On Monday, the 37-year-old has a court date in connection with charges he’s facing in Philadelphia that include aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation for allegedly being part of an Antifa mob in November that attacked two Marines, Alejandro Godinez and Luis Torres, both Hispanic. Alcoff and two others charged in the attack have pleaded not guilty.
But while Democratic officials are distancing themselves from Alcoff now, until recently he was a well-connected, aspiring political player in Washington who may have even had a hand in key policy proposals.
His endorsement apparently mattered when several congressional Democrats in February 2018 issued press releases with his quote backing their bill on regulating payday lenders.
As the payday campaign manager for the liberal group Americans for Financial Reform, Alcoff participated in congressional Democratic press conferences, was a guest on a House Democratic podcast and met with senior officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from 2016 through 2018.
He was also pictured with now-House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Both committees oversee financial regulatory policies Alcoff was advocating.
Alcoff met with then CFPB Director Richard Cordray and other senior CFPB officials on April 2016, again in March 2017 and a third time in May 2017, as first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
During this time, he reportedly was an Antifa leader in Washington. Alcoff’s former employer had little to say about the matter.
“As of December, Mr. Alcoff no longer works for AFR,” Carter Dougherty, spokesman for Americans for Financial Reform, told Fox News in an email.
Dougherty didn’t answer whether Alcoff had been fired or resigned. He also didn’t answer whether the organization was aware of Alcoff’s associations during his employment.
Alcoff was reportedly also an organizer for Smash Racism DC, the group responsible for gathering and shouting threats outside the home of Fox News host Tucker Carlson in November and for heckling Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his wife Heidi at a Washington restaurant in September. Reports have not said Alcoff was directly involved in either incident; only that he was associated with the group.
Democrats are hardly eager to be associated with Alcoff now. Most spokespersons for Democratic members of Congress did not respond to inquiries from Fox News, or distanced themselves from Alcoff.
In one appearance, Alcoff dressed up as “Lenny the Loan Shark” at an event last Marchheld outside the CFPB headquarters, which featured Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.
“The congressman has never interacted with him nor has he taken any financial policy advice from him. Their names have appeared on the same piece of paper,” Beyer spokesman Aaron Fritschner told Fox News. “He appeared at the same press conference, but they didn’t speak to each other. This person was literally wearing a shark outfit.”
In the February 2018 press statement, House and Senate Democrats co-sponsoring the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic (SAFE) Lending Act, which boosted regulation on payday lenders, issued versions of a press release, most including the Alcoff quote.
“The Consumer Bureau and Congress have in the past understood the way that payday lenders structure loans to catch Americans in a cycle of debt with exorbitant interest rates,” Alcoff said in the press releases. “It is unfortunate that some in Washington would rather open the loan shark gates than continue to think about sensible borrower protections. The SAFE Lending Act would put Washington back on track to stop the debt trap.”
In August, Alcoff was a guest on the House Democrats’ Joint Economic Committee podcast, criticizing the decline of the CFPB under the Trump administration.
“It’s been an incredible kind of erosion [Trump administration actions] recently, but these are really, really important basic functions [CFPB’s mission] that people across the country should be able to look to Washington and expect,” Alcoff said on the podcast.
In connection with the subsequent attack in Philadelphia, the two Hispanic Marines said the Antifa mob of about 10 or 12 attackers shouted racial slurs during the beating. Only three from the mob were identified and arrested. The attack happened at the same time as a right-wing rally in Philadelphia, which Antifa showed up to protest. The Marines who were assaulted said they were not even aware of the rally.
“On one side, you have the Proud Boys, a racist group of Nazi thugs. On the other side, you have anti-racist activists,” Alcoff’s lawyer Michael Coard told Philadelphia Magazine. “Unfortunately, in the mix, there were two Marines who were caught up in the whole thing as innocent bystanders.”
Coard, an African American activist in Philadelphia, also told the magazine regarding the alleged slurs, “The question that I have for the D.A.’s office and the police is this: Does anybody think that I, Michael Coard, would represent a racist? … I would never represent a racist. In fact, if I believed that he was a racist, I would prosecute him myself.”
