Tag Archives: Georgia

Thousands rally in Georgia after death of TV cameraman

Alexander Lashkarava was one of dozens of journalists beaten up while covering attacks on LGBTQ activists last week.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Georgia’s capital after a cameraman, one of dozens of journalists beaten during attacks on LGBTQ activists in Tbilisi this week, died.

LGBTQ campaigners in the South Caucasus country of Georgia called off a pride march on Monday after violent groups opposed to the event stormed and ransacked their office in Tbilisi and targeted activists and journalists.

Cameraman Alexander Lashkarava, 36, who was beaten up in the incident, was found dead at his home by his mother, TV Pirveli, the channel he worked for, said on Sunday. It did not disclose the cause of death.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the parliament and the office of ruling party Georgian Dream on Sunday to call for the prime minister and interior minister to resign over the violence and Lashkarava’s death.

Lashkarava is seen after being beaten last week [TV Pirveli/Handout via Reuters]

Elene Khoshtaria, an opposition politician, splashed red paint on the door of a government building in protest.

Lashkarava’s death has outraged human rights activists in Georgia, who blame the authorities for emboldening hate groups and failing to keep journalists and LGBTQ supporters out of harm’s way.

The interior ministry said it was investigating Lashkarava’s death, but did not say what caused it.

Members of media attend a rally in memory of Lashkarava [Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters]

The ministry said later that Lashkarava’s “professional activities were illegally obstructed by threats of violence” during the attacks on LGBTQ supporters.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili wrote on Twitter on Sunday that she had visited Lashkarava’s family.

“What happened is a tragedy and I send my condolences to the entire media community and to all of Georgia,” she wrote. “It must be investigated and those responsible must be punished.”

More than 50 journalists were targeted in the violence, police said on Monday, prompting Western countries to call on Georgia to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.

The planned pride march, which was called off before it began, had prompted criticism from the church and conservatives, while Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said the march risked causing public confrontation.

More than 50 journalists were targeted in last week’s violence [Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters]

Georgia postpones introduction of mandatory PCR test for vaccinated foreigners

BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 2

Tamilla Mammadova – Trend:

Georgia has postponed the introduction of a mandatory PCR test for vaccinated foreigners arriving in the country, Trend reports referring to the Georgian media.

According to the data, the introduction of new rules for foreigners was planned from July 5, but the adoption has so far been postponed.

For now, foreigners can enter the country according to the old rules.

It should be noted that according to the current rules, vaccinated foreigners need a document confirming that they have completed the full course of vaccination to arrive in Georgia. Citizens of 50 countries can fly to the country with a negative PCR test and repeat it after three days.

Follow the author on Twitter: @Mila61979356

Read more here >>> Trend – News from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkey.

NATO Military Committee to visit Georgia in September

BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 2

Tamilla Mammadova – Trend:

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili discussed with the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai the visit of the Alliance Military Committee, which is scheduled for September, Trend reports referring to the press service of the Georgian government.

“At the meeting, the sides stressed the importance of the visit of the NATO Military Committee, which is planned for September, as well as the role of the Georgia-NATO joint exercises in strengthening the compatibility of the Georgian Defense Forces. According to the Prime Minister, despite the coronavirus pandemic, it is necessary to maintain positive dynamics in Georgia’s cooperation with NATO and the integration process,” the statement reads.

In addition, the parties discussed the issue of the Black Sea security and the results of the NATO summit held in Brussels in June.

“We discussed cooperation between Georgia and NATO, the security of the Black Sea, as well as significant achievements of Georgia on the Euro-Atlantic path and the need for further advancement in the political dimension of the integration process,” Garibashvili wrote on his Twitter following the meeting.

The NATO Military Committee is the supreme military body of the North Atlantic Alliance, which consists of the Chiefs of Staff of NATO countries. Its main role is to provide guidance on military policy and strategy. The committee discusses NATO’s operations and missions and makes recommendations to the North Atlantic Council on how to address security challenges around the world.

Follow the author on Twitter: @Mila61979356

Read more here >>> Trend – News from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkey.

