifies guidance issued in January 2017 regarding information that must be provided in formularies regarding contraceptives, including noting which contraceptives are covered without cost-sharing. Insurers will be required to publish an easily accessible, up-to-date, accurate and complete list of all covered contraceptive drugs, devices and other products on their formulary drug lists, including any tiering structure and any restrictions on the manner in which a drug may be obtained.
The accompanying DOH regulations permit a woman insured through Medicaid to fill 12 months of a prescribed contraceptive at one time, whereas previously, the limit was three months.
A copy of the proposed regulations can be found here.
“Women’s rights are under attack. Another Trump-appointed Justice will guarantee an ultra-conservative Court that is even more hostile to women’s health care protections. This will have dire consequences if we don’t act because New York decriminalized abortion before the Roe v. Wade decision,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “The women of New York State are looking to us to protect their hard-won rights, and we must not fail them.”
“The administration in Washington is preparing yet another assault on women’s reproductive rights with the nomination of an ultra-conservative Supreme Court justice. Earlier this year, and in countless previous legislative sessions, the New York State Assembly passed legislation to codify Roe v. Wade,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “Year after year, our Republican colleagues in the Senate neglect to pass this legislation, insisting there is no threat to Roe v. Wade. Their inaction has shamefully put women’s reproductive health care in jeopardy. It’s time to codify Roe v. Wade. No more excuses.”
“The Trump Administration is committed to ensuring that millions of women across America lose essential access to the health care they absolutely require. We are facing an unprecedented attack on our health care, and rights by a federal government determined to replace evidence-based medically accurate public policy with politically driven ideology,” Robin Chappelle Golston, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, said. “Governor Cuomo is standing up today to remind the nation that New York won’t go backwards; we won’t sit back quietly as our rights evaporate and we will resist this dismantling of our constitutionally protected rights.”
“Armed with a Supreme Court vacancy, the Trump regime is poised to pack the court in an effort to undo Roe v. Wade and curtail abortion to an extent not seen since 1973. New York can no longer put off fixing our state’s broken abortion law,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “The Reproductive Health Act would take abortion out of the criminal code so that New York can be a safe-haven where women and their health are valued and protected. That means codifying Roe and ensuring access to the information and services women — including pregnant women — need to protect their health.”
Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health said, “Governor Cuomo’s executive order today proves that, regardless of what happens at the federal level, states have tremendous power to shape their own state laws and can act now to protect women from the full-blown assault on their reproductive health and rights. The best defense against a hostile Supreme Court and Trump-Pence Administration is a strong state-level offense. States around the country should take note of this action – and Governor Cuomo’s previous regulations – and help lead the movement for reproductive freedom from the ground up.”
Cuomo Draws Line in the Sand for State Republican Lawmakers
Cuomo said that with the Trump administration dismantling rights – civil rights, voting rights, environmental and financial protections, a woman’s right to choose – it is up to the states to take action.
“Every day this federal government does something that is shocking to our senses…It’s shocking to us in New York because we are the exact opposite. We’re night and day from who they are and what they believe so we’re continually in a state of shock, but they are doing what they said they were going to do, and elections have consequences.
“And it is a wake-up call to all of us. My daughters, you know if you’re 21, 22, 23, young women you never even questioned your reproductive rights. You grew up in a generation where you just assumed, you know Roe v. Wade was 1973. 1973. Generations just grew up assuming this was the way it was. Couldn’t even imagine that a woman wouldn’t have the right to control her own body. That’s what they are saying. And they are serious. And it’s not just politics and this isn’t just a game. They are doing it. They’re doing what they said they would do
“They have their own view of what religions are right and what lifestyles are right and what sexuality is right and who should be an American and who shouldn’t be an American, and they are going to enforce that. It’s the greatest act of political hypocrisy, because conservatives used to stand for limited government, right? Less federal government. Leave it to the states, leave it to the individual rights.
“They are on track to overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s what they want to do. That’s what they’ve wanted to do since it was passed in 1973. And it is a shock to the system. How could we possible go back to those days? Who even remembers what it was like before, when a woman couldn’t have an abortion? How many lost their lives, were damaged because of what they had to do in that situation? And that is what we’re looking at. They are pro-life.
