Tag Archive for: protest


Police say they are investigating death of Buster Murdaugh’s classmate and rumored lover as a homicide.

Lebanon: Protesters try to storm government HQ amid economic turmoil.



Another “Murdaugh Murder”? Police re-investigating 2015 death of Buster Murdaugh classmate

Earlier this month, disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was found guilty in the grisly 2021 shooting deaths of his wife Maggie and son Paul. The conviction followed a sensational 6-week trial, attended nearly every day by Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster. 26. Now Buster himself is facing scrutiny in connection with another mysterious case.

In July 2015, the body of Stephen Smith, 19, was found lying dead in the middle of a rural road, about 15 miles from the Murdaugh estate. Authorities at the time ruled Smith’s death to be the result of a hit-and-run. However, some investigators who attended the scene expressed doubts, saying it looked more as if Smith had been killed elsewhere and dumped in the road.

None of the tell-tale signs of a car having struck a pedestrian were present. There was no broken glass or tire marks at the scene. Smith’s loose-fitting shoes were still on his feet and his phone was still in his back pocket, both of which are unusual in vehicular homicides. There was also no sign Smith had been dragged along the ground.

Nevertheless, the medical examiner ruled it a hit-and-run. When South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Todd Proctor went to the pathologist and questioned her conclusions, he said she was combative. “I asked her why she stated that in the report,” Trooper Proctor wrote in his report. “Her answer was ‘because he was found in the road‘.”

Rumors of rumors

It so happened that Smith, a nursing student, had been a high school classmate of Buster’s. Following Smith’s death, rumors circulated around the small town of Hampton, SC, that Stephen, who was openly gay, had been having an affair with Buster.

Other rumors had it that Buster and possibly his brother Paul were involved in Smith’s death. Investigators tried to track down these rumor to their source, but as so often happens in small towns, no one could, or would, say where the rumor began. At that time, the Murdaugh name was a respected and feared on in that area of South Carolina. Investigators now hope that people with knowledge about what happened to Stephen will be more willing to come forward.

Last week, Buster Murdaugh issued a statement attempting to distance himself from Smith’s death and dismissing any suggestion that he and Stephen had a sexual relationship. “These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false,” Buster said. “I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family”.

Smith to be exhumed

Stephen’s mother Sandy has long believed that Stephen died by foul play and that the Murdaughs were somehow part of it. What is certain is that members of the Murdaugh family inserted themselves into the investigation at the crime scene. In fact, the Murdaughs knew Smith was dead before Sandy did. 

In 2021, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced it was re-opening the investigation into Stephen’s death “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh”. SLED has not divulged what that information is or where it came from. Yesterday, SLED confirmed they were investigating Stephen’s death as a homicide but named no person of interest.

The recent spotlight on the Murdaugh clan helped Sandy raise $86,000 on a GoFundMe, far exceeding her goal of $40,000 to have Stephen exhumed for an independent autopsy. But SLED investigators said an exhumation wasn’t necessary for them to believe Stephen was murdered. Despite the initial ruling that Stephen’s death was an accident, State Troopers have long believed otherwise. In fact, SLED said that based on the initial reports, there was no reason to conclude it was a hit-and-run.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Lebanon: Protestors attempt to storm government in Beirut

Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 95% of its value. People who once lived comfortably on an income equivalent to $1000 a month have seen their incomes dwindle to about $50 a month. In February, the inflation rate was at 189.67%. Banks have compounded the misery by severely limiting the amount of cash people can withdraw, despite court orders giving depositors access to their funds. 

Decades of misrule by a corrupt elite has sent Lebanon’s economy into a death spiral. The government in Beirut has reached out to the international community for help in stabilizing their economy. However, they’ve resisted the political and economic reforms demanded by potential lenders, including the IMF.

On Wednesday, a crowd of thousands of retired soldiers and enraged depositors laid siege to the Grand Serail, a 3-story Ottoman era building that serves as the government headquarters. For nearly two hours, protesters hurled stones and attempted to break through the security fence. Police fired tear gas into the crowd, causing some protesters to suffer breathing problems.