Justice Dept. Sues Georgia Over Voting Restrictions Law

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sued Georgia over a sweeping voting law passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced on Friday, in a major step by the Biden administration to challenge state-level ballot restrictions enacted since the 2020 election.

“The rights of all eligible citizens to vote are the central pillars of our democracy,” Mr. Garland said in a news conference at the Justice Department. “They are the rights from which all other rights ultimately flow.”

The complaint accuses the Georgia law of effectively discriminating against Black voters and seeks to show that state lawmakers intended to violate their rights. It says that several of the law’s provisions “were passed with a discriminatory purpose,” Kristen Clarke, the head of the department’s civil rights division, said at the news conference.

The lawsuit, particularly its attempt to prove lawmakers’ intent, is among the most aggressive efforts to expand or preserve voter protections since the Supreme Court in 2013 overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that had allowed the Justice Department to stop states from passing laws viewed as facilitating voter discrimination.

It comes days after congressional Republicans blocked the most ambitious federal voting rights legislation in a generation, dealing a blow to Democrats’ efforts to preserve voting rights. President Biden and Democratic leaders pledged to continue working to steer federal voting rights legislation into law and to escalate pressure on states and Republicans, with Mr. Biden planning speeches in key states warning against a threat to the democratic process he has compared to Jim Crow.

The complaint also shows that the Biden administration intends to invoke the remaining tools the Justice Department has to aggressively fight state actions that it sees as potentially disenfranchising minority voters.

“This lawsuit is the first of many steps we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote, that all lawful votes are counted and that every voter has access to accurate information,” Mr. Garland said, calling on Congress to give the department more help.

The Justice Department is also taking steps to stem increased threats to election officials and poll workers, he said, including creating a task force to investigate and prosecute such cases.

The voting lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, will likely take years to resolve, while Republican-led state legislatures continue to move forward with new voting restrictions.

Republicans in Georgia cast the suit as a political move. “The D.O.J. lawsuit announced today is legally and constitutionally dead wrong,” said Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, in a news conference in Savannah, Ga., on Friday. “Their false and baseless accusations are quite honestly disgusting,”

Georgia was the center of President Donald J. Trump’s monthslong effort to overturn the election results. He seized on false conspiracy theories about the outcome there, insisting falsely that it was rife with fraud even as three recounts and audits — including one conducted by hand — reaffirmed the tally.

Mr. Kemp, who is trying to stave off a Republican primary challenger after refusing to acquiesce to Mr. Trump’s demands to overturn the election results, painted the Justice Department lawsuit as part of a broader political narrative and culture wars that particularly animate the Republican base.

“They are coming for you next,” he said. “They’re coming for your state, your ballgame, your election laws, your business and your way of life.”

Passed in March, the Georgia law ushered in a raft of restrictions to voting access and sharply altered the balance of power over election administration. It sought to place strict constraints on ballot drop boxes, bar election officials from proactively sending absentee ballot applications to voters, reduce the time to request absentee ballots and add identification requirements for voting by mail.

It followed an election in which Georgia, a once reliably conservative state, turned blue for the second time in 40 years in the presidential race and in runoffs that flipped its Senate seats from Republican to Democratic. The law changed elements of voting that had contributed to those Democratic victories: All were close victories attributable in part to Black voter turnout and the state’s voting options. The law has an outsize effect on Black voters, who make up about one-third of Georgia’s population and vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

“These legislative actions occurred at a time when the Black population in Georgia continues to steadily increase, and after a historic election that saw record voter turnout across the state, particularly for absentee voting, which Black voters are now more likely to use than white voters,” Ms. Clarke said.

Critics denounced the law as rooted in Mr. Trump’s falsehoods and accused state Republicans of seeking to undo the Democratic wave in Georgia. Mr. Biden called it an “un-American” attack on voter rights that amounted to “Jim Crow in the 21st century” and had promised the Justice Department would examine it.

The lawsuit, filed on the eighth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act, known as Shelby County v. Holder, is an important milestone for the Biden administration, which has made voter rights a core issue.

