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Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,
issued this statement today in response to Mexican President Felipe
Calderon's challenge to a joint meeting of Congress Thursday, May 20:
Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,
issued this statement today in response to Mexican President Felipe
Calderon's challenge to a joint meeting of Congress Thursday, May 20:
"When Mexican President Felipe Calderon asked a packed chamber of Congress to 'consider reinstating the assault weapons
ban' to choke off the supply of these weapons to criminals, he spoke
not only for the people of Mexico who have endured merciless violence
because of our weak gun laws, but also for the tens of thousands of Americans who are killed and injured every year from gunfire."
President Calderon spoke, he did so with moral urgency and poked a
finger in the eye of bloodthirsty drug cartels that have shown they are
willing to kill high government officials for their profits. We hope
that President Obama and Congress will demonstrate a similar profile in
courage by adopting new restrictions on military-style assault weapons
to replace those that expired in 2004."
Brady United formerly known as The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and its legislative and grassroots affiliate, the Brady Campaign and its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence. We are devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.
"We're here pleading our case to a government that has been unresponsive, if not hostile, to an unprecedented movement in our City Council's history," one opponent of the police training facility said.
After listening to nearly 15 hours of public comments opposing the controversial project, the Atlanta City Council voted early Tuesday to provide additional funding for a police training center known as "Cop City."
A coalition of activists and community members have been protesting the facility since the council first approved it in 2021, arguing that it would increase the militarization of the police and destroy 85 acres of Weelaunee Forest, one of Atlanta's four "city lungs."
"I cannot believe I am standing here, pleading for you not to spend the tax dollars of a Black city, to tear down a forest in a Black neighborhood, to increase the policing & caging of more and more Black people," one Atlanta resident said at the council meeting. "All this in a city with Black leadership. I'm tired of it."
\u201c\u201cI cannot believe I am standing here, pleading with you not to spend the tax dollars of a Black city, to tear down a forest in a Black neighborhood, to increase the policing & caging of more Black people. All this in a city with Black leadership. It breaks my heart.\u201d #StopCopCity\u201d— Clara T Green (@Clara T Green) 1686017511
Despite a day and night of similar comments, the council voted 11-4 to approve additional funds for the $90 million project a little after 5:00 am ET Tuesday morning, The Associated Press reported.
"The whole world is watching," the public chanted during the vote, as WABEreported.
When the training center was first approved in September 2021, city officials said that taxpayers would only foot $30 million of the bill, according to the Atlanta Community Press Collective. However, recent reporting from the collective revealed that, as early as late October of the same year, members of the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) were discussing further funding with the city, in the form of a $1 million-per-year lease back arrangement with the city that would repay a $20 million construction loan over 20 years.
The final bill approved by the council Tuesday is even higher than that: It includes the initial $30 million, an additional $1 million for a gym, and approval for Mayor Andre Dickens to enter a lease-back arrangement with the APF that would actually amount to $36 million over the next 30 years, according to WABE.
"Just think what $60 million can do to care, educate, house, and nurture the people of this city," the same Atlanta resident said of the project's expanded price tag.
"Just think what $60 million can do to care, educate, house, and nurture the people of this city."
City officials argue that the deal still saves them money they would otherwise have to spend renting another facility and that the city's police and fire departments truly need a new training center, according to WABE.
In a statement Tuesday, Dickens called the vote a "major milestone" and promised to make Atlanta a "national model for police reform with the most progressive training and curriculum in the country."
"We know there have been passionate feelings and opinions about the training center," he added. "Over the past several months, we have heard from citizens who have concerns about the center as well as from many who support it."
The latter were in short supply at the council meeting. More than 350 people signed up to comment, according to WABE, and more than 220 of them spoke against the center, AP reported.
"We're here pleading our case to a government that has been unresponsive, if not hostile, to an unprecedented movement in our City Council's history," Matthew Johnson, the executive director of local nonprofit Beloved Community Ministries, said at the meeting, according to AP. "We're here to stop environmental racism and the militarization of the police."
