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Vaccine mandate for health care workers halted nationwide by Louisiana judge

Federal vaccine mandate for health care workers in 10 states blocked by judge

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for millions of health care workers was blocked in 10 states on Monday, after a ruling by a federal judge in Missouri.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp affects the states involved in the lawsuit, which include Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and New Hampshire.

The others are North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wyoming and Alaska.

At issue is President Joe Biden’s campaign to ensure that workers throughout the country are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Many private sector employees will be required to get vaccinated or undergo weekly tests, while some 17 million health care providers at facilities participating in the federal Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs must be vaccinated — with no option to choose weekly testing instead.

Under the requirement, health care workers were to be vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

In his 32-page opinion granting a preliminary injunction while the lawsuit proceeds, Schelp wrote that the state attorneys general challenging the mandate appear likely to succeed in their argument that federal health officials lack the authority to implement the requirement.

He also agreed with claims from the plaintiffs that health care facilities will suffer staffing shortages due to the requirement.

“The public has an interest in stopping the spread of COVID. No one disputes that,” Schelp, who was nominated by President Donald Trump in 2019, wrote in the 32-page opinion. “But the court concludes that the public would suffer little, if any, harm from maintaining the ‘status quo’ through the litigation of this case.”

In a statement after the ruling, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt described the injunction as “a huge victory for healthcare workers in Missouri and across the country, including rural hospitals who were facing near-certain collapse due to this mandate.”

“While today’s ruling is a victory, there’s more work to be done, and I will keep fighting to push back on this unprecedented federal overreach,” Schmitt added.

Several other lawsuits from states are pending in federal courts, challenging both the mandate on health care workers and the broader mandate on most private sector employees.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the administration is “obviously going to abide by the law and fight any efforts in courts or otherwise” to prevent health care facilities from protecting their work forces.

Veteran Georgia journalist: Guilty verdicts in Arbery killing give no pleasure, only relief

Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones his hugged by a supporter after the jury convicted Travis McMichael in the trial of McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. The three defendants were found guilty Wednesday in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool)

There’s no pleasure to be taken from the guilty verdicts returned Wednesday by a Glynn County jury in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery; there is only relief and thanksgiving that in the end justice could be done, at least in a case in which the evidence was so well-documented and seemingly obvious.

Given that they reached their weighty verdicts in just a matter of hours, the jury members – 11 white Georgians, one Black Georgian – must have thought it was obvious as well.

However, it’s crucially important to remember that this just and necessary resolution almost didn’t happen, that if justice was served in the end, it came almost accidentally. For 74 days after Arbery’s murder in February of 2020, no charges had been filed; no arrests were made, no presentment was made to a grand jury. Even though law enforcement possessed the now-famous video as well as much of the testimony that the jury found so convincing, two different district attorneys looked at the case and basically determined that Arbery deserved his fate, that if anything Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan should be lauded rather than prosecuted.

The local district attorney, Jackie Johnson, knew Greg McMichael from his work as an investigator for her office. She allegedly forbid police officers from making an arrest, and then arranged for the case to be transferred to the neighboring Waycross Judicial District, where George Barnhill worked as district attorney. As she was aware, she was referring the case to someone who had already made known that he too had no desire to pursue the case.

According to a memo written by Barnhill at the time, after what he called an “extensive” review, the actions by the McMichaels and Bryan had been “perfectly legal.” It was Arbery “who attacks Travis McMichael” in the video, it was Arbery “who initiated the fight,” it was Arbery’s “apparent aggressive nature” that drove him “to attack an armed man.”

“Given the fact that Arbery initiated the fight, at the moment Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia law, (Travis) McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to defend himself,” Barnhill advised the Glynn County Police Department.

Johnson was defeated for re-election in November of 2020; two months ago, she was arrested and charged with interfering with a police officer in the case and with violating her oath of office. Barnhill remains in office.

I’ve called this a modern-day lynching, an evocative phrase that should not be employed lightly. However, it meets the two-part test: One, it was a brutal act of vigilante violence; two, the local political elite stepped in afterward to protect the perpetrators. Only when the video was leaked to the public and reached an audience outside the local corridors of power was the coverup thwarted.

And if a case like this, with its obvious evidence of criminality, could come so close to being covered up, think about how many other such cases had been handled over the years, not just in the Waycross and Brunswick districts but all across Georgia, all across the country.

