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Stephon Clark killing becomes test in Sacramento DA election

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For three days this week, protesters marched outside Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office, demanding she charge two officers who shot to death Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old father of two, in a dark backyard on March 18.

The case, still under investigation by police, hasn’t yet made it to her desk.

But that hasn’t stopped reform advocates from plotting to boot her from office and replace her with someone they believe is more likely to hold police accountable for abuses of power — and pursue policies aimed at curbing mass incarceration.

 Stevante Clark, brother of Stephon Clark, speaks during a Black Lives Matter protest outside of office of Sacramento district attorney Anne Schubert on March 28, 2018 in Sacramento, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Schubert, a Republican career prosecutor who won office by a large margin in a Democratic-leaning county four years ago, is running for re-election June 5 in a rapidly transforming political climate. With Clark’s death likely to dominate the campaign, the race has become a battleground in a national movement aimed at sweeping into power progressive prosecutors.

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Last week’s shooting is an opportunity to tell voters “that this is not just about justice for Stephon Clark. It’s about the criminal justice system and how it operates in Sacramento,” said Becky Bond, a former Bernie Sanders operative and executive director of Real Justice PAC, which this week endorsed and began funneling money to Schubert’s Democratic opponent, Noah Phillips.

 Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert discusses the investigation into the suspected serial killer believed to have committed at least 12 murders across California in the 1970’s and 1980’s at a news conference on June 15, 2016 in Sacramento, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli / AP file

Schubert and Phillips, a prosecutor in Schubert’s homicide unit, are the only names on the June 5 non-partisan primary ballot, meaning that the winner will take office without the need for a general election in November.

The race is among several in California and around the country targeted by Real Justice PAC and other groups that advocate for district attorneys to adopt platforms that aim to divert people away from prison and jail. The list of key prosecutor elections includes Los Angeles; San Diego; Oakland, California; Baltimore; Charlotte, North Carolina; St. Louis and smaller counties in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Oregon. The groups aim to build on recent successes in Philadelphia, Houston and Chicago, where they helped reform-minded candidates beat more conservative opponents.

For activists like Bond, whose agendas typically align with Democratic policies, the Sacramento district attorney race is an ideal venue to press their agenda. Hillary Clinton won 57 percent of the county’s vote in 2016, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 100,000. They see untapped potential in the many voters in highly policed neighborhoods who haven’t cast ballots in prior elections. Criminal justice reform is already underway in the city of Sacramento, the county seat and state capital,driven by a 2016 police killing of a man armed with a pocket knife.

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“The culture shift that people in the community want to see comes down to voting,” said Gabby Trejo, executive director of Sacramento ACT, a faith-based community-organizing group that tries to improve the relationship between the public and law enforcement. But, she said, “many people don’t even know they get to elect their local DA.”

Sacramento ACT is partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union to change that through voter-education efforts, including public forums and door-to-door canvassing. The two groups do not endorse candidates, but encourage voters to support those who align with a reform agenda.

“In the case of Mr. Clark, people are ready to see a fair and just investigation and charges pressed,” Trejo said. “That’s something that has to happen.”

That sentiment stems from lingering anger over the 2016 case, in which Schubert declined to prosecute two officers who shot to death Joseph Mann, 50.

 Sacramento County prosecutor Noah Phillips makes his closing statement as Orville Fleming sits in Sacramento Superior Court on June 22, 2015 in Sacramento, California. Hector Amezcua / The Sacramento Bee via ZUMA

Phillips said he would reopen the Mann case if elected, part of his pledge to “hold law enforcement transparent, which my opponent does not believe in.” He was less clear about the Clark case, saying he would visit Clark’s family, give the public “an opportunity to be heard,” and hold officers accountable for any “criminal wrongdoing.”

Schubert, in an interview, defended her decision on Mann, which she explained in a January 2017 public report. “The review process was completed in a fair and independent manner,” she said.

She declined to comment on the Clark case beyond calling it a “tremendous tragedy” and promising to “conduct a full, fair and independent review” when police investigators hand the case to her. She also said she welcomed a move by the state attorney general this week to oversee the investigation.

Schubert said she has worked to improve her office’s relationship with the public, through youth law enforcement academies and literacy programs. She also said she enjoys support of the county’s top Democrats and Republicans.

Critics, including Phillips, Bond and their backers, note that Schubert campaigned for a state ballot question in 2016 that sped up the capital appeals process so that people sentenced to death actually get executed. She is also a leading voice in favor of a proposed state ballot question that would roll back laws aimed at reducing the state’s prison population. The proposal includes an expanded list of violent crimes for which offenders cannot be released early from prison and lower thresholds for the amount of stolen goods counted under the crime of serial theft.

An ACLU of California website aimed at helping people find out more about their local district attorney notes that Schubert was out of step with a majority of Sacramento voters on ballot initiatives aimed at reducing prison populations.

Schubert said the characterization of her as resisting reform was false.

“This is a very measured approach, not designed to put more people in prison,” she said.

