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Mask mandates are crucial for fighting Covid-19. How should they be enforced?
An MTA bus displays “masks required” on July 4, 2020, in New York City. | Noam Galai/Getty Images Mask enforcement won’t work without education. Though 33 states now have face mask mandates, Gov. Pete Ricketts says his state of Nebraska will not be joining them. On Monday, Ricketts doubled down on his conviction that a statewide mask mandate would be too “heavy-handed.” “I don’t want to make it a crime,” he said at a press conference. Ricketts’s resistance comes as his office is challenging mask ordinances in Lincoln and Lancaster County that have already gone into effect. Teachers’ unions have meanwhile called his failure to pass a statewide mask mandate a “dereliction of duty.” “I would die for my students. Please don’t make me,” read a teacher’s sign at a recent protest across from Ricketts’s office. Teachers from across the metro are standing along Dodge Street this afternoon to tell Gov. Pete Ricketts that Nebraska needs a mask mandate. “What do we want?”“A mask mandate.”“When do we want it?”“Now.”— Emily Nitcher (@emily_nitcher) July 24, 2020 Though the science on the effectiveness of masks for reducing the spread of the coronavirus is much better established than it was early in the pandemic, mandatory masking is still a new and contentious idea. Public health experts and unions are calling for a national mask mandate to protect the most vulnerable, but President Donald Trump has said that he opposes it, telling CNN, “No, I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don’t believe in that, no.” Popular support for mask-wearing is growing: An August 3 Harris/Hill poll found that 82 percent of Americans would support a national face mask mandate. Yet mask-wearing has been correlated with partisan identity, and some Americans still refuse to wear them in indoor public settings like grocery stores, even in states and cities where they’re required. Some are even using fake exemption cards to try to get out of mask-wearing where it is now required. As consensus grows on the urgency of widespread mask use to slow a raging national health crisis, policymakers are finding that mandates may be helpful but not entirely sufficient. Perhaps unsurprisingly, enforcement — whether it’s by local officials, police, or employees of airlines or retailers — is proving challenging. Meanwhile, lessons from other public health campaigns — including seatbelts, condoms, and texting while driving — suggest that public education is just as important if you actually want people to change their behavior. The science behind masks and mask mandates keeps getting stronger People can spread SARS-CoV-2 before they know they are sick, and masks help contain the large droplets that can transmit the virus. This primarily helps prevent an infected person — even if they don’t feel sick — from spreading the virus to others. And it might also afford some level of protection to the mask-wearer as well; there is increasing evidence that masks may help keep their wearer from breathing in aerosols, too. In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirmed its guidance that “cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease.” The agency advises that anyone over the age of 2 should wear a face covering that goes over their nose and mouth in public and around anyone not in your household. A June study published in the journal Health Affairs looked at 15 states and the District of Columbia before and after their mask mandates and found masks reduced new Covid-19 cases, particularly over time. In the first five days after masks were required, new cases slowed by almost 1 percent; at three weeks, it was 2 percent. That may not sound like much, but it adds up. Another study looking at coronavirus deaths in 198 countries found that countries where masks were common had far fewer deaths. Goldman Sachs has modeled the impact of a national mask mandate and suggests that it would not only reduce the number of people getting sick and dying from Covid-19, but that when used instead of lockdowns, it would save 5 percent of GDP. Many other countries, including the UK, where mask use was initially controversial, have issued a national mask mandate; Germany, for example, has required masks since April. States are trying to make mask mandates stick with fines and jail time Many cities and states have decided to issue mask mandates, giving them the legal authority to prosecute people who don’t cover their face. The first state to introduce a mask mandate was New Jersey, back on April 8, when the state, along with New York, was grappling with a massive wave of cases. It required customers and staff to wear face coverings at essential businesses and on public transit, and said that businesses could deny entry to customers who refused to wear them. In July, that was extended to wearing masks outside when social distancing wasn’t possible, although the governor has not said how it would be enforced. Initially, the focus was on education, with volunteers in Newark handing out fliers, but in July, the police announced they would hand a summons to anyone who did not comply. In Colorado, Denver and Boulder counties both adopted mask policies in early May, which were notable both for their early timing and for the steep penalties right off the bat for breaking them. In Boulder County, if you refuse to wear a mask in a public indoor space or outdoors when you can’t stay 6 feet from others, you face up to a $5,000 fine and one year in jail; in Denver, it’s up to $999 or 300 days in jail. (Other countries, like Germany, are levying even heavier fines: Failing to comply with mask use there can lead to a 10,000 euro fine, which is $11,755 US.) Two months after those county-level mandates, Colorado’s