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Police shootings continue daily, despite a pandemic, protests and pushes for reform

By Mark Berman, et al.
Police shootings continue daily, despite a pandemic, protests and pushes for reform
John Fizer visits the grave of his daughter Hannah Fizer in Marshall, Mo., on July 17. She was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Sedalia, Mo., on June 13, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Christopher Smith

On Oct. 27, an Uber driver in Pompano Beach, Fla., reported that he had been carjacked. A passenger attacked him, slashing his hand with a knife and stealing his Mercedes-Benz, the driver said.

The driver had left his cellphone in the car, and police tracked it into Palm Beach County. Sheriff's deputies found the vehicle and 20-year-old Ryan Fallo. He ignored commands to drop the knife and approached them, the sheriff's office said, and they shot and killed him. The shooting was later ruled justified.

The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office released a photo of a knife with what appeared to be blood on the blade and handle. But it did not release the names of the two deputies involved. Instead, it kept their identities confidential under a Florida law billed as a way to protect crime victims. On paperwork invoking the law, both deputies signed their names in the space marked "Signature of Victim."

"I don't know why they're claiming themselves as potential victims ... He posed no threat. He didn't have a gun," said Ryan Fallo's father, Larry. "I just think it's concerning when they pull up the blue shield and hide behind it."

The two Palm Beach deputies are not alone in using the law to shield their identities after shooting and killing someone. It's a new twist in the otherwise unchanging landscape of fatal police shootings, which have continued daily despite a pandemic, protests and pushes for reform.

The Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in 2015, the year after a White officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed a Black 18-year old. Over the past six years, officers have fatally shot more than 6,400 people, an average of nearly a thousand a year, or almost three each day. The yearly toll even reached a new high of 1,021 fatal shootings in 2020. Midway through this year, fatal police shootings are down compared with the same period last year. They have fluctuated month to month since the project began, ending near 1,000 annually.

Since Ferguson, departments across the country have taken steps toward reform, but these efforts have been inconsistent and incomplete. Most police departments still do not use body cameras. Experts in law enforcement and criminal justice say there have not been the large-scale policy or legal shifts that might reduce uses of force. And sending mental health teams in response to people in crisis, alongside or instead of armed officers, remains the exception.

The fatal shootings range from what experts describe as the unavoidable - including officers coming under gunfire - to a handful that prosecutors consider criminal. Most of those killed have been armed. Nearly every shooting has been ruled justified. But observers and experts contend many could have been averted with less-aggressive tactics.

American policing is not set up for across-the-board shifts, experts said, given that there are more than 15,000 local police and sheriff's departments, each with its own policies, practices and training.

"There's enormous inertia to the police practices that lead to shooting," said Richard Berk, a professor of criminology and statistics at the University of Pennsylvania. "Whatever's driving police shootings probably changes gradually."

Efforts to change policing are also complicated by the politics of reform, with those on the left blaming overly aggressive policing and systemic racism, and those on the right arguing that unjustified police shootings are rare and not motivated by bias.

Police patrol a nation awash with firearms, and researchers have found higher rates of fatal shootings by officers in states where gun ownership is higher. Countries where police kill fewer people tend to have fewer guns.

In the United States, fatal shootings by police are both rare and constant. Tens of millions of people cross paths with police each year, and most of those encounters end without the use of force.

"The vast majority of those fatal shootings are lawful, righteous shootings," said Daniel Oates, a former police chief in Miami Beach, Aurora, Colo., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

But, he said, "a percentage of them are bad training, bad policy, bad day by the cop, not performing at their best." Prosecutors charged more officers for on-duty shootings in 2020 in comparison with 2019. Still, Oates said that despite the fusillade of criticism, policing has improved significantly.

"The narrative of the last year has been that 'Oh my God, police are wildly out of control,' " Oates said. "That's not true. If you tracked that [fatal shooting] data from 30, 40 years ago, I'm sure the numbers would be much, much, much, much higher. There's been a reform movement around the use of force in American policing."

The New York City Police Department, where Oates once worked, publishes annual reports on its officers' uses of force. In the early 1970s, officers in the country's biggest local police force shot and killed dozens of people each year. By the 2010s, the number was in the single digits in many years.

Nationwide data, however, are incomplete. Between 1976 and 2015, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program recorded no more than 460 fatal shootings by police in any single year. The Post's database, launched in 2015, has found more than double that number every year. The FBI's long-promised new program meant to fill the gaps is voluntary - and still incomplete.

- - -

In some cases, the only surviving witnesses are the officers involved. Despite a push since 2015 for police body cameras and the periodic emergence of surveillance footage or bystander cellphone video, more than 80% of fatal police shootings still were not filmed, according to The Post's database.

Some fatal shootings draw intense scrutiny of police actions that might otherwise escape notice. After Louisville police killed Breonna Taylor in March 2020, the uproar led to reforms.

But few cases become national news. When police in Springfield, Ore., shot and killed a 32-year-old named Chase Brooks the day after Taylor was killed, his death received little notice outside the area. "He's not on the news every day like everybody else has been," Karen Brooks said about her son.

Police and other officials often cite ongoing investigations, exemptions in public records laws or other restrictions in declining to release information, documents or footage after shootings. A Post investigation found that in 2015, departments withheld the names of officers in about 1 in 5 fatal shootings.

In Florida, some departments have gone a step further and are now turning to the use of Marsy's Law to shield their officers' names. This law, which voters passed in 2018, says victims of crimes can ask authorities to keep private "information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim's family." More than a dozen states, including Kentucky, have adopted similar measures. The deputies in Palm Beach County both invoked it after Fallo's death last year.

The top prosecutor in Palm Beach County declined to file charges in the killing. In a letter in May, State Attorney Dave Aronberg said a police dashboard camera filmed the deputies "unsuccessfully pleading with Fallo to surrender peacefully" and drop the knife, and that a bystander's cellphone footage showed Fallo moving toward the deputies. Fallo raised the knife "and began to make a lunging motion towards the officers," who then shot him, Aronberg wrote.

The secrecy measure in Florida has generated controversy. An investigation by ProPublica and USA Today last year found that sheriff's offices there routinely shielded the names of officers who "used force that resulted in a civilian's injury."

It also has led to a court battle. Two police officers in Tallahassee shot and killed people in separate incidents last year, and city officials intended to name the officers, but a police union fought that in court. An appeals court sided with the officers, and the case is pending before the Florida Supreme Court.

These cases are stark examples of a pattern that experts say persists nationwide: After police kill someone, they also often shape what the public learns about the killing.

"They write the reports, they give the statements, and other people's accounts are not taken seriously," said Philip Stinson, a criminology professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Sometimes, Stinson said, video evidence will disprove an officer's statement or the police account. In Minneapolis, police put out a statement after George Floyd died on May 25, 2020, saying he "physically resisted officers" before "suffering medical distress." The emergence of a bystander's cellphone video showing Derek Chauvin pinning Floyd under his knee portrayed a far different reality.

"But in most of these cases," Stinson said, "police still own the narrative."

- - -

Two weeks after Floyd was filmed gasping for air, an officer in Atlanta shot a 27-year-old Black man in the back, killing him during a confrontation at a Wendy's restaurant.

Officers at the scene were responding to a complaint about a man asleep in a car at a drive-through when they encountered Rayshard Brooks. He failed a field sobriety test, grabbed a Taser from an officer and ran, pointing it at the officer who shot him, officials said. This shooting, coming amid nationwide protests, spurred a new wave of public anger, and the Atlanta police chief resigned.

Since The Post began tracking cases, Black people have been shot and killed at higher rates than White people.

White people are 60% of the American population and have accounted for 45% of those fatally shot by police. Black people are 13% of the population but have been 23% of those shot and killed by police. (In about 1 in 10 cases, The Post has not been able to determine the race of the person killed by police.)