IN one of his most decisive foreign-policy moments, President Trump recognized Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the country’s interim leader. Free countries from the Western Hemisphere, Europe and beyond, including some adamant Trump critics, joined the US in support of Guaidó and against Nicolás Maduro’s crumbling socialist dictatorship.
Dictators’ club: China, Cuba, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah are lining up behind the socialist thug Nicolás Maduro. The US is leading the global pushback.
Yet China, Russia, Iran and others jumped to Maduro’s defense. Cuba — the country that installed Maduro in power in 2013, as Hugo Chavez was dying in Havana — has overseen the vicious crackdowns against impressive pro-democracy rallies.
Since Wednesday, more than 800 anti-Maduro demonstrators have been thrown into Cuba-modeled dungeons.
So the lines are drawn. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council Saturday, every country must now pick sides: “Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”
But how does America help the forces of freedom win? It’s about money. And, true, the global antidemocratic club has been bolstering Maduro for a long time, while we’re fairly new to the game. Even so, Washington has the advantage.
China, for one, has offered Venezuela some $65 billion in loans. But Caracas hasn’t made much progress toward repayment, and so Beijing isn’t likely to invest further for now. Sure, China’s communist rulers express public support for Maduro, but cautious Beijing will await the outcome of the current uncertainty. PS: China isn’t looking for additional anti-US fronts.
Russia might go further. According to Reuters, Moscow is already sending paramilitary troops and contractors to Caracas. The Kremlin uses such mercenaries where it wants to be involved militarily while keeping plausible deniability, as it has in Syria and Ukraine. But while Venezuela may be yet another site to confront America, the Kremlin doesn’t see it as Russia’s hill to die on.
Cuba is most deeply involved. Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union financed the Castro regime in exchange for sugar cane. Needing a new sugar daddy after the Soviet collapse, Castro found Chavez. Venezuela supplied all of Cuba’s energy needs, while Havana guaranteed the regime’s survival.
It is the Cubans who train and reinforce Maduro’s notorious intelligence apparatus. Like in Cuba, the top Venezuelan army brass is getting rich through high positions in the country’s oil and other enterprises. Venezuelan generals, like their counterparts in Havana, get to profit from illicit drug and arms deals.
Such clandestine deals are aided by the Iranian regime and its Lebanese-Shiite proxy, Hezbollah. Relations between Caracas and the Mideast’s Iranian-led Shiite axis go back to the early days of Chavez’s rule.
Today the No. 3 official in the Maduro regime’s hierarchy, the Lebanese-born Tareck El Aissami, is “a bagman for Hezbollah,” says Vanessa Neumann, president of the consultancy group Asymmetrica and a leading researcher of Mideast terrorist activities in Latin America.
Hezbollah, along with the Maduro regime, funds much of its operations with the narcotics and arms trades. And that, says the Venezuela-born Neumann, could help the opposition she strongly supports. “With friends like these,” she says, “it makes it easier for us.” The opposition is making the case for the West to place Caracas on the list of terrorist-sponsoring states, leading to automatically imposed sanctions.
The American response has now gone beyond sanctions. On Thursday, soon after Guaidó was sworn in, Pompeo pledged $20 million to help him and the Assembly. That’s small change, but it’s a start.
On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced $7 billion in sanctions, including on government-owned oil giant PdVSA. While Venezuelan assets in the US, including oil giant Citgo, will continue to operate, profits will no longer go to Maduro’s cronies. They will be deposited instead in “blocked accounts” designed to benefit the people through the US-recognized Guaidó leadership.
Combined with similar measures by America’s global allies, the latest US move can help turn the tide in Caracas.
Democracy “never needs to be imposed. It is tyranny that needs to be imposed,” Elliott Abrams, Trump’s new point man on Venezuela, said at the UN Saturday. But while Maduro’s allies impose, America can unite the free world in isolating him economically — and win one for democracy.
The study analysed millions of tweets but human rights campaigners claimed they lacked the data to explore Jew-hate
Amnesty International has been criticised for not including antisemitic abuse of Jewish women in the largest ever study of abuse of female politicians and journalists on Twitter.
The study analysed millions of tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the UK and US who were selected by researchers concluded that black women were “disproportionately targeted” by “abusive or problematic tweets.”
