Supreme Court Protects LGTBQ+ Workers, Council President Gomez On City Budget, National Guard Members Face Discipline Over Protest Deployment And San Diegan Who Marched With MLK Reflects On Today’s Protest Movement
KPBS Midday Edition / June 15, 2020
In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The decision stems from several cases filed by gay and transgender employees. Plus, San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez is defending her vote to approve the city’s budget, which did not include cuts to police funding. Also, some members of the National Guard could face discipline for refusing to deploy to respond to protests against police brutality and racial injustice. And, a grandfather from San Diego opens up to his granddaughter about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and reflects on how it compares to today’s protest movement.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Conservatives joined liberals in a pair of solid Supreme court rulings, and why some guardsmen refuse to deploy to riot duty. I Mark Sauer infer, Maureen Kavanaugh, it's KPBS midday edition.
Speaker 1: 00:23 This is Monday, June 15th, and his first press conference in 10 days. Governor Gavin Newsome today assured Californians that the number of positive cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 remained stable. He and state and local health leaders are monitoring cases and hospitalizations carefully. As many parts of California, including San Diego County opened back up. The governor is also in the middle of budget negotiations with the legislature with a midnight deadline to pass the budget. Newsome said concerns are growing about spikes and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, especially in intensive care units. In some areas of the state, the governor reported that the state's positivity rate has declined from 40% in April to about 4.5% today. As testing greatly expanded,
Speaker 2: 01:13 testing's increased. You see total number of positives increased as a consequence, but the percentage, the positivity rate has declined sharply and has remained stable over the course of the last month and a half plus, and certainly reflected in that 4.5%. In the last 14 days,
Speaker 1: 01:34 we turn now to our top news story today, a pair of rulings by the United States Supreme court. There were victories to be celebrated today among supporters for LGBTQ rights and those favoring sanctuary cities in California by solid majorities. The U S Supreme court took actions on both of those highly controversial fronts. Joining me to discuss what it means is Glenn Smith professor at California, Western school of law, and an expert in constitutional law. Welcome to midday edition.
Speaker 3: 02:04 Thank you. Glad to be here.
Speaker 1: 02:06 Well, these were two rulings. Many people might find surprising from a court with a five, four conservative majority. Let's start with the civil rights ruling effecting hiring and workplace issues for LGBTQ workers. What was that case about?
Speaker 3: 02:20 This was consolidated cases, three employees who were fired for, uh, in two cases being gay and for a third case, uh, transitioning from male to female. And they all sued under title seven, the main federal anti-discrimination law, because, uh, unlike California, the States they were employed in didn't have any special state protection. So it was a question of, could they get, uh, employment discrimination protection under the federal law,
Speaker 1: 02:52 majority opinion was written by justice, Neil Gorsuch, who was Donald Trump's first nominee to the court. And of course that was a pick Democrats and SIS should have gone to Barack Obama. Now did Gorsuch siding with the majority surprise you?
Speaker 3: 03:05 It did in one sense and not in another, uh, certainly if you go with the normal quote conservative, uh, view that conservatives oppose these rights, it was surprising. And certainly the Trump administration has tried to undermine these rights, uh, but from the stand from another standpoint, and this is why I like to point out to my students and anyone who'll listen to me that Supreme court cases are not just about politics. Uh, justice Gorsuch has a very strong record as what is known in the trade as a textualist and the, the language quote because of sex, uh, unquote in the title seven statute seemed to apply pretty straightforwardly to, uh, include transgender and sexual orientation rights. So yes, I know.
Speaker 1: 03:56 Well, and that, that's interesting that one word from the, uh, this law that was written in the sixties, uh, really the whole majority opinion turned on that. What was his reasoning in all of this?
Speaker 3: 04:08 He reasoned that even if Congress didn't likely in 1964, I think that because of sex, uh, meant that the applications that we see in our society today, that wasn't the question. The question was what is the plain common sense, meaning of the term? And he said that in lots of situations, the court has recognized that words passed in one era, take on new meaning in a different one. And this was one of those cases
Speaker 1: 04:36 and Gorsuch was joined by chief justice, John Roberts, and siding with the courts for liberal members. Uh, again, that not a surprise. Is it the same kind of reasoning you were describing earlier?