In a 2016 report, the Center for Policing Equity, a research group, studied use-of-force data - from fatal police shootings to physical encounters - for a dozen police departments and found stark racial disparities. The report found that the average use-of-force rate for Black people was 2.5 times higher than the overall rate and 3.6 times the rate for White people.

Racial disparities persist because they are part of the larger, systemic issues that play out in policing, said Justin Nix, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

"We have very clear evidence that these disparities are real," he said.

"Black and Hispanic people are killed at higher rates by way of their being stopped at higher rates," Nix said. "And part of what explains their being stopped at higher rates is geographically where they live is historically where crime has clustered, where poverty has clustered, where opportunity isn't as great."

But the debate about what role bias might play persists. "It's much harder to parse out how much of that disparity is attributable to bias on the part of officers, whether it's explicit or implicit," Nix said.

Most of the people - 58% - shot and killed by police since 2015 were armed with guns, according to The Post's database. And 15% were armed with knives, the database shows.

Research has revealed a link between fatal police shootings and how saturated a region is with guns. Nationwide, there are more than 700,000 local law enforcement officers, and experts say there could be between 300 million and 400 million guns.

Daniel Nagin, a professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, examined fatal police shootings that The Post tracked between 2015 and 2018. In an article published last year, Nagin wrote that he had found "a pronounced, highly significant association between" police shootings in a state and the prevalence of guns in that state.

He calculated the rate of gun ownership in each state by studying Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallies of suicides by firearm and an estimate of households where adults are thought to have guns. The higher the rate of gun ownership, the more likely it was police would encounter people "armed or suspected to be armed, which in turn results in a greater frequency of police using fatal force," he wrote. The connection was particularly pronounced in states such as Oklahoma, Alaska, New Mexico and Arizona.

"If there's more guns around, then there's going to be more encounters between police and citizens with guns," Nagin said in an interview. "And that's a deadly recipe. ... If you're in a place with more guns, you're going to be more leery about the possibility that the person is armed."

- - -

Year after year, numerous police shootings have followed two types of police-civilian encounters: reports of people in the throes of mental health crises and domestic violence.

On May 26, 2020, the day after Floyd's death, officers in Lansing, Mich., shot and killed 37-year-old Jason Gallegos. Officials said later that Gallegos had struggled with mental illness, as did nearly 1,500 other people shot and killed by police since 2015 - more than 1 in 5 people shot by officers over that period.

In Lansing, police were called to the apartment where Gallegos lived after he accidentally fired a gun, argued with his mother and grabbed her wrist, according to a review by the Michigan attorney general's office. His mother told a police negotiator that Gallegos was on medication for "many mental illnesses," according to the review.

After police coaxed him outside, Gallegos came with a shotgun and shot an officer in the leg, the review said. Six officers fired at Gallegos, killing him. The attorney general's office said the officers acted lawfully.

"There was no opportunity to use de-escalation techniques," an assistant attorney general wrote. "The officers had no choice but to fire to eliminate the threat."


In some cases, experts say, people pose undeniable, deadly threats. But in others, they said, mental health professionals could help keep tensions down - particularly when people are a threat only to themselves and the arrival of armed officers may cause an escalation.

These types of cases have fueled a push to let mental health professionals, rather than armed officers, respond to certain calls. Eugene, Ore., has had such a program for years. San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have started similar efforts. Experts say these efforts - if widely adopted - could avert some shootings.

Last year, the sheriff's office in Orange County, Fla., launched a pilot program dispatching behavioral-health clinicians alongside deputies. Clinicians are "in a better position to help people who are in crisis," Sheriff John Mina said in a video announcing the program.

Domestic violence is another kind of crisis that police are often called to investigate. Since 2015, more than 1,000 people have been killed by police after calls about domestic disturbances.

In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, nearly 1 in 5 fatal shootings by police followed such calls, slightly up from the previous year and the most in any single year since The Post began tracking fatal police shootings.

On May 28, 2020, with the country gripped by unrest over policing in Minneapolis and beyond, officers in Ogden, Utah, responded to a 911 call from a woman who had fled her home, saying her husband had assaulted and threatened to kill her.

Two officers in Ogden, which is north of Salt Lake City, headed to the house, along with two state probation and parole agents who happened to be in the area.

One of the officers, Nathan Lyday, spoke to the man through a glass storm door, according to an account from Weber County Attorney Christopher F. Allred. The man in the house - later identified by officials as John Coleman - was "uncooperative and confrontational," shutting the door on Lyday, the prosecutor wrote.

The 24-year-old officer, holding a notebook and pen, turned to speak to another officer and Coleman shot him in the head, Allred wrote, killing him instantly.

Lyday "had no opportunity to react," Allred concluded. The Ogden police chief said the officer was "felled by the forces of evil." Other officers returned fire, and one of them shot Coleman in the head.

Lyday was one of 48 police officers fatally shot in the line of duty in 2020, and he was among nine killed while responding to domestic-violence calls, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. Since 2000, an average of six officers have been killed per year in these circumstances, according to the group's data.

Domestic violence calls are "volatile, unpredictable" situations for police, said Jacinta Gau, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Central Florida. "When officers arrive on scene ... there's so much anger."

Coleman's wife, who asked not to be identified because of the trauma, said she had endured years of emotional abuse and controlling behavior that "spiraled out of control."

On the day of the shooting, she fled their home - "bloody, my head was busted open" - and went to her former workplace to get a phone. She found out that her husband and a police officer were dead only when authorities tracked her down.

She and their children feel no anger at police for shooting Coleman, something they told the officer who fired the fatal shot. "There was no other way to deal with the situation," she said.

She said she feels only guilt about what happened that day.

"We just unleashed that on the world," she said. "It was our problem, and we were taking care of it and holding it together, and it just, it spilled over."

- - -

Hannah Fizer was driving to her overnight shift at a convenience store on June 13, 2020, when a sheriff's deputy pulled her over in Sedalia, a small city in western Missouri.

The deputy, who said she was speeding and ran a red light, stood by the window of Fizer's silver Hyundai Elantra for a few minutes. Then, as recorded on nearby surveillance video, he took aim and shot Fizer, killing the 25-year old. The deputy said Fizer had ignored his commands, claimed to have a gun and threatened to shoot him.

Fizer's killing led to no criminal charges. A special prosecutor concluded that the shooting was justified because the evidence supported the deputy's claim that he feared for his safety. But the prosecutor also said the deputy could have just backed away.

"It could've been avoided by the exercise of what I think [are] good police tactics and judgment," Stephen P. Sokoloff, the special prosecutor, said in an interview. "There are a number of these I've seen where, yeah, were they legally justified? Yes. Were they necessary? No."

Sokoloff said the deputy could have waited for the arrival of the backup he had called.

"He could've retreated. She wasn't able to go any place. . . . He could've let things simmer a little bit down," said Sokoloff, general counsel for the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services.

Sokoloff said Fizer could be heard over the deputy's radio dispatch yelling at him and was seen in video footage bending down in her car and rising back up. No gun was found in her car.

"I don't doubt for one second she was speeding," John Fizer, her father, said in an interview. "Because she was late for work a little bit. ... I don't doubt that he pulled her over for good reason. But he did everything wrong from that moment on."

Fizer's family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the deputy, Jordan Schutte. An attorney for Schutte declined to comment for this story, writing in a court filing that the officer had "acted with objective reasonableness under the circumstances."

Experts contend that such cases show some shootings as preventable with de-escalation training and crisis intervention. In June, the New York City police announced plans to retrain their 36,000 officers to reduce the use of force.

But retraining police nationwide is a massive undertaking, the scale of it reflected in the patterns documented by The Post since the beginning of 2015: More than 2,600 departments were involved in the more than 6,400 fatal shootings. In more than 1,600 of these shootings, it was the only time since 2015 an officer in a department had fatally shot someone.

