Thursday Reads

A statue depicting Christopher Columbus is seen with its head removed at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park on June 10, 2020 in Boston. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Good Morning!!

The movement inspired by the murder of George Floyd has inspired more than the Black Lives Matter protests. People are toppling statues now, and not just the ones of confederate traitors.

Someone beheaded the Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End yesterday. (The North End used to be Boston’s “little Italy.”) WBZ (CBS) Boston: Beheaded Christopher Columbus Statue In Boston Will Be Removed From North End Park.

The Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End will be removed after it was beheaded early Wednesday morning. Mayor Marty Walsh said it will be put in storage and there will now be conversations about the “historic meaning” of the incident and whether it will ever go back up.

The statue in Christopher Columbus Park on Atlantic Avenue was surrounded by crime scene tape as the head lay on the ground next to the base.

Now, as police investigate how it happened, local indigenous groups are calling on the mayor to remove the statue for good.

“It’s a park dedicated to white supremacy,” said Mahtowin Munro of the United American Indians of New England. “It’s a park dedicated to indigenous genocide.” [….]

The head was also cut off back in 2006. The statue was doused with red paint in June 2015 with the words “Black Lives Matter” spray-painted on the base.

Another statue of Columbus was taken down at Minnesota’s state capitol in St. Paul. Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Protesters topple Columbus statue on Minnesota Capitol grounds.

Protesters lassoed a statue of Christopher Columbus outside the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon and pulled it to the ground, saying their action was a step toward healing for Indian communities.

People danced in a circle around the Christopher Columbus statue after it was toppled on Wednesday night on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds in St. Paul.

Dozens of people gathered by the statue on the grounds outside the Capitol before pulling it down. American Indian Movement activist Mike Forcia talked to a State Patrol captain sent to the scene to encourage protesters to follow a legal process for removing the statue, which has stood on the Capitol grounds since 1931. Forcia said they had tried that route many times and it had not worked.

The protesters then looped a rope around the statue and quickly pulled it off the stone pedestal and to the ground. The patrol officer watched from a distance as protesters sang and took photos with the statue for about half an hour.

State officials said they had been warned about the action via social media. It was mentioned at a news conference an hour and a half earlier with Gov. Tim Walz. Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said then that the patrol would meet the protesters and seek an alternative resolution.

In Richmond, VA, a Columbus statue was pulled down, set on fire, and rolled into a lake. Another Columbus statue was vandalized in Houston and another in Miami.

Two other stories of note on the topic of racism and Black Lives Matter protests:

Associated Press: Pope sends strong message to US Catholics after Floyd death.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis called George Floyd by name, twice, and offered support to an American bishop who knelt in prayer during a Black Lives Matter protest.

Cardinals black and white have spoken out about Floyd’s death, and the Vatican’s communications juggernaut has shifted into overdrive to draw attention to the cause he now represents.

Christopher Columbus statue dumped in lake in Richmond, VA

Under normal circumstances, Floyd’s killing at the hands of a white police officer and the global protests denouncing racism and police brutality might have drawn a muted diplomatic response from the Holy See. But in a U.S. election year, the intensity and consistency of the Vatican’s reaction suggests that, from the pope on down, it is seeking to encourage anti-racism protesters while making a clear statement about where American Catholics should stand ahead of President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term in November….

Last week, Francis denounced the “sin of racism” and twice identified Floyd as the victim of a “tragic” killing. In a message read in Italian and English during his general audience, Francis expressed concerns about violence during the protests, saying it was self-destructive.

Read more at the link.

CNN: A Missouri woman asked Merriam-Webster to update its definition of racism and now officials will make the change.

Kennedy Mitchum wasn’t expecting much when she emailed Merriam-Webster last month, but she wanted to let the dictionary publisher know that she thought its definition of the word racism was inadequate.

So she was surprised when an editor responded and even more surprised that the company agreed to update the entry.

Mitchum has gotten into a lot conversations about racism and injustice where people have pointed to the dictionary to prove that they’re not racist. It’s happened a lot more lately as the world reacts to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers….

Kennedy Mitchum

“I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world,” she told CNN. “The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans.”
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” [….]

Mitchum said she sent her email on a Thursday night and got a reply from editor Alex Chambers the next morning.

After a few emails, Chambers agreed that the entry should be updated and said a new definition is being drafted.

“This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem,” Chambers said in the email, which was provided to CNN. “We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner.”

Meanwhile, a backlash against Trump and his pet AG Bill Barr is building over the violent clearing of Lafayette Square to facilitation Trump’s ludicrous Bible photo op last week.

Tom McCarthy at The Guardian: ‘An abuse of power’: alarm grows over top Trump lieutenant’s military masquerade.

…[T]he top law enforcement official in the country, the attorney general, William Barr, is facing an internal crisis of confidence and growing calls for his own resignation.

Barr stands accused of directing violence against peaceful demonstrators outside the White House earlier this month, and with peddling a conspiracy theory advanced by Donald Trump in an attempt to smear protesters, who enjoy wide public support.

Trump/Barr attack on protesters in Lafayette Park

In the first 16 months of his tenure, Barr caught criticism for compromising justice department independence with his seemingly lockstep defense of Trump, whether he was protecting the president from the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller or intervening in criminal cases against the former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

But Barr’s critics now fear that he has taken a new step, of trying on a military hat as the president’s top lieutenant in the antagonistic posture the White House has taken against street protests that have sprung up after the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis by white police officers.

A bit more:

The attorney general’s denial at the weekend that systemic racism was a problem in US law enforcement prompted new calls for his resignation.

