Get the best stories to your readers as they happen. The Washington Post News Service streams breaking news, enterprise and features with photos, graphics and video directly to you.

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.

- - -

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."


Video Embed Code


Embed code: <iframe src="" width="480" height="290" data-category-id="video-elements" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

Video: Washington Post)

Embed code: <iframe src="" width="480" height="290" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

Video: Washington Post)

Embed code: <iframe src="" width="480" height="290" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

The lesson from Ohio: Democrats want to fight Trump, not Biden

By e.j. dionne jr.
The lesson from Ohio: Democrats want to fight Trump, not Biden


Advance for release Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, and thereafter

(For Dionne clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

WASHINGTON -- It should not surprise anyone that grass-roots Democrats are united behind the president who defeated Donald Trump and wary of candidates who seem more interested in fighting Joe Biden than in advancing his agenda.

This is why Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown defeated former Ohio state senator Nina Turner in Tuesday's special Democratic primary election for a U.S. House seat centered on Cleveland.

Brown, 46, had backing from much of the national Democratic Party as a down-the-line supporter of the president. Turner, 53, is a progressive hero, but you could argue she lost the race back in 2020 when she likened voting for Biden to eating half a bowl of excrement (not the word she used). In 2016, Turner declined to support Hillary Clinton against Trump.

It didn't help Turner's cause when at a June event for her, the rapper Killer Mike suggested it was "stupid" for House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., to have endorsed Biden in last year's presidential primaries. Last month, Clyburn wryly told a South Carolina newspaper that he "got involved" on Brown's behalf "when I was invited by the Turner campaign."

Brown's success is being described as a victory of "the establishment" over insurgents and of a "moderate" over a "progressive." Though partially true, the shorthand misses as much as it reveals.

The divisiveness of Turner's rhetoric aimed at others in her party goes far beyond where most progressive Democrats are. And with the Trump specter still lurking, the 11th Congressional District's primary voters decided to reward the candidate focused on cooperating with a Democratic administration whose success is a precondition to routing Trumpism for good.

Anyone doubting that the former president remains a radicalizing force within the GOP should consider the results of the other major Ohio congressional primary on Tuesday. The Trump-endorsed candidate, Mike Carey, 50, a coal industry lobbyist, overwhelmed a talented field of 10 other Republicans. Carey won 37% of the vote in a district outside Columbus. His nearest competitor -- endorsed by Steve Stivers, the popular GOP congressman whose departure forced the special election -- got just over 13%.

It needs to be repeated until it really sinks in: If you look at primary results over the past five years, Democrats remain the party in which more moderate candidates can prevail. Republicans, even when they opt against a Trump-endorsed candidate here or there, are much further to the right than Democrats are to the left.

But something else is true, too: Turner's defeat does not mean that progressive Democrats are "crushed," to use the sort of language popular on Wednesday. Progressives remain an important force in the Democratic Party but as part of a broader coalition. They succeed when they act as critics inside the tent. They fail when they are seen as bringing down the tent.

Ironically, Turner's defeat came on the same day that another progressive Democrat, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, won a big policy victory in pushing the Biden administration to reimpose a partial moratorium on evictions.

Bush's one-person sleep-in on the steps of the Capitol to dramatize the plight of the homeless was part of a broad effort by liberals and the left to get the administration to act after it first said that executive action to protect tenants would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court. Even if this turns out to be true, it was a mistake for Biden to resist offering protection for the neediest as covid-19 numbers rise again.

That Biden responded to the pressure is a textbook illustration of how the Democratic Party now works. Progressives can win a lot of ground for policies that are popular (see Biden's entire spending program) by playing an inside/outside game.

And the lines between "the establishment" and "progressives" are blurry, given that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was pressuring Biden privately for the moratorium and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave Bush "amazing credit" in a floor speech on Wednesday.

What doesn't work is wholesale opposition to Biden and rhetoric that denies the possibility of agreement across the Democratic Party's factions. And the strategy will fall apart if more moderate Democrats representing tough swing districts lose in 2022 and control of the House shifts to a Republican Party that, under Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, has become a Trump defense firm. Carey's victory in Ohio will only strengthen the Trump apologists.

