2 GOP-led states are attempting to bar protesters convicted of crimes from receiving student loans and jobless aid

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  • The Minnesota Legislature introduced a bill to prevent protestors convicted of crimes from getting student loans.
  • This comes at a time when students are protesting the killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.
  • A bill in Indiana also prevents people convicted of protest-related crimes from getting jobless aid.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the 11 months since the Black Lives Matter movement emerged across the country, scores of Republican-led states are attempting to crack down on protests by introducing what they call “anti-riot” legislation, The New York Times reported.

GOP lawmakers in two of those states – Minnesota and Indiana – want to step up penalties for protesters, seeking to bar people convicted of crimes during a protest from receiving student loans and unemployment aid.

On April 8, the Minnesota Legislature, led by Republican Sen. David Osmek, introduced a bill that would make anyone convicted of a protest-linked crime ineligible to receive student loans, mortgage assistance, and many other forms of state aid.

According to the bill text, a person convicted of a crime at any protest or civil rally “is ineligible for any type of state loan, grant, or assistance, including but not limited to college student loans and grants, rent and mortgage assistance, supplemental nutrition assistance, unemployment benefits and other employment assistance, Minnesota supplemental aid programs, business grants, medical assistance, general assistance, and energy assistance.”

This bill is particularly significant given the recent instances of police brutality in Minnesota, and the protests that have emerged around them. On Tuesday, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. His killing last May touched off a wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the nation.

As the Minnesota Daily reported, thousands of college students participated in protests in the state after Floyd’s death, and some University of Minnesota students are still awaiting their court date after being arrested for protesting in November.

And last Sunday, a Brooklyn Center police officer killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, prompting further protests and arrests of students in the area.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke out against the bill shortly after it was introduced, saying that protesting is fundamental to the nature of this country.

“This particular provision (the bill) is created because, whether you want to say it or not, it’s created because there is a particular annoyance we have with a particular group of people who have decided to organize themselves because they are tired of being invisible and tired of being ignored,” Omar said.

The bill in Indiana mirrors the one Republican lawmakers put forward in Minnesota. It would prevent people convicted of protest-related crimes from tapping into unemployment benefits, student loans, public health insurance, and public housing.

It would bar those convicted of being part of an unlawful assembly from holding a state or local government job as well.

Other states are following with their own anti-protest bills. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed what he called an “anti-riot” bill into law which grants civil immunity to drivers who hit protesters and shields police departments from budget cuts

Civil rights advocates say that laws are already in the books to stave off riots and that Black Lives Matter demonstrations rarely turn violent. A report late last year from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit group, indicated that the vast majority (93%) of racial justice protests were peaceful.

The Washington Post analyzed 7,305 demonstrations last year, and found that 96% of them did not lead to destruction of property or violence against police officers.

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Biden responds to Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the murder of George Floyd

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President Joe Biden speaks about the Colorado shootings in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2021.

  • President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass criminal justice reform to honor George Floyd.
  • “No one should be above the law,” Biden said. “And today’s verdict sends that message. But it’s not enough.”
  • Former police officer Derek Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Tuesday night after a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

“No one should be above the law,” Biden said. “And today’s verdict sends that message. But it’s not enough.”

He also called the killing of Floyd, “a murder in full light of day,” saying “it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the Vice President just referred to.”

The president called on state and local governments to do more to reform policing to reduce killings by law enforcement.

“We also need Congress to act,” he said, calling for the passage of legislation, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, to address “systemic misconduct” in police departments.

He also warned against “agitators and extremists” exploiting the events to create further civil unrest. “We can’t let them to succeed. This is a time for this country to come together.”

Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the nation immediately after Biden. “America has a long history of systemic racism,” she said. “Black Americans, and Black men in particular, have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human.”

“Because of smartphones, so many Americans have now seen the racial injustice that Black Americans have known for generations,” she added. “It is not just a Black America problem, or a people of color problem. It is a problem for every American… and it is holding our nation back.”

Biden, Harris, and First Lady Jill Biden called Floyd’s family after the verdict was announced on Tuesday afternoon.

“Nothing’s going to make it all better, but at least now there’s some justice,” Biden told the family earlier in the evening. “You’re an incredible family, I wish I was there to put my arms around you … we’re all so relieved.”

Harris said she was “so grateful for the entire family, for your courage, your commitment, your strength.”

“In George’s name and memory, we’re going to make sure that his legacy is intact and history will look back on this moment and know that it was an inflection moment,” she said. “We’re going to make something good come out of this tragedy, okay?”

Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges against him: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. The verdict came after a closely-watched three-week trial and two days of deliberation. Chauvin will be sentenced in the coming weeks and faces up to 40 years in prison.

Crowds gathered in Minneapolis erupted in cheers and shouts of “justice!” as the verdict was read aloud by the judge on Tuesday afternoon.

