5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: June 23, 2020

Good Afternoon, CivMixers, and happy Tuesday. I hope you all are staying cool. Remember, heat-related illnesses are genuine and very dangerous. Keep to the standard tips, and stay hydrated as this mini-heatwave continues.

I was almost relieved this morning when I read about the rash of fireworks complaints across the Northeast and West Coast because I thought I was going crazy last night. I have been hearing fireworks for days (well, nights) and thought I imagined them, as it is way early for the typical 4th of July fireworks – even the ones set off illegally at people’s homes.

However, according to multiple news reports, fireworks are indeed going off this early and often lately.

Maybe people are just fed up with this year, and looking to escape by making a lot of noise. Perhaps as we continue to see our coronavirus infections go down, people are in celebratory moods. Whatever the reason, I am sure that the fireworks will continue for the next few days up until we get to July 4, and my dog is going to continue to hate it. So that should be fun.

I suppose it is time to get down to the headlines for today, huh? Okay, let’s get into it.

1) For the past two weeks, the East Precinct of the Seattle Police Department has been vacant. This area is an occupied zone that has become known as CHOP – the Capitol Hill Organized Protest. After a weekend of violence in the area, which resulted in three people suffering from gunshots, and one dying, Jenny Durkan, Mayor of Seattle, announced that the SPD would be returning to its HQ.

The mayor and SPD Chief Carmen Best agree that retaking the precinct is the first step towards regaining control in the CHOP. Durkan stated that the SPD needs to be able to maintain the safety of the public and be able to respond to all emergency calls in the area without being met with resistance.

According to the mayor, people have had their say, and now they need to go home. She can no longer allow the protests to continue unchecked, as they are causing chaos in the CHOP area and the impact on those who live or work nearby do not match up to the underlying goal for justice, equity, and peace behind the protests across the country.

The CHOP zone was previously known as the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). The area is approximately six city blocks. Since the police left their East Precinct building around two weeks ago, the area became infiltrated with activists and protestors who have made it into an art and activism hot zone. However, over the weekend, the nights of violence became too much as police and first responders attempted to respond to 911 calls of a few shootings, but were unable to get off of the street barricades on the fringes of the protest area.

At 2:30 a.m., Seattle time, the police received information about a shooting in Cal Anderson Park, which is around the corner from the East Precinct building. A male, 19, was shot and killed, and another man, 33, is in critical condition from the same shooting.

When SPD members tried to find the victim, a crowd of people within CHOP met them with violence, and they were not permitted to get to the victims. The SPD later found out that the victims were privately transferred by ‘CHOP medics’ to nearby Harborview Medical Center, where the 19-year-old died.

Then, later Sunday night, there was another shooting, and this time a 17-year-old male was also transported to Harborview by ‘CHOP medics’ to be treated for the wound on his arm.

CHOP was formed when there was a backlash against the SPD for using force against mostly peaceful protests – first called CHAZ. It morphed into CHOP as the protestors and activists in the zone began a concentrated, cooperative effort to push back against systemic racism and promote the Black Lives Matter movement.

The people behind CHOP have given the city of Seattle, and SPD, three significant demands for them to give the area with back willingly. They want the funding for SPD cut by half; they want the money saved to be used for restorative justice, health care and to fund other community efforts; finally, they want to ensure no protestors are going to be charged for any crimes. Some have also asked Mayor Durkan to tender her resignation.

There are no official responses to the demands yet. The CHOP organizers have seemed to make it clear that they are not going to stop, no matter the fate of the zone – and that they will continue until there is change whether they maintain their occupied territory or not.

2) Thirteen states have had a surge in novel coronavirus infections this week, and three of them – Arizona, Nevada, and Texas – have set a record for their second week for new outbreaks.

In TX, over 5,000 new COVID infections yesterday set a new one-day high record within the state. They also saw their 11th consecutive day of COVID related hospitalizations. The Texas Children’s Hospital has begun to admit adults suffering from coronavirus complications because of the high spike in cases in and around Houston, TX. They have not released how many coronavirus patients they have taken in, but they did release the following statement:

“We know COVID-19 has not gone away. We implore you to take responsible actions – practice appropriate social distancing, wear a mask or face covering anytime you leave your home.”
-statement by Texas Children’s Hospital

As for Arizona and Nevada, they also beat their former record-high new cases from last week as of their numbers reported this morning. Louisiana reported upwards of 1,300 cases this morning, which is the highest they reported since April 7.