Democrats in Washington are struggling to find an effective strategy for countering laws like Georgia’s that are advancing through more than a dozen Republican-led state legislatures this year. Party activists and policymakers have mostly pinned their hopes on narrow majorities in Congress, where Democratic leaders have insisted they will work through the summer to try to mass a meaningful expansion of voting rights and protections against election subversion tactics by partisan state officials.

Democrats have framed the battle as existential, and progressives are plotting a pressure campaign this summer to try to persuade senators to gut the legislative filibuster to allow them to act without Republican support. In the meantime, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, plans to take her influential Rules Committee to Georgia in the coming weeks to convene a field hearing homing in on criticism of the new law there.

This fall, lawmakers also plan to push to pass federal legislation to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. It would reinstate the provision struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, which requires states with a history of discrimination to clear any voting changes with the Justice Department. The bill is likely to face opposition by congressional Republicans, who argue that discrimination is no longer a factor in voting.

The eventual resolution of the Justice Department lawsuit will likely also affect state lawmakers’ future attempts to pass new voting laws.

“State legislatures may well take their cue based on what happens,” said Jon Greenbaum, the chief counsel for the nonpartisan Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a former Justice Department lawyer.

Mr. Greenbaum noted that a wave of voter identification laws followed a Supreme Court decision in 2008 that upheld new identification requirements in Indiana. But while that law withstood a legal challenge, he said, similar efforts in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas initially wilted in court.

The lawsuit reflects a Justice Department effort to push back on voter restrictions. It began in the spring under Mr. Garland; the associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta; and Pamela Karlan, who ran the civil rights division until Ms. Clarke was confirmed last month and is now the No. 2 official in that office.

Mr. Garland also announced that the division was “taking proactive measures to help states understand federal law and best practices,” and that the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, will lead the task force to crack down on unlawful intimidation of and attacks on election workers.

The Justice Department has been pursuing individual criminal cases over election worker intimidation, Mr. Garland said, but officials created the task force after news reports showed a broad threat of violence. In Georgia, the family of the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, received death threats after it was revealed that he had refused to Mr. Trump’s entreaties to unlawfully overturn the state’s election results.

“Election officials must be permitted to do their jobs free from improper partisan influence, physical threats, or any other conduct designed to intimidate,” Ms. Monaco wrote in a memo to federal prosecutors and the F.B.I.

“Creating a task force that assigns priority for criminal cases of voter suppression and violence against election officials and workers is a sea change at the Justice Department, designed to make sure that the F.B.I. focuses its resources on these cases,” said Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor in Alabama.

According to an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, more than 272,000 Georgians lack the identification requirements in the new voting law. More than 55 percent of them are Black, while Black voters make up only about a third of the voting-age population in Georgia.

The law also took aim at in-person voting, banning mobile voter units and any provisional ballot cast in the wrong precinct before 5 p.m. on Election Day, requiring the voter to instead travel to the correct precinct or risk being disenfranchised.

Showing up at the wrong precinct was by far the most common reason for voting provisionally in 2020 in Georgia, accounting for about 44 percent of provisional ballots, according to Mr. Raffensperger’s office.

Of the 11,120 provisional ballots counted in the presidential election, Mr. Biden won 64 percent and Mr. Trump 34 percent.

And in a provision that Democrats, civil rights groups and voting rights groups described as simply cruel, the new law banned handing out food and water to voters waiting in line. Georgia has for years been notorious for its exceptionally long lines on Election Day, especially in communities of color.

Author: Katie Benner, Nick Corasaniti and Nicholas Fandos
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

She Was a Black Election Official in Georgia. Then Came New G.O.P. Rules.

LaGRANGE, Ga. — Lonnie Hollis has been a member of the Troup County election board in West Georgia since 2013. A Democrat and one of two Black women on the board, she has advocated Sunday voting, helped voters on Election Days and pushed for a new precinct location at a Black church in a nearby town.

But this year, Ms. Hollis will be removed from the board, the result of a local election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. Previously, election board members were selected by both political parties, county commissioners and the three biggest municipalities in Troup County. Now, the G.O.P.-controlled county commission has the sole authority to restructure the board and appoint all the new members.

