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WASHINGTON, D.C.- On Tuesday, June 15th, an inmate became the first incarcerated person in the city to ever with an elected officer position.

According to reports, 44-year-old Joel Caston won the race for advisory neighborhood commissioner of district 7F07 in southeast D.C., where he will oversee the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter, new luxury apartments, and the D.C. jail, where he is currently incarcerated. 

Caston has been incarcerated for 26 years. He was sent to prison at 18-years-old for the murder of 18-year-old Rafiq Washington. Caston was convicted of shooting in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant in D.C.

Caston has spent more than four years of his sentence incarcerated at the D.C. jail in the southeast part of the city, making him one of the jail’s longest-tenured inmates. The D.C. jail houses 1,400 male and female inmates. The women’s shelter serves up to 175 women a night.

Reportedly, in July of 2020, D.C. changed the law to allow incarcerated people in the city to vote, bringing to light that the seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Committee (ANC) for the district where the D.C. jail is located has been vacant since 2013.

Advisory neighborhood commissioners are locally elected representatives who serve two year terms without pay and according to DC.gov, were “established to bring government closer to the people.” The seat in the district were the D.C. jail is has been vacant for 12 years.

According to Neighbors for Justice, an organization that helped facilitate the election, Caston, who ran against four other inmates, received 48 of the 142 votes. Each inmate, with help from the Department of Correction, made a video announcing their run.

In his video, Caston promised his fellow inmates, the women in the Harriet Tubman Shelter, and their neighbors in the luxury apartments, that he would work hard to advocate for all their needs. He said:

“Imagine a single member district where every voice matters, every concern is heard, and every person is valued.”

All five candidates who ran for the ANC District 7F07 seat on June 15th were inmates at the D.C. jail. In a virtual interview with the The Washington Post, Caston said:

“I feel presidential. But it’s not about you, it’s about the work you do.”

Neighbors for Justice Founder Julie Johnson said Caston will be given access to a laptop or tablet, an email account, and a place to work on fulfilling his AND duties from inside the jail for up to eight hours a day. Johnson said:

“It’s not just about a historic election, with a first-ever ANC commissioner who is incarcerated. It’s about giving a voice and visibility to a population that is unseen.”

In his candidate survey, Catson wrote that he has served as a worship leader and editor of a paper at the jail. He was also the founding mentor of the Young Men Emerging program and authored a criminal justice reform brief. Johnson said:

“This election gives hope to the residents of the jail, knowing they now have a representative who will give voice and visibility to the issues they are experiencing.”

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Russian hackers release officer personnel files on dark web after DC police department refuses to pay $4M ransom

May 16th, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to reports, a ransomware gang that stole data from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and attempted to extort $4 million from MPD, has doxed nearly 200 officers and civilians after negotiations between the department and the hackers “reached a dead end.”

The Babuk group, a Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate, said that it leaked the information after MPD allegedly refused to meet its $4 million demand, offering $100,000 instead, which the group rejected.

The DCist reported that on their dark website, the Russian hacker group claimed responsibility for stealing the files by writing:

“We publish the full data of the police department, including HR, Gang Database, you will find a full range of all data in the amount of 250GB in all parts, this is an indicator of why we should pay, the police always wanted to pay us, but the amount turned out to be too small.

“Look at this wall of shame, you have every change of not getting there, just pay us!”

The hackers also said that they would keep the data and files public for eight months, even if D.C. offered a larger ransom payment that the hackers were initially demanding.

They wrote:

“There is no way back you had very many chances.”

The posted police files reportedly include documents on crimes, suspects, investigations, and copies of three months’ worth of the daily intelligence briefings given to police chief Robert Contee III. 

There are also extensive documents from the department’s human resources branch, including hiring initiatives, leave requests, and letters of reinstatement for officers returning to the department.

According to FOX news, personal information pertaining to at least 200 law enforcement officers and citizens has been published.

