UN refugee chief warns New Zealand massacre the result of toxic politics, media

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Italian Filippo Grandi, addresses his statement, during the Pledging Conference for the Rohingya Refugee Crisis, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (AP)
Updated 10 April 2019

UN refugee chief warns New Zealand massacre the result of toxic politics, media

  • New Zealand PM Ardern has said the world has been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism which must end
  • Grandi said the mosque attacks in New Zealand showed this has become an issue of security and stability for all countries

UNITED NATIONS: The UN refugee chief said Tuesday he has never seen “such toxicity, such poison” in politics, the media, social media and every day conversation focused on refugees, migrants and foreigners.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the March 15 attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 Muslim worshippers was the result “of that toxic language of politics.”
Grandi urged countries everywhere to take “a leaf from the exemplary response of the people and the leadership of New Zealand” in responding to the “toxic trends” by restating the values that underpin global solidarity and “reaffirm that our societies will not be really prosperous, stable and peaceful if they do not include all.”
An Australian white supremacist, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who has been charged with the mosque killings which included many immigrants, livestreamed the shootings and sent out a lengthy manifesto. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the world has been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism which must end, and she will never utter his name and give his views the oxygen he wanted.
Grandi told the Security Council “there is unprecedented stigmatization of refugees and migrants,” and responses are increasingly inadequate.
He said he has worked with refugees for over three decades and has seen “much solidarity, even heroism in some of the responses that are provided on the ground” to help them.
And “that solidarity is still very strong” in many parts of the world, from African villages to the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar, to communities in Latin American helping Venezuelans, Grandi said.
“But also in these 3 1/2 decades I have never seen such toxicity, such poison in the language of politics, in media, in social media, even in everyday discussions and conversations around this issue — toxicity that focuses sadly, tragically, often, on refugees, on migrants, on foreigners,” he said. “That should be of concern to us all.”
Grandi added that “many politicians believe that — and I think they are proven right — that doing this expands their consensus.”
But he said this is wrong and unfair to people “that are fleeing because they seek safety from war, from persecution.”
He said the mosque attacks in New Zealand showed this has become an issue of security and stability for all countries — and governments need to address the issue of language on social media and in politics.
“It is an issue if left unchecked may have very grave consequences, not only for our work but for the world in general,” Grandi warned.


Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Updated 15 October 2019

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.