The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren: Our Justice System Is ‘Racist, All the Way, Front to Back.’

Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., October 24, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

You think you have a tough job this morning? Imagine being the guy who has to organize “Cops for Warren 2020” in a year or so.

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, speaking at Dillard University in New Orleans this weekend:

“Let’s just start with the hard truth about our criminal justice system,” she railed. “It’s racist. It is. And when I say our system, I mean all the way. I mean front to back. This is not just sentencing reform we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the front end on what you declare to be illegal on how you enforce it, on who gets arrested.”

“Racist all the way, front to back,” is a really surprising and troubling thing to hear about a system that was, until 18 months ago, effectively headed by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and before her, Eric Holder, appointed and accountable to the nation’s first African-American president. A system that has 214 African-American federal judges, 125 of Latino or Hispanic heritage, 41 Asian-Americans, and three Native Americans. A system that has at least 400 black prosecutors (although far too few elected ones).  A system where 27 percent of the officers and police personnel are members of minority groups, as of 2013, the most recent year data are available. Do all of these people feel like they are cogs in the “racist all the way, front to back” machine?

Does she think her potential rival, former Massachusetts governor and assistant attorney general Deval Patrick was part of a racist system? How about former district attorney and state attorney general Kamala Harris?

Wait a minute . . .  Holder, Patrick, and Harris have all made noise about running for president. Say, Warren’s across-the-board denunciation of the entire American criminal justice system wouldn’t be a subtle early attempt to paint all of three potential African-American rivals as suspect, having spent long chunks of their careers in this system, would it?

It’s not like Elizabeth Warren ever said or did something cynical about race to get ahead, right?

If Warren believes what she’s saying, and this isn’t just careless incendiary rhetoric, the only logical conclusion is that all of the prosecutions and incarcerations in recent memory are at least suspect and likely unjust.

Trouble’s Coming to Washington This Weekend

Give us all a moment to choke on the irony that one of the plans to avoid violence at next week’s white-nationalist rally in Washington, D.C., was to take the city’s subway and institute a system that seems uncomfortably close to . . . separate but equal:

Metro is no longer considering running separate trains for protesters participating in the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” white nationalists rally in the District, the transit agency’s board chairman said Saturday.

Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans had previously said that running a separate train was among options being weighed by officials.

“Metro will not be providing a special train or special car for anyone next Sunday,” Evans said.

Word about the possibility of the service for rally-goers spread quickly Friday and Saturday, drawing condemnation from those who decried “special treatment” for white nationalist groups, which are focused on the goal of achieving a whites-only state or the separation of whites from other groups. Others thought the possible move to constitute a form of segregation.

The separate-trains idea more or less gives these creeps what they want, doesn’t it?

Still, you have to sympathize with Metro officials and every other government authority in D.C., because in all likelihood, trouble is coming to Washington this coming weekend. Some of those white nationalists are probably spoiling for a fight and/or looking for an opportunity play the victim. Plenty of angry local residents will be outraged by the sight of the white nationalists, and some are probably itching to demonstrate their opposition to fascism by physically assaulting someone for holding fascist opinions, oblivious to the irony. There are probably some angry voices licking their lips in anticipation — eager to argue that the marching buffoons representing the hidden malevolent souls of many more white Americans, and genuine racists will no doubt see the controversy surrounding any clash as recruiting opportunity.

Good luck, Washington.

The review of the city government and police handling of the Charlottesville rally was scathing, an absolute failure to protect the public in a dangerous situation that is simply mind-boggling. One white-nationalist protester literally pulled out a gun and fired at the ground near a counter-protester with a torch, and this didn’t bring the police running. There was a line of state troopers behind a nearby barricade!

This weekend, Portland, Ore., saw a rally and small-scale clash between the “Patriot Prayer” group and counter-protesters.

 Portland’s police chief on Sunday acknowledged allegations of injuries suffered a day earlier as officers cleared streets and fired various crowd-control munitions near crowds of protesters.

Chief Danielle Outlaw said any complaints would be forwarded to the Office of Independent Police Review.

The police bureau said Saturday that three people were treated by Portland Fire medics, and one was taken by ambulance to a local hospital with a non-life-threatening injury. None of those injuries were the result of police actions, police spokesman Sgt. Chris Burley said.

Police were stationed in large numbers in downtown Portland on Saturday in anticipation of a face-off between the right-wing group Patriot Prayer and groups of counter-protesters. Police lined Southwest Naito Parkway in an effort to keep the groups separated.

Around 2 p.m., officers ordered a group of counter-protesters near the intersection of Southwest Naito Parkway and Southwest Columbia Street to disperse. When the group didn’t immediately leave, police fired dozens of flash-bang grenades other crowd-control munitions. Officers rushed toward the crowd, shoving some protesters out of the street.

Police said protesters had thrown a “chemical agent” and other objects at officers.

All of that represents something of an improvement for Portland law enforcement, because earlier this summer they basically refused to help control protesters outside an ICE office:

 A mob surrounded ICE’s office in Southwest Portland June 19. They barricaded the exits and blocked the driveway. They sent “guards” to patrol the doors, trapping workers inside. At night they laid on the street, stopping traffic at a critical junction near a hospital. Police stayed away. “At this time I am denying your request for additional resources,” the Portland Police Bureau’s deputy chief, Robert Day, wrote to federal officers pleading for help. Hours later, the remaining ICE workers were finally evacuated by a small federal police team. The facility shut down for more than a week.

Ah, That Neutral Civil Service!

Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, in a column contending that the Trump administration is harming America’s tradition of a “neutral civil service”:

Think about whether you want your water’s cleanliness to be measured by an expert or by someone’s cousin. Think about whether you want your tax forms read by people looking for information they can use as a political tool against you. There are reasons a neutral, professional civil service, as well as one that is small and efficient, is intimately connected to any definition of good government.

Yes, a bunch of political partisans at the IRS would indeed be terrible! Good thing nothing like that ever happened!

Applebaum also writes, “I was once told of an Asian country in which people pay hefty fees to the foreign minister to become ambassadors,” which seems strangely oblivious of the long, bipartisan American tradition of American presidents making big campaign donors ambassadors. (Is it better if someone writes a check to a presidential campaign instead of writing one to the foreign minister?)

ADDENDA: The National Pizza Museum is going to Chicago, and suddenly the country’s divide over New York–style vs. Chicago-style has turned them into the Sunni and the Shia.


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