For her part, Brown embraced the role of a politician who delivers the goods. "I just need to make sure the people I have been called to serve are getting the resources they need," she said in her victory speech.

For progressives, the lesson of both Brown's victory and Bush's is that they will deliver far more as critics who nonetheless remain allies of Biden and his coalition. Their real adversary is not the guy in the White House.

- - -

E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

The eviction moratorium exacerbated America's institutional disarray

By george f. will
The eviction moratorium exacerbated America's institutional disarray


Advance for release Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, and thereafter

(For Will clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only. Adds updates throughout

By George F. Will

WASHINGTON -- The still-unfolding story of the eviction moratorium might yet validate the axiom that nothing is as permanent as a temporary government program. It certainly demonstrates how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a preexisting political ailment -- institutional, including constitutional, disarray.

In March 2020, Congress legislated an eviction moratorium applicable to federally subsidized housing (about 28% of multifamily properties) and expiring in July 2020. In September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an executive branch appendage, suddenly acted as a supplemental legislature. The CDC declared a ban on evictions from any rental housing for nonpayment by individuals making under $99,000 annually or couples making $198,000, who self-certify having suffered pandemic-related financial injury. (In 2020, the median household income was $68,400.) The Biden administration extended the ban three times, through July 31.

Saying that evictions would cause people to move around, perhaps into congested spaces, the CDC located its authority to adopt a housing policy in a law empowering it to "provide for such inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings, and other measures."

The most recent of the federal courts that have ruled the eviction ban illegal unanimously held that "other measures" must be something the moratorium is not -- measures "similar to" those enumerated in the same sentence. The court, anticipating the Supreme Court, said that Congress must enact "exceedingly clear language" if it wants to dramatically enlarge the government's power over private property. The court said that under the CDC's interpretation of its power, it "can do anything it can conceive of to prevent the spread of disease," even shuttering "entire industries," exercising "near-dictatorial power for the duration of the pandemic." Or without a pandemic: seasonal flus kill thousands annually.

So, the CDC evidently thinks that it can do things the president clearly cannot ever do: for example, order a national mask mandate. And if Congress has empowered the CDC to suspend any activity involving mobility that might spread an infection, then there is no limit to Congress's power to delegate to administrative entities essentially legislative power.

As of June, landlords were owed $27.5 billion in unpaid rents. Almost half of landlords, who include many minorities, own only one or two rental units. They continue paying mortgages, property taxes, insurance and utilities while the CDC requires them to house nonpaying people or risk jail. Landlords can plausibly argue that the moratorium is a "taking."

The Constitution says government shall not take private property "for public use, without just compensation." The concept of "public use" has become almost limitlessly elastic. It originally referred to things (roads, bridges, etc.) the general public uses. Then, courts expanded it to include combating "blight." The Supreme Court's infamous 2005 Kelo decision stretched "public use" to encompass government taking one person's property to give it to another private party who would pay higher taxes. If an eviction moratorium to prevent the spread of infectious disease fits within the capacious modern conception of taking for "public use," then there must be compensation for the taking.

State and local governments have managed to distribute only about $3 billion of the $46 billion Congress appropriated for rental relief. President Joe Biden's press secretary says he would have "strongly supported" yet another CDC extension of the moratorium, but "unfortunately" in June, in the pesky Supreme Court, four justices termed it illegal. A fifth agreed but said it should be allowed to expire July 31 -- and could only be extended by "clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation)."

By ordering yet another extension, as he did on Tuesday, Biden -- who is more terrified of progressives than he is impressed by the Supreme Court -- has decided to dare the court to make good on its signaled intent to defend the separation of powers. Whenever this lawless moratorium seems about to end, there will be another wave of media stories, like last week's, anticipating a tsunami of evictions, thereby triggering calls for what would be a sixth extension. Eventually, the memory of normality having faded, the moratorium would seem normal and warranted as "social justice" because evictions might have a "disparate impact" on minorities, and hence be evidence of "systemic racism," even absent evidence of disparate treatment.