Residents expressed concern about what losing the forest would do to water quality and the urban environment.
"It's majority Black and brown immigrant communities, poor, working-class people, and so that has been a sanctuary for our people for a very long time," 26-year Atlanta resident Eva Cardenas, who attends church two blocks from the "Cop City" site, said during a rally before the meeting, according to WABE. "Seeing that being clear cut and displacing our people is really concerning to me because it leaves us vulnerable."
Rights groups and experts have criticized the city's response to the protests for being heavy-handed and "fascist." In January, police shot and killed forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, or Tortuguita, in what experts toldThe Guardian was the first U.S. police killing of an activist trying to prevent a forest from being cleared. Police have also charged anti-"Cop City" activists with "domestic terrorism," another unprecedented move.
Days before Tuesday's vote, police arrested three members of a bail fund group that had supported the protesters, making the Atlanta Solidarity Fund "the first bail fund to be attacked in this way," Civil Liberties Defense Center executive director Lauren Regan said at the time.
But despite the arrests and Tuesday's vote, "Cop City" opponents are not deterred.
"The message of 15 hours yesterday was consistent: Cop City will never be built," the group Defend the Atlanta Forest wrote on Twitter.
"I'm aware of the scope of the challenge of ending deforestation by 2030," said Brazil's leftist president, "but this is a challenge we're determined to achieve."
Leftist Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Monday unveiled his administration's plan to halt deforestation of the Amazon rainforest by 2030.
"I'm committed to resuming Brazil's global leadership in mitigating climate change and controlling deforestation," Lula said in a speech marking the launch of the plan. "Brazil will once again become a global reference in sustainability."
The Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon (PPCDAm) establishes "a coordinated policy across more than a dozen ministries through the end of Lula's term in 2027," Reutersreported. The roadmap, whose full implementation would depend on Lula's reelection or the cooperation of his successor, "calls for boosted use of intelligence and satellite imagery to track criminal activity, regularization of land titles, and use of a rural registry to monitor correct management of forests considered vital for slowing global climate change."
According to Reuters:
Degraded forests will be recovered and native vegetation increased through economic incentives for conservation and sustainable forest management, the plan says.
Among the actions to be taken, authorities will cross-check information from the financial system with the rural registry and other databases and satellite images to root out illegal loggers and cattle ranching.
Financial intelligence can, for example, point to cash movements to pay for equipment such as chainsaws for logging or excavators for illegal wildcat gold mining.
Lula previously vowed to make the destruction of the world's largest tropical rainforest "a thing of the past" in a November speech at the United Nations COP27 climate summit in Egypt—his first on the international stage after defeating Brazil's far-right former president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula's late-October victory over Bolsonaro was hailed as an important step toward rescuing the critical ecosystem from more severe and potentially irreversible damage. Although Bolsonaro signed a 2021 pact alongside the leaders of more than 140 other countries to eliminate deforestation worldwide by 2030, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had surged by 75% over the previous decade by the end of his four-year reign.
Parts of the Amazon, often called the "lungs of the Earth" because of its unmatched ability to provide oxygen and absorb planet-heating carbon dioxide, recently passed a key tipping point due to the intensification of clearcutting under Bolsonaro. The ex-president's reactionary policies drove deforestation in Brazil to a 15-year high in 2021, which helped push the country's greenhouse gas emissions to their highest level in nearly two decades.
Most of the deforestation that happened on Bolsonaro's watch was illegal, propelled by logging, mining, and agribusiness companies that received a green light from the ex-president and frequently used violence to repress Indigenous forest dwellers and other environmental advocates. Not only has the growing industrialization of the Amazon worsened hunger, disease, and infant mortality among Indigenous peoples, but a former federal police official warned last week that "the rapid advance of organized crime groups... risks turning the region into a vast, conflict-stricken hinterland plagued by heavily armed 'criminal insurgents,'" The Guardianreported.
Monday's event was held on the one-year anniversary of the murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous affairs specialist Bruno Pereira. Brazilian police recently charged several people, including the alleged leader of a "transnational criminal organization," in connection with the killings.
