Baltimore erupts into riots over Freddie Gray’s death
The funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal cord injury sustained under police custody, was held on Monday morning in Baltimore. Shortly afterward, the town spiralled into riots and looting, with residents throwing bottles, rocks and chunks of concrete at police officers. A local CVS was looted and set on fire. Other protesters stood between the riot police, calling for peace and urging fellow demonstrators not to “lose the message.” The Maryland governor declared a state of emergency, calling in the National Guard and imposing a curfew. Gray’s spine was severed and his voice box crushed, according to Vice News, although it is still unclear what events led to his injuries. Video footage of his arrest has been lost and witness accounts conflict with one another. Despite these unanswered questions, Gray has become the latest symbol of police brutality.
Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage
Yesterday, the same-sex marriage debate officially reached the Supreme Court as justices heard arguments related to whether states have the right to ban gay marriage. If the bans are determined to be constitutional, then the court must decide whether states that have banned same-sex marriage must still recognize marriages that took place in states where it is legal. LGBTQ advocates argues that doing otherwise would be denying same-sex couples equal protection under the law. Depending on how the court rules, the legal battle may end with gay marriage legalization in all 50 states or the reinstitution of gay marriage bans in certain states where the bans were struck down by the courts. Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states. While in 1996, public opinion polls showed that only 27 percent of the public, on average, favored legalization of same-sex marriage; today that number is well over 50 percent.
Drone policy under debate after two Americans accidentally killed in Pakistan
Last Thursday, government officials disclosed that two Western hostages had been accidentally killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in January. The men, including an American aid worker whom the administration had long sought to rescue, were being held captive by Al-Qaeda. The Central Intelligence Agency did not know that the hostages were present and did not immediately realize that it was the drone strike which killed them. The incident has resulted in two reviews of the drone strike to determine what went wrong. The reviews could lead to a reevaluation of the administration’s approach to fighting terrorists, which has relied heavily on targeted killings. In his first four years as President, Obama authorized six times more drone strikes than George W. Bush did in his eight years in office. Yesterday, CNN reported that the White House along with Senator John McCain want the Pentagon, not the CIA, to conduct drone operations.
Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen resumes
Last week, Saudi Arabia announced that it would halt its controversial air campaign against armed rebels in Yemen, instead choosing to focus on delivering humanitarian relief and resolving the conflict through negotiations. However, yesterday, Saudi-led warplanes again bombed targets in Yemen’s capital city as well as several other provinces, suggesting that the air campaign against Houthi rebels is expanding, not contracting. Saudi Arabia’s goal in leading the air war was to help restore the Yemeni government which collapsed last month when Houthi rebels advanced on the capital. However, the bombing campaign has since killed scores of civilians, created a devastating humanitarian crisis and threatened to deepen the conflict. In the last few weeks, Yemen has become a hotbed for violence with Iran backing the Houthi rebels and the United States backing the Saudi-led pro-government campaign. There is little evidence that any of the combatants are ready to halt the fighting.