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Christopher Mathias
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New York Reporter, The Huffington Post.

Entries by Christopher Mathias

Judge Rules 'Muslims Are Coming!' Ads Allowed In NYC Subways

(0) Comments | Posted October 8, 2015 | 11:23 AM

NEW YORK -- The mere mention of the word "Muslim" or the simple discussion of Islam is not political, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, ordering New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to allow a series of subway advertisements for the documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!


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NYPD Killing Of Mohamed Bah Was 'An Execution And A Cover-Up:' Lawyers

(0) Comments | Posted October 7, 2015 | 12:18 PM

NEW YORK -- Lawyers for the family of a man who died at the hands of New York City police officers say they have uncovered new evidence that his death was an "execution" and was subsequently covered up by the NYPD.

Now the family of the victim, 

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NYPD Says It Will Track Use Of Force, Actually Start Disciplining Cops

(3) Comments | Posted October 1, 2015 | 10:53 AM

NEW YORK -- New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton has announced sweeping new reforms to how the NYPD tracks its officers' use of force.

front-page story Thursday in The New York Times pre-empted a scathing report released this morning by NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure, which shows gaping...

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Woman Who Spent 2 Months In Solitary Confinement For Being Transgender Scores Legal Victory

(1) Comments | Posted September 23, 2015 | 5:13 PM

A Maryland woman who was mistreated by prison guards and held in solitary confinement for over two months solely because she is transgender has scored a groundbreaking legal victory that could help improve the treatment of transgender inmates across the country, her lawyers said this week. 

 Sandy Brown, 40, was taken...

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James Blake Got An Apology From The NYPD, But Families Of Other Victims Are Still Waiting

(0) Comments | Posted September 22, 2015 | 12:43 PM

NEW YORK -- The violent and wrongful arrest of tennis star James Blake in New York City earlier this month prompted swift apologies from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton. Blake also got the chance to meet privately with the two officials to discuss policing reforms.

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Scrawling 'F**k Your S**tty Town Bitches' On Speeding Ticket Is Free Speech, Judge Finds

(14) Comments | Posted September 15, 2015 | 10:24 AM

A federal judge ruled Thursday that a Connecticut man's profanity-laced message on a speeding ticket is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Judge Cathy Seibel said that prosecutors and police in Liberty, New York, violated Willian Barboza's civil rights when they arrested and prosecuted him for...

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Woman Says She Endured 8 Days In Psych Ward Because Cops Didn't Believe BMW Was Hers

(40) Comments | Posted September 11, 2015 | 8:31 AM

NEW YORK -- Kamilah Brock says the New York City police sent her to a mental hospital for a hellish eight days, where she was forcefully injected with powerful drugs, essentially because they couldn't believe a black woman owned a BMW. 

In her first on-camera interview about her...

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Calls To Close Down Rikers Island Are Getting Louder

(0) Comments | Posted September 9, 2015 | 8:33 AM

NEW YORK -- Tear down Rikers Island. 

That idea -- to close one of the country's largest jail complexes -- has in recent months inspired op-eds, protest signs and a hashtag. On Wednesday, the idea got the endorsement of a New York City lawmaker. 

“Ultimately, what we should...

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Trans Man Sues NYPD For Discrimination After Alleged Hate Crime

(0) Comments | Posted September 3, 2015 | 8:03 AM

NEW YORK -- A transgender Manhattan man says the New York City Police Department repeatedly impeded his attempts to report an alleged hate crime, and has failed to arrest the man who allegedly threatened him and his family.

Marlow White, 51, filed a $2 million federal lawsuit last...

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#BlackLivesMatter Activists Call For Charges In Brutal Death Of Prisoner Samuel Harrell

(0) Comments | Posted August 27, 2015 | 9:34 AM

#BlackLivesMatter, and #BlackPrisonersMatter too.

That's the message protesters and family members of Samuel Harrell sent to an upstate New York district attorney Thursday. They're demanding that Dutchess County District Attorney Bill Grady bring charges against the 20 or so corrections officers who brutally beat and killed Harrell, a 30-year-old black...

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New Documentary Makes The Case For Supervised Heroin Injection Sites In New York

(0) Comments | Posted August 25, 2015 | 10:27 AM

A new documentary is shedding light on the thousands of residents of New York state who inject heroin in public or semi-public places, with dire consequences for their health and their communities. 

"Everywhere But Safe," which will premiere this week in Manhattan, features interviews with heroin users in New York City, Albany and Schenectady, as well as in Columbia County, a more rural area upstate. Most of the people interviewed in the film have at various times injected drugs in places like hallways, subways, alleyways, parks, parked cars, restaurant bathrooms, streets and other public areas, primarily due to homelessness. 

This kind of public injection, as the film makes clear, can often create a public health emergency.

"If we don't come up with a plan, we're going to lose a lot of human life," one man says in the documentary's trailer. That's because people who shoot up in public spaces are statistically more susceptible to overdoses and disease. 