“I speak out and I know the laws,” Ms. Hollis said in an interview. “The bottom line is they don’t like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they’re doing, because they know they can’t influence them.”

Ms. Hollis is not alone. Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

Ms. Hollis and local officials like her have been some of the earliest casualties as Republican-led legislatures mount an expansive takeover of election administration in a raft of new voting bills this year.

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.

G.O.P. lawmakers in Georgia say the new measures are meant to improve the performance of local boards, and reduce the influence of the political parties. But the laws allow Republicans to remove local officials they don’t like, and because several of them have been Black Democrats, voting rights groups fear that these are further attempts to disenfranchise voters of color.

The maneuvers risk eroding some of the core checks that stood as a bulwark against former President Donald J. Trump as he sought to subvert the 2020 election results. Had these bills been in place during the aftermath of the election, Democrats say, they would have significantly added to the turmoil Mr. Trump and his allies wrought by trying to overturn the outcome. They worry that proponents of Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories will soon have much greater control over the levers of the American elections system.

“It’s a thinly veiled attempt to wrest control from officials who oversaw one of the most secure elections in our history and put it in the hands of bad actors,” said Jena Griswold, the chairwoman of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and the current Colorado secretary of state. “The risk is the destruction of democracy.”

Officials like Ms. Hollis are responsible for decisions like selecting drop box and precinct locations, sending out voter notices, establishing early voting hours and certifying elections. But the new laws are targeting high-level state officials as well, in particular secretaries of state — both Republican and Democratic — who stood up to Mr. Trump and his allies last year.

Republicans in Arizona have introduced a bill that would largely strip Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, of her authority over election lawsuits, and then expire when she leaves office. And they have introduced another bill that would give the Legislature more power over setting the guidelines for election administration, a major task currently carried out by the secretary of state.

Under Georgia’s new voting law, Republicans significantly weakened the secretary of state’s office after Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who is the current secretary, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demands to “find” votes. They removed the secretary of state as the chair of the state election board and relieved the office of its voting authority on the board.

Kansas Republicans in May overrode a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, to enact laws stripping the governor of the power to modify election laws and prohibiting the secretary of state, a Republican who repeatedly vouched for the security of voting by mail, from settling election-related lawsuits without the Legislature’s consent.

And more Republicans who cling to Mr. Trump’s election lies are running for secretary of state, putting a critical office within reach of conspiracy theorists. In Georgia, Representative Jody Hice, a Republican who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory, is running against Mr. Raffensperger. Republican candidates with similar views are running for secretary of state in Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.

“In virtually every state, every election administrator is going to feel like they’re under the magnifying glass,” said Victoria Bassetti, a senior adviser to the States United Democracy Center.

More immediately, it is local election officials at the county and municipal level who are being either removed or stripped of their power.

In Arkansas, Republicans were stung last year when Jim Sorvillo, a three-term state representative from Little Rock, lost re-election by 24 votes to Ashley Hudson, a Democrat and local lawyer. Elections officials in Pulaski County, which includes Little Rock, were later found to have accidentally tabulated 327 absentee ballots during the vote-counting process, 27 of which came from the district.

Mr. Sorvillo filed multiple lawsuits aiming to stop Ms. Hudson from being seated, and all were rejected. The Republican caucus considered refusing to seat Ms. Hudson, then ultimately voted to accept her.

But last month, Arkansas Republicans wrote new legislation that allows a state board of election commissioners — composed of six Republicans and one Democrat — to investigate and “institute corrective action” on a wide variety of issues at every stage of the voting process, from registration to the casting and counting of ballots to the certification of elections. The law applies to all counties, but it is widely believed to be aimed at Pulaski, one of the few in the state that favor Democrats.

The author of the legislation, State Representative Mark Lowery, a Republican from a suburb of Little Rock, said it was necessary to remove election power from the local authorities, who in Pulaski County are Democrats, because otherwise Republicans could not get a fair shake.

