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Pro-Trump protestors storm U.S. Capitol Building- U.S. Senate & House evacuated Capitol on lockdown

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Editor’s Note: The following reporting was compiled and published in real time as the events unfolded on this historic day:

WASHINGTON – Protestors stormed the United States Capitol Building Wednesday afternoon disrupting the formal certification of the Electoral College vote results in a joint session of Congress.

Protestors had gained entrance to the building, after rushing the Capitol steps and as U.S. Capitol Police withdrew. Several dozen managed to gather in the lobby just outside the House chamber.

The Sergeant at Arms of both bodies have locked down their respective chambers and the Blade has learned that the Senators are being evacuated. Vice-President Mike Pence and Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley have been taken to a secure area by the U.S. Secret Service and Capitol Police.

House members and staff are sheltering in place near the House Chamber, the Blade was told by a senior law enforcement source that Federal Protective Service, Secret Service are being deployed to the US Capitol to assist the Capitol Police. Lawmakers have also been given gas masks indicating potential deployment of chemical deterrents within the building.

Protesters breached inside the Senate chamber. One got up on the dais and yelled “Trump won that election.” A source tells the Blade that House members have been evacuated and security around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line to the succession of the presidency, has tripled.

Televised footage from inside the House Chamber showed uniform and plainclothes Capitol Police officers with guns drawn pointing at the entrance to the House Chambers which was barricaded.

Screenshot via Dawn Ennis, Editor, Outsports Magazine

Shortly before gaining entrance to the Senate Chambers protestors displaying Confederate flags and U.S. flags were briefly confronted by Capitol Police officers.

Screenshot via Twitter

NBC News reported that a spokesperson for the D.C. Fire and EMS says there have been multiple injuries sustained as a result of the protests at the U.S. Capitol and there is an unconfirmed, at this time, report of one a gunshot victim. A source has confirmed to NBC News that two improvised explosive devices on the Capitol grounds were seized by police and have been safely disarmed.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam sent a tweet out regarding the situation in Washington:

My team and I are working closely with @MayorBowser, @SpeakerPelosi, and @SenSchumer to respond to the situation in Washington, D.C. Per the Mayor’s request, I am sending members of the Virginia National Guard along with 200 Virginia State Troopers.

The White House has released a statement that President Trump has now deployed the National Guard to assist Capitol Police and federal law enforcement. Numerous confirmed reports from journalists, members of Congress, Hill staff, and multiple sources are telling the Blade that several protestors are in fact armed.

Multiple local and Federal law enforcement agencies across the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area are now responding, a Metropolitan Police (DC) source tells the Blade. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has ordered a 6pm curfew for the city.

In Wilmington, Delaware, Wednesday evening, President-Elect Joe Biden addressing reporters is calling the assault on the Capitol “an assault on our democracy.” He then calls on the situation to “end now.” Biden says Trump must go on national television to address what he termed an insurrection.

President-elect Joe Biden calls on Trump to end the Capitol building takeover.

“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the constitution and demand an end to this siege.” Biden said.

The press pool reported that Biden spoke briefly about the events on Capitol Hill, quoting Lincoln and telling Donald Trump to appear on national television and call for an end to the chaos inside the Capitol. 

He walked off from the podium, ignoring shouted questions about whether he was concerned about the inauguration, then turned around and returned to stage to say:

“I am not concerned about my safety, security, or the inauguration. I’m not concerned. The American people are going to stand up, stand up now. Enough is enough is enough.”

(1:22 pm Pacific) President Trump has delivered a ‘taped’ message a few minutes ago that has been posted to his Twitter account saying “it is now time to go home.” Trump again calls it a ‘fraudulent’ election and says the election was stolen.

Protestors inside the Capitol Rotunda via Twitter

California Governor Gavin Newsom cancelled his COVID-19 press briefing and update today out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety of Governor’s Office staff and issued the following statement in response to the events transpiring at the U.S. Capitol:

“Peaceful protest is an important mechanism of our democracy but what we are witnessing in our nation’s Capitol building is reprehensible and an outright assault to our democracy and Democratic institutions. 

