Justice & Civil Liberties

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  • NRA TV Co-Host: President Obama Is A “Pussy”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Chuck Holton, the co-host of a National Rifle Association web series, reacted to a picture of President-elect Trump and President Obama shaking hands by writing, “Photo finally surfaces of Trump grabbing a pussy.”

    Holton co-hosts the NRA TV series Frontlines alongside Iran-Contra figure and NRA board member Oliver North. According to the NRA, “their coverage ranges from how our military and law enforcement guard against radiological sabotage, counterfeiting and terrorism, to the threat of an unstable economy and cyber warfare.” (In promoting a Frontlines episode, Holton once raised the prospect of people on food stamps “eating each other in the streets” following an EMP attack by North Korea.)

    Holton’s attack on Obama came in response to a widely shared tweet authored by comedian and writer Travon Free where he wrote, “No better summation of being black in America. At the highest level having to be gracious to white people who do nothing but disrespect you.” Free’s tweet included an image of Trump and Obama shaking hands, leading Holton to respond, “Photo finally surfaces of Trump grabbing a pussy":

    Holton’s comment is a reference to a video that showed President-elect Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. In the tape, which was released in October, Trump can be heard saying,“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

    Holton previously made racially charged attacks on the black community while appearing in August on the NRA’s radio show Cam & Company. During the August 19 broadcast, Holton talked about gangs, absent fathers, and welfare, before saying, “And you hear college students complain about white privilege. You know my definition of white privilege? It’s just simply the culture that we have created, that our fathers and grandfathers have worked hard to create.” Holton went on describe white privilege as “a culture of individual responsibility, where you take responsibility for your own actions, a culture that respects authority.” He also positively cited a video about “white privilege” released by “alt right” blogger Stefan Molyneux. The video, which was widely praised in white nationalist circles, pushed the myth of “Irish slavery,” a common white nationalist talking point.

  • David Clarke, Sheriff Who Appears On Fox News To Attack Minorities, Under Consideration By Trump For DHS Head

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & CYDNEY HARGIS

    President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering right-wing talk radio host and Fox News favorite Sheriff David Clarke for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Not only is Clarke’s record as Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin questionable, he has repeatedly appeared on Fox News to spout racially-charged rhetoric, including comparing Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance to the Ku Klux Klan and calling Black Lives Matter a “subversive movement.”

  • Trump Says He Wants Roe v. Wade Overturned, Mainstream Media Ignore The Draconian Effects That Would Have

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During a November 13 interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, president-elect Donald Trump promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, upending a longstanding constitutional right to abortion access. Rather than calling out this extreme position and explaining its potential consequences for millions of Americans, outlets instead attempted to normalize and downplay Trump’s commitment to roll back legal abortion access in the United States.

  • NRA “Work Of Fiction” Predicts Syrian Refugees Will Establish “Islamic State In The United States” During Clinton’s First Term

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A conspiratorial screed from the National Rifle Association imagines a future where the presidency of Hillary Clinton causes the rise of a new chapter of ISIS -- ISUS, the “Islamic State in The United States” -- culminating in a nuclear attack on U.S. soil.

    In a November 7 article in its online magazine America’s 1st Freedom, the NRA published “a work of fiction” about what America will look like in 2020 after four years of President Clinton, noting in a disclaimer at the top, “It isn’t true ... yet. But 2020 is only four years away”:

    In the NRA’s imagining, Clinton’s presidency will be filled with “tragedy and turmoil” including Syrian refugees causing the rise of ISIS within the United States and the “9/12 terrorist attacks” involving “cesium-137 bombings”:

    Indeed, much of the criticism leveled against Clinton throughout the campaign has centered on the tragedy and turmoil of the past four years, including the flood of refugees from Syria that some have blamed for the emergence of the Islamic State in the United States (ISUS); skyrocketing violent crime over the past two years that critics say is a direct result of Clinton’s policy of “ending the prison-industrial complex in America”; and, of course, last year’s 9/12 terrorist attacks at the Department of Energy’s Pantex Plant and Hanford facilities, and the cesium-137 bombings that followed.  

