The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Race relations issues at the University of Arkansas; Confederate statues, and the proposal to remove Senator Fulbright's statue

Posted on July 01, 2020 at 03:37 PM

The Delta Caucus is always concerned about issues regarding civil rights and education. Currently we need to heed the complaints from some African Americans at the University of Arkansas about tolerance for racial discrimination on the campus.

We will address a wide range of issues related to our regional and national dialogue about race in this posting.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Condemn racism on campus and make an aggressive drive to increase numbers of black faculty and students

  2. Remove Confederate statues or any commemorations of racist demagogues

  3. In the more complex case of Senator Fulbright, the Delta Caucus is fine with moving his statue to a museum and re-naming the college on the grounds that it could be misinterpreted as approving of his civil rights record. However, this should be accompanied by a thorough educational campaign to inform students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public about both the greatness and the tragic flaws of J. William Fulbright.

The Fulbright case should be part of our general re-assessment and historical reflections about the painful quarters in our nation’s past.

Remove Confederates’ names from military installations, schools or other institutions.

1. Changes at the University of Arkansas: Many African American students complain that only 3% of the faculty is black and only 4% of the student body is black. They complain of patronizing comments from white professors to black students, such as confusing one young woman with another African American woman because the woman she was speaking to had changed her hairdo. Another professor seemed to be suspicious of an African American student who had surpassed her colleagues of both races, and allegedly the professor seemed to be probing to make sure the student had not cheated.

The racist epithets should be condemned, and the University needs to greatly increase the percentages of black faculty and students by all means through their disposal, whether stronger recruitment in areas with high black populations such as the Delta and Little Rock, more scholarship aid, or other means.

2. The students are calling for removal of the J. William Fulbright statue from the campus and the re-naming of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences due to the senator’s weak civil rights record.

The Delta Caucus is fine with moving the statue to a museum and re-naming the College of Arts and Sciences on the grounds that this recognition may be misinterpreted as supporting or at least tolerating his tragic flaws in the civil rights field.

However, these moves should be accompanied by a vigorous educational effort to inform people about both the greatness as well as the flaws of Senator Fulbright. His record in foreign policy in founding the Fulbright Scholarship Program, opposing Joe McCarthy and other Cold War extremists, courageously if unsuccessfully advising President Kennedy against the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, opposing the tragic folly of the Vietnam War, and supporting detente with the Soviet Union and China in the final years of his career constitutes one of the greatest foreign policy records in American history.

His greatness in international relations does not in any way excuse his gravely disappointing civil rights record in voting for most of the major civil rights bill even up to the late dates of the 1964 and 1965 historic civil rights legislation, signing the Southern Manifesto in 1956, and remaining silent during Gov. Orval Faubus’ demagogical effort to block the desegregation of Little Rock Central High in 1957.

To be historically accurate, we should note that even in civil rights Fulbright had some constructive accomplishments: he worked to desegregate the University of Arkansas Law School in the late 1940s, was one of the few Southern senators who supported the nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967, voted for the extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1970 at a time when most Southern politicians were still opposing it, and above all played a crucial and courageous role in defeating President Nixon’s nomination of the racist Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court in a bitterly controversial debate. Again most Southerners supported Carswell.

None of this changes the reality that Fulbright’s civil rights record on the whole was unacceptable. Nonetheless, we are distorting the truth and the historical record if we lump flawed leaders like Fulbright along with Confederate traitors and demagogues like Orval Faubus and George Wallace who inflamed racial animosity to further their popularity. Fulbright was too often either silent or too weak in opposing these demagogues and occasionally under pressure made statements endorsing the racial status quo, but we are finding that many people today believe he engaged in the kind of racism of Gov. Wallace or Sen. Jim Eastland of Mississippi. We can make a fair distinction like that without backing away from our position that Fulbright was a failure on civil rights.

Rev. Martin Luther King’s accolade to Fulbright’s leadership in foreign policy: We need to see both the greatness and the tragic flaws of leaders like Fulbright, as did the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Despite their obviously different views and constituencies on race, Dr. King was magnanimous enough to praise Fulbright’s foreign policy dissent against US military interventionism in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam in a letter of late 1965: “Yours is one voice crying in the wilderness that may ultimately awaken our people to the international facts of life. I trust that you will not let any pressure silence you.”

We need to be 100% clear where the Delta Caucus stands on Fulbright’s legacy: We oppose his civil rights record on the whole and believe he is deserving of sharp criticism in this field. If such criticism includes moving the statue and changing the name of the college, so be it.

Delta Caucus executive director Lee Powell wrote a scholarly biography of the senator: J. William Fulbright and His Time (1995, with a foreword by President Bill Clinton, who for the record admired Fulbright’s record on foreign policy but totally disagreed with him on civil rights) and debated civil rights and other issues for 20 years. Powell’s assessment was that Fulbright’s record as well as his defenses of his concessions due to political pressures were ultimately unacceptable.

We know that college administrators at the University of Arkansas are taking these complaints seriously, and we would encourage the university to respond positively to their suggestions.

Among the racist comments was an incident where an intoxicated white fraternity student called out to an African American student, “What up, my n——-?” A friend of his tried to defend him by saying he was drunk. This is not an excuse.

Let us suggest a number of reforms that the majority of us can agree on. If anyone does not agree on any of them, we are going to respect their point of view.

1) At the late date of 2020, there is no excuse for any of our major educational institutions to have a faculty of only 3% black and a student body only 4% black. Northwest Arkansas where Fayetteville is located is a heavily white area, but the university should recruit much more heavily in Little Rock and the Delta where the black population is much larger. They should enhance whatever scholarship programs they have to get more black students. The black population in Arkansas is about 15%, and while we would probably not want an exact mathematical quota, the numbers must be much larger.

