President Biden said Wednesday his administration will crack down on illegal gun dealers and will increase funding for police departments as part of an effort to combat a spike in gun violence across the United States.
President Joe Biden: “Today, the department is announcing, as I just did, a major crackdown on — to stem the flow of guns used to commit violent crimes. It’s zero tolerance for gun dealers who willfully violate key existing laws and regulations.”
Biden’s plan includes doubling funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services — or COPS — program, a federal scheme that pays state and municipal governments to hire more police officers. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pushed back against Republican claims that Biden supports calls to defund the police.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “The president has been very consistent in his views over the course of decades. He has never been for defunding the police. He has always been a supporter of ensuring there are — that local community policing is funded and adequately supported by the federal government.”
In Washington, D.C., several civil rights leaders, including Reverends Jesse Jackson and William Barber, were arrested Wednesday at a nonviolent protest outside the U.S. Senate as they demanded West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and other lawmakers abolish the filibuster to pass a major voting rights bill and other legislation. Their protest came a day after all 50 Republican senators blocked the For the People Act from advancing. The bill would restore the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court eight years ago. This is Reverend William Barber speaking ahead of his arrest.
Rev. William Barber II: “Yesterday’s party-line vote to kill debate on the For the People Act certified what we already knew: McConnell’s obstructionist caucus as politically mean, extreme, regressive and anti-the Constitution, anti-the very Constitution they swore to uphold.”
In another Supreme Court decision Wednesday, justices ruled 6 to 3 that a California labor law violated the constitutional rights of property owners by giving union organizers access to workers on privately owned farms during their work breaks. The ruling strikes down a crucial part of a landmark 1975 labor law that was the nation’s first to recognize agricultural workers’ rights to collective bargaining. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, “The access regulation grants labor organizations a right to invade the growers’ property.”
It’s a devastating blow to the United Farm Workers. In a statement, the union said, “The Supreme Court ruling makes a racist and broken farm Labor system even more unequal for farm workers. … This decision denies workers the right to use breaks to freely discuss whether they want to have a union.”
A new report reveals ICE has force-fed immigrant prisoners who go on hunger strike. As well as force-feeding, ICE also performed forced urinary catheterization at least once, which is illegal under international law. ICE agents also used harsh tactics to deter hunger strikes, including water deprivation and threatening prosecution. Some of the abuses in the report date back as far as 2015 during the Obama administration.
This comes as Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the U.S.-Mexico border Friday to try to show the Biden administration is moving away from Trump’s hard-line immigration policies. Harris will go to El Paso, Texas, where the Trump administration started its family separation policy in 2017.
The United Nations General Assembly voted 184 to 2 Wednesday on a resolution demanding an end to the 60-year U.S. economic blockade on Cuba, which has devastated the economy of the island nation. Only the United States and Israel voted against it. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla blasted the embargo as a massive human rights violation — particularly as Cuba works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “This is made visible by the lengthy lines which every day overwhelm the Cuban people in the midst of a pandemic to access basic goods, by the shop shelves that are empty and the unbridled increase in food prices. … The blockade is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of all of the Cuban people. Pursuant to Article II, subparagraph (c), of the Geneva Convention of 1948, the blockade constitutes an act of genocide.”
It was the 29th straight year the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
In Brazil, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has resigned amid a federal investigation into his ties to illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest. But environmental activists say the situation is unlikely to improve, since Salles will be replaced by Joaquim Álvaro Pereira Leite, who previously advised a farming lobby.
This comes as Brazilian riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Indigenous activists in Brasília who were protesting new bills that would weaken protections for Indigenous land, opening them up to agricultural and mining interests.
Back in the United States, an Indiana woman on Wednesday became the first person to be sentenced over the deadly January 6 insurrection. Anna Morgan-Lloyd pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge and will serve no jail time, after she said she was sorry for joining the violent pro-Trump mob that breached the U.S. Capitol seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Two other participants pleaded guilty Wednesday, including a member of the Oath Keepers militia who will see a reduced sentence in exchange for cooperating with federal prosecutors.
This comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to announce the creation of a select committee to investigate the U.S. Capitol insurrection, after Senate Republicans last month blocked a bill that would have created a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack.
Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has defended the military’s teaching of critical race theory, after Republican Florida Congressmembers Michael Waltz and Matt Gaetz attacked one academy’s curriculum during a House hearing, and as prominent Republicans have suggested the military is becoming too “woke.” This is General Milley speaking at the hearing Wednesday.
Gen. Mark Milley: “And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers, of being, quote, 'woke' or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there. That was started at Harvard Law School years ago, and it proposed that there were laws in the United States, antebellum laws prior to the Civil War, that led to a power differential, with African Americans that were three-quarters of a human being when this country was formed. And then we had a Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation to change it. And we brought it up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — took another hundred years to change that.”
That was General Milley responding to Congressmember Matt Gaetz, who is currently under investigation by the FBI over possible violations of sex trafficking laws and for allegedly paying a 17-year-old to have sex with him. General Milley also elaborated on why teaching about historical racism is essential to understand the events of January 6.
Gen. Mark Milley: “The United States Military Academy is a university. And it is important that we train and we understand. And I want to understand white rage. And I’m white, and I want to understand it. So, what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out.”
Connecticut has become the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Democratic Governor Ned Lamont signed the legislation Tuesday, which expunges thousands of convictions for possession and will prioritize granting retail licenses and directing revenues toward the communities of color that have been disproportionately targeted by the war on drugs. The ACLU found Black people in Connecticut were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
A New York state Supreme Court judge has sided with the New York City police union, striking down a City Council law passed last year which banned chokeholds and other violent restraints. The law was passed amid nationwide protests following the police murder of George Floyd. New York still has a statewide ban on chokeholds.
The parents of a student killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have tricked a former president of the National Rifle Association into giving a high school graduation speech defending gun rights in front of 3,044 empty white chairs — one chair for each student who could not graduate this year because they were killed by gun violence. David Keene, who still serves on the NRA board, thought he was giving a rehearsal speech for graduating students at the James Madison Academy at Las Vegas — but no such school exists. This is part of what David Keene said.
David Keene: “There are some who will continue to fight to gut the Second Amendment. But I’d be willing to bet that many of you will be among those who stand up and prevent them from succeeding.”
The stunt was organized by Change the Ref, a group founded by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin “Guac” was shot dead in the Parkland, Florida, massacre in 2018.