Biden revokes Trump executive order for sculpture garden of ‘American Heroes’

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • President Biden revoked Trump’s executive order for a sculpture garden of “American Heroes.”
  • Trump felt that a garden would blunt attempts to “erase our heroes, values and entire way of life.”
  • Biden has issued a slew of executive orders since taking office in January.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Friday revoked several key executive orders issued by former President Donald Trump, notably the sculpture garden of “American Heroes” that the former president proposed on Independence Day last year in a nod to culturally conservative voters.

Biden scrapped Trump’s vision of a “National Garden of American Heroes,” which would have included statues of “historically significant Americans” and rose out of what many Republicans felt was an attempt to tear down monuments during the racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.

Trump’s now-revoked order decried “dangerous anti-American extremism” and emphasized that the garden would be “America’s answer to this reckless attempt to erase our heroes, values, and entire way of life.”

The garden was slated to include a vast array of historical and cultural figures, from Crispus Attucks and Neil Armstrong to Amelia Earhart and Whitney Houston. Other figures that were set to be featured in the garden included Christopher Columbus, Harriet Tubman, former President Ronald Reagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among others.

Existing statues of Columbus were targeted by protestors across the country last year, much to the ire of many conservatives.

Read more: How Marjorie Taylor Green became the Voldemort of Congress. Few lawmakers even want to say her name.

Biden also rescinded an order issued last June that directed the Department of Justice to prioritize prosecutions for individuals who vandalized federal monuments.

“These statues are silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal,” the now-rescinded order read. “They preserve the memory of our American story and stir in us a spirit of responsibility for the chapters yet unwritten. These works of art call forth gratitude for the accomplishments and sacrifices of our exceptional fellow citizens who, despite their flaws, placed their virtues, their talents, and their lives in the service of our Nation.”

Trump’s orders came during a summer that was defined by protests against the legacy of discrimination against Black Americans in the United States.

The Black Lives Matter movement was elevated to national prominence for much of the year, and its push to address racial inequities throughout the country became a rallying cry for conservatives who disagreed with the premise of systemic racism.

Trump, who was vehemently opposed to the toppling or removal of Confederate monuments while in office, decried such actions as an erasure of American history.

Biden has issued over 40 executive orders since assuming the presidency in January, from halting the Keystone XL pipeline project to canceling two of Trump’s actions on refugees.

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Improvised flamethrower modeled on an Elon Musk design among the weaponry found at US protests, documents focusing on the far-right reveal

Boring Company flamethrower
An attendee operates a Boring Co. flamethrower at the company’s photo booth during an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, California on December 18, 2018.

  • Federal, state, and local documents that focus primarily on the threat of the far-right have been made public.
  • An array of deadly makeshift weapons had been found at protests during the last year, the Guardian reported.
  • One of the weapons – a homemade flamethrower – is based on a model sold by Elon Musk’s The Boring Company.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Explosives, flamethrowers, and incendiary devices are some of the weapons discovered by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies outside rallies and at protests during 2020 and 2021, court documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The documents, provided to the Guardian by the transparency group Property of the People, offer descriptions of an array of makeshift weapons that had been confiscated or found at major political events.

The documents focused, primarily, on the threat of the far-right, the Guardian reported.

One such weapon was an improvised flamethrower that is said to have been taken from protesters in Erie, Pennsylvania last June, the Guardian said. The documents said that the homemade device appears to be modeled on a viral post of instructions on how to build a nearly exact copy of the “Not-A-Flamethrower” sold by Elon Musk’s The Boring Company.

Another makeshift flamethrower – a propane-power weed burner – was also confiscated from protesters in Portland, Oregon, according to the Guardian.

Read more: MAGA’s favorite killer: How a kid who gunned down 3 people became a hero to the far-right

An improvised explosive device (IED) that appeared to be “modified with nails” and made from scratch was discovered in Atlanta in June of last year, the documents said.

In early June, Black Lives Matter protests took place for 11 consecutive days in the city. Georgia was in a state of emergency and the National Guard had been activated to deal with looting and unrest until June 9, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Some of the IEDS, the documents explained, may have been used by businesses attempting to deter looters.

