Policing

Statement from the NC Justice Center on the shootings and protests in Charlotte

Our hearts remain heavy in the wake of the shootings and protests in our state one week ago. There are still many things we don’t know about the tragic events in Charlotte. What we do know is that — regardless of specifics — the deaths of Keith Lamont Scott, Terence Crutcher, Tyre King, and countless others are too often a consequence of systemic racism, which results in racial disparities and inequities that frequently lead to communities of color being policed differently and denied both due process of law and full protections of the legal system.

At the NC Justice Center, we are committed to justice for all people in our state. Acknowledgment of the existence of community inequities and difference in treatment for people of color – not just in the criminal justice system – is the first step to reducing those racial inequities, whether they are in:

    • Education, where a disproportionate number of African-American children face expulsion and attend high-poverty schools;
    • Housing, whether it be historic redlining, segregated public housing, or other discriminatory practices;
    • Our economy, wherein an African-American male with an associate’s degree has around the same chance of getting a job as a white male with just a high school diploma;
    • Health, as people of color are more likely to go without health care due to cost and face higher uninsured rates;
    • And, indeed, North Carolina’s own criminal justice system where African-American men compose more than 50 percent of the state’s prison population.

Conversations about inequities are difficult and complicated, but that’s exactly why we need to have them. Allowing these destructive and divisive disparities to continue, as well as any discriminatory systems that encourage or condone these continued inequities, erodes public trust. That is why we feel it is important for us, and like-minded organizations, to use our voice and our resources to combat racial injustice and lift up equitable policies in our state.

Commentary

Gov. McCrory’s Executive Order does little to correct the multiple harmful impacts of HB2

Statement from Rick Glazier, Executive Director of the NC Justice Center

Gov. McCrory called on lawmakers yesterday to reverse part of House Bill 2, but unfortunately his Executive Order fails to fix or recommend fixing most of the extremely damaging provisions of this toxic legislation. It is essentially a “do nothing” order.

Because of House Bill 2, local governments still may not adopt ordinances or policies that go beyond state anti-discrimination law to provide protection to LGBTQ individuals or other classes of people, either in public accommodations or private employment, or by businesses that contract with local governments. They also still cannot help protect workers by adopting ordinances or policies regarding wages, benefits, hours, payment of earned wages, benefits, leave, or the well-being of minors in the workforce by their contractors. In short, it takes away the right and duty of these local governments to spend their money in a way that promotes good public policy and benefits its community members.

Not only does the order fail to reverse HB2’s hateful statute requiring public agencies and schools to discriminate against transgender individuals in bathrooms and changing facilities, the anti-discrimination provisions in the NC Equal Employment Practices Act are still weaker than before HB2 was enacted because of the addition of “biological” to the definition of sex discrimination.

Read more

Commentary

Discriminatory HB2 is a shameful, restrictive mark on North Carolina’s history that will hurt our state’s residents and economy

Statement from Rick Glazier, Executive Director of the NC Justice Center

Yesterday will go down as a shameful day in North Carolina’s history, as lawmakers prioritized misguided discrimination above the freedoms of our local government, safety of residents, and very decency that until recently has guided our state’s success.

In less than 12 hours, the General Assembly’s special session – held without transparency or serious public input – left the state with a bill that assaults the freedom of our communities to govern themselves, and one that will almost certainly damage the state’s economy. Read more

Commentary

With “3 ½ Minutes,” documentary film highlights timely and painful issue

Credit: Candescent Films

On November 23, 2012, 17-year-old Jordan Davis was shot and killed in Jacksonville, Florida, by Michael Dunn, who was subsequently charged with – and eventually convicted of – first-degree murder. The altercation began with music being played too loud in the parking lot of a gas station and ended with the death of a young black man, less than a year after Trayvon Martin died. Soon after his death, Ron Davis received a text from another grieving father, Tracy Martin, a mere five hours south from Jacksonville: “Welcome to a club none of us want to be in.”

Jordan’s story was highlighted at the Full Frame Documentary Festival this past weekend in Durham, and unfortunately, 3 ½ Minutes is as timely as ever. The film covers the circumstances of Jordan’s death and subsequent legal battle – often called the “thug music” trial, since Dunn’s fiancée testified that mere minutes before he shot 10 bullets into the car where Jordan and three of his friends were listening to music, Dunn told her, “I hate that thug music.”

The film documents the case’s long and tumultuous journey through the legal system. The first trial ended in a mistrial last February after the jury convicted Dunn, who is white, of three counts of attempted second-degree murder for firing at the other teenagers in the car but could not agree on the first-degree murder charge. The eventual retrial ended with the jury finding Dunn guilty of first-degree murder on October 1, 2014.

Every year, Full Frame offers dozens of films that reflect both the past and immediate struggles of modern life. In addition to 3 ½ Minutes, this year’s offerings included films highlighting police brutality (Peace Officer); struggles in Mexico, Russia, and North Korea (Western, Cartel Land, Kings of Nowhere, Kingdom of Shadows; The Term; Red Chapel); the environment (Containment, Overburden); autism (How to Dance in Ohio); the human cost of war and the war on terror (Of Men and War, Tell Spring Not to Come This Year, (T)ERROR)… and circus life (The Circus Dynasty).

No film felt quite as timely as 3 ½ Minutes. With new cases of unarmed black men being shot cropping up with alarming consistency, the film’s impact is even greater. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

The Tax Shift: Share your story on how tax changes have affected your quality of life

State legislative leaders said tax plan changes were supposed to help most North Carolinians, while groups like the Budget & Tax Center cast skepticism at those claims, predicting that the average North Carolinians would see their share of the tax load increase as the richest in the state enjoyed tax breaks.

So what happened in your household? Did you see your state income taxes go up or down this year? How did it affect your family finances? Was the change worth the broader impact on your community and public services?

We want to hear from North Carolinians filing their taxes or preparing taxes for others. With the new Policy Watch feature Your Soapbox — The Tax Shift, we’re hoping to lift up the stories of those who have been most affected by the tax changes and what that means for their quality of life, their communities and public services. We are already hearing personal stories from people and their families who stand to be affected by the tax shift. One North Carolinian writes:

I am paying almost as much to the state in income taxes as I do to the federal government. For what? All I hear about is the state cutting services like unemployment, etc., for people like myself in the lower end of the economic scale. What I am getting for my tax dollar, exactly, except more grief?

Others are already seeing massive increases in their North Carolina income taxes. One family saw a whopping 564% increase between 2013 and 2014; instead of owing $251, this year they owe $1,415.00.

My (Stroke Victim) And my wife’s (Asthmatic) medical expenses for 2014 averaged $952.92. Medical expenses were not allowed as a deduction on the 2014 NC SIT [state income tax].

The NC Legislature also eliminated the Personal Exemption of $2,500 per person. Our income from Pensions, Social Security, and small investments increased 1.034% from 2013 to 2014. We have been significantly impacted by the 2014 SIT changes and definitely were not considered by Governor McCrory at the signing of the Bill when he stated “Everyone will benefit some from this bill.”

This is just the beginning of what will be likely be a widespread impact of the tax plan, one that will be felt by North Carolinians from across the state and from all walks of life.

Share your story using the submission form here. If you have photos, videos or other media you would like to include, please email them to Julia Hawes at julia@ncjustice.org.