Speaker 3: 04:47 Yeah, really the same kind of reasoning in a way. I mean, I predicted this decision. I knew, I figured that it would either be five to four against the employees or six to three for them, because it did strike me that, um, both Roberts and Gorsuch had, you know, had an uphill climb to try to fly in the face of the clear meaning of the statute.
Speaker 1: 05:11 Some LGBTQ advocates said this really was even more important than the landmark, same sex marriage ruling a few years back. Why was that?
Speaker 3: 05:20 I can understand that, um, it would be the scope of the application, you know, the same sex marriage ruling certainly were landmark cases, uh, recognizing the importance of LGBT rights in a, but in a very specific context marriage. Whereas in terms of a percentage of the population and extent to which, uh, gay employees and lesbian employees and transgender employees could be affected by the decision, the practical impact is much greater,
Speaker 1: 05:53 right? Everybody has a job or needs a job. It would be
Speaker 3: 05:55 well. Exactly. And sure. They were also happy that earliest gratified that even though the newest justice cabinet dissented went out of his way in the last paragraph of his opinions to acknowledge that quote, millions of gay and lesbian Americans unquote, uh, have been exhibiting quote, extraordinary vision, tenacity and grit, that kind of acknowledgement I'm sure is, is especially gratifying. Even if they didn't get as vote to, um, um, advocates in this area.
Speaker 1: 06:26 What was the argument among the three dissenters in this case?
Speaker 3: 06:29 It's interesting Mark. It's a very first principal's argument about which institution in our constitutional system should make this kind of a policy decision members of the descent. All the three dissenters accused the majority of basically legislating from the bench. They said that if, if this big a policy change that wasn't anticipated by the 64 Congress ought to be made, it ought to be made by the Congress. And they referred to unsuccessful efforts in Congress to try to change title seven statutorily. So it's really more of an institutional argument. Although there also is a fascinating argument between different brands of intentionalism literal Lisen, uh, versus the original meaning and the original intent. It's, it's a fascinating case even outside of the important, practical and legal significance that, uh, experts in statutory interpretation and, and the proper role of Congress and the courts will be studying for a long time.
Speaker 1: 07:32 And what is the practical effect? This ruling has an LGBT workers and on employers, especially here in California,
Speaker 3: 07:39 in California, and other States that where employees have the luxury or the benefit of having existing protection for not being fired based on these statuses. It doesn't mean a lot for most California employees. There are some groups of California employees, presumably weren't covered by the California law that are now covered by title seven. I'm not an employment law expert, but my understanding is that both Californians who are working outside of the state, or certainly outside of the country, aren't covered by California's on law and also federal employees who are not an insignificant presence in San Diego and elsewhere. Uh, now get coverage against discrimination based on transgender or sexual orientation. So it's not insignificant in California, but frankly, where it's really significant is in the majority of States in our country where unlike California, the state law, wasn't progressive, and now the federal government floor will, uh, protect lots of employees that it didn't protect before the ruling today.
Speaker 1: 08:48 And last week, the Trump administration rolled back transgender protections in healthcare by today's ruling have an impact on that decision.
Speaker 3: 08:56 Yes and no. Uh, it won't have a technical impact because the Trump administration was proceeding under a different federal statute. And the language in that statute was different. So this isn't binding precedent, but Supreme court decisions always send signals not only to society, but to lower court judges. And I imagine those lower court judges are going to be hearing arguments about the legality of the Trump administration's efforts. And this will have an indirect and kind of overarching influence perhaps on the way they look at these issues.
Speaker 1: 09:32 Court today also left in place, a lower court opinion upholding one of California's so-called sanctuary laws. Explain what that was about
Speaker 3: 09:39 California has a law that limited the extent to which it would cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities. And the Trump administration brought a lawsuit claiming that California was out of compliance with federal law, and that allowed the justice department to cut back on anti-crime funds and lower courts in general have taken a dim view of those arguments. Although they have been split a little bit, it's important to keep in mind. The court often does important things by deciding not to decide something the administration sought review and the court declined to accept that they generally don't explain why they're they declined to take a case bottom line. The Trump administration lost a second major legal battle today over the president's authority and the justice department's authority to cut back on federal funding. If it doesn't like the state's uncooperative quote unquote stance in terms of immigration enforcement.