Ronald L. Davis, a former police chief and ex-director of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services office, said the goal should be less use of deadly force overall, "not just unjustified uses of deadly force."

The unchanging pace of fatal shootings after high-profile police killings last year also "debunks the myth of police reform affecting officers' safety, that officers were hesitating" amid scrutiny and criticism, Davis said in an interview before President Biden nominated him in March to lead the U.S. Marshals Service.

"If you pointed your firearm because it was necessary," Davis said, "you're not going to be thinking about some lawsuit or complaints."

- - -

In Atlanta, after Rayshard Brooks was killed, the officer who shot him became one of the relatively few charged with murder for shooting someone while on duty. Prosecutors said Brooks had posed no threat to Garrett Rolfe, the officer. Attorneys for Rolfe said that the shooting was justified and that the officer had acted reasonably. The case is pending.

Rolfe was one of 16 officers charged with murder or manslaughter last year for on-duty shootings, up from 12 a year earlier, according to Stinson, the Bowling Green professor, who tracks cases of officers charged with crimes.

Prosecutors also charged more officers for these shootings after Ferguson. In 2015, the first full year after Ferguson, 18 officers were charged for shootings, the most in any year since Stinson started tracking in 2005. But conviction rates have remained largely unchanged in the years before and after Ferguson.

These criminal cases are difficult for prosecutors to win, and most officers who are charged walk free or are convicted on lesser charges, a pattern that experts attribute to the trust jurors and judges have in police, and the law remaining squarely on their side.

Legally, the use of deadly force has been guided by the Supreme Court's 1989 decision in Graham v. Connor, which said an officer's actions must be judged against what a reasonable officer would do in the same situation. Some officials have pushed to adopt a tougher standard, which California did in 2019.

"The vast majority of these shootings are justified under the current law," Stinson said.

- - -

The Washington Post's Steven Rich and Ted Mellnik contributed to this report.

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About this story: Graphics based on data from The Washington Post's police shootings database.

Story editing by David Fallis. Produced by Julie Vitkovskaya and Courtney Kan. Design and development by Jake Crump and Tara McCarty. Photo editing by Robert Miller and Natalia Jimenez. Graphics by Joe Fox and Daniela Santamariña. Graphics editing by Danielle Rindler. Copy editing by Gilbert Dunkley.

A new mayor pushes back on the status quo

By Griff Witte
A new mayor pushes back on the status quo
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones stands for a portrait during a food distribution event at the Northwest Academy of Law High School in the Walnut Park East neighborhood of north St. Louis on July 21. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Nick Schnelle

ST. LOUIS - It was Juneteenth weekend in St. Louis, and the new mayor was leading the celebrations: She hopscotched from cookouts to charity runs, grooved to classic R&B songs and proclaimed that her city would be among the nation's first to pay reparations to the descendants of enslaved people.

Two weeks later, Tishaura Jones spent a quiet weekend with her family. In the process, she became the first St. Louis mayor in decades to skip the city's Fourth of July parade, an event long sponsored by a group with a dubious racial record. St. Louis would need to have some "tough conversations," Jones said, before she felt comfortable joining the party.

The tale of the two weekends in many ways encapsulates the young tenure of St. Louis's history-making mayor: The 49-year-old unapologetically embraces her Black identity, champions progressive policy ideas long dismissed as fringe and doesn't seem to mind who she might alienate along the way.

At a time when other public officials are desperately hoping for a return to normal after more than a year of pandemic-spawned upheaval, Jones is rowing hard in the other direction.

"We're trying to break people out of normal," said Jones, sitting amid the faded grandeur of City Hall. "Whatever normal was, that didn't work for a lot of St. Louis."

In that pursuit, Jones has growing company. This has been, in many respects, a difficult year for the progressive left of the Democratic Party: Adherents have been marginalized in Washington policy debates. They have been shut out of statewide office. And they fell short in the nation's marquee mayoral race. In the early Biden era, the moderates have had the momentum.

But the story is different in struggling cities like St. Louis, where voters have, in recent months, rewarded the candidate most willing to try to shake up the status quo.

Jones took office in April, having beaten both moderate and progressive rivals this spring.

Then, in quick succession, challengers from the left dethroned Democratic incumbents in Pittsburgh, Rochester and Buffalo. In Buffalo's case, the Democratic nominee, India Walton, would become the first self-proclaimed socialist leader of a major American city in half a century should she win the November general election, as is widely expected.

What those places have in common, said St. Louis activist Kayla Reed, is that they are all "migration cities" - destinations for African Americans fleeing the agricultural South in favor of the industrial North during the 20th century. But after decades of discrimination, many of their descendants remain locked in a seemingly permanent underclass.

Now, a year on from the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the mass movement for social justice that followed, those communities are flexing their political muscle to demand leaders who invest in underserved neighborhoods, address long-standing racial disparities and confront police brutality.

"There aren't 100,000 people in the streets anymore," said Reed, who got her start in activism after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson. But there are activists and groups willing to put their energies behind candidates whose politics align with the movement, as she did with the Jones campaign.

"All of that background," said Reed, who campaigned relentlessly for the new mayor, "creates the reality where Tishaura wins."

Whether Jones - or any of the others favored by voters in recent months - can succeed in implementing policies to match their rhetoric carries implications not only for their cities but for progressive politics across America.

- - -

Early indications from Jones's first three months in office suggest that the change in St. Louis over the coming four years could be dramatic. But whether the city is on course to benefit, or further deteriorate, is a subject of sharp disagreement.

The city can ill afford the latter. At the dawn of the last century, "the Gateway to the West" was a place of global renown, host to both a World's Fair and an Olympic Games, with a lavish city hall modeled after the one in Paris. By 1950, nearly 900,000 people called St. Louis home.

But today, after a decades-long exodus, the population is down to less than 300,000. Slightly more than 1 in 5 of those people live in poverty, with the city's median household income about $25,000 lower than the national average.

The city is almost evenly split between White and Black, and the divisions are stark. While some predominantly White sections of St. Louis are affluent - the McCloskeys aimed their guns at protesters outside a mansion in the city's posh Central West End last summer - the almost exclusively Black north side has suffered. There, abandoned homes and vacant lots are a fixture of the landscape, and residents say gunshots are part of the daily soundtrack.

"St. Louis faces some real challenges. We've lost employers. We continue to lose population. The homicide rates are up," said Anita Manion, who teaches politics at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. "We've been in decline for a long time."

But the combination of Jones's election and an influx of half a billion dollars in federal funds under the Biden administration's pandemic relief plan has raised expectations that the city's fortunes could be changing.

"This," Manion said, "is a big moment for St. Louis."

Despite a long record in St. Louis politics that included stints as a state representative and city treasurer, Jones campaigned as an anti-establishment candidate who posed a simple question to voters: "Does the current situation work for you?"

Residents, particularly those on the north side, answered that it did not.

"North St. Louis has been forgotten," said Sharon Adkins, a 68-year-old retiree who said she has watched with alarm as her longtime neighborhood has become increasingly dilapidated. "We needed a mayor for the whole city, not just the Central West End or the south side."

- - -

Jones - raised on the north side, where she still lives as a single mother to a teenage son - has repeatedly promised to be that leader, saying that "cranes in the sky" above the north side are her ultimate aim.

In neighborhoods where weeds grow thick among the potholes of long-neglected streets, it seems a distant prospect. But since her election, which made her the first Black female mayor in St. Louis history, she has moved quickly to prove she's serious about changing the city's priorities.

Beyond committing the city to paying reparations - a move made in concert with 10 other mayors - Jones has closed a medium-security prison, known as the Workhouse. The facility had become infamous for its poor and unsanitary conditions.