According to the documents seen by the Guardian, a “suspected metal pipe bomb with mechanical timer” was found outside the Republican National Committee building in Washington DC. It was discovered on January 5 – the night before the deadly insurrection. A similar device was found outside the Democratic National Committee building on the same night, the Guardian reported.

It is suspected that the same person, who is yet to be identified, planted both bombs, according to the FBI.

Molotov cocktails, powerful fireworks, and a plastic bottle with an “ignitable liquid” were also found in cities across the US, the documents said.

Concluding remarks referenced the “enduring threat” posed “by far-right, neo-Nazi and white supremacist world views” and explicitly call out Proud Boys and QAnon, the paper said.

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Colombian protesters as young as 13 years old are being killed in the streets as they fight for a better future. The rest of the world should have their backs.

Protesters stand in the street holding signs with balloons behind them.
Colombian protests in Bogotá.

  • In the last week, protests in Colombia have been met with widespread police brutality and repression.
  • Many of the protestors who have been killed and injured are young people speaking out for a more just and peaceful Colombia.
  • The global community should condemn the violence and pressure Colombia’s government to better protect human rights.
  • Jordan Salama is a writer, journalist, and author of the upcoming book Every Day the River Changes.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As their country tries to move towards peace, Colombia’s young people are doing everything they can to meet the moment.

It’s something that I noticed the very first time I reported from the country back in 2016, and found a nation that didn’t at all fit the stereotypical reputation that many foreigners have come to accept: a much-maligned country filled with narco-traffickers and guerrilla soldiers.

On that first trip I instead met a young man who was transforming his rural hometown into a regional center for ecological conservation. When I returned two years later for an ongoing project meant in part to explore how the people of Colombia’s heartland are recovering from more than half a century of conflict, I met dozens of other young leaders working tirelessly to pull their communities out of violence and towards a more stable and resilient peace.

Police have killed dozens of young protesters

Today, in the midst of a still-raging pandemic, brave young Colombians are being killed and assaulted in the streets at an unimaginable scale. Protests over a proposed bill to raise taxes – which was quickly revoked – have now shifted towards more general outrage over rising pandemic-induced poverty, hunger, and joblessness among the lower and middle classes of Colombia, and longstanding frustration with the current government over the implementation of the 2016 peace deal that officially ended more than half a century of armed conflict in the country. Protesters have been met with state repression and police brutality and dozens have been killed by government forces. Hundreds more have been injured, and riot control officers are facing multiple allegations of sexual abuse.

A line of police officers in riot gear block the street
Colombian protests in Bogotá.

“People are not taking to the streets in the middle of a pandemic because they want to,” said Francia Márquez Mina, 39, one of Colombia’s most prominent human-rights defenders and a current presidential candidate, told me by phone from the city of Cali, where she’s been marching alongside protestors. “There is no other way out.”

It’s a rapidly unfolding human rights crisis. Videos of the killings, some even broadcast live on social media, show instances of police (or ESMAD – the national anti-riot force) officers shooting into crowds. People in their teens and 20s have made up a huge portion of the demonstrators, and according to INDEPAZ, a national Colombian peacebuilding organization, the majority of injuries and deaths.

Marcelo Agredo, a high schooler, was killed by police in Cali after kicking a police officer. Santiago Murillo, 19, was killed while heading home from a protest in the city of Ibagué. Nicolás Guerrero of Cali, an artist and activist in his early 20s, was shot in the face by police in the midst of a peaceful protest being streamed live on Instagram. The youngest person known to have been killed was just 13 years old.

“As an activist, as a student, as a citizen, I’ve risked my life by taking to the streets and fighting for our rights,” said one 18-year-old woman from Cali, who asked that her name not be revealed because she has received death threats for speaking out. “It’s unimaginable that in the middle of peaceful, artistic, and cultural protests, the [riot police] officers would arrive every day to spray tear gas, confront the protestors, and violate our human rights. In Cali they are killing people simply for protesting against a corrupt government, a government that doesn’t think about the needs – food, jobs – of the people of Cali and the people of Colombia.”

A woman and man dressed in black and red playing drums in a street protest.
Colombian protests in Bogotá.

“Today people are rising up, and more than anyone else it’s young people,” added Márquez. “I think about all these young people who are in the streets and I think about my own children. And I think about all the mothers, these women who are losing their children every day, who are getting the news that their children have been hurt, assassinated, jailed by the state…it’s sad, but we know we have to forge on, to keep resisting, to keep fighting.”

