Court Rejects Challenge to Federal Anti-riot Law

A Black Lives Matter demonstrator’s claim that the “civil disorder” law is racist fails to scuttle a felony charge.

Black Lives Matter protest.

The University of Alabama football team displays signs as they and fellow athletes from other sports march on campus, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. | Vasha Hunt/AP Photo

By JOSH GERSTEIN

A federal judge in Alabama has upheld the constitutionality of a half-century-old federal anti-riot law in the face of claims that the law has racist roots and threatens protest activity protected by the First Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Terry Moorer’s decision Thursday afternoon in favor of prosecutors clears the way for Tia Pugh, 22, to face trial next week on a single felony charge: that she violated the “civil disorder” law by smashing a police car window with a bat during a protest in Mobile six days after a Black man, George Floyd, died in the custody of Minneapolis police.

TV news footage captured the raucous demonstration and the moment when the police car window was shattered.

Lawyers for Pugh challenged the statute on various legal grounds and noted that the provision under which Pugh was charged was termed the “Civil Obedience Act” in what appeared to be a dig at Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others advocating civil disobedience during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The motion to dismiss the case was part of what the government termed a coordinated effort by defense attorneys to take aim at the law in cases across the country where it is being wielded against people accused of violence during last year’s racial justice protests.

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Organizing at Amazon: What Went Wrong? (+1 more)

Jane McAlevey on the fight in Bessemer, plus Amy Wilentz on Hunter Biden.

By Start Making Sense and Jon Wiener

(Igor Golovniov / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

https://embeds.audioboom.com/posts/7844411/embed/v4

The union organizing campaign at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala., was defeated by a vote of 1798 against and 738 in favor. Jane McAlevey argues that the biggest factor in the vote was the laws that give tremendous advantages to the corporate side—but the union itself made a series of tactical and strategic errors. Jane is The Nation’s strikes correspondent.

Also: Hunter Biden was the target of a massive Republican attack campaign for more than a year leading up to the election; at the same time, the gossip pages seized on his disastrous private life. They made the most of his decades of alcohol addiction and drug abuse, and his subsequent affair with the widow of his brother. Now he’s written a book—it’s called Beautiful Things: A MemoirAmy Wilentz comments.

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The Next Fight Against Voter Suppression

Dale Ho on Georgia, plus Karen Greenberg on ending our forever wars.

By Start Making Sense and Jon Wiener

(Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

https://embeds.audioboom.com/posts/7839139/embed/v4

There’s one political prediction that always comes true: Record turnout in one election will be followed by a tidal wave of voter suppression efforts before the next one. So it’s not surprising that after 2020 had record turnout, 2021 is seeing voting rights under attack nationwide by Republican-controlled state legislatures. Georgia has taken the lead—and Georgia is being challenged in court by the ACLU, along with the the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dale Ho comments: He’s director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, and supervises the ACLU’s voting rights litigation nationwide.

Also: Joe Biden and Congress should end our forever wars—and they can—by starting with three key steps: Karen Greenberg explains. She is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School and author, most recently, of Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State.

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