Speaker 1: 10:37 Now, let me ask a step back question. What does the fact that conservative justices are siding with the liberal wing of the court mean is the Supreme court is currently configured, maybe not as conservatives as we thought, or are we reading too much into that? Maybe
Speaker 3: 10:51 I think it would be too much reading too much into it Mark to see this as David Souter moving as a conservative, generally to a liberal position or anything, but it's, it's an indication and it's, I think an important indication that Supreme court decisions and legal decisions in general are not just about political labels. They're not just about which president appointed you. They're not just about where do you fall on the conservative liberal spectrum. They raise individual kind of questions. And in this case, it's very clear that, um, as you say, conservative unquote justices Roberts and Gorsuch, let their method of statutory interpretation and their respect for statutory texts and maybe a desire to do something that's progressive carry them to be part of a six to three majority that decisively strikes down administration's efforts to, uh, stand in the way of transgender and sexual orientation rights in the employment context.
Speaker 1: 11:50 And what, if anything, might these outcomes poor 10 for another big ruling coming down the pipe that's on the so-called dreamers case or the DACA, the deferred action for childhood arrivals law leftover from the Obama administration.
Speaker 3: 12:02 It's hard to say there's I'm as guilty as any court watcher in trying to read the tea leaves. Sometimes almost think it's like the old kremlinologists trying to figure out what signals and what interpersonal dynamics are going on here. I suppose one view would be that because justice Roberts, who I think will be the key vote in the DACA case has already voted quote, liberally unquote, here. He won't feel as much pressure to vote that way in DACA. And therefore the dreamers will lose. On the other hand, I think it's likely that, you know, once you start exercising independence and keep doing it, it becomes a habit. So who knows?
Speaker 1: 12:44 Well, we'll certainly find out soon enough. I've been speaking with Glen Smith professor at California, Western school of law and an expert in constitutional law. Thanks very much for joining us.
Speaker 3: 12:53 Thank you,
Speaker 1: 13:04 protests in San Diego, in cities and towns across America, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have resulted in Swift decisions on some police reforms, the police and Sheriff's department in San Diego, for example, a quickly moved to ban the use of choke holds on suspects, seeding to long standing objections, but city leaders here balk last week at growing calls to defund police joining me to discuss her vote. And the contentious debate at city hall is Georgette Gomez, president of the San Diego city council, and a candidate for Congress in November. Welcome to midday edition.
Speaker 4: 13:41 Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Speaker 1: 13:43 Now you wrote in your op ed for the union Tribune that you heard the calls to defund police and tried to make it happen. Tell us first what you mean by defund the police. That's a phrase we're all hearing on the national front now.
Speaker 4: 13:55 Yeah. And that's a really good question. I think everybody's asking what exactly does this, does that look like? Um, for, for us leading into Monday's hearing, I mean, for us, I mean that was working really closely with council member Montgomery, um, and uh, really trying to figure out, okay, what does that look like? At least what can we make happen from the weekend to leading to Monday's hearing? And, uh, the things that we were able to propose as an amendment, such as creating the office of race and equity, um, reallocating money, one point $5 million to do a person center model of doing outreach to, or unsheltered population to also creating a community fund that is $3 million. And, uh, I don't remember what else, but all of that, we were trying to see if that can be reallocated from, from money that was, um, uh, associated to the PDs budget.
Speaker 4: 14:55 Um, we were able to identify other money, so that didn't happen. But for us, that was at least kind of like the, the immediate see that we can, we can, we can readjust as a possibility, but at the end of the day, it really, it really comes down to having to have that conversation in terms of what does it mean for San Diego? What, how are we, reinvisioning our PD department to do what they need to do to keep our community safe, but also do it in a way that it's not targeting people of color communities. Um, so it's a full conversation that we really need to do, and it's going to take some time to really get there. Uh, what we've done since is, um, I actually asked a well council member, Montgomery issue, a memo, and they've been supporting net and they actually echo the same, the same sentiment to the independent budget analyst that works for the council to really give us a, a deeper dive into the budget for PD, uh, bring a conversation, craft the conversation, and many conversations with what the community, including the department and including council members to really figure out what that looks like.
Speaker 4: 16:04 And I think that's, that's something that we are hopeful that we'll bring forward in the, in the near future.