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Atlanta: Protests, multiple arrests at “Cop City” site where eco-activist was gunned down by police.

Second Norfolk Southern train derails in Ohio, just over a month after East Palestine

Greece: Violent protests in Athens after train crash that killed 57


Atlanta: Protests, multiple arrests at “Cop City” site where eco-activist was gunned down by police

Over the weekend, police arrested dozens of protesters who they claimed took part in a “coordinated attack” at a construction site for a future $90 million training center for police and firefighters. Protesters set fire to construction equipment at the site. Police have charged 23 of them under Georgia’s state domestic terrorism statute. This follows 6 arrests of activists using the same charges after a Jan. 18 raid of a protest encampment in the forest. That was the first time in US history a state law has been used this way against an environmental movement.

Dubbed “Cop City”, the center will occupy the site of a former penal farm in an area of woodland known as South River. The site borders a Black working-class neighborhood in Southeast Atlanta. Cop City will feature a mock village including fake convenience stores, homes and even a nightclub which police trainees will use to practice tactical raids.

Opponents of the project say the building of cop city will have destructive environmental impacts. They say there was no satisfactory assessment of the impacts before the project was approved. Atlantans are also unhappy about the militaristic nature of the facility and the training that will take place there.

The death of Tortuguita

The Jan. 18 raid also resulted in the death of 26-year-old indigenous Venezuelan-American activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, who went by the name “Tortuguita”. An autopsy commissioned by Paez Terán’s family found that the activist had been shot 12 or 13 times, possibly with multiple weapons. 

The events that led to Tortuguita’s death remain in dispute. Around 9 am, that morning group of officers from the Atlanta police, Dekalb county police, Georgia state patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and possibly the FBI entered the forest to clear a campsite where the activists had been living, some of them for over 2 years.

The officers claim that Tortuguita fired on them “without warning” and wounded an officer. The GBI claims ballistic evidence showed the bullet that wounded the officer was fired from a gun Tortuguita had legally purchased in 2020. Other activists disbelieve this and claim that the officer might have been wounded by friendly fire or even by his own weapon. 

GBI claims there is no police bodycam footage of the encounter and hasn’t published any of the evidence they say backs up their account.

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Second Norfolk Southern train derails in Ohio, just over a month after East Palestine

On Saturday, March 4, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Springfield, OH. This was just a month after the Feb. 3 derailment of another Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, which has created health issues the community are still grappling with. Unlike the East Palestine derailment, federal and state authorities were quick to address the Springfield derailment publicly.

About 20 of the 212 cars on the Springfield train derailed, but authorities were quick to assure the public that no hazardous chemicals were believed to be on board. However, today authorities acknowledged that some of the other cars on the train were carrying hazardous materials. authorities ordered residents within 1,000 feet of the derailment to shelter in place out of an abundance of caution. 

Following this second derailment, Norfolk Southern has released a “6-point safety plan“. The only substantive points of the plan include better monitoring of the Civil War-era brakes still used on the trains. It makes no mention of any plans to upgrade these brakes to Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP), which likely would have prevented both the Springfield and East Palestine derailment.

A bipartisan Senate bill, dubbed the Railway Safety Act of 2023, likewise doesn’t require rail companies to install ECP brakes. However, the competing Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally (DERAIL) Act would require trains carrying toxic and hazardous materials to used ECP brakes. The DERAIL act was proposed by Democratic Reps. Chris Deluzio and Ro Khanna, both from Pennsylvania which was also affected by the East Palestine disaster. 



Greece: Violent protests in Athens after train crash that killed 57

Officials say that about 12,000 protesters (though it was very likely more) gathered near the Greek Parliament in Athens this weekend to voice their outrage over the decline of the nation’s commuter rail system. The protesters included students and members of the rail workers union.

Many of the 57 people killed in the midnight head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight train were students returning to the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki following a holiday. The rail workers’ union have for years been calling attention to rampant equipment failures and increasingly lax safety enforcement on the railroad. Much of this deterioration has taken place since a private Italian company took over operation of the state-owned passenger rail in 2017. However, the railroad system had been in decline ever since the beginning of the Greek debt crisis in 2008.