“Without this legislation, the only entity you could have referred impropriety to is the prosecuting attorney, who is a Democrat, and possibly not had anything done,” Mr. Lowery said in an interview. “This gives another level of investigative authority to a board that is commissioned by the state to oversee elections.”

Asked about last year’s election, Mr. Lowery said, “I do believe Donald Trump was elected president.”

A separate new Arkansas law allows a state board to “take over and conduct elections” in a county if a committee of the legislature determines that there are questions about the “appearance of an equal, free and impartial election.”

In Georgia, the legislature passed a unique law for some counties. For Troup County, State Representative Randy Nix, a Republican, said he had introduced the bill that restructured the county election board — and will remove Ms. Hollis — only after it was requested by county commissioners. He said he was not worried that the commission, a partisan body with four Republicans and one Democrat, could exert influence over elections.

“The commissioners are all elected officials and will face the voters to answer for their actions,” Mr. Nix said in an email.

Eric Mosley, the county manager for Troup County, which Mr. Trump carried by 22 points, said that the decision to ask Mr. Nix for the bill was meant to make the board more bipartisan. It was unanimously supported by the commission.

“We felt that removing both the Republican and Democratic representation and just truly choose members of the community that invest hard to serve those community members was the true intent of the board,” Mr. Mosley said. “Our goal is to create both political and racial diversity on the board.”

In Morgan County, east of Atlanta, Helen Butler has been one of the state’s most prominent Democratic voices on voting rights and election administration. A member of the county board of elections in a rural, Republican county, she also runs the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a group dedicated to protecting the voting rights of Black Americans and increasing their civic engagement.

But Ms. Butler will be removed from the county board at the end of the month, after Mr. Kemp signed a local bill that ended the ability of political parties to appoint members.

“I think it’s all a part of the ploy for the takeover of local boards of elections that the state legislature has put in place,” Ms. Butler said. “It is them saying that they have the right to say whether an election official is doing it right, when in fact they don’t work in the day to day and don’t understand the process themselves.”

It’s not just Democrats who are being removed. In DeKalb County, the state’s fourth-largest, Republicans chose not to renominate Baoky Vu to the election board after more than 12 years in the position. Mr. Vu, a Republican, had joined with Democrats in a letter opposing an election-related bill that eventually failed to pass.

To replace Mr. Vu, Republicans nominated Paul Maner, a well-known local conservative with a history of false statements, including an insinuation that the son of a Georgia congresswoman was killed in “a drug deal gone bad.”

Back in LaGrange, Ms. Hollis is trying to do as much as she can in the time she has left on the board. The extra precinct in nearby Hogansville, where the population is roughly 50 percent Black, is a top priority. While its population is only about 3,000, the town is bifurcated by a rail line, and Ms. Hollis said that sometimes it can take an exceedingly long time for a line of freight cars to clear, which is problematic on Election Days.

“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” Ms. Hollis said, saying Republicans had thrown up procedural hurdles to block the process. But she was undeterred.

“I’m not going to sit there and wait for you to tell me what it is that I that I should do for the voters there,” she said. “I’m going to do the right thing.”

Rachel Shorey contributed research.

Author: Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Customer Fatally Shoots Cashier in Argument Over Mask at Georgia Supermarket

A customer who argued about wearing a face mask at a Georgia supermarket shot and killed a cashier on Monday and wounded a deputy sheriff working off duty at the store, law enforcement officials said.

The gunman was shot by the deputy, and both are expected to survive their injuries, according to law enforcement officials.

A suspect, identified as Victor Lee Tucker Jr., 30, of Palmetto, Ga., was arrested by DeKalb County Police Department officers “as he was attempting to crawl out the front door of the supermarket,” according to a statement from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The gunfire occurred inside a Big Bear supermarket in Decatur, Ga., about 10 miles east of downtown Atlanta, just after 1 p.m., officials said. That is when Mr. Tucker was checking out of the supermarket and got into an argument with a cashier about his face mask, the bureau said in its statement. Mr. Tucker left the store without purchasing his items but immediately returned.

“Tucker walked directly back to the cashier, pulled out a handgun and shot her,” the bureau said. He then began shooting at the deputy, “who was attempting to intervene while working off-duty at the supermarket,” the bureau said.

