A jury on Jan. 10 condemned white supremacist Dylann Roof to death for the hate-fueled killings of nine black parishioners at a Bible study meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.
The same jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, for the shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours.
Roof stared straight ahead as the judge read through the jury’s verdict findings before announcing his death sentence, local media reported on social media.
Roof, who represented himself for the penalty phase, was unrepentant during his closing argument earlier in the day. He told jurors he still felt the massacre was something he had to do and did not ask that his life be spared.
“Today’s sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time,” Roof’s lawyers, who represented him for the guilt phase, said in a statement after the verdict was announced.
Roof still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.
Attorney general statement on the sentencing
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the following statement on the sentencing of Dylann Roof:
On June 17, 2015, Dylann Storm Roof sought out and opened fire on African-American parishioners engaged in worship and bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
He did so because of their race. And he did so to interfere with their peaceful exercise of religion.
The victims in the case led lives as compassionate civic and religious leaders; devoted public servants and teachers; and beloved family members and friends. They include a young man in the bloom of youth and an 87-year-old grandmother who still sang in the church choir.
We remember those who have suffered, and especially those that lost their lives: Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54;
Susie Jackson, 87;
Ethel Lance, 70;
Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49;
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41;
Tywanza Sanders, 26;
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74;
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45;
and Myra Thompson, 59.
Today, a jury of his peers considered the actions Roof took on that fateful day, and they rendered a verdict that will hold him accountable for his choices.
No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel.
And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand. But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston — and the people of our nation — with a measure of closure.
We thank the jurors for their service, the people of Charleston for their strength and support, and the law enforcement community in South Carolina and throughout the country for their vital work on this case.
The federal government has allowed four groups at the forefront of the white nationalist movement to register as charities and raise more than $7.8 million in tax-deductible donations over the past decade, according to an Associated Press review.
Already emboldened by Donald Trump’s popularity, group leaders say they hope the president-elect’s victory helps them raise even more money and gives them a larger platform for spreading their ideology.
With benevolent-sounding names such as the National Policy Institute and New Century Foundation, the tax-exempt groups present themselves as educational organizations and use donors’ money to pay for websites, books and conferences to further their ideology.
The money also has personally compensated leaders of the four groups.
New Century Foundation head Jared Taylor said his group raises money for the benefit of the “white race,” a mission taxpayers are indirectly supporting with the group’s status as a 501C3 nonprofit. The IRS recognized it, the Charles Martel Society, the National Policy Institute and VDare Foundation as charities more than a decade ago.
Samuel Brunson, a tax law professor at Loyola University in Chicago, noted the nonprofit status gives these groups a veneer of legitimacy and respectability.
“It should make people uncomfortable that the government is subsidizing groups that espouse values that are incompatible with most Americans,” he said.
The IRS has tried to weed out nonprofit applicants that merely spread propaganda. In 1978, the agency refused to grant tax-exempt status to the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group that published an anti-Semitic newsletter. And in 1994, a court upheld the denial of tax-exempt status for the Nationalist Movement, a Mississippi-based white nationalist group.
Some tax experts said the IRS is still feeling the sting from conservative critics over its 2013 concession that it unfairly gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups seeking tax exemptions.
“I don’t think they’re feeling very brave right now,” said Ellen Aprill, a tax law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
IRS spokesman Michael Dobzinski said he can’t comment on individual nonprofits.
Louisiana State University law professor Philip Hackney, a former IRS attorney, said the agency receives tens of thousands of applications annually and doesn’t have the resources to scrutinize many of them.
“A lot of applications fly through,” Hackney said. “They’re looking for easy ways to sort things out and kind of give rubber stamps.”
New Century Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit, has raised more than $2 million since 2007 and operates the American Renaissance online magazine, which touts a philosophy that it’s “entirely normal” for whites to want to be a majority race.
Taylor, a Yale-educated, self-described “race realist,” said his group, founded in 1994, abides by all laws governing nonprofits.
“We certainly did not conceal our intentions,” Taylor said. “I think we are educational in precisely the terms that Congress defined.”
Taylor, whose tax filing says he received $65,000 in compensation in 2015, said he isn’t raising money to enrich himself or his group.
“We hold it in trust for the white race,” he said. “We take this seriously. This is not something we do for fun or profit. This is our duty to our people.”
In a 2012 article, University of Georgia business professor Alex Reed argued the IRS “can and must” revoke the New Century Foundation’s charitable status. Reed said the agency’s lax enforcement allowed other groups _ including ones he labeled as white nationalist, anti-gay, anti-immigrant or Holocaust deniers _ to qualify for tax breaks under the guise of operating educational organizations.
The Montana-based National Policy Institute is run by Richard Spencer, who popularized the term “alternative right” about a decade ago. The so-called alt-right is a fringe movement that has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism.
Spencer’s group raised $442,482 in tax-deductible contributions from 2007 through 2012. More recent fundraising figures for the group aren’t available in online tax returns, but Spencer said Trump’s candidacy already has boosted his group’s fundraising.