Police have arrested the station master at Larissa, which the passenger train had departed from 12 minutes before the crash. Authorities contend the station master’s negligence was responsible for the crash. However, members of the union believe the government is scapegoating the station master to avoid addressing larger problems within the rail system.

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Memphis: “Appalling” video of police beating Tyre Nichols to be released today.

Citizen raised concerns about abuse by MPD officers in SCORPION unit days before Nichols stop.

New Israeli air strikes on Gaza.



Memphis: “Absolutely appalling” video of police beating Tyre Nichols to be released today 

Yesterday afternoon, the five former Memphis PD officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ traffic stop were formally charged in connection with his death. Each of them has been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, official misconduct and official oppression. Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith all surrendered themselves to authorities shortly before the charges were announced.

Memphis officials are planning to release the video of the deadly encounter today. Local officials, members of Nichols’ family and their attorneys have already seen it. By all accounts, it depicts an especially egregious example of police brutality. In the video, officers are seen restraining, beating, Tasing and pepper spraying Nichols while he asks what he did and calls for his mother. Nichols died in hospital three days after the Jan. 7 stop.

During yesterday’s press conference, David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told reporters, “Simply put, this should not have happened”. Despite his 30 years in law enforcement, Rausch was “shocked” and “sickened” by the video and what TBI’s investigation revealed. He called the video “absolutely appalling” and said the encounter “does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong; this was criminal”.

MPD Chief CJ Davis had equally strong words about the video, saying it was “perhaps worse” than the video of Los Angeles police beating Rodney King more than 30 years ago. The Rodney King video sparked weeks of riots in LA.

Officials are worried that the release of the video today could spark similar unrest in Memphis. Nichols’ parents Rowvaughn and Rodney Wells are calling on the community to protest peacefully.


Citizen raised concerns about SCORPION unit days before Nichols traffic stop

All five of the MPD officers involved in Nichols’ death were members of a special enforcement unit created in 2021. The 50-person SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods) unit was created to increase police presence and visibility in high-crime areas. The day Nichols was stopped by police, a police radio transmission called other SCORPION units to respond to the scene.

McKinney snapped this picture showing unmarked SCORPION unit police vehicles in front of the Marathon gas station.

Four days before Nichols was pulled over, Cornell McKinney was accosted by SCORPION unit officers at a Marathon gas station on Ridgeway and Knight Arnold Rd. The officers approached McKinney and a friend he was riding with. McKinney says the officers yelled at them, “Freeze, get out the car! Put your m—f—ing hands up before I blow your heads off!”

McKinney then says one of he officers physically pulled him out of the car. The officers then asked McKinney “who the drugs belonged to”. Perplexed, McKinney told the officers he was just trying to get a pizza. Eventually, the officers told him they were “just playing” and drove off. McKinney then called MPD Internal Affairs twice to report the officers but never heard back.

When photos of the five officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ case were released after they were fired, McKinney said he recognized them as the officers who had harassed him. McKinney lamented that Nichols’ death might have been prevented if MPD had acted on his complaint.

Click here for Cornell McKinney’s story (3-minute video ~ opens in new tab).

Click here to read the story from WREG.com (opens in new tab).



New Israeli air strikes in Gaza

For over a year, the Israeli military has been conducting deadly raids in majority-Arab cities in the occupied West Bank. This followed a series of attacks on Jewish Israeli citizens by Islamic militants with connections to ISIS. It was in one of these raids that Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed last year by an Israeli sniper. Abu Akleh was covering the raids for Al-Jazeera and wearing a helmet and vest that identified her as PRESS when an “apparently well-aimed” Israel bullet killed her.

In recent weeks, the military raids in the West Bank have intensified. Last week, Israeli forces gunned down a 57-year-old Palestinian teacher who was giving first aid to a wounded militant. Earlier this week, another raid in the West Bank town of Jenin killed nine Palestinians, among them a 61-year-old woman. These deaths sparked outrage and protests, during which another man was shot and killed. 

Yesterday, militants in Gaza fired six rockets into Israel, which were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system and caused no injuries. Today, Israel retaliated by firing rockets of its own into Gaza, a densely populated area.

