September 23, 2020 9:34 pm
Breonna Taylor was murdered by Louisville, KY police while asleep in her home in March of this year. Today, the three officers responsible for her death–Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove–were not held responsible for her death. A grand jury indicted only one former officer, Brett Hankison, with three counts of wanton endangerment. The other two former officers were not indicted at all. No one was charged directly for Taylor’s death.
For blindly firing shots, with no substantial evidence for having “raided” in the first place, officers Mattingly and Cosgrove enjoyed the benefits of paid administrative leave, and Hankinson was fired. Taylor’s family recently received a settlement of $12 million, such a concession fails to challenge the power structure that enables police officers nationwide to continue to inflict fatal violence onto poor and working people.
The Kentucky Attorney General insists they located a witness stating the officers did knock and announce themselves. This sits poorly against the backdrop of the other public evidence. The incident report was a farce. It was so poorly filled out that some information is wrong–like the victim’s injuries are indicated as “none.” Her boyfriend Keith Walker isn’t mentioned in the report despite the fact that he defended himself and was then detained while in the hospital for doing so.
In fact, three Louisville officers barged into Taylor’s apartment while she was sleeping. The officers murdered Taylor, a Black woman and essential worker. Now they are trying to justify extreme force and avoid being held accountable. Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly – one of the officers involved in the police killing of BreonnaTaylor – said “I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night.”
Protests across the country have demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, and other victims of racist police brutality. In an email to around 1,000 officers, Mattingly called protesters “thugs” and said “it is good versus evil.”
The only reason the grand jury has even brought this meek indictment is the strength of the movement that erupted after the murder of George Floyd and the work on the ground in Louisville of the movement against racist police brutality.
In anticipation of continued protests after what they knew would be an insufficient indictment, the state declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew starting Wednesday. In this society, the police murder of a Black woman requires no real response yet the righteous anger of thousands resisting racist police brutality is cause for a state of emergency.
Breonna Taylor should still be here today, and she would be if the police weren’t assured by the system in a million different ways that they will get away with wanton murder and racist, sexist violence.
As we know, Taylor is not the only woman murdered by police. Geraldine Townsend. Hannah Williams. DeCynthia Clements. India Kager. These are just a few of the names of the near 250 women who have been murdered by police since 2015. Many of these names have yet to even breach the surface of mainstream news coverage, despite having been just as brutally and unjustly murdered by the state.
Of the, on average, 1,000 people murdered by police yearly since 2015, about 44 – or 4.4 percent – have been women. The gendered gap may be explained, in part, by the broader patterns that exist within the criminal justice system regarding gendered stereotypes; women tend to be viewed as less of a “threat” to police than men. Because women account for a much smaller subset of the population, such murders are often left out of the conversation of policing, or are dismissed as “collateral damage” in instances including other police pursuits. However, the social and economic conditions that result in women’s fatal encounters with police point to some of the same overall trends among policing at large – particularly in regards to race, class and disability.
The chance of police using force on women rapidly increases if they are perceived as not conforming to the stereotype of being submissive – especially if the woman is Black (and thus inherently “uncooperative”), LGBTQ, or mentally ill. Of the 247 women fatally shot by police since 2015, Black women have the highest rate compared to women of other races, accounting for 20 percent of all women’s deaths. An identical pattern of racial disparities is present in police stops, for both men and women; the year before Michael Brown was murdered, Black women in Ferguson were subject to traffic stops more than any other group of motorists. Mental crises also often end in police murder, particularly for women, who have higher rates of mental illness; nearly one-third of the 247 women murdered experienced mental health issues, compared to 22 percent of men.
Such was the case for DeCynthia Clements, a 34-year old Black woman living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, who was shot and killed by Chicago police. Hannah Williams, a 17-year old Afro-Latina with an established history of mental illness also suffered the same fate at the hands of Fullerton, Calif., police while experiencing an episode. In both cases, police acted customarily with fatal bullets rather than necessary de-escalation tactics. Nationwide calls for police departments to be defunded, instead shifting the resources to social services and mental health programs, are most blatantly emboldened by such tragic cases. Despite the overly-violent and often fatal handlings by police of case after case of interactions with civilians, rarely do the victims or their families receive justice.
The nationwide revolt against racism has forced the system to change–and substantially changed the consciousness of people across this country. This is the only force capable of keep up the pressure and demanding true accountability for Breonna Taylor’s tragic murder–the people themselves.
On June 29, the Supreme Court overturned an abortion restriction law in its decision in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. The case posed a direct threat to abortion rights in the United States, and the decision is a win for women’s rights. Although the court has a conservative, anti-abortion majority, this decision was no doubt shaped by the nationwide rebellion against racism. Justice John Roberts’s vote with the four “liberal” justices on the basis of precedent falls in line with other recent decisions in which the court has decided NOT to further attack the rights of oppressed groups of people during a nationwide uprising against racism. (links to DACA and employment law articles)
The case centered on a Louisiana anti-abortion law that could have made Louisiana the first state without de facto legal abortion access since the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe V. Wade that legalized abortion in the United States.
