So many things wrong here

Layleen Polanco is a 27-year-old Afro-Latina transgender woman who was found dead last Friday in the notorious Rikers Island jail in New York. The cause of her death has not been identified and released but what is horrifying is that she was in prison because she could not pay the $500 bail for her misdemeanor charge. What is even worse is that she was in solitary confinement at the time, a form of punishment that creates such severe psychological trauma that it has been deemed to be torture.
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Local governments never seem to learn that flag burning is protected speech

It has long been established by the US Supreme Court that burning of the American flag is constitutionally protected speech. And yet, that act seems to arouse such anger that the people who do so are often arrested and charged. Then when they sue the city, the city is forced to pay them damages. In Cleveland, this pattern was repeated when police arrested Joey Johnson for burning the flag during protests at the 2016 Republican convention. He sued and today the city has agreed to settle the suit and pay him $225,000.

As is often the case, the authorities cook up some reason other than flag burning to justify their arrest.

A rush of people descended on a circle formed by members of the Revolutionary Communist Party after Johnson, a member, set the flag on fire.

An officer doused the blaze with a small fire extinguisher.

Police Chief Calvin Williams said at the time that officers intervened because Johnson lit himself on fire. Johnson and his attorneys, however, said that statement was false, and posted video footage they said contradict the city’s statement.

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Jury refuses to convict man who gave food and water to migrants

I wrote recently about how the US Customs and Border Protection agency had been destroying water stations left by humanitarian groups in the desert to prevent migrants dying from dehydration. After one of those groups No More Deaths had publicized these horrendous actions by the CBP, the US government arrested one of its volunteers Scott Warren because he had provided migrants with water, food, clean clothes, and beds in a barn. He faced up to 20 years in prison.
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The other scandal of the Central Park Five

The case of the Central Park Five has become famous as a miscarriage of justice. After a 28-year old white female jogger was brutally raped in Central Park in 1989, so badly that she was traumatized and could not even remember what happened, five black youths, four of them under 16 and one was just 16, were arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime, largely based on confessions they made during interrogations without their parents or lawyers being present.
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Gerrymandering changes blocked by US Supreme Court

Just recently, the ACLU of Ohio won a big victory when a federal Appeals Court ruled that Ohio’s congressional districts were blatantly gerrymandered and should be redrawn by June this year for the 2020 elections. Courts in Michigan had ordered similar redrawing. Both rulings were appealed by Republicans and on Friday, there was a setback when the US Supreme Court blocked both those orders without any reasoning.

The decisions in Michigan and Ohio that were put on hold by the justices were the latest rulings by federal courts determining that electoral maps designed by a state’s majority party unconstitutionally undermined the rights of voters who tend to support the other party.

But the action by the justices was not unexpected as they weigh two other gerrymandering cases – one from North Carolina and the other from Maryland – that could decide definitively whether federal judges have the power to intervene to curb partisan gerrymandering. The rulings in those cases, due by the end of June, are likely to dictate whether the legal challenges against the Ohio and Michigan electoral maps can move forward.

So the fate of these two cases now rests on the outcome of the other two cases, unless the decision is made to consolidate all four cases.

The law must be free for everyone

Nations are, or at least should be, governed by laws and people are expected to follow those laws. That assumes that people have free access to the laws so that they know what is expected of them. But there arose a weird situation in the US where some laws were copyrighted and others who had to follow the laws were expected to pay to find out what the laws were that they were bound by.

How could this happen? It originated in Georgia, a state notorious for its utterly reactionary attitudes. What they did was declare that the annotations to its laws could be copyrighted because they were created by a private party. Cory Doctorow explains what this is all about.
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Satanic Temple recognized by the IRS as a church

In a significant development, the Satanic Temple has been recognized by the IRS as a church. The decision has sparked a debate as to what constitutes a church. For too long, religions have claimed a privileged place in society, without having to really justify why they should be given preferential treatment. The Satanic Temple has been steadily contesting that claim by logical extension, that there is no way to draw a clear line that separates those institutions that are traditionally recognized as religions from other groups that share broadly similar characteristics.
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A new documentary about Satanists and the Satanic Temple

I have written many times before about the Satanic Temple and their efforts to keep the public square secular and open to all beliefs and not have it become the domain of those who favor one religion over other religions or religion in general over non-religion. Their demand that their statue of Baphomet be allowed in any public space that allows religious symbols has proven to be a potent political and legal argument against religious exclusivity but their broader goals are to promote social justice and equality.
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Third federal judge strikes down anti-BDS laws

There have been moves to pass laws in various states that seek to punish people who support the BDS movement by denying them access to government contracts. Glenn Greenwald provides a map that shows the extent of those efforts.

Greenwald writes that a federal judge in Texas has become the third, after judges in Kansas and Arizona, to rule that such state laws punishing people for advocating boycotts of Israel are unconstitutional. The case was brought by five people who were denied contracts with schools and universities in Texas under the law H. B. 89 because they refused to sign contracts that contained anti-BDS clauses.
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End of the road for civil asset forfeiture?

I have written repeatedly about the abuse of the so-called ‘civil asset forfeiture’ provisions in the law that many government authorities use to seize the assets of people simply because of the suspicion that they may have been involved in a crime. The government holds on to these assets even if the person is not even charged with the crime. It should not be surprising that it is mostly low-income people who are at the receiving end. The people whose assets are seized have to sue the government to get them back, a complicated and expensive process, and many of the affected people simply do not have the resources to do so, so they end up losing their homes and their cars, which are often the only assets they have.
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