Claudia Mendoza, the Jewish Leadership Council’s director of policy and public affairs, condemned the abuse against MPs like Diane Abbott but said: “Amnesty International may wish to look further into the antisemitic abuse aimed at prominent Jewish women including MPs so prevalent on Twitter.
“This is even more important considering that such abuse has occurred from within their own organisation.”
This refers to how, in 2012, Amnesty campaigns manager Kristyan Benedict tweeted an antisemitic joke about three Jewish MPs.
Mark Gardner, the Community Security Trust’s director of communications, referred to a previous Amnesty report into Twitter abuse against women – published in September 2017.
He told the JC: “This is the second time in just over a year that Amnesty has released reports on misogyny, racism and social media that utterly ignores antisemitism, despite the widely documented Jew-hatred that so many female Labour MPs have suffered in recent years.
“It typifies the way in which antisemitism is ignored by Amnesty and many other groups, from whom we still instinctively – but very wrongly – expect solidarity.”
Publishing the results of their Troll Patrol project on Tuesday, Amnesty produced a diagram illustrating the ethnic background of those receiving abuse did differentiate between women of Black, Latinx, Asian, Mixed race and White background.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said their survey backs up “what women have long been saying – that Twitter is endemic with racism, misogyny and homophobia.”
Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust (APT), criticised the failure to include analysis of antisemitic abuse.
Three weeks ago, research commissioned by the Community Security Trust and the APT showed Jewish women in parliament face a disproportionate amount of antisemitic abuse online.
Mr Stone told the JC on Tuesday: “This (Amnesty) report makes for shocking reading, it is appalling the extent of the abuse women experience online.
“Last month, we helped organise the Sara Conference, to shine a light on the growing and frightening overlap of misogyny and antisemitism, particularly online. That conference marked the beginning of a conversation which, judging by the omission of Jewish women from this report, is evidently very much required.”
One MP, who asked not to be named, said it was “beyond comprehension” why Amnesty had not identified abuse directly aimed at Jewish women in their study.
“Study after study in recent years has highlighted the issue of antisemitic abuse directed at Jewish women,” the MP added. “It is beyond comprehension why Amnesty were unable to look at this problem themselves.”
Amnesty said its findings were the result of a collaboration between Amnesty International and Element AI, an artificial intelligence software product company.
They surveyed millions of tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the UK and US throughout 2017 across the political spectrum.
Using cutting-edge data science and machine learning techniques, they said they were able to provide a quantitative analysis of unprecedented scale of online abuse against women in the UK and USA.
An Amnesty spokesperson told the JC: “Despite our best efforts, we didn’t have enough data about the Jewish background of the women in our sample – this was publicly available for women MPs in the UK but not for the journalists in our study.
“It was a level of analysis we were keen to make, together with disaggregation of abuse by women’s sexual orientation but that meta-data is much harder to research.
“That is why we are reinforcing our calls to Twitter to release meaningful data on how it responds to reports of abuse, in particular abusive tweets that direct hate against a protected category.”
Amnesty’s study found black women were 84 per cent more likely than white women to be subjected to abusive tweets. One in 10 posts mentioning black women contained “abusive or problematic” language.
Ms Abbott, the shadow home secretary, urged Twitter to take action over “highly offensive racist and misogynist” abuse on the platform.
Milena Marin, senior advisor for tactical research at Amnesty said: “Although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of colour were much more likely to be impacted, and black women are disproportionately targeted.
“Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalized voices.”
An Ohio woman, one of two people accused on Monday of planning mass murders, was in contact with the racist gunman who shot up a South Carolina church and killed nine people in 2015, authorities said.
Elizabeth Lecron, 23, of Toledo, was one of two people arrested in domestic terrorism-related cases, the FBI announced. Lecron was arrested with 21-year-old Damon Joseph, of Holland.
Officials said Lecron posted many photos and comments on social media that glorified mass shooters, including Dylann Roof, who opened fire during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., leaving nine people dead.
Lecron had exchanged letters with Roof while he was in federal prison in Indiana, the FBI said. She was one of four people who Roof communicated with while he was locked up, according to Cleveland.com. She also idolized the Columbine High School shooters, authorities said.