Spencer hosted a postelection conference in Washington that ended with audience members mimicking Nazi salutes after Spencer shouted, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” Spencer has advocated for an “ethno-state” that would be a “safe space” for white people.
The Georgia-based Charles Martel Society was founded by wealthy publisher William H. Regnery II, who also founded the National Policy Institute.
The group raised $568,526 between 2007 and 2014 and publishes The Occidental Quarterly. In an article last December, the journal’s editor applauded Trump’s campaign as a “game changer” for white people who oppose immigration and multiculturalism but said they “have a long way to go to really change the public discussion of race, Western culture, and Jewish influence.”
The Connecticut-based VDare Foundation is led by Peter Brimelow, founder and editor of an anti-immigration website. Brimelow, who spoke at the National Policy Institute’s conference last month, founded his nonprofit in 1999 and raised nearly $4.8 million between 2007 and 2015.
Brimelow has denied that his website is white nationalist but acknowledged it publishes works by writers who fit that description “in the sense that they aim to defend the interests of American whites.”
Brimelow received $378,418 in compensation from his nonprofit in 2007, accounting for nearly three-quarters of its total expenses that year. Brimelow says his salary that year was $170,000 and the rest reimbursed him for travel, office supplies and other expenses.
From 2010 through 2015, VDare Foundation didn’t report any compensation directly paid to Brimelow. But, starting in 2010, the nonprofit began making annual payments of up to $368,500 to Brimelow’s Happy Penguins LLC for “leased employees.” Brimelow disclosed his ownership of that company on tax returns.
Chuck McLean, a senior research fellow for the nonprofit watchdog Guidestar, said the IRS could view those “independent contractor” payments to Happy Penguins LLC as improper self-dealing unless the nonprofit can show they were “fair-market value transactions.” Brimelow says he set up that company to “protect” and pay his employees and himself.
Brimelow’s group reported modest fundraising increases for each of the past three years. He is confident that trend would continue during Trump’s administration.
“We have every reason to believe that it will,” he wrote in an email.
A white supremacist website has declared footwear manufacturer New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People.”
The Boston Globe reported the alt-right website The Daily Stormer made the proclamation over the weekend, after New Balance vice president of public affairs Matt LeBretton praised Republican President-elect Donald Trump.
LeBretton told the Wall Street Journal that the election of Trump was a move in the “right direction.”
New Balance, which is based in Boston, later said the comment was referencing Trump’s stance opposing a proposed international trade agreement.
“New Balance has a unique perspective on trade in that we want to make more shoes in the U.S., not less,” it said in a statement last week.
Still, LeBretton’s comment sparked protests.
People who don’t like Trump posted social media videos of themselves throwing their New Balance shoes in the trash or even burning them.
The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin said he believes New Balance’s support of Trump could be a marketing scheme. But he said the website is campaigning to buy the company’s products and is encouraging others to do the same.
LeBretton didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the support from the white supremacist website.
New Balance, which also sells fitness apparel, said in a tweet during the burning-shoes protest that it believes in community, humanity and “acting with the utmost integrity” and that it welcomes “all walks of life.”
Hate crimes have spiked and the practice of common decency has all but disappeared in the immediate aftermath of Donald J. Trump’s Electoral College victory.
Racist vandals spray-painted the dugout of a baseball field in upstate New York with a swastika and the words, “Make America white again.”
White power chants and racist events are popping up on university campuses.
At Southern Illinois University, white students posed in blackface in front of a confederate flag and posted the pictures on social media. In the wake of the recent murder of a Saudi Arabian UW-Stout student, another student — who is black and Muslim — wrote to the chancellor, “I am terrified of what this country has become.”
A woman in South Philly found her car spray-painted with the words “Trump Rules” and “Black Bitch.”
In Queens, New York, immigrants found official-looking papers peppered with racist epithets under their apartment doors telling them to leave because they have no place in Donald Trump’s America.
The Ku Klux Klan is planning a victory parade in North Carolina on Dec. 3. Trump’s spokeswoman disavowed the group, but march they will.
The pundits who gave Trump the stature to win by ignoring his policies, mitigating his bizarre behavior and treating him like a legitimate presidential candidate are now on camera speculating what a Donald Trump presidency will look like. We already know.
And it’s not as if Trump played coy about his beliefs. Read his tweets or review videos of his rallies and you’ll see, in high definition, everything you need to know about life in America under President Trump.
The river of bile spewed by Trump and his followers on the campaign trail opened a Pandora’s box of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and nearly every other form of hatred imaginable, from sea to polluted sea. Respect and decency have been washed away. For those of us who never imagined such toxicity was bottled up behind the friendly smiles of people we deal with in everyday life, the revelation has been soul-crushing.
If his campaign meant anything, Trump’s presidency will cost us a lot:
The chance to address climate change.
Accelerating income inequality.
Ramped-up terrorism and the increased probability of war.
Renewal of the same reckless financial practices that caused the Great Recession.
Unheard-of levels of poisonous air and water.