She has cut $4 million of police funding, and shifted it to social services. She has pressed the city council - known as the Board of Aldermen - to deliver $5 million of federal aid directly into the hands of the city's most vulnerable, and threatened to veto any aid legislation that doesn't fulfill that mission.

"It's the number one way we can help people," Jones said in the City Hall interview. "There aren't that many problems that giving people more money won't fix."

To Reed, the activist, it is the best she could have hoped for.

"She's kept her promises," said Reed, who served on Jones's transition committee and who leads Action St. Louis, an advocacy group. "She's moving with urgency and clarity."

But to the mayor's many critics, it's movement in the wrong direction.

After Jones unveiled her police cuts, Republican state legislators threatened to convene a special session to force her to back down. The city's police union, meanwhile, has been outspoken about the harm that it feels Jones's plans will do to an already beleaguered force.

"Morale is at an all-time low," said Jane Dueker, attorney for the St. Louis Police Officers Association. "That's not what you need in a crime wave."

St. Louis recorded 263 homicides last year - its highest total in 50 years - as killings surged in cities nationwide. As of this week, there had been 108 homicides - down from last year's pace, but still far above those of other, similar-size cities, including Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Budget cuts, Dueker said, will actually do the opposite of what Jones hopes to achieve, by taking police officers out of communities and giving them little chance to rebuild relationships that have been badly strained since the uprising in Ferguson following Brown's killing by a White officer.

"The officers go from murder call to murder call," Dueker said. "That's all they do."

While Republicans and police unions would be expected to oppose Jones's plans, she has also found herself out of step with fellow Democrats.

Even as Jones was defending her police cuts this month, President Biden was hosting a group of mayors at the White House to advocate greater spending on law enforcement. Among those on the invite list was Eric Adams, the former police captain who won New York City's Democratic mayoral primary last month on a platform of cracking down on crime and resisting activist calls to "defund the police."

Within St. Louis, too, Jones has faced resistance from her party. In the heavily Democratic city, there are no Republicans on the Board of Aldermen. But Jones's election has deepened the schism between progressive and moderate Democrats.

The moderates, led by Board President Lewis Reed, pushed back against Jones's police cuts - and managed to add back money that makes up for the department's losses. They also fought the mayor's plan to send millions in direct payments to residents, arguing that it was dangerously ill-defined. After an epic and acrimonious 12-hour meeting, the mayor got her way - though the ultimate fate of the money remains unresolved.

Moderate board members complain privately that Jones has been unwilling to compromise. But they also fear publicly crossing her, lest she take aim at them on Twitter or stage a City Hall news conference to call them out by name, as she has with Reed.

To Jones and her allies, the political winds are at their backs.

"There's a changing of the guard," said Megan Green, a progressive board member who has led efforts to unseat moderates. "The entrenched establishment that we've had in this city is losing power."

That's new for St. Louis, Green said, and she doesn't expect the transition to continue without a fight.

"Any time there's been the possibility of a progressive, multiracial governing coalition, there is very intentional work to dismantle it," she said.

The city's annual Fourth of July parade is connected to one notorious example: The celebration is sponsored by the Veiled Prophet Organization, which historians say was founded as a secret society of White elites in the late 19th century to halt a populist drive for social and economic justice.

That history of thwarted change may help explain why Jones has often dug in when challenged, rather than cut a deal.

Asked about the White House meeting at which Biden urged more spending on police, she politely but firmly dissented.

"That's just not an area where we're going to agree," she said. "It's not about having more cops."

Instead, Jones has emphasized the need for greater spending on social services and mental health. She visited Denver this month to study the city's program for employing social workers to respond to certain 911 calls.

"We're all about getting to the root causes of violence, and most of them are about poverty," said Heather Taylor, a former St. Louis police sergeant who is advising the mayor on public safety. "We have not gotten anywhere by trying to arrest our way out of violent crime."

- - -

Taylor, who grew up on the north side of St. Louis and served 20 years on the city's police force, said the police need better training and smarter tactics, not more money. But she also acknowledged that change will take time, and that residents want urgent relief from the crime battering their communities.

That's particularly true on the north side, where much of the city's violent crime is concentrated.

"There are shootings everywhere," said Laine Jackson, a retired government worker and north side resident. "I have seven kids. None of them live in the city. Who would want to live here?"

Jackson had turned out at her neighborhood Baptist church on a Wednesday evening to hear her mayor lay out plans for turning St. Louis around. Even before Jones spoke, she was given a standing ovation, and she was given another when she finished.

In between, she urged people to get their coronavirus shots and told them how to apply for mortgage relief. She promised greater funding for senior centers and teen job programs. She assured the crowd that those potholes would get filled.

The city had never, in recent memory, had the money it needed. But with federal covid aid pouring in, Jones was able to offer her fellow citizens some hope for brighter days ahead.

And Jackson, for one, was ready to ever-so-cautiously believe.

"There's a lot of trouble in this city. A lot," she said. "But this mayor is really trying. It ain't an overnight thing."

How Ashli Babbitt went from Capitol rioter to Trump-embraced martyr

By Paul Schwartzman and Josh Dawsey
How Ashli Babbitt went from Capitol rioter to Trump-embraced martyr
A protester's sign references Babbitt during a July rally outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Bryan Anselm

Her phone rang on that day in early July, nearly six months after a police officer's bullet killed her daughter as she and a mob of rioters seeking to overturn the election stormed a barricaded door deep inside the U.S. Capitol.

Micki Witthoeft answered the call and listened as former president Donald Trump expressed condolences over Ashli Babbitt's violent death and acknowledged, she said, that her daughter had died Jan. 6 trying to salvage his lost presidency.

Witthoeft took the opportunity during the 30-minute call to ask Trump for help getting information about Babbitt's death and to fight for those still imprisoned because of the riot.

After their call, the circumstances of Babbitt's death - once a focus of right-wing extremists and white supremacists - became a talking point for the nation's most dominant Republican.

"Who shot Ashli Babbitt?" Trump asked over and over in the ensuing days, suggesting that the 35-year-old Air Force veteran was the victim of an overzealous Capitol Police officer whose identity was being covered up.

"Every time he talks about her, he says her name," Witthoeft said in a phone interview. "He could say 'Her' or 'She' or whatever. But he says 'Ashli Babbitt.' He is sure to mention her name repeatedly. I appreciate that. It's millions more people I can reach."

In the months since Jan. 6, Trump and his allies have waged a fevered campaign to rewrite the narrative of one of the darkest days in the nation's history, when a mob attacked the Capitol, threatening to kill Vice President Mike Pence and using baseball bats and flagpoles to beat police officers as they hunted for lawmakers, many of whom hid behind locked doors, fearing for their lives.

Yet, instead of marauders invading the Capitol, Trump and his acolytes describe a largely peaceful crowd of protesters unfairly maligned and persecuted by prosecutors, Democrats and mainstream journalists.

At the center of their revisionism is Babbitt, their martyr, whose fatal attempt to leap through a door that led to the House chamber - captured in graphic detail on video - they describe as a heroic act of patriotism.

"An innocent, wonderful, incredible woman, a military woman," Trump said during an appearance on Fox News. At a Florida rally July 4, he called her shooting "a terrible thing" and said "there was no reason for it."

Just before she was shot, Babbitt was among a group of rioters bashing in the glass-paneled doors that led to the Speaker's Lobby, down the hall from the House chamber, where lawmakers were being evacuated.

"There's a gun! There's a gun!" someone shouted when an officer, on the other side of the doors, aimed his weapon in the direction of the mob.

Despite the warning, someone appeared to hoist Babbitt up so she could step through an opening in the door created after its glass panels were shattered. A bullet struck her and she fell back on the floor.

Prosecutors determined it was reasonable for the officer to believe he was firing in self-defense or to protect members evacuating the House chamber.