Speaker 1: 16:10 Now amid all the calls for police reform. How did it happen that on Mondays of vote, it actually increased the San Diego police department budget by $27 million.
Speaker 4: 16:20 So that increases based on the current contract that we have a current contract that we have with our, uh, police union. Uh, so that's just a reflection though, of a contract that was adopted a while back with our police officers in terms of, of racist and did a contract that was a step up over the years, it was going to be increasing. So that's just a reflection of that. And we couldn't backtrack on that increase just because it's a commitment that we had. And if we are to do that, then that requires re negotiations with the unions, which we weren't having a Monday. Uh, so I just want to make it clear that we didn't increase the budget intentionally. It was just based on what agreements we have that have been done in previous years.
Speaker 1: 17:09 And you wrote in the, a UT op ed that rejecting the budget on Monday would have meant deep cuts for vital resources for our community. What do you mean by that?
Speaker 4: 17:19 Well, I mean the council, so we have to start by when the mayor first, the pro, uh, proposed his first budget for this year. Uh, there were a lot of, a lot of impacts to our neighborhood services. Our libraries were going to be shut down on Sunday, some Mondays, all of our public libraries. In fact, the mayor was proposing to, uh, shut down one of my libraries completely. Um, we were also, he was also proposing to cut down, uh, hours for the and rec centers. Uh, we, he was proposing to cut down hours for the bulls. He was proposing to eliminate several staffing positions that are really vital to maintaining services in the community from road improvement, um, maintaining the potholes from, uh, the parks cleaning or parks and everything in between. So we fought really hard and making sure that that didn't happen. Uh, so as we proceeded with the public hearings on the budget, um, we heard letting clear from the community that they wanted at restoration.
Speaker 4: 18:24 They wanted to ensure that we were not cutting library hours and we're not cutting park and rec, uh, recreational programming that is essential for our youth, that we're not cutting the pool hours. In fact, in some of our communities like my community and city Heights, uh, tree trimming, it was expected if we were to cut it, we were going to take, I forget how many years to get to servicing the trees. Uh, there was a time that the city was getting sued because Palm trees were falling in people's properties. We fought over the years to try to restore in this budget proposal. The original one was set to cut a lot of these things that we were progressing. Now, the council fought really hard to ensure that that wasn't occurring. Um, and then, uh, we were able to create new programming as now. We are able, we were able to add a new office of race and equity, which is going to center this conversation that is currently occurring of people wanting, um, more attention and communities of color.
Speaker 4: 19:28 Uh, what does that look like for the city of San Diego? That's that's to be determined? Uh, we were able to create a pilot on addressing the digital divide because right now all of our lives are based on the are determined by wifi and technology. We still have a lot of community members that are, do not have access to, to, to this technology. So I was pushing hard to really create a program. Um, I've been a huge proponent of trying to do a better outreach program for our in shelter population that is based on social services and not on the police that, uh, officer offering the services, we were able to allocate one point $5 million. So this is a really good budget. Um, something that is not getting really highlighted in how critical it is and how a community focus it is. And, um, I mean, the mayor made it pretty clear where, how you felt about protecting the PTs budget.
Speaker 4: 20:28 And I heard him loud and clear, so we needed to make a decision. And I think, uh, uh, the community services and everything that we were able to push was fairly significant. And I also have to go back to the conversation of what does it mean to defend it. If we were to define PT, there's an impact. And we don't know what that looks like yet. And, uh, that that really needs to, we really want to honor that process and ensure that, uh, community members are part of that discussion, ensure that public safety is part of the discussion and the council members and everything that everybody that is impacted by these decisions of reallocating reinvisioning of what our public safety should look like and what types of services they should be doing and not doing.
Speaker 1: 21:16 Yeah. It sounds like something you don't plan on doing quickly. It's a long, deeper discussion. Now, when does the SDPD contract come up again and who negotiates that?
Speaker 4: 21:26 Well, we are actually, uh, we are in the, in the middle of con uh, negotiating all our union contracts, all the six unions that we have, we are in that process. Now we started that negotiations last early this year. I believe. I don't remember the timing. So, but we're in the process of that. We were in the midst of possibly increasing salaries for all our unions to a certain percentage. Now COBIT came in that impacted the budget significantly. So those increases were, are no longer moving forward. What we have offered in some of the unions have taken, uh, with the exception of all our public safety, your unions are including PD, fire, and life guards have not agreed on taking the offer yet. Um, is a, an increase of health benefits. There's no pay increase to any other unions. It's just going to be healthcare.