Meanwhile, because of the moratorium, surely many tenants who could pay their rent are choosing not to: $99,000 earners are among the top 17%; $198,000 households are in the top 11%. Also, the moratorium is, like excessive unemployment benefits, an incentive for some to remain out of the workforce. Such are the ricochets of government, unbridled and gargantuan.

- - -

George Will's email address is

'Stabbing People Is Just How I've Always Greeted Them,' by Jack the Ripper

By alexandra petri
'Stabbing People Is Just How I've Always Greeted Them,' by Jack the Ripper


Advance for release Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, and thereafter

(For Petri clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Alexandra Petri

(BEG ITAL)"I do it with everyone. Black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street." -- New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, D, introducing a montage of him kissing and grabbing people by the face in an unwanted manner, somehow thinking this was an appropriate response to allegations that he created a "hostile work environment" that was "rife with fear and intimidation."(END ITAL)

WASHINGTON -- Many of the women of London have complained about my stabbing behavior, or would have, if they were still alive to do so. But I have put together a series of daguerreotype slides that shows me stabbing people in other settings, just to demonstrate how utterly blameless I am in all of this. In the sense that -- I have always stabbed people. I'm a stabby guy. It's what I do, and it's not personal.

To me, stabbing is a mark of respect. Stabbing is a behavior I learned from my mother and father, who would often greet people by stabbing them with a blade or blades they had concealed on their persons. Just a polite, small stab, as someone testing the thickness of a pig's hide! To me, this is as much about family, about heritage, as it is about anything else, and it's something I won't compromise on. I'm not ashamed of who I am: a stabber who comes from a long line of stabbers.

Anyway, here are a bunch of pictures of me stabbing people, just to emphasize that I think it's fine. That's what we're trying to litigate here, right? Whether I think my behavior is fine? Not how comfortable anyone else is when I do it, or the effect that I have had on others? Well, I think my behavior is fine, and I stab often, as you can see in all these still images of me gutting people with whom I am barely acquainted. I hope this answers your questions.

When I am stabbing, I don't see gender. I don't see race. In fact, I am often stabbing in the dark of night and I don't see much of anything at all. I just flail around with my knife, terrorizing the streets of London and making women fear for their lives.

We need to stop talking about all the stabbing I am doing as though it's bad (it's not -- it's a family thing, as I've covered) and start talking about all the good things I'm doing: being really good at staying anonymous and taking over the computer of the starship Enterprise with my ghost.

Can I just say, I don't understand where all this hostility is coming from? Brutus, widely regarded as a hero, loved to stab people; Caesar was stabbed by all his friends, and he knew it didn't mean they didn't respect him.

Indeed, I don't feel at home in a room unless I've stabbed two or three people, ideally more. I have seen the complaints: "Stabbing may make you feel comfortable, Jack, but it doesn't make anyone else in the room feel comfortable! They are in pain and need to seek medical attention!" To that I say, "Hmm." Imagine feeling that way about stabbing and not immediately understanding what I meant by it! I honestly feel sorry for people like that. Not sorry because they have been stabbed, are bleeding and require medical attention, but sorry because their minds are so small.

I like to think that if anyone stabbed me, I would see it as the sign of respect that it is -- but what am I saying?! Nobody would do that to me.

- - -

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

The federal foreclosure moratorium has ended. Struggling homeowners may still be able to keep their homes.

By michelle singletary
The federal foreclosure moratorium has ended. Struggling homeowners may still be able to keep their homes.


Advance for release Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, and thereafter

(For Singletary clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Michelle Singletary

NOTE: This is the second Singletary column being sent today. Subscribers to her column are welcome to use either or both of them.

WASHINGTON - Now that the federal moratorium on mortgage foreclosures has ended, homeowners will have to reckon with thousands of dollars of overdue payments that were paused for more than a year. But don't despair, there's still a lot of help available.

Under the Cares Act, borrowers hit hard by the pandemic and having trouble making their mortgage payments were provided with two vital types of protection.

One was a foreclosure moratorium, which ended July 31.

The second protection gave borrowers the right to ask for and receive a forbearance, which permits them to temporarily stop making mortgage payments.

The automatic approval of pandemic-related relief was key. People generally couldn't be rejected for forbearance. While officially the relief only applied to federally owned or backed loans, many private lenders followed the government's lead.