2) There should be zero tolerance for racial epithets or racial innuendo. That has to be stopped. The reports of ongoing racism are appalling.

3) Confederate statues should be moved to museums. Confederates took up arms against their country and that is the definition of treason. Some may say they were “fighting for what they believed in,” but they were primarily fighting to preserve the evil of slavery.

Similarly, Confederate names should be removed from military bases, academic institutions and elsewhere. For the historical record we have museums and scholarly publications.

There are thoughtful people who are civil rights advocates who believe that the Confederate statues do make a contribution to the historical record. We should respect their point of view, but the majority of our partners see it differently.

4) Demagogues of the Orval Faubus or George Wallace variety should also not be honored by statues, having institutions named after them, or other forms of commemoration.

5) Move the Fulbright statue to a nearby museum either on campus or in Fayetteville, and re-name the college, but engage in a vigorous educational campaign to inform students, alumni, faculty and the general public about both the greatness and the tragic flaws of J. William Fulbright in forums and conferences on campus, speeches by distinguished visiting lecturers, the curriculum of the college, and other educational efforts.

Judging by comments we have heard about Fulbright who seem to have gotten the idea that he was an extremist of the Eastland variety, we conclude that many alumni, students, staff and others are not well-informed about Senator Fulbright’s legacy.

6) Place a statue of Wiley Branton with a substantive, informative marker summarizing his career, on the campus. Branton was one of the first black graduates of the University of Arkansas Law School who became a noted civil rights leader. Branton was a civil rights leader and not a politician and therefore did not have to make the political compromises an elected official almost inevitably has to do.

It is a remarkable that an African American who grew up at the height of Jim Crow could have risen to become a nationally recognized civil rights leader and attorney.

Below is a summary of Fulbright’s legacy. Please draw your own conclusions.

Confederate statues should be removed, as well as removing Confederates or later racist demagogues from military bases and other institutions.

Fort Bragg in North Carolina is one of the largest military installations in the world with about 57,000 military personnel. It is named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

The Delta Caucus would suggest removing Bragg’s name and replacing it with that of a valiant solider who fought for America in World War II. Due diligence should be made, of course, in vetting this individual’s record.

This position is made with the enthusiastic support of Lee Powell, Delta Caucus director, who happens to be a descendant of General Bragg. Powell said, “I can no more help who my ancestors are than I can help being from Arkansas. What I can do is say that General Bragg was a traitor–however much he may have deluded himself into believing he was not–and honoring him sends the wrong message about our understanding of our past.”

“Bragg was dead long before I was born,” Powell continued. “Are we going to be held responsible for actions of ancestors 150 years ago? My more recent relatives had a far different and more enlightened record. My father was Editorial Editor James O. Powell of the old Arkansas Gazette, and he staunchly opposed Gov. Orval Faubus for many years from the late 1950s until Faubus’ tenure belatedly came to an end in January, 1967. When I was growing up in Little Rock my father received death threats when Faubus was at the height of his power, and my father was subjected to hostility in white segregationist quarters who were then the majority of the white population. Thank God the environment improved with the election of the moderate Winthrop Rockefeller in 1966.”

“If I call for removing an ancestor’s name from one of the world’s major military institutions, I don’t think anybody else should be squawking about re-naming Fort Bragg,” Powell said. “By the same token, I don’t think anyone should be suspicious of me for what an ancestor I never knew did 150 years ago.”

Bragg was actually not a very good general, to put it diplomatically, having botched the Confederate strategy at the vital Battles for Chattanooga. Powell notes that he had another relative who deserted from the Confederate Army.

“Between Bragg’s record as a weak general and the guy who deserted, my family has often joked over the years that we made a significant military contribution in the Civil War to the Union side,” Powell said. “Seriously, if having Confederate ancestors is a stain on Southerners living today, many progressive, constructive citizens will be smeared in painting with such an overly broad brush.”

Don’t honor Confederates or latter-day racist demagogues. For flawed leaders like Fulbright, assess the record in its entirety. You can read the summary below and draw your own conclusions.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF J. WILLIAM FULBRIGHT’S LEGACY

June 30, 2020

(Introductory note: By way of full disclosure in the context of African American students’ complaints of tolerance for racial discrimination at the University of Arkansas, my biography of Senator J. William Fulbright criticizes his civil rights record but recognizes his impressive achievements in the fields of foreign policy and education. I will address foreign policy and civil rights due to the different subject matter in two parts.

We are obviously passing through a painful re-examination of statues, naming of institutions and other monuments to our past. I would argue that Confederates and demagogues like Orval Faubus or George Wallace should not be recognized, but Fulbright is clearly in a different category. My purpose here is not to advise anyone as to whether his statue should be removed or the college re-named, but to present the facts about the entirety of his legacy. I would hope we can see both the greatness and the tragic flaw of J. William Fulbright. Please examine the facts and draw your own conclusions.)

Foreign Policy and Education

The post-World War II order—Fulbright first attracted national attention in 1940 for a series of speeches as the young University of Arkansas president opposing the dominant isolationism of the time, calling for Americans to wake up to the dire threat to world peace in Hitler’s insatiable campaign of military conquest. He followed up as a freshman congressman in 1943 in working with President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration to pass the Fulbright Resolution placing Congress on record in favor of creating a postwar United Nations organization. He supported key building blocks of the postwar era as a freshman senator in the later 1940s for NATO, President Truman’s Point Four program for technical assistance to developing countries, and the Marshall Plan for economic rebuilding of Europe after the war.

