Thousands of students joined a national school walkout against gun violence
On 4th May at least 13 people were arrested in New York City and charged with trespassing and other minor violations while protesting the killing of an unhoused person on the subway. About 150 people had gathered near the subway station near where Jordan Neely was choked to death by Daniel Penny. Penny, who was initially let go by the police, was later charged with manslaughter and released on bail. A photojournalist, Stephanie Keith, who was covering the protest, was among those arrested. Keith can be heard identifying herself as a press photographer as multiple officers place her in handcuffs and lead her away.
In early April thousands of students across the country participated in a national school walkout against gun violence. The protests were in response to a recent school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, that left seven people dead. According to a statement released by Students Demand Action, a grassroots organisation that coordinated the walkouts, over 300 schools in 42 states and Washington, D.C., participated in the national school walkout. “Right now, thousands of students nationwide are walking out of class to demand action from our lawmakers and gun makers on gun violence. We need ACTION, not hollow thoughts and prayers.” Photos and videos were taken from events in Texas and Washington. (See related Expression story)
In April about 9,000 faculty and staff at Rutgers University in New Jersey went on strike after nearly a year of contract negotiations failed to produce a new contract. Three unions representing the workers began demonstrating on Rutgers’s three main campuses to demand salary increases, improved job security for adjunct faculty and guaranteed funding for graduate students, among other requests. It is the first educator strike in the university’s nearly 257-year history, according to the unions, and comes just weeks after a massive three-day strike by Los Angeles public school workers demanding increased wages and better working conditions. And a judge in Michigan denied a request by the University of Michigan to stop a union of graduate students from striking.
On 12th May pilots from United Airlines marched in picket lines at major airports to demand higher pay. The United Airlines pilots say they have been working without a raise for more than four years while negotiating with airline management over a new contract. The protest is similar to actions taken by pilots at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. The pilots are unlikely to strike, however, as federal law makes it very difficult for unions to conduct strikes in the airline industry. Pilots at all three carriers are looking to match or beat the deal that Delta Air Lines reached with its pilots earlier this year, which raised pay rates by 34% over four years.
Three people associated with the Defend Atlanta Forest movement are facing felony charges and were held in solitary confinement for distributing flyers opposing the building of a police training centre known as “Cop City” near Atlanta. The flyer allegedly included the name of a police officer who is connected to the killing of Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán during a raid on the Atlanta Forest protest encampment. Over 20 other people connected to the Cop City protests are also facing felony charges, including domestic terror charges. These charges “raise serious first amendment concerns,” the ACLU of Georgia said. “It is also part of a broader pattern of the state of Georgia weaponising the criminal code to protect law enforcement unconditionally and to silence speech critical of the government.”
In May the Supreme Court ruled that the people of Puerto Rico do not have the right to access documents that show how an unelected public body that wields considerable power on the island operates. Puerto Rico's Center of Investigative Journalism had sued the Financial Oversight and Management Board that the US government imposed on the "territory” in 2016 to deal with its ongoing bankruptcy. The journalists had wanted documents, including communications between the board’s members and US and Puerto Rican officials, but the court essentially said that the fiscal board did not have to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Press advocates say this is a major blow to free expression as the decision “allows this anti-democratic body to continue to withhold vital information on their decisions and actions affecting Puerto Rico’s economy and the lives of millions of people.”
On 10th May a judge rejected an Arizona senator’s restraining order against Arizona Capitol Times reporter Camryn Sanchez. State Sen. Wendy Rogers filed for the restraining order in April after Sanchez visited two of her homes. Sanchez was investigating whether Rogers lives in the Flagstaff-area district she was elected to represent in 2020. “If this court’s going to interpret a reporter asking a sitting senator about legislation they sponsored as being the first in a series of harassing events then it’s complete restrictions on the First Amendment, it’s complete prior restraint on the ability of a reporter to do their job,” an attorney for the reporter said.
On 5th April the City of Los Angeles filed a suit against a Knock LA reporter in an attempt to force the return of photographs of police officers released to him as part of a public records request. Ben Camacho says he filed a request under California’s Public Records Act seeking a full roster of LAPD officers and their personnel headshots in October 2021 and, after a legal settlement, the city provided Camacho a printed roster of sworn officers, a flash drive containing 9,310 officers’ photos and a letter explaining that officers working in undercover assignments had been excluded from the disclosures.
On 15th May Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning state funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programmes at the state's public universities. The legislation also restricts how gender and race are taught on campus, and requires university officials to review any lessons “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political and economic inequities.”
In April, two Tennessee state representative were reinstated to the State Legislature after being ousted by Republicans for participating in a protest calling for gun reform on the State House floor in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Nashville. The Shelby County Commission voted to send Rep. Justin Pearson back to the State Legislature after he was removed along with Rep. Justin Jones, who was also renamed to his seat earlier in the week. “The message for all the people in Nashville who decided to expel us: You can’t expel hope, you can’t expel justice, you can’t expel our voice and you sure can’t expel our fight,” Pearson said. (see related Assembly story)