“The people of California have spoken, and our congressional delegation should never have to fear for their lives to represent Californians. We are concerned for the safety of California’s congressional delegation and U.S. Capitol staff, and are reaching out to offer support in every way possible. President Trump must call for an end to this escalating situation, acknowledge the will of the people to bring President-Elect Biden to the White House and move immediately to a peaceful transition of power.”

CBS White House reporter Kathryn Watson tweeted referring to Trump’s video message:

The president does not condemn the violence once in this entire video. He does call the rioters “special” and says “we love you.”

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser in a press conference said that she has ordered a city-wide curfew starting at 6pm Eastern. The mayor said that regional mutual-aid law enforcement agencies that will be assisting the Metropolitan and Capitol Police in restoring order to the Capitol building and grounds includes troopers from the Virginia State Police, Maryland State Police, and troopers from the New Jersey State Police.

DC Police Chief Robert Contee confirms that his officers will be vigorously enforcing the curfew and also assisting in clearing and securing the Capitol. The Chief also confirmed that there was a female gunshot victim inside the building who was transported to hospital. Contee said no further details were available. The Chief pointed out that the protests has crossed over from a protest to a riot which was declared once Capitol security was breeched. Contee tells reporters that these “are rioters.”

Pro-Trump rioter inside Capitol via Twitter

Capitol Police in riot gear have cleared the Capitol’s East Front stairs as the rioters begin to slowly disperse. The FBI’s SWAT & sniper teams were also deployed earlier to assist. As it grows dark in the early evening in Washington, multiple law enforcement agencies have now started to arrive.

The Blade was told by a law enforcement source at 5:20pm Eastern that police are retaking the Capitol initiating a room by room search and arresting any rioters still occupying rooms and spaces within the building.

NBC News reports Wednesday evening that law enforcement is actively deploying flash bang grenades and chemical riot control deices to clear the Capitol grounds.

The woman who was shot inside the Capitol near the U.S. House Chamber has died at a local hospital according to multiple sources. D.C. police chief Contee told the Associated Press that “three other people” died of medical complications at the U.S. Capitol grounds aside from the woman who was shot.

The New York Times reported that Vice President Mike Pence, not President Trump, approved the order to deploy the D.C. National Guard on Wednesday, defense and administration officials said. It was unclear why the president, who is still the commander in chief, did not give the order.

“Chairman [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley] Milley and I just spoke separately with the Vice President and with Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer and Representative Hoyer about the situation at the U.S. Capitol. We have fully activated the D.C. National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation. We are prepared to provide additional support as necessary and appropriate as requested by local authorities. Our people are sworn to defend the constitution and our democratic form of government and they will act accordingly.” Statement by Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller on Full Activation of D.C. National Guard

Screenshot National Guard Troops arriving at the U.S. Capitol Building

Variety is reporting that social media platforms have taken action removing Trump’s video:

Facebook, in an unprecedented action, removed President Trump’s video post to D.C. rioters telling them to “go home” — while also fanning the conspiracy flames that the U.S. election was fraudulent.

“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video,” Facebook VP of integrity Guy Rosen wrote in a tweet. “We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”

Twitter, meanwhile, disabled the ability for users to retweet, comment on or like Trump’s video, but left the video accessible on the service. Trump posted it Wednesday at about 4:17 p.m. ET after a mob of pro-Trump rioters took over the U.S. Capitol and disrupted the tally of electoral votes in Congress.

Twitter said the president’s personal Twitter account would be locked for 12 hours – but only if he deleted the three posts that it had already removed from public view. If he refuses to delete those posts himself, his account will remain locked indefinitely, the company added.

On Facebook, Trump will be blocked from posting for 24 hours.

 In response to the violent disruption by supporters of President Trump as Congress was counting the electoral college votes, Lambda Legal’s CEO, Kevin Jennings issued the following statement: 

“At the core of our work at Lambda Legal is the belief that the United States is a nation committed to the rule of law.  Today’s unprecedented events are a betrayal of that fundamental American commitment, and any pretense to “patriotism” on the part of those who committed today’s acts of desecration of the temple of democracy that is our Capitol building are blasphemous. Our democratic processes must be defended, and we call upon our leaders to utilize any and all processes available to them, including the 25th Amendment, to ensure an orderly transition of power in accordance with the will of the American people as expressed freely at the ballot box in November.”

