L. Lin Wood, the Atlanta lawyer representing Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann in upcoming litigation, spoke with Big League Politics Wednesday to offer some insight into his firm’s investigative process, and the strategy of his client. The Covington Catholic students were smeared by the media after they were confronted by left-wing activists near the Lincoln Memorial at the March for Life.
“The members of the mob who falsely attacked or threatened Nick Sandmann should be on notice that his attorneys will identify them and will take aggressive legal action against them to achieve full accountability for their wrongdoing and willful mistreatment of this young man,” Wood told Big League Politics.
“While our focus is to seek redress for the damage wrongfully inflicted upon Nick, we hope that a byproduct of our efforts for Nick will be to effectuate a sea change in how people in our society treat each other, especially when our children are involved. Nick is not the first victim of a premature rush to judgment based on false information, personal or political agendas, rumors and speculation. Hopefully, through our efforts for Nick and the efforts of an army of individuals and entities who support him and the rule of law, a lesson will finally be learned. We will be relentless in our pursuit of justice for Nick. This is not a threat – this is a fact.”
L. Lin Wood has stated that he is aware of the profane rant that Bill Maher went on against his client.
On Capitol Hill, Democrat congressman John Yarmuth from the students’ home state of Kentucky called for a “complete shutdown of teenagers wearing MAGA hats,” then claimed he was joking after the media’s narrative fell apart.
Kentucky Republican congressman Thomas Massie offered a much more useful perspective.
In an exclusive interview with Big League Politics, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) defended the students of Covington Catholic High School who were unfairly smeared by the mainstream press and subsequently attacked by the political left on social media.
“These kids got a lesson in social media mobs,” Massie said, “and the mob that forms in social media forms quickly, and it is there to bully anybody from saying what they really think and what they believe, particularly if it’s a conservative viewpoint.”
Several boys from Covington Catholic became the object of press and social media scorn after video clips emerged of their interaction with a Native American man named Nathan Phillips last Friday at the March for Life in Washington D.C. Shortened clips showed Nick Sandmann, a student at the school who was wearing a #MAGA hat, smirking at Phillips as Phillips beat his drum in Sandmann’s face. The press narrative, which has now been thoroughly debunked as full videos of the interaction have emerged, was that the students were bullying Phillips. In reality, Phillips and a few other Native men approached the boys first, in a clear attempt at provocation.
“The social media mob is a left-wing mob.” Massie said, “The right does not do this. It’s considered harassment if it comes from the right, and if it comes from the left, it’s just free speech – and there’s your double standard.”
Massie also admonished the left for moving their social media efforts into the real world, attempting to destroy the personal lives of the objects of their ridicule.
“What happens with the left, though, is they cross over into reality,” he said. “They migrate off of social media and they start calling the city of Covington to get tax records and figure out where people live. They go to their houses, and figure out where they work, and try and get the parents fired. That’s the difference. I mean, we all know Twitter’s a dumpster fire, but they try and take that fire and spread it into real life. That’s what this is. This is bullying.”
Massie said that a prosecutor in northern Kentucky named Rob Sanders has already publicly warned the political left that it is against Kentucky law to threaten schools, and that there will be prosecutions for such actions. He described Sanders’ efforts in pushing back against the hate-filled mob as “admirable.”
Massie, who reserved judgment about the students until all of the facts came to light, also cautioned against jumping to conclusions when the mainstream press makes these types of accusations.
“It’s almost like this was a big psychology experiment – like freshman psychology 101,” he said. “You were told, before you saw the video, what you were watching so that when you watched the video, you completely fell for it. So, for instance, you were told before you watched this video that these kids were chanting ‘build the wall,’ and you can’t make out the words. You assume, yeah, they’re chanting ‘build the wall.’ In fact, they were not. You were told this kid was smirking, and that he had gotten in the face of this Native American. But that’s not the case. This kid was smiling – he was trying to diffuse the situation and broadcast to his friends that he wasn’t feeling threatened, so they didn’t need to feel threatened either. And then you were told that these kids surrounded that older man, and that was not the case.”
“But if you were told all these things, and then you watched the video, it was hard not to fall for it,” Massie continued. “But after watching the longer videos I know that Nick Sandmann didn’t do anything wrong. He did what most 16-year-olds don’t have the composure to do, which is to diffuse the situation that was not of his own making and was a situation he’d never been in before. Everything he’d been taught in his life prepared him to do the right thing, and that’s what he did.”
