Things That Matter

Fed Up Venezuelans Unite Nationwide To Tell Maduro They’ve Had Enough

Things in Venezuela have not been good in a long time. The country has been dealing with a shrinking economy, outrageous inflation, and the total lack of common and necessary items like food and even tampons. A recent report shows that more than 80 percent of Venezuelans are living in poverty. (For reference, that is equivalent to more than 200 million Americans living in poverty.)

This week, Venezuelans took to the streets to show the world and the Nicolás Madruo-led government that they have had enough. But the Venezuelan National Guard was quick to make things violent as they attacked protesters. Here’s a recap of this week in Venezuela.

Venezuelans took to the streets this week in protest of Nicolás Maduro and the ruling Socialist Party.


The trigger for the large-scale, nationwide protests was a move by the Supreme Court, full of pro-Maduro judges, to nullify and seize power from the Venezuelan National Assembly. The move was seen as the Maduro government making a stunning jump to change Venezuela into a dictatorship.

On March 29, the Venezuelan Supreme Court, full of pro-Maduro judges, tried undercutting the National Assembly to silence the opposition party.


In the 2015 elections, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD in the Spanish acronym) won two-thirds of the seats in Congress. The election was a strong stance by the Venezuelan people standing up to a government that they do not agree with. The Maduro-led government has been working to slowly chip away at the credibility and power of MUD since the 2015 elections.

“The objective is to put the magistrates on trial (and) get the government to publish an electoral timetable,” opposition lawmaker Stalin Gonzalez told Union Radio, according to Reuters.


“This country has changed and wants to get out of the crisis,” Gonzalez continued.

MUD, and other national governments, have alleged that the actions by the Supreme Court and the Maduro administration are nothing more than a thinly-veiled coup against the Venezuelan people.


“The United States condemns the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s March 29 decision to usurp the powers of the democratically elected National Assembly,” reads a statement by the U.S. State Department. “This rupture of democratic and constitutional norms greatly damages Venezuela’s democratic institutions and denies the Venezuelan people the right to shape their country’s future through their elected representatives. We consider it a serious setback for democracy in Venezuela.”

In an attempt to keep the Maduro administration in power, the National Guard was deployed to set up blockades to stop members of the National Assembly from voting on removing the pro-Maduro Supreme Court justices behind the power grab.


But the assembly members outsmarted the National Guard and made it to the National Assembly building before the blockades were erected for the vote. National Assembly members voted unanimously to start ousting the pro-Maduro Supreme Court justices behind the apparent coup d’état.

“What you’re seeing here today is basically a group of Venezuelans who are resisting a coup d’etat,” said Assembly President Julio Borges, according to Miami Herald. “The coup d’etat in Venezuela continues, getting worse and deeper every day.”

But, Nicolás Maduro and his government are claiming that the opposition party is the party responsible for a coup on Venezuela.


“It’s untrue that a coup has taken place in Venezuela,” the government said in a statement Thursday, according to The Washington Post. “On the contrary, the institutions have taken corrective legal action to stop the distractive, coup-like actions of an opposition that has declared itself openly in contempt of the decisions made by the republic’s top court.”

The latest news of the protests in Venezuela is the death of a 19-year-old opposition protester Jairo Ortiz.


“In the face of the vile assassination of the young Jairo Ortiz, we manifest our firm condemnation of such a vile act,” Venezuelan human rights activist and politician said on Twitter on Friday.

Ortiz is the latest victim of violence perpetuated against protesters by the National Guard this week as they also try to shut down access to the protests.


“It is Mr. Maduro who has ordered shut all the accesses to Caracas to stop people expressing their repudiation,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles told Fox News. “He’s terrified.”

The Venezuelan people are adamant that the government needs to allow for fair elections sooner rather than later so they can get out of the current government they are forced to accept.


“We’re not taking to the streets because we don’t like Maduro,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles told SF Gate. “The way we get rid of Maduro is with elections; that is how we change the worst government our country has ever seen.”

The U.S. government is trying to apply pressure to Maduro to release political prisoners and allow for immediate elections to ease the turmoil gripping the South American country.


“It’s perfectly predictable that the government is going to keep radicalizing,” Venezuelan pollster Luis Vicente Leon told The Washington Post.

But with a visible civil unrest and a determination by the people to change their country’s government, it is unsure when these elections will happen.


Perhaps more international pressure will be needed to force Maduro’s hand into having an election.


