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NYPD Officer Who Killed Akai Gurley Will Serve No Jail Time

HeadlineApr 20, 2016
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In Brooklyn, a judge has sentenced former NYPD officer Peter Liang to serve no jail time for killing unarmed African-American father Akai Gurley. In 2014, Liang shot 28-year-old Gurley in the darkened stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. Gurley was walking down the stairs with his girlfriend because the elevator was broken. Following the shooting, Liang first texted his union representative before making a radio call for help as Gurley lay dying. Liang had faced up to 15 years in prison on second-degree murder charges. But on Tuesday, Judge Danny Chun sentenced him to serve only five years’ probation and 800 hours of community service. Judge Chun also made the rare decision to reduce Officer Liang’s verdict from manslaughter charges to the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide. Following the announcement, Akai Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen, spoke out.

Hertencia Petersen: “This is not justice. This is not justice. My family is going to continue, we’re going to continue to be in these streets. We’re going to continue to march 'til we get justice. We're going to continue until all black lives matter. How on Earth can you guys say it’s OK to murder and not be held accountable?”

After the announcement, protesters gathered outside the home of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who had recommended Officer Liang serve no jail time.

Protesters: “Ken Thompson will not sleep tonight! Police murders must stop! Serve jail time! Killer cops, go to jail!”

Seven people were arrested protesting outside District Attorney Thompson’s house. Thompson has said he’ll appeal the decision to reduce Officer Liang’s conviction from manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide.

More Headlines fromApril 20, 2016

Trump and Clinton Win New York Primary, Amid Voter “Irregularities”

Apr 20, 2016
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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump scored significant victories in New York Tuesday, in a primary marked by widespread reports of voter disenfranchisement and “irregularities” at polling sites. On the Republican side, Donald Trump won 60 percent of the vote. He appears poised to win 89 of the 95 delegates up for grabs in New York. Ohio Governor John Kasich came in second, with 25 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won 57.9 percent of the vote statewide, with Bernie Sanders winning 42.1 percent of the vote. Sanders won the majority of counties in the state, but Clinton won big in the metropolitan New York area. The contest in New York City was marked by chaos, particularly in Brooklyn, as tens of thousands of voters found their names had been removed from the polling rolls or that they were unable to vote at their polling station. The New York City Elections Board has confirmed that more than 125,000 Brooklyn voters had been removed from the voter rolls since November 2015. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement Tuesday decrying the voter disenfranchisement, writing: “It has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists.” At one polling site at Brooklyn Borough Hall, the coordinator estimated 10 percent of those who showed up to vote were unable to do so because their names had been purged. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer vowed to audit the New York City Board of Elections. We’ll have more on the New York primary after headlines.

Syria: Regime Airstrikes Kill 40; Partial Ceasefire Collapses

Apr 20, 2016
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In Syria, the partial ceasefire between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition groups has collapsed, after airstrikes killed about 40 people in a crowded market in the rebel-held town of Maarat al-Noaman in Idlib province. The market had been the site of protests against the Assad regime in recent weeks. The strikes are the latest in a series of ceasefire violations by the Assad regime. U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby confirmed Tuesday’s strikes were likely carried out by Assad’s forces and that strikes compromise the ongoing Geneva peace talks.

John Kirby: “It is our understanding at this time that it was most likely regime forces, but information is still coming in. Obviously, when there still continues to be violations of the cessation and there continues to still be people that are being barrel-bombed and gassed and denied basic food, water and medicine, that makes it very difficult for the opposition to participate fully in these talks.”

Earlier this week, the main opposition group pulled out of the Geneva peace talks, citing ceasefire violations by Assad’s regime and “no real will for a political solution.”

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Obama and Defense Secretary Carter Visit Saudi Arabia

Apr 20, 2016
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President Obama and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter are flying to Saudi Arabia today, where they are slated to meet with King Salman and leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The antiwar group CodePink is planning to stage a mock beheading at the White House later today to pressure President Obama to intervene on behalf of Saudi youth, including Ali al-Nimr, who are facing death sentences for participating in protests. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia faced massive protests after carrying out a mass execution of 47 people, including prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Justice Dept. to Investigate Tax Avoidance, Following Panama Papers

Apr 20, 2016
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The Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into tax avoidance following the massive data leak known as the “Panama Papers.” The leak revealed how the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm set up a global network of shell companies for heads of state and other elites to store money offshore to avoid taxes and oversight. The leak revealed at least 200 U.S. citizens who used the firm to set up shell companies. The firm also set up more than 1,000 shell companies inside the United States—600 in Nevada alone.