The cashier, whose name was not released, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and pronounced dead, officials said. Mr. Tucker was taken there, too, and was in stable condition.

The deputy, whose name was not released, was taken to the Atlanta Medical Center and listed in stable condition, officials said.

The deputy was wearing a bulletproof vest and it likely saved his life, Sheriff Melody M. Maddox of DeKalb County said at a news conference.

A second cashier was “grazed by a bullet” and treated at the scene for her injury, according to the bureau.

A man who indicated he was Mr. Tucker’s father declined to comment Monday night when reached by telephone.

The shooting came more than a year into a pandemic that killed nearly 600,000 people in the United States and prompted health restrictions that crippled many businesses. For some, the public health rules prompted cries that personal freedoms were being violated.

Enforcing the wearing of masks in public places became, at times, dangerous.

An Iowa man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for assaulting and spitting on another man last year in a fight over how he was wearing his mask. An 80-year-old man died after he was pushed to the ground by a fellow bar customer whom he had asked to put on a mask.

And last June in Los Angeles, Hugo’s Tacos temporarily closed its two locations in the city because, it said, its staff was “exhausted by the constant conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks.”

Enforcing mask policies had become a new American pastime.

Even on commercial airliners — where passengers have long been accustomed to invasive security searches, rising baggage costs and overbooked flights — federal officials said there was a “disturbing increase” in unruly passengers after airline crews sought to enforce mask and other safety regulations.

But that began to change as more people were vaccinated and warmer weather allowed for safer gatherings outdoors, where transmissions were less likely to occur.

Soon, restrictions began to fade. In New York, for example, officials have announced plans to roll back restrictions and hold a parade for essential workers.

But not every part of the country was succeeding against the virus at the same pace. Just last month, the city of Decatur extended until at least June 21 its requirement for people to wear a face masks when entering any building in the city, except religious establishments, Decaturish.com reported.

Author: Azi Paybarah
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Georgia Sheriff Faces Civil Rights Charges Over Use of Restraint Chairs

Author: Neil Vigdor
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

An Atlanta-area sheriff with a history of legal troubles faces federal civil rights charges for ordering several detainees to be strapped to restraint chairs for hours at a time even though they posed no danger to deputies, prosecutors said.

In an indictment that was unsealed on Monday, the sheriff, Clayton County’s Victor Hill, is charged with four criminal counts alleging that he used unreasonable force against four people who had been taken into custody last year by his office and violated their rights to due process.

One of them was restrained for so long without being allowed to use a restroom that he urinated on himself, according to prosecutors, who said that Sheriff Hill repeatedly made menacing comments toward several of the individuals.

Federal authorities said that the use of restraint chairs in each of the cases had violated the policies of the sheriff’s office, which stipulate that they should be used only when an inmate exhibits violent or uncontrollable behavior and other control techniques are not effective.

The indictment, which was filed on April 19 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, also stated that Sheriff Hill sent a fugitive squad armed with handguns and AR-15 rifles last April to arrest a landscaper on a misdemeanor charge. The man had been embroiled in a billing dispute with a sheriff’s deputy over work that he had done for him.

“Badges and guns don’t come with the authority to ignore the Constitution,” Christopher Macrae, an assistant special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Atlanta field office, said in a statement on Tuesday. “They come with the responsibility to protect it from anyone who would violate it, especially another public servant.”

Sheriff Hill, 56, of Hampton, Ga., pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on Tuesday after turning himself in to the authorities. He was later released.

In a statement posted on Tuesday on Nixle, a public messaging system, Sheriff Hill called the charges against him politically motivated.

“I will continue to focus on the mission of fighting crime in Clayton County for continued success,” said Sheriff Hill, who, running as a Democrat and an independent, received more than 98 percent of the vote last year in his re-election campaign.

Federal authorities said that the first episode mentioned in the indictment took place in February 2000, when a man was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies without incident three weeks after he allegedly assaulted two women at a grocery store.