READ: Babies Are Being Born In Boxes Because No Money, But The Miss Venezuela Pageant Must Go On

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Felony Charges Filed Against St. Louis Couple Who Aimed Guns At Peaceful Protesters

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Felony Charges Filed Against St. Louis Couple Who Aimed Guns At Peaceful Protesters

@xshularx/ Twitter

Update July 24: The gun-wielding couple in St. Louis is facing felony charges for their actions against peaceful protesters. The couple could face four years in prison for the unlawful use of a weapon against the protesters.

St. Louis city prosecutor Kim Gardner has filed felony charges against the McCloskeys.

The attorneys were photographed aiming a handgun and a rifle at peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. The moment made national headlines because of the jarring image of two white people aiming weapons at people of color, who were not on their property.

“The decision to issue charges was made after a thorough investigation with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department,” Gardner said in a statement. “I am open to recommending the McCloskeys participate in one of my office’s diversion programs that are designed to reduce unnecessary involvement with the courts. I believe this would serve as a fair resolution to this matter. We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated.”

Republicans have attacked Gardner for filing the charges but she isn’t backing down. In the face of the harassment, 67 former and current prosecutors signed a letter defending her and her decision to file the felony charges.

Update: A Change.Org petition is asking for the McCloskeys to be disbarred after pointing guns at protesters. The scene from a BLM protest has become a visual representation of the racial tensions in the U.S. as the white couple aimed weapons at people of color peacefully protesting.

The McCloskeys neighbors have released an open letter denouncing them and their actions.

“Some of us choose to speak up following horrific events that transpired on Sunday evening near our homes,” reads the letter denouncing the horrific actions of the couple. “As the undersigned, we condemn the behavior of anyone who uses threats of violence, especially through the brandishing of firearms, to disrupt peaceful protest, whether it be in this neighborhood or anywhere in the United States.”

There is also a growing petition to have the two disbarred.

A quick online search shows that the McCloskeys have taken down their law firm’s website. It hasn’t made people forget that they are attorneys and broke Missouri law when aiming the firearms are protesters.

“The look in her eyes speaks volumes,” reads the Change.Org petition. “They need to be held accountable. Brandishing a weapon with intent (as clearly displayed in this photo) is a criminal offense when you are not in direct danger.”

Updated June 30, 2020.

Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner confirmed earlier this week that her office is collaborating with the police to investigate recent incident which saw a white couple waving guns at protestors over the weekend.

The middle-aged white couple became the fun, new, and trending Twitter hashtag on Sunday after they had been spotted wielding guns at protesters outside their home in St. Louis. Soon after the images of them began circulating Twitter dubbed them “Ken and Karen” and the stars of the “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” remake no one asked for. The incident occurred as protesters marched their way towards the home of Mayor Lyda Krewson.

The protesters demanded her resignation after she went public with the names and addresses of activists in a Facebook Live video on Friday.

Video of the incident, which took place on Sunday, shows the couple waving their guns outside their mansion.

The couple in the video, who appears to be dressed in their very bland versions of their Sunday best’s: a pink polo and khaki pants paired with an assault rifle for him and a striped T-shirt and capris with a handgun for her, have been identified by police as Mark McCloskey, 63 years old, and Patricia McCloskey, 61 years-old.

The pair can be seen screaming and shouting at protesters while pointing their guns at them. According to reports, the woman can be seen holding her finger on the trigger.

BuzzFeed reports that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department identified the couple as victims in their police report. The statement asserts that the couple contacted police “when they heard a loud commotion coming from the street” and “observed a large group of subjects forcefully break an iron gate marked with ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Private Street’ signs.”

In the report made to the police, the couple claimed protesters were “yelling obscenities and threats of harm to both victims” and that they took out their guns once they saw “multiple subjects who were armed.” Police did not say confirm the couple’s claim or indicate that there was evidence to prove protesters threatened or aimed guns at the couple.

The incident is a reminder of Missouri’s loose gun laws that permit the carrying of concealed weapons without background checks or permits.

The protests sparked after Krewson appeared in a now-deleted Facebook Live video on Friday.

In the video Krewson declared that she would not support = rising calls to defund the police. She also reportedly shared activists’ full names and addresses while reading off suggestions on how to better spend the city’s funds. After users ridiculed her online, Krewson apologized for her actions saying “Never did I intend to harm anyone or cause distress,” Krewson tweeted. “The update is removed and again, I apologize.”

In response to her decision to out activist and put them in harm’s way, local leaders and organizations called for her to resign. Over 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition demanding her resignation condemning her as “a risk for the safety and well being of the general St. Louis population.”