With the 2022 midterm elections looming, Democrats, along with a handful of Republicans, are challenging Trump's narrative about Jan. 6. At a House select committee hearing Tuesday, four police officers catalogued the emotional and physical abuse they suffered defending the Capitol and how betrayed they feel by Republican lawmakers.

"I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room," D.C. police officer Michael Fanone told the committee. "But too many are now telling me that hell doesn't exist or that hell actually wasn't that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful."

Trump has complained to aides that his supporters were treated far worse than Black Lives Matter protesters charged last summer, and that the Department of Justice and others want to use prosecutions of Jan. 6 crimes to damage him.

The former president, according to three advisers, often talks about the "good people" who traveled to Washington that day, and the crowd's large size, despite encouragement from some confidants to avoid the subject altogether.

In a statement, Trump confirmed talking to Babbitt's family and said: "I want to know why is the person who shot Ashli Babbitt getting away with murder?"

- - -

Trump's embrace of Babbitt culminated a six-month progression in which her death, and the fate of dozens of jailed rioters, became a topic invoked by a cluster of House Republicans, and the likes of former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Her death has inspired vigils, rallies, rap lyrics, social media hashtags (#justiceforashli), T-shirts ("Ashli Babbitt, American Patriot"), as well as an article in a magazine, the American Conservative, comparing her fate to that of George Floyd, the Black man murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.

"They've got to pretend that Ashli Babbitt was some kind of Osama bin Laden or some kind of guy flying a plane into a building," Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative podcaster with 1.7 million Twitter followers, told his audience.

D'Souza, whom Trump pardoned in 2018 for making illegal campaign contributions, said a "big lie" has been spun that "there were these seditious Trump supporters trying to overthrow the constitution mounting an al-Qaeda-style attack."

Even Russian President Vladimir Putin joined in. Questioned during an interview with NBC News about political jailings in his country, Putin asked if the correspondent had "ordered the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?"

When Trump invoked Babbitt's name, right-wing organizers said it became easier to generate public interest for those arrested in the Jan. 6 riot.

"It didn't make me feel more emboldened, but it made other people feel emboldened, which helps me," said Cara Castronuova of Citizens Against Political Persecution, a New York-based group that has hosted rallies.

"He gives people a voice," Castronuova said. "They feel if Trump said it, he's the leader of the United States, so it's okay to say it."

Stuart Stevens, a veteran GOP political consultant long critical of Trump, said Republicans are seeking to recast the narrative of Jan. 6 because the commander in chief "inspired domestic terrorists to besiege the Capitol in an effort to overturn the election."

"That's not a very good picture, so you have to create an alternative reality - that Trump won and these were good Americans," Stevens said. "What stirs up more emotion than an innocent woman - a former Air Force vet - who is shot attempting to restore the legally elected president?"

"If you believe that," he said, "you'll probably respond to a fundraising appeal that comes with it and you're more likely to show up at a Trump rally. It's about intensity and money."

Stevens, who grew up in Mississippi, compared the Republican campaign to the Lost Cause of the post-Civil War, in which Southern sympathizers sought to recast defenders of slavery, such as Gen. Robert E. Lee as a "benevolent guy."

"It's the same instinct, but this is more dangerous," he said, because the Lost Cause was only embraced by some elements of the Democratic Party, not the entire organization. "It's now the Republicans' official position that Joe Biden was not legally elected. In their version, Babbitt wasn't attempting to overthrow a peaceful process. She was either a tourist or a Trump supporter showing her deep affection to Donald Trump."

Until her death, Babbitt had lived the anonymous life of an ordinary American, serving in the military for 14 years. Her tenure included a stint protecting the Washington region with an Air National Guard unit known as the Capital Guardians.

After leaving the service, she took over a struggling pool service supply company in her native San Diego, and delved into right-wing politics. She used her Twitter account to praise Trump, denigrate undocumented immigrants and express support for the extremist QAnon ideology that is based on false claims. Her family said she was always political - she voted for President Barack Obama - but never more fervent than during Trump's presidency.

Babbitt did not tell her mother she was going to Washington on Jan 6. But Witthoeft said she was not surprised. "I would have said, 'Of course you are, baby,' " she said, adding her daughter "was a Trump rallygoer. She was going to them all over the place, the car parades, the Trump boat parades."

In recent weeks, Witthoeft said she noticed Babbitt's name mentioned more frequently on Fox News, Newsmax and OAN, an uptick she attributes to Trump and House Republicans such as Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

"I think everyone should know her name," she said.

- - -

On a Sunday in downtown Manhattan, across from the United States Courthouse, a crowd of Trump supporters assembled for a "Free Political Prisoners NOW" rally. Organizers promised that Babbitt's mother and husband would call in to "address those in attendance and those watching around the world on our Live Stream."

A counterdemonstration of activists cursing and tossing eggs greeted the 100 or so attendees, including activists carrying Trump flags, fringe political candidates and, at least for a few minutes, Bernhard Goetz, who in 1984 shot four Black youths on a train and was dubbed the "subway vigilante."

"Say her name!" a speaker shouted.

"Ashli Babbitt! Ashli Babbitt!" the crowd chanted.

"American hero!" a woman yelled.

In the days after Jan. 6, interest in her death was far more muted. In Washington, only journalists showed up for a Jan. 9 candlelight vigil advertised for Babbitt at the Washington Monument. Fliers for the event described her as a "wife, mother, veteran, patriot" who was "unjustly killed by US Capitol police."

At the same time, groups such as the Anti-Defamation League were tracking use of her name on right-wing social media, including a rendering of her face imposed over an image of the Capitol, a drop of blood falling from her neck. In the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, Andrew Anglin wrote that Babbitt "was murdered by cops."

"She was protecting America from the enemies of the people," Anglin wrote. "There was absolutely no reason to shoot her, and the cop should be charged with murder."

Three months later, federal prosecutors cleared the Capitol Police officer who shot Babbitt of any wrongdoing, saying he had not violated her civil rights.

The officer, a lieutenant, was not identified, an omission seized on by House Republicans.

"Who executed Ashli Babbitt?" Gosar, a Trump ally, asked acting U.S. attorney general Jeffrey Rosen at a hearing in May. A month later, while questioning FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Gosar said the officer "appeared to be hiding, lying in wait and then gave no warning before killing her."

Gosar's statements about Babbitt's death, as well as those arrested, have been echoed by Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Louis Gohmert, R-Tex., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

"If this country can demand justice for someone like George Floyd," Greene told a Newsmax host, "then we can certainly demand justice for Ashli Babbitt."

On Thursday, she, Gaetz, Gosar and Gohmert showed up at the D.C. jail, demanding to inspect the treatment of those detained in connection with Jan. 6. They were turned away.

Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the narrative suggested by such assertions allows Trump and his allies to "flip what happened and present the attackers as victims."

"The only word that comes to mind is the amplification of a fringe narrative," he said. "It's not as though the narrative has changed. It's spread and taken hold in larger portions of Trump's base."

Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative and the leader of Look Ahead America, said initially his group had difficulty drawing crowds to rallies for the Jan. 6 arrestees because "people were afraid to come. The FBI was putting peoples' pictures up all over the place."

But he said he has had an easier time more recently - a Phoenix rally in mid-July drew 250 people - "because the issue is being taken seriously."

Trump, he said, inserted himself into the discourse because he's "reacting to the fact that we have people bombarding legislators, doing rallies and putting up signs. We have done so much to raise awareness that he thinks, 'It's time I should probably talk about it.' "

At the Manhattan rally, the emcee, Castronuova, held a sign that read "Rest in Peace Ashli Babbitt" as Babbitt's mother, speaking by phone, told the crowd she felt comfort knowing that the day her daughter died "was a good day for her."