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Memphis: Protests after Black man dies of injuries following MPD traffic stop.

Texas prisoners hunger strike to protest inhumane solitary confinement.

US, European firms supply Myanmar’s brutal junta.




Memphis: Protests after Black man dies of injuries following MPD traffic stop

On Jan. 7, Memphis police pulled over Tyre Nichols, 29, for reckless driving. What happened next is a little unclear. Authorities say that there was a “confrontation” between Nichols and the officers who approached him, after which Nichols ran away. There was then another “confrontation” before police managed to apprehend and arrest Nichols.

Following this confrontation, “the suspect complained of having a shortness of breath, at which time an ambulance was called,” police said, and Nichols was taken to an area hospital in critical condition. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Nichols “succumbed to his injuries” three days later on Jan. 10, though the agency didn’t specify the nature of the injuries. Immediately following the incident, TBI opened a use of force investigation on Memphis PD.

Nichols’ family said he was “brutalized” to the point he was “unrecognizable“. Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said Nichols suffered cardiac arrest and kidney failure because of a beating by officers. “When we got to the hospital, it was devastating,” Wells said. “All of that still should not occur because of a traffic stop. You shouldn’t be on a dialysis machine looking like this because of a traffic stop. That’s inhumane.”

Over the weekend, Nichols’ friends and family and other community members gathered to remember him and staged protests near the site of the stop. Nichols’ family have retained renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Crump has represented bereaved families in numerous high profile incidents where Black people were killed by police or in racially-motivated attacks. Nichols’ family want a more answers about their son’s death and are demanding the release of police bodycam footage from the incident.

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Texas prisoners on hunger strike to protest inhumane use of solitary confinement

Prisoners in over a dozen state correctional facilities in Texas have been on hunger strike for nearly a week. Texas’ State Department of Criminal Justice says 72 inmates are on hunger strike, but outside organizers say it’s closer to 300. The prisoners, all men, are protesting the state’s overuse of solitary confinement and deteriorating conditions. Organizers say that staffing shortages throughout the prison system has created inhumane living conditions for solitary inmates.

In solitary, prisoners spend 22 hours a day alone in their cells. The nature of their confinement creates greater demands on staff who must closely supervise their time outside their cells, when they shower or have their one hour of recreation time each day. Inmates wrote a letter to state lawmakers stating that because of staffing cuts, these needs aren’t being met. At one facility, solitary inmates have only had outside recreation a handful of times in the last few years and guards find it difficult to allow the inmates to shower more than once a week.

Decades in solitary

The protesting inmates also want reforms to better govern how Texas prisons use solitary confinement. Prison officials say they use solitary confinement for inmates considered to be an escape risk or those who’ve exhibited violent behavior while in prison. But Texas also uses solitary confinement to isolate prisoners that are affiliated with certain gangs, even if they’ve not committed any other offense while incarcerated.

In order to leave solitary, gang members have to go through a program that requires them to snitch on fellow gang members, which places the inmates in mortal danger when they return to the general prison population. As a result, prisoners with gang affiliations could spend their entire sentences, years or even decades, in solitary. When they eventually return to society (as 80% of them will) the psychologically crippling effects of extended solitary confinement stay with them. Extended solitary confinement is known to cause long term effects such as PTSD, hallucinations and psychosis.

Texas is one of the last few states to place inmates in solitary based solely on gang affiliation. California ended the practice years ago following a weeks-long hunger strike involving hundreds of inmates and a class-action lawsuit.

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US, European firms supply Myanmar’s brutal junta

An independent group of international policy experts has found that companies from 13 countries are supplying Myanmar’s brutal military dictatorship with tools, machines and software that allows them to create weapons to use against the regime’s opponents. Several of these countries, including the US, Germany, and France, have imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s junta.

Myanmar’s military (known as the Tatmadaw) seized control of the country in February 2021. They imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s elected president. After several prosecutions against her, the military-controlled courts have sentenced her to decades in prison, with more prosecutions to come. Much of the country’s other high-ranking civilian leaders are also in jail.

