STATE NEWS BRIEFS for 01-28-21
NCDHHS SECRETARY APOLOGIZES FOR VACCINE MISHAP
[RALEIGH] State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen apologized Monday during a teleconference with hospitals and county health departments statewide for COVID-19 vaccine distribution delays and projected shortages. Facilities and been getting week-to-week deliveries of vaccine supply, but that practice made it difficult to plan ahead. As a result, they’ve had to cancel vaccine shot appointments. Dr. Cohen said the state will now assure a three-week minimum supply for planning.
SEN. TILLIS OPPOSES SENATE TRIAL FOR TRUMP
[WASH.] Calling it a “dangerous precedent,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) says he’s opposed to holding a trial for former President Donald Trump for his part in allegedly inciting the Jan. 6th siege of the U.S. Capitol because Trump is no longer in office. U.S. House managers earlier this week delivered an article of impeachment to the Senate as constitutionally required for trial. Republican senators have made clear that if the trial is held, a majority of them will vote to acquit Trump.
GREEN AND CONSTITUTION PARTIES NO LONGER RECOGNIZED IN NORTH CAROLINA
[RALEIGH] Because neither political party received at least two percent of the November 2020 vote, neither the Green nor the Constitution parties will appear on North Carolina ballots in the future, because they’re no longer recognized in the state. That also means North Carolinian voter can no longer affiliate with either party. On feb. 23rd, the State Board of Elections will meet to decide if those voters who currently are affiliated will transition to unaffiliated status. That change is constitutionally mandated to occur ninety days after the November election.
LAWSUIT FILED IN PENDER
MOB RAID ON BLACK FAMILY
By Cash Michaels
After eight long months, a Black Pender County woman and her teenage son will have their day in court soon to tell how an off-duty New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy - in uniform - and several armed accomplices, tried to force their way into the Black family’s home, allegedly looking for a missing girl the group falsely believed was being held there.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Monica and Dameon Shepard of Rocky Point Tuesday in Pender County Superior Court, alleging that now former deputy Jordan Kita and “…a mob of known and unknown white residents…attempted to forcibly enter” the Shepards’ home on the late evening of May 3, 2020.
Also named in the lawsuit, Timothy Kita, Jordon Kita’s father who was also present during the raid; one of the other allegedly armed participants, Robert Austin Wood; and eleven “John and Jane Does,” indicating the other unknown members of the “mob’ that descended on the Shepards’ home.
Their names are expected to be revealed during discovery prior to trial.
The Shepards “demand” a jury trial to determine the extent of their financial and punitive damages.
According to the lawsuit, “This case is a present-day example of the long and ugly history of white mobs acting with impunity and reckless disregard in the extrajudicial pursuit of Black Americans. Like the thousands of victims of KKK night rides or lynch mobs in the Jim Crow era, Plaintiff Monica Shepard and her teenage son Dameon, 19, were terrorized by Defendants’ actions, which constitute trespass, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, interference with civil rights, and violation of the right to fair housing.
The suit goes on to document how Kita, leading the mob in uniform and with his service revolver, “…attempted to forcibly enter the Rocky Point home of the Shepards, but was at first denied entry by the teenage son, Dameon.
“The mob claimed to be looking for a Black teenager who lived at the Shepards’ address because they believed he was with a relative of Kita’s who had been missing for a few hours…,” the lawsuit states.
“Although Plaintiff Dameon Shepard repeatedly explained that they had the wrong house and that he was not the person they were looking for, Defendants continued to harass and intimidate Dameon, and tried to force their way into his home.”
The suit continued, “Plaintiff Monica Shepard also explained that they had the wrong house, but the Defendants continued their threatening presence and again tried to force their way inside. Monica refused to let them enter her home.”
The Pender County Sheriff Dept. was called, but when deputies arrived, they made no arrests of the threatening mob, the lawsuit contends, and didn’t even attempt to identify anyone.
“Coming just three months after the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, and two months after the shooting death of Breonna Taylor late at night by three white plain clothed police officers after forcibly entering Taylor’s apartment (another wrong address), Defendants’ actions terrified Plaintiffs Monica and Dameon Shepard. The racialized context of Defendants’ attack on Plaintiffs’ home, the historical legacy of white mob violence against African Americans, and the failure of Pender County Sheriff Deputies to properly respond inform the nature of this action,” the lawsuit alleges.
It is also alleged that a captain with the Sheriff’s Dept. tried to smooth over the terrifying incident twice with the Shepards both that night, and the next day, ben though he was told that the mob was armed. “He told the Shepards that it was complicated to apprehend or arrest anyone who had been there the previous night.” He later tried to talk Ms. Shepard out of pressing charges or pursuing the matter.
