Celebrities and Activists Rally Support for Farmer Protests in India & Global News

by Debra Brown

Farmer Protests in India

Each Wednesday, we recap the most important headlines from our global community to keep you up to speed on world news.


Solidarity is necessary to progress. Celebrities and activists around the world are using their platforms with millions of followers to bring awareness to the farmers protests in India. Protests have also erupted in Rochester, New York, the second time this year. This time protesting against the use of chemical irritants by the police on a Black 9 year old girl.


Celebrities and Activists Rally Support for India Farmer Protests 

Pop entrepreneur Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg have drawn the ire of the Indian government after they tweeted in support of the huge farmers’ protests in India against the new farm laws.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi since November, calling for a repeal of laws they fear will allow large corporations to crush them.

Rihanna, who has more than 100 million followers on Twitter, wrote “why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest”, with a link to a news story about a government crackdown that included an internet blackout.

Her comment was retweeted more than 230,000 times and liked by more than half a million users. 

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, one of the world’s most prominent environmental campaigners, also tweeted a story about the internet blackout, saying: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.”

There was also support from the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was born in India.

They were joined by several international celebrities, including legislators from the United States and Britain, who expressed their solidarity with the farmers’ protests in India.

The international celebrity tweets triggered an online storm in India, where the farmers’ protests have become one of the biggest challenges to Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he took power in 2014.

Twitter temporarily blocked tens of accounts tweeting about the farmers’ protests at the demand of the Indian government, while police have detained dozens of farmers and filed sedition charges against prominent journalists.


Amazon to Pay Drivers $61.7m After US Probe

Amazon.com Inc. will pay $61.7 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission finding that the company withheld tips meant for Flex delivery drivers for more than two years.

Despite pledging to drivers and shoppers that Flex drivers would receive 100% of the value of tips, the world’s largest online retailer used a portion of the gratuities to pay the basic hourly rate for the on-demand package delivery program, the regulator said.

Flex, launched in 2015, invites independent contractors to deliver packages from their own vehicles. Amazon promised drivers a pay rate of $18 to $25 an hour and the full value of their tips.

But in late 2016, without disclosing the change to drivers or shoppers, the company started paying drivers a lower rate and using the tips to make up the difference.

Under the terms of the settlement, the FTC will use the $61.7 million to compensate drivers who lost tips. Drivers can sign up for email updates on the refund process at the FTC’s website.


New Allegations of Abuse by Officer Who Knelt on George Floyd

Discussing the encounters publicly for the first time in interviews with The Marshall Project, three people who were arrested by Mr. Chauvin and a witness in a fourth incident described him as an unusually rough officer who was quick to use force and callous about their pain.

Of the six people arrested, two were Black, one was Latino and one was Native American. The race of two others was not included in the arrest reports that reporters examined.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s office argues that Mr. Chauvin was using excessive force when he restrained people — by their necks or by kneeling on top of them — just as he did in arresting Mr. Floyd. Police records show that Mr. Chauvin was never formally reprimanded for any of these incidents, even though at least two of those arrested said they had filed formal complaints.

He was the subject of at least 22 complaints or internal investigations during his more than 19 years at the department, only one of which resulted in discipline. 

All four people who told of their encounters with Mr. Chauvin had a history of run-ins with law enforcement, mostly for traffic and nonviolent offenses.

A judge in Minnesota ruled that prosecutors could present the details of a 2017 arrest in their case against the former officer, who was charged with second-degree unintentional murder in Mr. Floyd’s death.


New York Repeals ‘Walking While Trans’ Law

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Tuesday that repeals a state anti-loitering law, commonly called the “walking while trans” ban, that critics say police used to harass and arrest law-abiding trans people, in particular.

The new measure effectively takes off the books a 1976 law that sought to prohibit loitering for the purpose of prostitution. Politicians and LGBTQ advocates say the law resulted in decades of discrimination by law enforcement.

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, the lead sponsor of the bill, citing data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, said that in 2018, that 91% of people arrested under the statute were Black and Latinx, and 80% identified as women.

The governor’s signature eliminates the law for the entire state. But changes had already started taking shape prior to the repeal of the ban.

In 2016, the Legal Aid Society filed a civil rights lawsuit against New York City on behalf of women of color, many of whom are transgender, who were wrongly arrested under the statute. Three years later, the case was settled and the New York Police Department agreed to revise its Patrol Guide section on the penal law code.

Brooklyn’s District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced his office would vacate “walking while trans” bench warrants and the underlying charges in the borough.

The first batch includes 262 warrants dating back to 2012, which were vacated last week, with their underlying cases dismissed. Older warrants are planned for dismissal at a future date.


Protests In Rochester As Lawmakers Move To Ban Use of Chemical Irritants On Minors

New York state lawmakers have introduced legislation that bans law enforcement officers from using chemical irritants on minors.

It was a quick response to Rochester Police pepper-spraying a handcuffed 9-year-old girl as officers were responding to a call of a family disturbance. Video of the girl’s encounter with police was released by city officials, sparking protests in the city. 

City officials have “removed three officers from patrol duties” that were involved in the incident, according to the Rochester Police Department. 

The demonstrations, though smaller, were reminiscent of protests last summer when people took to the streets to demand justice for Daniel Prude, a Black man with a history of mental illness who died of asphyxiation after an encounter with Rochester Police.

Prude died in March, but circumstances surrounding his death were not made public until months later, leading to allegations of a cover-up. Several members of the Rochester Police Department were either terminated or resigned in connection with the Prude tragedy.

Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan responded by suspending one officer while two others were placed on administrative leave, until an internal investigation has been completed.


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