    Cesium-137 is a radioactive isotope that has been associated with the prospect of a “dirty bomb” attack that spreads radioactive material.  

    The NRA article then approvingly quotes “University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabatico,” an apparent reference to real-life political scientist Larry Sabato, who calls Clinton’s first term “the most harrowing and nationally tragic presidential term since Lincoln’s first.”

    The NRA article imagines an NRA-led march of gun owners on the National Mall to warn that a second Clinton term “could spell the end of the Second Amendment-protected rights that have kept us free and safe since our nation’s birth.”

    Interestingly, in 2008, the NRA predicted that President Obama would destroy the Second Amendment during his first term. When that didn’t happen, the NRA predicted Obama would destroy the Second Amendment during his second term. When that didn’t happen, the NRA pivoted to Clinton and is now predicting that she will destroy the Second Amendment in her first term. For the NRA, baseless fearmongering about Democrats’ threat to the Second Amendment appears to be standard campaign rhetoric, even in their works of fiction.

    The NRA article also casts frequent NRA boogeymen in elevated roles during a Clinton first term, with President Obama serving as chief justice of the Supreme Court, former Attorney General Eric Holder serving as head of the FBI, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg serving as U.N. ambassador, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) serving on the Federal Elections Commission.  

  • All The Times (We Know Of) When Trump Surrogate Ted Nugent Used "The N-Word”

    After Fox News And The Trump Campaign Repeatedly Criticized Jay Z's Lyrics, Trump Campaigned With Nugent

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservative media and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign breathlessly condemned rapper Jay Z for  “drop[pping] the n-word” in lyrics during a campaign concert for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Friday, but they had nothing to say about Trump surrogate Ted Nugent, who repeatedly says “nigger” in contexts that are racist. 

    Following Jay Z’s Friday performance at a Clinton campaign rally, conservative media lost their minds because Jay Z used “the N-word many, many, many times”:

    Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway criticized Clinton for appearing with Jay Z, citing the rapper’s use of “the n-word” in his performance:

    Trump also complained about Jay Z’s performance, saying at a November 5 rally, “He used every word in the book last night. He used language last night that was so bad and then Hillary said, 'I did not like Donald Trump's lewd language.' My lewd language. I tell you what, I've never said what he said in my life.”

    But then the next day, the Trump campaign invited Nugent, a National Rifle Association board member who has appeared in a Trump campaign video, to perform and speak at a Michigan rally. Nugent has a troubling history of making racist commentary, including using “nigger” as a slur.

    In a March 31 post on his Facebook page, Nugent promoted a meme popular on racist websites depicting a fake moving company called “2 niggers and a stolen truck.” The image included racial caricatures of black people:

    In 2015, Nugent devoted his June 24 column at conspiracy website WorldNetDaily to praising the word “nigger,” and defended its use as a racial slur. Citing himself as someone who "continue[s] to use the word nigger at one time or another," Nugent praised the use of the word by several well-known people not bound by “political correctness,” including former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective and current Fox News contributor Mark Fuhrman. (Fuhrman was a detective on the O.J. Simpson murder case. During Simpson's trial, the defense produced tapes of Fuhrman saying “nigger” more than 40 times over a 10-year period. According to the tapes, in his capacity with the LAPD, Fuhrman said things to African-Americans like, "You do what you're told, understand, nigger?")

    Promoting his column on Facebook, Nugent wrote, “When I play my Motown guitar, I niggerup”:

    In April 2015, Nugent wrote a post on Facebook referring to civil rights leader Al Sharpton as a “mongrel.” In the comment section, Nugent “liked” a post where somebody wrote, “Isn't 'mongrel' better than 'nigger'? Can't please some people.”

