5 Things: June 1, 2020

Welcome to a chilly Monday, CivMixers. I hope everyone stayed safe this weekend and had a nice happy one.

There was a lot of unrest and a lot more fear of disorder throughout the Capital District. Please rest assured that the people who were rioting were not in the majority, as there were two massive, successful, and (most importantly) peaceful protests that took place in Albany and Schenectady this weekend.

Saturday night, as has been widely reported, there were riots and violence in Albany, which have been linked to the aforementioned peaceful protests that took place earlier in the day. I can not guarantee that none of the same people took part in both, I can assure you the organizers of the peaceful events had no hand in anything other than just that.

Anger and fear are permeating much of the state – and nation – right now. That is justified. Fury is easier to understand than riots, perhaps.

It is arguably tough for some who don’t have to fear being harassed by officials just for walking down the street and looking like yourself to understand, but putting ourselves in other people’s shoes is what makes the human race capable of greatness.

This is not a place to get preachy or force my views and beliefs on you, so we will move on. But I will just say to anyone reading this who is angry, confused, hurt, mad, black, brown, white, straight, gay, trans, cis, abled or disabled – no matter who you are or what you feel – I see you, I hear you, I validate you, and I support you. Love will get us through this, so let us work on spreading that instead of hate, rumors, racism, bigotry, or superiority.

And now, the news…

1) Though police brutality was the target of demonstrations in response to the death of an unarmed black man named George Floyd, who was knelt on while prone and handcuffed by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, there were many reported instances in which members of law enforcement themselves were expressing their dismay over the tragedy in Minneapolis.

Here in Schenectady, for example, a number of police officers – including the chief himself – joined the protesters in marching and in taking a knee.

Chauvin has since been arrested and charged. Floyd’s death was the latest in a long series of deaths by unarmed black individuals at the hands of the police.

The majority of protests are peaceful and emotional, but safe. There are, of course, some that have not been and have turned violent. In these, mob mentality took over and rioting, looting, violence, and destruction followed. However, federal law enforcement officials have confirmed that some of these have been spurred on by hate groups, white supremacists, and anarchists.

Since last Tuesday, approximately 4,000 people have been taken into custody across the nation. Though they are all violent demonstrators, no matter their background or reason for instigating, there can be no denying that some of the responses by individual officers have been extreme as well. In Atlanta, two police were dismissed after they aggressively handled two university students they arrested. In NYC, a police car was caught on camera running into a crowd of protestors.

Many officers throughout the country have been struck by hurled projectiles and injured – broken bones, bruises, cuts, etc. have sent officers to hospitals in many states.

In Minneapolis, Chauvin was supposed to appear in court today, but the hearing was rescheduled to June 8. He faces second-degree manslaughter, which is punishable with a sentence of up to 10 years and a third-degree murder charge, which could land him a punishment of up to 25 years.

Since the other three officers have not yet been charged with anything, many activists say it is not enough. Many also disagree with the degrees of the pending charges. Many people who took part in protests are sad and frustrated that they are fighting this battle yet again. Some took part in the Eric Garner protests six years ago – when he also stuttered “I can’t breathe” while being held in a chokehold by a now former NYPD officer.

Many people of color are terrified that they are going to be profiled and targeted by law enforcement. This small but persistent group of racists hiding behind badges has caused young black men to die time and time again as they abuse their power and the trust instilled in them by putting on a uniform.

Meanwhile, many police officers are angered that a small group of bad actors is destroying the hard-fought good relations they have forged with their respective communities.

Though many real and peaceful protestors have been joined in their protests by police or at least encouraged by their kind words, it does not change the fact that many in both camps are also tired of the violence. In many states, there has been video captured of white men believed to be part of the White Supremacist of Anarchist groups. The FBI is currently investigating those groups to see which ones are instigating certain groups.

National Guard members have been activated nationwide, over 17,000 of them. They have been activated in at least 23 states and DC. There are curfews in every state. President Trump has sent mixed messages, tweeting things that seem to promote police violence against protestors and declaring that the ANTIFA is going to be named as a terrorist organization – which many experts say isn’t even constitutional.

Earlier today, Trump told governors across the nation that they were weak and needed to get more aggressive. This as curfews stay in place, business fortify their windows and doors, and police prepare for unrest.

Through all of this, our nation is still working through the COVID-19 pandemic and re-opening demonstrations.

2) In non-COVID, non-protest news, over the past five years, same-sex weddings have made 3.8 billion dollars for state and local economies. This study was released today by the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute. It also showed that it raised approximately $244 million in taxes at both the local and state levels, and supports 45,000 jobs per year.

Since ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, 293,000 same-sex couples had wed throughout the country. That is over half of the reported 513,000 current same-sex married couples reported to the American Community survey. On average, the study shows that these same-sex couples spend around an average of $11,000 on weddings, $4,000 less than most heterosexual couples.

Over time, the gap between what these couples spend on their weddings is closing, and the Williams Institute Director of State Policy and Initiatives Christy Mallory, says it will likely continue to lessen As one of the report’s authors, Mallory also has research that shows same-sex couples marriages are dissolved at a lower rate than straight couples by a little bit

According to Mallory, this is more proof that marriage is marriage. She also stated this shows how monumental this ruling was and that it affected many people’s lives for the positive, as the issue continues to be debated in public and private forums.

3) The Capital Region and Western New York will be joining those regions that have already moved onto Phase II. Western NY should be going to Phase II tomorrow, having met all Phase I metrics. The Capital Region will be following suit on Wednesday.

As long as the experts agree, these two will move into this exciting Phase. This Phase allows in-person services to start re-opening, as well as the finance and insurance industries, and other businesses.

Retail stores will be allowed to open if they strictly adhere to the guidelines set forth.

The Mid-Hudson Region and Long Island remain in Phase I. Hudson Valley can advance as early as June 9. NYC is still closed and should go to Phase I on June 8.

4) Gary McCarthy, mayor of Schenectady, officially ended the curfew he put in place for Sunday evening.

The mayor’s office put the curfew in effect yesterday, as there was a deep fear of civil unrest throughout the City of Schenectady due to the nationwide protests in the wake of Floyd’s murder. McCarthy applauded the peaceful protest and thanked Black Lives Matter and the Schenectady Police Department for their cooperation.

5) Animal shelters have suffered in this COVID crisis as well. As “kitten season”: descends on us, the American Humane Society is hosting its 45th annual “Adopt-A-Cat Month.” They are asking animal lovers to adopt pandemic pets from shelters or contribute to their “Feed the Hungry” campaign.

They point out that they have fed over 300,000 shelter animals with their “Feed the Hungry” campaign.

This “Adopt-A-Cat” event is an annual campaign they use to raise the awareness level of the challenges unique to cats. Right now, they point out that a cuddly friend is a great way to help cope with stress and anxiety, which are at all-time homes for many in the country right now.

That’s it for tonight, guys. Take it easy, have a good night, stay safe, and know you are loved!

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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