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Cancel Rent Protesters Laid Down ‘Body Bags’ in Front of a Luxury Kushner Property

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.Organizers with the movement to universally forgive rent during the coronavirus pandemic rallied outside Blackstone Group and Kushner Companies buildings Friday, as part of a campaign to target some of the country’s most prominent real estate investors. Members of the “cancel rent” movement…

Cancel Rent Protesters Laid Down ‘Body Bags’ in Front of a Luxury Kushner Property

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Organizers with the movement to universally forgive rent during the coronavirus pandemic rallied outside Blackstone Group and Kushner Companies buildings Friday, as part of a campaign to target some of the country’s most prominent real estate investors.

Members of the “cancel rent” movement — which helped orchestrate a wave of rent strikes across the U.S. this month — laid out “body bags” in front of a 53-story, luxury Kushner investment property in Jersey City, New Jersey, on Friday morning. They also held signs that called on the company to stop filing eviction lawsuits against its tenants in New Jersey and Maryland.

“We have worked closely with our residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to help in any way we can and, as with all owners in New Jersey,” Peter Febo, chief operation officer at Kushner companies, said in a statement. “Any type of legal action during these unprecedented times is a last resort only utilized in particular circumstances.”

At Blackstone’s headquarters in New York City, activists held banners saying “cancel the rent,” similar to the ones they had draped across the city’s bridges and buildings earlier Friday. Protesters also staged a “die-in” by laying on the pavement outside the company’s office, to represent the tenants they said would perish from evictions or debt. A United Nations advisor claimed last year the private equity firm was contributing to a global affordable housing crisis, which the company disputed.

Blackstone did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment about the protests.

Organizers also went to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive mansion in Albany, tying a “cancel rent” banner to the fence. Separate activist groups went to Mosser Capital in Oakland and Trump Tower in Las Vegas.

The “cancel rent” protesters have said in recent days that they’re turning their attention toward the corporate real estate behemoths they believe should bail out small, suffering landlords and renters during the economic downturn. Their escalation comes right before June 1, too, when scores of tenants are expected to miss payments and potentially strike — again.

“They have profited handsomely from the last foreclosure crisis, the commodification of housing, and decades of racist housing policy, while actively lobbying to avoid paying their fair share in taxes for decades,” organizers wrote of investors like Blackstone and Kushner Properties in a report released this week by the Action Center on Race & the Economy ahead of Friday’s demonstrations. “The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified what we already knew: Corporate landlords’ bill is long past due.”

In that report, activists said they want Congress and state governments to demand that real estate magnates “pay for the cancellation of rent, mortgages, and utilities,” on top of relief for small property owners. Such companies have received extensive breaks, they wrote, and “can afford it.” And the coronavirus stimulus package included $170 billion in tax savings for real estate investors over the next decade, according to the New York Times.

Cover: A sign with the message to cancel rent is displayed from a vehicle as a caravan of May Day protesters drives up 2nd Avenue outside the offices of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Friday, May 1, 2020, in the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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When cancel culture thugs strike, Americans must push back

ANALYSIS/OPINION: Munch. Munch. Wow, these Maria cookies made by Goya sure are crispy. And only 25 calories each. We’ve got a boatload of Goya products in our pantry now, one of our pushbacks against the left’s increasingly aggressive culture war on America. Goya Foods came under attack merely because its CEO, Robert Unanue, visited the…

When cancel culture thugs strike, Americans must push back

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Munch. Munch.

Wow, these Maria cookies made by Goya sure are crispy. And only 25 calories each.

We’ve got a boatload of Goya products in our pantry now, one of our pushbacks against the left’s increasingly aggressive culture war on America.

Goya Foods came under attack merely because its CEO, Robert Unanue, visited the White House and made some positive comments about President Trump. The left has called for a boycott of the company, which specializes in Hispanic foods.

Unlike many of their targets, Mr. Unanue told the attackers where they can get off, which is at the end of a short pier. So, some of us are doing our part to fatten Goya’s bottom line (and perhaps our own waistlines) to show our appreciation.

Over at Trader Joe’s, however, it’s a different story. The innovative grocery chain based in Monrovia, California, caved almost immediately to a 17-year-old high school senior, Briones Bedell. All it took was her Change.org petition to scare old Joe into getting rid of fun and fanciful ethnic food lineups, such as Trader Jose’s (Mexican), Trader Giotto’s (Italian), Trader Ming’s (Chinese) and Arabian Joe (Middle Eastern).