The indictment said that Sheriff Hill had asked the man what he was doing in Clayton County, to which the man said: “It’s a democracy, sir. It’s the United States.”

“No, it’s not,” the sheriff responded, according to the indictment. “Not in my county.”

The other victims included a 17-year-old boy who was arrested on charges of vandalizing his family’s home; a man arrested after a domestic disturbance that possibly involved drug use; and the landscaper, the indictment said.

“Without justification, Sheriff Hill allegedly ordered four detainees to be strapped into restraint chairs for hours,” Kurt R. Erskine, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said in a statement on Tuesday. “In so doing, he caused pain and injury to the detainees in his care. Such abuses of power not only harm the victims, they also erode the community’s trust in law enforcement.”

It was not immediately clear what happened in the criminal cases of the four people mentioned in the indictment — they were identified only by their initials. Prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Tuesday.

Drew Findling, a lawyer for Sheriff Hill, said in an interview on Tuesday that restraint chairs are readily used in jails and correctional facilities throughout the United States.

“We’re really shocked by this,” Mr. Findling said. “There’s no evidence or allegation of systematic violence.”

Mr. Findling said that the Justice Department had sent mixed messages to law enforcement officers and Americans, citing its role in a series of executions of federal inmates in the waning days of the Trump administration and what he called its muted response to high-profile police brutality cases.

Sheriff Hill was first elected in 2004, but lost a runoff in 2008 in Clayton County, which is just south of Atlanta. He reclaimed the office in 2012, despite being under indictment on felony corruption charges, The Associated Press reported. A jury later acquitted him of all 27 felony charges.

In 2016, Sheriff Hill pleaded no contest after shooting and injuring a woman in a Gwinnett County model home — he and the woman said it was an accident that happened while they were practicing police tactics.

Georgia’s governor can move to suspend an elected official who is indicted while in office by convening a three-person panel under a state law. Cody Hall, a spokesman for Gov. Brian P. Kemp, said that the governor’s office had not received the indictment yet and that Mr. Kemp would have to wait 14 days before he could convene the panel.

‘They named their mascot after them’: NBA icon Barkley under fire for joking Georgia women look like ‘bulldogs’

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Sport News

Former NBA superstar Charles Barkley has landed in some hot water after comments he made on a live television spot this week in which he appeared to disparage the appearances of women from the US state of Georgia.

‘Sir Charles’, as the 11-time All-Star was known throughout his iconic career, made the comments entirely unreflective of his regal nickname while covering the Dallas Mavericks’ 115-110 win against the LA Lakers on Thursday when his co-host on the ‘Inside the NBA’ show, Ernie Johnson, brought the conversation to the performance of Lakers star Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who scored a respectable 29 points in his team’s losing effort.

The discussion turned to the University of Georgia, the school from which Caldwell-Pope took his first steps into the NBA, where Barkley let loose his critical comments.

Georgia the only school in the world they named their mascot after the women down there,” said Barkley on the broadcast, prompting immediate censure from his co-host. 

So totally uncalled for,” said Johnson, who also later said that he was “not even gonna dignify that with a response.

Has he looked in a mirror?,” asked one fan in response to Barkley’s comments, while another explained that Barkley “doesn’t care about cancel culture”.

Another fan said that Barkley’s comments were clearly a joke, and that anyone offended by them “needs to move along“.

Incredibly, this isn’t the first time that Barkley has come under some significant fire for comments he made on television about the appearance of women in the United States.

During a 2014 episode of the same television show, Barkley also made distasteful comments about the looks of women from the Texan city of San Antonio.

Also on rt.com Kentucky basketball star & NBA prospect Terrence Clarke dies aged 19 in LA car crash

Some big ol’ women down there [in San Antonio] … that’s a gold mine for Weight Watchers,” said Barkley, who was frequently the target of criticism for being overweight throughout his playing career.

Victoria is definitely a secret [in San Antonio] … they can’t wear no Victoria’s Secret down there… They wear bloomers down there … ain’t nothing skimpy down there,” he added.

Those comments were slammed by anti body-shaming groups, including the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance and the Obesity Action Coalition – and it seems that after his latest verbal gaffe, you can probably expect some sort of grovelling apology to appear on social media before long.