“They also have their view of sexuality and they don’t agree with the LGBTQ community and that’s why they treat them as second-class citizens. Wanted to keep transgender out of the military, regardless of service, regardless of merits. They believe who should be an immigrant and who shouldn’t be an immigrant. A little hypocritical since we’re all immigrants, but they now decide they’re going to close the door. The separation of family policy – isn’t that a coincidence? They knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted to stop people at the border. The first point was, build a wall. I am going to build a big wall, nobody can come. The President didn’t get a wall so he went to the “zero tolerance” policy. And now what he says to families is, if you show up, I’m going to take your children from you and send them to a place where you don’t even know where they are. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was a deterrent to stop people from coming when he couldn’t get the wall.
“They’re going to tell you which religion is right. They don’t believe that Muslims are an appropriate religion, and that’s the travel ban. They don’t believe with labor unions. Thank God for the teamsters. They don’t want labor unions. They just passed the Janus decision with the Supreme Court because they don’t want these annoying unions being able to organize employees, making it harder for management to negotiate with the workforce. It’s who they are and what they said they were going to do. And it is a frightening reality.
“We believe the opposite and it’s incumbent on us to act. To act. We’re not going to let them change our values. We’re not going to let them change or philosophy. We’re not going to let them change the way we treat one another. We’re not going to let them change our tolerance to intolerance. We’re not going to allow them to divide us. They’re not going to pick who has the right lifestyle and who has the right religion and who has the right sexuality and who has the right income level to deserve respect. We’re not going to let them do that.
“Federal government has rights, but you know what there was before the federal government? There were state governments and there were states’ rights. And states have the ability to stand up and act. And when they wouldn’t do anything in the face of the #MeToo movement, this state stood up and said, we’re going to pass the strongest anti-sexual harassment law in the United States of America. When they separated families at the border, this state stood up and said, that’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal, it violates due process, and we’re suing the federal government to put those families back together and to stop the separation.
“And we have to do the same thing on the issue of choice. They are going to overturn Roe v. Wade. We need a New York State law that codifies Roe v. Wade into the New York State law. And we need that law in place before they overturn Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. Now, we’ve been trying to get the New York State legislature, the Senate, to pass a New York State Roe v. Wade. That’s all the law would say. Take the federal ruling in Roe v. Wade—1973—and enact it into a state law.
“Currently, the New York State law is not as strong as Roe v. Wade because we had Roe v. Wade. And I’ve been arguing with the Republicans in the Senate, frankly, why don’t we codify it into New York state law? And the Republican Senators have been saying to me, well we have Roe v. Wade. We don’t need it. No one would be crazy enough to overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s the answer JoAnn has been getting for years when Planned Parenthood would lobby for New York State law. We don’t need it, we have Roe v. Wade. Well you know what? Now we need it. Now we need it.
“And I want the New York State Senators to come back today, tomorrow, to go to Albany, and pass and New York State Roe v. Wade, period. And no excuses. No excuses. For years they’ve been doing this dance, the Republican Senators. Privately they say, I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-choice. When the bill comes up, I’m going to vote pro-choice. [Planned Parenthood of Nassau County CEO]JoAnn [Smith] will tell you. But then, they never let the bill come up. We tried to force a vote this legislative session. They won’t put the bill on the floor. Why? It’s a little game they play. It allows them to say privately, when the bill comes up, I’ll vote yes. But, the bill never comes up, so they can tell one audience, yes, I’m pro-choice. Then they can go to another audience and say, we’ll never pass choice in the state of New York.
“We have to call to question. This is binary. This is black and white. You are either pro-choice or you are not pro-choice and we don’t have Roe v.Wade to fall back on anymore. It’s only what we have in New York State law. And the New York State law does not go as far as Roe v. Wade and if we have only the New York State law, we’re in trouble. It does not do life and health. It is in the criminal code. We will have a problem. We need that law. We have to call to question and we have to say to the Republican Senators who have been having it both ways for too long, that’s over. You are with us or against us. And if you are with us don’t just tell me. Go up to Albany and pass a bill. That’s how I know that you are with the women and the men of this state who support choice. That’s what it has to be.