Think about the effect that those cases, the cultural memories of those cases, have had on the mindsets and power relationships in these communities. The McMichaels were not unusual in thinking that they had the right to treat Arbery as they did, that they had the power to tell this Black man what to do and that he had the obligation to obey. The attitudes and the arrogance that they demonstrated that day in the Satilla Shores neighborhood did not come from nowhere, it came from everywhere.

Over their lifetimes, they had been taught that it was their right to act in that fashion, that it was their duty to enforce the unwritten code, that people like themselves had power while others did not, and that they would be protected for defending that system.

They were right.

Until they finally weren’t.

Jay Bookman is a regular contributor to the Georgia Recorder, which first published this essay.

Jury finds 3 Georgia men guilty of Ahmaud Arbery murder: 3 essential reads

William “Roddie” Bryan, right, sits with his attorney’s before the start of closing arguments to the jury during the trial of he, Travis McMichael, and his father Greg McMichael, at the Glynn County Courthouse, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. The three men charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool)

It took jurors around 11 hours of deliberations to arrive at guilty verdicts in the trial of three men accused in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2021, before a courtroom that included members of Arbery’s family, all the three defendants – Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan – were found guilty of counts including murder. They each now face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was killed on Feb. 23, 2020, after being pursued through the predominantly white suburban neighborhood of Satilla Shores, near Brunswick in Georgia.

For many, the manner of his death raised questions over the role race played in the killing, evoking a U.S. in which gangs of white men killed Black men and boys with impunity. But race played a backseat role in the trial, only being brought up in the prosecutor’s closing argument. Instead, the near all-white jury – 11 of the 12 jurors were white – were invited to focus more on whether the defendants were justified in trying to apprehend Arbery as he jogged down the road.

The Conversation’s authors have explored how race and law intertwine in the following stories related to Arbery’s murder.

1. The use and abuse of citizen’s arrest

In the course of a two-week trial, jurors heard evidence from more than two dozen witnesses. At the heart of the defense was a claim that the three men accused were protected by the state’s citizen’s arrest law.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley made a point of explaining the law in his final instructions before the jury retired to consider its verdict. He told them citizen’s arrests can be made only if a crime has taken place in the presence of the person making the arrest, “or within his immediate knowledge.”

The verdict in the case suggests jurors sided with the prosecution’s view that the citizen’s arrest defense did not hold water.

Following the death of Arbery, Georgia weakened its 150-year-old citizen’s arrest law. But as Seth Stoughton, professor of law at University of South Carolina, explains, many states retain similar legislation. In fact, citizen’s arrest laws have been around for centuries – but they have often been open to abuse. Such laws can be “badly misused by those who believe their higher social status gives them authority over someone they perceive as having lower status.”

“Frequently, this falls along racial lines,” Stoughton adds.

2. Criminalizing Black joggers

Lawyers for the three defendants claimed in the trial that the accused men were within their right to conduct a citizen’s arrest because they believed Arbery had committed a burglary despite there being no evidence to suggest that the 25-year-old had stolen anything.

Sociologist Rashawn Ray focused on the setting and circumstances surrounding the shooting – that the victim was a Black man jogging in a white suburban neighborhood.

In Ray’s study of race and physical exercise, he found that Black men living in white neighborhoods were far less likely to go for a run in the areas surrounding their home than were white men, white women and Black women. The reason? “Black men are often criminalized in public spaces – that means they are perceived as potential threats and predators,” Ray writes.

Black joggers interviewed as part of Ray’s research reported having the police called on them, seeing neighbors cross the street as they approached and shutting screen doors as they passed.

“For Black men, this means that negative perceptions about their propensity to commit crime, emotional stability, aggressiveness and strength can be used as justification for others to enact physical force upon them,” Ray concludes.

3. Cellphone footage: Evidence or exploitation?

During the trial, jurors were shown the graphic footage depicting the last moments of Arbery’s life. For some, it may not have been the first time they were seeing the grainy images.

Such videos have emerged in several recent deaths of Black men at the hands of police officers – or, in Arbery’s case, citizens.

To Allissa Richardson at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the images that circulate are the modern-day equivalent of the grotesque photographs that accompanied the lynchings of the Jim Crow era.

Just as these images from the past serve a purpose today – to educate America about race relations in the U.S. – so too can the video images shot on bystanders’ cellphones. For example, they can be used as evidence in court.

But Richardson cautions that casual viewing of Black people dying online and on TV can become exploitative.

“Likening the fatal footage of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd to lynching photographs invites us to treat them more thoughtfully. We can respect these images. We can handle them with care. In the quiet, final frames, we can share their last moments with them, if we choose to. We do not let them die alone.”

Matt Williams, Breaking News Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.