In a statement about the incident, Gardner asserted the right to peacefully protest.

“I am alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault,” Gardner said in a statement. “We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated.”

Albert Watkins, the McCloskeys’ attorney, told USA TODAY in an interview that the circuit attorney is not “possessed of the legal wherewithal to understand some of these fundamental tenets.” He went onto lambast the notion that his clients acted unlawfully calling the suggestion “one which would demonstrate unequivocally the wholesale absence of appreciation for longstanding law in the state of Missouri.”

In an odd twist, Watkins has also asserted that the McCloskeys are actually lawyers who have worked on civil rights cases and are supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement. Speaking about their actions on Sunday, Watkins said that their decision to bring out their guns was sparked by “abject fear of imminent harm” but they were not race-related.

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Big Brands Drop Ads From Facebook To Demand The Platform To Join Fight Against Hate Speech

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Big Brands Drop Ads From Facebook To Demand The Platform To Join Fight Against Hate Speech

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Update June 29, 2020: The boycott on Facebook ads is growing faster than ever and reaching a global level. The growing demand for Facebook to target and handle hate speech and extremism on its platform has led to a far-reaching boycott of ads on the social media site.

The boycott of Facebook ads is going global.

Since the boycott was announced earlier this month, 160 companies have joined the #StopHateforProfit boycott targeting Facebook. Two major companies, Coca-Cola and Starbucks, say they are not part of the boycott. However, the two companies have announced that they will be pausing all ads on social media platforms for the month of July.

Starbucks is not officially part of the #StopHateforProfit movement but the decision is being praised by advocates.

The boycott is having a very real impact on Facebook’s business. Facebook stock lost more than $60 billion in value as more and more businesses cut advertising ties with the social media platform. The 9 percent drop in Facebook’s market prices prompted Facebook executives to begin tweaking some policies to go after hate speech.

Original: Facebook is in trouble as several major brands pull their ads from the social media platform. The coordinated move from the brands was in response to Facebook’s intentional inaction in curbing hate speech on the platform.

Facebook is facing financial troubles as major brands pull ads over the platform’s stance on hate speech.

The NAACP teamed up with other organizations to create the Stop Hate for Profit campaign. The campaign is aimed at Facebook and is calling on brands to separate from the social media platform for at least one month, July. The point of the campaign is to call out Facebook for their willingness to profit off of organizations that disseminate and amplify white nationalist rhetoric. Some of the rhetoric has been racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and violent in nature.

“For five years, Color Of Change has called on Facebook to do the right thing and make their platform safer for the millions of Black people that use it,” reads a statement on the Color Of Change website. “From the monetization of hate speech to discrimination in their algorithms to the proliferation of voter suppression to the silencing of Black voices, Facebook has refused to take responsibility for hate, bias, and discrimination growing on their platforms.”

Brands are responding and pulling their ads from Facebook.

Recently, Verizon and Unilever joined the growing list of businesses pulling ads to stand up to Facebook’s monetization of hate speech. People have been demanding that Facebook do something to control the hate speech that has incited violence in recent years. Yet, Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, refuses to curb the violent speech on the platform.

The Anti-Defamation League laid out the reasons they are calling for the boycott.

The ADL is calling on brands to drop Facebook ads to combat what is considered as a long history of amplifying hate speech. According to the league, the social media platform routinely recommends extremist pages to users, created a loophole to allow for climate change deniers to push anti-science conspriacy theories further, and, in one example, Facebook refused to take down Holocaust denial content.

The social media platform has long been criticized for allowing misinformation to manipulate elections around the world.

Cambridge Analytica is one of the most famous cases of this happening. In the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack,” dives deep into how the firm was able to use Facebook to spread intentional misinformation to sway elections around the world. People who worked for the tech firm testified that they were able to use Facebook to target individuals who could be swayed with false information to illicit a vote for their client. It happened in several countries, including the U.S. in the 2016 elections and the U.K. during the Brexit vote.

Facebook has so far decided to remain defiant in the face of calls to do better.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook is not going to be changing their policies. Instead, the company is going to keep pushing forward with its current strategy of monetizing and helping to spread the extremist and dangerous rhetoric.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Carolyn Everson, the vice president of Global Business Group at Facebook, said, “We do not make policy changes tied to revenue pressure.” She continued: “We set our policies based on principles rather than business interests.”

READ: ICE Is Using Fake Facebook Accounts To Entrap Migrants Even Though Facebook Has Warned The Government To Stop

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