A company spokeswoman did the usual mea culpa, explaining that the names “may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, but we recognize that it may have the opposite effect.” Really? Have millions of customers been pushing their carts around the stores, seething with indignation?

This is right down there with Land O’Lakes butter ditching the delightful Indian maiden or Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream sending Eskimo Pies into the PC chopper. In the name of “diversity,” the left is wiping out any diverse views, harmless evidences of ethnic food differences or even gender-specific titles. Perhaps Trader Joe’s should change its name to Trader They.

Flush with victory, Briones demanded that Trader Joe’s not only announce a timeline for the name changes but pull all of the offensive products off the shelves until the changes can be made. And darn the cost. This is straight from the Marxist playbook by Saul Alinsky, who said activists should never settle for winning. They should always raise the ante, saying, “what have you done for me lately?”

Conservatives could learn a thing or two from Alinsky about effectiveness, even though he dedicated his “Rules for Radicals” book to Lucifer. Jesus said to be “wise as serpents but harmless as doves.” In other words, use the brains God gave us to seek good outcomes without resorting to evil means.

Somewhere, the rosy-cheeked Swedish enfante terrible Greta Thunberg must be turning green with envy at Briones Bedell’s instant victory. Greta’s insistence on our shedding all fossil-fuel-based energy, which would send us back to the Stone Age, has not been nearly as successful as the far less ambitious campaign waged by the Scourge of Trader Joe’s.

It turns out that most people not named Bernie Sanders, Al Gore, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Joe Biden really like reasonably priced appliances, cars, airplanes, air conditioning, indoor plumbing and other technological marvels made possible by abundant energy.

Greta’s accusation against modern life (“How dare you?”) at the United Nations thrills the hearts of young Democratic activists who are working hard to turn America into a communist version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

However, Briones has snagged the current activist halo. Someone should warn her about pride going before a fall. If you can bring a $13.7 billion company to its knees in a few days over a petition that had garnered only 2,800 signatures, you can do anything. Anything approved by the cancel culture, that is. Petitions with thousands of signatures calling for protection of religious minorities in China like the Uighurs don’t even merit news stories.

Speaking of religion, you have to search keenly through our reflexively atheist media to find stories about the shocking attacks on Catholic churches all over America.

On July 11, a suspected arson destroyed much of California’s San Gabriel Mission, built in 1771. Statues of pioneering missionary Father Junipero Serra are being toppled or defaced.

A Jesus statue at Good Shepherd Church in Miami was beheaded. In New Haven, Connecticut, someone painted anarchist and satanic symbols on the door of St. Joseph’s Church. In Ocala, Florida, a man drove a van into Queen of Peace Church during morning Mass, poured 10 gallons of gasoline and set it on fire. Statues of Mary have been defaced or damaged in New York, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Colorado.

Like the ongoing violence in major cities such as Portland, Oregon, or the bullying of corporations, this is part of the left’s accelerated cultural change. Marxism requires destroying reminders of heritage so that a new culture of stone-cold socialism can rise on the ashes.

It should alarm us that the Democratic Party has shed its liberal persona and is all in for the revolution. Asked about the mob throwing a statue of Christopher Columbus into Baltimore Harbor, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shrugged and said, “People are going to do what they do.”

As assaults on the American way of life deepen, we’ll need more people like Goya’s Mr. Unanue.

It’s become clear that nobody will be allowed to sit this out.

• Robert Knight is a contributor to The Washington Times. His website is roberthknight.com.

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Cancel culture punishes Goya Foods over pro-Trump remarks; calls for boycott land with a thud

ANALYSIS/OPINION: True to form, when someone announced a generous and important action that will help untold numbers of Americans, Democrats and the left launched into cancel mode. Why? Because when Robert Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods, announced a massive donation of their products to food banks across the country, he also praised President Trump.…

Cancel culture punishes Goya Foods over pro-Trump remarks; calls for boycott land with a thud

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

True to form, when someone announced a generous and important action that will help untold numbers of Americans, Democrats and the left launched into cancel mode. Why? Because when Robert Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods, announced a massive donation of their products to food banks across the country, he also praised President Trump.

During his remarks, he noted that “Trump was ‘a builder,’ like his own illustrious grandfather, and called for Americans to pray for their president,” the Media Research Center reported.

Fortunately, for most Americans, such decent and generous remarks are considered normal and worth praising, yet Democrats were sent over (again) their Trump-hating cliff leading to a call for a boycott of this largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, with more than 4,000 employees worldwide.