\u201c\ud83c\udde7\ud83c\uddf7 #Brazil's government unveiled how it plans to meet a pledge to eliminate #deforestation in the #Amazon by 2030, using strengthened law enforcement against environmental crimes and other measures in the world's largest tropical rainforest.\n\n@CarolynLamboley has more \ud83d\udc47\u201d— FRANCE 24 English (@FRANCE 24 English) 1686045634
During his COP27 speech last year, Lula made clear that "there's no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon," roughly 60% of which is located in Brazil.
"The crimes that happened [under Bolsonaro] will now be combated," said Lula, a Workers' Party member who previously served as Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010 and took office again on January 1. "We will rebuild our enforcement capabilities and monitoring systems that were dismantled during the past four years."
"We will fight hard against illegal deforestation. We will take care of Indigenous people," added Lula, who drastically reduced both deforestation and inequality when he governed the country earlier this century. "Brazil is emerging from the cocoon to which it has been subjected for the last four years."
Lula has already taken several steps toward fulfilling his pledge to end deforestation by 2030, and they appear to be paying off. Preliminary government data published last month showed that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon decreased by 68% this April compared with last year.
There's "still a lot more to do," Friends of the Earth campaigner and author Guy Shrubsole tweeted in response to the findings, "but this is the impact of electing an environmentalist like Lula over a right-wing populist like Bolsonaro."
In early May, Lula secured "an 80 million-pound ($100.97 million) contribution from Britain to the Amazon Fund, an initiative aimed at fighting deforestation also backed by Norway, Germany, and the United States," Reutersreported last month. In April, he "resumed the recognition of Indigenous lands, reversing a Bolsonaro policy, while announcing new job openings at the environment ministry and [the] Indigenous agency FUNAI."
Research has demonstrated that granting land tenure to Indigenous communities is associated with improved forest outcomes.
Lula has, as Reuters noted last month, "faced continued challenges since taking office as [the] environmental agency IBAMA grapples with lack of staff," one lingering consequence of his predecessor's funding cuts. But the president fully expected to face substantial opposition from corporate interests and right-wing Brazilian lawmakers.
The Associated Press reported Monday that the Lula administration's new deforestation blueprint—the fifth phase of the PPCDAm, a program created 20 years ago during the president's first term and suspended by Bolsonaro—is "a response to recent limitations Congress placed on [Marina] Silva, the environment minister, particularly influenced by the so-called beef caucus representing agribusiness interests."
The plan seeks to create "a tracing system for wood, livestock, and other agricultural products from the Amazon, at a time when importing countries are increasingly demanding proof that they are not from deforested lands," Reuters explained. "It also looks to develop a green economy to sustain the Amazon region without deforestation that will include the certification of forest products, technical assistance for producers, provision for infrastructure, energy and internet connection, and the encouragement of ecotourism."
While the Lula administration has previously expressed its desire to create a new federal police unit capable of deterring environmental crimes in Brazil, the president confirmed Monday that he intends to bolster law enforcement to combat illegal logging, mining, hunting, and fishing in Indigenous territories, ecologically protected zones, and the Amazon writ large. Researchers say such measures are necessary to preserve progress.
Despite scientists' warnings that it will be virtually impossible to avert the worst consequences of the climate and biodiversity crises unless the world stops felling trees to make space for cattle ranching, monocropping, and other destructive practices, global efforts to reverse deforestation by 2030 are currently behind schedule and significantly underfunded.
To prevent the entire Amazon from passing a point of no return, experts say an area twice the size of Germany must be reforested. Such an endeavor would cost several billion dollars—a tiny fraction of the $2.24 trillion the world's governments, led by the U.S., spent on their militaries in 2022.
"Mainly because of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil is largely responsible for the world's climate battles," Lula said Monday. "Stopping deforestation in the Amazon is also a way to reduce global warming. I'm aware of the scope of the challenge of ending deforestation by 2030, but this is a challenge we're determined to achieve."