Fulbright Scholarship Program: Fulbright worked with President Truman’s administration in passing the Fulbright Act creating the international educational and cultural exchange program. The Fulbright Program has granted awards to 390,000 American and foreign students and professors in more than 160 countries from its inception in 1946 to the present. Fulbright Scholars have won 60 Nobel Prizes, 86 Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 became heads of state, most of them in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Currently the program awards 8,000 grants annually. President Kennedy praised the Fulbright Program as “the classic modern example of beating swords into plowshares.”

Opposition to Joe McCarthy and other Cold War extremists: Fulbright became deeply concerned about Joe McCarthy and other extremists who denounced loyal, distinguished Americans on false charges of communist sympathies and having “lost” China to communism. In 1951, he opposed General Douglas MacArthur’s call for air strikes against China after the general was removed for insubordination by President Truman in the Korean War. Fulbright warned that the air strikes would be the inevitable prelude to combat troops in China and posed a grave risk of igniting World War III. Throughout the early 1950s he lambasted McCarthy for smearing loyal officials in the State Dept. and elsewhere as having communist affinities without presenting any evidence for his claims. He blocked McCarthy’s effort to cut funding for the Fulbright Program on the bogus grounds that many Fulbright Scholars were communists or communist sympathizers.

In February, 1954 he was the only senator to vote against funding for McCarthy’s Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, which passed 85 to 1 with Fulbright casting the lone dissenting vote. This vote shocked the conscience of many thoughtful senators and in retrospect was crucial in beginning strong opposition to McCarthy. Fulbright was one of the leaders in the drive that finally led the Senate to censure McCarthy in late 1954.

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Delta Caucus Supports Peaceful Protests across the Region in Aftermath of George Floyd's Murder

Posted on June 10, 2020 at 11:32 AM

The Delta Caucus partners support the many peaceful protests that are taking place across the Greater Delta Region and the rest of the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. In light of our highly diverse organization and the vital importance of civil rights and race relations in the Delta’s history, we believe it is important to speak up at this crucial time.

We condemn the looting, arson and any extremists who are taking advantage of this situation. The vast majority of the protesters are peaceful. The demonstrations come primarily from concerned, peaceful citizens based in their home areas and not from “professional outside agitators.”

We are urging all protests to be peaceful and safe, with everyone wearing masks to avoid spread of Covid-19.

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS NEWSLETTER

I. EXAMPLES OF PEACEFUL PROTESTS ACROSS THE GREATER DELTA REGION

II. REFORMS TO REDUCE POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICANS

III. FACTS ABOUT THE INSURRECTION ACT

I. EXAMPLES OF PEACEFUL PROTESTS ACROSS THE GREATER DELTA REGION

We will cite a number of examples of predominantly peaceful protesters reported from our partners based in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama and the Washington, DC area.

Mayor Kevin Smith, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas: Mayor Smith held a peaceful march and rally in his highly diverse Mississippi River town. The Mayor and many local leaders took part. There were about 100 people there, including blacks and whites. They were wearing masks. There were no “Antifas,” KKK or other extremists there.

Mayor Smith has emphasized open channels of communication on Facebook, in person and in meetings like the one they held in Helena. There were a series of speakers and they had a candid, constructive dialogue.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas held an innovative “Pine Bluff Solidarity Rally” where about 300 people listened from their cars in the Pine Bluff Civic Center parking lot due to coronavirus concerns to a series of speakers including Mayor Shirley Washington of Pine Bluff, Rep. Vivian Flowers and Sen. Stephanie Flowers of Pine Bluff, and the Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant. It was broadcast live by Deltaplex Radio in Pine Bluff.

The speakers and organizers including the nonprofit Arkansas Public Policy Panel urged attendees to get involved in the political process and channel the anger felt by Floyd’s death in positive directions to bring about systemic changes.

North Louisiana Delta: Professor Herb Simmons, Professor of Criminal Justice at Grambling State University and head of the nonprofit Greater Northern Louisiana Community Development Corp. said there have been peaceful protests in Monroe, Shreveport, Alexandria and his home town of Jonesboro, among others.

On Sunday, June 7 in Jonesboro there was a peaceful march and protest by about 200 people—a large turnout for the relatively small town of about 5,000 people. There were both whites and blacks there, wearing masks, and Professor Simmons said “I’ve never seen the magnitude of the gatherings all across the country. Jonesboro and Jackson Parish, Louisiana was one of the hotspots in race relations over the years since the civil rights movement so I was surprised and happy to see it so peaceful, with blacks and whites taking part.”

Simmons was involved in the civil rights movement in his lengthy, distinguished career, and he said that “I regret that 60 years later it had to come to marches and protests, but let’s hope and pray that this moment will truly be the turning ppoint we that we can be the great nation we originally set out to be.”

Jonesboro, Louisiana was the birthplace of the civil rights organization “Deacons of Defense,” which was formed to counter the racism and hatred of the Ku Klux Klan. Simmons said he was glad to see many young people getting involved, because those who have been concerned about civil rights and equality in our region in recent years have tended to be middle-aged to older age groups.

“The young people had the spirit that ‘Let’s take up the mantle for one America, because if we don’t live together we will perish together.” He said that “If we don’t get it right this time I weep for our nation,” but fundamentally he wanted to strike a positive note that this will be the historic moment when we as a nation finally bring about permanent change and end racial violence.

From Thelma Collins, who for many years served as mayor of the historic Delta heartland city of Itta Bena, Mississippi:

“For many years the African American Male and Female have been the targets of a suffering people. So many unjust acts have been committed; yet, I am assured that in God ‘s time, justice will reign. We can see it in our younger generation that the time is now and all of us must come to the realization that love is the ingredient that binds all of God’s creation.”

“We are all saddened by the death of Mr. George Floyd; therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to take an inventory of how we would feel if that had happened to one of our children. It is so unfortunate that as African Americans and other minorities, we have to talk to our children–especially males—about the manner in which specified actions must be taken if they are detained by a policeman.”