Speaker 1: 22:28 No, your opponent in the race for the 53rd congressional districts or Jacobs has said, we need revisions to the federal code on police misconduct, amendments to the law that allows a transference of military weaponry and other ideas. What do you think the federal government should be doing about local police practices?
Speaker 4: 22:45 Yeah, well, I mean, there's, there's a distinction, right? The practices that the PD PD, uh, implement is it's really local based. Um, but there are some, some policies that the federal government can really issue. I mean, one of those, for example, um, we weren't the first, but we definitely were the first, one of the big cities that called out for the elimination of the Tocal restraint in my, you that's been the conversation that's been going on for a long time. Now I'm actually calling on the federal government to make it a mandate that, that shouldn't exist on any city, as a tool. That's something that they can actually adopt if they wish there are monies that are trickled to PD that could be tied to more accountability as well. Um, I know that we get money from the federal government that is tied to some programming that PD does.
Speaker 4: 23:49 Um, I mean, right now, I believe that we're getting some resources to do a pilot on drones. Uh, what does that mean? I, there's a huge conversation about safety and public. Uh, the, the, the, our, our privacy, that's a conversation that we need to have, and we're discussing a possible policy at the local level, but that should also be at the federal level in terms of privacy. Um, and, uh, that's, that's something that we definitely need to be pushing harder just because it's a technology that is moving rapidly. And, uh, there's, there's a lot of concerns that citizens have on that. So there's a lot that the federal government is able to do now at the local level, we need to ensure that we're implementing that. And the problem that we have, uh, as a strong mayor, strong council, is that the council legislate, so we can create the legislation, how it gets implemented, it's up to the mayor and the chief, um, and where we've been having these conversations. But it's, it's, it's just also another reality that we need to remember that we, we operate under
Speaker 1: 24:56 well. I've been speaking with Georgia Gomez, president of the San Diego city council and the candidate for Congress in November. Thanks very much national guard and active duty troops have left the major cities like Washington DC. After this month, protests that some service members now are facing consequences because they refuse to deploy Carson frame reports for the American Homefront project
Speaker 5: 25:29 in California, more than 2,400 national guard members rushed to major cities as protests erupted, following the death of George Floyd. But one member of the California air national guard refused the order to go.
Speaker 6: 25:41 You know, if I made the decision to go along with it, I feel like I would sort of be compromising, you know, who I am in that moment.
Speaker 5: 25:49 He says his senior command is warned him about possible disciplinary actions, but he doesn't yet know what there'll be. The guardsman asked to remain anonymous to prevent a worse outcome. And his voice has been altered though. He anticipated some consequences. He says he wasn't comfortable carrying a weapon around people exercising their first amendment rights. And as a person of color who sympathizes with the black lives matter movement, he says the guards presence, stifled protests.
Speaker 6: 26:13 What we're told is discouraged people from, you know, criminal activity and things like that, but that doesn't matter necessarily what is going to be communicated on the ground. When you see people, you know, in uniform with, with, uh, weapons, you know, uh, standing around in formation,
Speaker 5: 26:31 he joined the guard expecting to do humanitarian work and was surprised by the call to police his own state. And he says, he's not alone.
Speaker 6: 26:38 We have people dealing with COVID. We've had people dealing with, you know, natural disasters, things like that, but to actually go out and be sort of this invading force, like many people were not comfortable with it. They feel like it's not really, um, what they signed up for
Speaker 5: 26:53 when the protests began more than 20 States called up their national guardsmen. And president Trump ordered guardsman to patrol the streets of Washington. The president also threatened to send active duty service members into cities across the country, since then veteran service organizations and GI rights groups say troops have been calling to learn about their options for refusing orders. Bill Galvin is a counselor for the GI rights hotline.
Speaker 7: 27:15 We've seen a real uptick in people in the national guard, mostly, but some in the reserves, uh, who are facing call up and who are saying, I don't know that this is something I can do. Some of them have said I'm sympathetic to the protests. And, and others have said, I don't think I should be at war with people in my own country.