Biden faced criticism for publicly weighing in on Chauvin’s trial before the verdict was reached earlier this week. But the president defended his comments by saying he’d waited until the jury was sequestered and therefore couldn’t be influenced by his remarks.

The president told reporters on Tuesday that he was “praying for the right verdict” in Chauvin’s trial and said the “evidence is overwhelming.” And he said he had talked with Floyd’s family and expressed sympathy and support over the phone.

“They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility, no matter what that verdict is,” Biden went on.

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Portland police officers used force more than 6,000 times against protesters last year

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A demonstrator is pepper sprayed shortly before being arrested during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Portland, Ore.

  • Portland police used force 6,000 times against protesters last year, according to DOJ attorneys.
  • These incidents at times violated department policies and top brass didn’t question it, they said.
  • Portland became a flashpoint for protest activity and police response after George Floyd’s death.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In late May, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, erupted as a hotbed for protest activity, with demonstrators taking to the streets for more than 100 consecutive days.

It also became a flashpoint for clashes between police and protesters. Demonstrators were at many times peaceful but in some instances engaged in violence and vandalism, while federal and local law enforcement repeatedly used aggressive tactics in response to the protests.

But legal documents filed by attorneys for the Department of Justice last month have started to paint a picture of just how frequently officers turned to force.

Portland Police Bureau officers used force “more than 6,000 times” during “crowd-control events” between May 29 and November 15 – an average of 35 times per day – the attorneys said, summarizing the DOJ’s review of PPB officers’ conduct as part of a previous settlement agreement.

“PPB has failed to maintain substantial compliance with the Agreement’s force-policy requirements,” they said.

PPB did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on this story.

“Some of this force deviated from force policy, and supervisors frequently validated individual uses of force with little or no discussion of reasonableness of the force used,” the DOJ attorneys said. “Many [after-action reviews] did not include any witness interviews or officer interviews. Many [reviews] contained similar or identical, i.e., cut-and-paste, language.”

The DOJ’s review also found that commands from top brass often didn’t translate effectively to front-line officers, leading to the agency to conclude that in some cases, those officers’ “movements were chaotic and could have been executed better.”

The review also determined that PPB improperly justified its use of force by claiming all members of a protest were engaged in “active aggression” simply by being part of a crowd where some people were being aggressive. In one example, according to the document, an officer justified firing a “less-lethal impact munition” at an individual because they “engaged in ‘furtive conversation’ and ran away.”

The DOJ did acknowledge, however, that officers in Portland faced “substantial challenges” stemming from the wave of protests, which it said often included a “criminal element,” as well as a rise in violent crime across the city and budget cuts that hindered training.

Portland faced a particularly complex blend of protest activity last year, some of which has continued into 2021.

Many of the demonstrators, particularly in the early months, protested police brutality and systemic racism, and drew from a diverse crowd ranging from BLM activists to suburban moms, veterans, and doctors. But Portland’s Black police chief also called out a small subset of violent protesters, and there is an emerging schism between the city’s progressive groups – with some continuing to engage in vandalism.

Portland has also seen a surge in far-right activity, with Proud Boys and other white supremacist militia groups clashing with protesters, anti-lockdown protesters violently storming the state capitol, and election conspiracy theorists rallying at the capitol in January.

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After being shot in the face while covering a protest, a freelance journalist and her attorney alleged a conspiracy. A judge just ruled to let the case move forward.

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Police advance on demonstrators who are protesting the killing of George Floyd on May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • Linda Tirado was covering a protest when she she shot by police with a “less-lethal” munition.
  • The incident left her blind in one eye. She’s suing police and the city of Minneapolis.
  • In an interview, she discussed a recent court victory and her hope for justice.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The arc of history may ultimately bend toward justice, but Linda Tirado says she isn’t waiting around for the passage of time. 

“I think that, every step in the process, the judicial system has a chance to kind of nudge things toward being more right,” Tirado said in an interview following a legal victory that could have broad ramifications for police and how they treat reporters. “And I think that any time you can nudge things towards being more correct or more just, that’s a net good outcome, not only for me but for anybody who’s going to be affected by this.”

A freelance photojournalist, she says she was shot in the face last summer with a “less-lethal” round fired by a cop in Minneapolis, where, identified as press, she was covering the civil unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd.

It left her partially blinded, in pain – the headaches persist to this day – and racking up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills for two surgeries. In a lawsuit filed last year, Tirado alleged that she was not the victim of a mere accident, but of a conspiracy, involving city leaders, police, and recently retired union boss (and Trump rally speaker) Bob Kroll, to tolerate rank-and-file officers targeting the press.

Last August, Kroll filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. The police chief did as well. The city filed a motion to dismiss part of the amended complaint. (The city did not dismiss Tirado’s “common-law battery claim.”)

