Protests have erupted here in New York City after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer for the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Garner, an African-American father of six, died in July after police officer Daniel Pantaleo wrestled him down in a banned chokehold. A group of officers then piled on top of Garner, pinning him to the ground as he cried out more than 11 times, “I can’t breathe.” Police had accused Garner of selling loose cigarettes. Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Carr reacted to the grand jury’s decision.
Gwen Carr: “I am truly disappointed in the grand jury’s decision this evening. I don’t know what video they were looking at. Evidently it wasn’t the same one that the rest of the world was looking at. How could we put our trust in the justice system when they fail us like this?”
The headline in the New York Daily News this morning read, “Grand Jury Clears Choke Cop. We Can’t Breathe.” In the wake of the grand jury’s decision, more than 80 people were arrested as protesters shut down parts of New York City, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, West Side Highway and Sixth Avenue around Rockefeller Center where the Christmas tree lighting ceremony was taking place. The Justice Department has announced it will launch a civil rights investigation into Garner’s death. We’ll have more on the case after headlines.
More than 100 people packed a church in Cleveland, Ohio, for the memorial service of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy shot dead by police last month. Rice, who was in sixth grade, was killed after a 911 caller reported seeing the boy with what turned out to be a pellet gun, which the caller repeatedly said seemed fake. Video shows Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehman fatally shooting Rice immediately after leaving his cruiser, from a distance of about 10 feet. Now, reports have emerged Loehman was deemed unfit for police service two years ago when he worked in the suburb of Independence. A letter from a superior specifically criticizes Loehman’s performance in firearms training, saying, “He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.”
The Philippines is bracing for another super typhoon this weekend with thousands being told to evacuate from areas already devastated last year by Typhoon Haiyan. Schools and workplaces have closed down as forecasts show Typhoon Hagupit could impact two-thirds of Filipino provinces and reach Category 5 status. The storm is on a path similar to Haiyan, which left more than 7,000 dead or missing last year. It comes as the group Germanwatch listed the Philippines as the country most impacted by climate change last year. It is the third year in a row a major storm in the Philippines has coincided with the United Nations climate change summit, where the disproportionate harm borne by countries least responsible for climate change has been a top issue. Speaking at the summit in Lima, Peru, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres acknowledged emissions limits due to be agreed upon at next year’s summit in Paris will not be enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Christiana Figueres: “We already know, because we have a pretty good sense of what countries will be able to do in the short run, that the sum total of efforts (in Paris) of both governments and non-state actors will not be able to put us on the path for two degrees next year.”
Democracy Now! will broadcast from the U.N. climate summit in Lima, Peru all next week.
The Colombian government and FARC rebels have agreed to resume peace talks aimed at ending a 50-year conflict. President Juan Manuel Santos had suspended the talks until the FARC released an army general and other hostages captured last month.
Iran has launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq, as the United States continues its assault on the militants in Iraq and Syria. But speaking in Washington, D.C., White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Iran and the United States are not working together.
Josh Earnest: “At this point, our calculation about the wisdom of cooperating militarily with the Iranians has not changed. We’re not going to do it.”
Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen have released a video threatening to execute a U.S. journalist taken hostage last year. Luke Somers is a photojournalist who was captured in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. U.S. commandos reportedly tried to rescue Somers last week, but missed him, instead freeing several other hostages, most of them Yemeni.
U.S. lawmakers have reached a deal on a $585 billion military bill which expands the U.S. offensive in Iraq and extends training of Syrian rebels for another two years. The measure adds $1.6 billion to train Iraqi security forces. This comes amidst reports of disarray in the army’s ranks, as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has revealed the presence of 50,000 so-called ghost troops –- fraudulent names which generate salaries that are then collected by army officers. The bill also deals a blow to efforts to close Guantánamo prison by maintaining a ban on prisoner transfers to U.S. soil. And the bill includes some steps to curb rape in military ranks, but keeps assault cases in the military chain of command. It comes as new data shows reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military have increased 8 percent.
More women have come forward publicly to accuse comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault. Three women joined together at a news conference, including Beth Ferrier, who told her story to The National Enquirer in 2005. The tabloid ended up killing the article in exchange for a favorable, front-page interview with Cosby.
Beth Ferrier: “I believe that Mr. Cosby drugged me and sexually assaulted me that night. For years, I did not tell anyone about what he had done to me because I was afraid. I felt threatened by him. I did not think anyone would believe me.”
The women were joined by attorney Gloria Allred, who urged Cosby to waive the statute of limitations and let the cases go to trial or provide a $100 million compensation fund for the more than 20 women who have now come forward to report assaults dating back half a century. Cosby has cancelled performances planned for this weekend in Tarrytown, New York, after about half of attendees returned their tickets to the sold-out shows.
In Oklahoma, police have arrested an 18-year-old for rape in a case that sparked a mass walkout by students in the town of Norman. Tristen Kole Killman-Hardin has been charged with raping a 16-year-old girl in September, and at least two other victims have also come forward. After the teens faced harassment at Norman High School, hundreds of students with the campaign “Yes All Daughters” staged a walkout last month to protest the school’s treatment of victims.
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a case about the rights of employees who become pregnant. The case centers on former UPS driver Peggy Young. After Young became pregnant, UPS refused to reassign her to lighter duties, instead suspending her from work and cutting off her health benefits. She spoke outside the court.
Peggy Young: “It’s principle. It can’t be right to make me choose to start my family and to support my family, so it’s principle. I should be able to do both.”
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a rule to prevent discrimination against employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The rule puts into place an anti-discrimination executive order signed by President Obama in July.
Texas and 16 other states have filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its plans to provide relief from deportations to up to five million undocumented immigrants. The lawsuit marks the first major legal challenge to Obama’s executive action announced last month.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the execution of a Texas prisoner with schizophrenia. Scott Panetti was due to be executed for murder Wednesday, despite a lengthy history of mental illness. He represented himself at trial and attempted to subpoena John F. Kennedy, the pope and Jesus Christ in his defense. In a statement, his attorneys called the ruling “the first step in a process which will clearly demonstrate that Mr. Panetti is too severely mentally ill to be executed.”
In New York, a longtime peace activist has been sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for demonstrating outside the gates of New York’s Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, which is used to remotely pilot U.S. drone attacks. Mark Colville, who appeared on Democracy Now! Wednesday, was facing two years in prison for his role in the peaceful protest, but the judge decided not to send him to jail. Colville celebrated after the decision.
Mark Colville: “I’m a person of hope, and my hope is grounded in my fellow human beings, among whom is Judge Jokl. And I choose to think the best of him, which is that perhaps on some level his conscience was moved to do something, something in the way of rightness and fairness and justice in this case.”
More than 100 people have been arrested over the past five years as part of a nonviolent campaign against drone attacks organized by the Upstate Drone Coalition.