Speaker 5: 27:38 Gelvin says troops expressed all kinds of concerns, risk of moral injury, lack of riot control training, and the possibility of acting against the constitution. Galvin says at the peak of the protests, he took several calls a day. Whatever the reason refusing to deploy can have consequences.
Speaker 7: 27:53 We do know there's a lot of folks who have chosen not to show. Um, and of course there's a range of possibilities, everything from a military court martial and some jail time, uh, to more administrative kind of punishments that might even include being kicked out with a bad discharge. It's also quite possible. The command could just ignore it. You know, they could say, well, we've got enough people otherwise. So we're just going to forget about this. I mean, you just don't know at this point,
Speaker 5: 28:18 the veterans peace advocacy group about face says they know of some 10 service members who've taken concrete steps to avoid deployment. Many more have asked for support. One is an active duty army soldier stationed in the Midwest. Oh, his unit was never deployed. He says he wouldn't have gone if they had the soldier asked for anonymity because he expects reprisal from his command and the public, his voice has been changed. He says some of the riot control tactics used in DC reminded him of things he saw in Iraq. And he says they shouldn't be used against Americans.
Speaker 7: 28:47 To me, it's like that violence that we do overseas is coming back home to roost
Speaker 5: 28:54 national guard officials at the Pentagon say, they're not aware of any widespread disciplinary issues related to the protest response. They added that guardsman deployed to DC, executed their mission with compassion and professionalism.
Speaker 1: 29:06 Joining me now is Carson frame, military and veterans issues reporter for Texas public radio and a contributor to NPR is American Homefront project. Welcome to midday edition.
Speaker 5: 29:16 Thanks so much, Mark, for having me really great to talk to you,
Speaker 1: 29:19 we'll start with the national guard's role. They've been called into quell riots before, right.
Speaker 5: 29:24 Um, they have, um, there's, there's quite a history there of, um, national guard involvement in protests and rioting. Um, I think they've been activated about 16 times at the federal level and nine of those deployments had to do with the riots and protests, uh, that you're talking about. Um, a lot of those were with regard to integration, um, and trying to overcome resistance to integration in especially schools. I mean, States like Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Um, but in, you know, after the assassination of MLK, you know, they were called in to stop riots there. And also after the acquittal of, um, the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King, um, and there's, there's also been, you know, a lot of state level call ups by governors for civil unrest. Uh, one example that comes to mind for most people is Kent state. Um, you know, in Ohio, Ohio national guard, fire on a crowd of students protesting Vietnam. And there were also the Watts riots in LA in 65, which were basically a call to end mistreatment by police and discrimination with regard to housing, employment, um, schools and things like that. So, yeah, there's, there's quite, there's quite the background there at the state and federal level.
Speaker 1: 30:36 What are the reasons that these guards members are using to refuse orders?
Speaker 5: 30:40 It really ranges widely. I mean, some, some of the folks I talked to said that they were seeing a lot of examples of police and service members acting out of line. And if they just didn't want to be complicit in that, I mean, others were saying, you know, Hey, I was never trained in riot control tactics or deescalation. I'm not comfortable carrying a weapon in these circumstances because I don't know what gonna happen. You know, other people were saying, you know, these protesters are exercising first amendment rights, and we took oath to defend the constitution. And so those things don't square. Um, and then like further down the list, I think there were some concerns about moral injury, um, just taking actions that would be regrettable in retrospect, um, harmful in retrospect. And then also there was just a lot of sympathy with, with protesters and, and the black lives matter. Cause folks were seeing these protesters often as their friends, their family for their community.
Speaker 1: 31:33 And what sort of consequences might they face, if any,
Speaker 5: 31:37 um, I mean, there's still a lot of unknowns about how commands would punish troops who resist, um, deploying. I mean, it's, uh, you know, if they publicly refuse orders that they don't show up to the armory or like refuse to, to fire a weapon, if they're told to, um, I mean, theoretically they could face really serious charges like desertion or absent without leave, which is, you know, AWOL, as it's commonly known. Um, they could also be made to separate from service or end up with an other than honorable discharge, um, which could later affect, you know, their careers and their lives downline. Uh, but there is a chance and, you know, the, the GI rights hotline reiterated this to me, um, that they might not get formerly punished at all. I mean, they might just face social backlash from their command, their, their unit or the public. I mean, it really depends, you know, their fate kind of depends on the individual command that they report to
Speaker 1: 32:29 and the GI rights hotline are they getting many similar calls like this and from concerned guardsman and, and, uh, what about the, uh, the right refuse, an illegal order? Do they have advice on that?