The mass sell-off of natural resources.
Millions of uninsured citizens and giant leaps in the cost of pharmaceuticals and health care.
The loss of hard-won rights for women, LGBT people and the press.
The highest levels of intimidation and violence experienced in decades by African Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, Jews and members of other minority groups.
But the greatest cost to society is already clear: the erosion of the common decency that allows our pluralistic society to function. The social pressures that discouraged bigots, misogynists and liars from acting out in public began to evaporate when the highest political office in the free world was won by a crude, arrogant, insulting, blatantly dishonest and emotionally broken throwback who brags about sexually abusing women, ripping off workers and scamming the system over which he will preside.
Trump campaigned against “political correctness” and prevailed.
This may well mean that treating women like inferior sexual objects will return to acceptability in many quarters. Slurs and epithets that carry centuries of hurt will become part of everyday parlance, sparking divisiveness and violence that will make the riots of recent years seem like picnics by comparison. Rogue police officers, bigoted landlords and employers, and other closeted segregationists in positions of authority will inch the nation backward to Jim Crow or worse.
Social chaos will reign.
What to do
We celebrate the peaceful protests against Trump’s election that swell across the nation, and we hope that they will continue with the same sense of urgency and purpose that propelled the civil rights marches of the ’60s and the street activism against AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s. In New York, one protester held aloft a sign that puts this election in perspective. It said: “Your vote was a hate crime.”
In the wake of that crime, all decent citizens must stand up for American values by volunteering for and contributing to organizations fighting the onslaught of legislative transgressions that Trump’s presidency will bring. There is no time to sit on the sidelines and ponder. If you’re angry, throw that anger immediately into high gear and use it.
Maybe you sat silent during the election out of fear of offending friends, co-workers and relatives who backed Trump. Let that fear go. Now you can share your values without having to defend Hillary Clinton from the absurd propaganda that was spread about her during the campaign. Get right to the issues.
Try to enlist Trump voters in your efforts on an issue-by-issue basis. Polls (if they are to be believed) showed the majority of people agreed with Clinton’s policies. Do everything you can to fight for them.
Speak out when you hear offensive language and ideas expressed in your presence. Counter misinformation with truth. Question irrational beliefs until it becomes obvious how absurd they are — without having to actually state how absurd they are. But remain a model of decency in all that you do, because it’s on your shoulders to keep decency alive.
And don’t allow hateful language and jokes to go unchallenged. Let people know how offended you are, and pray that haters are still civilized enough to keep their views quiet when they know those views diminish them in the eyes of many others.
Enough others, in fact, to have defeated Trump at the polls, despite the unparalleled, unrelenting attacks against her by the FBI, the Russians, right-wing hackers and a media more interested in ratings than reality.
Leaked documents indicate Donald Trump is considering for his transition team candidates with histories of anti-LGBTQ animus, including Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council, a hate group.
“Ken Blackwell is a man who has spent his entire career going after LGBTQ Americans. Blackwell’s leadership role in President-elect Trump’s transition team should be a major wake up call for anybody who ever had any doubt that LGBTQ people are at risk,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. HRC is the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.
Winterhof continued, “Ed Meese and Kay Cole James, who are also reported to have key roles, have been vocal opponents of equality and other issues we care deeply about. The people President-elect Trump picks to serve in his administration will have a huge impact on the policies he pursues. We should all be alarmed at who he’s appointing to key posts on his transition team.”
Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, which was named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also serves on the board of directors of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
In addition to supporting measures to ban marriage equality, Blackwell believes being LGBTQ is a choice, saying, “The reality is, again…that I think we make choices all the time. And I think you make good choices and bad choices in terms of lifestyle. Our expectation is that one’s genetic makeup might make one more inclined to be an arsonist or might make one more inclined to be a kleptomaniac. Do I think that they can be changed? Yes.”
Meese, a former attorney general, is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, an organization that asserts that laws protecting LGBTQ people are not “necessary” and “weaken the marriage culture and the freedom of citizens and their associations to affirm their religious or moral convictions…”
According to NBC, the conservative Heritage Foundation is helping vet candidates for Trump’s cabinet.
Meese supported Indiana’s religious refusal law enacted under Vice President-elect Mike Pence, saying it “has nothing to do with refusing to serve gay people.” Meese has also said that marriage equality “shows how the culture has deteriorated over two centuries.”
Kay Cole James, president and founder of the Gloucester Institute, is a former senior vice president of the Family Research Council and a former director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
She worked in the administrations of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
The Advocate reported that in her book Transforming America from the Inside Out, James compared LGBTQ people to drug addicts, alcoholics, adulterers or “anything else sinful.”
Police negotiators talking to the Orlando nightclub gunman at first weren’t sure if the person they had on the phone was actually in the Pulse nightclub, according to audio recordings.
The recordings between police negotiators and shooter Omar Mateen don’t stray from transcripts of conversations released previously by the city of Orlando.
But they do capture police officials strategizing among themselves about how to talk to Mateen, who hung up several times during the three-hour standoff at the gay nightclub.