In fact, during the week ended on June 21, the US had a 25% increase in new COVID cases. This number was found comparing cases to the previous seven days. Ten states in total have reported more than a 50 percent increase of new infections, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

Though the majority of states have indeed increased testing, it must be said that the percentage coming back positive is also on the rise. Four states have been consistently turning in positive results in the double digits – AZ 20 percent, FL, and UT 11 percent and TX 10 percent. The World Health Organization has stated that any rates in positive testing that are over a 5 percent rate are disturbing.

President Donald Trump has doubled down on his statement that the increases in these states and the US, in general, are simply due to increased testing. However, the metrics do not agree with this claim, as hospitalizations have risen and are not related to testing numbers at all. In AZ alone, the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 cases has increased 70% in two weeks.

Trump will be in AZ today for another one of his rallies where he is not forcing social distancing or public health protocols to be followed, even though a growing number of his campaign staff have tested positive for COVID.

His primary opponent for the November 3 election, former Vice President, democrat Joe Biden has denounced the President’s Phoenix trip, calling the planned rally not only irresponsible but also reckless.

Meanwhile, NYS, the former US COVID epicenter, has successfully kept the curve flattened since starting its phased reopening, with a positivity rating of approximately 1 percent.

3) After the quick removal of US Attorney Geoffrey Berman from the Southern District of New York this weekend, U.S> Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for an independent investigation.

Saturday, after a public fight with Attorney General William Barr, Berman agreed to step down. From 1990-1994, Berman was the assistant US attorney in the Southern District of NY. From 1994 to 2018, he was in the private sector and landed the top position in the Southern District at that point.

Berman’s removal has caused concern for Democrats. The latter is concerned that this action was taken simply to protect the associates of President Donald Trump, and the president himself, as Berman continued investigating them – including Rudolph Giuliani.

House Democrats invited Berman to come before the House Judiciary Committee to speak, according Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Tomorrow, the Judiciary Committee is expected to hear from two whistleblowers from the US Department of Justice.

This is not good enough for Schumer, who requested in writing that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and Jeffrey Ragsdale, director of the Office of Professional Responsibility, perform a joint, independent investigation into Berman’s firing.

Many of the Senate Republicans have defended Trump and Barr in their decision to oust Berman.

Both NY Senators, Schumer, and Kristen Gillibrand, have called for Jay Clayton – Trump’s nominee to replace Berman – to renounce the nomination and withdraw his name.

4) Today is Primary Day in NYS. For anyone who did not vote via absentee ballot due to COVID fears, the polls have likely looked very different.

There has been social distancing and masks required at all polling places, and poll workers were asked to strictly enforce those requirements. Masks will not be provided, so if you haven’t voted yet and plan to do so in person, bring your own.

Poll sites will be open up until 9 p.m. If you are unsure of your polling location, please check it out here.

Here in the Capital District, the race to watch is the battle for Albany County DA. Incumbent David Soares is running for his fifth term. His opponent is Matt Toporaowski, a former prosecutor in Soares’ own office. One big difference between the two” Soares has been very vocal in opposing the bail and discovery reforms that were approved by the state Legislature and took effect earlier this year, while Toporowski has been supportive of the changes.

There is a Republican primary in the 19th Congressional District that is competitive between Ola Hawatmeh, a Trump supporter who owns a fashion business and founded the Middle East Women’s Coalition, and local attorney Kyle Van De Water.

In the 108th district, there is a Democratic primary for the Assembly seat held by incumbent John McDonald – former Cohoes mayor who has held his current post since 2013. His opponent is Samuel Fein, who served two terms as an Albany County legislator.

Results might be slow in coming, due to an unprecedented number of paper ballots cast as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

5) The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has asked for any information and help they can get in locating Benjamin Cunningham, 15, who went missing on Feb. 29.

Benjamin was seen last in Albany and it is believed he may still be in the city, or perhaps in Hudson Falls. If you have any information as to his wherabouts, please call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678 or the Albany Police Department at (518) 438-4000.

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

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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