“How am I doing? It’s pretty mixed, man,” Tirado said in an interview, eight months later. “It’s a pandemic, and I don’t have sight in my left eye.”

Tirado has slowly returned to her craft; she now specializes in extreme close-up photography, while still venturing out to cover protests from time to time. “When I’m using a camera, I find I’m able to see what I could before, and that’s been really kind of soothing,” she said.

Beyond the comfort of a routine, Tirado also has that court victory.

In a February 22 order, US Judge John R. Tunheim wrote that what happened to Tirado was not only “serious and troubling,” but seemed to be part of pattern that gestures toward a policy of institutional disregard for the US Constitution. 

“Although not every incident involved the use of foam bullets or projectiles,” Tunheim wrote, “the alleged police misconduct toward journalists occurred under similar circumstances: journalists were identifiable as press, separated from protestors and at a distance from police, and were not engaging in any threatening or unlawful conduct.”

The judge, while not in a position to issue a final judgment, did determine that Tirado’s lawyers (at the powerhouse firm Sidley Austin) had made a compelling case that the lawsuit should move forward. To dismiss it as but a single injustice from one police action would give police a de facto “window” for violating the constitution on the basis that, legally – as the city and its law enforcement argued – it is not possible to demonstrate a pervasive, formal custom of abuse based on actions that transpired over a period of just a few days.

In Minneapolis, over a half-dozen other journalists alleged abuse at the hands of police around the time of Tirado’s injury. These incidents were widely reported, her attorneys note, arguing that subsequent failure to rein in police suggests widespread complacency, if not outright support.

“There are important constitutional rights that we believe were violated,” Tai-Heng Cheng, global head of international arbitration and trade at Sidley Austin, told Insider. He took up the case not because it’s a singular injustice, but because it speaks to a broader and systemic wrong in the United States. “This case of course is important not just for Linda, but for journalists everywhere – and especially for journalists who put their lives at risk in covering civil protests in America.”

This week’s ruling means that Tirado’s legal team can now proceed with discovery, gaining access to communication between the city, the police, and their union. The goal is to demonstrate that the repeated targeting of the media was known, and hardly discouraged.

A spokesperson for the city of Minneapolis declined to comment.

Law enforcement elsewhere will likely be watching the case, and not just on the local level. In Portland, for example, Trip Jennings, who has worked with PBS and National Geographic, told Insider last June – just weeks after Tirado was shot – that he believed he was likewise targeted by law enforcement with a less-lethal round. His vision was saved by protective eyewear (Tirado had protection too, but any safety gear will struggle to withstand a direct hit).

On March 8, meanwhile, a trial will begin in another case: that of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd.

“I’m going to be watching that with close attention,” Tirado said. She has friends who will be covering it and any protests that take place outside. “My concern right now is, well, I hope we all collectively learned some lessons because what we don’t need is for happened to me to ever happen again to any citizen,” she said, “but particularly a journalist who is reporting out a story.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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A grand jury refused to indict the 2 buffalo police officers who shoved and injured a 75-year-old man at a BLM protest

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Riot police in Buffalo shove Martin Gugino during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd.

  • A Buffalo grand jury dismissed felony assault charges against two Buffalo police officers.
  • In June, the two officers shoved 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground, fracturing his skull.
  • Erie County DA John Flynn said he believed the officers committed a crime, but not at the felony level.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn shared that a grand jury dismissed charges against two Buffalo police officers who shoved and injured an elderly man during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020.

Officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were charged with felony assault and suspended without pay after the incident. The altercation, caught on video, showed Martin Gugino, 75, peacefully walking towards officers and then being forcefully pushed to the ground. 

In the graphic and now-viral clip, Gugino lays unconscious as his head starts bleeding. Gugino suffered a fractured skull and brain injury as a result of the incident, his attorney said over the summer. (Viewer discretion is advised for the clip below.)

 

At the time, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, the push “was disgusting, and I think, illegal.” 

At a press conference on Thursday, Flynn said, “I still believe a crime was committed. I don’t believe a felony was.” Flynn argued that by attending a protest past curfew, Gugino broke the law.

Flynn denied claims that he “sandbagged” the case. “The grand jury did their job. I apologize for nothing,” Flynn said. Flynn also tried to defend Gugino in one instance from a conspiracy Trump once spread, saying, “He’s not antifa, OK?” 

Gugino told WKBW Buffalo that he believes his constitutional right to protest superseded him breaking a curfew. “Even if I were breaking the law, you can’t just hit me. Where is that in the training manual?” Gugino said.

John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, issued a statement following the case’s dismissal.

“The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association is extremely pleased with today’s decision by a grand jury to dismiss charges against Buffalo Police Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski,” the statement said. 

The statement added that the two officers “were simply following departmental procedures and the directives of their superiors to clear Niagara Square despite working under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo told WKBW that the two officers remain suspended pending an internal investigation.

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