As pandemic-specific protections sunset, help is still available to prevent homes from going into foreclosure. Here's what you need to know if you can't pay your mortgage.

- What happens now that the foreclosure moratorium has ended?

Lenders can proceed with foreclosures, especially for borrowers who have abandoned their properties or haven't responded to outreach from their mortgage servicers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says that if you received forbearance under the Cares Act and you're still experiencing financial hardship because of the pandemic, you may be entitled to ask for and receive an extension.

You can get an extension as long as you haven't reached the maximum months of forbearance, points out Mark McArdle, the CFPB's assistant director for mortgage markets. For most borrowers who began forbearance last spring, the 18-month maximum will be this fall.

"A consumer who has not entered forbearance as of now can enter forbearance," McArdle said. "Folks who have exited forbearance and then want to reenter, they can still reenter."

But you need to ask for assistance. It won't happen automatically. You need to contact your mortgage servicer.

- How much time do I have?

The Federal Housing Administration announced an extension of the foreclosure-related eviction moratorium for foreclosed borrowers through Sept. 30.

"FHA's eviction moratorium extension will avoid displacement of foreclosed borrowers and other occupants who need more time to access suitable housing options after foreclosure." the agency said.

The Biden administration has extended the forbearance enrollment window through Sept. 30 for government-backed loans -- about 75% of all mortgages -- according to the General Accountability Office.

Such loans are guaranteed, insured, made directly by, purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development/FHA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Agriculture Department.

The extended pandemic-related forbearance could last up to 12 months.

- If I'm exiting a forbearance, what's happens next?

If you're still experiencing financial trouble, starting Aug. 31, most mortgage servicers must tell you about repayment or other options when they reach out to you, according to a CFPB rule that has been updated in light of the pandemic. The watchdog agency says that except in limited circumstances, servicers can't start the foreclosure process before Jan. 1, 2022. The servicer has to reach out to you first, examine your situation and then explore options to help you avoid foreclosure.

You can find a lot of answers to your questions and guidance on the CFPB's website, Look for the unified housing link.

- What are my options for catching up on missed mortgage payments during the moratorium?

There are various ways you can deal with past-due mortgage payments.

Generally, there are four options, according to McArdle.

- Reinstatement (pay it all back in a lump sum)

- Payment plan (higher payments to pay back over a period of time)

- Deferral (move missed payments to the back of the loan, resume making old payment)

- Loan modification (changing the terms of the loan to achieve a lower payment)

"The last two options are the ones most consumers will use to exit forbearance," he said.

If none of these options are doable, you could sell your home. And unlike during the Great Recession, you might walk away with some money because housing prices are skyrocketing in many areas.

"Some folks have equity, which is different than the last crisis," McArdle said. "It's possible that if you need to leave your home, you can leave with some equity, as opposed to eroding that equity through the foreclosure process."

- If I don't have the money to pay my mortgage, why should I contact my loan servicer?

Your lack of communication could actually speed up the foreclosure process. In some states, a foreclosure can happen in as soon as a few months. The help you need won't happen if you don't communicate with your mortgage servicer.

Under the new CFPB rules, the servicer can proceed with a referral for foreclosure if the company hasn't received any communications after 90 days.

"Don't dodge the call from your servicer," McArdle said.

- What should I do if my loan servicer isn't helping me?

HUD-approved housing counselors can discuss options with you if you're having trouble getting help from your mortgage servicer.

At, you can find a link to a housing counseling agency or call toll-free 800-569-4287.

If you are not getting the assistance you need, you should also file a complaint with the CFPB. At, click the link that says "Submit a Complaint."

- - -

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

Where conservatives' arguments about public health mandates go wrong

By megan mcardle
Where conservatives' arguments about public health mandates go wrong


Advance for release Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, and thereafter

(For McArdle clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Megan McArdle

WASHINGTON -- As with everything else covid-related, vaccine passports were a political flash point even before New York City announced Tuesday that it would mandate proof of vaccination for many indoor settings. Liberals are enthusiastic, while conservatives have variously derided them as "Jim Crow," "authoritarianism" or "un-American" -- and denounced as a quisling anyone on the right who seems to support them.