"Until those son-of-a-bitches took her out of it, she was in her moment," Witthoeft said. "They tried to silence Ashli's voice but all they did was make it louder because America was watching."

"Stand tall, stand proud, stand together," she told the crowd.

After the call ended, Castronuova promised the audience that "insurrectionist is no longer going to come up" when they "Google Ashli Babbitt's name in five years."

"They will not rewrite history," Castronuova shouted. "She's a martyr, okay?"

- - -

After her death, Ashli Babbitt's body remained in Washington for weeks while law enforcement completed investigations. Then she was cremated, in keeping with her wishes, and her remains were flown back to San Diego in February, her mother said.

Not long after, her family boarded a boat and scattered her ashes in the waters off Dog Beach. A bagpiper played "Amazing Grace."

Witthoeft, during the hour-long telephone interview, said she has avoided watching footage of Jan. 6, including "the video of my daughter being murdered."

"I just won't do it," she said, beginning to cry. "They carried my daughter out like a dying animal."

Since her daughter's death, she has become politically active. On Saturday, she attended a Trump rally in Phoenix, where she received a standing ovation when Gosar introduced her.

She said she received no response from the offices of California Gov. Gavin Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., despite having left "at least 20 messages." When she called the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Witthoeft said an aide told her that " 'although this incident is unfortunate, your daughter should not have stormed the Capitol.' "

Asked about Trump, whose call to her occurred six months after her daughter's death, Witthoeft laughed nervously and said, "It's a tricky question. This is such a roller coaster. I feel different things depending on the day.

"If I were to say something negative about Donald Trump," she said, "my daughter would roll over in the grave, or on her seabed. Out of respect for my daughter, I shouldn't ever say anything negative about him. She felt strongly enough about him to lay down her life for him and, in death, I believe she loves him still. I know she loves him still."

Roger Witthoeft, Babbitt's brother, said he partially blames Trump for his sister's death. Trump's speech that day, he said, "should've been: 'I'll do it in 2024, we'll get them next time.' "

"Like every other rally, people would've cheered them on, and there might have been some little bit of stuff going on," he said. "Everyone was just pumped up, and the word selection wasn't the greatest."

Nevertheless, Michelle and Roger Witthoeft both say they hope Trump runs again. And Roger Witthoeft said his sister, if she were alive, would not regret what she did Jan. 6. "She would've taken the exact same steps, knowing the outcome," he said. "My sister died for a bigger picture, a bigger cause."

These days, Michelle Wittheoft said, she writes letters to Jan. 6 arrestees.

"I plan on writing them all - not because I'm Ashli's mom - I love and support what they did," she said. "They're in jail because they are Trump supporters."

Referring to her daughter, she said, "She made the ultimate sacrifice to bring attention to a stolen election."

"Half the country loves her and half the country hates her," she said. "It's weird to have your child belong to the world."


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Will the delta variant turn Americans against one another?

By kathleen parker
Will the delta variant turn Americans against one another?


Advance for release Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, and thereafter

(For Parker clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.


We are, it seems, on the verge of war. A germ war, to be precise, that pits the vaccinated against the unvaccinated and is forcing government officials, universities and corporations to pick sides. A time for choosing awaits us all.

We're about to enter a strange era not seen since 1905, when the Supreme Court ruled (7 to 2) in favor of state police powers to require vaccines, in that case smallpox, for the benefit of the larger community. Today, such a scenario seems better suited to science fiction. But this is our world now, and we've all been inducted to serve.

As covid-19 reemerges through the twice-more-contagious delta variant, forcing many Americans to wear masks again and possibly to discontinue gathering in public places, the message is clear: Either get vaccinated, or prepare to be treated differently.

President Joe Biden has ordered that all federal employees (though not uniformed members of the military) either get vaccinated or wear masks and submit to frequent coronavirus testing. Biden is also urging private companies and the military to do the same.

Duke University has announced that it will require that anyone on campus - students, faculty, staff - provide proof of full vaccination or have an approved medical or religious exemption. Unvaccinated people will have to wear masks and submit to regular testing.

There's no telling how many more universities, companies and communities will follow suit in the next weeks. But the die has been cast. The approximately 50% of Americans who have stepped up to the plate and been fully vaccinated, thus drastically reducing the infection rates (for a while), are fed up. The delta variant is quickly overtaking what progress was made by the willing and is swiftly moving through populations of the unvaccinated. The fear among experts is that as delta spreads, infected people will surround and overwhelm vaccinated people through "spillover infection," while continuing to retard herd immunity.

There is little goodwill between warring factions. People who don't want the vaccine argue that it's still categorized as an emergency-use concoction, the full effects of which remain unknown. This would be a reasonable enough argument were it not for the fact that covid and its mutations pose an emergency that can be contained only by vaccinating as many people as possible.

Those of us who've gotten our shots see no point to such reluctance when the alternative is so troubling. Even if most people who contract covid don't die, more than 600,000 Americans already have. Is that figure too small to give people pause? Do the vaccine-averse figure that losing older Americans and fatter Americans, the most vulnerable to extreme sickness and death, is just the price we pay?

For many people over 65, more than 80% of whom are fully vaccinated, compromise is neither rational nor negotiable. Fully 42% of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and also at high risk for covid.

It isn't hard to spot the class war lurking within our germ war. The college-educated are less likely to be obese, probably because they're more fluent in nutrition and because, having higher incomes, they can afford to buy healthier foods. We learned in the early rounds of this pandemic that the virus is devastating to minorities with unequal access to health care; will one part of the population let that happen again to another part?

I am not unmindful of what this might do to us. The circumstances in which we find ourselves remind me of the worst sectarian fighting during the Iraq War, when former friends would cross the street rather than share a sidewalk with someone who supported or opposed the U.S.-led invasion. Divided families could barely discuss the subject with each other, making holidays and reunions impossible. Relationships dissolved. Bitterness reigned.

Those days seem like a picnic compared with what could happen if almost half the U.S. population, already riven by political discord, persists in making life miserable for the other half. This time the battleground isn't far away, but in our front yards, schools and workplaces.

The pandemic changed us, we've said over and over. But as we measure our progress, it seems reasonable to wonder: Could the next pandemic ruin us? Does any vaccinated person want to be around an unvaccinated person? How will we know who's who? Will we soon be wearing ID bracelets? Such questions raise another frightening prospect to all of this: With the decisions being made to now wage war on the unvaccinated, are we laying the groundwork for even greater distrust in an already convulsive time?

Cures are sometimes worse than the disease, we've heard. I fully support the measures mentioned here, but I also fear we're about to test that hypothesis in ways never before imagined.

- -- -

Kathleen Parker's email address is

(c) 2021, Washington Post Writers Group

The IRS erroneously rejected child tax credit payments for some families with an immigrant spouse

By michelle singletary
The IRS erroneously rejected child tax credit payments for some families with an immigrant spouse


Advance for release Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, and thereafter

(For Singletary clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only. In 7th graf, swaps in updated statement from IRS.

By Michelle Singletary

WASHINGTON - Samantha Alonso-Campos is still waiting for the $1,100 a month the IRS told her she should expect for her four children as an advance child tax credit payment.

Lara Garcia didn't get the $850 she was promised for her three children.

And Jessie Alarcon, who has two children, has yet to receive the $550 tax credit for her family.

Under the American Rescue Plan, eligible families are entitled to monthly payments of up to $300 for each child 5 and under and up to $250 for each child 6 to 17.

Many families were erroneously left out of the first batch of child tax credit payments on July 15, apparently for one reason: They are "mixed status," meaning that one spouse has a different citizenship or immigration status than the other. For example, one spouse may be a U.S. citizen, the other a legal permanent resident or green-card holder. In other cases, a spouse might be undocumented but still paying taxes.

In a statement, the agency acknowledged the complaints that eligible children were not receiving payments.