Response to government failures

Colombia’s former president, the far-right politician Álvaro Uribe, took to Twitter over the weekend to defend “the right of soldiers and police officers to use their weapons to defend themselves” against what he called “terrorism.” The tweet was soon removed, and Twitter cited “glorification of violence,” but many also saw the tweet as a green light for Uribe’s mentee, the current President Iván Duque, to escalate the state’s repressive response.

It’s an apex point of violence against a generation that has already faced multiple threats in the years since the 2016 peace agreement. The conservative Duque administration has been resoundingly and rightly criticized for being slow to implement the accords, especially in rural areas. Colombia is now one of the most treacherous countries in the world for social leaders and activists, whose community initiatives often run counter to the interests of armed groups fighting for control of the resource-rich countryside – not long ago a 10-year-old received death threats for his environmental and educational activism. And in the past year especially, repeated massacres and shootings have led to youth deaths across the country. The Duque government has been accused of not doing enough to solve or stop these crimes.

“We young people are the ones sticking our necks out for our country, in every sense, and we’re just met with constant repression,” Sofía, a 17-year-old activist in Bogotá, told me. “To be a young person in Colombia is not only an act of survival, but an act of rebellion. We want to put an end to the systematic violence that has been upheld by so many.”

Protesters raise their hands with fists. Someone is holding a Colombian flag.
Colombian protests in Bogotá.

Hope for a better future

Young people I speak with all over Latin America have echoed Sofía’s sentiment: That in a digital, globalized world, grassroots activism is a tool that feels more appealing and more powerful than ever before. I’ve written this past year about how the pandemic has galvanized our generation of young-adult Americans to fight harder for positive social change. But in few places has it felt as urgent as in Colombia, where for many communities nearly every significant step forward has been met with a relapse into violence. The pandemic has, of course, made everything worse, with nearly 43% of the country’s population now in poverty.

And yet there is so much that Colombians love about their own country and want to see prosper – including its hugely diverse communities, rich history, and vast natural beauty. At the very least, this new generation should have a safe and fair way to speak its mind about the country and world they want to live in. That’s why, at yet another important inflection point for democracy in the Americas, the international community must not only condemn the current violence against protestors, but continue to pressure the Colombian government in the long term to protect defenders of human rights and the environment across the country.

A shirtless man with red fabric draped around him dances in the street with a crowd of people watching
Colombian protests in Bogotá.

For young people, change can’t come soon enough. “Our generation is not going to be silenced by fear,” said Sofía. “We are going to push until things change for the better.” To do our part from afar, we must stand with the pueblo of Colombia and ensure that our own leaders do the same.

Jordan Salama is a writer whose essays and stories appear often in National Geographic, The New York Times, and other outlets. His first book, Every Day the River Changes, a journey down Colombia’s Río Magdalena, will be published by Catapult in November 2021.

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GOP state lawmaker facing criminal charges related to a video that appears to show him allowing right-wing protestors to enter the Oregon Capitol

oregon state capitol protests
In this Dec. 21, 2020, file photo, pro-Trump and anti-mask demonstrators hold a rally outside the Oregon State Capitol as legislators meet for an emergency session in Salem, Ore.

  • Video shows a GOP state lawmaker letting in protestors into the Oregon state capitol on December 21.
  • Oregon Rep. Mike Nearman faces two charges in connection with the incident.
  • Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek called Nearman’s actions a “serious breach of public trust.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A GOP state lawmaker was charged Friday, after video appears to show him open the door to the Oregon State Capitol, allowing right-wing protestors to enter the building.

During a demonstration on December 21 of last year, surveillance video appears to show state Rep. Mike Nearman physically opening a door to the Capitol building without shutting it behind him, allowing protestors waiting outside the Oregon Capitol to quickly enter the building.

In the video, Oregon State Police later arrived to push protestors back outside and standing in the open door while facing off a crowd of protestors. Four people were arrested in the incident, which was later declared an unlawful assembly.

On Wednesday, Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek said during a press conference that it was Nearman who opened the door “to let demonstrators into the building.”