The FBI said investigators found an AK-47, shotgun, handguns, ammunition and hand-caps, which are used to make pipe bombs, in her apartment. Authorities said she planned to attack a bar in Toledo and meet up with other anarchists and free animals from a farm. Her attack was described as “an upscale mass murder,” according to Cleveland.com.
Joseph was arrested in a plot to attack a Toledo synagogue, authorities said. He was charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Authorities said Joseph converted to Islam and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State earlier this year. He expressed his distaste with “gays, Christians, Catholics and Jews” and thought the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack got what they deserved, the FBI said.
Lecron faces 10 years in prison if convicted. Joseph faces 20 years in prison if he’s convicted.
A woman was shot and killed at St. Louis religious supplies store earlier this week because she refused her attacker’s demands to “perform deviant sexual acts on him,” authorities said Wednesday.
The alleged attacker – identified as 53-year-old Thomas Bruce – on Monday forced three women who were in the store into a back room at gunpoint and forced them to strip, detectives said in a probable cause statement. He allegedly forced two of the woman to perform sex acts on him, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Bruce allegedly tried to coerce the third woman, Jamie Schmidt, a 53-year-old married mother of three, but she refused. He then shot her in the head, the probable cause statement said. Schmidt later died at a hospital.
Bruce then fled the store, prompting a two-day manhunt that frightened the region and led some schools, churches, and businesses to close.
Bruce was arrested in his mobile home trailer park Wednesday and booked into the St. Louis County jail, The Post-Dispatch reported. He faces first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and sodomy, among other charges, prosecutors said. He is being held without bail.
Chief Jon Belmar, a 32-year veteran of the St. Louis County Police called that attack one of the worst he’d seen in his career – one that “shocked the senses.”
Authorities are working to determine why Bruce targeted the store. Investigators said he has no criminal history.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said a tip helped authorities track down Bruce.
Authorities noted similarities in the description of the Catholic Supply shooting suspect and a man wanted for the murder of two girls – aged 13 and 14 — in Delphi, Indiana last year, The Post-Dispatch reported. That case is still under investigation.
Indiana State Police have distributed a photograph and sketch of the suspect connected to the murder of two teenage girls in Delphi, Indiana last year. (Indiana State Police)
First Sgt. Jerry Holeman said the Indiana State Police is aware of the St. Louis case and has been in contact with St. Louis County authorities.
“But it is way too early to tell if this is the same” person, Holeman said.
Indiana authorities have released a photograph and sketch of the Delphi suspect.
A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that the U.S. law banning female genital mutilation was unconstitutional and dismissed charges against several doctors in Michigan who carried out the procedure on underage girls as part Muslim sect’s religious practice.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that Congress had no authority to enact a law that criminalizes female genital mutilation (FGM). “As despicable as [FGM] may be… [Congress] overstepped its bounds” by banning the procedure, the judge said.
The ruling came after defense lawyers challenged the 22-year-old genital mutilation law that hasn’t been used until 2017 when Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was arrested and accused of mutilating the genitalia of young girls.
She allegedly headed a conspiracy, which lasted over 12 years and involved seven other people, and led to the mutilation of about 100 girls, according to prosecutors, as part of a religious procedure practiced by members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a Muslim sect.
While the charges of performing FGM were dropped, Nagarwala and other conspirators are still facing conspiracy and obstruction charges, according to the Detroit Free Press.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said officials are reviewing the judge’s decision and will consider appealing it.
Women’s rights groups condemned the ruling, saying it’s a setback to the rights of women in the U.S.
“It’s a giant step backward in the protection of women’s and girls’ rights,” Shelby Quast, the Americas director of Equality Now, told the newspaper. “Especially when there is a global movement to eliminate this practice.”
“It’s a giant step backward in the protection of women’s and girls’ rights … Especially when there is a global movement to eliminate this practice.”
— Shelby Quast, the Americas director of Equality Now,
She said that 23 states don’t criminal FGM, noting that “parents are aware of where there are laws against it and where there are not. And they will take advantage of that.”
Michigan state Sen. Rick Jones also slammed the ruling.
“I’m angry that the federal judge dismissed this horrific case that affected upwards of a hundred girls who were brutally victimized and attacked against their will,” he said in a statement. “This is why it was so important for Michigan to act. We set a precedent that female genital mutilation will not be tolerated here … I hope other states will follow suit.”