    In a 1990 interview unearthed by Media Matters in 2014, Nugent told Detroit Free Press Magazine, “I use the word nigger a lot because I hang around with a lot of niggers, and they use the word nigger, and I tend to use words that communicate.” In the same interview, Nugent defended Apartheid in South Africa, arguing that black South Africans are “a different breed of man” because they “still put bones in their noses, they still walk around naked, they wipe their butts with their hands.”

    In a 1995 interview with Bob Mack of Grand Royal Magazine, Nugent claimed that “real America” is populated by “working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.” When Mack asked Nugent, “Aren't there any blacks?” Nugent responded, “Show me one. Show me one.” Moments later Nugent called James Brown and Wilson Pickett “niggers … spirited, genuine African Americans,” while labeling black rap artists “big uneducated greasy black mongrels”:

    There is strong evidence that Nugent’s use of “nigger” is tied to his racism against blacks. While Nugent notably called President Obama a “subhuman mongrel,” he has also repeatedly attacked the black community at large.

    An example of these attacks was seen in Nugent’s ongoing reaction to the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges that he murdered African-American Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Following the acquittal, Nugent called Martin a "dope-smoking, racist gangsta wannabe." Then in the following weeks Nugent claimed that people should profile African-Americans in the same way members of a community might profile a breed of dog that was biting children, that African-Americans could solve “the black problem" if they were more honest and law-abiding, and that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence" and an inability to "read or speak clearly."

    Nugent has also offered inflammatory commentary on Clinton during the presidential campaign, including calling for her to be hanged for treason and promoting a fake video of Clinton being shot.

  • NRA: “Terrorists Want You To Elect” Hillary Clinton

    In Fact, There Is Widespread Agreement Among Experts That ISIS Wants Trump To Win

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A commentary video released by the National Rifle Association claims that “terrorists want you to elect” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton because of her policies on immigration and guns. In fact, numerous experts agree that ISIS prefers Trump as president.

    In a November 3 NRA News commentary, NRA commentator and former Navy SEAL Dom Raso claimed, “The threat this country faces is real and it will only become worse with the weakened policies Hillary plans to enact. The terrorists want you to elect her. They want weaker immigration and more gun-free zones”:

    DOM RASO: I didn’t put my life on the line God knows how many times, and my brothers didn’t fight and die so a career politician, who has been defended by guns her entire life, could take that fundamental right away from everybody else. The threat this country faces is real and it will only become worse with the weakened policies Hillary plans to enact. The terrorists want you to elect her. They want weaker immigration and more gun-free zones. They want everybody to be caught off guard, just like 9/11. A plane being used as a missile was something that couldn’t happen, and it did.

    Widespread reporting indicates that Trump is the candidate of choice for ISIS:

    • Matt Olsen, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, wrote at Time that “interviews with ISIS members and analysis of social media” indicate the terrorist organization wants Trump to win because “Trump’s anti-Muslim proposals are likely to inspire and radicalize more violent jihadists in the U.S. and Europe.”
    • Foreign Affairs: “Analysis of ISIS chatter on social media and conversations with 12 current and former supporters of the group do indicate that ISIS strongly prefers Trump over the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.”
    • An ISIS defector told Talking Points Memo that ISIS prefers Trump because he is the “perfect enemy.” TPM quoted a counterterrorism analyst who said, “It’s clear they find his comments, they find his demeanor, they find his approach, in some way serving the goals of ISIS in some manner, whether it be in having a ground war in Syria or weakening the United States."
    • Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism expert who served in Democratic and Republican presidential administrations, wrote that “for ISIS, the election of Trump would help them to validate the group’s contention that the U.S. is at war with Islam. That narrative has been a powerful tool for ISIS in recruiting people to join its ranks and commit terrorist attacks.”

    The NRA’s claim about Clinton’s position on “gun-free zones” is equally unfounded.