Opposition groups and ethnic minority militia’s in Myanmar’s border regions have engaged in all-out civil war against the Tatmadaw. The military have carried out numerous atrocities in an attempt to stamp out rebels, laying waste to entire villages. According to the Special Advisory Council on Myanmar, the companies from these 13 countries are supplying the Tatmadaw with hardware and services that enable them to wage war on their own people.

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Buffalo supermarket shooter pleads guilty to terrorism, murder charges. White House working to avert railroad strike. China: Rare antigovernment protests over lockdown policies





Buffalo supermarket shooter pleads guilty to terrorism, murder charges

Payton Gendron, the 19-year-old gunmen who carried out a mass shooting in May at a Topps supermarket in Buffalo, NY, has pleaded guilty to all state charges against him. There 15 total charges, including murder, attempted murder, and domestic terrorism motivated by hate. The last charge comes with a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Gendron still faces dozens of federal charges, some of which carry the possibility of a death sentence.

Gendron killed 10 Black people at the supermarket and has admitted that he was motivated by racism. In fact, several days before the incident, Gendron drove 200 miles from his home in Conklin, NY, to a majority-Black neighborhood in Buffalo to identify a location where he would be likely to kill as many Black people as possible. During the pandemic, Gendron became indoctrinated online into a white supremacist ideology known as “white replacement”.

In light of many deadly mass shootings this year, including several just in the past two weeks, President Biden is once again calling on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban during the December lame-duck session. However, to pass such a measure, Senate Democrats would need to find 10 Republicans to vote with them, which is unlikely. 

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White House working to avert railroad strike ahead of holidays

President Biden said last week that his administration is working with railroad companies and unions to avoid a possible railroad strike. Federal officials helped to broker an agreement in September which at least delayed strike talks until after the midterms. Since then, three of the 12 major railroad workers unions have voted to reject terms of that deal.

The unions could call a strike as soon as Dec. 9. If they do, the US freight rail system will grind to a halt, stopping deliveries of food, gas and other vital goods. Congress has the power to force an end to the strike by imposing the terms of the contract proposed in September. Biden is hoping to broker a more favorable deal that the unions will accept to avoid a strike.

Although the proposal came with a hefty wage hike over the next 5 years, workers have pointed out the raises barely keep up with inflation. Also, the deal included no paid sick days and did not address workers’ grievances over unpredictable work schedules. Click here for a 3-minute video where railroad workers explain their reasons for rejecting the deal.

Record profits despite supply chain problems

Workers are especially angry with the stinginess of the proposed contracts since the industry has reported record profits during the pandemic. The companies have increased their profits in part by laying off workers, increasing the burden on those that remain. Instead of reinvesting in the company or hiring more workers, the companies have used those profits for stock buybacks to increase pay packages of their executives.

In February, billionaire Warren Buffett, owner of Berkshire Hathaway (parent company of major railroad company BNSF), told shareholders that BNSF had earned record profits in 2021. Buffett, noted for his philanthropy, also recently donated $750 million dollars to charities run by his family. 

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China: Rare antigovernment protests over lockdown policies

Cities all over China erupted in massive antigovernment protests over the weekend due to China’s Zero COVID policy. Premier Xi Jinping’s pandemic policy has caused huge cities of millions of people to go into strict lockdowns when even a few COVID cases are detected. People are forbidden from leaving their homes for days or even weeks. The lockdowns can come with no warning, leaving residents no time to gather adequate food and medicine. Lockdowns in major cities have also had a major economic impact.

Despite the draconian lockdowns, COVID numbers are still rising. Today, China broke its record for daily cases with 40,347 new cases. Rather than rethinking the policy, the government has responded with lockdowns in more cities with even more restrictive measures.

The protests were sparked by an incident in the western province of Xinjiang last week. Ten people died in an apartment fire because the entrances were locked to keep residents from going outside. The demonstrations have been growing and spreading across the country. Police have been out in force engaging in violent clashes with peaceful protesters. Demonstrators are now openly calling for Xi to resign. 

Chinese media has not acknowledged the protests and censors have been eliminating any mention of them on Chinese social media sites like WeChat and Weibo. Nevertheless, the ranks of the protesters are growing with each passing day.

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