“This was a serious, serious breach of public trust,” Kotek told reporters Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers accused Nearman of putting lawmakers and Capitol staffers in danger for his actions in a formal complaint filed in January. The complaint described Nearman’s actions as “completely unacceptable, reckless, and so severe that it will affect people’s ability to feel safe working in the Capitol or even for the legislature,” citing a report by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“He let a group of rioters enter the Capitol, despite his knowledge that only authorized personnel are allowed in the building due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the complaint said.

Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson filed charges against Nearman on Friday in connection with the December 21 incident.

He faces one count of official misconduct in the first degree for “unauthorized exercise of his official duties, with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another,” and another count on criminal trespass in the second degree for aiding and abetting “another to unlawfully and knowingly enter and remain in and upon the premises of the Oregon State Capitol.”

Nearman did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the charges filed by the Marion County district attorney.

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How America’s state police got military weapons

  • To date, the US has spent over $15.4 billion on the militarization of police.
  • All of these weapons, vehicles, and equipment are acquired by the police through a military program called 1033.
  • There are four major moments in history that enabled the creation of the 1033 Program: The Safe Streets Act of 1968, The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, The National Defense Authorization Act of 1990, and The Patriot Act of 2000.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, people protested in at least 140 cities across the nation. Here in Indiana, a protestor lost an eye from a tear gas container hitting him in the face.

In North Carolina, protesters were trapped by a cloud of tear gas on both ends of a street. In Kentucky, an officer attacked a newscaster and camera crew with pepper bullets.

And here in Detroit, police backed by armored vehicles marched down the streets. To date, the US has spent over $15 billion on the militarization of police.

All of these weapons, vehicles, and equipment are acquired by the police through a military program called 1033.

It’s like eBay for cops with leftover war equipment, except everything is free and you only pay for shipping and handling. Up until 2017, police couldn’t be in the program unless they used equipment within a year of receiving it.

So how did local police acquire all of these military weapons? And why do they even need them? To answer this question, we’re going to examine four moments in history.

Clip: From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Narrator: In the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress signed the Safe Streets Act into law in June of 1968.

Through that act, in an effort to crack down on organized crime and gun violence, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration was created.

LEAA guaranteed the distribution of federal money to fight organized crime. This funded what we know as SWAT, and it ensured SWAT received searchlights, emergency radios, bullhorns, nightsticks, body armor, face shields, and special weapons like M79 grenade launchers.

Prior to 1968, SWAT teams were used sparingly, only in volatile, high-risk situations like bank robberies or hostage situations. SWAT’s first test as a militarized front came when the LAPD used a tank on loan from the California National Guard on the Southern California Black Panther Party.

Clip: The intermittent warfare between the Black Panthers and police erupted today in Los Angeles. There, a group of them barricaded themselves in their headquarters and fought police with automatic weapons and hand grenades.

Narrator: The US Department of State granted the LAPD authorization to use tear gas and sniper rifles. With national coverage, SWAT grew in popularity across the US and with other local law enforcement, creating a demand for military equipment.

LEAA’s budget was a total of $7.5 billion, with a good portion going towards the militarization of US local law-enforcement agencies. After nearly a decade of extremely high budgets and spending, LEAA began to receive criticism because it had not shown success in decreasing crime rates.

On April 15, 1982, LEAA was abolished when Congress failed to fund it. But by that time, SWAT teams and their militaristic approach had already become the norm.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act expanded the use of no-knock or quick-knock warrants and assistance of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines in drug-related searches and seizures.

It allowed for members of SWAT to arrive at suspected locations of criminal activities and enter without knocking or announcing themselves, pointing guns at anyone inside.

They often used diversionary tactics like flash grenades, rendering their victims deaf and blind. In some cases, individuals believe they’re experiencing a home invasion, to which they grab a gun. Like Jose Guerena, a former US Marine who was suspected of selling marijuana. What you’re about to see and hear might upset you. He pulled a gun because he believed his home was being invaded, and the police shot him 60 times in seven seconds. No drugs were found.

In the early 1980s, there was on average about 3,000 recorded SWAT incidents per year. By the mid 1990s, that number grew to about 45,000 SWAT incidents per year. 75.9% were drug raids.

Of those raids, SWAT officers fired 342 times. They injured 61 and killed 139 citizens.

In 1989, George H. W. Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act.

This act allowed for surplus DOD equipment from the Cold War to be transferred to US law enforcement. Sections 1207 and 1208 allowed for the following: “the procurement of services and leasing of equipment” and the transfer to federal and state agencies personal property, “including small arms and ammunition.”