Conservatives are not wrong, of course, that such measures are a serious infringement on liberty. It may sincerely feel like an unprecedented incursion on bedrock American principles of small government and individual freedom. But we're really haggling over whether this particular risk is worth the kinds of measures that public health authorities have been imposing for centuries.

As Adam Klein and Benjamin Wittes documented last year on the legal-affairs site Lawfare, our country's history of public health coercion is long and illustrious -- and predates the founding. The Massachusetts colony got its first quarantine law in 1647. By the early 18th century, authorities were permitted to remove the ill to separate houses. Ship quarantines were common, as were 19th-century quarantines of immigrants.

As more became known about the causes and treatment of disease, the reach of public health officers became even more intrusive. In 1905, the Supreme Court upheld compulsory vaccination to halt a smallpox epidemic. A few years later, a cook named Mary Mallon was given the choice between surgery to remove her gallbladder and lifetime quarantine. She died in confinement, yet you probably know her not as a tragic martyr to authoritarian government but as "Typhoid Mary," the asymptomatic carrier who sickened many people in the households where she was employed, and killed at least three.

Yet the U.S. local, state and federal governments that enacted these measures would probably strike even many modern conservatives as a little too hands-off about many things. It wasn't that our ancestors didn't love individual liberty; they just loved it a little less than they hated getting typhoid or smallpox.

Conservatives who think that they're defending a kind of natural order of things, or at least historical precedent, are actually fixing on a fairly recent, and extraordinarily novel, era characterized by humanity's conquest of the most common and infectious diseases. Back when this country was founded, our population was routinely ravaged by disease: waterborne illnesses such as typhoid, polio and cholera; mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever; bacterial infections including staph, strep and tuberculosis; and airborne viral infections such as measles and mumps. Our ancestors used the power of the law to contain those threats, at least partially.

One by one, however, those diseases were neutralized through great public works projects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and then through medical advances in vaccines and antibiotics. Thanks to them, almost no living Americans worry as much about infectious disease as their ancestors. Yet even so, we haven't entirely given up on restrictive interventions: Tuberculosis patients who don't comply with treatment can be, and are, forcibly isolated until they complete a lengthy and unpleasant drug regimen. In 20 years around the libertarian and conservative movements, I cannot recall ever hearing anyone denounce this practice.

A vaccine passport would of course affect more people, which makes it feel more intrusive, even though in principle it is less so: You don't have to get a vaccine in New York; you just can't dine indoors without one. And it's understandable that conservatives tend to think of their old existence as the natural state of affairs. But it's actually highly abnormal -- and since the outbreak of covid-19 has pushed us a little closer toward the historical "normal," arguably our willingness to infringe on personal liberty should get more "normal" too.

It's fair to disagree, but you won't persuade your fellow Americans by ranting about jackboots and Jim Crow. A better counterargument is to concede that while other interventions might have been justified, covid-19 poses too small a threat to the vaccinated to justify the intrusion.

After all, the recent spike in covid infections in Britain has not led to a correspondingly massive spike in deaths. Moreover, the delta-variant-driven wave there seems to have peaked quickly and receded even faster, a pattern that's also apparent in the Netherlands, raising questions about just how many people delta fatally threatens. There's a strong case that the added risk is too small to merit a mask mandate -- much less measures that coerce people into injecting a foreign substance into their bodies.

That's not to say that conservatives will win that fight. There are also good arguments in favor of vaccine passports, and conservatives will have to rebut them convincingly. But they're more likely to win by standing on those sorts of facts than by claiming the mantle of good old-fashioned American values -- because in the case of infectious disease, those old-fashioned values are not really on their side.

- - -

Follow Megan McArdle on Twitter, @asymmetricinfo.

The disgrace and downfall of Andrew Cuomo

By ruth marcus
The disgrace and downfall of Andrew Cuomo


Advance for release Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, and thereafter

(For Marcus clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Ruth Marcus

WASHINGTON -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached under his executive assistant's blouse and cupped her breast, she told investigators. On another occasion, he asked to take a selfie with her -- then grabbed her butt cheek and began to rub it. He made sexualized comments ("If you were single, the things I would do to you") and demanded hugs, "pushing my body against his," when she left the governor's mansion.