Circuit Judge Margaret Schreiber ruled this week that Mateen’s calls should be made public.
But she won’t rule on releasing other 911 calls from the mass shooting until she has listened to them.
More than two dozen news groups, including The Associated Press, have been fighting the city in court over the release of more than 600 calls dealing with the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The city has released about two-thirds of the calls but is still withholding the 232 calls that lawyers for the city say depict suffering or killing and are exempt from Florida’s public records laws.
The media groups have argued that the city’s application of the exemption is too broad and that the 911 calls will help the public evaluate the police response to the shooting at the gay nightclub.
In one of the calls released, a police official can be heard early on saying he’s not convinced the person on the call is in the club.
At another point, the lead police negotiator, named “Andy,” said, “He sounds like he is in a very sterile environment, like he’s at a home or an apartment.”
But another police official said Mateen could be in an office or bathroom.
The recordings also show how the negotiators were feeling out whether they had accurately identified the suspect.
“We called him Omar,” said Andy, who was then interrupted by another police official who says, “He didn’t deny it.”
Between calls, they mulled over what Mateen had told them, such as his refusal to answer if he had an accomplice.
They discussed Mateen’s claims that he was wearing a vest and that he had explosives in a car outside the nightclub. He wasn’t wearing a bomb vest and there were no explosives in a car, but police officials didn’t know that at the time.
“He said the bombs are in a car in the parking lot. He’s not confirming anything,” a police official can be heard saying in the background as Andy implores Mateen to respond.
Andy tells another police official that Mateen had claimed to be wearing a vest but he didn’t know what type.
“A dress vest. A bulletproof vest, or a bomb vest. That’s all I got. We questioned him on it and he shut down,” the police negotiator said.
The judge allowed family members of the 49 patrons who died to testify about whether they wanted the remaining 911 calls made public. Some opposed the release while others were OK with the transcript being made public.
“It would be extremely difficult for family and friends to listen to these calls,” said Jessica Silva, whose brother, Juan Rivera Velazquez, died with his partner in Pulse. “Just listening to one of the calls … We can recognize voices. Just listening to them screaming … How are we going to feel?”
The FBI has offered no indication of when the probe into the shooting that also left 53 people seriously wounded will be done.
An FBI spokeswoman didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.
Aileen Carillo, whose brother, Simon Adrian Carillo Fernandez, died in the nightclub, said she would like to listen to the calls to help her understand what happened, but didn’t want them to be made public.
“I would like to know what happened. We haven’t really heard what happened. We are unaware of the facts,” Carillo said on the witness stand through a Spanish interpreter.
When, on June 13, a handful of Democratic Congressmen and Congresswomen walked off the floor of the House of Representatives and several others remained to challenge vocally the failure of the Congress to consider and enact firearms-related legislation, they ignited much more than a collateral skirmish in America about the meaning, the solemnity, and the purpose of moments of silence. To be sure, their actions animated, at least in part, the legislative goings-on of the following days — including the 14-hour filibuster on the June 15 and 16, initiated by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, on the floor of the other deliberative chamber on Capitol Hill, and the 26-hour sit-in, led by Georgia Congressman John Lewis back in the House on the June 22 and 23 — all organized to rally the spirit of America in movement toward that day when rational, balanced, and effective federal laws are codified among other common sense mechanisms to reduce if not stop outright the types of cataclysmic violence that most recently and savagely ripped 49 of us from our national life and brutally injured hundreds of others, both physically and emotionally, in the common pursuit of livelihood.
But in his public explanation of why he chose to leave the People’s House during the moment of silence on June 13, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Connecticut, was on to something much more: Among other unsettling aspects of the impotence that infects the work of the women and the men we send to Washington, Himes bemoaned the “torrent of hate, threats and anger worthy of Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell (directed) toward elected officials who speak out for reform.” Understanding and articulating the indivisible connections between the hearts and the minds of men and women of all times, it was the 14th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri who told us that “(t)he hottest places … are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” It is thus in this abiding time of pain and trouble and suffering that our hearts must school our intelligence — away from the inertia, the indifference, and, yes, the neutrality of inaction and toward an aggressive, targeted set of behaviors that genuinely mean something, that generate forward industry, and that change practically the life and the livelihood of our nation.
So what precisely is it that thoughtful, caring, and engaged Wisconsinites — including but not limited to those who proudly count themselves among the cherished and valued members of our LGBT community — should be about in the wake of Orlando, in pursuit of the finest, most genuine memorial to those who were martyred at the Pulse nightclub? There are, of course, the often-touted recommendations, frequently advanced because they do, in fact, make sense: Among them is advocacy for the candidacies of those people who understand that, while legislation and the enforcement of those laws is not a panacea, things like universal background checks in all venues and all exchanges, prohibitions on sales to persons with convictions for violent misdemeanors, judicial processes for protective orders restraining lethally violent family members, and measured changes in the coverage and the penalties of laws prohibiting so-called “straw” purchasing and preventing certain categories of offenders like those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining concealed carried permits — all of these and other reasonable proposals would make cognizable differences — for, yes, the LGBT community and also for the partnered communities of every race and national origin, each faith and religious affiliation, and all abilities and disabilities.