And from those two sections, eight years later, the 1033 program was born. Under Bill Clinton’s administration, the use of military surplus trade continued with the introduction of the Law Enforcement Support Office, LESO, which enacted US code title 10, section 2576a, also known as the 1033 program.

Much like National Defense Authorization Act 1208, the 1033 program expanded into other areas, including counterterrorism. This line states that surplus military equipment can be used for counter-drugs and counterterrorism efforts. This line states that surplus military equipment is free of charge minus shipping and handling.

Over $7.4 billion worth of property has been transferred since the program’s inception. More than 8,000 law-enforcement agencies have enrolled. Items shipped include boots, radios, shields, M16 assault rifles, tanks, and silencers.

For every one qualified officer, one M1911 pistol, M16 rifle, or M14 rifle is allocated. For every three officers, a department can get a Humvee, and every law-enforcement agency has the ability if they apply to receive one MRAP.

And then, three days after 9/11, George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act.

It created a gray zone where law-enforcement agencies were able to perform more searches and seizures with access to delayed warrants, wiretaps, email, and web search surveillance, all in the name of fighting terrorism. But in reality, the liberties given to police were often used in drug-related cases. Only 1% of sneak and peek searches in 2010 were terrorism related. 76% were drug related.

And the United States’ international actions also impacted law enforcement at home. As a result of an increase and then decrease of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years, there’s been more military surplus equipment available to law enforcement, creating a spike in tactical items distributed by the 1033 program.

The Department of Defense does not provide training for law-enforcement agencies that receive military weapons. Instead, it’s left to recipients to certify their own training each year. Because there is no federal mandate that police agencies report on SWAT operations, there’s no real way to tell or quantify the effect of SWAT-related incidents.

In an effort to access the program’s productivity and safety protocols, the Government Accountability Office created a fake federal agency. After acquiring more than 100 items worth over $1.2 million, the office recommended a process to implement fraud prevention in addition to a website that can track the equipment and the agencies it was sent to.

Prior to the investigation, there was very little record keeping and tracking of weapons after transfer. There were several instances where the agencies did not report lost weapons or disposal of excess equipment.

Clip: And San Mateo and Napa counties were not the only departments in the nation to have lost equipment. About 200, in fact, have military equipment missing at this hour, and that includes, actually, some Humvees.

Narrator: 184 state and local police departments were suspended from the 1033 program. In 2014, sparked by the murder of Michael Brown, civil unrest rolled through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Americans watching from home were shocked to see what looked like an army descending on such a small town.

On January 16, 2015, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13688.

Barack Obama: You know, we’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.

Narrator: The order prohibited a list of equipment from being transferred to law enforcement through the 1033 program: tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, firearms of .50 caliber or higher, ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets, camouflage uniforms. That executive order did not last long before being revoked in 2017 by President Donald Trump.

Jeff Sessions: These restrictions that had been opposed went too far. We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.

Narrator: Today, in 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, protesters are being met with militarized police armed with 1033 program war surplus. No-knock warrants still result in the deaths of innocent citizens, like 26-year-old emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor.

Tear gas is still legal for domestic use on protesters but has been banned for use in war since 1993. And studies on rubber bullets, like the ones used here, show that 3% of those injured by rubber bullets died as a result of their injuries. 15.5% suffered permanent disabilities like eye loss, and nearly 50% of those who were struck on the head or neck were killed.

In the US, law enforcement kills over 900 people a year. Compare that to Norway, where there have been only four police-related killing since 2002.

Norway credits these numbers to its face-to-face community-building approach and believes it has created more trust between citizens and their police department. And we’ve seen similar changes stateside.

In 2001, a Cincinnati police officer shot and killed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas after he resisted arrest over minor crimes. After riots and protests, in fear of more unrest, the city began to reform its police department in collaboration with the Department of Justice.

They standardized procedures, making civilian-officer interactions more transparent. They also created a training program focused on mental health.

The reforms were met with pushback from city officials and a hostile police union, but the result was a 50% decrease in use of force from 2001 to 2007.

Data shows that building trust within the community may be a better solution to saving lives than using military weapons against them.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in August 2020.