She said she has prosecuted officers for other serious offenses, including rape. And she said she supports changing state law so that people who participate in a crime that leads to someone getting killed would not face as much prison time as those who did the killing.

She called Phillips “an opportunist” who has wrongly tried to link her to President Donald Trump; Schubert said she did not vote for the president.

On Thursday, as the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter planned a third consecutive day of protests outside her office — with signs that implored her to “do your job” and “don’t be an accomplice” — Schubert said she recognized that Sacramento is going through “difficult times.”

But she said she was confident in the process, and her role in it.

“We want the community to trust whatever outcome there is,” she said.

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'You're state funded!' Gavin Williamson in angry warning at 'crazy' universities

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GAVIN WILLIAMSON today launched into a passionate rant against snowflake universities refusing to provide a platform to certain political figures.

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Battleground voters not buying Trump’s tough talk on China, new poll shows

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WASHINGTON — With President Donald Trump casting himself as the only candidate strong enough to take on China, voters in key battleground states don’t share his view of Beijing as an urgent threat to the U.S., a new poll finds. Just 1 in 5 call standing up to China a top security issue influencing their votes.

Terrorism — long top of mind in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — has faded as a predominant concern. It has been usurped by worry about global pandemics, according to a survey by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin of voters in 12 states most likely to determine control of the White House and the Senate.

In March, just 25 percent of likely voters said they prioritized protecting the U.S. from pandemics, but the number has almost doubled, jumping to 45 percent, according to the survey. Only 29 percent in the battleground states listed terrorism as a top concern as they decide their votes in the election, including just 41 percent of Republicans.

“The fact that terrorism’s been replaced in this way, at least for this election, by keeping Americans safe from pandemics is a very significant development,” said Garin, who conducted the poll for National Security Action, an advocacy group that opposes Trump.

Traditionally, national security has taken a back seat to the economy, health care and other closer-to-home issues as top issues driving voters’ decisions.

This year, the usual lines between foreign and domestic policy are blurrier, with a deadly virus spreading without regard to borders and disrupting the global supply chain. Americans’ confidence in the integrity of their democracy, shaken once by Russian meddling in 2016, is again in question, as U.S. spy agencies warn that several countries are actively seeking to interfere this year.

Covid-19 and the election’s integrity are among the topics Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be grilled about when they meet in Cleveland for the first presidential debate Tuesday.

In the poll, 6 in 10 voters said Trump has made America less respected globally, while half say his leadership has made the U.S. less safe and increased the likelihood of a war. But Biden fares about the same on those questions, with 49 percent saying he would make America more respected as president and 46 percent saying he would make the U.S. safer.

Still, the findings suggest that Trump’s campaign may face difficultly framing the choice and stakes in the election in the way Trump has presented them. In Trump’s telling, fault for the pandemic lies squarely with a malevolent China, which he says would “own” America and its jobs if Biden were elected.

Trump has insisted that China — not Russia — poses the biggest threat to the election while rebranding the coronavirus as the “China virus” to shift blame. At the same time, the president and his allies have sought to paint Biden as too weak to stand up to China, pointing to his record on trade policies and his son’s business dealings in the country.

“Joe Biden’s agenda is made in China. My agenda is made in the USA,” Trump told a crowd of thousands at his rally this month in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, one of the battleground states included in the poll.

But the survey found that most voters, asked about their preferred approaches to China, favor a middle ground that’s neither confrontational nor acquiescent. Sixty percent agree that the U.S. should “maintain a constructive relationship with China and resolve our differences diplomatically.” That’s compared to 40 percent who said the U.S. should be “aggressive in confronting China on trade and security issues, even at the risk of a more hostile relationship.”

“What people know about Trump and China is the trade war, but they don’t view that as a success,” Garin said in an interview.

Still, voters in battleground states split largely along partisan lines over China, with a majority of Republicans favoring the aggressive approach and a majority of Democrats favoring the “constructive” one.

Voters were about evenly split on some of Trump’s other national security policies, with 50 percent saying Trump’s increased military spending is a fairly or very convincing reason to re-elect him and the same percentage saying that of his trade deals. Asked about his handling of the coronavirus, 59 percent disapproved, including 71 percent of voters who listed Covid-19 as their top issue.

Overall, the poll finds Biden with a 5-point lead over Trump, besting him by 49 percent to 44 percent in the battleground states — similar to the advantage Biden has had in other recent polls in the battleground states.

Consistent with other recent polls, Trump makes up for some of Biden’s 13-point edge among women by carrying 50 percent of men, compared to just 46 percent of men who said they’re voting for Biden.

The online poll of 1,228 likely voters was conducted Sept. 4-11. It included voters in three states that are fiercely contested in the presidential race — Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — as well as voters in nine states that are battlegrounds for both the White House and the race for control of the Senate: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Carolina. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Labour Party's Andy Burnham proposes 9PM ban on alcohol sales to stop COVID-19 spread

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THE LABOUR PARTY’s Andy Burnham suggested the sale of alcohol could be banned after 9PM to avoid crowds rushing to off-licences and supermarkets once pubs have shut down.

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