The case in Michigan prompted state officials to pass a state law officially banning FGM. The law carries a penalty of 15 years in prison for assisting or performing the procedure, but applies only to future instances. Nagarwala and other members of the sect were charged under an old federal law passed by Congress.
The federal law was passed in 1996 under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The federal judge ruled the banning of the procedure under the clause was unconstitutional.
“There is nothing commercial or economic about FGM,” Friedman wrote in the opinion. “[FGM] is not part of a larger market and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce. The Commerce Clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.”
Shannon Smith, Nagarwala’s lawyer, told the Free Press that they are “unbelievably happy” after the judge’s ruling, saying “The impact is huge. It eliminates four defendants from the indictment, and it severely punctures major holes in the government’s case.”
Last Saturday night, a Fox News contributor named Kat Timpf was at a bar in Brooklyn. As she recounted the incident to National Review, a man asked her where she worked. A while later, she said, a woman began “screaming at me to get out.” Timpf walked away, but the woman followed her around the bar while other patrons laughed. Fearing physical attack, Timpf left. She told National Review and The Hill that it was the third time she has been harassed since 2017. A few months earlier, a woman yelled at her during dinner at a Manhattan restaurant. The year before, while she was about to give a speech, a man dumped water on her head.
Protests like these, that target people’s private lives, are wrong. They violate fundamental principles of civil disobedience, as understood by its most eminent practitioners and theorists. And they threaten the very norms of human decency that Trump and his supporters have done so much to erode.
Unfortunately, they seem to be spreading. The Wednesday before Timpf’s experience at the Brooklyn bar, a dozen or so protesters associated with an anti-fascist group called Smash Racism DC assembled in front of the Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s home. While some of what transpired is disputed, this much is not. The protesters chanted, among other things, “We know where you sleep at night.” One of them knocked three times on the Carlsons’ door. Carlson himself was not home, but his wife locked herself in the pantry and called 911. A protester also spray-painted an anarchist symbol on the Carlsons’ driveway. In a now-deleted tweet, Smash Racism declared that Carlson had “spread fear into our homes” and that “tonight, we remind you that you are not safe either.”
In June, roughly a dozen protesters chanted “shame” and “End family separation” at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen while she ate dinner with a companion at a Washington restaurant. Later that week, health-care protesters confronted Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi after she left a movie in Tampa Bay. In August, according to the conservative activist Candace Owens, protesters began “harassing and throwing things” at her and a fellow conservative activist, Charlie Kirk, while they ate breakfast in a restaurant in Philadelphia. In September, demonstrators chanting “We believe survivors” chased Ted Cruz and his wife from an Italian restaurant near the Senate. In a recent interview, Carlson said that he can’t go to restaurants anymore because “I get yelled at” and “it just wrecks your meal.”
Conservatives, of course, aren’t the only ones who endure intimidation in their personal lives. Since Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, harassment has forced her family to move four times, prevented her from returning to work, and required her to hire private security. In October, a Donald Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to the homes of George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Robert De Niro, along with other targets. In June, conservatives grew irate after Representative Maxine Waters told a crowd that “if you see anybody from [Trump’s] cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” But while Waters urged progressives to intrude upon the private lives of their political opponents, she did not endorse physical attacks, something Trump has done repeatedly.
And the people who scream at Tucker Carlson or Kirstjen Nielsen or Ted Cruz have good reason to be angry. The president of the United States is a bigot. He spreads conspiracy theories; he treats the rule of law with contempt. His policies, whether in Yemen, in Puerto Rico, or on America’s southern border, leave vulnerable people brutalized or dead. Carlson, Nielsen, and Cruz are all—in different ways—Trump’s agents. Nothing they have endured remotely compares to the suffering that they have helped to inflict.
But whatever the merits of the causes they promote, they are embracing methods that are deeply corrosive. It matters how activists oppose a government. When they prevail, the approaches they embraced in opposition to power deeply shape how they exercise it themselves. And the protesters harassing prominent conservatives during their private lives have crossed a dangerous line.
The term civil disobedience was invented by Henry David Thoreau, popularized by Mahatma Gandhi, and defined—most prominently—by the philosopher John Rawls. Rawls called it the “public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies.”