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Oklahoma just passed a law providing protections to some drivers who hit protesters with a car

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In this Feb. 11, 2021 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City.

  • Oklahoma just passed a bill that would provide immunity to some drivers who hit or kill protesters.
  • The legislation would also punish demonstrators who block the use of a public street or highway.
  • A surge of “anti-riot” bills have been introduced by Republican state lawmakers since summer 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A new law in Oklahoma will penalize protesters who block public roadways, while offering protections to drivers who may unwittingly hit or even kill them with a car.

The bill would make obstructing the use of a public street or highway during a demonstration a misdemeanor carrying a possible sentence of a year in jail as well as a $100 to $5,000 fine.

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the legislation, which takes effect November 1, into law Wednesday.

Under House Bill 1674, motorists who are “fleeing from a riot” and have “reasonable belief” they are in danger, cannot be held criminally or civilly responsible for injuring or killing demonstrators.

Critics of the bill say it is meant to limit legal protests after a summer of nationwide demonstrations against police violence and racism, following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Rob Standridge said in a video statement that the law sets a high standard. “It has to be unintentional, first and foremost,” Standridge said, and the driver must feel they are in “imminent harm,” “like people are trying to break open the windows, and trying to drag someone out of the vehicle.”

The legislation was introduced primarily as a response to an incident in Tulsa last May, in which a driver in a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer drove through a crowd of George Floyd protesters on a freeway, injuring three people and leaving one of them paralyzed from the waist down.

The driver, who was not charged, said he sped up because he was afraid for his family’s safety.

“This is an important protection for citizens who are just trying to get out of a bad situation,” state Rep. Kevin West said in a statement last week. “When fleeing an unlawful riot, they should not face threat of prosecution for trying to protect themselves, their families, or their property.”

Data shows that the majority of Black Lives Matter protests have been peaceful, NPR reported. A report conducted by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that protesters in 93% of such demonstrations last summer did not engage in violence or destructive activity.

The Oklahoma bill passed the House and Senate along party lines earlier this month.

A group of people protesting the passage of the legislation entered the House Chambers inside the Oklahoma State Capitol briefly on Wednesday, according to CNN, but the session continued on after demonstrators had left.

The Oklahoma bill is part of a larger movement of legislation Republican state lawmakers are calling “anti-riot” bills, aimed at punishing rioters and absolving the drivers who may hit them.

A proposed law in Indiana would bar those convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment, while a Minnesota proposal would prohibit those people from receiving student loans, unemployment benefits, and housing assistance.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation earlier this week that cracked down on public disorder, and Republican legislators in Iowa passed a bill similar to Oklahoma’s, that grants immunity to such drivers.

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The Postal Service is reportedly monitoring Americans’ social media for ‘inflammatory’ content, per report

USPS mailer
The Colorado Secretary of State on Friday said the postal service is confusing voters by mailing out a nationwide postcard encouraging Americans to plan ahead.

An unlikely government entity may be watching your activity on social media.

According to a Yahoo News report, the law-enforcement arm of the US Postal Service is running a “covert” program that monitors Americans’ social media posts for “inflammatory” content and then passes those posts along to other government agencies.

The surveillance effort, which falls under the agency’s Postal Inspection Service, is known as the Internet Covert Operations Program, or iCop, the outlet reported.

Prior to the Yahoo News Wednesday report, details of the program had not been made public.

The outlet obtained a March 16 memo, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” that said analysts with the US Postal Inspection Service had monitored “significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021.”

The government bulletin appears to be referencing demonstrations across the world planned as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, in which groups were expected to demonstrate for a variety of causes, including lockdown measures and 5G, Yahoo News reported.

The two-page document reportedly includes screenshots of users’ posts from Facebook, Parler, and Telegram, including “inflammatory material” which “suggests potential violence may occur.” The memo, however, notes no intelligence exists to suggest specific threats, Yahoo News reported.

One particular Parler screenshot reportedly included in the document shows two users discussing the rallies as an opportunity to “do serious damage” and engage in a “fight.”

An alleged member of the Proud Boys as well as several other users whose identifying details were included are mentioned by name in the memo, according to the outlet.

iCop analysts would continue to monitor the social media accounts “for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests” and “will disseminate intelligence updates as needed,” the bulletin reportedly said.