governor issued a statewide mask order, which also specifically stated that county or city rules are allowed to be stricter than the statewide order. Denver, for example, requires children over the age of 3 to wear masks; the state only requires children over 11 to do so. As Colorado’s cases increased through late July, Danica Lee, the director of public health investigations with the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment, says that getting people to wear masks has gotten a little easier as people see the risk of getting infected increase. Lee’s been one of the top health officials in charge of Denver’s Covid-19 response, including finding the balance between public education on the importance of masks and punishing those who refuse to comply. “So far, we’ve been saving enforcement for truly egregious situations,” she says. But the agency is now switching up its tactics; the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment has its own enforcement teams, and they are now focusing on compliance during nights and weekends. “At first, we focused on trying to encourage people to not be out socializing in public. Over the past few weeks, we’ve had an increased focus on compliance with businesses, as well as individuals,” Lee says. As of July 30, the department had issued 809 mask-related warnings. In the last week of July, the department went from a total of seven mask citations to 27, the majority of which were issued at bars and restaurants, predominantly to management rather than to patrons. These people have been given a court summons, and the judge will determine the amount of the fine or jail time. The first weekend of August, enforcement teams in Denver issued 20 tickets for violations of public health orders, including not wearing face coverings or exceeding crowd capacities. Inspection teams also closed five businesses that had previously been warned or had particularly egregious violations. But Lee recognizes that it can be hard for businesses to enforce Denver’s guidelines. The department has been advising business owners to clearly post signs about wearing masks and ensure that their own employees do. “Basically, we’re advising taking all the measures you can short of intervening with individuals because there were quite a few safety concerns over interactions becoming politicized,” she says. “Any time there is a conflict with a patron that looks like it could pose safety hazards, our guidance would be to contact law enforcement.” Also, laws can be difficult to enforce universally and equably, says Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. In one example, during a weekend in May, the New York Police Department handed out masks to white people in affluent neighborhoods while officers punched a Black man and issued tickets to other people of color for not wearing masks. At the beginning of mask orders, some worried that racism would make it unsafe for people of color to cover their faces, like in a viral video of two Black men in surgical masks being tailed around a store by a policeman. Now we are seeing that the opposite problem — being unfairly singled out for not wearing a mask — may also be an issue. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images A woman wearing a face mask walks past a sign in front of a Walmart store informing customers that face coverings are required, in Washington, DC, on July 15, 2020. In the absence of state mandates, corporate mask rules fall on employees to enforce Many retailers, worried about their high-risk indoor environments, haven’t waited for government orders to require clients to wear masks. Major chains, including CVS, Target, Walmart, McDonald’s, Kroger grocery stores, and Costco, have announced nationwide mask policies, even in places without a statewide order, like Arizona and Florida. Home Depot, which rolled out a country-wide mask order on July 17, says it has put up signs warning customers and plays announcements over the PA systems. “We also have social distancing captains who will remind customers that they must wear a mask,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email. Home Depot will offer masks to those who arrive without one. But these mandates also come with limitations. “It’s too dangerous to forcibly or physically deny entry,” the Home Depot spokesperson wrote. These aren’t idle fears: In San Antonio, a passenger was shot after a man was told he couldn’t ride a public bus without a mask. A Dollar Store employee in Michigan was killed after telling a customer to wear a mask. And employees at a Trader Joe’s in Manhattan were taken to the hospital after a fight with customers who refused to wear masks. A spokesperson for a major retailer, who asked not to be named because he didn’t have permission from his employer to speak with the media, said businesses just haven’t gotten the support they need from government and law enforcement to enforce mask policies. “There are [customers] who are just being stubborn now, and we’re trying to keep our employees safe,” he told Vox. He says when the company has called law enforcement for help, some stores have gotten the cold shoulder. “They’re like, ‘Don’t call us for a mask policy, it’s a waste of our time. We’re not coming.’ Which is fine, I get it. But if city officials are telling us we have to do it, and there’s no enforcement mechanism … the last thing we want to do is to have our employees physically engage anyone — over any activity.” Airlines, on the other hand, have had some success in enforcingtheir mask requirements. A Delta flight was recently forced to return to its gate after two passengers refused to comply with its mask policy. The airline warned that violations of its mask requirement might result in the loss of future travel privileges. Alaska Airlines requires during check-in that people agree to wear a mask, and it provides masks on request for people who don’t have one. If passengers refuse to wear one, flight attendants have been given the authority to give passengers a “yellow card” warning, like in soccer, and then ban repeat offenders from future travel. American Airlines recently removed from the plane a woman who refused to wear a mask — and the other passengers clapped. Other sectors of the travel industry are taking note: The American Hotel & Lodging Association, whose members include Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Radisson, and Wyndham, recently started requiring staff and guests to wear face masks regardless of state policy. The specific rules will vary by company, and how this will be enforced hasn’t been made clear. Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the association, said in an emailed statement that many companies have already been instituting mask rules, which helps staff and guests “to make it safer and easier for Americans to travel, while also supporting hotel and tourism employees.” And as schools reopen, they may become ground zero for mask enforcement fights. In Indiana, for example, Gov. Eric Holcomb recently made a state-wide mandatory mask order for everyone, including all students in third grade and above. “Kids should not be getting mixed messages throughout the day,” Holcomb said in a press conference. “When they leave school grounds, they need to see that everyone is doing what they’re doing — that best practices are best for all.” To help make this mandate stick, Indiana has purchased 3.1 million masks to distribute to students. Holcomb reportedly wanted to have breaking the mandate punishable as a class B misdemeanor, but after significant pressure, the order says that schools will be responsible for developing and implementing an enforcement plan. States like Nebraska lacking statewide mandates may soon see differing mask rules in schools, depending on their location. That makes it harder for public health officials like Lee in Colorado, who says that in her experience, “it’s really important to have consistent messages between health agencies” at the local and state levels. Shifting norms around masks to reduce the anger and the shame Many public health experts say that consistent public health education and effective messaging is the most important tool in getting people to change their behavior. Which means that threatening people with being banned from a business or issuing fines or jail time are not actually the best ways to get more people to wear masks in public. “As much as we can shift social norms around wearing masks so that there will be fewer angry people who refuse to wear them — that would be best,” Marcus says. According to Marcus, the AIDS epidemic is an excellent example of the perils of criminalization. There are laws in 26 states around the country that make it illegal to not disclose if you are HIV positive before having sex, but they have only increased stigma and abuse. “The way I see it, it’s all on a spectrum — shaming and fines and arrests, it’s all the same punitive model,” she says. “Ideally, we would have a model that promotes collective action through rewards and positive reinforcement,” Marcus says. The Surgeon General recently modeled an example of what that would look like, telling the president at an event: “You look badass in a facemask.” Thus far, the mixed mask messaging from government leaders — and even evolving recommendations from health agencies — hasn’t helped unify people around this effective public health action. It can understandably be hard for residents to embrace this sort of new behavior when even their local officials can’t agree on it. For example, in Georgia, where Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottom — who herself has tested positive for Covid-19 — tried to create a mask mandate. The governor sued to try to block the mandate in court (“on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive”). “The main problem with masks now is the lack of a coherent message from the leaders,” says Alex Horenstein, an assistant professor of economics at Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami, who studies behavioral economics. He says that this leads to inaccurately assessing the risk of not wearing a mask “since the signal is too noisy,” adding that if more people do not wear masks, the risk aggregates, making those who do less safe too — and possibly leading people to the false conclusion that masks don’t work. Marcus has found that in conversations with people who are ideologically opposed to masks that they are surprisingly willing “to listen to a scientist when that scientist doesn’t shame them or yell at them for their risky behavior.” Instead, she tries to acknowledge their concerns — like that masks aren’t effective or that masks infringe on their liberties. From there, they can have a conversation about these issues, talking about how masks are more important in certain settings or about other people’s freedom when distancing isn’t an option. “This is what public health does,” Marcus says. “We try to understand what’s making it hard and then adapt strategies to increase adherence.” It’s also entirely normal for there to be resistance to a public health intervention, says Horenstein. “People want to have a choice over how much risk they want to face,” he says. “If you make a regulation that constrains people’s choices too much, what happens is they change their behavior so they can still approach their optimal risk.” Like Marcus, Horenstein says the best answer is public education, tailored to specific audiences’ risks and values. Yet, he adds, risks, at the end of the day, are collective. “So the question we’re facing with masks is: What risk should we let people take when their decisions affect others?” Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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Protesters with Moms United for Black Lives line up outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse on July 29, 2020, in Portland, Oregon. | Alisha Jucevic/AFP via Getty Images After the organization’s leader was accused of being anti-Black, thousands of women fled the group to join Moms United for Black Lives. Last Wednesday, the Wall of Moms Facebook group descended into chaos. One woman said a group of Black moms was left unprotected at a rally in downtown Portland, Oregon. Another claimed that group leader Bev Barnum had co-opted Black Lives Matter for her own gain. There were endless threads of comments from women disappointed that the protest group — made up of mothers and grandmothers who had gained international recognition for standing on the front line of the city’s protests — seemed to have lost its way. The Wall of Moms, at least the original version, was collapsing. It had lasted for all of 10 days. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Members of the ‘Wall of Moms” lock their arms during a Black Lives Matter protest at the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, on July 23, 2020. Six days later, the group would effectively disband. When the group assembled on July 18 through a call to action from Barnum on Facebook, the mission was simple: Be physically present for Black lives.Last month, federal agents descended on the city to protect federal buildings, which only intensified the protests that have been ongoing since the police killing of George Floyd. Portland mothers, most of them non-Black, were called on to act as a shield against the tear gas and excessive force that police officers used to terrorize protesters. But by the middle of last week, many of the mothers in the private Wall of Moms Facebook group, which had garnered nearly 20,000 members, were questioning the direction of the organization, disappointed that it no longer seemed to center Black lives. A number of the moms accused Barnum, who is Mexican American,of only being interested in pressuring federal troops to leave Portland, not in the greater issue of justice for Black lives; Barnum had tried to register Wall of Moms as a business without the approval of fellow Black leaders. (Barnum has not responded to Vox’s request for comment.) In response, longtime activist Teressa Raiford, who had been providing guidance to Wall of Moms and is the founder of the nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland — along with two other Black mothers and activists, Demetria Hester and Danialle James — organized under another group: Mothers United for Black Lives. The new group has made it clear that its mission is to address the problems plaguing Portland’s Black communities, like the number of Blackteens recently slain, the damage done by the coronavirus, and a police department that reportedly isn’t working to investigate gun violence. “We are fighting for liberation, but [Barnum] ended up using Black bodies when she centered herself as an individual and incorporated the Wall of Moms through three agencies. That is violence and doesn’t liberate Black people,” Raiford told Vox. Raiford, who started Don’t Shoot Portland in 2016 after police arrested her amid the Michael Brown uprisings, was careful to explain that many if not most of the moms in the group have not tried to co-opt the movement. However, the Wall of Moms is ultimately a cautionary tale of what happens when Black people aren’t centered in a movement that’s about the fight for their lives: “People who are interested in getting involved must realize that they have to take directives from Black leaders and show up through the mutual aid response system,” Raiford said. That means creating not just a wall of bodies but a wall of resources, financial and otherwise, to bolster activists who will put their lives on the line long after Portland is out of the national spotlight. How Wall of Moms garnered international attention Wall of Moms began as a response to the federal law enforcement officers who began patrolling the streets of Portland in early July, forcibly snatching anti-racism protesters off the street and detaining them in unmarked vehicles. The incidents, sometimes recorded on video, caused much confusion across the country before the Trump administration announced that it had deployed officers from Border Patrol and other agencies to protect federal buildings amid ongoing protests. As Vox’s Alex Ward reported, Trump administration officials defended the aggressive tactics, claiming they were necessary to dispel protests led by a “violent mob” of “lawless anarchists.” But demonstrators, who had been on the streets protesting for Black lives for more than 50 days, recognized the presence of the federal officers as a further impingement on their civil liberties. Portlanders, many of whom had never protested before, took to the streets to push back against the federal troops. It was during this moment that the Wall of Moms was born. By July 19, a group of a few dozen mothers, most of them white and wearing white, were seen being tear-gassed by federal officers. By July 21, the group of mothers would grow to include thousands of women who showed up at downtown protests clad in yellow shirts and masks, helmets, and goggles, and carrying yellow roses and sunflowers. In videos, the women can be seen marching toward Portland’s Justice Center chanting in favor of Black Lives Matter. In one early video of the group, the women proclaimed, “No cops, No KKK, no racist USA.” The "Wall of Moms" in Portland is leading a march through the streets and back toward the federal courthouse. They have fully embraced the "fuck the police" chanting.— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) July 21, 2020 Around the same time, news stories poured out with headlines that read “‘Wall of Moms’ shields protesters from federal agents in Portland” and “Wall of Moms Protects Portland BLM Protesters,” with photos that showed overwhelmingly non-Black women standing in formation linked by the arms. Many of the stories characterized the women as selfless citizens who were eager to stand up and use their bodies to protect the less privileged. Stories characterized the activation as novel, something that would really send a fresh message to the Trump administration. While most of the mothers were well-intentioned, critics were quick to point out how the women managed to gain international acclaim because of the very privilege they were able to exercise while out on the front lines: whiteness.While whiteness was part of the tactic of getting noticed — many of the mothers were aware that their white bodies would yield attention and were intentional about their positioning at the protests — Black mothers, who have been losing their children to police violence at an alarming rate for decades, have received little attention for their activism. Keisha N. Blain, an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, told Vox there are many factors that go into what images capture the public’s interest and attention during social unrest and that it is not uncommon for white activists to receive greater attention for their work, particularly in Black spaces. “Because many people are still struggling to get people to accept Black Lives Matter, the media often privileges the appearance of white protesters in these spaces. Part of this has to do with the perceived novelty of white participation,” Blain told Vox. “We must also acknowledge that anti-Black racism helps to explain why members of the general public are often more enthralled with white activists in social justice movements — even when Black people are at the forefront of these movements. We should also be mindful of the way the media fuels these racist narratives when journalists choose to focus on the efforts of some and not others.” According to Blain, groups like Mothers of the Movement, a collective of Black moms whose children have been killed by police officers or by gun violence, “are constantly pursuing this work” but “don’t receive the same kind of visibility and certainly not for a sustained period of time.” In Chicago, for example, Black moms formed Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings in 2015 to build community through violence prevention and other measures like food security and housing, but have not received the national attention in five years that Wall of Moms did in 10 days. Wall of Moms organizer Barnum, meanwhile, seemed more interested in marketing the group (at one protest, she told the women to get on their knees for a photo, according to Demetria Hester, a mom leading Moms United for Black Lives; Barnum was also called out for doing too many interviews and not passing the mic to women like Raiford) than solely focusing on Black Lives Matter. Despite publicly announcing that the group’s administration would cede control to Black moms on July 24, five days later,Barnum had announced in the group that Wall of Moms was “now a 501(c)3” and would be “partnering with leaders across the nation.” Backlash against Barnum was quick, with moms alleging that she co-opted Black Lives Matter for her own profit. Many called on her to step down immediately. In response, Barnum wrote that she didn’t intend to hurt anyone, and that group will be led by a board made up of Black, Indigenous, and people of color and a BIPOC advisory committee. However, “WOM is a group that supports BLM, but it is not a BLM group,” she wrote. “If that is not good enough for you, please feel free to leave this group. And if you currently volunteer your time, feel free to leave your positions. Again, I am so sorry the 501c3 hurt some of you.” A number of moms in the group immediatelysaid they were out, citing dissatisfaction with how non-Black women failed to listen to Black leaders. The group’s impromptu communications director, Emma Pattee, when explaining her reason for stepping away wrote in a Facebook post: I have been working 20 hours a day for nearly two weeks, unpaid, and going out at night to protest leaving an infant at home because I was under the impression we were in support of Black Lives Matter, and that Black leadership would be brought in ASAP. It has become clear that that is not the plan for Wall of Moms and so I can no longer volunteer my time here and need to find other ways to support BLM. True racial equity depends on non-Black people relinquishing power and control. That day, as Wall of Mom chapters launched in cities including Los Angeles and Chicago, Black organizers unveiled Moms United for Black Lives, a space that would keep Black Lives Matter at the forefront and direct the thousands of moms on how to best leverage their privilege. Organizer Danialle James welcomed the moms to the new group with a message: “Hi, everyone Thanks for coming over. This is a trying time. I encourage you all to keep your chins up, stay steadfast and moving forward. Be the change you wish to seek. Love to you all.” The private Facebook group for Moms United for Black Lives grew quickly as women abandoned Wall of Moms. The page has almost 12,000 followers and is very active with moms sharing resources for safety, protest locations, and grim stories about the latest Portland killings. Meanwhile, the Wall of Moms Facebook group is still up, though posts are mostly to clear up misinformation and offer articles about effective allyship. Blain noted that this kind of fallout is not uncommon with social movements that have advocated for equity.With the Women’s March, for example, organizers were called out for how it excluded women of color and initially boasted an