National Guard troops have now taken up positions around the Capitol complex as Congress prepares to return to work on the certification of the Electoral College Vote. In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Congress will continue once the Capitol and surrounding areas are secured.

The House will pick its work back up and the Senate will reconvene at 8 p.m., a source told the Blade.

“Today, a shameful assault was made on our democracy. It was anointed at the highest level of government. It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden,” Pelosi said.

Reaction from world leaders was that of shock and dismay at the scenes that emanated from Washington today. Nearly all condemned the actions of President Trump for not taking immediate responsibility and action to stop the chaos. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted and called it “disgraceful,” and Germany’s foreign minister called on Trump to “stop trampling on democracy.”

Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau said in a statement, “Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour. Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the US must be upheld – and it will be.”

First Minister of Scotland’s response to chaos in Washington Wednesday

At approximately 7pm Eastern, CNN’s White House reporter Jim Acosta speaking with CNN anchor Jake Tapper reported: “I will tell you, Jake, I talked to a source, a GOP source close to the president who speaks with him regularly, and I take no pleasure in reporting this, but this source tells me that he believes the president is out of his mind.”

Twitter has now locked President Trump out of his account for 12 hours following the tweeted video and several tweets that supported and emboldened the violent mob that stormed the Capitol.

The Senate reconvenes in its chamber at just after 8pm Wednesday with Vice President Mike Pence condemning the violence. Pence praises the response of law enforcement particularly the Capitol Police. His speech is met with a standing ovation by all Senators. McConnell calls the events of earlier in the day an “insurrection.” He adds that criminal behaviour will not dominate nor intimidate the Congress from doings its job.

Senate Democratic Minority leader Chuck Schumer called today’s riots and take-over of the Capitol a “stain on the heart of democracy.” He also labeled the people who invaded the Capitol extremists and rioters. He then thanked the U.S. Secret Service, Capitol Police, and others who kept lawmakers safe. He took aim at President Trump who he labels as bearing a good deal of the blame for the rioter’s actions Schumer said was incited by Trump’s lies and his penchant for allowing violence.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the House back into session at 9pm Eastern Wednesday night as lawmakers resume debate over the certification of the Electoral College Vote.

U.S. House reconvenes after rioters disrupt a Joint Session of the Congress earlier Wednesday.

In a late night statement posted on Twitter, the ⁦@washingtonpost⁩ Editorial Board, echoing, what is now a growing call for action after the events of the day wrote; “The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security.”

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Kansas

Laws against gay sex ruled unconstitutional- but Kansas won’t drop ban

A bill pending in the Kansas Legislature would remove language in the state’s criminal sodomy law that targets LGBTQ people. Advocates say action is decades past due.

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Photo by Blaise Mesa / Kansas News Service

By Blaise Mesa | TOPEKA — Intercourse between same-sex couples technically remains a crime in Kansas even though the provision in state statute was ruled unconstitutional 19 years ago.

Since then, multiple attempts to remove the outdated language have failed.

The latest legislation to change the law has languished in a Statehouse committee without a hearing for over a year.

That bill would remove a line from the Kansas criminal sodomy law that makes sex a crime for “persons who are 16 or more years of age and members of the same sex.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 that such laws were unconstitutional.

“When it comes to something that’s just blatantly unconstitutional, there should be agreement that we follow the law,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat. “We need to repeal it.”

The bill doesn’t change other portions of the sodomy law, and Carmichael says law enforcement has been supportive of the changes for years, yet nothing has happened.

Rep. Stephen Owens, a Hesston Republican who chairs the committee scrutinizing the latest legislation, said he hadn’t reviewed its details or decided whether to hold hearings on the bill. Owens said the committee will deal with other, higher-priority bills first.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says nobody has been convicted of same-sex criminal sodomy for at least five years. Still, Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said the provision has been used to discriminate against LGBTQ people even if they weren’t convicted.