“In the meantime, I’m going to sign an Executive Order that guarantees the women in this state the right to contraception. I don’t care what the insurance company says or what the bureaucracy says. Women have the right to contraception. But we have to learn the lesson, my friends. Elections have consequences. Elections have consequences. And this is a wakeup call. If what they did on immigration and unions and what they did to Muslims wasn’t enough, this is an attack on every woman’s rights to control her own reproductive health in the United States of America. This is a direct attack on what we knew in 1970.”
Nassau County leaders who joined the Governor today in calling on the State Senate to reconvene and codify Roe v. Wade into state law included:
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas
Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth
Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan
Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Lee Seeman
Town of North Hempstead Clerk Wayne Wink
Town of Hempstead Clerk Sylvia Cabana
JoAnn Smith, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County
Rebecca Sanin, President and CEO, Health and Welfare Council of Long Island
Matty Aracich, President, Nassau and Suffolk Building Trades Council
Some 22,000 New Yorkers joined a protest march and rally against the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy of separating children from parents and incarcerating families seeking asylum. The march that started at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan, continued across the Brooklyn Bridge, and finished with a rally in Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.
Here are highlights:
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union: “It’s bad enough those who control government would turn their backs on those fleeing violence, turn out people living here for decades, but that the country I love so much could commit such atrocities against children, all in the service of a warped agenda. We won a court order to force the government to reunite families in 30 days. It was an important victory but we know this regime won’t comply unless we force them to…. Take back our country. Fight back in courts, on the streets and damn it, at the ballot box.”
Carola Bracco, Executive Director, Neighbors Link: “Today is not just about immigrant rights, it is about human rights. This is not who we are as a country. This is not a country I recognize. I can’t imagine anything more devastating than having a child forcibly taken, then having to search. From this chaos, strong leaders are emerging, committed to changing course. We are here to fight for liberty, to live with dignity. Together we will change the trajectory of this country.”
Jennifer Jones Austin, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies: “Freedom is about saying no to a lie, vetoeing an untruth. Say no to the lies of this administration; veto the untruth of saying separating children is for our own good.
Estela Vasquez, Executive Vice President, 1199 SEIU: “Mobilize, march, protest until we stop this stupid policy of zero tolerance. Scorch Agent Orange in the white House. We are not fooled by a phony executive order. Separating children, incarcerating children is no different from what the Nazis in Germany did in the 1930s, what we did to Japanese in World War II. Zero tolerance for poverty, for police brutality, for inhumanity.”
Hector Figuerola, SEIU: These migrants are running away from the conditions the US created in the first place. 66% of our union are foreign born. “The labor movement has to stand against these attacks on immigrant families. They are not ‘them’. They are us. Fight for children not to be jailed, but free. Stand for families everywhere. This doesn’t end today. For families who suffer loss of a child to police brutality or street violence. Fight for all families. Start with immigrants being dehumanized by this administration. Imagine what it will be if we were to connect the struggle of all the resistence against Trump – labor, women’s movement, those seeking freedom for everyone. Our fight is the fight of people. Let’s fight and let’s win.
Padma Lakshmi, Author and Television Host: I am an immigrant, a daughter of an immigrant single mother. This is an issue of common decency and humanity, defining who we want to be as a nation. This country was built on labor and sweat of immigrants. That’s what makes America great. Trump is sowing generations of hatred.”
Omolara Uwemedimo, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, a daughter of Nigerian immigrants and a mother of two, described the physical and mental toll that may last a lifetime on children being subjected to the trauma of being forcibly separated and incarcerated. There is also the toxic stress on those living in fear of a government taking undocumented parents away from a family. “Family detention is not a solution, it is child abuse and I am a mandated reporter. I am reporting the Trump Administration for abuse of black and brown children.”
Flor Reyes, DACA Recipient, with her brother, Elvis, described the constant terror of a family of “mixed status,” where parents could be deported while children are DACA recipients or American citizens must fend for themselves.
Perla Lopez, Youth member, Make the Road New York, recalled her flight with her mother, fleeing with five children and her detention. “It was almost 10 years ago but is still traumatic.”