Birmingham, Alabama: Our contacts there indicated that after an initial bad incident of looting in the early demonstrations, the protests have been fundamentally peaceful. One of our white contacts there who grew up during the Jim Crow era said she was utterly horrified by the video of Floyd’s death and shared her feelings with African American friends in the area.

She said she supported the peaceful protests and would have participated herself but could not, being 77 years old with underlying conditions making her vulnerable to the virus, and had difficulty walking. “I don’t walk well now but I have a voice and can speak out,” she said. She said the officer with his foot on Floyd’s neck seemed to be acting more like an animal than a human being.

Sikeston, Missouri—Mike Marshall, CEO of the Sikeston Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp. and a former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority said there was a peaceful protest in his southeast Missouri Delta community. Sikeston has a diverse population of about 69% white, 25% African American, and smaller numbers of other minorities.

There were people from both races, they were wearing masks, and the Sikeston, Missouri protest was peaceful and constructive.

Washington, DC, area—We have contacts in this area and our colleagues here observed peaceful protests. If there were any violent protesters we didn’t see them. The demonstrators outside the White House were typical of the nonviolent mood and the overwhelming force used against them was completely unnecessary, as a factual matter. As for the “outside agitators,” 90% of those arrested were based in the local area of Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia—and this is in one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth where people from all over the country and all over the world are always passing through.

Data on arrested people refute allegations of protests being heavily influenced by outside agitators, indicating the vast majority are local residents:

In addition to the direct observations of everyone we have consulted in our coalition, court records, employment histories and social media posts of 217 people arrested in Minneapolis and Washington, DC compiled by the Associated Press indicated that more than 85% were residents of their local area.

Of those arrested for curfew violations, rioting and failure to obey law enforcement, there were only a very small number having any affiliation with organized groups.

For those arrested for more serious offenses related to looting such as arson, burglary and theft, they often had criminal records but were local residents taking advantage of the situation caused by the demonstrations. These people are obviously despicable and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

In our region we recall the many erroneous complaints of segregationists during the civil rights movement that protests were not the result of local concerned citizens but instead were “out-of-towners” who came in to stir up trouble. This was not true then and it is not true now. Politicians and law enforcement officials have typically exaggerated the outside elements in order to excuse their reliance on greater force to quell the demonstrations.

II. A SHORT LIST OF BASIC REFORMS TO REDUCE POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICANS

We would urge our partners to contact their Members of Congress, state officials, and local mayors and police chiefs in support of constructive reforms to improve law enforcement accountability, reduce racial profiling, and change police practices to put an end to the tragic succession of violence by police officers against African Americans. We all know that the George Floyd killing was the latest—if one of the most graphic and recorded on video—of these tragic events:

We should emphasize that most of these reforms have been presented many times in the past but were defeated either by politicians depicting themselves as champions of “law and order,” police unions, and fear of hampering police. We all agree that most police are not excessively violent racists, but the minority who are guilty must no longer be protected and this will not cause any problems for lawful, appropriate actions by the police.

THE FEDERAL LEVEL

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 now being debated in Congress includes some long overdue provisions, but we need to understand that this is just one important step and many others will be needed at the state and local level as well. This bill would:

–Ban chokeholds and restraints such as the knee applied to the neck of Mr. Floyd;

–Establish a national database to track police misconduct, which will prevent officers with a track record of misconduct from moving from one law enforcement agency to another to find work;

–Place restrictions on no-knock warrants and prohibit them in drug cases at the federal level (the 26-year old emergency room technician Breonna Taylor was shot at least eight times at her own home by Louisiville police when they were serving a no-knock drug warrant at the wrong address;

–Provide pressures for states and municipalities to enact similar prohibitions on chokeholds, carotid holds, no-knock warrants and other changes by withholding federal funding;

–Change federal law so that victims of excessive force or other misconduct only have to prove that officers “recklessly” deprived them of their rights, as opposed to the current requirement for victims to show that the officers’ actions were “willful”;

–Expand the US Justice Department’s ability to investigate and prosecute police misconduct;

–Make lynching a federal crime and limit transfer of military equipment to state and local officials.

PLEASE NOTE: This bill does NOT in any way support “de-funding” or “disbanding” the police. No serious analyst proposes disbanding local police departments. Obviously a civilized society cannot function without police.

Funding aimed at prevention of conditions that lead to crime: there are reasonable people who would argue for re-directing some police funding to black communities for schools, jobs, housing, health care, substance abuse and other preventive programs that will reduce crime rates.

Changing priorities in funding to allocate more for pro-active social programs is sound policy. Over the past 40 years, policing has expanded beyond its original boundaries to fight not just crime but homelessness, mental illness, youth violence and other social ills. This over-reach of police duties needs to be cut back and law enforcement should leave civilian authorities to handle these social issues.

Local issues always have to be taken into consideration: We understand that higher-crime areas have to be dealt with somewhat differently than other areas, but the basic policy of pro-active social funding and reasonable cutbacks in the recent over-expansion of police roles is a solid principle. De-funding or crippling the budget for police would be counterproductive.

Congress should provide financial incentives to reward those departments that maintain high standards regarding use of force so as to have a “carrot and a stick”: Since leaving police with inadequate budgets and lower pay naturally makes it more difficult to recruit high-quality officers, Congress should provide not just the stick of withdrawing federal funding for misconduct but the carrot of financial incentives to assist police who meet high standards of policing such as the one to be established in the national database on police conduct.

Reform should not be vindictive but should employ both a carrot and a stick—incentives and pressures regarding funding.

