On Monday — just one day before a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the killing of George Floyd — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a restrictive bill designed to suppress the kinds of racial justice protests that ignited across the nation last summer following Floyd’s murder.
Of course, DeSantis referred to the new law as “anti-riot” rather than anti-protest, despite the fact that the protests last summer were, according to Washington Post research, overwhelmingly peaceful. The new Florida law creates tools for authorities to prosecute and punish protesters. It increases penalties for crimes committed during protests, such as property damage, creates new felony offenses, and denies defendants bail until they’ve appeared in court.
Florida isn’t alone. On Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law that increases penalties for protesters who block roadways while providing immunity to drivers who unintentionally kill or injure protesters while attempting to flee. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on the wave of similar legislation cropping up in multiple states; according to Elly Page of the Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Republican legislators in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills this year, leaving civil rights advocates deeply concerned about the threat such measures pose to protest and free-speech rights. We’ve been investigating these anti-democratic proposals.
Meanwhile, in Texas, state legislators with an eye on the public outcry over Georgia’s recent voter-suppression law have put forward measures, such as financial penalties and bans on receiving state government grants, aimed at punishing companies that publicly oppose Texas’ proposed voting restrictions. Similar restrictions are endangering voting rights in multiple states, all under the guise of preventing the nonexistent threat of widespread voter fraud.
In no state is the fraud boogeyman having a bigger week than in Arizona, where the state Senate began its partisan audit of the Maricopa County 2020 election results. The recount of the county’s 2.1 million ballots (which have been recounted and verified already) is occurring under a cloud of questions about its funding (including private donations from proponents of the stolen-election myth); about its management (the firm hired to conduct the audit was founded by a “Stop the Steal” promoter); and about its transparency.
We launched our own investigation of the Arizona audit earlier this month, sending public records requests seeking answers from key legislators and others involved in the effort. Keep an eye on our website for updates. Here are some recent headlines related to voting rights in the states:
Trump’s Food Box Letters
Before the election, the Trump administration came under fire for requiring that self-congratulatory letters signed by President Trump be included in pandemic food aid boxes. The idea for the letters, which also contained basic Covid-19 guidelines, came from Ivanka Trump. We and the Union of Concerned Scientists just obtained emails, however, showing that the idea to include the health guidelines didn’t originate with the president’s daughter, providing further evidence of the letters’ politicized aims.
Investigations of the Secret Service
The Washington Post reported that the DHS inspector general declined to pursue investigations into the Secret Service during the Trump administration, including proposals to look into the spread of the coronavirus within the agency and the use of force on peaceful protesters near the White House last June.
We’ve been conducting our own investigations of both those issues: Last summer, the Secret Service told us it had no records of assessments regarding how the former president’s frequent travel (especially to large campaign events) impacted agents’ safety, and rejected our request for records of how many officers had contracted Covid-19. We also obtained documents showing the agency requested a Black Hawk helicopter with “fast rope” commandos during last summer’s protests.
The Biden administration faces a new wave of hacks compromising dozens of government agencies and companies (Washington Post)
Biden administration releases billions in relief for Puerto Rico, removes ‘onerous’ restrictions (Miami Herald)
Weekend shootings in Texas and Wisconsin add to tally of U.S. gun deaths (NPR)
Founding member of Oath Keepers set to enter first guilty plea in Jan. 6 Capitol breach (Washington Post)
The Postal Service is running a ‘covert operations program’ that monitors Americans’ social media posts (Yahoo News)
Want public records? ‘So sue me’ seems to be Florida’s attitude, First Amendment experts say (Tallahassee Democrat)
Post-riot effort to tackle extremism in the military largely overlooks veterans (Washington Post)
Pompeos violated rules on use of State Department resources, IG finds (Politico)
Cuomo faces inquiry over use of state resources for pandemic book (New York Times)
CBP releases video from Predator drone deployed over George Floyd protests (Gizmodo)
Justice Dept. restores use of consent decrees for police abuses (New York Times)
After a disrupted census, Congress tries again to extend deadlines for results (NPR)
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