Comedian and actor Amy Schumer: “We were so excited election night when we thought Hillary would be president. Then Hell opened up.”
Rama Issa, Executive Director, Arab American Association of NY, was one of 633 women arrested in Washington DC demanding the government abolish ICE.
Shannon Stagman, Leader, Empire State Indivisible: “Pick up the phone and call your representatives every day. Donating is good, but also knock on doors. Voting is good, but also help others vote.”
Murad Awawdeh, VP of Advocacy, New York Immigration Coalition, provided a list of action items: Fight. Stay informed (text NYIC 864237 for alerts); Call legislators. Support organizations (donate, volunteer). And “vote for those who share our values.”
Other speakers included:
Rev. Chloe Breyer, Interfaith Center of NY
Alison Hirsh, Vice President and Political Director, SEIU 32BJ
Ravi Ragbir, Leader, New Sanctuary Coalition
Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network
Kerry Washington, Actor, Producer and Activist
Imam Suhaib Webb, Resident Scholar, Islamic Center NYU
Among the electeds participating in the march: U.S. House Representatives Yvette Clarke, Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velázquez, Jerrold Nadler, and Adriano Espaillat, as well as numerous state and local representatives.
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers gathered at Foley Square in front of the federal courthouse and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the Trump Administration’s intolerable Zero Tolerance immigration policy that has resulted in thousands of children being forcibly separated from parents making a claim for asylum from violence in Central America.
The Protect Families March and Rally was organized by the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 groups in New York State including immigrant rights advocates, advocacy groups, unions, and allies demanding an end to the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane policies against immigrant families.
New York City Police Department estimated the crowd at 22,000, but there may have been many more than that. The “family-friendly” march was exactly that with scores of families with their small children taking a stand on behalf of other families.
It was one of 700 protests across America on June 30, a National Day of Action.
The Day of Action was the climax to Trump’s incrementally destructive immigration policy, starting with summarily ending DACA protections, then ending legal status for thousands of refugees who have been given shelter in the US for decades and built homes here, stepped up deportation raids that take parents away from children, many of whom are American citizens. Demanding $25 billion to build a wall that no one believes will do anything, and holding the federal budget hostage to that, is the least of it. Trump is also using first the DACA recipients and now the immigrant children as bargaining chips to restrict legal immigration, as well.
About 1,000 people gathered in Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan for a rally, teach-in, and March for Science. Speakers, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, decried the politicization of science, the censorship, banning and defunding of scientists and research, and warned that the United States will lose its economic and political leadership in the world if it loses its place on the forefront of scientific innovation and development.
All I could think about as I marched the 1.8 miles from Washington Square Park down Broadway to Zuccotti Park (famous for the Occupy Wall Street movement), is how sad, how pathetic, what an embarrassment for the United States of America to have to hold demonstrations to “Save Science.” We have regressed back to the Salem Witch Trials.
The New York City March for Science was one of many organized around the country during this Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Last year, the first year of such demonstrations, brought out 1.3 million in support of robust science research, evidence-based policies, and science education. “Today, we continue the momentum gained from last year’s inaugural march to show policy makers that the March for Science is more than a single-day event. It’s a movement.”
“The 2018 March for Science New York City recognizes the importance of an informed democracy in order to maintain a free, healthy, happy, and accessible society. That is why we come together as a community of non-partisan scientists and friends to show the importance of protecting and promoting people’s rights, the public’s access to scientific information, the environment in which we exist, and scientific research. We hope to use this march to spark increased community involvement for the promotion of science for the common good through sustained action.”
“Science is beacon to a better future, health care, technology, transport,” declared Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “Devotion to science is at the root of progress in every industry, lifting people from poverty; expanding opportunity, saving lives, feeding the hungry. We will never fund a better investment.
“But Congress wants to cut funds for research, cut fuel efficiency standards. [America] is losing leadership because of cutbacks,” she said. “We have to go forward….Science took us to moon.. America is the tech, innovation leader in the world because of science. Science brought us success.
“We must support science, truth, freedom and democracy,” said Maloney, a sponsor of the Science Integrity Act to shield science from ideology.
Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, which has helped to clean up the Hudson River and drinking water throughout the state, contrasted the backward movement by the federal government to the progress in New York State. Largely based on the data collection by Riverkeeper and other advocates, New York has allocated $3 billion to improve water infrastructure based on scientific data, and a new law that requires testing and regulation of “emerging contaminants, “because we in New York value science.
“The EPA has been decimated. Hundreds of scientists who were there in January 2017, are gone. Ideology masquerades as policy. There is no quantitative analysis, just press releases.
“You keep doing research, driving innovation and groups like Riverkeeper will fight for policies to get clean water. And if politicians don’t, we’ll keep suing.
“We need to get politics out of science – get more active. And not just once a year. Make policies about science, not in spite of science. Pound pavement, so they can hear it in DC. Tell your state senators, local politicians to fight for science, save science,” Gallay said.
Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, declared, “Science is what makes America great. It is essential for health, prosperity, safety, security.
“This is Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Scientists, including Rachel Carson, alerted the country to the dangers of pollution, pesticides. Science informed the Endangered Species Act.
“For 65 years, the Nature Conservancy has been guided by science. We believe in the power of science to solve the problems we face – climate change, food shortage, disease. Only through science can we create a world where nature and humans thrive together.
“Invest in science. Appreciate that science needs and deserves diverse voices – more perspectives – to inform, promote healthy debate to make the best choices.”
Lauren Kurtz, Executive Director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF), charged that “Scientific facts are downplayed, rejected. Policies are advocated that run counter to known science, including climate science.” And when that happens, CSLDF, which works to protect the scientific endeavor in general and climate scientists in particular by providing legal support and resources to scientists who are threatened, harassed, or attacked for doing their job, fights back.
“We keep track: 126 incidents when the government silenced scientists. Regulations have not kept pace with science and of the health risk of certain chemicals. We want stronger rules.”
“Removing ‘climate change’ [from EPA, Department of Agriculture and other government agency sites], staffing with ideologues… undermines out competitiveness and position on the forefront of science, leader in scientific discovery.
“We have the power to fight back – shine spotlight – call attention to misrepresentation, to speak out when censorship. March, speak out, act where can have impact such as on the local level. Vote.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the district that New York University is in, noted “People think NY is deep blue state, that everyone smart, watches Rachel Maddow, reads NY times, understands a fact is not opinion. But things are different in Albany when comes to science. We need more evidence-based policy making.
“We know vaccinations save lives,” he said, drawing a cheer. Vaccination is one of greatest turning points in health. But when I introduced a bill to make vaccinations mandatory for elementary school children, you would have thought I called for destruction of society. The Anti-Vacs movement, even though the link between vaccines and autism has been disproved over and over again…
“Gay conversion therapy,” he continued, drawing boos.”There are mental health providers licensed by New York State who are trying to convert people from being gay. New York needs to yank their licenses.” People who are exposed to such conversion therapy, he said, “affects who they are as a person, sends a message to others, and perpetuates myth.”
Another issue is climate change, “one of the most important issues of our time. When Trump was inaugurated, the White House page on climate change was removed. [In reaction], in Albany, we tried to pass a resolution about the danger of climate change but Republicans wouldn’t allow a vote, saying there was ‘disagreement on the validity. Science doesn’t back that up.
“We need to take this energy today and elevate public discourse, based on facts from people who know what talking about – scientists, researchers, academics, experts. Everything else is bluster…We will embrace our intellectual, academic, research to bring to bear the best policies for New York.”
“Where live shouldn’t Increase risk to pollution, toxins, pesticides,” stated
Beverly Watkins, a community-based research scientist and health care provider who does “Big Picture Science” research into health disparities. “Health is a human right – growing up poor, your gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background should not have a higher rate of disease – diabetes, asthma, hypertension. Yet a difference in socioeconomic status perpetuates health disparities.”
Laurie Garrett, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, currently developing the
Anthropocene Disruption Project, raised the issue of global competitiveness.
“In a race with three centers- China, France and Canada are welcoming scientists, with the appeal, ‘America may not be a home for you.’
“America needs science. And Science needs globalization.” Take for example what happens when you destroy globalization and internationalism – Brexit. Already, Britain is experiencing an 11.8% decrease in technology investment because of its impending dissociation with the European Union.