A forthcoming report from the Injection Drug Users Health Alliance shows that a majority of needle exchange participants in New York City injected in public spaces in the past year, and were therefore more than twice as likely to have overdosed as users who didn't. They were also twice as likely not to have a steady supply of sterile injection equipment, and four times as likely to reuse injection equipment, which often leads to the transmission of disease. 

“In New York, we're seeing people in our community dying of overdose, contracting HIV and hepatitis C and being pushed to the edges because of the shame and stigma associated with injection drug use,” said Taeko Frost, one of the film's two directors and the executive director of the Washington Heights CORNER Project, a needle exchange program. “As harm reduction providers, we're engaging individuals on safer drug use and providing the tools and resources to prevent overdose and transmission, but the reality is there isn't a consistent, safe space to apply these strategies." 

The problems of public injection have been compounded in recent years by the sharp rise in the homeless population, particularly in New York City, and the surge in heroin use across the northeastern U.S., including in New York state.

There are at least 56,000 people in New York City sleeping in homeless shelters each night -- a near-record high, according to the latest count. And in 2013, more people in New York City died of heroin overdoses than of murder

Meanwhile, nationwide, the number of heroin-related deaths jumped by 39 percent in 2013. 

“Public injecting is real problem in New York, but fortunately it is one for which we have a clear solution supported by a large body of research,” said Julie Netherland, deputy director of the New York policy office at the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement Monday. “Countries around the world have opened supervised injection facilities to address the kinds of public health and safety problems so poignantly illustrated in 'Everywhere But Safe.' It’s time for New York to follow the science and implement evidence-based strategies, such as SIFs, that can save lives." 

Australia, Canada and some European countries operate SIFs, or supervised injection facilities, where users can inject heroin with sterile equipment in a clean environment, under professional supervision. There are currently no such facilities in the U.S. 

Matt Curtis hopes "Everywhere But Safe" can help change that. 

Curtis, who co-directed the film with Frost and serves as policy director at VOCAL-New York, an advocacy group that also operates a needle exchange, told The Huffington Post he hopes the documentary will "humanize" the problem of public injection and make the idea of supervised injection sites more palatable to an American audience.

“New York is not taking responsibility for this problem,” Curtis said in a statement. “We do not have to have thousands of New Yorkers injecting in public."

Creating SIFs, he said, would "remove a major public health threat, make our communities safer, and save the city money.” 

It would also be a step away from the drug war's aggressive, enforcement-heavy approach to the country's heroin epidemic -- an approach in which most users are simply thrown in jail -- and a step toward what's called a "harm reduction" model. In the 1980s, under the philosophy of harm reduction, the city opened its first needle exchanges to help stop the spread of HIV. More recently, the city has equipped its police and emergency responders with naloxone, a drug that can prevent death in people who have overdosed on heroin.

"Everywhere But Safe" premieres Friday, Aug. 28, at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem. Curtis said the movie marks the beginning of a campaign by a new group called SIF NYC, which next month will begin a push for SIFs in the city. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified Curtis as the executive director of VOCAL-New York. He is the group's policy...

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Is NYPD Crossing The Line, Again, In Its Black Lives Matter Surveillance?

(0) Comments | Posted August 20, 2015 | 1:08 PM

NEW YORK -- The New York City Police Department's involvement in the surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists, as revealed this week by The Intercept, is once again raising questions about whether the NYPD is unlawfully monitoring political activity.  

Nearly 280 documents on how authorities watched protests, primarily...

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How New York Could Convene Another Grand Jury Investigation Into Eric Garner's Death

(2) Comments | Posted August 14, 2015 | 10:42 AM

When a Staten Island grand jury declined in December to indict a New York City Police Department officer in the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, who died after being put in a police chokehold, it felt final. 

The Department of Justice launched a federal investigation that hasn't resulted in...

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Kalief Browder's Family To Sue New York City For $20 Million

(4) Comments | Posted August 7, 2015 | 8:44 AM

The family of Kalief Browder -- the Bronx teen who spent three years in New York City's notorious Rikers Island jail without a conviction -- will sue the city for $20 million, according to documents submitted to the city comptroller's office Thursday.

Browder took his own life in June,...

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Listen To The 1930s Poem That Is The Perfect #BlackLivesMatter Tribute

(0) Comments | Posted August 6, 2015 | 12:12 PM

A rousing new video connects the Jim Crow-era activism of famed American poet Langston Hughes to the activism of today's #BlackLivesMatter movement.  

The video, published online Wednesday by the group Color of Change, has actor Danny Glover reading Hughes' 1938 poem "Kids Who Die" over a series of haunting images: the Cleveland park where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down by police, the Oakland train station where 22-year-old Oscar Grant was also killed by cops, and a group of riot officers with their guns aimed at a black protester in Ferguson, Missouri, among others.

"This is for the kids who die," opens Hughes' poem. "Black and white / For kids will die certainly / The old and rich will live on awhile,  /As always, / Eating blood and gold, / Letting kids die." 