Recognition of that sisterhood and brotherhood among our neighbors in Wisconsin and throughout the country should also prompt a renewed and reinvigorated engagement by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender men and women in the leadership and policy-making, the programming and presentations, the education and training, and the public events and gatherings of our area’s many, diverse associations, councils, alliances, and coalitions — both formal and informal, public and private — that are committed to addressing the civil rights issues and wrestle with the human dignity challenges that affect all of us. Consistent with this commission (already pursued activity and effectively by many), members of the Milwaukee-based LGBT community will find their welcoming places and invest resourceful time in the human rights and other life-affirming initiatives of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, of Independence First and Disability Rights Wisconsin, of the Milwaukee Urban League and the Milwaukee Chapter of the NAACP, of El Centro Hispano and Voces de la Frontera, of the Running Rebels and Urban Underground, of the Boys and Girls Clubs and COA Youth & Family Centers, of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, MICAH, Pastors United, and virtually all venues of our faith congregations — an illustrative (and wildly incomplete) list of civic invitations.
Our recent history of devastating violence in places like Charleston, Roseburg, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Binghamton, Newtown, Blacksburg, Killeen, Columbine, and Oak Creek, among many others, confirms both the chilling ferocity and the complex animation of people who — as human “cocktails” of hate, disaffection, anger, delusion, failure, and malice — wage devastating wars on all of us. The sanguine lesson of each of those venues is equally clear: Not only must we address a society in which firearms are increasingly used as the mechanisms for conflict resolution but we need also, desperately, to confront the voices, the instruction, the encouragement of those who fail or simply refuse to understand the abundant benefits and transcendent values in diversity — of color, creed, homeland, heritage, capacity, ability, orientation, and identity — in education, housing, public access, commerce, the arts, religion, employment, transportation, voting, neighborhood, and family.
And the initiatives and programs, existing and forthcoming, to accomplish all of that must be designed and implemented cross-community — invoking the vested intelligence, the practical experience, and the animated spirit of every interest group and individual body in ways and means that are operationally coordinated in vision, in communication, and in action with each other. The interests and challenges, the needs and aspirations of the LGBT community are those of every community of women and men in Wisconsin and throughout our nation that is similarly committed to fair treatment, equal protection, just administration of the law, and lives lived with dignity, compassion, nobility, and pride in what it means to be human.
That can and will be accomplished when the boards of directors, the executive leadership, the active members, the volunteer staff, and the served constituents of all of our civil rights leagues are populated with representation by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women and men — along with equally invested men and committed women of every race, nationality, disability, ability, religion, and faith affiliation who are straight. Human rights to jobs, to schooling, to accommodations, to movement — in short, to be free from bias and discrimination in all of the adventures of our lives — are rights shared across communities, and the successes routinely witnessed when LGBT voices and energies are embedded in the missions of anti-violence, faith, youth opportunity, business, disability rights, arts, voting rights, charitable, and neighborhood safety groups, for instance, are many and borderline miraculous.
Finally, those same area voices and local energies must be re-committed, not only in the immediate aftermath of Orlando but for all time, to ensure that instances of hate crimes, from the unmistakable to the uncertain, are fully and timely reported to law enforcement. In Milwaukee, in the surrounding communities, and in virtually every region of our state, we benefit from an educated, sensitive, responsive, and professional cadre of police officers and leaders who genuinely “get this” — that is, that physical violence visited on our residents and motivated by actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability is in violation of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by the President in October of 2009. The civil rights units of the Federal Bureau of Investigation throughout Wisconsin and every other state are not only committed to investigate hate crimes and to present the results of those inquiries for possible prosecution but are also commissioned to record, maintain, track, and report on hate crimes in all categories of offense so that law enforcement resources may be appropriately allocated and, arguably just as important, to ensure that the Congress and all United States citizens appreciate the nature, the frequency, the location, and the severity of the conduct — along with the remedial actions of law enforcement to it.
The hate crime committed against the patrons of the Pulse night club on June 12 now takes its rightful but hideous place in those annals of law enforcement, of Congressional reporting, and, most significantly, of the wounds to our nation’s spirit and enduring history. In abiding honor and vested memory of those who died, those who were injured, and those who will similarly suffer throughout their lives from the terror of that early morning, all residents of Wisconsin and of our country—not only members of our LGBT family — are suitably prompted to identity perceived hate crimes, to facilitate timely communications to first responders, to support victims and witnesses in difficult but critical investigations, and to educate fellow citizens on their obligations under the law and on the delivery of justice and resurrection to survivors of hate.
