5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: June 11, 2020

What a weird day, CivMixers!

It has been humid and alternating between gloom and rain and blue and sun. I hope it rains and gets this horrific humidity out of the air.

How have you all been, CivMixers? I hope you are all taking time for yourself and your families in the face of everything the country is going through. No matter who you are or where you are, please know you that are essential, You are seen. You are heard.

Shall we see what is happening around the news today?

1) Noel Franciso, 50, is planning on leaving the top position in the solicitor’s general office, according to an anonymous source familiar with the situation.

Francisco, who is of Filipino descent, is the first Asian-American ever to hold the office. He successfully defended some of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies – including the so-called Muslim travel ban.

This comes on the heels of the announcement by Brian Benczkowski, the top prosecutor of the Justice Department’s criminal division, that he would be leaving that post at the beginning of next month.

There has been a lot of criticism leveled at the Justice Department in general, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in particular. Critics say the department is overly focused on helping President Trump’s closest allies. There is a lot of scrutiny, for example, about the clamor within the DOJ to have the criminal charges dropped against Michael Flynn, a former top Trump advisor.

Flynn, as you’ll no doubt recall, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

The Office of the Solicitor General is responsible for defending the government’s policies when they are challenged in court. Francisco has held the top position there since 2017. According to the anonymous source, the plan for him to leave has been in place for a while.

It is expected that Jeff Wall, who is the top deputy in the Solicitor General’s Office, will be taking over as the acting solicitor general until a permanent replacement is found. As of now, the DOJ has not commented.

2) The statue of Jefferson Davis, onetime president of the Confederacy, has stood in Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA, since 1907. Not anymore. Late yesterday evening, protestors pushed it over.

This is the third statue in a week to be torn down by protesters in the city, which once served as the capital of the Confederate States of America. This past Saturday, a statue of a Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham was torn down, and on Tuesday, a statue of Christopher Columbus, was not only toppled, but also dumped into a nearby lake.

This seems to be in response to the 10-day stay issued on Monday by Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo, which prevents the city from following through on Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to remove the statue of famed Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The stay was issued to avoid removal of Lee’s statue until a lawsuit brought against eliminating entirely it can be heard.

The man who brought the lawsuit is William Gregory, the great-grandson of the man who deeded the land to Richmond on which the statue stands. The suit claims that said land was given specifically for purpose of housing the statue, and the city allegedly agreed to protect and care for the figure no matter what.

Lee’s statue is very large, and it is not likely that any crowd will be able to bring it down without equipment.

All of the city’s four statues depicting famous members of the Confederacy, which have been defaced by protestors’ graffiti over the past week, were included in Northam’s order. Virginia Attorney General mark Herring has said that he will fight Judge Cavedo’s order and complete the statue removal effort.

3) The state Legislature has passed a series of comprehensive police reform bills, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to quickly sign into law.

“There is a moment for change, and we are going to make change, and we are going to pass legislation this week that I am going to sign that is going to lead the nation in police reform, releasing disciplinary records, what they call 50a, banning chokeholds, which should have been done a long time ago, and that will be in the state law.”

-Gov. Andrew Cuomo

There has been opposition to the bills, led by police unions and their allies, who say the measures express “anti-police” sentiment.

These are not new ideas. Many of the proposals have languished in Albany for years. Given the current state of affairs in our state and nation, lawmakers decided to finally act, with many saying that there will be more to come.

One of the bills is named for Eric Garner, the black man who died when a member of the NYPD used a prohibited chokehold procedure on him during an arrest in 2014. That bill states that if an officer uses a chokehold that leads to injury or death, he or she can be charged with a Class C Felony, which can be punished with up to 15 years in jail.

Other bills allow for the state attorney general to be named as an independent prosecutor in the deaths of unarmed civilians by a member of law enforcement. Another, known in Albany parlance as 50-a, lets disciplinary records of individual officers, correction officers, and firefighters to be released without their consent in writing.

Yet another measure mandates that an officer report any discharge of his or her weapon in which a person could have been hit within six hours of that incident.

4) In a still-developing story, the New York State Police have recovered the body of Joshua Abood, 22, from the Cohoes side of the Mohawk River off Peebles Island.

The police said Abood died as a result of accidental drowning. The body was seen by people passing by on the Delaware Avenue Path in Cohoes. The incident remains under investigation.

5) There are a few different events happening tonight for anyone looking to get involved. Tonight in Schenectady, there is a Virtual Downtown Artsweek celebration event at 7 p.m.

There is also a live stream Live at Five events that will begin (of course) at 5 PM.

At 8 p.m. tonight, there will be a live stream concert featuring David Crosby.

At 5 p.m., (Editor’s note: Sorry, I’m getting to this a little late) there is a rally at Schenectady City Hall to support the push for police reform in the city.

Though there is no link, tonight at 5:30 PM at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Clifton Park there is a gather to pray and exhibit pride in light of those in the diocese who are not in line with the official position that the Albany Episcopal Diocese has taken for the hearing of Father William Love, the presiding Bishop of the Diocese, tomorrow. You will just have to trust me on this one; it is happening!

Also at 5 p.m. tonight, there is a Black Lives Matter rally in Saugerties.

For more events, check this page out.

That is all for today. Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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