Witt said Kansans were arrested for same-sex relations even after the Supreme Court’s ruling, but the last time he heard that happened was in 2013. The criminal sodomy law also prevented LGBTQ law enforcement officers from being sworn in because violating the statute was a violation of their professional standards. Those standards were later amended to allow LGBTQ officers.

“It is an insult that my life is criminalized,” Witt said. “It is a further insult that people in (the Legislature) think it should stay that way.”

Justice Horn, vice chair of the LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City, said the laws could also make people leave for cities with better civil rights protections. Horn, who is gay, said that hurts the community by hindering economic development while depriving it of diversity.

“I’ve thought plenty of times I could uproot and go to a place where I don’t have to deal with these issues,” Horn said. “I want our kids to grow up, and our youth and the generation coming up to not have to deal with this.”

Witt said the issues have subsided, but as long as it remains codified in state statute the issues could quickly become relevant again if the Legislature’s opinion of LGBTQ people grows worse, which he said is happening. He pointed to the bill last session that limited how transgender people could play sports as evidence of this.

Sharon Brett, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, said outdated state laws are common, but anti-LGBTQ laws send a message to people that they aren’t welcomed in the state.

“It’s a deliberate decision not to amend the code,” Brett said, “to get rid of these provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional.”

Republican Sam Brownback created the Office of the Repealer when he was governor to remove outdated and unconstitutional statutes, but changes to the criminal sodomy law weren’t recommended.

The committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice, where the bill is bottled up, has a full set of hearings next week. Bills preventing shackling of youth in court, allowing people convicted of felonies to receive food stamps and adding new requirements for officers serving search warrants are currently scheduled for discussion.

“Given the opportunity, we might look at” the legislation to rewrite the state sodomy law, said Owens, the committee chair. “I wouldn’t say that is a priority for us to look at this time just because of all the other corrections and juvenile justice matters.”

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Blaise Mesa is the Social Services and Criminal Justice reporter for The Kansas News Service.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Kansas News Service and is republished by permission.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court will hear challenges to affirmative action at Harvard & UNC

Six years ago, a divided court upheld the University of Texas’ consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process

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U.S. Supreme Court (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

By Amy Howe | WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to reconsider the role of race in college admissions. In a brief order, the justices agreed to take up two cases asking them to overrule their landmark 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, holding that the University of Michigan could consider race as part of its efforts to assemble a diverse student body. The decision to grant review in the two new cases suggests that the court’s conservative majority is poised to do just that.

The cases are Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. The court consolidated them for oral argument, and they likely will be argued early in the 2022-23 term, which begins in October.

Six years ago, a divided court upheld the University of Texas’ consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the 4-3 majority in Fisher v. University of Texas, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. The composition of the court has changed significantly since then: Although Justice Elena was recused from the Texas case because she had been involved in it as the solicitor general of the United States, Kennedy retired in 2018 and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, while Justice Amy Coney Barrett succeeded Ginsburg, who died in 2020.

It was therefore a much more conservative court that considered the latest petitions asking the justices to revisit the issue. Both petitions arose from long-running lawsuits filed by a group called Students for Fair Admissions. Founded by Edward Blum, a former stockbroker who also backed the challenger in Fisher (as well as the challengers in Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 case that narrowed the Voting Rights Act), the group describes its mission as helping to “restore colorblind principles to our nation’s schools, colleges and universities.”

The first case, filed against Harvard University, contends that the university’s race-conscious admissions policy discriminates against Asian American applicants. According to the group, Asian Americans are significantly less likely to be admitted than similarly qualified white, Black, or Hispanic applicants. Both the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit upheld Harvard’s policy, prompting SFFA to come to the Supreme Court in February 2021. The group urged the justices to take up the case and overrule Grutter, describing the 2003 ruling as a decision that was “grievously wrong” and now “sustains admissions programs that intentionally discriminate against historically oppressed minorities” – in the past, Jewish students, and now Asian Americans. The group also asked the justices to weigh in on whether Harvard’s policy violates Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act, which bans racial discrimination by entities receiving federal funding.

