Thursday 16.6.2016 in Latest Developments in United States of America Country Page
On 2nd June, Jasmine Richards, a Black Lives Matter activist, was convicted of the controversial charge of “felony lynching” which is defined as "taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer", following a protest in Pasadena, California. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 3 years’ probation. Her trial and conviction indicate the larger problem of police brutality and disproportionate response to peaceful gatherings. Criminalisation of protests has increased in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections. In particular, rhetoric used by the Donald Trump campaign has incited violence from both Trump supporters and protesters, and arrests during his campaign events are common. For example, eight peaceful protestors were arrested at a Trump rally in California on May 25. Less than two months before the Democratic National Convention, the Philadelphia City Council passed legislation on 6th June allowing police to issue $100 civil fines rather than make many arrests for nuisance crimes. This follows on from the violence at the Republican National Convention, which saw more than 400 protesters arrested for nuisance crimes.
For the most part, civil society organisations enjoy a constitutionally protected right to freedom of association in the United States. An ongoing concern for some organisations, however, is lack of access to financial resources as a result of de-risking. De-risking refers to financial institutions delaying or cancelling wire transfers, or closing the accounts of clients who are considered “high risk,” usually those doing work in conflict zones overseas. Zealous enforcement of US anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance policies, along with continued characterisation of nonprofits by US government agencies as being "particularly vulnerable" to terrorist abuse, has led financial institutions to be very risk-averse with regard to CSOs.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 157 on 5th June, penalising supporters of the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which nonviolently protests Israel’s human rights policies towards the Palestinian people. Cuomo declared,
“If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you.”
This order represents a serious restriction to the right to free expression in New York and has been criticised as the “new McCarthyism.” Furthermore, there are new concerns about growing state surveillance, as members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have hinted that the proposed 2017 Intelligence Authorisation Bill would dangerously expand the FBI’s access to online records.