    There is no evidence that places that do not allow guns are more dangerous than places that do, or that mass killers choose their targets depending on whether guns can be carried. Mother Jones reported that a new study from Johns Hopkins University found “From 1966 to 2015, only 12 percent of 111 high-fatality mass shootings in the United States -- at college campuses or elsewhere -- took place in ‘gun free’ zones, and only 5 percent took place in ‘gun restricted’ zones, where security guards were armed but civilians were banned from carrying weapons.” The study also found that civilians carrying concealed weapons have not been an effective deterrent in stopping mass shootings.

    Terrorists, however, have called on supporters to exploit loopholes in weak U.S. gun laws to obtain firearms. In a 2011 video, American-born al-Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn urged al-Qaeda's followers to go to gun shows in order to buy guns without undergoing a background check, asking his audience, "So what are you waiting for?" The NRA staunchly opposes closing loopholes that allow firearms to be purchased without background checks.

  • STUDY: Fox News Spent Less Than Five Minutes Covering The Dakota Access Pipeline Protests This Week

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    One of the largest tribal protests in modern history is being virtually ignored by Fox News, even as clashes between protesters and militarized police over construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota came to a head. A Media Matters analysis found that Fox devoted less than five minutes to coverage of these events in the past week.

    For months, Native demonstrators known as “water protectors” have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would transport crude oil near the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation in North Dakota, potentially harming sacred grounds or endangering their water supply. In recent weeks, the ongoing water protection actions have expanded to include larger groups of allies, in what activists say is now “the largest, most diverse tribal action in at least a century, perhaps since Little Bighorn.” Local police forces have reportedly used rubber bullets, mace, and other violent means, as well as mass arrests in an attempt to control the ongoing protests. Prominent progressive online publications have been covering the actions against the pipeline for months, and major print outlets have begun writing editorials about the pipeline. The protests even spawned a viral Facebook post, delivering news about the clashes between peaceful demonstrators and local authorities to wider audiences. Cable news coverage this week has not been as comprehensive, with Fox News, in particular, merely mentioning the events during headline readings.

    Media Matters analyzed coverage for the last week -- from October 26 through November 3 -- on the cable news networks CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and found that all three networks together spent less than an hour covering the ongoing protests and police response. Fox News stood out for its lack of coverage, devoting just four and a half minutes to reporting on the events.

    CNN’s coverage over the same period amounted to 18 minutes and 45 seconds, while MSNBC led the charge with just over 30 minutes of coverage. Both CNN and MSNBC featured multiple updates from reporters on the ground at Standing Rock (Sara Sidner at CNN and Miguel Almaguer at MSNBC), and panel discussions about the ongoing protection actions and the response from local authorities.

    MSNBC’s October 27 edition of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell provided exemplary coverage of the issue, with a panel discussion that included the leader of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault II, and delved into the nuances of the the pipeline debate.

    Meanwhile, Fox’s scant coverage of the issue was in line with the network’s tendency to overlook or demonize protesters of color while elevating white armed protesters as “patriotic.” In a one-and-a-half-minute segment -- its longest segment on the matter this week -- during the October 28 edition of America’s Newsroom, Fox characterized the protest movement writ large as violent, calling the stand-off “a mess” and saying “there is no evidence” that the pipeline construction will pollute the Sioux tribe’s water. The segment featured a brief interview clip with just one person at Standing Rock -- a local sheriff:

    Media have a responsibility to provide coverage of the environmental and human rights battles of our time because coverage can pressure politicians to speak out. Protests against police brutality in Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore, MD, for example, were widely covered by media -- and the coverage, though often frustrating and problematic, helped start a debate that has now set needed reforms in motion.

    Raising the voices of the Native water protectors in North Dakota would also improve the lack of representation of minorities of color in media, a challenge that is far from being overcome.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC transcripts using the SnapStream video archive from October 26 at 6:00 a.m. through November 3, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. for any mention of the term "Dakota" within 20 seconds of the terms "access" or "pipeline." We excluded teasers for upcoming segments and duplicate segments that were re-aired.