As we observe and celebrate the 240th year of our glorious American nation, we also pause in contemplative acknowledgment that our history includes pains and troubles — times and places, indeed, where our hearts have suffered in a thousand and diverse ways. But it is from the hornbooks of our hearts, from the terrible experiences of this month and many others, that we grow in our intelligence, that we take our true identity, and that we reveal our soul in peace, in fellowship, and in aspiration.
James L. Santelle is the immediate past presidentially-appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in which capacity he also served on the Civil Rights component of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. He has been a regular supporter of area LGBT organizations, including Fair Wisconsin, Diverse & Resilient, the Cream City Foundation, and the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.
President Barack Obama delivered remarks on the mass shooting in Orlando from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room on June 12, shortly before 2 p.m. The following is a transcript of the president’s statement, as provided by the White House.
THE PRESIDENT: Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder — a horrific massacre — of dozens of innocent people. We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city. Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.
I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors. The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement. I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation.
We are still learning all the facts. This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.
This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people. This could have been any one of our communities. So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need — they are going to get it. As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.
We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way. Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse. It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.
This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.
So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.
Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.
In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy. Their names. Their faces. Who they were. The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world. Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families — that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable. And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change. We need to demonstrate that we are defined more — as a country — by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.
As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts — friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives. In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.
May God bless the Americans we lost this morning. May He comfort their families. May God continue to watch over this country that we love. Thank you.
The wages of Rebecca Bradley’s “sins” have caught up with her in a big way. But will they lead to the death of her career — and will they further corrode the reputation of her political handler, Gov. Scott Walker?
Wisconsinites will get part of the answer on April 5, when Bradley, currently serving as an interim Supreme Court justice, faces her infinitely more qualified challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg at the polls for a full 10-year term on the bench.
Foremost among Bradley’s “sins” are the viscerally hateful anti-gay columns she penned as a student at Marquette University about gays, people with AIDS, Democrats, feminists and every other group singled out by the extreme right during the “culture wars” of the early 1990s.
She claims to have changed her views about gays in the ensuing 20-plus years. Supporting that claim, Bradley sought out WiG’s endorsement for her first and only judicial election. During our interview with her, she seemed at ease, quite likeable and sincere in her support for LGBT rights.
But on every other far-right issue, Bradley has remained immovable, which suggests that her support for LGBT individuals comes with unspoken qualifiers. In light of our interview, for instance, we were surprised to learn recently that she sits on the governing board of the St. Thomas Moore Lawyers Society. That organization pushes for “religious rights” of the kind that involve trampling on other people’s rights in the name of religion, such as allowing people who own public accommodations to deny services to gays and lesbians if they feel to do so would violate their beliefs.
The only evidence Bradley has offered of her more inclusive adult sensibilities seems either self-serving or scandalous. She appeared at a Fair Wisconsin fundraiser, which proves she’s willing to rub elbows with LGBT people to further her electoral career. She says she’d perform a same-sex wedding, if asked; but after four years on the bench she’s never been asked, which indicates she doesn’t know many gay and lesbian people very well, at least not the marrying kind.
Ironically, the most convincing evidence that Bradley’s strict Roman Catholic code of sexual morality has evolved comes from her personal life: She was divorced after eight years of marriage, had an extramarital affair and had what sounds like a “friend with benefits” relationship with her former boss after they stopped dating “exclusively.” She’s been accused of breaching ethical legal standards by representing that boss in a custody battle with his ex-wife, despite the objection of the ex-wife and her lawyer. Her description of that episode suggests a measure of petty vindictiveness between the two women — a scenario that’s troubling because she took the personal soap opera into a court of law.
Otherwise, Bradley has maintained her fundamentalist Catholic view on choice — and even contraception. In 2002, she equated abortion with murder and compared it to slavery and the Holocaust. In 2006, she penned a column defending a pharmacist’s right to deny contraception as an act of religious conscience. Defying scientific consensus, she described certain contraceptives as abortifacients, meaning they cause miscarriages. That’s a view that elevates Catholic doctrine above science.
Friends and allies
The most telling indicator of Bradley’s current state of mind is the company she keeps, and that should trouble voters for a variety of reasons. Her life is peopled with the same kinds of organizations and individuals with whom she was linked in the early 1990s.
Bradley has not earned her judicial career through her stellar educational background, legal writings, major cases or her legal career — which in part has consisted of defending doctors from malpractice claims and corporations from liability suits. She’s won the kind of honors that glossy magazines sell to advertisers, and she received the 2010 Women in Law Award from the Wisconsin Law Journal. But she did not have a Supreme Court-level legal profile outside of religious- and corporate-right circles.
Since 2012 Bradley has been hand-groomed for the bench by Walker, who’s appointed her to every judicial position she’s held during the ensuing four-year period. It’s easy to imagine that Walker was mentoring Bradley expressly for the state’s highest court.
If that’s true, it must have felt like a windfall for Walker when Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks dropped dead just months after Walker had elevated Bradley to an appeals court position. The tragedy gave Walker the chance to anoint his disciple as an interim justice on the high court.
Now, just a few months later, she can run as an incumbent for Crooks’ expired 10-year term.
