Tag Archives: politics

Thousands march in support of Freddie Gray in Baltimore

BALTIMORE — Thousands of protesters – led by students – marched Wednesday from Baltimore City Hall to Penn train station calling for justice for Freddie Gary, who died from a severe spine injury while in police custody. The rally took place peacefully two days before the Baltimore County state’s attorney ruled Gray’s death a homicide and filed charges against six police officers involved in his detention. Continue reading

Frederick volunteers serve police officials and servicemen amidst Baltimore turmoil


Canteen serves police officials and servicemen amidst Baltimore turmoil from Medill Washington on Vimeo.

Larry Wenschhof and Canteen 1 from the Independent Hose Company of Frederick are at the M&T Stadium where servicemen and police officials camp out between shifts. With food donations made by surrounding counties, they are making sure the men and women dispatched to help Baltimore during the state of emergency remain hydrated and well-nourished.

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The clearing of Penn and North

A police helicopter circles protesters as the 10 p.m. curfew approaches.

A police helicopter circles protesters as the 10 p.m. curfew approaches.


A young boy tunes out the clamor of the protesters.


Baltimore police hold the line as civic activists clear the ground before them.


A local resident urges protesters to obey the 10 p.m. curfew from the roof of a Metro stop.


Local activists form a human chain to drive protesters and media away from the police.


10:15 pm: A lone protester stares down the police as tear gas is fired to clear the intersection.


A protester is detained after fireworks were lobbed at police.


10:25 p.m.: Police backed by an armored vehicle push forward into the intersection.


Baltimore policeman scans the intersection with teargas launcher at the ready.


Police fire pepper balls at protesters who approach the line.


10:40 p.m.: Police continue firing tear gas into the intersection to disperse remaining protesters.


10:50 p.m.: Police oversee the successfully cleared intersection.

Maryland Army National Guard PAO explains how Baltimore troops are trained to deal with press

Captain Cody Starken of the Maryland Army National Guard stands near the front entrance of the Maryland National Guard Center in Adelphi, Maryland, on April 30, 2015. (Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory/MEDILL NSJI)

Captain Cody Starken of the Maryland Army National Guard stands near the front entrance of the Maryland National Guard Center in Adelphi, Maryland, on April 30, 2015. (Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory/MEDILL NSJI)

ADELPHI, Md. — Cpt. Cody Starken, a public affairs officer with the Maryland Army National Guard, explained how ground troops who are currently state-activated to work with Joint Task Force Maryland in response to the Baltimore protests are advised to deal with the press during a Thursday interview at the Maryland National Guard Center in Adelphi, Maryland.

Listen to his insights here:

Photos: Baltimore City Hall becomes protest-free press parade as curfew arrives

  • Maryland Army National Guard soldiers stand in front of Baltimore City Hall on April 30, 2015. (Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory/MEDILL NSJI)
    Maryland Army National Guard soldiers stand in front of Baltimore City Hall on April 30, 2015. (Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory/MEDILL NSJI)

BALTIMORE — Despite playing host to a major demonstration earlier in the day, Baltimore City Hall became a press-addled ghost town as the citywide 10 p.m. curfew approached on April 30, 2015.  Check out the photo gallery above to get a glimpse of the situation on the ground there on Thursday night.

Protesters defy curfew in Baltimore

Tensions high on first night of Baltimore curfew from Medill Washington on Vimeo.

Tensions flared as some residents of Baltimore’s Penn North neighborhood begged others to go home before the 10 p.m. curfew took effect.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake begged protesters to be home in time for the curfew.

“We cannot make any major changes that need to be made tonight,” she said over loudspeaker to the crowd.

But the crowd did not leave. Police pushed forward to force the crowd from the intersection, and some protesters responded by throwing bottles. Police fired back with tear gas, pepper spray projectiles and and smoke grenades.

Crowds eventually dispersed as police cleared the streets.

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Protesters, police square off in Baltimore, but riots averted

BALTIMORE, Md. — Protesters clashed with police on the city’s west side Tuesday night as anger over the death of 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray while in police custody again boiled into violence.

Though the unrest stopped well short of the rioting and arson that swept through some sections of the city on Monday, the situation remained tense as authorities sought to clear the streets and enforce the 10 p.m. – 5 a.m. curfew.

For most of the day, demonstrators had massed in front of a police barricade near the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues, where crowds had looted and torched a CVS drugstore the day before. The protests were peaceful and even took on a festive character as demonstrators of all ages played drums and danced in an impromptu parade.

