The meeting with two trans women that might have helped convince the Arkansas governor to oppose the anti-trans bill

Trans rights
People take part in rally outside New York’s Stonewall Inn in 2017.

  • Arkansas has become the first state to block transition-related care for trans youth.
  • Gov. Hutchinson said he met with trans people before deciding to reject the bill, though lawmakers overrode his veto.
  • The state’s only openly trans elected official spoke to Insider about her meeting with the governor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shortly before Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill that would make Arkansas the first state to block transition-related care for trans youth, he sat down with two trans women to better understand its impact.

On Tuesday afternoon, the state legislature voted to override Hutchinson’s veto, paving the way for it to take effect if the law survives legal challenges. Still, the governor’s veto a day earlier came as a surprise to many LGBTQ advocates around the country, as Hutchinson had already signed two other anti-trans bills, one banning trans girls from girl’s scholastic sports, and the other a sweeping religious exemption for health care providers who can now turn away LGBTQ patients for non-emergencies.

An account of the meeting between the Republican governor, the state’s only openly trans elected official, and an 18-year-old trans women may shed some light on Hutchinson’s surprising opposition to the bill.

The meeting, on March 30, was expected to last 30 minutes, according to Evelyn Rios Stafford, a Justice of the Peace in Fayetteville, who is openly trans.

But the governor had so many questions that it ran 10 minutes long, she said.

“He had a lot of questions,” Rios Stafford told Insider. “I could tell that this was not an issue that he was super familiar with at all.”

A spokesperson for the governor did not respond to questions about the meeting, but Hutchinson has said that he met with trans people and healthcare providers before reaching his decision. The young trans woman who was also present was not immediately available to discuss it.

Rios Stafford said that, as she watched the governor’s press conference less than a week after they had sat across from one another, she heard him echo some of what had come up in their closed-door meeting.

“The bill is overbroad, extreme, and does not grandfather those who are under hormone treatment,” Hutchinson said during his press conference. “I want people in Arkansas and across the country that whether they’re transgender or otherwise, that they’re loved, they’re appreciated, they make part of our state, and we want to send the message of tolerance and diversity.”

The message meant a lot to Rios Stafford, who said she can’t remember a southern Republican governor ever saying that trans people are loved, important members of the state.

Arkansas’ bill, HB 1570, bans puberty blockers and other transition-related care for trans minors. But it is not just limited to harming trans kids, and introduces a host of further restrictions on care for trans adults. It bans state funds, such as Medicaid, from being used towards transition care for trans people of any age.

Studies have shown that puberty blockers help relieve dysphoria triggered by an adolescent’s puberty, and vastly improves mental health overall. The treatment is widely accepted within the medical community, with endorsements from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Endocrine Society, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

The March 30 meeting was set up by Nicole Clowney, a Democratic state Representative from Fayetteville, Rios Stafford said.

She said that while she was used to meetings with other elected officials being super policy-focused, she was a bit nervous to speak with the governor about an issue that was so personal to her. But she was encouraged that the governor asked specifically how the trans community has been feeling, given all of the hostility of this legislative session.

“He asked how the trans community is reacting to all the bills that the legislature is sending his way,” she said, and told the governor about the community’s anxiety. “Honestly, they’re worried,” she explained. “They don’t know what else is coming down the pipeline.”

Rios Stafford said she explained to the governor that the bill would make life unlivable for a lot of trans people in Arkansas, and that she had been hearing from a lot of folks who are planning to flee the state as soon as possible. “I think that pained him a little bit to hear that,” she said.

The young trans woman told her story of coming out and transitioning in her Arkansas high school, and how she worried the wave of bills passed by state lawmakers would signal a green light for cisgender kids to bully and alienate trans kids.

The governor brought up specific medical questions about the treatments given to trans kids to treat gender dysphoria, Rios Stafford was able to answer some of those questions, but said she deferred to medical experts on others.

At one point during the meeting, Rios Stafford tried to appeal to the governor’s political values as a libertarian and a conservative.

“I was like, ‘Governor, I thought Republicans were supposed to be the party of small government,'” she said, noting that the governor smiled at that comment. “A lot of these bills are reaching down into the classrooms between teachers and their students. They’re reaching down in between families and their doctors. They’re reaching in between coaches and their teams. This is big government.”

Rios Stafford said she emerged from the meeting cautiously optimistic, but prepared for the governor to sign the bill anyway.

“The fact that he asked how the trans community is reacting, at least shows that he acknowledges the existence of the trans community,” Rios Stafford said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

State capitals are back on alert over conspiracy chatter about March 4 and they’ve already invested more in security

TX sidewalk
A small group of anti-government protesters gathered outside the Texas State Capitol, Jan. 17, 2021.

  • Security has been beefed up in Washington and in state capitals since the storming of the Capitol.
  • Conspiracy theorists have suggested Trump will be reinstated as president on March 4, 2021.
  • One state official said the “abundance of uncertainty” is being met with “an abundance of caution.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

State capitals across the country are braced for the possibility of violence where passions have run hot since the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, but experts caution that even the best-laid plans could be a feeble match for anti-government extremism.

The potential risk at state capitols has prompted authorities to intensify high-visibility security, stringing up razor wire, erecting barbed wire fencing and reinforcing a uniformed presence, along with undisclosed measures, to guard against a threat of danger on March 4, a date that many on the far right deem significant and some see as the day former President Donald Trump somehow is returned to office.