"The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived—they are real, tangible, and dangerous," said Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson.
For the first time ever, the Human Rights Campaign—the largest LGBTQ+ political advocacy group in the United States—has declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people, citing the torrent of discriminatory and dangerous legislation emerging from Republican-controlled legislatures across the country.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat this," Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Kelley Robinson said Tuesday in a report—LGBTQ+ Americans Under Attack—accompanying the group's declaration. "During this legislative session, there have been over 525 state bills introduced that attack the LGBTQ+ community, and over 220 of those target the transgender community. As of press time, more than 70 of those have become law."
"These laws are fueled by an anti-LGBTQ+ Republican establishment—and coordinated, well-funded extremist groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom, Heritage Foundation, and the Family Policy Alliance—insistent on trying to control our families and lives," she added.
\u201cFor the first time ever, we're declaring a national state of emergency as LGBTQ+ Americans face extremist attempts to roll back our rights. It's more important than ever we have the necessary resources to stay safe no matter where we are. https://t.co/EcnZgqDDCp\u201d— Human Rights Campaign (@Human Rights Campaign) 1686056821
As the report details:
Just look at what's playing out in Texas and Tennessee and Florida. These states are banning educators from talking about LGBTQ+ issues and teaching Black history, and are banning gender-affirming care and abortion care. These same states do nothing to ensure the freedom of children to be safe from gun violence and do nothing to protect the freedom of democracy when Black and trans voices are silenced in state legislatures.
Or look at Governor Ron DeSantis, who has weaponized his position as a lawmaker to target LGBTQ+ families, Black and Brown Floridians, immigrants, and private businesses. Even with the majority of Floridians forcefully opposing his anti-LGBTQ laws and despite surging support for LGBTQ+ families nationally, DeSantis has been crisscrossing the country to attack our community.
HRC notes some bright spots, like Michigan, which recently became the 22nd state to codify LGBTQ+ protection and Minnesota, which this year banned so-called "conversion therapy."
(Graphic: Human Rights Campaign)
The report also hails Democratic state lawmakers including Machaela Cavanaugh—who unsuccessfully filibustered Nebraska's ban on gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth—and Zooey Zephyr, whose vocal opposition to Montana's gender-affirming care ban got her kicked out of the Legislature by her Republican colleagues.
In addition to the emergency declaration, HRC published a downloadable guidebook for the LGBTQ+ community that includes information on health and safety resources for travelers, a summary of state laws, and a "know your rights" section.
"LGBTQ+ Americans are living in a state of emergency," Robinson said in a statement. "The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived—they are real, tangible, and dangerous. In many cases they are resulting in violence against LGBTQ+ people, forcing families to uproot their lives and flee their homes in search of safer states, and triggering a tidal wave of increased homophobia and transphobia that puts the safety of each and every one of us at risk."
"As we kick off LGBTQ+ Pride month, HRC will be working tirelessly to educate and arm the LGBTQ+ community with information and resources to ensure their safety," said Robinson, "whether they're planning summer travel through regions that are becoming increasingly hostile to LGBTQ+ people, or whether they already live in a state where legislative assaults and political extremism are continuing to put a target on our backs."
"There is an imminent threat to the health and safety of millions of LGBTQ+ people and families, who are living every day in uncertainty and fear."
HRC's emergency declaration follows an April travel advisory for Florida issued by LGBTQ+, racial justice, and immigrant rights groups.
"There is an imminent threat to the health and safety of millions of LGBTQ+ people and families, who are living every day in uncertainty and fear," Robinson asserted. "Our number one priority will always be ensuring that LGBTQ+ people are safe and have the tools they need to defend and protect themselves against acts of hostility, discrimination, and—in the most extreme cases—violence."
"It's also incumbent on our allies across the country to stand with us and make it clear that they won't sit idly by while extremists attack and malign LGBTQ+ people and our families," Robinson added. "We'll fight tooth and nail to ensure the safety and dignity of every LGBTQ+ person is respected and protected—without exception."