  • Poll: NRA Campaign Spending Makes Voters Less Likely To Vote For NRA’s Preferred Candidate

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    New polling from Public Policy Polling (PPP) indicates that in three key Senate races where the National Rifle Association has spent millions of dollars, the NRA’s efforts have made voters less likely to support the NRA-endorsed candidate.

    In a November 3 polling memo, PPP noted that “voters are uncomfortable with the efforts of the gun lobby - especially in Missouri, Nevada, and North Carolina - to try to influence the results of the election this fall on behalf of the candidates they support.”

    PPP found that “voters say by a 20 point spread in each of those states that gun groups’ efforts actually make them less likely to support the Republican candidate”:

    The largest spread, where voters were less likely to vote for the NRA’s candidate by a 25-point margin, occurred in North Carolina. The NRA has spent more than $6 million in the U.S. Senate race in that state, which is more than the group has spent on any other congressional race.

    Approximately 90 percent of NRA spending in that race has been on attack ads against Democratic candidate Deborah Ross, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). One NRA attack ad smeared Ross as an opponent of self-defense by distorting a vote she made against an omnibus pro-gun bill that included provisions to make it easier for domestic abusers to access guns.

    In Missouri, where the NRA has a negative-21-point spread on its campaign spending, guns have become a significant issue in the race since the NRA released attack ads against Democratic candidate Jason Kander -- a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan -- that distorted his voting record on the gun issue.

    After Republican incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt attacked Kander’s record on guns, Kander’s campaign released an ad showing him assembling a firearm with a blindfold on while he talked about his experiences in Afghanistan and about keeping guns away from terrorists. After assembling the gun, Kander said, “I'd like to see Sen. Blunt do this.” The spot has been called “the best ad of the election so far” and “remarkable.” The NRA has spent over $2.5 million opposing Kander and nearly $500,000 supporting Blunt.

  • Donald Trump’s “Second Amendment Coalition" Includes NRA Board Member Who Compared Gun Safety Push To The Holocaust

    Coalition Also Includes Reality Star And Gunmaker Jesse James, Who Likes To Dress Up As A Nazi And Give The Hitler Salute

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s newly announced “Second Amendment Coalition” is filled with National Rifle Association board members and gun industry executives and includes an NRA board member who predicted the “death of millions” while comparing gun violence prevention laws to the Holocaust.

    Breitbart News reported on the launch of the 64-member coalition, writing, “On November 3 Donald Trump launched the ‘Second Amendment Coalition,’ featuring pro-gun U.S. Congressmen, the [National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action’s] Chris Cox, and gun manufacturers like Jesse James and Daniel Defense’s Marty Daniel.”

    The list reported by Breitbart News includes NRA board member Ronnie Barrett, the inventor and manufacturer of the controversial .50-caliber sniper rifle.

    During the debate over gun laws following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Barrett appeared on an NRA News program to compare the push for stronger gun laws to the Nazi movement in Germany.

    Asked by NRA News host Cam Edwards about gun safety proposals in New York, Colorado, and Maryland, Barrett said during a March 1, 2013, broadcast, “In all of history when this kind of stuff has happened before, it's bad news. You know and I hate to be one of these doomsday guys, but in past things like this result in the death of millions.”

    Barrett then referenced a false version of history often repeated by gun activists that claims gun confiscation paved the way for the Holocaust:

    BARRETT: World War II hasn't been 700 years ago, it's only been 70 years ago. And if people don't think that these things don't happen to modern, progressive, Christian nations like Germany was, they're wrong, brother. I mean we're sitting here just nearly repeating the same past of that, the disarming of the citizenry not based on any facts but based on cynical emotions that are put in and rushed through in the middle of the night before anybody has a chance to study the true facts, before their citizenry even knows what's going on. I mean holy smokes, what kind of state government was that? I can't believe that's one of the members of the Union here, one of the members of our republic. It's just unimaginable.

