Veterans of color say video of police pepper-spraying a Black Army officer shows that not even a military uniform is protection from police violence

A police officer uses a spray agent on Caron Nazario on Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va.
A police officer uses a spray agent on Caron Nazario on Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va.

  • Police hold at gunpoint and pepper-spray a uniformed Black Army officer in a shocking video.
  • The soldier was not charged with any crime or ticketed for any violation.
  • Veterans of color said that the video shows that not even a uniform is protection from police violence.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A video of police officers holding a uniformed Black US Army soldier at gunpoint and pepper spraying him during a traffic stop in Windsor, Virginia is a troubling reminder that sometimes not even a military uniform is protection enough for Black Americans against threats of police brutality, veterans of color told Insider.

“Once you put on the uniform, it doesn’t erase the fact that you are a Black person in America,” Richard Brookshire, a former Army medic who co-founded and serves as the executive director of the Black Veterans Project, told Insider.

US Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino health services administration officer with the Virginia Army National Guard, is suing two Virginia police officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, for aggressive actions taken during a traffic stop in December that started over a license plate issue but quickly escalated.

In video footage from the incident released late last week, two police officers can be seen shouting at Nazario with their guns drawn, pepper-spraying him, and physically striking him repeatedly as they force him to the ground.

At one point during the traffic stop, as the police officers yell for him to get out of the car, Nazario told them he was “honestly afraid” to get out, to which one officer responded: “Yeah, you should be.”

Mark Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, said on Twitter that “the video doesn’t show anything to justify how Lt. Nazario was treated,” adding in another tweet that Nazario showed “incredible composure.”

Nazario was not charged with any criminal wrongdoing or traffic violation, his attorney told NBC News. He says that the police violated his clients constitutional rights.

Nazario’s attorney writes in the lawsuit that the video footage is “consistent with a disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who, believing they can operate with complete impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially biased, dangerous, and sometimes deadly abuses of authority,” adding that Nazario, while in uniform, was a victim of this trend.

The town of Windsor, Virginia characterized the incident as “unfortunate” and announced Sunday that one of the two officers involved has been fired.

‘Deeply troubling’

“One of the things that probably stuck out the most to me was the fear in Lt. Nazario’s face and actions and voice because he’s realizing right from the get-go that even though he’s in uniform and he’s an active-duty service member, he is still at risk of suffering the same fate that many Black people have suffered at the hands of the police,” Jeremy Butler, a Navy veteran and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told Insider.

“He might have expected it if he were in civilian clothes, but the fact that’s he’s in uniform and this is the way he’s being treated by the police, it almost does not compute.”

“We have been consistently told this message of how much the country salutes our services and appreciates our sacrifice,” Butler said, but “what you see in this instance is that is not always the case.”

In the video footage of the traffic stop, Nazario can be heard multiple times saying “I’m serving my country and this is how I’m treated” with a tone of what sounds like disbelief.

The Black Veterans Project said on Twitter that such developments, while upsetting, are neither shocking nor surprising given the police violence that many Black service members and veterans have faced throughout US history.

“I thought it was deeply troubling,” Brookshire said of the video. “It reminded me, especially because he got maced and thinking about his eyes, of Isaac Woodard.”

On February 12, 1946, Woodard was pulled off a bus and beaten by police, who blinded him in both eyes, as he was returning home to his wife after the war. Woodard is just one of many Black war veterans who experienced such brutality.

“Wearing the uniform doesn’t protect Black people from racism,” Brookshire said, explaining that “this idea that black folks are somehow cloaked or protected because they are in uniform, because they serve in the military, or that somehow their skin color is not an issue once they join this institution is a farce and a misreading of history.”

Naveed Shah, another veteran of color and a staff member at Common Defense, argued on Twitter that what happened to Nazario is “another example of why we demand that #BlackLivesMatter.”

The country has been forced to look more closely at issues of racial injustice and police brutality since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died last May after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than 9 minutes. His death sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

The murder trial for one of the officers involved is ongoing.

But even as the US takes a closer look at problems that have long affected the country, there continues to be alarming incidents of police violence involving Black Americans.

“Even though I do feel generally overall that we are making progress,” Butler said, “there are still too frequent reminders that we have a very, very long way to go.”

The governor of Virginia called the incident involving Nazario “disturbing,” writing in a statement that “we must keep working to ensure that Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable.”

Not only are state police investigating the incident at the direction of Gov. Ralph Northam, but the Virginia attorney general announced Monday that he is launching a civil rights investigation into the two police officers involved. He characterized their actions as “dangerous, unnecessary, unacceptable and avoidable.”

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said Monday that Nazario “represented himself and our Army well,” stating that while he is proud of him, he is concerned by the video of the traffic stop.

The sergeant major offered an assurance that Nazario “is receiving the support from his leadership he needs during this time.” The incident is said to have given the soldier nightmares, The Washington Post reported.

