Parents, students and teachers gathered outside Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office, and voiced their concerns about Betsy DeVos’ pending appointment to Secretary of Education. Public Education Watchdogs organized the demonstration and pressed Sen. Schumer to block DeVos’ confirmation during this week’s Senate vote.
Since the demonstration, a Senate panel met on Tuesday afternoon and voted 12-11 in favor of DeVos. This will advance her confirmation to a full Senate vote for final approval. Democrats remain hopeful they can acquire the three Republican votes needed to block her appointment. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have both expressed their own reservations with DeVos’ appointment, but neither have confirmed the direction of their vote.
Every year, on the second Friday in December, high school seniors from across the country march their application materials through their communities to a local post office or mail truck. The College March began in 2011 at NYC Outward Bound’s network school, the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS). In one year, participation spread throughout the network and continues to grow annually. It is a day that allows students to enthusiastically approach the college application process, rather than feel intimidated.
This year, over 2,700 seniors will march at 35 schools across 12 cities.
The Dakota Access Pipeline project has been a strongly opposed development for the past 18 months. It would create a new underground oil pipeline designed to carry roughly 470,000 barrels of oil across 1,172 miles of land per day. The pipeline would pass through four Midwest states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois – connecting Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.
The most active opposition has come from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Sections of the pipeline would cut directly through sacred holy ground and potentially damage their water supply, so protestors have been drawn to the land to stop construction. Many camping at Standing Rock have faced attack dogs, pepper spray, and even fires being set to camp grounds.
Social media users across the nation took to action with the hashtag, #NoDAPL. Towards the end of last month, demonstrators in North Dakota requested Facebook users to check-in at Standing Rock. This was done in an effort to create a cyber smokescreen, and prevent local law enforcement from using the social media platform to target protestors. This past week, New York joined the fight.
Wilbert Grier is an Army Pilot veteran and proud member of the “Top of the Fifth” community. Grier comes out every year to show his support for everyone running the race. Grier blew his whistle and shouted the name written on every racer’s bib as they passed by. Photo by: Brandon Gomez
“Top of the fifth” is usually a phrase tossed around by baseball fans, but for a neighborhood in Spanish Harlem, it’s the nickname of their little two block community at the top of 5th Avenue. Today a crowd of New York City Marathon supporters lined the “s-curve” route which comes at mile 22.
Even at the earlier hour of 11:00 am, before the first few runners passed, residents sat on their porches and held up signs of encouragement.
“We are proud of our community, but we also know that our community is proud of us,” said Wilbert “Wild Thing” Grier, 55, who lives in the area. “It’s a beautiful little two blocks.”
Grier, came bundled up and ready to show his support with coffee in hand and a small black and white whistle dangling around his neck. Even though cheers and applause erupted from nearby supporters, little compared to the sharp piercing sound of Grier’s whistle.
“The last few years I’ve been leaving the race a little hoarse, so this year, I decided to bring my whistle I got from the Puerto Rican Day Parade,” he said.
Today at the race Grier stood along the sidewalk as a spectator, but he was no stranger to being on the course. Having run marathons and Iron Man races before, he knew all the mental strength needed to finish.
“When you’re running a race, you are always running for your life. It’s a great thing,” he said.
But Grier connected his own mental strength with other life experiences. Having been around the military since he was nine-years-old, and watching his father serve as a merchant marine, Grier proudly wore his “U.S. Army” hat.
“Being an Army pilot veteran, and now being out here on the ground cheering for people that I flew for, for their right to do this and have fun, it makes it all very rewarding to see people enjoying themselves,” he said. “It’s a great thing to be a part of a great event.”
Grier grew up as a curious child, constantly reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. He even used to be bullied at school for being the nerdy kid. After serving in the army, earning several degrees, and mentoring others, he continues to face the negativity of others.
“I am always getting stereotyped as not too bright or not too smart, you know, me being an African American,” he said. “I get a sense of edge. I often get stereotyped because of age, race, creed, or gender.”