During Crooks’ tenure, the Wisconsin Supreme Court leaned conservative by a 5–2 margin. But while Crooks ruled with his right-wing judicial colleagues 80 percent of the time, Bradley likely can be counted on as reliably as Walker’s other slavish supporters on the bench. She certainly feels as if she can count on him: She registered the domain name justicebradley.com before she’d even applied for the interim position — possibly before Crooks’ body was interned.
Bradley’s fierce partisanship and lack of political independence should concern voters. The Republican Party is virtually handling her campaign, which is being heavily funded by special-interest corporate groups. It’s safe to say that she’s deeply in the pocket of those corporations, which are bent on rolling back clean air and water regulations, getting rid of unions and allowing for endless political spending. She’s also served as president of the Milwaukee Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, a group whose mission could have been lifted from Charles and David Koch’s greediest dreams.
The combination of Bradley’s over-the-top anti-gay writings and her fierce loyalty to the Republican Party and its moneyed special interests have prompted protests against her during the final weeks of the campaign.
We Are Wisconsin has either staged or planned demonstrations outside of every Supreme Court candidate debate. Protesters have carried signs printed with some of Bradley’s most offensive writings. But group member Saul Owen said it’s the totality of Bradley’s record — the unseemly partisanship, the big-money support and the political opportunism as well as the hate rhetoric — that has local leaders and advocates alarmed, not only by Bradley’s candidacy but about the degradation of justice in Wisconsin that it embodies.
“She can’t be trusted to hold everyone equally under the eyes of the law,” Newton said.
We Are Wisconsin has called upon Bradley to pull out of the race, charging that her campaign has tainted even further the Supreme Court’s already heavily strained credibility.
We Are Wisconsin plans to hold its next demonstration on Friday, March 18, outside a debate hosted by Wisconsin Public Television.
Bradley and Kloppenburg were virtually tied in the most recent poll, which was taken in February. That was before the indefatigable Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, uncovered and shared Bradley’s explosive hate writings from the Marquette Tribune. It also was before a misleading but effective anti-Kloppenburg television ad hit the airwaves, along with other contorted and inflammatory advertising.
The ads were paid for by an astroturf group misleadingly named Wisconsin Alliance for Reform. The group formed last October to run ads attacking former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold. The group’s Web domain reportedly was purchased by Lorri Pickens, whose husband has connections to Bemis, a company owned by the family that Ron Johnson married into. The company remains one of Johnson’s company’s best customers.
For a long time, Pickens has been associated, either directly or indirectly, with right-wing corporate PACs such as the Koch-brothers-backed Wisconsin Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. She has also worked with Julaine Appling’s anti-gay Wisconsin Family Action, and she managed Vote Yes for Marriage, the group that supported the 2006 state constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage and later sought to overturn the state’s domestic partnership registry. (WFA is not making an endorsement in the Supreme Court race.)
That connection alone argues against Bradley’s self-proclaimed new worldview. And, on close inspection, her professional life has been lived in a closed loop with some of the same right-wing evangelicals and corporate-owned political hacks with whom she bonded during her years as a shock columnist at the Marquette Tribune, writing about how women play a role in their own rape.
Walker claims he had no knowledge of Rebecca Bradley’s writings when he appointed her as an interim justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bradley didn’t disclose the college columns in her applications for judicial appointments. Where the forms asked for academic and extracurricular activities, she listed her time as a Marquette University student senator and as editor of the student newspaper at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School.
But Walker’s disavowal is hard for anyone informed about his history with Bradley to believe.
Both were student Republicans whose time at Marquette overlapped, and both wrote conservative commentaries for the Marquette Tribune. Today, the two travel in the same corporate-right Republican circles, and they’re practically neighbors. Their Wauwatosa homes sit around the corner from each other, less than half a mile apart.
Bradley’s most controversial writings, including the column in which she called gay people “queers” and “degenerates” who deserved to die of AIDS, were published two years after Walker dropped out of college. But they had a common acquaintance — Jim Villa, one of Walker’s longest and most trusted advisers. Villa served as Walker’s chief of staff for five years when the governor was Milwaukee County executive, and he also served as an informal adviser during Walker’s brief presidential run last year.
Villa was a target during the John Doe investigation into possible illegal political activities among Walker’s Milwaukee County staff. Investigators, who suspected Villa of misconduct in public office and solicitation of public employees to commit misconduct, applied for a search warrant of Villa’s home and office.
Villa was not charged and went on to receive a cushy appointment from Walker in 2014 as the UW System’s vice president of university relations. Villa, who was president of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin at the time, had no discernible qualifications for the job, which came with a salary of $178,000. Critics of Walker’s civil service overhaul have cited Villa’s hiring as a blatant example of the cronyism they say will become the new norm in state hiring decisions under the revamped law.
Ross contends that it’s inconceivable Villa wouldn’t have mentioned the columns to Walker, given their inflammatory nature and the pair’s decades-long relationship.
But Villa denied that allegation to The Associated Press, saying, “Not only did I not speak to him about it, I didn’t remember those writings.”
