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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This week Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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In the Gaza Strip, at least 18 Palestinians were killed and as many as 1,700 were wounded Friday, after Israeli forces opened fire with live bullets on a protest near Gaza’s eastern border with Israel. Video posted online shows unarmed Palestinians being shot in the back as they fled from tear gas and gunfire. The deaths and injuries came as 30,000 Gaza residents gathered near the wall, as part of a planned 6-week-long nonviolent protest against the blockade of Gaza and to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees. This is Gaza resident Abed al-Qader Al Haddad.
Abed al-Qader Al Haddad: “They are hoping—they say that the old will die and the young will forget; however, no, the young are children sitting here, saying that they want to go back to their families’ lands, the lands of their fathers and grandfathers. They want to go back. The young have more ambition, more than their fathers and grandfathers.”
Another 49 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces during protests on Saturday. Israel’s actions have been condemned around the world, but Israel is rejecting calls to investigate the killings. Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the U.S. blocked a move by the U.N. Security Council that called for an investigation. After headlines, we’ll go to Gaza for the latest on Israel’s bloody crackdown on protests.
President Trump has declared DACA dead, dimming the prospects for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who were granted permission to live and work in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In a tweet early this morning, Trump wrote, ”DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon… No longer works. Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation. Democrats want No Borders, hence drugs and crime!” Trump’s latest tweet followed a flurry of attacks on DACA on Easter Sunday, in which Trump threatened to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement unless Mexico helps pay for a wall along its border with the U.S.
Trump also called for Senate Republicans to end the filibuster, and complained of “Caravans” heading to the U.S. That was an apparent reference to a migrant caravan of about 1,100 people organized by the group People Without Borders, which is currently in Oaxaca and bound for the U.S. The migrants are fleeing rampant violence and economic deprivation in their home countries. Most of them are from Honduras, where the U.S.-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández was recently inaugurated for a second term despite allegations of widespread election fraud in the November 26 election. This is José Ávila Luna, who says he was forced to flee Honduras amid political turmoil following the election.
José Ávila Luna: “Politicians want to cover things up. They steal elections. It’s a mess in my country. Regarding politics, it is a mess. Regarding the basic cost of living, the price of electricity is through the roof in comparison to the local currency.”
In Sacramento, California, a 61-year-old woman was struck by a police vehicle Saturday as she joined protests against the police killing of Stephon Clark, an unarmed African-American man who died after he was shot by police officers 20 times in his grandmother’s backyard last month. Wanda Cleveland was treated at a local hospital for injuries to her wrist and head after she was struck by a cruiser being driven by a sheriff’s deputy. The incident was filmed by legal observer Guy Danilowitz of the National Lawyers Guild.
Guy Danilowitz: “I saw a vehicle essentially strike a protester who was looking like she was trying to get out the way. And the vehicle, a sheriff’s deputy, was stopped, and accelerated forward violently, as the video shows, and struck her. And I called 911 because of the force with which she got struck. And then, the patrol vehicles, after striking her—it was loud, everyone heard it—they just sped off.”
Saturday’s protests came as a forensic pathologist hired by Stephon Clark’s family determined that Clark was struck repeatedly in the back by police gunfire. This is Dr. Bennet Omalu.
Dr. Bennet Omalu: “Six of the bullets, like you can see in the body diagram, exhibit gunshot wounds of entrance in the back, meaning he was shot in the back.”
Dr. Omalu said the evidence contradicted police claims that Clark was fired upon as he advanced toward officers. Police initially said they believed Clark had a firearm when he was shot. The department later said the officers believed at the time Clark was holding a toolbar. Clark was found to have only a cellphone on him at the time of his death.
In Yemen, a huge fire tore through a warehouse belonging to the United Nations’ World Food Programme on Saturday, incinerating food, fuel and other supplies bound for victims of a 3-year civil war. Among supplies destroyed were hundreds of thousands of mattresses meant for people made homeless by a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign against Houthi rebels. The war has devastated Yemen’s health, water and sanitation systems, sparking a massive cholera outbreak and pushing millions of Yemenis to the brink of starvation.
In Indian-administered Kashmir, at least 20 people died and 70 others were wounded over the weekend, as clashes erupted between government forces and pro-independence militias. Among those reportedly killed were three Indian soldiers and 13 militants. Meanwhile, in Srinagar, a curfew remains in effect today after police opened fire with live rounds on thousands of demonstrators protesting for an end to Indian rule, killing four people and wounding dozens of others.
In Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada has claimed victory in a presidential election that was widely seen as a referendum on marriage equality. Alvarado Quesada won over 60 percent of the vote, beating out conservative candidate Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, who made his anti-abortion views and opposition to LGBTQ rights a centerpiece of his campaign. Alvarado Quesada has promised to abide by last year’s ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that member countries should respect marriage equality.
Former U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Sunday he was fired unexpectedly by President Trump—directly contradicting claims by the White House that he resigned, which would determine who would temporarily succeed him. This is David Shulkin, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
David Shulkin: “I came to fight for our veterans, and I had no intention of giving up. There would be no reason for me to resign. I made a commitment, I took an oath, and I was here to fight for our veterans.”
David Shulkin has been speaking out on many networks in a move not seen by other Trump officials who have been ousted. Shulkin says he was fired over his opposition to privatizing the VA—an effort that’s been led by a group called Concerned Veterans for America, which is funded by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers. President Trump has nominated White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson to replace Shulkin, while appointing Pentagon official Robert Wilkie as acting head of the VA. But legal experts say that if Shulkin was fired, Trump’s move may have violated federal law, by bypassing Shulkin’s deputy, who was next in line to succeed him.
The Justice Department has demoted the head of its death penalty unit, after The New York Times investigated reports that he promoted favoritism, gender bias and a “sexualized environment” in the workplace. The Times cites interviews with more than a half-dozen current and former employees who say Kevin Carwile fostered a “toxic climate” rife with sexual harassment. In one alleged incident, Carwile looked on as a deputy groped an administrative assistant in view of several colleagues, and later told his employees to keep it a secret. Several employees say they complained about the abuses for years without a meaningful response.
In Washington, D.C., hundreds of Howard University students are occupying their campus’s main administrative building for a fifth straight day today, in a protest that began amid reports that university employees misappropriated $1 million in financial aid funds in a possible case of embezzlement. The students are demanding that President Wayne Frederick and the executive committee of the Board of Trustees resign over the scandal. They’re also demanding more action to prevent sexual assault on campus; the disarming of campus police; and adequate housing at the historically black university.
In Oklahoma, tens of thousands of school teachers have called a strike and are set to rally at the state Capitol today, as they protest for higher wages and a reversal to a decade of Republican-led cuts to public education. Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill bringing teachers a $6,100 pay raise and other benefits. The Oklahoma Education Association has said the measure is welcome but doesn’t go far enough in a state where teachers are among the lowest-paid in the country.
Meanwhile, school districts in parts of Kentucky are closed again today, after thousands of teachers in Kentucky began calling in sick last Friday. The wildcat strike comes after Republican lawmakers rammed through legislation last week that dramatically cuts retirement benefits for public employees. The pension rollback came as part of an amendment to a nearly 300-page bill about sewer system regulations. It was passed in a matter of hours on Thursday with no public hearings and before most lawmakers had a chance to read it. As the legislation sped through Kentucky’s House and Senate, hundreds of teachers protested inside the state Capitol, chanting “Vote them out!” This is Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler.
Stephanie Winkler: “There will be no more bills like that after November. We have to fight for every single new teacher. You can tell me all you want, ’It’s not going to hurt you.’ If you hurt one of us, you hurt all of us!”
This year’s wave of teacher rebellions began in West Virginia, where teachers won a 5 percent pay raise after a historic strike. The protests have inspired teachers in other states, including Arizona, where union members are threatening to strike unless their demand for a 20 percent wage increase is met.
In Guatemala, former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt died Sunday at the age of 91. In 2013, Ríos Montt was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison on genocide charges, over a massacre in 1982 that killed 273 indigenous people, nearly half of them children. That same year, President Ronald Reagan praised Ríos Montt as a “man of great personal integrity and commitment.” This is Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchú, speaking on Democracy Now! just after Ríos Montt’s conviction on genocide charges nearly five years ago.
Rigoberta Menchú: “This verdict is historic. It’s monumental. The verdict against Ríos Montt is historic. We waited for 33 years for justice to prevail. It’s clear that there is no peace without justice. There is no peace without truth. We need justice for the victims for there to be real peace. This verdict is crucial. It complements a long process of investigation, of denouncing the abuses, and a process that the victims hope will heal and result in reparations.”
A Guatemalan court annulled Ríos Montt’s sentence less than two weeks after his conviction in 2013. But last year, a court opened a new genocide trial for Ríos Montt along with his former intelligence chief Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez. That trial was still underway at the time of Ríos Montt’s death. Declassified U.S. government documents show that between the 1960s and ’80s, the CIA trained the Guatemalan military in techniques including torture, kidnapping and the forced disappearance of dissidents. The repression left some 200,000 people dead, the vast majority of them at the hands of Guatemalan government forces.