The decision in June Medical Services v. Russo settled a challenge to Louisiana’s Act 620, passed in 2014 but subsequently blocked, that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. Laws requiring admitting privileges are a form of “targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” or “TRAP” laws— which impose severe and medically unnecessary requirements on outpatient abortion clinics and women’s healthcare centers. Such laws have had devastating effects on women’s health and ability to access abortion services.
Admitting privileges are not easy to acquire by any means. Only two abortion providers in Louisiana have them. One is retired.
The June Medical Services case was virtually identical to a previous Texas case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2016. The court found the law placed undue burden on women by requiring doctors to have medically unnecessary hospital admitting privileges.
According to a 2018 survey of abortion providers released by the Feminist Majority Foundation, there are startling levels of anti-abortion violence and harassment directed towards clinics and providers. Reports show that a quarter of clinics across the country have experienced the most severe threats of violence, including death threats, stalking and blocking clinic access. Nearly half of U.S. clinics reported having experienced at least one incident of severe harassment, such as a break-in, robbery, or vandalism. Eighty-eight percent of clinics reported being subjected to disruptive protests and demonstrations that in some places are occurring daily or weekly.
Anti-abortion laws, such as Louisiana’s Act 620, impact poor and working women— especially women of color. Louisiana has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, with Black women making up 72 percent of pregnancy-related deaths. In 2017, a District Court found that Act 620 placed undue burdens on low-income women and women of color in Louisiana. During the District Court case, a clinic director gave testimony that approximately 70 to 90 percent of women who receive abortions at her clinic are poor or low-income. In its ruling striking down the law, the District Court cited that 75 percent of women seeking abortions in Louisiana are already mothers.
Over the last two decades, the rightwing’s strategy has been to chip away at abortion access by passing restrictive laws state-by-state and even in some cities. Between 2011 and 2019, states passed over 1,000 anti-abortion measures. The laws vary from TRAP laws to bills based on false science and misogyny that prohibit abortions after a specific point in pregnancy, require waiting periods before seeking and/or obtaining an abortion, biased counseling as a precondition and slew of other requirements.
The assault on abortion access does not end there. Amidst a global pandemic, Texas, Ohio, and Mississippi lawmakers have attempted to ban abortion access by including abortions in the non-essential procedures and medical procedures that need to be delayed. The assault on abortion rights relies heavily on the promotion of false science and medically unnecessary requirements. The multiple bans, bills, and laws utilize pseudoscience to falsely claim, for example, that the fetal heartbeat is detectable at six weeks. From bans to state-by-state laws with false science and scare tactics in its arsenal, the rightwing is seeking to generate the legal challenge that will ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade.
Women’s access to abortion and reproductive service is not a moral issue but is instead a health issue, a matter between patients and our providers. Access to abortion is fundamental to women’s health, safety, and control of our bodies. The threat of dismantling Roe v. Wade, which secured the right to abortion, puts women’s lives and rights on the line. Outlawing abortion does not stop women from getting abortions, but it does make it less safe.
In the context of the coordinated right-wing assault on abortion rights, the Supreme Court decision in June Medical Services is a victory. It is also the third such victory for oppressed people in the United States at the Supreme Court level in the last two weeks. The Supreme Court declared that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination and overturned the Trump administrations attack on the dreamers.
A central factor in the seemingly progressive turn in a court with a minority of liberal judges and a slew of newer Trump appointees is the nationwide revolt against racism. That the Black community of Minneapolis rebelled, igniting a nationwide revolt in which millions of people have protested in the face of curfews and repression over the month, set the political context for the decisions of the Supreme Court. It is not nine elite justices who determine our fates, it is the people ourselves in motion that have the power to make substantive political change. The capitalist government doesn’t act in the interest of the majority of us unless they feel forced to do so.As in the case of the DACA program decision, Roberts joined the majority somewhat on a technicality. Further attacks on abortion will continue to percolate up from the states; the overall state of reproductive rights in the U.S. is terrible. At least 16 cases that would restrict abortion access are in lower courts, and 25 abortion bans have been passed in more than 12 states in the past year.That said, the nationwide uprising against racist police terror should point the way for the direction the women’s movement needs to take. The Supreme Court needs to fear the wrath of people in the street who uphold a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.
Women are the fastest-growing population in US prisons. The fabric of oppression women face within the many sectors of what is known as mass incarceration from policing to the courts to conditions in prisons themselves and then parole is directly tied to the functioning of the capitalist system itself. Women’s oppression is stripped down to its most brutal character within the prison industrial complex. This issue of Breaking the Chains will explore the systemic and systematic trauma imposed on women and girls by the system of mass incarceration—and the racist, sexist treatment of working women that directs them towards the prisons. The issue will expose the capitalist system for what it is, inhumane and unnecessary.
This issue includes:
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