Nazario’s attorney said Saturday that his client is seeking at least $1 million in damages to send a clear message “to officers that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Virginia General Assembly passes law allowing for legal possession of one ounce of Marijuana

Virginia state capitol
The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill on Wednesday allowing for the legal possession of up to one ounce of Marijuana.

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax broke a 20-20 tie in the Virginia Senate, moving the legislation forward years earlier than anticipated.

The measure will go into effect on July 1, 2021. Virginia has become the 16th state to legalize recreational Marijuana, and the first southern state to do so.

Gov. Ralph Northam has signaled his willingness to sign the bill, and had moved it’s implementation date to July 1 instead of January 1, 2024, arguing that the state should not continue to criminalize Marijuana users.

Democratic Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn also applauded the bill.

“Today, with the Governor’s amendments, we will have made tremendous progress in ending the targeting of Black and brown Virginians through selective enforcement of marijuana prohibition by this summer,” she said in a statement.

Virginia residents 21 and older can legally possess, use and grow Marijuana from July 1 onwards, but the timeline for recreational dispensaries to receive licenses could take years.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax says Gov. McAuliffe treated him like George Floyd, Emmett Till, after sexual assault allegations surfaced

Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Justin Fairfax
Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Justin Fairfax.

  • In a televised debate, Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax likened himself to Emmett Till and George Floyd.
  • He accused Gov. Terry McAuliffe of treating him like Floyd when sexual assault allegations surfaced.
  • McAuliffe is leading the race in this year’s Democratic primary for Virginia governor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In a televised Democratic primary debate on Tuesday, Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax likened himself to George Floyd and Emmett Till, accusing former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of treating him like Floyd when sexual assault allegations against him surfaced.

“Everyone here on this stage called for my immediate resignation, including Terry McAuliffe, three minutes after a press release came out,” Fairfax said.

“He treated me like George Floyd, he treated me like Emmett Till, no due process, immediately assumed my guilt. I have a son and I have a daughter, and I don’t want my daughter to be assaulted, I don’t want my son to be falsely accused,” Fairfax continued.

In February 2019, Fairfax was accused by two women of sexual assault – allegations that he has continually denied.

Fairfax’s first accuser, Vanessa Tyson, said Fairfax forced her to give him oral sex at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. The second accuser, Meredith Watson, said that Fairfax raped her when they were both students at Duke University.

McAuliffe, who served as Virginia governor from 2014 to 2018, is leading the race in this year’s Democratic primary for Virginia governor, and Fairfax is among four rival Virginia Democrats angling to take the top spot from him. Northam cannot run for reelection because the Virginia constitution prohibits anyone from holding the position for two consecutive terms.

This Tuesday’s debate was not the first time that Fairfax has compared himself to victims of hate crimes. In response to the sexual assault allegations, Fairfax gave an impromptu speech in the state Senate that same month in 2019, comparing himself to victims of lynchings in Jim Crow-era Virginia.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Virginia is the first southern state to ban the ‘trans panic’ defense that previously gave lighter sentences to assailants claiming to react to someone’s gender identity

AP ralph northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

  • Virginia passed a bill nullifying the “gay/trans panic defense” on Wednesday.
  • The defense has traditionally been used in murder and assault cases against LGBT victims.
  • Virginia, with Gov. Ralph Northam signing the bill, is the first southern state to ban its use.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill Wednesday invalidating the “gay/trans panic” defense, which lawyers have previously used as an excuse to secure lighter sentences for people facing homicide charges.

Prior to the bill’s passing, people accused of violent crimes could claim panic as a defense, saying they reacted to a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill nullifies that argument in murder and assault cases.

A dozen other states have already banned the defense. Virginia, with Northam signing the bill, has become the first southern state to do so.

Virginia’s state House and Senate passed the bill in February, sending it over to Northam’s office.

Democratic Delegate Danica Roem originally wrote and sponsored the Virginia bill. Roem is one of four openly trans legislators in the country.

Roem said in an interview with NBC News that she hopes other states will follow Virginia’s lead.

“I hope that as a region, the Mid-Atlantic can really tell people that you are welcome here because of who you are, and we will protect you here because of who you are,” Roem said.

Lawyers from the National LGBT Bar Association say the defense has traditionally been used in three distinct ways:

  • A defendant claims that a victim “triggered a nervous breakdown” due to that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • A defendant claims that a victim’s proposition was “sufficiently ‘provocative’ to induce the defendant to kill the victim.
  • A defendant claims that “they believed that the victim, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, was about to cause the defendant serious bodily harm. This defense is offensive and harmful because it argues that a person’s gender or sexual identity makes them more of a threat to safety,” the National LGBT Bar Association said.

Research shows that more than 1 out of 4 trans people will experience a hate crime in their lifetime.