"The IRS is aware some taxpayers who filed tax returns with ITIN numbers did not receive their child tax credit payment for July," the IRS said. "We have worked expeditiously to correct this issue and these taxpayers will start receiving payments in August. All impacted taxpayers will receive their July payment."

This isn't the first time these families have felt neglected. When the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or Cares Act, became law in March of last year, it excluded married couples filing joint returns unless both spouses had Social Security numbers valid for employment or at least one spouse was a member of the military.

Those first stimulus payments included up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, plus $500 for each dependent child.

Complaints from mixed-status families and community organizers resulted in a policy reversal, and families in which one taxpayer had a Social Security number valid for employment were made eligible for the first round of stimulus payments, as well as the second and third rounds of payments. However, undocumented people remained ineligible for payments.

Mixed-status families are eligible to receive the monthly advance child tax credit payments as long as everyone claiming the children as dependents has a Social Security number or an IRS-issued Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). They will receive the payments only if they used their Social Security number or ITIN when they filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return, or when they entered information into the non-filer tool on Each qualifying child has to have a Social Security number that is valid for employment in the United States.

Many undocumented immigrants and some noncitizens aren't eligible for Social Security numbers, but they can get a ITIN, which is used to file a return and pay taxes.

"We haven't received it because there's some kind of glitch in the IRS system, I guess," said Alonso-Campos, who is a U.S. citizen. She lives in Woodbridge, Va., with her Mexican-born husband, who is in the process of getting a green card, and four children, ages 12, 6, 5 and 2. "They're saying that we're not eligible for it on the website, even though I received an IRS letter stating that I would be eligible for it."

It's unclear how many families have been affected by this glitch. Alarcon, who helps moderate the Facebook group Mixed Status Families United, said that she has heard from more than 400 families who haven't received the payments.

"We organized the group to start calling the IRS and calling our congressmen. That's when we found out that our accounts were flagged because we have an ITIN holder," said Alarcon, who lives in Madison, Wis. Her Mexican-born husband is a legal permanent resident. "We're getting super frstrated. Getting this money for us means not having to go to the food pantry for our groceries."

Families have flooded social media platforms to complain about the late child tax credit payments.

"I'm a U.S. citizen by birth," said Garcia, who lives in Annapolis. "My husband is from El Salvador, but we met all the eligibility requirements so I never really thought twice about it. It wasn't like the first stimulus payment where I didn't realize we weren't getting it because of the mixed-status issue. But everything indicated that mixed-status families were good to go. I had been expecting, come July, that extra money was going to be there. So I've planned accordingly, trying to catch up with everything from last year."

If the issue is resolved before the end of the year, the IRS says, families will receive the missed payments. The catch-up payments will be spread out over whatever remaining months are left.

Let's say a couple qualifies for a $1,000 monthly payment from July to December for their children for a total of $6,000. If the IRS is able to fix the program in time for the Aug. 13 payment disbursement, the new monthly amount would be $1,200, because the payments now cover just five months. If the IRS isn't able to correct the problem before the end of the year, parents will have to claim the child tax credit when they file their 2021 return next year.

Families are hoping the money comes soon.

"I'm not working right now," Alonso-Campos said. "I had to resign from my job due to a lack of child care. We're barely making it. I don't even know how I'm going to be able to pay on my rent."

Like so many other families, Garcia said she and her husband, who is in the process of getting a green card, were already working hard to make ends meet before the pandemic. That's why this latest glitch in payments is so painful.

"Last year, my husband was out of work for about three months, so we fell really behind in bills," Garcia said. "We're just trying to catch up and get out of the hole and give our kids some semblance of normalcy."

Require the vaccine. It's time to stop coddling the reckless.

By ruth marcus
Require the vaccine. It's time to stop coddling the reckless.


Advance for release Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, and thereafter

(For Marcus clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Ruth Marcus

WASHINGTON -- Pay people to get vaccinated, no matter whether that is unfair to those who didn't receive checks for jabs. Require them to do so as a condition of going to work or enrolling in school. Do whatever it takes -- and, recent weeks have shown, it is going to take steps like this -- to get the pandemic under control.

Those of us who have behaved responsibly -- wearing masks and, since the vaccines became available, getting our shots -- cannot be held hostage by those who can't be bothered to do the same, or who are too deluded by misinformation to understand what is so clearly in their own interest.

The more inconvenient we make life for the unvaccinated, the better our own lives will be. More important, the fewer who will needlessly die. We cannot ignore the emerging evidence that the delta variant is transmissible even by those who have been fully vaccinated. "The war has changed," as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded.

President Joe Biden recognized this new reality with his actions Thursday. He announced that federal employees must be vaccinated or mask up and submit continuing proof that they are not infected; he urged private employers to do the same; and he encouraged the use of federal funds to prod -- OK, bribe -- the unvaccinated to step up.

If anything, Biden didn't go far enough. He should have imposed a tighter mandate on federal workers and contractors -- no frequent testing option as an alternative. He should have required vaccines for airline and railroad travel. He should have mandated vaccines for members of the military rather than kicking that can a few weeks down the road.

If I sound exasperated, I am, and I don't think I'm alone. I have been looking forward to going back to my office -- or backish, since it likely won't be full-time -- in a few weeks. Now, with Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D, having wisely reimposed a mask mandate in the city, it's hard to see how we're going to actually pull that off. Better to straggle along on Zoom, seeing one another's faces, than mask up for eight hours or more.

I have been looking forward to attending synagogue for the Jewish holidays in September, to going to dinner in indoor restaurants with friends, to resuming real life. I have been appreciating the ability to see my 86-year-old mother without fear of infecting her; now I have to worry anew about her getting on a plane to come visit us, as she was planning.

As I was writing this, a vaccinated friend texted to say he had tested positive. He's not very sick, but he could have infected others who are more vulnerable. This variant is no joke.

It's reasonable, it's fair, and it's legal to step up the pressure on the reckless noncompliant. By reckless, I mean to exclude some people: If you have a medical condition that counsels against vaccination, you are excused.

If you have a good-faith religious objection, same -- although I have a hard time imagining what that might be beyond adherents of Christian Science, or what religion does not advocate some version of the Golden Rule. Yes, some fetal cell lines were used in the development or testing of the vaccines, but the Vatican has declared that it is "morally acceptable" to take the vaccines, and that reasoning seems solid.

And speaking of morally acceptable: How galling is it that some labor unions are resisting the vaccine mandate? The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the American Postal Workers Union and the American Federation of Teachers, which also represents health-care workers, are insisting that any mandate be the subject of bargaining. No. Show some leadership. Just tell your members to get the damned shot -- for the sake of their colleagues if not themselves.

Federal judges have already rejected challenges to vaccine mandates by hospitals and public universities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made it clear that federal anti-discrimination laws don't prevent private employers from requiring proof of vaccination. The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel concluded that federal law "does not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccination requirements" for vaccines even at the emergency-use stage.

A century ago, balancing the tension between individual liberties and public safety, the Supreme Court upheld the ability of state and local governments to enforce mandatory vaccination laws. "In every well-ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members," wrote Justice John Marshall Harlan, "the rights of the individual . . . may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand."

Then the great danger was a smallpox epidemic. Today it is a global covid-19 pandemic. The "safety of the general public" demands a "reasonable" response today, just as it did in 1905.

- - -

Ruth Marcus' email address is

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Fact check: Is Kevin McCarthy a 'moron'?

By dana milbank
Fact check: Is Kevin McCarthy a 'moron'?


Advance for release Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, and thereafter

(For Milbank clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Dana Milbank

WASHINGTON -- After Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy this week decried the House's new face mask requirement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., replied with a considered response: "He's such a moron."

Mean! But if the dunce cap fits . . .

Such an incendiary charge by Pelosi demands a fact check: Is McCarthy, in fact, a moron? Let's weigh the evidence.