And still, the executive assistant said, "I was going to take this to the grave." There was nothing to gain -- "at the end of the day . . . nothing was going to happen to him" -- and a job at stake she had dreamed of since childhood, when she looked at the state Capitol in Albany and told her grandmother she would work there someday.

Of all the aspects of the devastating report on Cuomo's conduct released Tuesday by state Attorney General Letitia James, this theme -- of perceived and probably rational helplessness in the face of power -- is the most heartbreaking. It is threaded throughout the 165-page report: the repeated violations of personal privacy and physical space, the burning humiliation of being demeaned as a professional, the conviction that speaking out would invite retaliation.

That Cuomo could have behaved so abusively toward so many for so long -- and his denials to the contrary were properly deemed unconvincing by the investigators -- is nothing short of astonishing. What was tolerated, if not tolerable, in years and decades past is intolerable in 2021. Cuomo is done, whether he recognizes it or not. But his departure, if or when it comes, does not mean the problem is solved.

Because the problem, as painfully expounded in the report, is a culture that allowed this behavior to fester unaddressed. Every entity, but especially political offices in which an elected official can enjoy seeming impunity from the rules and laws that govern mere mortals, must consider: Whether it can happen here and what changes must be implemented to prevent that.

Cuomo's "defense" is even more unconvincing today, with the sworn testimony and expert assessments detailed in the report, than it was when the allegations against him first surfaced last February. "I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances," Cuomo said. "That is just not who I am, and that's not who I have ever been."

To read the report is to be convinced that's precisely who Cuomo is -- notwithstanding his slide-show "defense" of him kissing an array of constituents and politicians. A few people might have, as Cuomo claims, misinterpreted his motives, misunderstood his banter, misremembered what happened or even had it in for him.

But not 11 different individuals, often backed up by eyewitnesses or those they told contemporaneously. Never touched anyone inappropriately? Leave aside the executive assistant -- although you shouldn't. But what about the state trooper who Cuomo insisted be hired, despite the fact that she had only two years of service instead of the requisite three? She described standing in front of Cuomo in an elevator when she was guarding him, when he "placed his finger on the top of her neck and ran his finger down her spine midway down her back, and said 'Hey, you.' " Another time, she said, as she held the door open for him as he left an event, Cuomo ran his palm across her stomach, making her feel "completely violated because to me, like that's between my chest and my privates."

What about Virginia Limmiatis, who met Cuomo on a rope line when she was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the name of the energy company she worked for? "When the Governor reached Ms. Limmiatis, he ran two fingers across her chest, pressing down on each of the letters as he did so and reading out the name of the Energy Company as he went," the report recounts. "The Governor then leaned in, with his face close to Ms. Limmiatis's cheek, and said, 'I'm going to say I see a spider on your shoulder,' before brushing his hand in the area between her shoulder and breasts (and below her collarbone)."

These are not people with any motive to lie -- indeed, they are individuals with every motive to protect their privacy and their careers by staying silent. The executive assistant said she decided to come forward after listening to Cuomo, in a news conference just down the hallway from her office, insisted that he had never behaved inappropriately toward another staffer. "I couldn't be part of those conversations anymore, because what she was saying was the truth," she said. "Those things actually did happen to me as well."

But if some came forward in solidarity, others were motivated by a more twisted devotion -- not to Cuomo's victims but to the governor himself. "Whether driven by fear or blinded by loyalty," the report concluded, "the senior staff . . . (and the Governor's select group of outside confidantes) looked to protect the Governor and found ways not to believe or credit those who stepped forward to make or support allegations against him."

This survival instinct is as innate as it is disappointing. Unless steps are taken to guard against it -- to encourage victims to speak out and to impose consequences on those who work to retaliate against accusers -- the kind of behavior outlined in the report will persist, even after the disgrace and downfall of individual abusers.

- - -

Ruth Marcus' email address is

The sharpest pens in the industry serve up points of view to chew on.

Bury your dead-tired strips and grab something fresh, meaningful and hilarious.

Serious therapy and serious fun to give readers a break from breaking news.