But besides a reduction in investment, “Collaborative science is failing. There is diminished freedom to emigrate from the EU to UK.
“Democracy depends on science. Congress can’t protect us from Russian trolls, from surveillance by greedy companies. We need science to advise, create appropriate policies. If we don’t have strong science, Research & Development, our economy can’t survive.
“The good news after all the panic about [the Trump Administration’s determination to slash the science budget, it got its biggest increase, 12.2%. National Institutes of Health budget is up 8.3%; energy up 15%; NASA saw its allocation increased to $1.2 billion; the US Geological Survey’s budget was increased to $1.1 billion; EPA was allocated $8.1 billion. The American people get it.”
But Science is not just global, international and collaborative, she continued, “We need to get out of our silos to solve the biggest challenges we face – climate change, microbiological resistance, cybersecurity, robotics, water and food scarcity, safety, acidification of the oceans. The world needs globalized, collectivized, interdisciplinary science.”
“Why we march? We march for evidence-based policy; for increased diversity, inclusion in the scientific community, for meaningful engagement between science and society, to build global community of advocates for science,” David Kantor, professor of environmental studies of NYU and the coordinator for New York’s March for Science.
Here are more images from the March for Science NYC:
It doesn’t matter that Donald Trump and the NRA-toadies in the Congress had all skipped town ahead of the onslaught of an estimated 500,000 who joined the March for Our Lives in Washington DC calling for sane gun control. After Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, and the five school shootings that took place just since Parkland, the advocates for commonsense gun regulation are done trying to appeal and cajole lawmakers. The overriding theme of the event, called out in every interlude between the teen and t’ween speakers who so eloquently made the argument for banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips and universal background checks was “VOTE THEM OUT.”
The call would come from down a mile-long stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, and crescendo, until the buildings would shake.
Gun control advocates are done expecting tragedy to prompt action to protect public health and safety. They are done asking. They are demanding change – whether it be the policy or the politician.
“Either represent the people or get out … Stand for us or beware: The voters are coming,” was the manifesto from Parkland student Cameron Kasky to lawmakers. “To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down, stay silent and wait your turn: Welcome to the revolution.”
The NRA has succeeded, despite easily 90% of Americans who want sensible gun regulations – keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, felons and terrorists, and want to keep weapons designed for war off city streets where 80 percent of Americans live – because they 1) buy politicians, but 2) because they manage to shepherd single-issue voters, fear-mongering the call for “sensible” gun regulation into “confiscate your guns” – and there are some 350 million of them in the hands of just 22% of the population (3% of gun owners own 50% of guns).
Now, the single-issue voters will be gun regulation. That will be the litmus test for support or opposition to a candidate. And that’s okay, because it seems that those who embrace sensible gun laws tend also to support climate action, women’s rights, justice, health care and education. They tend to support diplomacy over war. They see gun control as a public health issue – an epidemic of lethal violence that must be addressed – and so also favor the other issues that support health and quality of life, or in the words of the Founding Fathers quoted on the stage: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
And there will be 3.9 million high school seniors who will be eligible to vote, if not in the 2018 midterms, buy the 2020 presidential.
An army of volunteers were out with forms to register new voters here and in the hundreds and hundreds of “sibling” rallies held across the country – more than 800 in all including those that took place globally. (Several nations have issued advisories against traveling to the United States because of gun violence.)
This was quite literally a March for Our Lives. More children have been killed by gun violence in the five years since Sandy Hook than soldiers have died in combat since 9/11, reported Newsweek. According to Everytown, on average, there are 13,000 gun-related homicides a year (another 20,000 suicides); for every one person killed by a gun, two more are injured; seven children and teens are killed with guns every day. In 2015, Politifact confirmed a statement by Nicholas Kristof that “”More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 [1,516,863] than on battlefields of all the wars in American history [1,396,733].”
There have been 5 school shootings just since Parkland on February 14 – including the murder just two days before the March for Our Lives of 16-year old Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School in Maryland, at the hand of a 17-year old former boyfriend, wielding his parents’ semi-automatic handgun.