The recent protests at homes, bars, and restaurants meet some aspects of Rawls’s test, but fail in one key respect. Some have violated the law, while others have skirted its boundaries. And, as Rawls demands, the recent demonstrations have also been largely nonviolent.
The problem is that they are not sufficiently “public” and “conscientious.” By public, Rawls meant that civil disobedience is a form of political argument. Normal criminals try to break the law without anyone knowing about it. People who commit civil disobedience, by contrast, publicize their infractions to dramatize the injustice they seek to change. For civil-rights activists, furtively sneaking a hamburger at a segregated lunch counter served no purpose. The point was to demand service openly, accept arrest, and thus communicate with the public. In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” In so doing, they “arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice.”
There is a place for private protest. People have the right to quietly refuse to participate in actions they consider immoral—serving in war, for instance—so long as they, too, accept the consequences. Philosophers call this “conscientious objection.” By this standard, Stephanie Wilkinson, who owns the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, was entirely justified in refusing to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this summer.
But the people who protested outside Carlson’s home, or hounded Nielsen and Cruz in restaurants and Timpf at a bar, were not conscientious objectors. They were not seeking to avoid being implicated in an immoral action. They were seeking to impede people whose actions they consider immoral from conducting their normal lives. Yet they fell short of meeting the standards of civil disobedience. The woman who screamed at Timpf, and the man who doused her with water, communicated no public message at all. The people who protested Carlson at his home, and Nielsen and Cruz at restaurants, did convey a message. They filmed videos and posted social-media statements that conveyed their objections to Carlson’s views on race, Nielsen’s policies towards migrants, and Cruz’s support for Kavanaugh. But they failed in another respect: By obscuring their identities, they refused to take individual responsibility for their actions. When people tried to film them, the demonstrators outside Carlson’s house covered their faces.
Protesting without revealing your identity—even after the fact—is like savaging someone in an anonymous op-ed. You can’t foster honest and meaningful communication with the society you wish to change if you don’t allow people to respond. Showing your face at a protest, like affixing your name on an op-ed, creates a measure of accountability. People think harder about their actions when they know they’ll be forced to answer for them. By protesting openly, King and his supporters took upon themselves a moral rigor that the anti-fascists of the Trump era spurn.
In addition to being insufficiently “public,” the recent protests are insufficiently “conscientious.” They don’t convey what the University of Warwick philosopher Kimberley Brownlee calls a “principled outlook.”
Part of being “conscientious” is ensuring, as much as possible, that protests occur where the injustices are perpetrated. That principle isn’t absolute. It may make sense for NFL players to take a knee before games—rather than in front of police stations—given the massive audience those games enjoy. But there’s no good argument for protesting outside Carlson’s home rather than in front of Fox News, or at a restaurant where Nielsen is eating rather than immigrant-detention centers or the Department of Homeland Security. For one thing, it clouds the message. When sexual-assault survivors descended on the Senate, they were targeting the people empowered to confirm Brett Kavanaugh in the place where they would do it. Their location highlighted their moral appeal. But Ted Cruz doesn’t confirm judges while eating dinner with his wife.
What’s more, protesting in private and semiprivate spaces increases the risk of collateral damage. It’s one thing to inconvenience and embarrass Cruz and his staffers or Carlson and his employees, who have chosen to participate in his public actions. It’s another to inconvenience and embarrass their families. The Smash Racism DC protesters didn’t even make sure Carlson would be home when they gathered outside his house. So their most immediate victim was his wife.
Most importantly, trespassing upon someone’s personal life is, by its nature, intimidating. It threatens the zone of privacy upon which people deeply rely. The protesters know that. In an essay written for ThinkProgress, one of the people at the Carlson protest, Alan Pyke, acknowledges that its point was to make Carlson and his family experience some of the fear that they help inflict upon “marginalized communities.” Pyke writes that “the point … is to unsettle and frighten—and I certainly would have been frightened had it been me in that house.”