Demonstrators protesting the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray occupied the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues Tuesday night. Photo by Matthew Schehl.

Demonstrators protesting the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray occupied the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues Tuesday night. Photo by Matthew Schehl.

By nightfall however, the crowd near the barricade at Pennsylvania Avenue had thickened. But many on the scene vocally denounced violence and provocation. Pastors, church groups and representatives from the Nation of Islam pleaded with the crowd to remain peaceful.

A group of area residents even attempted to clear the intersection by forming a human chain between protesters and police in riot gear.

“It’s a tragedy to see the community being destroyed,” said David Morrison, one of those who helped link up the human chain.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake addressed the crowd multiple times via loudspeaker. As the 10 p.m. curfew neared, Rawlings-Blake implored protesters to return to their homes.

And while many heeded that call, others seemed emboldened by it.

A number of young men climbed atop the Penn/North Metro stop elevator holding signs and chanting “We don’t get tired.” Others wearing gas masks and bandanas rushed forward and gave the middle finger to police.

Shortly after 10, the police advanced to clear people from the intersection, prompting several protesters to throw bottles —some of them glass— at the police. In return, police set off smoke grenades and tear gas and were seen shooting pepper-spray projectiles. The crowd dispersed as police gradually moved through the intersection and also cleared side streets.

Police later dispatched vans, Humvees and helicopters to enforce the week-long curfew.

The late-night standoff was a departure from the scenes of calm and cooperation across Baltimore earlier Tuesday.

Baltimore police in full riot gear prepare to clear the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues as the curfew approaches. Photo by Matthew Schehl.

Baltimore police in full riot gear prepare to clear the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues as the curfew approaches. Photo by Matthew Schehl.

Hundreds of Maryland National Guardsmen arrived to keep the peace in the city’s downtown and Inner Harbor neighborhoods. Soldiers carrying gas masks and assault rifles patrolled the quiet waterfront, where most businesses were closed early.

Crisis was also averted in the city’s northwestern suburbs. Rumors suggested that teenagers planned to target the Security Square Mall in Windsor Mill, Md., in a “purge,” apparently a reference to a 2013 dystopian film of the same name in which all crime is made legal for 24 hours.

Among those seeking to defuse the tension at the shopping center were self-described gang members who said they did not want to see their city suffer.

Gang member and rapper Orlando “Magik” Gilyard voiced his frustration with area youth, who he said had taken advantage of Gray’s death.

“I’d rather see us —BGF (Black Guerrilla Family), Bloods, Crips, blacks, whites— stop these kids from making the wrong decisions,” Gilyard said.

Gilyard and a number of his friends turned away one group of high schoolers who approached the shopping area.

“Stealing a pair of shoes, that’s not worth dying for,” said Christopher Johnson, another self-identified gang member. “This is not a movie, this is real life.”


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Colorado VA hospital’s completion contingent on congressional intervention after budget is blown

A Veteran’s Administration hospital being built in the city of Aurora, Colorado is predicted to go $1 billion over budget, according to a March 18 report from 9News.com, the website of Colorado’s KUSA broadcast station. Since covering the extra cost requires congressional approval, the local medical center’s future depends on federal approval. Check out the story by KUSA’s Melissa Blasius and Brandon Rittiman (an exciting intersection of federal VA funding and local veteran’s affairs and health care infrastructure) here.

Political analyst Al From talks Democratic Party readiness for 2016

WASHINGTON — Democratic Leadership Council founder and Medill M.S.J. alum Al From turned a critical eye onto his own party during a March 12 visit to the Medill Washington newsroom.

During the talk with Medill undergraduates, From discussed the history of the contemporary Democratic party, political strategy and his analysis of the Democratic party’s prognosis in the battle for the White House in 2016. From’s book “The New Democrats and the Return to Power” serves as a historical guide to how the modern Democratic party came together, but he dedicated much of his current analysis to the party’s future and he pulled no punches.

From started off his evaluation of the Democrats’ current obstacles by calling out Democrats for prioritizing fancy campaign delivery mechanisms over a relatable platform.

“The truth is, despite all the talk about different ways to communicate, you know, no amount of money or technology or social media or campaign strategy or tactics can make up for a message that doesn’t connect with voters,” From said.