STATE AND LOCAL LEVELS

More systemic reforms in how police operate — in hiring, training, deployment, and accountability — will have to take place at the state and local levels. There are roughly 18,000 police agencies in the country.

We are seeing some reforms take place at the state and local levels and this must be encouraged across the country:

–Greater levels of training on the appropriate use of force, understanding of civil rights, and developing safeguards at the recruiting and training levels;

–There needs to be ongoing training and monitoring and police should not just rely on training at the academy. Follow-up and continuing training needs to continue on an ongoing basis after officers join the force;

–Greater discipline for a pattern of offenses revealing racial bias and misconduct short of lethal violence. A preventive approach applied to officers who have received complaints could prevent lethal violence before it happens by firing officers who reveal a pattern of misconduct;

–More hiring of African American and Hispanic officers with incentives for doing so;

–Police and municipal officials should include in the department’s use of force policy a “duty to intervene” requirement in which officers who observe improper misconduct by another officer must make best efforts to stop the misconduct. The City of Little Rock announced plans for such a requirement and we hope it is finalized.

–Engagement with the community by recruiting residents throughout the city to take part in “constructive, creative” dialogue with police officers on a regular basis. Little Rock has also announced plans to take this step.

–Independent reviews of local police departments by state entities or other third parties to examine their records regarding the use of force need to be enacted. A department that pledges to examine its own conduct is unlikely to produce needed reforms.

–Local prosecutions and firings of police who have engaged in excessive use of force send a profound message. We can all encourage them to take such tough discipline. They need to know the public is watching their conduct more closely than ever. We need to require change, not just ask for it.

THIS IS A SHORT LIST OF NEEDED REFORMS—LIKELY MANY OTHERS ARE NEEDED, BUT WE CAN DO AT LEAST THIS MUCH—THESE HAVE BEEN ADVOCATED IN MOST CASES FOR YEARS IF NOT DECADES.

As many of our African American leaders have said, with these unprecedented demonstrations and the most graphic killing yet captured on video, “God help us if we can’t put an end to this racist violence this time.”

III. FACTS ABOUT THE INSURRECTION ACT

We have all seen the statements by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and other military leaders opposing the use of active-duty military forces to deal with unrest in US cities. The Posse Comitatus Act states that the military cannot be used to enforce laws in states and territories without the express authorization of Congress.

As with most laws, there is an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act: the Insurrection Act, of 1807, which can be invoked if there is an insurrection against state law and a state government requests federal help in restoring order. After the Civil War, Congress added a vital provision enabling the president to invoke the Insurrection Act without a state’s permission if the state is failing to protect the Constitutional rights of its citizens.

Washington, DC is in a different category because it is a federal district, so the president has authority to deploy troops there—albeit whether it is wise or justified to do so even if he has technical legal grounds is an entirely different question. The Insurrection Act throughout American history has usually been utilized either when a state requests it or when a state is obstructing federal law. Key examples include:

–President US Grant used the Insurrection Act against the Ku Klux Klan that was thriving after the Civil War in some South Carolina counties. He organized 1,000 troops in 1871 to detain more than 600 men and most were tried and convicted in federal court.

–In 1932 President Herbert Hoover sent US troops to disperse a group of 20,000 World War I veterans in Washington, DC. The unemployed veterans were seeking bonus payments from Congress in what became know as the “Bonus March.” Some of the veterans engaged in a physical confrontation with police, whereupon Hoover called in the military including tanks. General Douglas MacArthur led armed military forces against unarmed veterans, despite being warned by his aide, Major Dwight Eisenhower, that such action was improper. One veteran was killed and 60 were hurt, according to Washington Post reports at the time.

–President Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort African American students into Little Rock Central High in 1957 after Gov. Orval Faubus used National Guardsmen in an effort to obstruct the desegregation of the school as required after the Brown decision.

–President George H. W. Bush invoked the Insurrection Act to calm riots in the acquittal of a policeman in the beating of Rodney King. Gov. Pete Wilson had asked for federal aid, but he had not demonstrated that state and local agencies were unable to enforce the law. Legal scholars and law enforcement experts later criticized Gov. Wilson’s request as an over-reaction.

There have been many other historical examples. The fundamental American tradition is that we have always been deeply skeptical about using the military to enforce federal law within the United States. We believe it would be wise to adhere to that sound tradition in the current environment.

In the current environment some governors such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. J. B. Pritzker of Illinois have publicly stated that they do NOT need troops to be sent into their states. Others may have a different inclination, but with the current peacefulness of the demonstrations even though seem unlikely to request federal forces.

President Trump could still send in troops, but he would have to make the case that federal law is being obstructed in the state, or the state is failing to protect the rights of its citizens.

As a matter of constitutional law, Delta Caucus director Lee Powell (who holds juris doctorate and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia Law School and Graduate School in recent US history) cites the analysis of Professor Saikrishna Prakash of the University of Virginia Law School, an expert on executive power issues.

Prakash said that if President Trump were to invoke the Insurrection Act in the states, he would likely be challenged in court. A federal district judge might rule the move was unlawful, but given the higher federal courts’ reluctance to challenge the President’s actions as Commander in Chief, Prakash was of the opinion that his invocation would probably be ultimately upheld. Of course, it is always difficult to predict court decisions and such rulings are inevitably influenced by the judicial philosophies of the justices at any given time; The current make-up of federal appellate courts and the US Supreme Court has a strong bent in favor of upholding Presidential authority. Professor Prakash pointed out in an interview with Time that even if the President eventually prevailed in the legal battle, an injunction could delay troop deployment and limit his ability to send in troops regarding the current protests.

The major conclusion is that while the President may or may not have the legal authority to use the Insurrection Act to send in troops, the wisdom and need for such a decision should be the basic criteria and not technical legality. Based on all the facts that we have been able to ascertain, the protests have largely been peaceful up to June 9 and they are trending even more in a decidedly non-violent direction.