“The following day at approximately 3:00 p.m., Attorney Jim Lea delivered a letter to the District Attorney for Pender and New Hanover County, as well as to Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler and New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon, demanding a full investigation into the incident at the Shepard residence,” the suit states.
“The next day, at approximately 4:00 p.m., New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon, Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler, and New Hanover/Pender County District Attorney Ben David held a press conference in which they announced charges had been brought against two of the Defendants.”
“ New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department terminated Defendant Jordan Kita’s employment and charged him with misdemeanor willful failure to discharge duties, misdemeanor forcible trespass (common law), and misdemeanor breaking and entering.”
The lawsuit continued, “Defendant Wood was also charged with going armed to the terror of the people”
“No other arrests have been made since that time, although the New Hanover and Pender District Attorney’s office and Pender County Attorney’s office have suggested that some type of investigation into the incident is ongoing.”
The lawsuit also notes that the Pender Sheriff’s Dept., which took part in helping to search for the missing girl that the kites were looking for, gave them “permission” to search in the neighborhood where the Shepards lived.
The suit notes North Carolina’s “long history’ of mob violence against Black people, including the 1898 race massacre.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Shepard family by the Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of Washington, D.C. , and the Lea/Schultz Law Firm, P.C. of Wilmington.
There was no response to the lawsuit from Jordan Kita or his family, or attorneys representing them at press time Wednesday. Defendants in lawsuits usually have thirty days to respond from the date of the initial filing.
NC POLICE DEPTS GET
$44 MILLION IN MILITARY
By Cash Michaels
After the police killing last May of George Floyd, activists with Black Lives Matter and other coalition groups took to the streets of the nation demanding to “Defund the Police,” seeking to reduce the ability of police departments to kill innocent African-Americans.
But if a special investigation by a Durham television station is accurate, several NC police and sheriffs departments have received upwards of $44 million in surplus military equipment over the past year.
What’s more interesting is that those local police agencies paid next to nothing for surplus weapons, machetes, rifles, riot shields, and even vehicles.
It’s called the “1033 Program,” which, according to the Duke University Center for Firearms Laws, is a federal program that “…allows the DoD (U.S. Dept. of Defense) to transfer its excess property to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies at no cost other than what is required for transfer and maintenance. This property includes “vehicles, helicopters, weapons, ammunition and other property that is needed by law enforcement agencies.”
The program is part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 1997, and originally was supposed to be an aid in the War on Drugs, giving local police agencies comparable firepower to the automatic weapons and other armaments carried by street gangs guarding their drug territories.
In 2019, 92% of the military property given to local police agencies was considered “non-controlled,” meaning things like computers, furniture, sleeping bags, etc.
8%, however, was considered “controlled” property because it involved weapons, helicopters, and even night vision equipment. It should be no surprise that the percentage of controlled property to local law enforcement agencies has been rising, says the Duke Center.
According to the Duke Center, as of 2020, $7.4 billion worth of federal armament has been transferred to 8,200 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in 49 states, including North Carolina.
The national public first became aware of how widespread the program was when they saw the Ferguson, Mo. Police Dept. roll armored tanks down the street to deal with civil unrest there in the aftermath of the Michael Brown police shooting.
President Obama issued an Executive Order to reform the program and add more scrutiny shortly after, but when Pres. Trump took office in 2017, he rescinded that order, allowing the program to continue unfettered.
Still, there are items that have been removed from the list of controlled property DoD is able to transfer to local police agencies, including “[A]ny aircraft, vessels or vehicles that inherently contain weaponry, (e.g. tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, armed drones); crew served/large caliber (.50 caliber or greater) weapons and ammunition; military uniforms; body armor; Kevlar helmets; and explosives or pyrotechnics of any kind.”
Still, according to Durham TV station WTVD-11, “While the bulk of items are relatively mundane (first aid kits, clothing, computers, office supplies and even a popcorn maker), data obtained … also shows armored vehicles, machetes, rifles and riot shields among tens of thousands of individual items transferred from the U.S. military to North Carolina law enforcement agencies.”
A quick look at the list of what North Carolina police and sheriff departments have been getting from the U.S. military includes rifles for the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Dept. since 2004; rifles and mine resistant vehicle (valued at $658,000 ) for the Guilford County Sheriff's dept; two all-terrain vehicles for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Dept; and a metal detector and freezer for the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept.