Michigan AG to Announce Criminal Charges over Flint Water Crisis

Apr 20, 2016

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is reportedly planning to announce criminal charges for at least two officials involved in the Flint water contamination crisis. The water crisis began when Flint’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by Governor Rick Snyder, switched the source of the city’s drinking water from the Detroit system to the corrosive Flint River. The water corroded Flint’s aging pipes, causing poisonous levels of lead to leach into the drinking water.

Detroit Artists Face 4 Years Prison over “Free the Water” Graffiti

Apr 20, 2016
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Meanwhile in Detroit, two street artists are heading to court today to fight felony charges for allegedly painting the words “Free the Water” and a large black fist on the Highland Park water tower in 2014. Artists Antonio Cosme and William Lucka are facing up to four years in prison on charges of malicious destruction of property. Detroit has faced its own water crisis in recent years, as the city has cut off running water from tens of thousands of families. The United Nations has condemned Detroit’s ongoing water shutoffs as a violation of international human rights law.

Virginia Court Rules Trans Student Has Right to Use Men’s Bathroom

Apr 20, 2016
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A Virginia appeals court has ruled in favor of a transgender student, saying that the federal law Title IX protects the rights of students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Student Gavin Grimm has been fighting for two years for the right to use the male restroom at his school. He spoke with TV station WTKR when the suit was first filed in 2014.

Gavin Grimm: “It was terrifying to come out. I worried for my safety. You know, I was scared, but I came to find out that I didn’t have anything to be afraid of. It’s just simply that I need to use the restroom like any other human being. And I shouldn’t be forced to use a restroom that I don’t belong in.”

Tuesday’s ruling is the first time a federal appellate court has ruled that Title IX protects transgender students’ right to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. LGBT activists say the ruling could have major impacts on recently passed anti-trangender laws, such as North Carolina’s House Bill 2, known as the “bathroom bill.”

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Man Sentenced to 12 Years for Killing Trans Woman Islan Nettles

Apr 20, 2016
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Meanwhile, a Brooklyn court has sentenced a man to 12 years in prison for killing 21-year-old transgender woman Islan Nettles in 2013. James Dixon attacked Nettles in Harlem after he began flirting with her and then realized she was transgender. He punched her, knocking her down, and then continued beating her while she lay on the pavement. She later died in the hospital of head injuries. Her brutal murder sparked a series of vigils and protests against the violence transgender women face. On Tuesday, her mother, Delores Nettles, told the court the 12-year sentence was too short, saying, “How can you sleep at night? How can you rest? I can’t rest.”

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Argentina: Thousands March in Protest of Macri’s Economic Reforms

Apr 20, 2016
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In Argentina, thousands marched in Buenos Aires Tuesday to protest sweeping layoffs and austerity cuts imposed by Argentina’s new right-wing President Mauricio Macri. His economic reforms include a sharp devaluation of the Argentine peso, the dismissal of nearly 20,000 unionized public sector workers and the elimination of taxes for mining corporations. President Macri has also cracked down on press freedoms. Eduardo Belliboni of the Workers’ Party spoke out.

Eduardo Belliboni: “We have come from the poorest neighborhoods of the suburbs, which have no water, no electricity, and have a problem with rate hikes. There are tremendous problems of joblessness, especially among youngsters. We are marching precisely for that claim—for work.”

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Non-Tenured Professors at U. of Illinois Launch Two-Day Strike

Apr 20, 2016
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Non-tenured professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are launching a two-day strike today to demand a contract. The professors have been trying to negotiate for a contract since October 2014, when the non-tenured professors’ union was first recognized.

Columbia Students Occupy Library, Demanding Fossil Fuel Divestment

Apr 20, 2016
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And at Columbia University, a student occupation of Low Library has entered its sixth day to demand Columbia University President Lee Bollinger endorse fossil fuel divestment. The occupation has garnered support from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who tweeted on Monday: “Let us stand in solidarity with the students at Columbia and NYU for demanding their schools divest from fossil fuels. #KeepItInTheGround.”

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