Harvard told the justices that there is no reason for them to intervene in the dispute. Its policy is consistent with the Supreme Court’s precedents, the university stressed, and SFFA’s allegations to the contrary rely on a “thoroughly distorted presentation of” the facts in the case. Harvard takes race into account “in a flexible and nonmechanical way” for the benefit of “highly qualified candidates.” And there is certainly no reason for the court to “overrule more than 40 years of decisions regarding the limited consideration of race in university admissions,” Harvard concluded.

The justices did not act on SFFA’s petition immediately. Instead, in June they sought the federal government’s views – a maneuver that had the effect  of delaying the case’s progression. In a brief filed in December, the Biden administration acknowledged that the Trump administration had supported SFFA in the lower courts, but it explained that it had “reexamined the case” and now recommended that the justices deny review.

The second case, filed against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the state’s flagship public university, argues that the university’s consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process violates both Title VI and the Constitution. (Unlike Harvard, UNC is a public university and is therefore covered by the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.) After a federal district court in North Carolina rejected SFFA’s arguments, the group came straight to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to take up the case, alongside the Harvard case, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit could rule.

UNC defended its admissions policy in the Supreme Court, telling the justices that it has also implemented programs to increase diversity without considering race – for example, by actively recruiting low-income and first-generation college students. But it concluded, it wrote, that there is no alternative that would create a student body “about as diverse and academically qualified as its holistic, race-conscious admissions process.” And although it acknowledged that the question at the center of the case is “indisputably important,” it stressed that there was no reason for the Supreme Court to take the “extremely rare” step of bypassing the court of appeals.

The justices considered both cases together at three consecutive conferences – on Jan. 7, Jan. 14, and Jan. 22 – before granting review on Monday and consolidating them.

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Amy Howe is the former editor and a reporter for SCOTUSblog and still is a contributor. She primarily writes for her eponymous blog, Howe on the Court.

Before turning to full-time blogging, she served as counsel in over two dozen merits cases at the Supreme Court and argued two cases there.

Amy is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a master’s degree in Arab Studies and a law degree from Georgetown University.

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The preceding article was previously published by SCOTUSBlog and is republished by permission.

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Ohio

Heavy accumulation of snowfall makes clearing it a ‘fabulous’ effort

Winters in Cleveland can be a dreary time, but now we can hopefully at least look forward to another visit….

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Photo by Bethany Staley via Facebook/Twitter

LAKEWOOD, Oh. – As an Arctic air mass moved across the Midwest and into the Northeastern U.S. this past weekend, drawing in precipitation that led to several inches of snow falling with upwards of a foot or more in some areas and temperatures hovering in the teens to mid twenties, residents in this suburban Cleveland city were greeted with the sight of one person apparently untroubled by the weather.

The Plain Dealer/cleveland.com reported that a magical being appeared on Lakewood’s Wagar Avenue this weekend, snow blowing the sidewalk after Northeast Ohio got hit with inches of snow on Sunday.

A person dressed in an inflatable unicorn costume grabbed neighbors’ attention, working their way down Wagar Avenue, snow blowing the sidewalk for the entire street.

Local Lakewood resident, Bethany Staley took a couple of photos and a video and posted them to the Lakewood Community Facebook group, with the caption “Such an awesome community!!! The Wagar Ave. Unicorn was back this year and just made my night!!! My family and I loved watching him plow on by!!! Thank you, neighbor.”

The pictures were then shared on Twitter Sunday by SuzyLeeInCLE aka @WeThePeopleCLE which was then taken viral by appreciative users since its initial posting.

John Corlett replied to the tweet with a photo taken of the unicorn on Christmas Day in 2020.

“I was actually kind of sad when it didn’t snow this year on Christmas. I thought we might see him again,” Corlett said. “I remember that he even snow-blowed the driveway of someone who lived across the street.”

The Plain Dealer/cleveland.com noted; “Winters in Cleveland can be a dreary time, but now we can hopefully at least look forward to another visit from the mystical Lakewood snow-blowing unicorn, the next time it snows.”

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