In a statement provided to Yahoo, the Post Office said the US Postal Inspection Service, as the primary law enforcement crime prevention entity of the agency, employs federal officers who protect the agency and its employees, infrastructure, and customers and “enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use” to ensure public trust.

“The Internet Covert Operations Program is a function within the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open source information,” the statement reportedly said.

The agency also told Yahoo News the Inspection Service collaborates with law-enforcement agencies to identify and assess threats to the Postal Service and its “overall mail processing and transportation network.”

USPS declined to answer the outlet’s specific program-related questions. The agency did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The Postal Service came under intense scrutiny in 2020, when the Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy made a number of changes in response to financial woes, including cutting overtime and limiting hours. The agency’s operational changes caused outrage ahead of the 2020 general election, when USPS warned some ballots might not be delivered in time for the pandemic-struck election in which millions of people planned to vote by mail.

Debate over the government’s purview to monitor Americans’ social media has heated up following the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis signs ‘anti-riot’ bill that grants civil immunity to drivers who hit protestors and protects police budgets from being cut

ron desantis florida vaccine 60 minutes
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-riot bill into law on Monday morning that protects police budgets from being cut and stiffens penalties against those arrested during a “riot.”

The new law also prevents “rioters” from being bailed out of jail before their first court appearance and grants immunity from civil legal action for people who drive through protesters blocking a road.

This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.

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Robinhood protesters threw dog feces and vandalized statue at the company’s headquarters over GameStop fiasco

GettyImages 1299843912 MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 01: A sign reading "Robbinghood Fraud" hangs on a pole in front of the headquarters for trading app Robinhood on February 01, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. Robinhood announced on Monday that it has raised $3.4 billion amid a trading frenzy in the past week. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A sign hung by protesters at Robinhood’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters on February 1, 2021.

A handful of protesters outraged at trading app Robinhood have shown up in recent weeks at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, to voice frustrations over the company’s decision to limit trading of certain stocks.

Some of those protesters, however, used more than their words.

Robinhood’s security staff said in calls to the Menlo Park Police Department that one protester threw dog feces at the building, one hurled his T-shirt at a guard, and another sawed through a statue on the property, an MPPD spokesperson told Insider.

The feces thrower fled before he could be identified, while the t-shirt hurler was cited for assault and released – both incidents occured on January 28, the spokesperson said, adding that later that night, Robinhood security staff called police again to report two trespassers, who left after warnings from MPPD officers.

Robinhood declined to comment.

Those incidents, reported earlier by CNBC and confirmed by Insider, were followed by a roughly 15-person demonstration on January 29 that did not result in any police response, according to MPPD.

On January 31, another protester vandalized a statue, apparently using an electric saw, and on February 2, a 20- or 30-year-old man showed up and yelled at security staff but left before officers arrived, the MPPD spokesperson said.

Protesters also wrote “VLAD SUCKS” – referring to Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev – in chalk on the sidewalk in front of Robinhood’s offices, according to images captured by Getty photographer Justin Sullivan on February 1.

GettyImages 1299843894 MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 01: A chalk drawing referencing Vladimir Tenev, the co-founder of trading app Robinhood, is visible on the sidewalk in front of the company's headquarters on February 01, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. Robinhood announced on Monday that it has raised $3.4 billion amid a trading frenzy in the past week. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A chalk drawing referencing Vlad Tenev, Robinhood CEO and co-founder, in front of the company’s offices in Menlo Park, California, on February 1, 2021.

Robinhood and other trading apps sparked the anger of customers last month after they restricted them from trading GameStop, AMC Entertainment, Nokia, and other stocks amid a short-squeeze fueled by Reddit day traders – many of whom use Robinhood to make those trades.

Customers complained the trading apps had locked them out of massive potential gains by preventing them from buying stocks or options as share values climbed – while hedge funds and other large investors were free to keep trading. They also argued that Robinhood’s business model, which depends heavily on a controversial practice known as “payment for order flow,” presents a conflict of interest that may have led Robinhood to limit trading to protect the large firms that pay it to execute users’ trades.

Read more: Robinhood makes hundreds of millions from selling customer orders. That business model is about to come into focus.

Robinhood and Tenev have defended the restrictions, saying it was necessary to curb trading volumes in order to meet regulatory requirements.