MPD did not disclose what personal information has been leaked, but had confirmed on Wednesday, May 12th, that information belonging to 20 officers was “released through the access obtained from MPD’s network by unauthorized parties.”

In April, the group said it had hacked into the network of the city’s police department and threatened to leak the identifies of confidential informants unless an unspecified ransom was paid. Experts told the Associated Press (AP) that such a release could endanger the lives of the informants.

A day after the initial threat was posted, the gang tried to spur payment by leaking personal information of some police officers taken from background checks, including details of officer’s past drug use and finances, among other things. 

Late Monday, May 10th, the group wrote on its website that it would release “all the data” it stole from the police department if it did not “raise the price.”

The group wrote:

“The negotiations reached a dead end, the amount we were offered does not suit us.”

Brett Callow, a threat analyst and ransomware expert at the security firm Emsisoft, said that Babuk leaked additional background files with its threat to release more. Callow said that he’s never seen a law enforcement agency pay a ransom before.

He added:

“This is far worse than any hack of other police departments previously.”

According to NBC News, MPD personnel files on former and current law enforcement officers include information such as psychological assessment reports, Social Security numbers, marriage histories, financial histories, residential information, prior drug use, fingerprints, polygraph test results, driver’s licenses, phone numbers, and dates of birth.

Nearly every office profile with MPD is over 100 pages long. Chief Contree sent out an email to department employees providing them with instructions on how to set up credit monitoring services for themselves.

Shortly after the MPD was first hacked in April, Babuk claimed responsibility and published five officers’ profiles to validate their claims. The leak included approximately 500 pages of private information.

On Thursday, May 13th, the hackers said that the have released “the full data of the police department.”  The group posted links to two batches of data: one marked “HR” for human resources and the other simply labeled “all.”

MPD has declined to comment, however, it has previously acknowledged an attack on its IT systems and has brought in the FBI to assist with the investigation. 

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LET Unity

Suspects in ‘anti-racist’ group arrested for stealing cemetery monument, holding it for ransom in support of cop-killer

April 13th, 2021

NEW ORLEANS, LA– Two people have been arrested in connection to a ransom plot involving a $500,000 Confederate monument that was stolen from an Alabama cemetery.  The suspects issued threats to use the monument as a toilet unless specified demands were met.

The monument has been missing from the cemetery since March 20th. The monument was recovered Thursday, April 8th seemingly undamaged in New Orleans. The monument, also known as the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chair, was returned to the Alabama chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the suspects are in police custody.

The suspects, since identified as Jason Warnick and Kathryn Diionno, have been charged with possession of the stolen property. They have also been charged with blackmailing the women’s group that owns the 500-pound stone relic. Both are currently out on bail. 

Reportedly, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) is still searching for a third suspect in connect with the theft. The bizarre events unfolded in late-March when an “anti-racist” group called “White Lies Matter,” claimed responsibility for stealing the Jefferson Davis chair from the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Alabama.

The thieves then emailed a ransom note to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, demanding the group hang a large banner from its Virginia headquarters touting a quote by convicted cop killer Assata Shakur. 

Shakur was a member of the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army. She was jailed in 1973 for murdering New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster. In 1979, she reportedly broke out of prison and fled to Cuba where she remains a fugitive from U.S. law. She has been on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list since 2013.

The quote that was demanded to be on the hung banner said:

“The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives.”

In their note, “White Lies Matter” threatened to use the Confederate chair as a toilet if their demands were not met. The email read:

“Failure to do so will result in the monument, an ornate stone chair, immediately being turned into a toilet.”

The email added:

“If they do display the banner, not only will we return the chair intact, but we will clean it to boot.”

The group wanted the United Daughters of the Confederacy to hang the banner for 24 hours on April 9th, the 156th anniversary of the Confederacy’s surrender in the Civil War. The group also taunted the women’s group in a mass email statement sent to multiple media outlets:

“Jefferson Davis does not need the chair anymore. He’s long dead. We took their toy and we don’t feel guilty about it.”