The bill comes amid a surge of anti-trans bills being considered in state legislatures across the country this year. Insider previously reported that 28 states are voting on anti-trans legislation in 2021.

Most recently,Arkansas became the first state to pass a bill prohibiting doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender youth following a Monday state Senate vote.

The bill would prohibit doctors from offering gender-confirming hormone treatment or surgery to trans minors. Doctors would also be unable to refer minors to other providers for treatment.

The legislation now goes to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk for signature. He is expected to either sign or veto the bill early next week.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Virginia has moved closer to abolishing the death penalty in a watershed moment for the Southern state

Virginia state capitol
The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

With a key legislative vote on Friday, Virginia is on the cusp of abolishing the death penalty, a watershed moment for a state that long embraced the practice as an anti-crime deterrent.

The Democratic-controlled House of Delegates voted 57-41 to end the death penalty, with 54 Democrats and three Republicans backing the measure, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

On Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled state Senate voted on a 21-17 party-line vote to approve a similar measure.

With Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam in support of an abolition bill, Virginia is set to join 22 other states that have ended capital punishment and become the first Southern state to end the practice.

Larry Sabato, a longtime political analyst at the University of Virginia, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that for decades, such an action would have been difficult to imagine.

“In the 20th century, few would have thought this was likely to happen at all, much less that Virginia would be the first in the South to eliminate capital punishment,” he said. “It shows dramatically how different the new Virginia is from the old.”

Virginia has executed nearly 1,400 people since 1608 – with 113 of the killings occuring after the Supreme Court paved the way for executions to restart in 1976 as a result of Gregg v. Georgia, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Read more: Inside the 7-minute virtual workouts the Biden transition team used to stay connected as staffers prepared to demolish Trump’s policies

Democratic state Delegate Mike Mullin, a prosecutor who introduced the House legislation, said having a death penalty creates the risk of errors.

“There are many arguments for why we should abolish the death penalty,” he said. “These arguments touch on everything from the moral implications of the death penalty, to the racial bias in how it is applied, to its ineffectiveness, to the extraordinary cost.”

He added: “Perhaps the strongest argument for abolishing the death penalty is that a justice system without the death penalty allows us the possibility of being wrong.”

In 1985, Earl Washington Jr. came within days of being executed for a rape and murder that he did not commit.

After spending 17 years in prison, with many of them on death row, Washington was released in 2001 after more extensive DNA testing, unavailable in earlier years, proved his innocence.

Republican Delegate Jason Miyares, a former prosecutor, defended the use of the death penalty for “worst of the worst” murderers and said that the victims and their loved ones have been largely sidelined in the debate.

“If there is one word to describe what happened to these victims, it is just cruelty – unimaginable cruelty on a scale that’s hard to even process,” he said. “They died with sheer terror on their hearts with people often taunting them.” 

He added: “It’s not vengeance, it’s justice.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin dies at age 60 after contracting COVID-19

Ben Chafin
Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin.

  • Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin died on Friday from complications related to COVID-19, according his state legislative office.
  • Chafin, a Republican who represented a rural district in Southwest Virginia, was 60 years old.
  • “Southwest Virginia has lost a strong advocate — and we have all lost a good man,” said Gov. Ralph Northam in a written statement.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin died on Friday from complications related to COVID-19, according his state legislative office.

Chafin, a Republican who represented a rural district in Southwest Virginia, was 60 years old.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, who confirmed Chafin’s death, immediately issued words of praise for the senator, who was elected to the state’s House of Delegates in 2013 before joining the Senate in 2014.

Chafin, an attorney, had been hospitalized with the coronavirus for roughly two weeks before his death. While several Virginia state legislators have contracted the highly infectious disease, he is the first Virginia lawmaker to pass away from complications related to the coronavirus, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“Southwest Virginia has lost a strong advocate – and we have all lost a good man,” Northam expressed in a written statement. “I knew Ben as a lawmaker, an attorney, a banker, and a farmer raising beef cattle in Moccasin Valley, working the land just as generations of his family had done before him. 

Chafin’s Republican and Democratic colleagues saluted his life and service to the commonwealth.

“Ben was deeply and wholeheartedly committed to the commonwealth, and especially to the people of Southwest Virginia,” said state Senate GOP leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. in a statement. “He put the interests of those he was entrusted to serve first, cherishing the people of the region he proudly called ‘home.'”

“We grieve the loss of our colleague and friend, Senator Ben Chafin,” said the Democratic Senate caucus in a statement. “He was a passionate leader who represented his constituents of the 38th District in Southwest Virginia with such compassion, strength, and thoughtfulness.”

Chafin is survived by his wife, Lora and their three children, along with his sister and grandchildren.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been roughly 355,000 confirmed infections and over 5,000 deaths in Virginia, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Read the original article on Business Insider