Speaker 5: 32:42 Yeah, they own the GI rights hotline has been fielding. You know, I, I know that they get like a handful of calls every day about it, and I've only spoken to two of their counselors, but they said there was an uptick around, you know, right. As the protests began and, and president Trump was using rather aggressive rhetoric, um, you know, with regard to the protests. So they saw an uptick there, you know, there are certain protections for service members if they refuse unlawful orders. I mean, by the uniform code of military justice, does, you know, make exception for that. Um, so the idea is that a soldiers in a situation like that, and they have moral and legal obligation to the constitution not to obey. Um, but usually, you know, for that opposition to be successful, those have to be really strong examples, like direct violations of the constitution and not the military members like own opinion.
Speaker 5: 33:36 And that's where things get a little complicated. There are some ways that they can choose to resist. Um, otherwise, like they can submit like a conscientious objector your packet, which, you know, says that they have to show up at their mobilization spot, but they don't have to carry a weapon. Um, if they've already been called to activate, they can kind of clarify, you know, is this a mandatory activation? Um, you know, which most of the protest deployments are. Um, and then finally, if they're already on the ground in a protest zone, they do have the option to question a superior. When they're told to do something they think is wrong or illegal, like they can say under what authority are you giving that, that order? Um, so it's sort of like an incremental opposition there.
Speaker 1: 34:20 I've been speaking with Carson frame, military and veterans issues, reporter for Texas public radio and a contributor to NPRs American Homefront project. Carson. Thanks very much.
Speaker 5: 34:29 Thank you so much, Mark
Speaker 1: 34:38 hundreds of San Diego ans have demonstrated in recent weeks against police violence and racial injustice. One of them is 22 year old Isabella Lawrence who invited her 83 year old grandfather to join her at a rally in Santi. It was at that rally that Richard Lawrence spoke about what it was like to March in Selma, Alabama in 1965 alongside dr. Martin Luther King, jr. Selma was just one of many marches, protests and actions. Lawrence was involved in during the civil rights movement as part of our first person series. Isabella spoke to her grandfather about how today's protest movement compares to the movement in the 1960s.
Speaker 8: 35:20 So I know you've been involved in, you know, this movement and the civil rights for a very long time. What kind of, what kind of sparked it or what, what was the, you know, the time that you decided
Speaker 5: 35:31 involved and helped take the lead on things? I suppose it started when I was a kid, because when,
Speaker 7: 35:38 uh, our neighbors sent us, as kids got into a fight, they would come back and finally their, their last word was why don't you
Speaker 7: 35:47 go back to where you come from? Um, and that lived with me, continues to live with me again, I'll usually, and, um, I went off to college, heard my friend's father say that he was so joyous to have read a book. Finally, that proved that apes were superior to Negros. I've been reminded again and again and again by one stupid thing after another that, uh, justice is a long way down the road and we've got a long way to go and I'm going to do my best to walk that road until we finally get there.
Speaker 8: 36:26 When I, when I think of you and your activism, one of my earliest memories is in elementary school, we were in the library for like reading day, the library and read us a book that was dedicated to Martin Luther King jr. And everyone who walked with him. And I very proudly told the whole class like this book's for my grandpa. That's my grandpa's who they wrote this for. And I mean, you know, just since, since that day, I've always, I've always been very passionate about things and always, always like, look to you, you know, as like an inspiration and as a guidance because you, you, you are, you risked a lot more back then out marching and protesting that I'm risking right now. My, my safety, especially in the San Diego is very minimal, but it doesn't change the fact that I want to speak for you. Like you're not always going to be able to be out there and doing, I mean, you've been doing it for a long time, but I just always want to make sure that there's someone out, out there, you know, speaking from you and like carrying on what you have been working on for your whole life.
Speaker 7: 37:25 Well, one of the reasons I was so happy, I was so happy, uh, Sunday at the rally, um, in Santee that my hands and my legs were shaking. Um, it is because you and your friends and a lot of other folks that roughly the same age were out there standing up for a cause that has been one that I know has been worth fighting for for a long time. And that that fight goes on and I am convinced that there is sufficient energy in it that it will go on until we finally have come to real resolution about what racial justice in this country means.