“I think there’s racism in the United States still, but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Barr told CBS News’ Face the Nation. “And I would say, you know, the president, before any of this happened, was out in front on this issue.”

On no planet has Trump been “out in front” in the campaign against racist policing, said Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions, a Twin Cities-based activist organization.

“William Barr is a white man who is serving a racist administration, so of course he’s going to deny the fact that the current law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Montgomery said.

Bill Barr checking out the “troops” before ordering them to attack peaceful protesters.

The Washington Post: More than 1,250 former Justice Dept. workers call for internal watchdog to probe Barr role in clearing demonstrators from Lafayette Square.

More than 1,250 former Justice Department workers on Wednesday called on the agency’s internal watchdog to investigate Attorney General William P. Barr’s involvement in law enforcement’s move last week to push a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators back from Lafayette Square using horses and gas.

In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the group said it was “deeply concerned about the Department’s actions, and those of Attorney General William Barr himself, in response to the nationwide lawful gatherings to protest the systemic racism that has plagued this country throughout its history.”

“In particular, we are disturbed by Attorney General Barr’s possible role in ordering law enforcement personnel to suppress a peaceful domestic protest in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, for the purpose of enabling President Trump to walk across the street from the White House and stage a photo op at St. John’s Church, a politically motivated event in which Attorney General Barr participated,” the group wrote.

The group asked Horowitz to “immediately open and conduct an investigation of the full scope of the Attorney General’s and the DOJ’s role” in that and other events.

“The rule of law, the maintenance of the Department’s integrity, and the very safety of our citizens demand nothing less,” the group wrote.

Barr was also publicly excoriated by former Judge John Gleeson for his attempt to drop charges against Michael Flynn. Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: A retired judge’s sharp rebuke of William Barr confirms the worst.

Judge John Gleeson

Back in May, long after Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in their investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election — which got him fired as national security adviser after 24 days on the job — Barr took the extraordinary step of seeking to drop the case against him before he could be sentenced. In response, the judge in the case asked a respected retired judge to make a recommendation about how this highly unusual situation should be handled.

That retired judge, John Gleeson, not only recommended that Flynn be sentenced as planned but issued a scathing report condemning the Justice Department’s actions in the case:

In his argument, Gleeson said the government’s “ostensible grounds” for seeking dismissal were “conclusively disproven” by its own earlier briefs; contradict the court’s prior orders and Justice Department positions taken in other cases; and “are riddled with inexplicable and elementary errors of law and fact.”

A former federal prosecutor and judge for 22 years in Brooklyn — best known for putting the late mob boss John Gotti behind bars and presiding over the trial of “Wolf of Wall Street” stockbroker Jordan Belfort — Gleeson wrote that judges are empowered to protect their court’s integrity “from prosecutors who undertake corrupt, politically motivated dismissals. That is what has happened here. The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President.”

Not only that, Gleeson stated that “Flynn has indeed committed perjury in these proceedings, for which he deserves punishment,” but recommended that instead of a separate prosecution, Flynn’s misdeeds should be taken into account when he is sentenced for the crime he pleaded guilty to.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Of course there is much more news out there. I’ll add some links in the comment thread and I hope you will too.


12 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Important article by Joshua A. Geltzer and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Donald Trump’s Increasingly Elaborate Bid to Create His Own America.

    On Tuesday morning, Donald Trump, whose unsurprising character defects still never fail to surprise, tweeted a Russian-sourced conspiracy theory claiming that the 75-year-old peace activist who remains hospitalized after his head was smashed open by Buffalo, New York, law enforcement officers was in fact a tech-savvy “ANTIFA provocateur” who “fell harder than was pushed.” The president also linked to a report from a conservative cable news outlet, One America News Network, for support. That report claimed, with no supporting evidence, that the man “was attempting to capture the radio communications signature of Buffalo police officers.”

    The problem for Trump—but actually the problem for all the rest of us—is that we all saw the video. We all saw a peaceful 75-year-old approach the Buffalo police officers, who then push him to the pavement and walk past his bleeding body. In fact, the existence and wide circulation of that video are what forced the Buffalo Police Department, which originally claimed that a person “was injured when he tripped & fell” during a “skirmish involving protestors,” to suspend the two officers. The existence of the video, for all intents and purposes, closed the case, at least in the court of most sentient public opinion.

    But closed cases are actually Donald Trump’s specialty. And the more compelling the evidence of a closed case is, the more apt he is to relitigate it. It’s no accident that some of Donald Trump’s most incendiary claims require his true believers to accept that their own eyes cannot be believed.

    • dakinikat says:

    • quixote says:

      Minor point buried, well, not just in that piece but everywhere. This business of calling these people “conservative.”

      They’re not in any sense of the word. Not in Edmund Burke’s sense of making sure you don’t wreck things when trying something new. Not even in the Reaganism sense of conserving a Hollywood vision of America that never existed. Teargassing civilians is about as far from that vision as you can get.

      These people are reactionaries. All they know how to do is react against perceived enemies. We should start calling them by their right name.

  2. dakinikat says:

    Good thread on where most of those statues came from …

  3. dakinikat says:

    Now if we could dump Columbus Day for a day for Indigenous Americans and get rid of Andrew Jackson statues

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      oh maaaaaaan. He’s come up with so many variants on how to be a total dump that I never thought he’d come up with a new one. A pathetic failure of my imagination.

      So at the rallies he’ll be egging them on with how it’s a “Democrat” hoax imported from Chi-nah but-oh-hey-first-sign-this-waiver-for-when-you-get-it.

      I hope the Dems or Never Trumpers have already made an ad out of this. Final line: “Do you ever get the feeling he’s lying to you?”