    During a February 5 appearance on NRA News that year, Barrett referenced the Holocaust again, suggesting that gun owners can prevent "socialism" and make it so "you can't round up hoards of armed free people and put them in cattle cars."

    The Anti-Defamation League has repeatedly condemned comparisons between proposals to strengthen gun laws and the Holocaust, calling such claims “historically inaccurate and offensive,” and noting that “gun control did not cause the Holocaust; Nazism and anti-Semitism did.”

    In addition, the .50-caliber sniper rifle Barrett manufactures -- “among the most destructive weapons legally available to civilians” -- has raised public safety concerns, and some have attempted to ban the sale of the weapon to civilians. (In most states, the sniper rifle is presently no more regulated than a standard hunting rifle.) Law enforcement has linked the .50-caliber sniper rifle to “terrorism, outlaw motorcycle gangs, international and domestic drug trafficking, and violent crime.” After suspected drug cartel members fired a .50-caliber sniper rifle at U.S. Border Patrol agents in 2014, even Fox News ran multiple segments detailing the danger the “battlefield weapon” poses to law enforcement, with one host noting, “The slugs a .50-caliber weapon fires are so big that body armor really won't do you much good.”

    Other NRA board members joining Trump’s coalition include Jim Gilmore, Dave Butz, Richard Childress, Alan Cors, Carolyn Meadows, Craig Morgan, and Linda Walker. Gun industry executives on the list include Marty Daniel; George Kollitides, who owns the company that made the Sandy Hook massacre gun; and reality TV star-turned-gunmaker Jesse James.

    James, who has endorsed Trump and rose to notoriety for his reality TV show about building custom motorcycles, has been photographed multiple times over the past decade wearing Nazi uniforms and giving the Sieg Heil Nazi salute.

  • Days After He Talked About Gun Owners Shooting Hillary Clinton, NRA Cuts Ad For Sen. Richard Burr

    NRA Has Spent More On NC Senate Race -- $6 Million -- Than Any Other Congressional Contest

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Days after CNN obtained audio of Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) talking about gun owners shooting Hillary Clinton, the National Rifle Association (NRA) released an ad claiming that the only way to “save the Second Amendment” is to reelect Burr and other Republican senators.

    According to an October 31 CNN report, Burr, while speaking to campaign volunteers, said that “nothing made me feel better” than to see a gun magazine with a picture of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s face on the cover. Burr added, “I was a little bit shocked at that -- it didn't have a bullseye on it,” drawing laughter from his audience. Burr, who has since apologized for his remarks, was apparently referencing NRA magazine American Rifleman:

    Burr’s remark, which recalled Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that “Second Amendment people” could do something about Clinton if she is elected president, was condemned by gun safety groups and addressed by President Barack Obama, who said, “You don’t talk about violence against public officials, even in a joke.”

    The NRA’s November 3 ad touting Burr falsely claims that “if Hillary Clinton is president your right to keep a gun in your home for self-defense will be in jeopardy like never before.” PolitiFact previously rated the NRA’s claim Clinton “doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense” as “False.”

    It is unclear how much the NRA will spend to air the ad on television. FEC filings can be delayed for several days and the latest NRA filing for spending in the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina was submitted on October 31. The NRA has spent more on the North Carolina senate race than any other congressional race, spending $5,586,930 against Democratic challenger Deborah Ross and $663,765 in favor of Burr.

    By comparison, the NRA has spent $3.1 million on its next-biggest target, the Florida U.S. Senate race. The bulk of NRA election spending is focused on electing Trump as president. The NRA has spent nearly $30 million on that race.

  • “Guns Down” Project To Fight Back Against Firearm-Related Voter Intimidation On Election Day

    Voters Can Text “GUNSDOWN” To 91990 To Report “Poll Watchers” Who Use Firearms And Other Means To Intimidate

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Amid heightened concerns about voter intimidation involving the open carrying of firearms at polling locations on Election Day, a project called Guns Down is providing a resource for voters to report intimidation to voter protection advocates and to share their experiences on social media.

