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“It’s a first step toward anarchy”: Legal coalition warns of the unchecked rise of armed groups. Some of the nation’s biggest law firms and Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) are partnering to offer pro bono legal services to local governments confronting increasingly active far-right militia groups. The push includes a toolkit for communities concerned about protecting the First Amendment and public safety in the shadow of potential political violence. “It is not for self-appointed armed groups to mediate conflict,” said one local district attorney who has used the legal theory developed by ICAP’s legal director Mary McCord to sue a Nevada militia for unauthorized paramilitary activity at a protest where a shooting occurred. McCord and other coalition members said that their campaign is ultimately ideologically neutral — she warned officials in Louisville, Kentucky, that a rally last weekend organized by a leftist Black militia (which also drew armed counter-protesters from the notorious Three Percenter militia) appeared to violate the state’s ban on private paramilitary activity.
NEW from THE TRACE: An outdated understanding of Chicago gangs could be hampering gun violence prevention. Many city officials blame gang activity for the rising shootings that are threatening years of progress. But Roberto Aspholm, an academic who has extensively studied the structure of gangs in Chicago, says that the prevailing narrative about how they operate misses their evolution — from centralized, cross-neighborhood organizations heavily involved in the drug business, to today’s smaller, independent groups that have relatively fewer economic prospects. “I think people need to think about how we can create a society in which everyone can live a dignified life,” he told Lakeidra Chavis in a Q&A. “The violence that’s taken place is a manifestation of poverty, of despair, of hopelessness.”
Federal crackdown expands to more cities facing higher gun violence. The Department of Justice’s Operation Legend sent agents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to Kansas City, Missouri, earlier this month and expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque last week. More federal agents are now on their way to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan echoed the leaders of other cities by saying he welcomed federal officials “so long as they are used in the continuing effort to enforce federal laws on illegal gun trafficking and gang violence” — and not detaining protesters like in Portland, Oregon. From street level, a more critical view: As in Chicago, activists in the next round of targeted cities regard the pending federal surge with skepticism or contempt. “We vehemently oppose Operation Legend,” an organizer with Detroit Will Breathe told The Detroit News while protesting the announcement. “What we need is we need federal dollars for support in our communities, not police.”
Breonna Taylor featured on the September cover of O Magazine. The digital drawing of the 26-year-old EMT, who was killed in Louisville in a no-knock police raid in March, marks the first time that Oprah Winfrey hasn’t graced the front of her own publication since it was launched two decades ago.
🎧 Listen 🎧: Our reporter Lakeidra Chavis joined Reset on WBEZ Chicago to discuss her recent story about the stark rise in suicides among Black residents.
🚨Help a friend🚨: Nick Martin, who partnered with The Trace for our investigation of gun firms marketing to “boogaloo” believers is, running a membership drive for his independent journalism startup, The Informant, which covers extremism in America. You can sign up here.
Armed demonstrators have confronted protesters rallying against racism in at least 33 states. [Guns & America]