That statement rings especially false because Villa’s gay sexual orientation, a well-known secret in GOP political circles, would make Bradley’s diatribes against “homosexuals” hard to forget — especially given their shocking level of malice: “The homosexuals and drug addicts who do essentially kill themselves and others through their own behavior deservedly receive none of my sympathy,” Bradley wrote on Feb. 28, 1992, in a statement that typifies the aggressive style of her writings at the time.
For all the public knows, it might have been Villa’s coming out to his friend Bradley that led to her changing attitude toward LGBT people. But Villa declined to return a phone message left by WiG seeking clarification.
A lose-lose situation?
There’s a reason Walker has refused to say whether he would have appointed Bradley if he’d known of her public writing in advance: If he replied in the affirmative, he’d run the risk of alienating all but the right-wing evangelists who form the hard core of Republican loyalists. On the other hand, if Walker condemned Bradley’s unseemly written tirades, then he might suffer a backlash from the same voters.
Perhaps that’s why Bradley’s apologies for her past writings and her insistence that she has changed have struck so many people as hollow. If she backtracks on the vitriol that would inspire homophobes to the polls to support her in droves, she’s undermining her own election effort.
Bradley’s attempts to temper her past writings already have some of her most bigoted supporters up in arms.
On Charlie Sykes’ online blog Right Wisconsin, one anti-gay follower wrote: “If Bradley backs down here, she loses my vote. She needs to show some spine. The majority of voters in April will be older and whiter. That demographic does not thing (sic) gays are equal to straights.
Another wrote (quoted verbatim): “If they stay within their sex preference and not frakkin cheat, that gene goes away. Benefit for marriage is for those who can reproduce within their sex preference. BY the way, she was correct back then, gays, bisexuals and drug users spread HIV and cost millions in healthcare costs. Go ride a seatless bike.”
Bradley surely does not want to be associated with that kind of ignorance, but without such supporters she might very well lose the race, despite the millions that corporate special interests will likely spend on her.
The same holds true for Walker. His political fate might now be intertwined with his Frankenstein’s monster. With approval numbers that are under water, Walker cannot afford to be associated with either the bigoted rage surrounding his surrogate’s image or a repudiation of that rage.
This time, whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court race, Walker seems to have manipulated himself into a corner. After all the failed attempts he’s made to keep his strategic moves in the dark, he still hasn’t learned that he’s being watched by people like Ross and reported on by all of the state’s responsible media.
Here’s what people are saying about Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.:
“This is reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive. @realDonaldTrump, you don’t get it. This makes us less safe.”
— Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and Democratic candidate for president, via Twitter.
“Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin. Now, Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.”
— Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator and Democratic candidate for president.
“Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”
— Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and GOP candidate for president, via Twitter.
“Well, that is not my policy. I’ve introduced legislation in the Senate that would put in place a three-year moratorium on refugees coming from countries where ISIS or al-Qaida control a substantial amount of territory. And the reason is that’s where the threat is coming from.”
— Ted Cruz, Texas senator and GOP candidate for president.
“There are folks in this race who don’t care about what the law says because they’re used to being able to just fire people indiscriminately on television. So, they don’t have to worry about what laws say or not say.”
— Chris Christie, New Jersey governor and GOP candidate for president.
“Trump’s overreaction is as dangerous as President Obama’s under-reaction.”
— Carly Fiorina, former technology executive and GOP candidate for president.
“Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries. I do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”
— Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and GOP candidate for president.
I think this whole notion that we can just say no more Muslims, and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in. Religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from. … It’s a mistaken notion.
— Dick Cheney, former vice president, speaking with radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“That does not reflect serious thought. Just when you think he can’t stoop lower, he does.”
— Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
“As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine. American exceptionalism means always defending our inalienable rights, not attacking them when it’s politically convenient.”
— Matt Moore, chairman of the Republican Party of South Carolina, via Twitter.
“There are some issues that transcend politics. While my position is certainly political, I am an American first. There should never be a day in the United States of America when people are excluded based solely on their race or religion. It is un-Republican. It is unconstitutional. And it is un-American.”
– Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the Republican Party of New Hampshire.
“Is Trump talking about Muslim-American citizens? If so, the right to enter one’s country of citizenship is an internationally guaranteed human right.”
— Leti Volpp, an expert on immigration law at the University of California at Berkeley.
“You have an issue with people coming in. Imagine it’s a human body and you have this thing that’s entering the body breaking it down and creating illnesses. All he is saying is don’t let anything else in right now and fix the problem before we do. It shouldn’t be religion-related, but unfortunately it is religion-related.”
— Trump supporter John Metzer, who works in real estate in Atlanta, at a Trump rally Monday night in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
“Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty will denounce the reckless, demagogic @realDonaldTrump plan for Muslims.”
— Russell Moore, president of the ethics and religious liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, via Twitter.
“I thought long ago that things he said would hurt his prospects, and he continues to go up.”
— Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who called Trump’s plan “just foolish.”