    According to The Washington Post, “many election officials across the country are, for the very first time, bracing for intimidation or even violence on Election Day,” and these fears are compounded given that “most states have no laws regarding guns in polling places.”

    Under federal law it is illegal to intimidate people trying to vote with guns or by other means.

    Yet the Post reports that  “state laws about guns and voter intimidation are a patchwork of wildly varying regulations,” and determinations of violations of voter intimidation laws can be difficult to ascertain because each one is “a fact-sensitive, context-based decision,” according to UCLA law professor Adam Winkler.(Further complicating determinations are discordant federal appeals courts rulings on what behavior constitutes voter intimidation).

    This state of affairs has created an opening for individuals who wish to intimidate voters with guns at the polls while retaining some semblance of plausible deniability concerning the legality of their actions.

    Voters who text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990 will receive information on a national voter protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) operated by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Appropriate reports will be passed on to law enforcement and election officials, and voters will have the opportunity, if they feel safe doing so, to share photos of voter intimidation on social media.

    The project’s launch comes as several disturbing news reports raise the prospect of people carrying guns at the polls and engaging in other instances of possible voter intimidation -- including calls from racist far-right  media outlets for an “army” of white nationalists to “watch” the polls:

    • Talking Points Memo reported that “some armed Trump supporters have shown an interest in making their presence known at voting sites,” and quoted NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney Deuel Ross saying, “The idea that people would be standing outside the polls with guns, or even inside the polls with guns, clearly has the potential to turn people away. There’s a long history of this.”

    • The Trace spoke to gun activists who said that “some gun owners will bring their weapons with them to vote in places where they are allowed to do so” but claimed that these people would not bring weapons for the purpose of intimidation.

    • Stewart Rhodes, the leader of extremist group Oath Keepers, announced “Operation Sabot 2016,” instructing members to “go out into public on election day, dressed to blend in with the public … with video, still camera, and notepad in hand, to look for and document suspected criminal vote fraud or intimidation activities.” (A sabot is a device that helps keep a projectile centered as it passes through the barrel of a firearm or other delivery mechanism.) Rhodes told members not to bring guns, but the Oath Keepers are closely associated with open carry protests, including the open carrying of firearms during unrest in Ferguson, MO.

    • Virginia election officials are “worried about conflicts at the polls after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump urged his supporters to ‘watch’ others at the voting booths,” according to The Washington Post. The Prince William County electoral board pushed for a one-day ban on guns at polling places but was rebuffed by a Republican lawmaker who said the board did not have the authority to enact a ban.

    • White nationalist media including The Daily Stormer and its neo-Nazi founder, Andrew Anglin, and anti-Semitic “alt-right” news website The Right Stuff are planning to send “an army of Alt-Right nationalists to watch the polls.” According to Politico, the plans include setting up “hidden cameras at polling places in Philadelphia” and distributing marijuana and alcohol in the “ghetto.” Politico also reported, “The National Socialist Movement, various factions of the Ku Klux Klan and the white nationalist American Freedom Party all are deploying members to watch polls.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Socialist Movement “specializes in theatrical and provocative protests.”

    • Neo-Nazi news website Infostormer sent “a little message for the Kikes who monitor this site on behalf of the SPLC, [Anti-Defamation League], and various other evil organizations” that “on November 8th, we will have a legitimate ARMY of supporters out in the streets to show solidarity with President (he’s going to win this) Donald J. Trump,” while claiming that neo-Nazi poll watchers will not engage in any illegal activity. The author of the November 2 article also wrote that his “pet idea is more on the lines of convincing (successfully so far) low IQ subhumans and White traitors that the actual Election Day is on November 9th, absentee voting will be allowed in all states until 11 PM on the 8th, and that thousands of KKK members are sealing off polling locations in cahoots with law enforcement.”