He went on to accuse Democrats of being too comfortable with their historic “demographic advantage” in presidential elections and not taking into account factors such as the potential flippability of the Hispanic vote and the recent Republican capture of the Asian vote. From emphasized the idea that “votes are not necessarily forever” and noted that President Barack Obama’s absence from the 2016 ballot could significantly impact the minority and youth votes for the worse.

From also underscored the importance of working to improve the economy vs. solely focusing on minimum wage. He cited an old friend’s success as a case study for this point, attributing the decrease in American equality observed under Bill Clinton’s presidential administration to national economic growth.

“The problem with the Democrats is you spend so much time worrying about the, uh, about passing out the golden eggs, you forget to worry about the health of the goose,” From explained.

Additionally, From said that members of his party must keep healthcare reinvention and modernization at the forefront of their considerations, since there is a correlation between the efficiency of federal services and the public’s faith in government.

“I learned at a very young age that government reform is not an advocation of liberal goals; it’s essential to achieving them,” he said. “Government is our vehicle for doing good things.”

Whistleblowing in the FBI: problems lie deeper than confusing legal boundaries

WASHINGTON — Former FBI agent Michael German thought the agency had the information it needed to see the 9/11 terrorist attacks coming. In the aftermath of the attack, German reported a cover-up of a failed counterterrorism investigation that infringed upon people’s civil liberties in unprecedented ways.

Yet when German raised these concerns, the Department of Justice inspector general failed to investigate, he said. He also said the IG Office failed to protect him from official retaliation within the FBI, including possible surveillance, resulting in the 16-year veteran resigning in 2004.

“I tried to challenge the system from within, but they don’t like that,” German said in an interview with the American Civil Liberties Union. “They made it very uncomfortable so I finally realized it was time to work on the outside.”

German’s case became one of the most visible examples of the challenges facing whistleblowers in the intelligence community. In addition to a legal framework that makes it incredibly difficult for whistleblowers to come forward, a more subtle influence lurks beneath the surface: a culture that views whistleblowers as traitors, not reformers.

A new report by the Government Accountability Office released last Thursday found that, despite recent efforts to extend whistleblower protections to FBI employees, they remain exposed to retaliation for reporting wrongdoing.

Under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, federal employees are generally protected from retaliation for reporting wrongdoing, entitling them to pursue legal recourse should they face retribution. However, FBI employees were excluded from these protections, and in 1998 the Department of Justice established separate guidelines that were meant to protect whistleblowers within the agency.

Yet the guidelines permitting FBI agents to disclose wrongdoing are unclear, according to the GAO report. For example, FBI employees must report wrongdoing only to a handful of designated officials. As a result, more than half of the 62 cases reviewed by the GAO were dismissed without review.

According Steven L. Katz, formerly counsel to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and an expert on federal whistleblowing law, those in the FBI face much deeper issues than simply unclear legal guidelines. Instead, intelligence agents are a part of a culture that targets whistleblowers and punishes their behavior.

“When someone raises concerns, do you throw them overboard, or do you sit down with them and thank them?” he said. “The FBI throws them overboard.”

Katz argued that the GAO report fails to reflect the human aspect of the FBI in making it difficult for whistleblowers to come forward, focusing instead solely on the regulations that govern whistleblowing activities.

“The agencies are full of people, not just processes,” Katz said. “It’s the people who screw up because the laws look perfect on the books.”

According to Katz, other government agencies have faced similar problems with whistleblower culture. Last year, a series of attempted break-ins at the White House prompted Secret Service Director Julia Pierson to resign. A report released after the incident found that the Secret Service was “too insular,” ignoring the warning signs made plain by the attacks.

“In the agencies where you have a law enforcement culture, where power is might, people tend to transfer that culture of enforcement that’s outward facing inwards,” he said.

In 2012, President Barack Obama released Presidential Policy Directive 19, which established whistleblowing protection for those in the intelligence community. Elements of the directive were codified under the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY2014, but the guidelines of the directive aren’t permanent and can be easily reversed by a different president.

The result adds up to a climate that, while improving in some key ways, remains hostile to the act of whistleblowing. In an organization that possesses some of the nation’s most important classified information, the threat to the success of the FBI is intimately tied to the future of the country itself, as the 9/11 attacks demonstrated.

“You want the FBI to be effective, and so to help them be more effective you’d expect them to have better protection against retaliation from reporting problems,” said David Maurer, director for GAO’s homeland security and justice department. “It’s ironic that they have less whistleblower protection than the rest of the government.”