We need to let protesters continue to exercise their First Amendment rights in peace. There is no need here to invoke the Insurrection Act.

Legislation to Aid Local News Organizations Harmed by the Pandemic's Economic Impact

Posted on May 22, 2020 at 01:04 PM

The Delta Caucus supports bipartisan legislation to expand access to Paycheck Protection Program aid for local news organizations who are suffering from a deep fall in advertising revenue caused by the pandemic. Key sponsors include Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)

We would ask our partners across the 8 states of the Greater Delta Region, the Washington, DC area and elsewhere to read this summary of the Local News and Emergency Information Act of 2020 and then contact your Members of Congress about the need to keep local newspapers and broadcasters who were struggling even before the crisis from going out of business due to the recession.

The goal is to get this included in the next phase of Covid-19 relief. Congress is now considering the many phases of relief that are needed. We appreciate Sen. Boozman and others in the Delta Congressional delegation who are working diligently on this important issue.

Almost everyone, of course, is harmed to a greater or lesser degree by the health and economic impacts of Covid-19. The Delta Caucus is focusing on a number of key vulnerable areas, including food insecure families in our region, those who have lost their jobs, vulnerable small businesses, people who lack health insurance, our struggling rural hospitals, lack of access to broadband. Local media outlets are also hit very hard and we focus on their plight in this message.

These organizations are the main source of information about news in the many small towns and local areas across the region and they make a significant contribution to the democratic process.

The bill expands access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided that the funding is used in the process of continued provision of “local” news, content or emergency information.

This will provide aid for locally operated newspapers, radio and TV stations across the Delta who were not eligible for the earlier PPP aid because they were owned by a larger corporation, even though they were operated and managed at the local level.

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act based eligibility on the size of a newspaper’s parent company, and not the size of a local paper’s staff.

The Local News and Emergency Information Act would base eligibility on the number of employees at a publisher’s or broadcaster’s “individual physical location.” The funding can only be used for activities of the “individual physical location.”

A newspaper with fewer than 1,000 employees at the site would qualify, as would broadcasters with gross receipts of less than $41.5 million. These criteria are set by the Small Business Administration’s definition of a “small business.”

The PPP program funds are administered on a first-come, first served basis and any larger companies who apply will not get any special consideration.

Of course, most local newspapers and broadcasters in Arkansas and the 8-state Greater Delta have far fewer than $1,000 employers or less than $41.5 million. Again, these are standard SBA definitions. These limits will prevent huge entities from taking large amounts of funds intended to help local, smaller entities.

Newspapers had already suffered from sharp reductions in ad revenue for more than 10 years as readers and advertisers moved from print to online products.

We would ask two key (rhetorical) questions:

How would you like to get all your information and news from Fox News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and other behemoths?

How often do huge entities like those listed above provide news and information about your local region?

Think about a world where only the huge news conglomerates disseminate information.

For your convenience, below is a list of Delta US senators and representatives phone numbers.

We would request that if you contact one of your Members of the House and/or Senate, that you send a quick one-sentence note to Lee Powell’s Delta Caucus email address at Leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net and just say “I called Sen. X or Rep. Y to support local news aid bill.”

Of course, those partners who have lobbying restrictions either would want to only discuss the general subject of helping media outlets survive during the pandemic and would not refer to the pending bill, or may not wish to call them on this subject, while those without any lobbying restrictions can make a direct lobbying pitch.


US House and Senate phone numbers, 8-state Greater Mississippi River Delta Region (listed in the “Extended Content” section)

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Need for 15% Increase in SNAP Benefits during the Twin Health & Economic Crises

Posted on April 30, 2020 at 01:59 PM

As we deal with the twin crises in the fields of health care and the economy, the Delta Caucus urges all our partners to support a 15% increase in SNAP nutrition benefits as we respond to the worst hunger crisis America has faced in modern times. SNAP also has a strong economic stimulus because the funds are spent very quickly.

As the region ranking at the bottom in food insecurity, this crisis is especially acute in the 8-state Greater Delta Region. Nationally, adult hunger is 2.5 times worse than it was before the crisis, and child hunger is a shocking 5 times worse as we confront what is called “the gravest hunger crisis in modern times” by CEO Joel Berg of Hunger Free America. The Delta chronically suffers worse than the rest of the country.

Please contact your members of the US House and Senate and ask for a 15% increase in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funding, which is a modest but essential increase in average SNAP benefits from the current $1.34 to $1.54 per meal. There is also an urgent need to increase the minimum monthly benefit from the current $16 to $30.

The need for SNAP has never been greater. For example, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance reports that in the first 10 days of April, almost 20,000 new SNAP applications were received—as many as the entire month of February. The figures will only get far worse next month.

All research demonstrates that in addition to fighting hunger SNAP is also one of the strongest tools in our economic stimulus arsenal: the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reports that during the 2009-13 Great Recession the SNAP benefit increase of that period resulted in economic benefits of from $1.50 to $1.80 for each dollar of the larger SNAP benefits, as the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance has pointed out in its current advocacy work.

SNAP spending has a multiplier impact throughout the economy, when businesses supplying the food and other goods as well as their employees have additional money to make their own purchases.

One of the most effective and fastest ways to fight the hunger, health and economic crises is to increase SNAP and other federal nutrition programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children nutrition program).

More recent research from USDA Economic Research shows an even larger multiplier impact of up to $2 dollars in new economic activity for every dollar distributed. USDA’s research indicates that a $1 billion dollar increase in SNAP benefits in a recession increases Gross Domestic Product by $1.54 billion, supports 13,650 new jobs, and generates $32 million in farm income.