The principle is: Turn your enemies’ misdeeds upon them; fight fire with fire. That’s a far cry from King’s insistence, in his Birmingham-jail letter, “that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.” Or Gandhi’s declaration that “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Underlying the process that King called “self-purification” is a recognition—which King may have gleaned from Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian he admired—that everyone is corrupted by self-interest and the lust for power. People aren’t as morally pure as they believe themselves to be. Acknowledging that means accepting limits on the power we assume over others. It means resisting the seductive claim that because our motives are virtuous, we can take liberties we would never grant our adversaries. Because King took pains to ensure that his methods were consistent with his goals, he didn’t have to fear that others might employ those methods as well.
There are, after all, conservatives who sincerely believe that liberals are behaving as monstrously as the Smash Racism DC protesters believe Carlson is behaving. And not all of them are bigots. In evaluating the protests against Carlson, Cruz, Nielsen, and Timpf, liberals should consider the anti-abortion movement. Americans can tolerate a society in which anti-abortionists march and pray in front of abortion clinics. We cannot tolerate a society in which they knock on the door of abortion doctors and tell their families that “we know where you sleep.” We cannot tolerate a society in which anti-abortion demonstrators make it impossible for Rachel Maddow, Elizabeth Warren, and the leaders of Planned Parenthood to go out with their families to eat. Because King sought to convince rather than intimidate, and because his methods reflected a basic respect for the humanity of his political adversaries, we can universalize his protests. We can’t universalize Smash Racism DC’s.
And if liberals and leftists are not moved by appeals to principle or pragmatism, perhaps they will listen to narrow self-interest. If anti-fascists grow accustomed to invading the personal space of Trump’s supporters, they will also invade the personal space of liberals who they do not believe are opposing Trump and his policies vehemently enough. This isn’t a hypothetical concern. In 2017, anti-fascists in Portland camped out in front of the house of Mayor Ted Wheeler, a liberal Democrat. They scattered trash on his lawn and hurled obscenities at his wife and kids. Their objection: Portland had not divested from companies that support the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Anti-fascists might object that the legitimacy of a protest cannot be evaluated in the abstract. The more extreme the injustice, the more extreme the measures that people can take to resist it. There’s something to this. Americans lionize Nelson Mandela, who endorsed armed struggle, because he argued that in apartheid South Africa—which, unlike the United States, made no pretense to racial equality in its founding documents—civil disobedience alone was not enough. Rawls himself argues in A Theory of Justice that his definition of civil disobedience applies to a “more or less democratic state” which “is well-ordered for the most part but in which some serious violations of justice nevertheless do occur.”
Is Trump’s America such a place? That question underlies the debate over the protests targeted at people like Tucker Carlson. But it’s worth remembering that King accepted the restraints of Rawlsian civil disobedience in a segregated south that was, by any reasonable measure, less just and less democratic than America is today. Gandhi did so in colonial India, where he was not even a citizen of the British empire that dominated his life. King and Gandhi’s tactics proved effective, and they shaped the political forces—the Congress Party in India; the Democratic Party in the United States—that they helped bring to power. It is in part because of them that India and the United States are multicultural democracies today.
The people protesting Trump and his allies should remember that. The methods they use now will not only prove more or less effective in checking Trump’s actions. They will help define the progressive alternatives that emerge in his wake. George Kennan once said, “There is a little bit of totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and every one of us.” The more power we liberals amass in the years to come, the more we must remember that Kennan’s warning doesn’t only apply to Tucker Carlson. It also applies to the people standing on his lawn.
The George W. Bush administration had its “Axis of Evil.” Now the Trump administration has coined the term “Troika of Tyranny” to describe the group of oppressive Latin American dictators it is pledging to confront. The administration is right to call out the crimes of the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. But it remains to be seen whether the White House can deliver a comprehensive strategy to go along with the rhetoric.
National security adviser John Bolton gave a speech Thursday afternoon at the Freedom Tower in Miami to a crowd filled with people who fled Cuba and Venezuela to escape the cruelty and oppression of the Castro and Maduro regimes. Linking those situations with the escalating repression of the Daniel Ortega government in Nicaragua, Bolton promised a new, comprehensive U.S. approach that will ramp up U.S. involvement in pushing back against what the administration sees as a leftist, anti-democratic resurgence in the region.
“This Troika of Tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere,” Bolton said. “The United States looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall. . . . The Troika will crumble.”