“It’s clear there is an enhanced threat to both state capitols and the U.S. Capitol,” said Brian Lynch, formerly of the FBI and now executive director of safety and security at RANE, a risk-assessment company. 

The significance of March 4 stems from right-wing beliefs that the U.S. government’s constitutional amendments, and presidencies, have been illegitimate since the 14th Amendment defined the rights of U.S. citizenship. March 4 was the day in 1789 that the U.S. federal government began operating, following ratification of the Constitution, and the day until 1933 when presidents were inaugurated. 

shamen
Protesters interact with police inside the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021.

Following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that “some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence” across the country.

“The risk and the threat is present. It has not gone away from January 6,” Lynch said. “Unless they disband, the risk is still there, and just because we don’t have a current threat about a particular area, the underlying risk is still there.”

Around the country are visible signs of beefed-up measures.

At Michigan’s capitol in Lansing, where in April demonstrators swarmed inside with weapons to protest a COVID-19 lockdown order, state police have boosted security and the uniformed presence since Jan. 11, according to a spokeswoman.

“Security enhancements now in place include both seen and unseen measures,” she said. 

Also in Michigan, officials voted to prohibit the open carry of guns inside the Capitol just days after the violence in Washington, D.C., a ban they had declined to implement previously.

At the Capitol in Austin, Texas, the Department of Public Safety is “monitoring events and their impact on public safety,” a spokeswoman said, adding, “We do not discuss operational specifics.”

Legislative and Supreme Court buildings and the governor’s residence in Washington’s capital city of Olympia have been guarded by extra staff and surrounded since Jan. 6 by nearly 4,000 feet of added security fencing, which “will remain in place until more is known regarding the new and enduring security environment,” a spokesman said.

“At this point, we have an abundance of uncertainty and therefore we must address it with an abundance of caution,” the Washington State Police spokesman wrote in an email.

Lawmakers in Washington’s state Senate recently approved a measure to prohibit the open carry of firearms at the Capitol and at public demonstrations elsewhere.

In Utah, where Capitol buildings were closed as part of a weeklong state of emergency declared following the Jan. 6 rioting in Washington, lawmakers are weighing a bill to spend almost  $1.2 million on security training and equipment to protect public officials as well as the state Capitol.

In Washington at the nation’s Capitol, nearly 5,000 National Guard troops have been ordered to remain in place for March 4.

A THREAT THAT’S FIZZLING OUT? 

Calls to action have circulated on right-wing venues like Telegram, Gab and Patriots.win, although some on social media have warned followers that the plans could be a set-up.

“Stay away from any event on March 4th,” warned one tweet. “Something is potentially cooking and we don’t need to be a part of it. Any of it.”

Rhetoric calling for violence has toned down, possibly because groups like QAnon have been taken off mainstream social media platforms and moved to less public venues, said Kevin Grisham, associate director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. 

Grisham said he sees less of a threat from a potential mob of protesters who might climb over a fence and more of a threat by small groups of hard-core believers who could pick out targets for violence like bombings and mass shootings.

DC fence
National Guardsman near the U.S. Capitol on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the massive groups like we saw on Jan. 6, but I think it’s a handful of people who potentially could be very dangerous,” Grisham said.

“Like the ones who tried to kidnap the governor of Michigan, all you need is a small group. Those are the ones I worry about most because you just don’t know.”

Or the potential date for action is simply in flux after previous machinations failed to materialize, said Dr. Ziv Cohen, an expert on extremism and a forensic psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.

“To a large extent it’s a fluid time right now,” Cohen said, noting he doesn’t expect much in the way of violence on March 4. “It’s a significant date for them, but I think they’re sort of reinterpreting their beliefs in light of current situations.”

March 4 is not like Jan. 6, which was a culmination of conspiracy theories that had predicted a Trump victory at the polls in November, said Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher and author of an upcoming book on QAnon, “The Storm is Upon Us.”

“My gut is that it’s going to fizzle out,” Rothschild said, adding that some on the right suspect the importance of March 4 was concocted by the media to make them look bad.

“This is an example of a prophecy getting a new date,” he said. “I don’t think anything is going to happen.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Photos show how a pro-Trump mob armed with sticks and metal pipes forced their way through police barriers to storm the US Capitol

DSCF4904.JPG
A man raises a beam as police block an entrance to the Capitol.

  • The US Capitol went into lockdown as thousands of rioters stormed past police barricades. 
  • The protesters, armed with sticks and metal pipes, fought off tear gas to force their way into the halls of government. 
  • The melee sparked outrage and delayed certification of the results of the 2020 general election.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Heads bowed with flags AC.JPG
The crowd gathers opposite police.

Climbing through the window AC.JPG
Flags and gas AC.JPG
Pro-Trump supporters react to tear gas.

Running with flag AC.JPG
One of the first rioters to break through the police line.

Breaking though gate AC.JPG
Rioters overwhelm a police barricade.

Capitol with sea of people, flags AC.JPG
Rioters at the Capitol carry American and pro-Trump flags.

MAGA blood on face.JPG
An inured Trump supporter outside the Capitol.

Steps Capitol Alan Chin
Protesters on the Capitol steps.

Taunting cops AC.JPG
A confrontation between police and a mob of Trump supporters.

Hand on face AC.JPG
Rioters, armed with a seized police shield, attempting to force their way in to the Capitol.

Night falls after protest.JPG
Police use tear gas to clear the area as dusk falls.

Read the original article on Business Insider