But watching the marathon, Grier was reminded of the humbling affect a race can have on the community.
“When you come out and watch these races you don’t know who that person is standing next to you, but one thing is for sure, being at the New York marathon brings the community closer together and that’s how you know people are proud of their neig
Slideshow by Lisa Setyon and Cora Cervantes
The sound of nearly two hundred demonstrators could be heard throughout the Upper West Side last night declaring “Black Lives Matter” in Columbus Circle.
“People tell us we’re wasting our time, but civil rights wouldn’t have been passed if the people then didn’t do what they did,” said Priscilla Ortiz, 38, from Jersey City.
Hoods4Justice, a community organization in New York fighting for black and brown liberation nationwide, organized Saturday’s march. The march began at Columbus Circle, continued through Central Park, down Madison Avenue, and ended at Rockefeller Plaza with an uplifting call and response led by one of the organizers.
Some demonstrators wore t-shirts with “Black Lives Matter” proudly inscribed on their chests, and others wore Kaepernick jerseys in support of the NFL player’s recent stance behind the movement.
The demonstration was called “an emergency rally and march” on the Facebook event in response to recent cases of police brutality.
Tensions rose nationwide after the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, 40, of Tulsa Oklahoma last week and Keith Lamont Scott, 43, of Charlotte North Carolina this past week, and protests erupted nationwide.
But beyond these two recent killings, Saturday’s demonstration in New York was part of the larger mission to effectively end police brutality. A mission that carries many more names on its list of victims – Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Kendra James, Alton Sterling and others.
“Listen, I don’t believe all cops are bad, but I think it’s come to a point where they’ve become a cult, and that’s not okay,” said Ortiz.
The New York Police Department was in full attendance. Blue uniforms lined the streets with barricades, vans, motorcycles and a helicopter patrolled overhead. The whirring of the propellers turned several eyes to the sky and provided an added layer of unease.
Ortiz has been an active demonstrator for most of her adult life. Growing up in Texas, she experienced first hand the tension between police and minorities.
“I was visiting Texas in 2012 and my car had New Jersey license plates. The cop pulled me over and said my backlights were out. My backlights weren’t out. You’re a minority driving down the street and they find a reason to pull you over,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz heard about the event on Facebook and came with her 3-year old daughter Elizabeth, who was wearing a button that read, “We need a Political Party of the 99%”.
“I’m here for one reason, justice. I bring my kids with me because this is where it starts from,” she said. “I’m fighting for my daughter’s future, my son’s future, and my own.”
As the crowd formed, Ortiz grabbed her megaphone, commanded the crowd’s attention and led them in several chants.
“Say his name.” “Terence Crutcher, Rest in Power.” “I Can’t Breath”
Also chanting in the crowd was Mimi McDermott, 74, of the Upper West Side.
McDermott was a part of many rallies in the sixties and has continued to participate throughout the years. She supported several movements including the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, and now, Black Lives Matter.
“We thought we made progress in the sixties, and I guess we did, but it’s back and even more vehement now because we know the problems and here we are again,” said McDermott.
McDermott reflected on her years of rallies and demonstrations.
“The issue is systemic and until it starts to change from the top, there won’t be any change,” she said. “It’s almost like a bacteria or a virus that’s become stronger.”
McDermott was uncertain of the lasting impact of the evening’s rally, but shared hope for an increase in the number of marchers.
As the rally began, more and more people passing by could be seen joining. The occasional scoff or “Blue Lives Matter” could be heard. But they were overpowered by the number of people stopped with a raised fist or a raised iPhone, which recorded a quick clip of the event.
Noreen Abouelnaga, 16, of Astoria Queens was out taking pictures at Plaza Hotel and eating lunch in Central Park when she and a friend stumbled onto the rally.