Make no mistake, this cancel-culture obscenity, the seeking to destroy people and businesses that do not conform, is the virtual version of the riots that played out in Democratic-run cities with real-life fire bombing of buildings and the physical destruction of businesses and lives. It may be less visually dramatic, but it is still the mob, and they still seek to destroy and punish anyone who dares to get in their political way.

Mr. Unanue was attacked on social media and in newspapers. The conventional wisdom was, after having his company disemboweled, he would lift himself briefly off the ground, beg for forgiveness and then slink away into cancelled obscurity.

But as a man of principle, he decided to not bend to the mob. In several interviews, he has refused to apologize and instead has condemned this culture of destruction.

“You know, this call for a boycott. There’s so many people for, you know, against the boycott and for our company. So it’s just a reflection, I believe, of the division that exists today in our country,” Mr. Unanue told Fox News’ Varney & Co. “I don’t know who I attribute this quote to, but we’ve lived by the philosophy of ‘there are those who are born to love and to build and others to hate and destroy.’ And unfortunately, this great divide is killing our nation.”

As the left was engaging in virtual arson, conservatives and other well-meaning people countered this threat against Goya with a call to support the company and buy their products.

The “buy-cott” was initiated by radio host Mike Opelka by tweeting “My brother came up with a terrific idea and I am encouraging all to join me in purchasing $10 worth of Goya Foods products and donating them to your local food bank. Let’s push a BUY-cott, not a boycott. Let’s show … people what compassion can do.” He noted in an interview he’s “trying to fight anger with love.”

In another case, a GoFundMe campaign was launched which, as of this writing, has raised $127,000 for the purchase of Goya Foods for food pantries.

This typical cancel-culture effort to destroy a person and a company for not conforming to the Democratic worldview is nothing new. Bullying, abuse, violence and rioting are now the upfront Democratic election strategies for 2020. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it is all the left has ever had — they feed on envy, jealousy and hate, and condition their base to view everything, especially their own lives, through a lens of victimhood and enemies.

This attack on Goya especially exposes the core of the fraud of identity politics. For generations now, liberals and the left have been conditioning Americans to see each other through the lens of tribalism. It is, after all, easier to control people when they believe they’re under constant threat by an unknown and unknowable enemy who happens to live right next door.

Americans have been sold the lie that a sliver of your identity is what matters, and that the Democratic machine will represent and protect you. Ask the people of Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Portland and Baltimore how that’s working out for them.

Identity politics is sold as philosophy of personal elevation and power, but in reality it’s about control, punishment and destruction. Ultimately, it is the brainwashing and destruction that enforces a code of complete conformity lest you are expelled and cancelled.

This is the real agenda of the left — control people with threat so questions, debate, independent thought and genuine inquiry into facts are too dangerous to even consider. It is the only way violent fascists are able to take, and keep, control of Americans cities without fear of confrontation.

How else can you explain urban areas run by Democratic mayors in the United States before our very eyes turning into dystopian hellscapes? How else can you explain the demonstrations by Black Lives Matter, but their silence about the surge in murders of Black people (including children) every weekend in New York and Chicago? How else is it that Mr. Unanue, head of the largest Hispanic-owned company in America, founded by his immigrant grandfather, would be at the top of the liberal list for virtual execution?

It is explained by the fact that it is all about control by people who have contempt for the very communities they claim to care about. It is about the political control brought by chaos and fear. And it is the only thing the Democrats and their allied groups know how to do.

• Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk-show host.

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Schools cancel police contracts over ‘traumatic presence’

Armed police officers could become relics in many schools as local education officials cancel long-standing contracts with law enforcement amid calls for defunding police forces. But some members of the community wonder who will keep students safe. School boards in Oakland, California; Denver; and Milwaukee have voted to end mutual aid agreements with local law…

Schools cancel police contracts over ‘traumatic presence’

Armed police officers could become relics in many schools as local education officials cancel long-standing contracts with law enforcement amid calls for defunding police forces. But some members of the community wonder who will keep students safe.

School boards in Oakland, California; Denver; and Milwaukee have voted to end mutual aid agreements with local law enforcement agencies that provided work for police officers on campuses.

In Seattle, the public schools superintendent said the presence of four armed security officers on school premises “prohibits” many students and staff from feeling safe and welcome.

“While the focus of the School Emphasis Officers has been to build relationships and provide assistance to youth in crisis, the unintended consequence of their presence in our buildings could bring more distress to our young people,” Superintendent Denise Juneau said in a letter to the community late last month.

Since June 30, public schools in St. Paul, Minnesota, no longer have a contract with the city’s police force. The school board voted to develop an “interim safety” plan and eliminate school resource officers.