Many of North Carolina’s more remote and rural counties got weapons and vehicles.
GOP CONTINUES VOTER
FOR 2022 ELECTIONS
By Cash Michaels
If you were under any impression that the Republicans have ceased their voter suppression efforts after trying unsuccessfully to overturn the Nov. 2020 presidential election results, guess again.
If anything, the fact that incumbent Republican Pres. Donald Trump decidedly lost to Democrat Joe Biden - in addition to the stunning victories by two Georgia Democrats earlier this month - has inspired Republican-led legislatures across the nation to ramp up efforts to establish tighter controls over voter mechanisms in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and of course, the granddaddy of them all, North Carolina.
The objective? Not to ferret out alleged “rampant” voter fraud, which Republicans maintain - without evidence - has corrupted the system, but to ensure more GOP electoral victories.
With the next critical national election just around the corner - namely the 2022 midterm elections - Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias said it best recently on Twitter.
“If you don't think that voter suppression is the GOP's top priority for 2021-22, then you aren't paying attention.”
Republican-led states are looking to eliminate no-excuse mail-in voting and voting drop boxes, as well as establish voter I.D laws and other restrictions that would make it harder, not easier for African-Americans and other communities of color to cast ballots.
In North Carolina, state Republicans, who still maintain control of both chambers of the General Assembly, are eagerly awaiting two court cases - one federal, one state - dealing with the future of North Carolina’s 2018 voter ID law.
Per the federal case, the Fourth Circuit recently dumped a federal judge’s temporary injunction against the 2018 voter ID law until an upcoming hearing. The state case hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the NC legislature are reportedly prepared to introduce new restrictive voting laws during the current session.
North Carolina’s anti-Democrat conservatives have already started their disinformation campaign to boost Republican efforts, by attempting to rewrite well-documented recent history.
This week, Amy Cooke, the new CEO of the Raleigh-based right-wing think-tank the John Locke Foundation, issued the latest of her weekly video commentaries, claiming that “…reporters and left-wing activists have misused the words “almost surgical precision” regarding a US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down the 2013 NC voter ID law regarding how African-American voters were targeted for suppression.
Cooke maintains that the phrase is used to “distort Republicans’ record,” adding there was no proof GOP legislative leaders were racially targeting “anyone.”
“With two Trump appointees, and one Obama judge, the Fourth Circuit restored voter ID for North Carolina,” Cooke says. “And depending on a separate case in state court, the state could have voter ID for the next election (2022). With the 2021 legislative session just starting, I’m sure there will be more debate about voter ID and redistricting.”
Not so fast, says atty. Irving Joyner, who was actually led the NCNAACP legal team who got the 2013 voter ID law overturned.
“Based on the totality evaluation, which the 4th Circuit conducted, that three-judge [appellate] panel concluded the General Assembly’s assaults on Early Voting, Out of Precinct Voting, same day registration and voting, pre-registration by 16 and 17 year-olds and the imposition of a stringent Photo Voter Identification Requirement were intentionally directed at blunting the increasing voting political participation by African Americans in this State’s political process. Based on this legally mandated totality assessment, the 4th Circuit concluded that the General Assembly had acted with surgical precision to curtail those voting procedures which had been heavily utilized by African American voters.”
As evidence, Joyner reminds us that Republican lawmakers requested specific information on what kinds of photo identification Black voters were likely to have, and the crafted the 2015 law to disallow those specific forms of ID.
Republicans took note of Black voters favoring early voting, then cut the number of days they could do it, plus eliminated “Souls to the Polls” Sunday voting.
They also eliminated same -day registration/voting, and other aspects of early voting favoring African-Americans.
“The John Locke analysis is distorted and is designed to mislead those persons who listen to it,” atty . Joyner continued. “I am sure that we will hear this ill-informed analysis again as the General Assembly returns to efforts to curtail the constitutional right and opportunities of African Americans and racial minorities to vote.”
“Presently, the NC NAACP is challenging the latest effort by the General Assembly to impose a Photo ID requirement in federal court. Initially and in response to this challenge, an injunction was issued in favor of those Plaintiffs which prevented the use of these Photo IDs during the past elections. That injunction was recently dissolved by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals after the November elections, but that decision is presently being appealed. In a separate and independent challenge to the photo ID requirement which was filed in State Court, another injunction has been issued and that decision remains in place while the appeal in the 4th Circuit continues.”
Atty. Joyner concluded, “The suggestion that a restoration of a Photo ID requirement is right around the corner is idle speculation. The NC NAACP is committed to fighting against this Photo ID requirement until hell freezes over.”