Still, the moves prompted backlash in the form of class-action lawsuits and Congressional hearings. At the same time, federal regulators and prosecutors are investigating whether the army of Reddit traders engaged in market manipulation.

Read more: Robinhood has been beefing up its legal firepower with these 15 lawyers as suits pile up

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The Pentagon blocked the DC National Guard from receiving riot gear or interacting with protesters without explicit approval from Trump’s defense secretary

GettyImages 1295091200 WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07:  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
DC National Guard guardsmen stand outside the U.S. Capitol on January 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. Supporters of President Trump had stormed and desecrated the building the day before as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.

  • The Pentagon placed major restrictions on the DC National Guard leading up to Wednesday’s attempted insurrection, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
  • Officials curtailed the ability of DC guardsmen to deploy troops, receive ammo and riot gear, engage with protesters, share equipment with local police, and use surveillance without explicit approval from Trump’s acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller, according to the Post.
  • Guardsmen didn’t arrive to support US Capitol Police — who were ill-prepared and quickly overrun — until more than two hours after the USCP chief called for them, according to the Post.
  • The muted approach was allegedly meant to avoid backlash that followed an aggressive response to BLM protests last summer, but the response has drawn sharp criticism from Democratic lawmakers, activists, and even some law enforcement experts for being insufficient.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In the days before Trump supporters’ attempted insurrection, the Department of Defense placed major limitations on the tactics, equipment, and resources the DC National Guard could make use of in dealing with protesters, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Pentagon officials sent memos on January 4 and January 5 banning DC guardsmen from receiving ammo and riot gear, engaging with protesters (except for self-defense), sharing equipment with local police, or using surveillance or air assets without explicit approval from Trump’s acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller, according to the Post.

The additional bureaucratic hurdle delayed the DC Guard’s response after US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund asked on Wednesday for 200 guardsmen to provide backup – with guardsmen not arriving until 2.5 hours later – according to the Post.

Five fatalities, including one law enforcement officer, have been confirmed so far in connection with Wednesday’s violence.

USCP, who had only planned for peaceful protests – despite numerous warning indicators suggesting protesters may turn violent – were massively vastly outnumbered by the rioters and were quickly overrun.

It’s not clear how many officers were on-duty Wednesday, but USCP has a total of 2,300 officer and civilian employees who patrol 16 acres of land and protect 535 members of Congress and their staff.  By comparison, Minneapolis has around 840 uniformed officers who police 425,000 residents spread across a 6,000-acre area, according to the Associated Press.

DC Guards were not initially deployed to the US Capitol in large numbers, in part because city and Pentagon officials wanted to avoid the backlash that followed Trump’s aggressive use of federal law enforcement to attack peaceful protesters following the death of George Floyd, according to the Post.

USCP itself rejected multiple offers for help from federal law enforcement ahead of Wednesday’s events, and according to the Post, Mayor Muriel Bowser had only requested 340 guardsmen, mostly to monitor traffic and public transit.

But DC guard troops answer to state governors, and since DC is not a state, Bowser had to request additional support on Wednesday from the Pentagon, which answers to Trump – a task that proved to be difficult and slow-moving.

Bowser and her staff, as well as lawmakers trapped in the Capitol, called on the governors of neighboring Maryland and Virginia, who themselves were initially ignored by the Pentagon when they asked military leaders to deploy additional guardsmen.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who effectively commands the DC Guard, said at a press conference Thursday that 6,200 guardsmen would be deployed by the weekend and that a “non-scalable” 7-foot fence would be set up around the Capitol. He added that military officials had planned for Wednesday assuming it would be like other recent protests and that not in their “wildest imagination” did they expect rioters to breach the Capitol.

But decisions by law enforcement – USCP as well as local and federal agencies – not to prepare for riots have drawn sharp criticism. Former DC Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey slammed the police response, telling CNN that “they need to be locking them up without question,” with regards to rioters inside the Capitol.

USCP “were not prepared for today,” Democrat Rep. Val Demings told the Baltimore Sun, adding: “I certainly thought that we would have had a stronger show of force.”

Activists also pointed to the disparity between law enforcement’s relatively passive response to violent protesters Wednesday and the mass arrests and aggression used against largely peaceful anti-racism protests.

Sund, the USCP chief, and another high-ranking Capitol security officer have already announced their plans to resign, and more are expected to go.

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