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Georgia Faith Leaders to Urge Boycott of Home Depot Over Voting Law

A major coalition of Black faith leaders in Georgia, representing more than 1,000 churches in the state, will call on Tuesday for a boycott of Home Depot, arguing that the company has abdicated its responsibility as a good corporate citizen by not pushing back on the state’s new voting law.

The call for a boycott, led by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, represents one of the first major steps to put significant economic pressure on businesses to be more vocal in opposing Republican efforts in Georgia and around the country to enact new restrictions on voting.

“We don’t believe this is simply a political matter,” Bishop Jackson said in an interview. “This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote.”

Home Depot, Mr. Jackson said, “demonstrated an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out in opposition to this legislation.”

While boycotts can be challenging to carry out in ways that put meaningful financial pressure on large corporations, the call nonetheless represents a new phase in the battle over voting rights in Georgia, where many Democrats and civil rights groups have been reluctant to support boycotts, viewing them as risking unfair collateral damage for the companies’ workers.

But the coalition of faith leaders pointed to the use of boycotts in the civil rights movement, when Black voters’ rights were also threatened, and said their call to action was meant as a “warning shot” for other state legislatures.

“This is not just a Georgia issue; we’re talking about democracy in America that is under threat,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald III, the pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “We’ve got to use whatever leverage and power, spiritual fortitude that we have, including our dollars, to help people to understand that this is a national campaign.”

Home Depot’s headquarters are in Georgia, and it is one of the largest employers in the state. But while other major Georgia corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta have spoken out against the state’s new voting law, Home Depot has not, offering only a statement this month that “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure.”

While not publicly wading into the fray, one of the company’s founders, Arthur Blank, said in a call with other business executives this month that he supported voting rights. Another founder, Ken Langone, is a vocal supporter of former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Jackson said that the faith leaders were calling for four specific actions from Home Depot: speaking out against the Georgia voting law, publicly opposing similar bills in other states, offering support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress, and backing litigation against the Georgia law.

Not all voting rights groups are on board with a boycott.

“I can’t fully support a boycott within Georgia,” said Aunna Dennis, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause. “The boycott hurts the working-class person. But corporations do need to be held accountable on where they put their dollars.”

Faith leaders acknowledged concerns from state leaders, both Democratic and Republican, about the impact of boycotts, but felt the stakes were high enough.

“It is unfortunate for those who will be impacted by this, but how many more million will be impacted if they don’t have the right to vote?” said Jamal H. Bryant, the senior pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.

“And so in weighing it out, we understand, tongue in cheek, that this is a necessary evil,” Dr. Bryant said. “But it has to happen in order for the good to happen.”

Nick Corasaniti

This article originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Will Smith film departs Georgia over voting restrictions

In a joint statement, Smith and Fuqua — who are both producers on the project — said they felt compelled to move the production out of Georgia.

NEW YORK — Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua have pulled production of their runaway slave drama “Emancipation” from Georgia over the state’s recently enacted law restricting voting access.

The film is the largest and most high profile Hollywood production to depart the state since Georgia’s Republican-controlled state Legislature passed a law that introduced stiffer voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limited drop boxes and gave the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials. Opponents have said the law is designed to reduce the impact of minority voters.
In a joint statement, Smith and Fuqua — who are both producers on the project — said they felt compelled to move the production out of Georgia.
“We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” Smith and Fuqua said. “The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting.”
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“Emancipation” had been scheduled to begin shooting in June. Apple Studios acquired the film last year in a deal reportedly worth $ 130 million. Based on a true story, the film stars Smith as a slave who flees a Louisiana plantation and joins the Union Army.
Hollywood’s response to the Georgia law has been closely watched because the state is a major hub of film production and boasts generous tax incentives. Some filmmakers have said they would boycott, including “Ford v. Ferrari” director James Mangold. But major studios have so far been largely quiet. In 2019, a Georgia anti-abortion law (later declared unconstitutional) prompted studios to threaten to cease production in the state.