“In the media there’s a lot of anti-black especially when it comes to white people and police brutality, and so I thought it was okay to stop and say that black lives matter,” said Abouelnaga.
Abouelnaga comes from a Muslim household with immigrant parents. She talked about the constant struggle she has with them to understand race relations in the United States.
“I don’t want to say this, but my mom is really racist because she sees like, what the media shows,” she said. “So I have a black friend and she doesn’t let me hang out with her because she’s black.”
As a muslim, she said she can identify with the movement.
“I think if I stand here supporting black lives and Snapchat it or put it up on Instagram, and my friends see it, I think it gets the message to people my age that it’s not ok,” said Abouelnaga.
Moderator John Davan (center) preps the debaters by outlining the evening’s structure. Debaters Timothy Carney (Left) and Ben Domenech (center left) will argue ‘For’ the motion. Debaters Jennifer Rubin (center Right) and Bret Stephens (right) will argue ‘Against’ the motion. Photo by Brandon Gomez
Laughter filled the Kaufman Music Center in the Upper West Side last night when deputy editor of the Editorial Page, Bret Stephens, posed his audience with a short list of questions.
“Who here has been to Europe in the last five years?” Stephens asked. “How many of you have graduate degrees? Generally speaking, Sancerre is white or red wine?”
His questions were first met with laughter followed by hesitantly raised hands as the majority recognized their elite status.
For the past several months, all eyes have turned to the two presidential candidates. With the first of three presidential debates right around the corner, voters are scrutinizing every part of their campaigns. Demanding medical records, tax returns and email logs, the public wants to hold these candidates accountable, same as other presidential candidates before them.
Tuesday’s mock debate was hosted by Intelligence Squared, a nonprofit organization focused on debate and public discourse. And if it was any indication of what is coming, we should all pack our plastic ponchos for the mudslinging about to take place.
The debaters faced off two-against-two. Those ‘For’ the motion sat stage right and those ‘Against’ the motion stage left. Unlike the typical liberal vs. conservative format, this group was made of four conservatives. Over the 90-minute debate the pairs argued if we should “blame the elites for the Trump phenomenon”, while the audience sat safely at an arm’s length away to keep clean.
It quickly became clear none of the debaters were Trump supporters. Stephens later brought about even more laughter when he compared Trump voters to patrons of a strip club.
“Every time he says something dirty, it turn out people want more of it,” he said.
Publisher for The Federalist and host of The Federalist Radio Hour Ben Domenech argued against Stephens, but had some comedic material as well.
“Donald Trump, a man who, as John Mulaney tells us, begins every day by asking himself, ‘What would a cartoon rich person do?’” he said.
John Donvan, a correspondent for ABC News, moderated the debate. He invited the audience to share their verdict, each person holding a small white remote attached to his or her seat by a long red cord. This device was the gavel for this pseudo judge and jury.
Linda Ross of the Upper East Side, Manhattan enjoyed the mock debate and felt that all had their arguments well placed.
“Personally, I hold the voter responsible for the mess we are in.” she said. “How does the old saying go, ‘You get the government you deserve.’’
Attendee David Brunswick of Manhattan acknowledged the tendency for the debaters to point out the many shortcomings of a certain candidate, but also the importance for the voters to do more than simple name-calling.
“I’m surprised that this question has morphed into another question, which is which of the two sides is most stridently anti-Trump,” said Brunswick. He was the first member of the audience to address the debaters.
Brunswick also shared his struggle with the audience’s reactions.
“The speaker or side that seemed the most anti-Trump, garnered the greatest suffrage and popularity and that was not the purpose of the debate,” he said.
Brunswick acknowledged a theme within the 2016 Election – who has the greatest punch line?
Laughter was the default reaction for the majority of Tuesday’s audience. But Donvan reminded us of something very important in his opening comments.
“Who laughed when Donald Trump set out to win the White House?” asked Donvan. “Lots of people. But who got the last laugh and the Republican nomination?”