“Many of them see them as a hostile presence, as a traumatic presence, as a reminder of what they don’t want to engage with in schools, even if there are other students and staff who see them as someone who could keep them safe,” said school board member Steve Marchese, who introduced the motion last month.

But residents also are concerned that school safety could be reduced, particularly among children of color.

“Nine times out of 10, it’s going to be a Black child who is murdered in that school,” Tyrone Terrell, president of the African-American Leadership Council of St. Paul, told The Washington Times. “We have guns in the schools, we have guns in the parking lot and we have guns one call away. … The SROs are crucial to the schools.”

Police first were brought into schools in Flint, Michigan, in the 1950s to improve ties between youths and law enforcement. Their numbers on campuses dramatically increased in the 1990s thanks to millions of dollars from a Justice Department grant program that coincided with the 1999 Columbine High School massacre of 12 students and one teacher.

By 2016, nearly 60% of U.S. public schools reported having a security officer who patrolled campuses at least once a week, and almost three out of four high schools, especially in urban and suburban areas, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“Those best positioned to respond to acts of violence are those with specialized training such as school resource officers who are generally sworn law enforcement officers,” according to the final report of the President’s Commission on School Safety, chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in December 2018.

That same year, at Dixon High School in Illinois, Officer Mark Dallas was credited with saving lives by chasing a gunman out of a school moments after hearing shots near a morning graduation rehearsal in the gymnasium. The 19-year-old gunman was found unfit to stand trial.

“I could not be more proud of the police officer and the way he responded in this situation,” Dixon Police Chief Steve Howell told reporters after the attempted attack. “Because of his heroic actions, countless lives were saved.”

Policing advocates say the goal of school resource officers is not merely to have armed sentinels but to have officers involved in student mentoring and to foster “positive relationships” with youths. Rather than contributing to a school-to-prison pipeline, school resource officers have helped contribute to a decline in rates of juvenile arrests in the U.S., they say.

“From a weapon being brought on campus to trespassing, there are other violent activities that can occur on a school campus, both internally and externally,” said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers. “By having an SRO there, you’re getting an officer who is engaged who understands the unique dynamic that happens on a school campus.”

Police presence in schools has increasingly come under scrutiny in the past decade, especially after high-profile incidents such as the handcuffing of a 4-year-old in Virginia and the dispatching of two dozen officers to a water balloon fight at a North Carolina high school.

Now, in the aftermath of the police-involved deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, critics are making the case that schools are too chummy with police forces that they say disproportionately target young people of color.

“We don’t want either,” Katrina Feldkamp, with Legal Services in New York City, said in a teleconference last month announcing a “road map” toward schools without police. “We would like to see the removal of both school safety agents and police from our schools.”

The track record of police on campuses is fiercely contested from both sides using a wide range of studies. Violence in schools dropped dramatically during the late 1990s and 2000s when police presence grew, but reports show high referral rates to juvenile law enforcement agencies, especially of Black students.

Blacks represented 13% of the student body but 53% of offenses for disorderly conduct from 2012 to 2015 at a school in Texas, according to a study by Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit justice center.

Teachers also represent some school safety personnel, but calls are growing louder to disband armed units in schools.

The American Federation of Teachers called last month for the “separation of school safety from policing and police forces.” When the superintendent of Portland Public Schools in Oregon announced the phasing-out of school resource officers by next year, the local union cheered. “We need to re-examine our relationship” with the local police force, the union said on Facebook.

The teachers union in Boston passed a resolution demanding the reinvestment of $4 million spent on law enforcement agents to go to mental health services and restorative justice practices.

Not every school district is dropping cops. The Chicago Board of Education narrowly rejected ending its $33 million contract with the city’s police department. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s board rejected cuts to spending on police after a marathon 12-hour meeting last week.

For many school officials, the back-and-forth over the role of law enforcement doesn’t end once a contract is severed.

St. Paul schools Superintendent Joe Gothard told the board last month that he had received a “thousand emails” on whether to keep or remove the district’s seven school resource officers at the city’s high schools. Most opposed the security measures, he said.

Mr. Gothard said 60 of the district’s buildings did not maintain school resource officers before last month’s vote. With no more officers in schools, he said, the district will nevertheless rely on law enforcement.

“It may not be in a formal way of a contract,” Mr. Gothard said during a school board meeting, “but we rely upon our police department for a lot of things in our community. And there will be times where they are going to be called upon, the men and women of this city who work for the police department, to provide services for St. Paul Public Schools.”

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