The SNAP program has consistently received strong bipartisan support in Congress, and public opinion polls have also consistently shown support for the nutrition program by two thirds or more of those polled.

(NOTE: The Delta Caucus has a new policy of requesting that for any contact you make to the powers that be in Congress or elsewhere, please send a super-brief email to Lee Powell’s Delta Caucus email address at Leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net just saying

“Called Sen. Or Rep. X to emphasize the great importance of SNAP.”

This is to have a ballpark estimate of how many people acted on our advocacy request.

Obviously, those who have lobbying or other restrictions will confine this to a strictly informational/factual statement of the general benefits of the SNAP program to the Delta Region, whereas people who don’t have these restrictions can make a full, direct pitch for SNAP expansion in the spirit of the First Amendment’s protection of the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.”)

Needless to say, we need a moratorium on proposals for harmful rule-making that would reduce SNAP benefits during the twin health and economic crises.

Poverty and malnutrition make the Covid-19 crisis even worse: Scientific evidence has long shown that malnourished people are more likely to get and spread diseases like Covid-19. Older people or those with underlying conditions who are malnourished are more likely to require hospitalization, further increasing the spread of the virus.

The twin crises also feed on each other because families who have lost jobs, income or have higher health care costs are more likely to go hungry.

For more resources about ways to address this crisis, contact the USDA Hunger Hotline operated by Hunger Free America at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (for English) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish).

Another great resource is the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance at 1-833-762-7275.

Food banks across the region are reporting serious stress from the pandemic: Please go to their websites to the link for making donations and contribute any amount. Every small contribution adds up.

Government nutrition programs are much larger than the food charities, of course, having provided at least 11 times the dollar amount of food in 2019 than the all the charities combined. Nonetheless, food banks can help fill in some of the gaps for hungry people, and food bank officials tell us that financial donations are the best way to help in the crisis and they do not involve any risk of spreading the virus.

If you want to do something RIGHT NOW to help those suffering from the pandemic’s economic and health impacts, go to one of these food bank websites and contribute on their Donation link today.

Every $1 contribution provides at least 5 healthy meals or more through the Feeding America network, so $50 = 250 meals, etc.

Food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and food rescue organizations can help and your Feeding America food bank network in the Delta aids them.

For contact information on food banks across the 8-state Greater Delta Region who are in touch with a network of food organizations all across the region, see the Delta Caucus website at mdgc.us under “Caucus Articles” and go to the March 23, 2020 article, “Delta’s Vulnerability to Health & Economic Crises; and Request to Aid Your Local Food Bank.”

At the bottom of that article there are phone numbers and websites for the 13 Feeding America food banks that cover the Greater Mississippi Delta Region. They can get you in touch with smaller food pantries and other anti-hunger entities in your local area.

Coronavirus Underscores Great Need to Expand Broadband Access across the Delta--Spring, 2020

Posted on April 23, 2020 at 11:00 AM

The coronavirus is highlighting the Greater Delta Region’s inadequate access to broadband, as many people who are told to work from home cannot do so because they can’t get online from home or experience other difficulties due to lack of broadband access.

Tele-Medicine, Tele-Health, Tele-Education, etc. are very helpful in this crisis, but people without access to the Internet cannot use them. We must drive home the urgent need that access to the Internet is a right nowadays for everybody.

For immediate help right now, those lacking access to the Internet can call 211 centers or other resources for people who only have access to telephones right now.

Greater Delta Region ranks at the bottom among regions in connectivity:

There are several ranking systems; this one from Broadbandnow in 2018 had Mississippi and Arkansas as two of the three lowest ranked states and six of the Delta states among the bottom 15 in the country in connectivity:

· Mississippi 49th, · Arkansas 48th, · Missouri 42nd, · Alabama 41st, · Louisiana 36th · Kentucky 35th.

In many areas the higher rates of poverty, relatively older populations, and lack of access to health care place the Delta at disproportionately higher risk to the pandemic.

For example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Social Vulnerability Index regarding the coronavirus indicated that 45.4% of the population of Arkansas live in census tracts that are at higher risk for the virus.

Broadband deserts have formed in the region because internet companies are reluctant to invest in extending broadband lines to far-flung rural areas with low populations. It’s expensive to deploy broadband infrastructure to those areas, and it’s difficult to turn a profit without a large customer base. State, government, corporation and foundation resources will need to be employed to address this gap.

An example of the challenges is the plight of Quitman County School District in Mississippi, where 100% of the students have free or reduced lunch and have had to improvise during this period without school time. In late March school authorities estimated that at least 30% of the district’s children are without Internet. The district began sending home two weeks of hard copy lessons when students picked up their to-go lunch in March. Buses delivered the materials to the most remote areas. Many other school districts face similar challenges across the region.

Resources To Call and Request Support—(information provided from ConnectedNation and other private sector sources, USDA Rural Development, and other state and federal sources):

We provide a list of contacts below with resources on expanding access to broadband in rural areas or economically distressed areas, both of which have challenges in getting broadband access; a separate section provides information about organizations that can help people who do not have access to the Internet and have to rely on telephone for communications currently.

We will start by referring to two federal programs, USDA Rural Connect and the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. Please contact your members of the US House and Senate and ask them to increase funding for these programs.

Contact information to seek assistance from these organizations directly is below:

USDA Rural Connect—1-202-720-0800; community.connect@wdc.usda.gov

This program helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not yet economically viable for private sector providers to deliver service. Eligible applicants include most state and local governments, federally-recognized Tribes, nonprofits and for-profit corporations.

The USDA has announced a second window for applications for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants, often used to develop or expand connected health programs in areas where access to care is difficult. While the first window for applications runs through April 10, the new window – during which only online applications will be accepted - will run from April 14 through July 13.