The very day Pelosi called him a moron, McCarthy complained on the House floor that the latest mask guidance came from a study in India (not so) of an unapproved vaccine (also not so) that "didn't even pass purr review." Was he waiting for a litter of kittens to examine the data?

The day before Pelosi called him a moron, McCarthy held a news conference to provide his latest thinking on the Jan. 6 investigation, including:

"We now have a committee that all of America wants to know the answers to."

"How can you ever get to the bottom of the questions?"

"Never before in the history of Congress has a speaker taken the unprecedented move of denying the other party to a committee of who they selected."

McCarthy further concluded that the April slaying of a Capitol Police officer was politically motivated -- "based upon if you listen to who made the killing of buying the knife and go out."

The day after Pelosi called him a moron, McCarthy made yet more important points at another news conference.

On President Joe Biden: "The president, we sat to met with, that we wanted to be -- keep our path be energy independent."

On a retired colleague: "Former liberal senator Barbara Boxer is now has the effect of being robbed in Oakland."

On Pelosi: "She will go at no elms to break the rules."

On Pelosi, cont'd: "We watched time and again where she told the American public they couldn't get a haircut -- except for her. We told her that she fights for the Americans, but they make $5 million in less than a month trading stock options . . . on tech companies that were -- that were debating inside the House; that the only reason the market went up, that they made that money was what the outcome of the stocks -- or, the outcome of the bills."

Fact-check analysis: Wuh?

But one week does not a moron make. Let's examine history.

McCarthy famously lost a chance to be speaker in 2015 when he admitted that Republicans created the Benghazi select committee to hurt Hillary Clinton (by making her seem "untrustable").

In 2016, McCarthy told fellow Republicans he believed Donald Trump was on Vladimir Putin's payroll -- "swear to God." Aghast, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan silenced McCarthy.

In 2018, McCarthy tweeted, then deleted, a warning that three men of Jewish descent, George Soros, Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg, wanted "to BUY this election!"

On "60 Minutes" in 2019, McCarthy was asked about then-President Donald Trump's infamous request of the Ukrainian president: "I'd like you to do us a favor, though." McCarthy, unaware this was a verbatim quote from the White House transcript, accused CBS of doctoring it.

Recently, McCarthy trumpeted on Fox News an apocryphal report that Biden "is going to control how much meat you can eat." McCarthy also claimed not to know about QAnon (which he called "Q-on"): "I don't know if I say it right. I don't even know what it is." He had spoken several times previously about QAnon, by name.

Long before McCarthy became Trump's "my Kevin," he had a rocky relationship with the English language.

In 2014, I chronicled McCarthy's musings on blind justice ("You see the Supreme Court, you see the statue sitting there, blinded in the process with the weights in between"), on Obamacare enrollment ("He only totes the 8 million . . . How can we fall going forward?") and on charter schools ("This is a great strength of a change making an equalizer inside for economy throughout"). In a 2015 foreign policy address, he announced that he had visited "Hungria" and lamented that Russia is "keeping the place of the band on America."

Marching band? Boy band? This fact check could not determine.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow then described McCarthy's speech pattern as a "word typhoon." (Fact check: It's technically a word tornado, in which words scatter randomly and sometimes disappear entirely.) He sounds part Yoda, part Google Translate.

But does this make McCarthy a "moron"? There might be another explanation. I asked McCarthy's communications director, Matt Sparks, if the leader has a speech disability (in which case I wouldn't ridicule him). But Sparks made no such claim, instead calling my ongoing interest in McCarthy's words "a bit sad and very odd."

Alas, this leaves only one possible conclusion, which I deliver with no elms: Pelosi's claim earns the rating "mostly true."

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Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

Unions shouldn't stand in the way of vaccine mandates

By catherine rampell
Unions shouldn't stand in the way of vaccine mandates


Advance for release Friday, July 30, 2021, and thereafter

(For Rampell clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.


Unions have enjoyed a substantial rise in public support in recent years - but especially last year, when many at-risk workers most needed allies. As workers faced severe illness and financial devastation, organized labor notched its highest approval ratings in nearly two decades.

But now some unions seem keen on frittering away that goodwill by opposing coronavirus vaccination mandates. In so doing, they're jeopardizing public health, the safety of their members and, ultimately, their own political influence.

The delta variant is sweeping the country, and a large fraction of Americans still refuse to get vaccinated. Because cajoling and even bribing people to protect themselves and their families don't seem to be working, federal state and local governments have begun requiring that public employees and other public-facing workers get shots, with some reasonable accommodations.

California, for instance, announced this week that state employees and health-care workers would soon have to show proof of vaccination or get tested at least weekly. New York City, while encouraging private employers to require vaccination, announced a similar get-shots-or-be-tested mandate for municipal workers. New York state soon followed. Washington D.C. says its own mandate is in the works for government employees.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that its health-care personnel must get vaccinated, and President Joe Biden said Thursday that all federal workers and on-site contractors who cannot attest to being fully vaccinated will face strict testing and masking requirements.

To their credit, some unions - such as one representing New York City teachers and another representing federal government engineers - have supported these announcements. These mandates, after all, will promote workplace health and safety, which have historically been among organized labor's greatest priorities and achievements.

"We don't want any more of our members dying," the president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers said in a statement.

The president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 50 unions, has also eloquently explained why such policies advance both organized labor's mission, and the economic recovery.

"If you come back in and you're not vaccinated, everybody in that workplace is jeopardized," Richard Trumka told C-SPAN. "If we don't know whether you have been vaccinated or not, we can't make the proper accommodations to make sure that you are protected and everyone else is protected." He added that higher vaccination rates can prevent the development of more virus variants, which threaten the economy.

Unfortunately, other unions, including many affiliated with the AFL-CIO, disagree.

In New York City, the president of the union representing paramedics, EMTs and fire inspectors said that only about half his members are vaccinated (versus roughly 71 percent of adults in the city overall who've received at least one shot). He said that the mayor's policy - which, again, exempts workers from vaccinations if they get tested regularly - is a "civil liberty being taken away from us."

That union has demanded overtime pay for workers who decline vaccines and then get tested outside of normal work hours - which effectively means paying people not to get vaccinated. No way that incentive could backfire.

Other public- and private-sector unions around the country representing firefighters, postal workers, law enforcement officers, teachers and hospital workers have also criticized vaccine mandates, even as some of these same unions say they're encouraging their members to get inoculated voluntarily.

It's not entirely clear what's driving their opposition.

Maybe some unions have been captured by the cranks in their ranks. Maybe some labor leaders are posturing to extract other concessions. The executive director of New York City's largest municipal union implied as much when he said vaccination and testing policies can be implemented only through bargaining. ("New York City is a union town, and that cannot be ignored," he said.) The Association of Flight Attendants recently negotiated an extra three days' vacation for members who (voluntarily) get vaccinated.

Maybe, absent more meaningful deliverables for members (such as bigger raises), some labor leaders are fussing over testing and shots to show members they're still useful.

Some union officials have suggested that mandates - even with those exemptions and accommodations - will backfire, and cause vaccine-resisters to resist more. If that's the case, it suggests union officials must show more leadership on this issue, not less. Their job is to protect their workers from real threats, not the fever dreams of conspiracy theorists. That requires looking out for their most vulnerable members, including those who are immunocompromised, or who have at-risk children not yet eligible for vaccination, and who need to know that their workplaces are safe.

Labor leaders advocated admirably last year on behalf of workers whom regulators and companies had failed to protect. Today, public officials and (some) corporations are finally stepping up and mandating measures that can make workplaces safer, and enable the economy to recover faster. If "Big Labor" obstructs this effort, it will fail not only its own members, but also the many admirers and political allies it worked so hard to win over.

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Catherine Rampell's email address is Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

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