Following the arrests, District Attorney Michael Jackson of Dallas County, Alabama, said in a a statement:

“The laws are going to be enforced. I’m the district attorney for everybody. Republican. Democrat. Black. White. Asian. Everybody. So, these couple of defendants are possibly facing a theft-first charge and also possibly extortion and maybe some other charges.”

CNN reported that the attorneys for Warnick and Diionno said that their clients are not guilty and not associated with any political activism group.

Attorneys Michael Kennedy and Miles Swanson said:

“They are small business owners and community members. They are, if anything, themselves victims of mistakes of fact that have led to this unfortunate situation. They look forward to clearing their names and disassociating their names from any criminal activity.”


As American’s struggle to survive, politicians introduce $150 million bill to remove Confederate statues

February 27th, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC – Illinois Democratic Representative Bobby Rush introduced a bill this month to provide $150 million to “remove and replace” Confederate monuments as American families face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The “Rejecting and Eliminating the Foul Use of Symbols Exulting Confederate Principles Act,” or “REFUSE Confederate Principals Act” was introduced on February 1, which was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.

The bill, also known as H.R. 672, would pay grants to the National Park Service for the removal of Confederate statues and symbols from public places.

The bill aims to:

“Direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish a grant program to provide funds for the removal of Confederate symbols.

The Secretary, in consultation with the Director, shall establish, within the National Park Service, a program to be known as the ‘Emancipation Historic Preservation Program’ to award grants to eligible entities.”

If passed, the bill would direct the removal of Confederate symbols and replace them with alternative monuments, memorials, statues, commemorative structures, symbols, or signage.

The bill specifically calls for alternative monuments or symbols to “commemorate or depict the freedom of enslaved African Americans.”

Removed statues and other symbols would be moved to state historic preservation programs for storage under the bill.

The bill authorizes the appropriation of $15 million federal dollars to the program every year until 2031. None of the funds provided in the bill would be permitted for use in the preservation, repair, or new construction of Confederate symbols.

The proposed bill defines a “confederate symbol” as:

“A Confederate flag or a monument, memorial, statue, memorative structure, symbol, or signage that honors a Confederate leader, Confederate soldier, the Confederate States of America, or the Confederacy in general.”

The $150 million price tag comes as the United States’ economic situation struggles through the Covid-19 pandemic, and American families struggle with high unemployment, business loss, and illness.

Unemployment is worse than that during the 2008 recession, and 4% growth in the fourth quarter following 33.4% growth in the third quarter has not been enough to offset the contraction seen in the second quarter of 2020.

The most recent gross domestic product rate was 4.0% for the fourth quarter and is slowly recovering from the worst contraction in U.S. history when the second-quarter rate was -31.4%.

Manufacturing lost 1.3 million jobs in April and is a key indicator of a recession.

Although manufacturing shows signs of a slow recovery, the improvements are nowhere near what is needed to replace the massive job losses.

The unemployment rate rested at 6.7% in December and remained unchanged from November.

The economy lost 140,000 jobs in December. Prior to December, unemployment had been rising since the crushing loss of 20.5 million jobs attributed to the pandemic in April 2020.  At that time, unemployment hit 14.7%.

Tens of millions of Americans across the country are struggling to make ends meet in a democracy decimated by the pandemic and related lockdowns and business closures.

Rep. Rush initially introduced his REFUSE bill in 2020, where it sat in committee. At the time, Rush said it was time to remove the symbols:

“It is past time that we eradicate these totems of treason and replace them with symbols that represent the true promise of America, such as the emancipation of Black Americans. 

“My bill, the REFUSE Confederate Principles Act, would do just that by creating the Emancipation Historic Preservation program, which would provide grants for removing the false idols of the Confederacy and replacing them with symbols and structures that we can actually be proud of.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Mike Lee re-introduced a bill last week calling for the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. The bill was brought up last year and was opposed by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). Sen. McConnell said:

“What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery.”


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