Federal Communications Commission Rural Digital Opportunity Fund; 1-888-225-5322;

Fcc.gov/tags/rural-digital-oppportunity-fund.

· FCC Launched a $20 Billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund To Expand Rural Broadband Deployment Description: Represents FCC’s Largest Investment Ever to Close Digital Divide.

For low-income people or those in rural areas who do not have access to the Internet and need to rely on telephone numbers for immediate needs like food, housing, medicine, etc.:

Note—these are not contacts for investing in long-term broadband expansion, but rather for people who lack broadband access right now and need telephone numbers to seek immediate aid.

211 system–In most areas people can dial 211 to get access to the local Help-Line Center, which can then provide information about the appropriate organizations that can help with various issues such as food, housing, medicine and other immediate needs.

In Missouri, Covid-19 Public Health Hotline is 1-877-435-8411. This hotline can get people in touch with a variety of resources to help during the pandemic.

Louisiana 211 is a single access point for every day needs and in times of crisis including information including low cost internet services. Go to https://www.louisiana211.org/ or simply dial 211 when in Louisiana

Alabama– 211 Connects Alabama http://www.211connectsalabama.org/ For assistance please call 2-1-1 in Alabama or the toll free number at (888) 421-1266.

Mississippi– United Way of Mississippi—a starting point for those who do not have access to the Internet who need food, medicine, housing or other help is 1-866-472-8265, https://www.myunitedway.com/2-1-1/ For assistance please call 2-1-1

West Tennessee: People in the local area can call 211 or (901) 415-2790.

Kentucky: People in Kentucky can call 211 for their local Help Center. They can also find information at United Way of Kentucky at (502) 589-6897

Southern Illinois—People in Illinois can call 211, and the United Way of Southern Illinois is (618) 997-7744

Arkansas—Call 211 or 1-866-489-6983.


New broadband office in Arkansas—Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently established this office in Arkansas. They have a grant program for long-term goals of expanding broadband access in the state.

Arkansas State Broadband Office: Nathan Smith, 501-766-4476 or Nathan.smith@arkansas.gov or Clint Moore at 501-682-5917 or Clint.moore@arkansas.gov

Other key resources:

US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a Coronavirus hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO And the website is cdc.org

—Private sector entity with resources regarding broadband access

Broadband Now—Broadbandnow.com

Connected Nation—Connected Nation.org; 1-877-846-7710.

HighSpeedInternet.com lists Internet providers.

University of Arkansas Medical Services has a variety of information about Tele-Health, Tele-Medicine And other health care resources:

Uamselink.com or (501) 603-1280.


Update from private sector sources: In response to COVID-19 developments, some internet providers are offering free services to low-income families and households with students.

Free Comcast Xfinity internet Comcast Xfinity is currently offering its Internet Essentials program free for two months to new customers. The internet provider is also automatically increasing speeds for all Internet Essentials customers. Comcast Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots are also open and free to use by anyone.

Free internet for students from Charter Spectrum Households with students K–12 or university students can sign up for a new Charter Spectrum internet account to get the first two months of internet with speeds up to 100 Mbps for free. Installation fees will be waived for those who qualify for the offer. Call 1-844-488-8395 to enroll.

Spectrum Wi-Fi hotspots are also currently open and free to use.

Free internet for students from Altice Altice internet providers Suddenlink and Optimum are offering 60 days of free internet service for households with K–12 or college students. Internet speeds are up to 30 Mbps if you do not already have access to a home internet plan. To sign up, call 866-200-9522 if you live in an area with Optimum internet service, or call 888-633-0030 if you live in an area with Suddenlink internet service.

The Keep Americans Connected Pledge On March 13, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to ensure that Americans would continue to be able to access the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 650 companies across the country have signed the pledge, agreeing to these terms until mid-May:

Service to any residential or small business internet customers will not have service terminated due to missed or late payments due to COVID-19 disruptions.

Any late fees incurred due to late or missed payments caused by COVID-19 disruptions will be waived.

All public Wi-Fi hotspots operated by the provider will be free and open for anyone who needs them.

There are government subsidies that can help with your internet bill, and many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer low-income internet programs. These inexpensive internet plans, income based programs, and low-income family plans help reduce the cost of staying connected.

Search Tool for low Cost Internet Service and Devices—thanks to Connected Nation for providing this information:

· EveryoneOn.org provides a short form to help establish eligibility for low-cost internet and devices (laptops and desktops) and locate companies based on your ZIP code. This can be found at https://www.everyoneon.org/find-offers.

· Connected Nation’s COVID-19 resource page provides links to low-cost and free internet resources https://connectednation.org/coronavirus/resources-solutions-providing-connectivity/

· The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) provides a list of free and low cost plans. Some may or may not be available in the Delta region https://www.digitalinclusion.org/free-low-cost-internet-plans/

Providers with Low-cost Programs

· Access from AT&T - is offering two months of free service as well as $5 a month and $10 a month plans (plus tax), based on speed, for new customers who order before April 30. It also expands eligibility based on income (household income based on 135 percent or less than the federal poverty guidelines) and participation in the National School Lunch Program/Head Start and is waiving all home internet data overage fees. This pdf provides additional details, including how to enroll, or simply call 1-855-220-5211 (English) or 1-855-220-5225 (Spanish). Additionally, visit att.com/access to enroll.

· The Internet Essentials program from Comcast offers low-cost internet ($10 a month) and is currently offering the first two months free of charge in response to the coronavirus emergency. You can find details here: https://www.internetessentials.com/ . Internet Essentials also offers low-cost computers (laptops and desktops) to Internet Essentials participants visit https://www.internetessentials.com/low-cost-computer to learn more.