It’s no coincidence that Bolton is in South Florida just days before the 2018 midterm elections. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), the son of Cuban immigrants, is defending his seat in a district that favored Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 16 points. Former journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, also born to Cuban immigrant parents, is running as a Republican against Bill Clinton administration official Donna Shalala to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who is retiring.
There’s also a neck-and-neck gubernatorial race between Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), and while Hispanics overall favor Gillum, Cuban Americans strongly favor DeSantis.
But administration sources insist this new Latin America policy is not just to get out the vote. Once the election is over, the White House is vowing to use all the tools of national power to raise the pressure on the leaders of these three governments, especially targeting their ability to corruptly enrich themselves.
Last year, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum (NSPM-5), titled, “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba,” which set the broad outlines of what the larger campaign will prioritize. The policy aims not only to roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to normalize the U.S.-Cuba relationship but also to ramp up efforts to contain the regime and support those inside the country struggling for greater political, economic and religious freedom.
Experts said the test will be whether the Trump administration can maintain focus and follow through with real results after the U.S. midterm elections are over.
“It is true what they say that these are three regimes that are horrible and deserve to be treated as pariahs, but nothing has worked so far,” said former Venezuelan minister of industry and trade Moisés Naím, now a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Cuba has been a challenging issue for every administration since the Bay of Pigs invasion and no American president has been able to solve that puzzle. So let’s see if they have come up with a new remedy, a new strategy, a new regional approach. Right now, we don’t know.”
So far, the Trump administration’s approach to Latin America has been ad hoc. Most recently, Trump has threatened to cut off U.S. aid to Honduras, a country that cooperates extensively with the United States, unless that government stopped a “caravan” of migrants heading toward the U.S. southern border. The Trump administration’s relationship with Mexico has been contentious because of Mexico’s refusal to pay for Trump’s border wall. Trump has floated the idea of using the U.S. military to invade Venezuela, which evoked fears of past U.S. intervention in the region.
But there are positive signs that there is opportunity for a reset. The United States and Mexico have come to a new trade agreement that the incoming Mexican president — not a natural Trump ally — seems to accept. Brazil’s new president-elect has a terrible record of past statements but is someone with whom Trump might be able to do business. If the United States led a true regional approach aimed at addressing the continent’s growing humanitarian crises, most Latin American countries might be persuaded to come on board.
Absent such an approach, the deteriorating situations in Venezuela and Nicaragua are likely to create more refugees, more mass migration, more regional economic strife and, as a result, more repression, suffering and instability. Bolton’s “Troika of Tyranny” label won’t solve anything by itself. But if it’s followed up with a real strategy, it could be the beginning of what’s needed to prevent Latin America’s failing states from dragging the rest of the hemisphere down with them.
Overall weapons confiscations have increased by 9 percent during the current school year compared to the same period last year, the data reveal.
The 2018-2019 increases come on top of a 28 percent rise in overall weapons recoveries in 2017-2018, including a 32 percent hike in intercepted knives, according to DOE data.
A total of 2,718 weapons were recovered over the course of the last academic year, up from 2,119 the year prior.
Since the start of this school year on Sept. 5 through Oct. 14, officials have confiscated 494 weapons in city school buildings, according to the NYPD.
That up from 453 during the same period last year.
So far, school personnel have recovered 284 blades compared with 234 last year — a full 20 percent increase.
Concern over the presence of knives in schools intensified last year after Abel Cedeno fatally stabbed one classmate and injured another at Urban Assembly of Wildlife Conservation in The Bronx.
The NYPD said there have been no guns detected so far this year, down from three that were intercepted during the same period last year.
The biggest percentage jump came in the “other” weapons category, which rose from 43 to 75 — a 74 percent increase. The NYPD defined the classification as “any object that can be considered a dangerous instrument,” but declined to provide examples.
Tasers and stun-gun recoveries have ticked up this year so far from five to eight while boxcutter confiscations fell from 159 to 126, according to the data.
“Weapons of any kind have absolutely no place in our schools, and our effective security measures ensure we are swiftly and safely recovering items without incident,” said DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.
The DOE also stressed that the weapons spike has come amidst a sharp decline overall in major crimes in schools in recent years.
“Our schools continue to get safer, we have seen a 29 percent decrease in major crimes in schools since the 2013-14 school year, and we increased the frequency of unannounced scanning last year,” Barbot said.