August 9th is a big day for the movement," Rashad Robinson, executive director of, said in a statement announcing the video's release. This Sunday marks one year since the death of Michael Brown -- the black, unarmed 17-year-old gunned down by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His death touched off riots and peaceful protests in the St. Louis suburb. 

The date "also symbolizes the incredible volition and power of the people of Ferguson and the birthing of another movement centered on Black lives," Robinson said. "But it also shows how the brutal assault of Black people did not end with the Jim Crow era, it has only shifted and adapted to take on a new form of oppression and violence that has manifested in rampant killing of Black people at the hands of the state.”

It's been 77 years since Hughes first published "Kids Who Die" in the communist-backed pamphlet of poems "A New Song."

"It’s very much an interracial anthem that celebrates young blacks as well as whites, in the struggle against fascism, capitalism, and racism, especially in the American South," Stanford University professor Arthur Rampersad -- whose book, "The Life of Langston Hughes," was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 -- told The Huffington Post.

"I have no doubt that Hughes would strongly approve of the poem being used to protest against anti-black violence even if he intended it for a much broader purpose," Rampersad said. 

Media consultant Frank Chi co-produced the video with Terrance Green. Chi told that the pair "wanted to make a video that brings together the brutal images of the past year -- seeing Eric Garner choked to the ground, Walter Scott shot in the back, Sandra Bland dragged out of her car over a cigarette -- but display them in a way that pays tribute."  

"We wanted to inspire people to keep fighting," he said, adding that he first time he read "Kids Who Die" was on Twitter after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of 18-year-old Trayvon Martin. 

The video ties particularly searing lines in Hughes' poem to real-life events and characters today. When Glover reads "sleazy courts," the viewer sees footage of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announcing that Officer Darren Wilson would face no charges in Michael Brown's death. The "bribe-reaching police" are NYPD officers turning their backs on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The "blood-loving generals" are militarized police in Missouri.

And when Glover reads "money-loving preachers," there's footage of a wild-eyed and bloviating Bill O'Reilly, the conservative Fox News host. 

Like Hughes' poem, however, the video ends on a hopeful note. Ultimately a tribute to the success of the #BlackLivesMatter movement -- which has helped initiate widespread criminal justice reform over the past year and reshaped how America talks about race -- the video ends with the final lines of Hughes' poem read over footage of massive, peaceful protests across the country. 

"But the day will come -- /," it says. "You are sure yourselves that it is coming -- / When the marching feet of the masses / Will raise for you a living monument of love, / And joy, and laughter, / And black hands and white hands clasped as one, / And a song that reaches the sky -- / The song of the life triumphant / Through the kids who die."

You can read the full poem below. (As Professor Rampersad notes, the version Glover reads in the video is edited and has some key omissions. The most notable are Hughes' references to two well-known activists of his era: Karl Liebknecht, a German socialist assassinated in 1919, and Angelo Herndon, who was arrested in 1932 when he was just 19 for leading an interracial protest in Georgia.)


"Kids Who Die" by Langston Hughes

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don't believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people —
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people —
And the old and rich don't want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don't want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die —
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies'll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter's field,
Or the rivers where you're drowned like Leibknecht

But the day will come —
You are sure yourselves that it is coming —
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky —
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated Trayvon Martin's age when he was killed. He was 17, not...

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Gay Man Who Was Beaten, Allegedly Called 'Faggot' By NYPD Cops To Sue For $25 Million

(2) Comments | Posted August 4, 2015 | 2:49 PM

A gay Staten Island man is set to file a $25 million federal lawsuit Tuesday against four New York City police officers who he says beat him in his front yard while calling him homophobic slurs after threatening to kill his dog.

Louis Falcone, 30, says officers called him “fag”...

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Special Prosecutor In New York Launches Investigation Into Death Of Raynette Turner

(2) Comments | Posted August 3, 2015 | 11:47 AM

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday that his office will launch a formal investigation into the death of Raynette Turner, the mother of eight who died in a Mount Vernon, New York, jail cell while in police custody last week. 

“My office's Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit will...

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New York City Considers Divesting From Walmart Over Gun Sales

(0) Comments | Posted July 31, 2015 | 2:01 PM

NEW YORK -- New York City may divest hundreds of millions of dollars from Walmart and other big-name stores that sell guns and ammunition less than two years after it yanked investments in the country's biggest gun manufacturers. 

Trustees for the New York City Employees...

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The Public Still Can't See The Eric Garner Grand Jury Records, Court Rules

(0) Comments | Posted July 29, 2015 | 4:55 PM

The public still can't look at transcripts from the grand jury investigation into the death of Eric Garner, a New York appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A four-judge panel from New York’s Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, upheld a previous decision from a lower court that found no “compelling and...

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In His Own Words, Iraq and Afghanistan Vet Recounts Journey From Homelessness To Hope

(0) Comments | Posted July 28, 2015 | 3:44 PM


There were over 67,000 homeless United States military veterans in 2011. Craig Hinds -- who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq  -- was one of them.

But in 2012, Hinds, now 37, found a place to live: the Jericho Project's veterans-only Kingsbridge...

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