Unveils Stem Center of Innovation from Disney


Andrea Gibson, left, a community engagement manager at Disney, helped to build a robot last week as part of the unveiling of a STEM innovation center at the Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles. In 2018, Disney committed $1 million to the youth organization in celebration of the record-breaking success of Marvel Studios movie “Black Panther.” — Jordan Strauss/AP Images for Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Secret Service agent can sue officers over detention

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses two white U.S. Park Police officers of unlawfully detaining a Black Secret Service agent who was waiting to accompany a Cabinet secretary’s motorcade.

U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm in Maryland ruled Monday that a jury would decide if Gerald Ferreyra and Brian Phillips violated Nathaniel Hicks’ constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable seizure.

Hicks, now a retired 20-year veteran of the Secret Service, had been assigned to a protection motorcade for then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on the morning of July 11, 2015.

Hicks’ lawsuit says it appears the officers singled him out because of his race.

Hicks said he did nothing during the July 2015 roadside encounter to justify being detained after the officers confirmed he was an on-duty Secret Service agent. A Park Police supervisor told Hicks he was free to go between 40 to 60 minutes after Ferreyra first detained him, according to the judge’s ruling.

Phillips briefly stopped Hicks a second time — allegedly for talking on a cellphone while driving erratically — after he drove away from the spot along Interstate 295 in Maryland where the officers initially detained him. Phillips continued to talk to Hicks in a demeaning tone before throwing his identification and registration at him, the suit alleges.

Grimm agreed to throw out Hicks’ civil conspiracy claims against the officers. But the judge ruled the officers aren’t entitled to “immunity” from Hicks’ claim that they violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

Grimm said there is no evidence the officers were following an “established protocol” or were acting reasonable under the circumstances when they continued to detain Hicks for more than 15 minutes after they knew that he was an on-duty Secret Service agent.

The judge ruled the defendants may be held liable for the second stop, as well.

Hicks’ suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The officers’ attorneys claim Hicks is merely seeking “vindication of a bruised ego resulting from quarreling among interagency law enforcement officers.”

“This dispute, to the extent one exists, is a matter best left to internal agency procedures for training (and, if appropriate, discipline), not federal civil-rights litigation,” they wrote.

— The Associated Press

Court arguments heard on Obama Presidential Center

CHICAGO — There could be a decision about whether or not the Obama Presidential Center can move forward with plans to build in Chicago’s Jackson Park.

A federal judge recently heard final arguments in a lawsuit filed by the environmental group Protect Our Parks, according to WGN-TV. The city wants the lawsuit tossed over whether the center can be built in a public park.

The group contends the grounds should remain public property even though the Obama Foundation would pay for the project.

— Gary Crusader

U.S. files hate crime charges in Black church arson

NEW ORLEANS — The son of a Louisiana sheriff’s deputy is facing federal hate-crime charges in connection with three fires that destroyed African-American churches earlier this year.

Holden Matthews , 21, was charged in a six-count federal indictment that was unsealed Wednesday. Three of the counts were for “intentional damage to religious property,” which classifies as a hate crime under the U.S. Church Arson Prevention Act, according to the Justice Department.

The indictment is dated June 6 and was handed up by a grand jury in Lafayette.

Matthews has pleaded not guilty to state charges in the arson case. Three historic African-American churches were set ablaze over 10-day span, beginning in late March, in and around the city of Opelousas in St. Landry Parish, where Matthews’ father is a sheriff’s deputy.

— The Associated Press

Mom hopes for ‘miracle’ marrow donor for ailing son

ST. PETERSBURG — Latasha Grant says her family is hoping their prayers will be answered as her son, King, needs a marrow-stem cell transplant to save his life.

So Grant is getting the word out any way she can to find a donor for her son.

“King really wants to get better,” Grant said. “He suffers from being bullied, and he hates taking meds.”

At 16 months, King was diagnosed with Chronic Granulomatous Disease, an immune system disorder that occurs when a particular white blood cell isn’t working properly in fighting off germs. CGD can lead to pneumonia and various infections including lung, skin, lymph node, gastrointestinal and liver.

Stem cell transplantation can often cure CGD if the right donor is found.

King, now 11, has been waiting for his match for nine years, and his mom said the family is doing everything possible to find that life-changing match.

Grant says becoming a possible donor is easy and starts with just a few questions and registration to be a willing bone marrow donor on the Gift of Life Marrow Registry. Potential donors then provide a simple cheek swab and wait to see if there is a match.