It wasn’t just Parkland or Sandy Hook and school shootings represented. The speakers were representative of the spectrum of gun violence that is epidemic in America and no where else in the world: gang violence that steals so many lives in urban center cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, that snuffs out the souls in church, concerts, movies, shopping malls; the victims of domestic violence and robbery. And assassination, as the remarks of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 9-year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, recalled.
“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” said Yolanda Renee King. “I have a dream that enough is enough,” she said. “And that this should be a gun-free world – period.”
Then there was 11-year old Naomi Wadler from Alexandria, Virginia, who led the walk-out from her school for 18 minutes – 17 to honor those killed in Parkland and 1 more for the girl who was murdered from her school. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. Whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential,” she said. “For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers. I’m here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls, too.”
On average, gun violence kills 96 people each day, who don’t warrant media notice. American women are 16 times more likely to be shot to death than women in other developed countries; When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, the woman is 5 times as likely to be murdered. But in states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 47% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to EverytownResearch.org.
The speakers, an extraordinary array of the most extraordinary young people, described their trauma, their loss of siblings, parents, best friends, the constant anxiety they must now live with (187,000 school children today have been witness to gun attacks in their schools, according to a Washington Post study; an entire generation since the 1999 Columbine massacre lives with Live Fire drills just as the 1960s kids drilled for nuclear bomb attacks; 40% of Americans know someone who has been a victim of gun violence). They made their case with such clarity, poise, reason and most of all, authenticity, you had to contrast that with the absurdity and stupidity that is heard from many of the current electeds, like Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert.
When Emma Gonzalez, with her poignant, piercing 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence that mimicked the time it took for the Parkland School Shooter to kill 17, injure 17 more with his AR-15 assault rifle and simply disappear amid the fleeing students, you had the feeling of seeing a future leader, much as those who heard Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley commencement speech. And so many more on that stage. And then there was Malala, in her taped message, who defied the terror attack on her by Taliban determined to prevent girls from attending school.
But more: you realized in a flash what was lost – to society, to civilization – the potential of what these young people could have been, their lives snuffed out by the dreck of our species. Did we lose a Steve Hawking, a Malala, an Obama, a Steve Jobs, a Bill Gates? And what of the hundreds of thousands who must live with life-altering injuries – what of the cost to society of their lost ability to fulfill their potential, of the cost of health care that might otherwise have been spent on education, professional training, investment in innovation? The high cost of trauma counselors after an event, of security officers, technology and construction to harden schools against gun violence (diverting scarce funds from computers and actual teaching), pales in comparison.
These Parkland survivor-leaders weren’t trying to appeal to politicians with reason or emotion, authenticity or compassion, as the Sandy Hook parents had futilely done. They are done with that.
The pacing of the production – mixing personal stories with PSA’s and data – even the NRA’s “greatest hits” – and top-notch entertainment that included Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt ; Miley Cyrus; Ariana Grande; Jennifer Hudson; Andra Day with Cardinal Shehan School Choir; Common with Andra Day; Demi Lovato; Vic Mensa and an astonishing performance by the Stoneman Douglas drama club with a student choir of the song they wrote, “Shine” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrZiB2jV7dw), was as fast and explosive as an AR-15 firing. The audience filled in the interlude with chants of “Vote Them Out” – except after Emma Gonzalez spoke, when the chant was “Vote Her In.”
They want to know why a minority of people get to threaten the vast majority of people.
Enough is Enough, the speakers declared. Never Again, was the reply back, perhaps more hopefully, given that there are still more than 200 days before the midterm elections, and 250 days before a new Congress is seated. How many more will die until then? If the law of averages continues, 96 a day, or upwards of 24,000 lives will be snuffed out in this gun violence epidemic, with thousands of more suffering life-altering injuries, that sap their ability to fulfill their god-given potential.
“We’re done hiding, being afraid,” Ryan Deitsch, a survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, declared. “That’s not what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ This is the beginning of the end. This is the fight for our lives.
“REV up America: Register to vote. Then educate. Then vote.”
About a million people attending more than 800 rallies across the country and around the world, were inspired to take action. And vote.
Here are more photo highlights of the March for Our Lives in Washington DC: