Many parts of the world have been pushed into the worst recession period in history due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with all economies, from advanced ones to underdeveloped countries, striving to work out measures to reverse the current situation. However, the global economic picture is still filled with a gloomy color.
The World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report forecasts that the world economy will see a serious decline in 2020, at 5.2%. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that the damage could mount to US$5.8-8.8 trillion, equivalent to 6.4-9.7% of global GDP. The latest forecast of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also stated that global GDP will decrease by 4.9% this year and the world economy will lose US$12 trillion by the end of 2021. This is a “red alert” to all countries and regions, posing the urgent task of quickly finding “painkillers” for economies severely damaged by the disease.
According to the US government’s data, the world’s largest economy declined decreased by 4.8% in the first quarter of the year. It is estimated that the US’s GDP will shrink at 5.7% in 2020, and the pandemic will possibly cause a loss of US$7.9 trillion in US economic output over the next decade. The European Union (EU) is also facing a serious “economic shock”. The European Central Bank (ECB) warned that the Eurozone could see a decrease of 5-15% in output and a 5.4% decline in economic growth, making 2020 the worst milestone since the euro was introduced in 1999. According to the World Bank, Russia’s GDP will also shrink by 6% this year, marking the sharpest decline in 11 years.
In Asia, even as lockdown measures are gradually being eased and some important economic activities have been restarted, economies continue to feel the heavy impact of the pandemic. As reported by the ADB, developing economies in Asia will have virtually no growth in 2020. The bank has lowered the growth forecast of this region to 0.1%, from the 2.2% level made in April, and this is the continent’s lowest growth rate since 1961. China, the second largest economy in the world, is forecast to grow by only 1% in 2020 after recording a year-on-year drop of 6.8% in Q1. Meanwhile, Japan also registered a decrease of 3.4% in the first quarter, with both private consumption and exports declining. The world’s third largest economy was even forecast to decrease by 22% in Q2 2020.
The Latin America and Caribbean region have fallen into its biggest recession in history. The IMF forecasts that the region’s GDP will drop 5.2% this year, exceeding the serious declines in the 1930s Great Depression, the 1980s economic crisis and the 2008 world financial crisis. Many regional economies will report “negative growth”, such as Brazil at -9.1%, Mexico at -10.5% and Argentina at about -9.9%. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) have even warned that “extreme poverty” will increase in all countries across the region, with the number of poor people expected to mount to 214.7 million from the current 186 million by the end of 2020, equivalent to 34.7% of the region’s total population. The 2020 African Economic Outlook by the African Development Bank (AfDB) also showed that the continent will suffer a major recession, with its GDP falling by 1.7-3.4% this year, and 24.6-30 million people will be unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
Financial stimulus packages have been launched by many countries to overcome the consequences of the COVID-19 storm. Taking over the rotating EU presidency for the second half of this year, Germany urged member states to show solidarity and pass a large-scale economic recovery plan, with a “recovery fund” of up to EUR750 billion, aimed at dealing with the aftermath of the disease. To mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on people’s lives, especially the vulnerable sectors of society, governments in many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have also implemented economic support measures. Programs to subsidize unemployed workers, support businesses and increase health spending have been widely deployed.
Limiting the negative impact of the pandemic and dispelling “gloomy clouds” overshadowing the economy are now the top priority of many countries’ governments. However, it remains unlikely for the world to grow confident about the economic recovery overnight, as the COVID-19 pandemic is still proceeding in a complicated and unpredictable manner.
American billionaire Bill Gates said on Saturday he was “optimistic” about the battle against Covid-19 and called for medicines and vaccines to be distributed to those who need them rather than to the “highest bidders”.
Gates’ foundation pledged $7.4 billion to global vaccines alliance Gavi in June to help immunization programs disrupted by coronavirus.
“If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidders, instead to the people in the place where they are most needed, we will have a longer and more unjust, deadlier pandemic,” said the Microsoft founder in Saturday’s video message to a virtual international conference on COVID-19 and AIDS.
“We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market driven factors.”
Gates stressed that the pandemic has interrupted the supply chains of drugs, including against AIDS, which risks disruptions which “could prevent hundreds of thousands of people from getting the treatments they need — and not just in sub-Saharan Africa.”
“But I remain optimistic,” he added. “We will defeat Covid-19 and we will continue to make strides against AIDS and other health crisis.”
He said the researchers are making great advances.
“Better diagnostic tools are being developed to identify those infected. Investments are being made in libraries of anti-viral drugs which has been an under-invested branch of science.
“Also, we are making great progress on vaccines,” he said.
“These platforms won’t just be useful against this particular virus. They will also help us specifically for HIV.
“Of course, there is a big difference between getting a platform and making sure we get the products out to everyone who needs them.”
The second reason for his optimism, he added, is the global solidarity, already demonstrated in the fight against AIDS, with the Global Fund created in 2002, and the American aid program PEPFAR, launched by George W Bush and intended mainly for sub-Saharan Africa.
“Whether it is AIDS or Covid-19, global cooperation and resolve to invent the tools and get them out where they are needed most is critical,” he said.
Hunger linked to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic could kill more people than the disease itself, Oxfam has warned.
The charity says an estimated 122 million more people could be pushed to the brink of starvation this year due to consequences such as declining aid, mass unemployment, and disruption to food production and supplies.
The bleak scenario is outlined in its report, The Hunger Virus, and equates to as many as 12,000 people dying per day.
Oxfam says this is more than the peak global coronavirus death rate of 10,000 per day in April.
The 10 hunger hotspots highlighted in the report include Afghanistan, Syria, and South Sudan – where the charity says the situation is most severe.
In Afghanistan for example, a million more people are said to have been pushed to the brink of famine – rising from 2.5 million in September 2019 to 3.5 million in May 2020.
Oxfam says it is down to border closures hitting food supplies and the economic downturn in Iran causing a drop in remittances.
It also says middle-income countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa are “emerging epicenters of hunger” with millions of people “tipped over the edge” by the social and economic effects of the crisis.
The charity also claims $18bn (£13bn) has been paid to shareholders by eight of the biggest food and beverage firms this year.
It says that amounts to more than 10 times the funding needed for food and agriculture assistance to the most vulnerable communities in the UN’s COVID-19 appeal.
Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “The knock-on impacts of COVID-19 are far more widespread than the virus itself, pushing millions of the world’s poorest people deeper into hunger and poverty.”
He said governments could save lives by funding the UN COVID-19 appeal and “supporting the call for a global ceasefire to end conflict in order to tackle the pandemic”.
Mr. Sriskandarajah added: “The UK could make a real difference by championing debt cancellation at the G20 finance ministers meeting next week to pay for social protection measures such as cash grants to help people survive.”
Sky’s Africa correspondent, John Sparks, said tens of millions in South Africa had been “pushed to the very edge” by the virus pandemic, with those struggling to feed their family now involved in a “grim battle for survival” amid widespread job losses.
Sparks added: “The pain is felt all over as millions of immigrants from nations like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi struggle to feed themselves in South Africa and fail to send remittances to their loved ones back home.”
In Myanmar, the COVID-19 lockdown has laid bare the stigmatization, discrimination and harassment faced by many LGBTQI people, particularly in rural areas. The United Nations is working to support those people.
When the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Myanmar in late March, quarantine centers were set up in sites around the country. People arriving in a town—such as migrant workers returning home—had to quarantine at their local center for 21 days.
One of the first people to work as a volunteer at the quarantine center in the town of Pyay was a man named Min Min. Like other centers around the country, this one was in a school that was repurposed for the pandemic.
The roughly 20 volunteers were divided into two groups. The “outer circle”, according to Min Min, dealt with external affairs, such as coordinating donations, going shopping for food, and registering new arrivals. “Inner circle” volunteers distributed food among people in the center, took out the trash, did the cleaning.
“The challenges we faced as volunteers were like in any other center,” says Min Min, who was an “inner circle” volunteer. “There were shortages of personal protective equipment. N-95 face masks were in short supply. Gloves had to be reused.”
Min Min was concerned that he might face another challenge: the disdain and rejection of inhabitants of the center. Myanmar is bound by strict gender roles, and Min Min is transgender.
But, he says, “I was fortunate that everyone knew me in town, and they accepted me for what I am and accepted the support I gave. I mingled freely with the occupants at the center and even hung my sarong with the laundry of other men.”
In Myanmar society, families often separate their laundry not by color but by the sex of the wearer. This is because women’s undergarments are considered to cause a man to lose his masculine “aura” or power. For Min Min’s sarong to be left undisturbed among those of other men was an unusual show of acceptance.
In conservative rural Myanmar, Min Min managed what other LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex) people could only dream of: he stood firm regarding his identity. However, he says, several gay men volunteers were harassed by people who were uncomfortable with their ‘effeminate’ behavior.
“When the pandemic reached Myanmar, the LGBTQI community did their bit by going out on the street, handing out masks, sanitizing gel, and educational pamphlets,” said Htike of Asia Foundation, who is also an LGBTQI-rights activist. This was an educational role that some had taken on before, doing public education about HIV or other issues. “They wanted to show that they are one with the people.”
The stay-at-home order was especially difficult for many in the LGBTQI community. Some live with their families or had left but now had nowhere else to go but back home. Their acceptance at home was largely due to their steady income, but because the lockdown meant a loss of jobs and income, they were again met with rejection and stress.
Many other LGBTQI people had been turned out by their families, and some found acceptance and jobs in such industries as beauty and lifestyle. They created homes with their friends or partners. But here, too, there was peril. “LGBTQI people living with their partners started facing increased domestic violence,” says Aung Myo Min, the Executive Director of NGO Equality Myanmar. “Desperate for income, some sought to become sex workers, breaking the curfew and sneaking out at night, only to fall prey to further violence or to be harassed by police.”
The legal status of the community is grim. “There is nothing in the law that protects LGBTQI people,” says Aung. Section 377 of Myanmar’s law criminalizes homosexual sex. There is no gender-neutral definition of rape in the law. When cases of violence against the community are reported to the police, they are ignored. Transgender women are not recognized as women. Transgender men face discrimination as well, but they have some legal protections, as they are considered women.
For example, a recent statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission spoke of protecting women—and only women—against cyber bullying. For trans people to take advantage of such protections, however, means denying their gender identity. Some trans people give themselves hormone treatment, but it is unregulated; the closest place to get sex reassignment surgeries is in neighboring Thailand.
But these troubles are not the only thing defining the community.
“Around the world, just as here in Myanmar, LGBTQI people should not be seen as victims, but as drivers of change”, says Nicolas Burniat, Country Representative of UN Women in Myanmar. “They have contributed to the COVID-19 crisis response. Society cannot just accept their contribution when it is convenient and forget them or discriminate against them the rest of the time. It is essential that the rights of LGBTQI people be respected during this crisis and beyond and that their specific needs be addressed in the COVID-19 response efforts.”
UN Women is working with UNFPA, UNAIDS, and other UN agencies, as well as local organizations in Myanmar, to support the country’s LGBTQI community—especially as COVID-19 upended daily life. With just over 300 reported cases and only a handful of deaths, Myanmar has fared relatively well—thanks largely to the strict quarantine, which over 30,000 people nationwide have undergone. Min Min’s center and many others have wound down operations. The ongoing struggle remains.
“The UN is there to support the LGBTQI community,” says Burniat. Sometimes the UN’s support is symbolic, such as when it flew the rainbow flag on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Other times the help is practical, as when UN agencies coordinate to protect LGBTQI human rights. A recent UN-sponsored online conference brought together organizations concerned about human rights during the pandemic, and Min Min and other activists spoke.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate by your race, religion, gender, or sexuality,” says Min Min. “I volunteered because I believe it is the human thing to do. I ask only that we be treated the same by society.”
Kazakh authorities refuted Chinese media reports on an “unknown pneumonia” on Friday, even if local media had reported that the unknown disease was more deadly than COVID-19. Some medical experts in China did not rule out the possibility that the so-called unknown pneumonia is actually the novel coronavirus, while the Kazakh side has been suggested to provide more information for prevention work.
The Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan on Thursday warned Chinese citizens living in the country of a local pneumonia of unknown source, which local media reported has a “much higher” fatality rate than COVID-19. Organizations including Kazakhstan’s health department are studying the “virus of this pneumonia,” the embassy said, quoting media.
The unknown pneumonia in Kazakhstan caused 1,772 deaths in the first six months of the year, with 628 in June alone and including Chinese citizens, the embassy said in a statement on its WeChat account on Thursday, citing Kazakh media reports.
However, the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan on Friday refuted reports about an unknown pneumonia in the country.
The ministry also said in a post published on Facebook on Friday that the country continues to monitor pneumonia in line with the World Health Organization’s classification. It says that Kazakh Minister of Health Alexey Tsoy told a media briefing on Thursday that there are bacterial, fungal, viral, and “unspecified” pneumonia in the country, saying that proves the reports from Chinese media are untrue.
A media report claiming the number of patients affected by the pneumonia in Kazakhstan “is two to three times higher than that of COVID-19” came from Kazakh international news agency Kazinform on Thursday but was deleted on Friday.
Chinese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Zhang Xiao held a phone conversation with Kazakh Health Minister Aleksey Tsoy on Friday. Both sides spoke highly of the China-Kazakhstan permanent comprehensive strategic partnership and agreed that the bilateral cooperation has brought tangible benefits to both Chinese and Kazakh people, according to a press release from the official WeChat account of the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan.
Tsoy thanked China for its strong support in the anti-epidemic work, noting that China’s medical aid teams and assistance materials have played an important role in fighting the virus.
Based on the little information disclosed thus far, it is difficult to conclude whether the pneumonia found in Kazakhstan is COVID-19 or a new pneumonia, Wang Guangfa, a leading Chinese respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital in Beijing, who was also among the first group of experts dispatched by the Chinese National Health Commission to Wuhan in early January, told the Global Times.
“Local health authorities should clearly state what the situation of patients is. It’s also likely that local authorities lack the capabilities to diagnose COVID-19,” he said.
There are many kinds of viral pneumonia. Doctors are sometimes unable to confirm pneumonia through clinical diagnosis, Wang said, noting that in some remote areas in Kazakhstan, local hospitals do not have adequate testing means and cannot diagnose pneumonia.
Since mid-June, some regions, and cities, like Atyrau Region, Aktobe State and Shymkent, have recorded higher pneumonia cases than the same period last year. Some local observers said some regions across the country have less than adequate medical resources in fighting COVID-19, though the conditions are better in Nur-Sultan, capital of Kazakhstan, than other areas in the country.
Jin Dongyan, a professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Friday that there is a big possibility that this “unknown pneumonia” is actually COVID-19, and local authorities were unable to identify it in a timely manner due to inadequate medical conditions. He said the chances that the coronavirus has mutated are very low.
He noted that some Chinese people returning from Kazakhstan have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but there have been no cases of this unknown pneumonia among them.
The negative COVID-19 tests may be the result of Kazakhstan’s improper use of testing kits, and the reportedly high fatality may be caused by a low number of patients seeking medical treatment, Jin said.
Xu Min, a doctor from Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region who was a member of the medical aid expert team that China sent to Kazakhstan in April, told the Global Times on Friday that the medical situations vary greatly in the country, and many places lack adequate equipment. The medical team visited three cities – Nur-Sultan, Karaganda, and Almaty.
Xu said in many hospitals they visited, patients and medical staff shared the space and some patients did not even wear face masks.
While China also uses CT scans to help diagnose COVID-19, Kazakhstan only uses X-rays, which may lead to inaccurate diagnosis, Xu noted.
Some experts did not rule out the possibility of a virus mutation in Kazakhstan.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Chinese CDC) also released the epidemiological investigation and analysis of the viral gene sequencing results of the latest outbreak at the Xinfadi wholesale food market, which suggested that the strain that caused the outbreak is the European branch I of the L genotype.
The results of the high-throughput sequencing of the novel coronavirus genome from 52 confirmed cases in Beijing showed that all samples mutated at four sites, compared to the strain in Wuhan, analysis showed.
Some experts said they won’t rule out the virus detected in Kazakhstan as a new genotype, following its faster virus mutation. “The virus has various genotypes, which could not be detected by old measures, like existing nucleic acid test kits,” Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Friday.
The unknown pneumonia has given rise to heated discussions among Chinese people living in Kazakhstan, who remain anxious about COVID-19, and some Chinese students are becoming more eager to return to China as the situation worsens.
China expects to learn more about this unknown pneumonia and hopes to work together with Kazakhstan to fight the epidemic and safeguard public health in both countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Friday.
China and Kazakhstan remain in close cooperation in fighting the pandemic. On July 4, the latest batch of humanitarian assistance sent by the Chinese government arrived at the Almaty International Airport to help the country fight COVID-19.
The medical assistance includes 50,000 testing kits, 600,000 surgical masks, 70,000 protective glasses, 150,000 pairs of medical gloves, 30,000 protective gowns and 1,000 thermometers, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said.
New data revealed by Gilead Sciences has shown that its antiviral drug remdesivir reduces death risk of severe COVID -19 patients by as much as 62 per cent when compared with standard care alone.
This is an important finding that requires confirmation in prospective clinical trials, Gilead said on Friday about the results presented at the virtual COVID-19 conference as part of the 23rd International AIDS Conference.
The analysis included 312 patients treated in the Phase-3 SIMPLE-Severe study and a separate real-world retrospective cohort of 818 patients with similar baseline characteristics and disease severity who received standard of care treatment in the same time period as the SIMPLE-Severe study.
Patients were primarily located in North America (92 per cent, remdesivir cohort vs. 91 per cent, standard-of-care cohort), Europe (5 per cent vs. 7 per cent) and Asia (3 per cent vs. 2 per cent).
The analysis demonstrated that remdesivir treatment was associated with significantly improved clinical recovery and a 62 per cent reduction in the risk of mortality compared to standard of care.
Findings from the comparative analysis showed that 74.4 per cent of remdesivir-treated patients recovered by Day 14 versus 59 per cent of patients receiving standard of care.
The mortality rate for patients treated with remdesivir in the analysis was 7.6 per cent at Day 14 compared with 12.5 per cent among patients not taking remdesivir.
“This comparative analysis provides valuable additional information regarding the benefit of remdesivir compared with standard of care alone,” Susan Olender of Columbia University Irving Medical Center said in a statement.
“While not as vigorous as a randomized controlled trial, this analysis importantly draws from a real-world setting and serves as an important adjunct to clinical trial data, adding to our collective understanding of this virus and reflecting the extraordinary pace of the ongoing pandemic.”
The results of this comparative analysis add to the previously presented National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in hospitalized patients with COVID-19, which showed that remdesivir shortened time to recovery by an average of four days as compared to placebo — 11 vs. 15 days.
In the NIAID study, patients taking remdesivir trended toward lower mortality compared with those in the placebo group, but this result did not reach statistical significance –7.1 percent vs. 11.9 per cent.
Due to the current public health emergency, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for remdesivir for the treatment of hospitalized patients with severe Covid-19.
“These data presented at the Virtual COVID-19 Conference shed additional light on the use of remdesivir in specific patient populations, including those that may be susceptible to higher rates of COVID-19 infection, as well as others that are particularly vulnerable, including children and pregnant and postpartum women,” said Merdad Parsey, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer, Gilead Sciences.
The Pennington County Sheriff and an organizer for the protest near Mount Rushmore on July 3 are defending their actions while accusing the other of escalating the event.
“This entire thing was entirely mismanaged by Sheriff (Kevin) Thom and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office,” said Nick Tilsen, president of NDN Collective. “The only people who were violent that day was the police force.”
It’s the protesters, not the riot police, who broke their plan and escalated the situation, Thom said Wednesday.
“We had established some ground rules” with NDN Collective, he said. “Immediately the ground rules were not regarded” once the group occupied Highway 244, preventing ticket holders from taking the Keystone entrance to the Independence Day fireworks celebration speech at Mount Rushmore with President Donald Trump.
Thom also defended the decision by the Unified Command Team — comprised of him and leaders from other law enforcement agencies at the scene — to call in the National Guard who used shields, pepper spray and pepper balls to try to encourage or physically move people off the roadway.
“The reason we brought in additional resources is we needed to take control of the situation,” which was no longer lawful or peaceful, Thom said. He said it was a success that no one was seriously injured.
Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and social justice activist, was voluntarily arrested at the end of the protest and charged with assaulting and stealing a shield from a woman with the National Guard.
He called the demonstration a success after he was released from jail on Monday.
“We let the world know and reminded the world who the rightful owners of the Black Hills are — the Oceti Sakowin,” he said in a news release.
NDN Collective is asking for the “trumped-up” charges to be dropped against Tilsen and 20 other protesters who were arrested.
Thom said he expects the opposite to happen.
“We anticipate many more arrests,” he said. “Our investigators are sifting through a mountain of information on video.”
Thom said he had a “cordial discussion” with Bruce Ellison, a lawyer representing NDN Collective and Tilsen who reached out to him before the protest. Ellison similarly characterized the conversation, which Thom said occurred over phone, email, and text.
Ellison said he told Thom that NDN Collective wants a peaceful protest, but there will be civil disobedience. He said they went over “potential scenarios,” such as how people who lay in the street could be arrested and how cars blocking the road could be towed.
Thom said they agreed upon some “ground rules” and deputies mowed grass and set up cones in an area where people could demonstrate between Keystone and the checkpoint at Iron Mountain Road. He said the ground rules were “immediately” broken once the group exited that area and occupied the highway around 4 p.m.
Video by Unicorn Riot shows people standing and chanting in the street, against the orders of deputies. Ksenia Veropaeva, who Tilsen said was the group’s police liaison, can be seen communicating with Thom. Candi Brings Plenty, Indigenous justice organizer for the ACLU, counts down time for the group.
Brings Plenty told the Journal that law enforcement told her the group could stay on the road for 15 minutes.
Deputies eventually break up the group, which heads back to the side of the road. Some then run down the highway, where other protesters parked three vans across the street to block traffic. Tilsen said he couldn’t comment if that was a pre-planned or spontaneous action.
A Journal reporter did not witness any violence from protesters or police during this time, and first heard deputies use a speaker to declare an unlawful assembly and order protesters to move away around 4:30 p.m. The National Guard and other law enforcement carrying shields approached protesters from both directions around 5 p.m.
Thom said the Unified Command Team requested the National Guard’s assistance to help ensure safety.
“We did not have full control of the situation, and we needed the additional resources to take control of the situation before we could start making arrests” in a safe way, Thom said.
He also said the protest was no longer legal or peaceful, and there were already multiple orders to vacate.
Thom said the team requested the National Guard through the Pennington County emergency manager, who contacted the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management who reached out to Gov. Kristi Noem.
The Air and Army National Guards were already pre-staged for security reasons due to Trump’s visit and Noem agreed to activate them when the protesters unlawfully blocked the road, said Noem spokesman Ian Fury.
Thom said members of a multi-agency SWAT unit and Mobile Response Team — which handles crowd control — also helped the Guard and some members may have been dressed in fatigues.
Tilsen said bringing in the Guard and riot police wasn’t necessary — “we weren’t dangerous.”
“Somehow a group of people, a group of Native people gathered, all of a sudden means that it’s dangerous,” he said. Law enforcement and the state are “trying to coin us as these radical Indigenous protesters when the reality is many of us are active participants and pillars of the community” engaged in social, economic and education projects.
The Guard moved towards protesters with shields multiple times and some pushed or hit back with their hands, signs, or other items, including a shield taken from law enforcement. Sheriff’s deputies pepper sprayed several people in the face during one of those times, police records say. Another deputy fired pepper balls on the ground in front of protesters who weren’t fighting with police. The deputy said he did so because they weren’t listening to orders to stop approaching the police line.
Veropaeva was the first person arrested. She was charged with disorderly conduct for engaging in an unlawful assembly, according to a news release from the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office.
Tilsen said he had introduced Veropaeva to Thom and called her arrest an” act of aggression.”
Thom said he couldn’t speak to the specifics as to why she was arrested.
Tilsen said he repeatedly asked to negotiate with Thom but that never happened, and that the protesters were the ones who ultimately de-escalated the situation by leaving or deciding to be peacefully arrested.
Thom rejected both claims. He said he continued to negotiate with liaisons throughout the demonstration “to no avail,” and that while a small group of protesters were peacefully arrested, they only did so after they were surrounded by law enforcement and had been demonstrating for hours.
“We support everybody’s First Amendment right and they can be vocal, and they can be loud,” Thom said.
But the sheriff said NDN Collective has “lost credibility” when it comes to protests though he’s willing to rebuild trust with them. “I’m not saying NDN Collective is a bad organization … I know they do other work.”
On June 30, the remains of 20-year old Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén were found just outside of Fort Hood Army base. This tragic discovery comes after over two months of Guillén’s family demanding a shut-down of the base and an investigation following her disappearance on April 22. The Guillén family’s attorney, Natalie Kawaham, speculated that the unfolding of the case in the public’s eye, and the eruption of protests for justice for Vanessa, contributed to the military beginning to take the investigation seriously over recent weeks.
Prior to her disappearance, Guillén’s family noted that Vanessa had experienced ongoing sexual harassment by her superior while on the base. While Guillén had reported the harassment to friends, family, and even soldiers on the base, she felt too threatened by the potential to be demoted or to lose her job to report it to Army officials. The Guillén family cited these concerns to Army officials following Vanessa’s disappearance, but the military was slow to investigate her disappearance. Demanding answers from Fort Hood leadership, Guillén’s family was only met with lies. Vanessa Guillén’s murder could have been prevented had Fort Hood conducted an immediate and adequate investigation of one of its missing soldiers; yet, the military’s actions to disregard and cover up her disappearance carry on the long history of attempts to cover up the rampant sexual harassment and sexual assault that take place within the military.
Although women only make up about 20 percent of the military, nearly 65 percent of sexual assaults in the military target women, with the youngest and lowest ranked amongst those disproportionately targeted in such attacks. According to a 2019 report from the Department of Defense, the surge in sexual assault within the U.S. military over the prior 2 years had been driven almost entirely by a 50 percent increase in sexual assault of women. One out of every 16 women reported being groped, raped, or otherwise sexually assaulted over the prior year, and nearly one in three women in uniform will experience sexual assault during their time in the military overall. Despite 65 percent of such cases in 2018 receiving “disciplinary action” by the military, victims have rarely seen such menial punishment – often taken by commanders at their own discretion – result in justice. Vanessa Guillén’s story is heartbreaking, and unfortunately just one amidst an abominable culture of sexual violence and abuse of power rampant within the military, both domestically and internationally.
The issue of police and military repression of young working-class Black and brown people has taken center stage in communities across the nation. Since news of Vanessa Guillén’s disappearance breached the public sphere, cities have erupted in protest of her murder and the military’s malfeasance in appropriately investigating. As evidenced by the gains made over the past few weeks, only the masses of people remaining in the streets demanding justice will get us the justice and transformation needed – for Vanessa Guillén, and for all victims of police and military terror.