— The Weekly Challenger

Illinois gets weaken law on corporate board diversity

ILLINOIS — A bill that aimed to boost the number of Blacks and minorities on the boards of some of the biggest companies in the Chicago area failed as lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session June 1.

Legislation that aimed to diversify corporate boards in Illinois passed during the final days of the General Assembly’s spring legislative session, but was stripped of a key provision that would have mandated minority representation.

House Bill 3394 would have required Illinois companies to have at least one woman, an African-American and a Latino on their boards. But the Senate stripped the bill of a requirement that would have forced publicly-traded companies in Illinois to report on their websites the demographics of their board and executive ranks, as well as plans for promoting diversity in the workplace.

The weaken bill that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law will only require an annual report card on diversity among state companies. The report, which will be published by the University of Illinois, will provide aggregate demographic data on Illinois businesses and rate each on its diversity effort.

— The Chicago Crusader

Police chief defends cop who pulled gun on Black child

WOODS CROSS, Utah — The town’s police chief defended an officer who pulled his gun on a 10-year-old Black child who he thought might be an armed suspect and the department said officer would remain on the job during an independent review.

The officer’s actions drew criticism after Jerri Hrubes said the white police officer pulled his gun on her son, DJ, who is Black, while he was playing on his grandmother’s front lawn last Thursday in a state where African Americans make up just 1.4% of the population.

Officials in Woods Cross, a small town north of Salt Lake City, have asked the Davis County Attorney’s Office to review the case, police chief Chad Soffe said.

The officer was part of a group chasing suspects after authorities received reports of a shooting and were told the suspects were Black, Hispanic or Polynesian. The unidentified officer mistook the boy for a potential suspect, but used good judgment overall, Soffe said.

“We want to learn from this; we don’t want people to be traumatized by our efforts to protect the community,” he said.

— The Associated Press

Ill. governor signs expansive grambling legislation

CHICAGO — Six new casinos along with sports betting parlors at Chicago’s arenas might be two of a host of changes coming to Illinois’ gambling landscape after Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted a comprehensive legislation that was released last Friday.

The law allows six new casinos to be built in Chicago, Waukegan, the south suburbs of Chicago, Williamson County, Rockford and Danville. It also legalizes sports gambling at both brick-and-mortar locations and through online and mobile vendors like DraftKings and FanDuel, reported the Capitol News Illinois.

Currently, the state’s 10 casinos are each allowed 1,200 “positions,” a term used to describe such things as slot machines or blackjack table seats where a bet can be placed. The legislation bumps up the maximum position number at each casino to 2,000, with 4,000 allowed at the Chicago casino.

Now, the new law could almost double the number of gambling positions in Illinois, from 43,000 to 81,000.

But by charging a $17,500 licensing fee ($30,000 for a Chicago casino) for each new gambling position, the state stands to reap hundreds of millions in revenue on top of increased yearly tax revenue, experts said. All sports betting would be taxed at 15 percent, with revenues going toward projects in a capital bill.

— The Chicago Crusader

Central Park 5 prosecutor gives up teaching job

NEW YORK — Fallout from the Netflix miniseries that dramatizes the events surrounding the Central Park Five trial continues.

The New York Post reported that Elizabeth Lederer informed Columbia Law School on Wednesday that she would not seek reappointment as a part-time lecturer due to negative publicity generated by the series, “When They See Us.”

Lederer was the lead prosecutor in the case involving five teenagers who were wrongfully convicted in the 1989 rape and beating of a woman jogging in Central Park.

Her decision comes after Linda Fairstein, who headed Manhattan’s sex crimes unit at the time, was dropped by her publisher. Fairstein said the series was full of falsehoods — a charge the director dismissed.

— The Associated Press

Louisiana city set to repeal 2007 ‘saggy pants’ law

SHREVEPORT, La. — The city has moved to abolish a 2007 ordinance banning people from wearing pants below their waistline.

The Shreveport Times reported the City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to abolish the law. Police data show it resulted in the arrests of 699 Black men and 12 white men. The ordinance said arrests and searches couldn’t solely be based on violating the ordinance.

The law has been questioned since 31-year-old Anthony Childs died in February after an officer tried to stop him for sagging pants. In the incident, Officer Traveion Brooks chased and shot Childs three times, according to police.

A coroner’s report said Childs was ultimately killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

— The Associated Press

New mayor plans to keep ‘the heat’ on police brass

CHICAGO — Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s job remains safe as gun violence escalates with rising summer temperatures.