“They’re raising our future leaders at Covington Catholic,” Massie finished. “These are kids of very high character. Many of them are going places. So I guess my main takeaway is to admonish, not just the left, because there are always going to be people on the left pandering to their base, but to admonish the Democrats who I know are reasonable, and the people in the middle who don’t associate with either party but form their own opinion, and even the people on the right who got spoofed by this, to just take a step back and wait a day before they form opinions next time, based on something in social media.”
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Turkey Human Rights, Crackdown on Press Freedom Comes Under Renewed Scrutiny in Geneva
Last week, the UK-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR)and the Press Emblem Campaign held an information meeting in Geneva, to coincide with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Turkey over hate crimes, minority, and LGBT rights, and press freedoms with a specific focus on the nation’s crackdown on these rights during the failed 2016 coup and the emergency rule that followed during which the government allegedly used its security powers to arrest thousands of people who opposed it.
Turkey’s human rights record was last reviewed in 2015 during the UPR. This was the third time in 10 years that Turkey’s record has come under review
Diplomats, minister, prominent members of Turkish media and human rights defenders – including those who have been forced into exile – were present at the event. Also in attendance was former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice Ambassador Stephen Rapp. Louise Pyne Jones, head of research, International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) moderated the event. Two panels were held. The first was called “Press Freedom” and included Yavuz Baydar, editor-in-chief of Ahval; Evin Baris Altintas, journalist and blogger; and Massimo Frigo; senior Legal Advisor for International Commission for Jurists (ICJ). The second panel, “Human Rights Defenders,” included Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci; president of the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey; Nurcan Baysal, award-winning Turkish Human Rights Defender and Journalist; and Anne van Wezel, former co-chair EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee.
Following an attempted, and failed, “coup” against the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party in 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused many of his opponents and naysayers, including journalists who were critical of him and his government, of supporting terrorism and prosecuted many of them. Erdogan also suggested that the attempted coup was the work of exiled Imam Fethullah Gulen and his movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Turkey has asked for the United States to extradite Gulen. Gulen has been living in the United States in a self-imposed exile since 1999. Over 250 people died as a result of the failed coup attempt.
Soon after the coup, Turkey implemented a state of emergency (SOE) which it said: “was put into effect in order to ensure the continuity of effective implementation of the measures for the protection of the rights and freedoms of our citizens, democracy and the rule of law.” However, the AK Party’s critics have maintained that the AK Party used the umbrella of its broader emergency powers and continuously postponed ending that state of emergency, in an attempt to destroy its political opposition.
Many journalists were apprehended under this state of emergency until it was lifted on July 19, 2018. As such, for three straight years, and up until 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Turkey as the worst jailer of journalists in the world. According to Turkish, English, and Arabic-language news site Ahval, when China jailed 48 journalists to Turkey’s 47.
Nurcan Baysal, an award-winning Kurdish Human Rights Defender, Journalist, and contributor to Ahval, said she was even cautious with the words she used on the panel discussion for fear of punishment by the Turkish government. “We are censoring ourselves because of these fears,” Baysal said. “For example, before coming here I asked myself if I should use certain words, should I use the word invasion, or should I use the word war, because today in Turkey even to say war is forbidden,” she said. “Everything that I say has an effect on not only my life but of the lives of my children and family.”
Ahval editor in chief Yavuz Baydar said, “No state or power can decide who is a journalist, it is the domain for professional organizations and should always be separate from power.”
According to the IOHR, “In the previous UPR cycle of Turkey, the Turkish government officially supported 14 recommendations related to strengthening the legal framework on freedom of expression and 5 recommendations specifically related to bringing terrorism legislation in line with international human rights standards.
Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch recently said, “The huge number of journalists, politicians, and perceived government critics in prison and on trial flies in the face of the Turkish government’s public statements about the state of human rights in the country “Turkey’s disregard of human rights is a disservice to its citizens, who deserve to live with dignity and freedom.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run pro-government newspaper the Daily Sabah put out propaganda about the Erdogan government writing, “U.N. Human Rights Council highlighted Turkey’s achievements in the fields of judiciary, human rights and humanitarian causes on Tuesday during a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting in Geneva.”
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