Speaker 8: 38:10 So a lot of, I mean, a lot of things to me are kind of, I see a lot of like comparisons to kind of like the current movement, um, and you know, the previous movement, um, both, you know, still fighting for the same things. Um, but how do you think that, like, what are some like kind of big differences, like are the attitudes of like general Americans or like the world or the media different from then to now
Speaker 7: 38:33 the major difference is, you know, this thing started in Minneapolis and the incredible range of places where it has now been activated. You know, there've been marches and protests across the world, which is certainly different than what happened during the civil rights movement. There has not been as much violence against the marchers as there were, as there was in the sixties. The, uh, the other thing is I just have a sense, I can't prove this at the climate of the marchers represents a much broader community and was represented in the marches in the sixties. Um, we were largely black activists with a few white supporters, and I get the impression today. There's a far, far larger number of white supporters. And as well as then the black activists, those are significant because the change comes in my mind around racism because the white folks in that demonstration demonstrations and, and fighting for this cause really need to take this message home, you know, a need to need to talk with their parents and explain and try as best they can to convert them to supporters of real justice and, and real, uh, interracial justice.
Speaker 8: 39:58 Yeah. Something I've been seeing a lot. I am willing to willing to bet that I'm on social media, social media, a fair bit more than you are, but a lot of, a lot of the things I've seen well in at least the, the events that I've gone to, there are significantly like the, I would say the crowds are majority white. Um, and a lot of I've seen a lot of like posts and like messages trying to help people start conversations at home. It's like they're giving different, like different talking points and like just different things to say, or, you know, also saying that sometimes people just aren't gonna listen.
Speaker 7: 40:29 That's right. And that there was a time actually, when I had given up on education, I just didn't think there was any chance that folks were going to change their behaviors as far as race was concerned by being educated. Well, I think it's different if they're being educated by their kids, you know, um, there is a real power in the voice of the youth of this country and that youth, these days is expressing it.
Speaker 8: 40:58 Absolutely something too is I I've been thinking about is the difference in like, kind of the preparedness, because in a lot of, a lot of places now, like, um, people who are going out, um, to dump into demonstrations are bringing like umbrellas or like baking soda or sailing solution, or even have like teams of medics, like they're helping out. Did you guys have stuff like that? Or like what, what kind of organization like went into them?
Speaker 7: 41:22 Well, things were really different. The only expectation we had of the police is that they were going to stand on the sidelines and let the rednecks in community do whatever the world they wanted to do. And so our preparations were made and really our heads trying to figure out what in the world we do. If as a matter of fact, we're physically assaulted by somebody who's really bent on hurting or even killing us. So we, we, we don't, we don't by comparison seem to have gone out prepared. Um, we were prepared to be nonviolent and not to respond namely or with anger, but, um, other than those and those preparations were serious. I mean, there were, we did training on that stuff. So, uh, we were able to hold our temper.
Speaker 8: 42:14 Yeah. I think part of the reason today people are more prepared is they're using like the Hong Kong protests or like other, other things that they've seen and they've been learning from them. Whereas you guys, I don't think had as much examples to follow
Speaker 7: 42:29 if my memory is any good and it isn't that there were, there were no samples that we had. I mean, we heard of India, um, and the efforts that were made there, but we didn't really feel that personally or see it in, uh, in inaction. So we were going ahead, um, uh, a commitment to social justice on the one hand and nonviolent on the other and making whatever adjustments we had to as we went.
Speaker 8: 43:00 Um, so with all of your, you know, activism throughout your entire life, is there any advice you'd like to give me or other, you know, young people kind of just starting on their course to hopefully change the world for the better?
Speaker 7: 43:14 Yes. Um, it's, it's been willing to find a battle you're worth fighting that is worth we're fighting for that's the single most important piece of advice I have. Don't expect that somebody else is gonna fight the battles and the issues you get yourself ready? You prepare yourself, you get smart, you get courageous, you get out there, you stand up and, and, and take the heat and make the world a better place.
Speaker 1: 43:44 That was Richard Lawrence speaking to his granddaughter, Isabella Lawrence. This first person feature was produced by Brooke Ruth.