After 52 shootings and eight deaths marked the most violent weekend since Mayor Lori Lightfoot took office May 20, she held her first “Accountability Monday” with Johnson on June 3.

She said during the meeting that Johnson’s job was safe and that there would be no big command shakeups. With Johnson and dozens of high-ranking officers present, Lightfoot said she would keep the heat on the city’s law enforcement.

“I have great confidence in the superintendent. But I’m gonna keep pushing him as I’m pushing the entire leadership team,” said Lightfoot, who became the city’s first Black female leader after she won a runoff election on May 7.

— The Chicago Crusader

Minnesota enacts racial covenant ban in housing

MINNEAPOLIS — Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill allowing homeowners to remove racial covenants on residential housing.

The bill, sponsored by Assistant Senate DFL Leader Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis, passed the state Senate 63-1.

“Minnesota’s deep segregation is not by accident. Racial covenants existed to stop African Americans and people of color from owning property in certain areas, and we see the ramifications of these covenants to this day,” Hayden said in a press release. “This bill will help homeowners reject racial covenants and is one step in working to address disparities in Minnesota.”

The Twin Cities are among the leading regions in the country when it comes to racial gaps in homeownership. While the level of white homeownership is 12 points above the national rate at 76 percent, homeownership among African-Americans is 23 percent and people of color broadly 40 percent — both well below the national average.

— Insight News

Municipal headquarters getting facelift in Detroit

DETROIT — The Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, a government office building and courthouse in downtown Detroit, will undergo a series of exterior improvements beginning in mid-June.

The projects at the twin-tower property that serves as the city’s municipal headquarters will be phased through the site as the work will include an expanded public bicycle plaza and widening the public walkways.

Constructed in the early 1950s and orginally called the City-County Building, CAYMC was renamed for the late Coleman A. Young, shortly after his death in 1997. Young became Detroit’s first Black mayor in 1974, serving until 1994.

— Michigan Chronicle

Highway marker to pay tribute to N.C. journalist

RALEIGH, N.C. – An example that the pen is mightier than the sword is journalist Louis Austin, who advocated for and advanced social justice and civil rights as publisher of the “Carolina Times” newspaper in Durham.

The Halifax County native will be recognized with a N.C. Highway Historical marker during a dedication ceremony on June 14 in Enfield.

The African American newspaper editor adopted positions on civil rights that countered those of Durham’s Black middle-class leadership. He aligned himself with the philosophy of W.E. B. DuBois and Frederick Douglas, advocates of protest.

Austin began working for the “Standard Advertiser,” a publication founded by Charles Arrant in 1921, while a student at the National Training School in Durham, now known as North Carolina Central University. He graduated in 1922 and used a loan from Mechanics and Farmers Bank to buy the paper in 1927. He then changed the name to Carolina Times.

Austin and others went on to challenge discriminatory admissions policies at the University of North Carolina in 1933 and encouraged Black veterans returning home from World War II to fight white supremacy. He was a model for civil rights activists but did not endorse calls for Black nationalism.

In 1971, Austin died in Durham and is buried there. He has been recognized by historians as a key leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the state.

— Greater Diversity News

County sheriff accused of illegal detention in lawsuit

ROSEBURG, Ore. — A woman who was deported to Mexico after posting bail at an Oregon jail has sued the county sheriff, alleging he violated her rights in detaining her for federal immigration authorities despite posting after bail.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Irene Lopez-Flores was arrested on allegations of theft and computer crime in December 2017 in Roseburg, Oregon. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an immigration detainer a day after her arrest.

Court filings allege that Lopez-Flores’ father paid the $1,500 in bail, but the jail held her for two more hours to allow immigration officers to assume custody.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon, alleges Sheriff John Hanlin executed an unlawful arrest and detention.

— The Associated Press

Man loses appeals over Confederate court statue

NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana appeals court has rejected a Black man’s request to move his trial to a courthouse without a Confederate monument out front.

The 2-1 decision Tuesday gave no reason for denying Ronnie Anderson’s request to move his trial from the East Feliciana Parish Courthouse in Clinton, where he faces a weapons charge after a traffic stop.

Defense attorney Niles Haymer called the statue of a Confederate soldier in the courthouse entryway “offensive, intimidating and racially insensitive.”

District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla said the defense didn’t prove prejudice, and the parish tries to ensure justice is color-blind.

— The Associated Press

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