agenda that largely advanced the goals of cisgender white women. The founders eventually needed to cede the floor to women of color and broaden its objectives to support intersectionality. Meanwhile, with Black Lives Matter, early coverage of the movement hardly mentioned that it was founded by three Black women. “Whenever money enters into social movements, it can cause all sorts of tension,” Blain said. And with Wall of Moms, in particular, she said that “multiracial organizing can only work effectively when there is clear communication and full transparency. Without communication and transparency, perceptions of anti-Black behavior — whether they are intentional or not — can bubble up to the surface and undermine the work.” In other words, for there to be progress, all leaders, especially those organizing across racial lines, must be on the same page about the movement’s objectives. Moving forward, it’s about the mission, not the marketing Once the media cameras focused their lenses on the line of white mothers and grandmothers, Raiford knew it could jeopardize the kind of infrastructure that she and other Portland activists had been establishing for years. More worrisome was the fact that no one was talking about what was truly impacting Portland’s Black communities — from killings that were going uninvestigated to the coronavirus that was getting residents evicted to poverty that prevented students from participating in school due to a lack of technology. In the predominantly white city — less than 6 percent of the population is Black — the inequities facing Black communities and other communities of color are often overlooked. “While there are people at the protests getting hit with rubber bullets and they’re getting banged on with the tear gas, we’ve been getting murdered in our communities and there is literally zero response,” Raiford said. “In our community since July 1, we’ve had over 40 shootings.” Raiford has been calling for action in the case of 18-year-old Shai’India Harris, a recent high school graduate who was fatally shot in broad daylight on July 10; police recently named a suspect in the case. According to the Oregonian, Harris’s death is one of 15 reported homicides in Portland in July, which recorded the highest rate of homicide in more than 30 years. Last week, 32-year-old Black trans woman Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears was fatally stabbed at a vigil for Tyrell Penney, who was recently killed in a shooting. Raiford sees the collective of moms as a welcome addition to the movement but wants leaders to proceed with transparency, accountability, and deference to the mothers who laid the groundwork. “Mutual aid through the ambitious movement of the moms, and having them cater to the needs of our community by sharing Cash App, setting up vigils, ordering flowers, or Postmating — these are the resources and things that Black families literally cannot get or do because of inequity, not having money to sustain this movement during the coronavirus crisis,” she said. Hester, a mom leading Moms United for Black Lives, says she’s protested every day for the past two months in an effort to dismantle a generational cycle of inequity that’s affected her family and Portland’s Black communities. In 2017, Hester was attacked by white supremacist Jeremy Christian, who was recently sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing two people and injuring another on the MAX train. The day before the murders, Christian had assaulted Hester on the train. The incident has left Hester traumatized but invigorated to fight for justice. “That is what brought me to this revolution,” Hester told Vox. “We need strong Black people in charge of these movements. We’re making our own team of people that we can trust and know are for the cause. And the moms are finding their niche of how to help because there are different ways that white people can help but they don’t yet know it, whether it’s fundraising or using their connections to order computers for Black kids so they can have computers.” As far as how long the moms will keep organizing, Hester says there’s no deadline: “until we get everything we want.” Right now, Moms United for Black Lives is keeping busy with members answering the calls of Black mothers in need and building a supply chain to provide gear and supplies for activists who are protesting. And they’re still showing up at protests to hold the line and chant, following Hester’s lead. “Once Black communities are on point, we need to teach other countries to do the same thing for Black communities, as other cities across the country are already on it,” Hester said. “It’s about uniting.”
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Live results for the August 4 primaries
Amanda Northrop/Vox Voters in Kansas, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington are heading to the polls. Things have been (mostly) quiet on the primary front for the past few weeks, but the August 4 primaries promise to be an exciting bunch. Five states are holding their primaries: Kansas, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington state. While Arizona and Michigan will be the most important of these states come the November 3 battle for the Electoral College, Kansas’s US Senate primary makes it the most hotly anticipated Tuesday race. Kansas is certainly not a swing state; the electorate hews moderate to deeply conservative. But Democrats are watching to see if they can take advantage of a highly competitive Republican Senate primary. The race for that open seat is pitting ultraconservative and controversial former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach against still-conservative, if less controversial, Rep. Roger Marshall. Kobach lost the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly, and national Republicans fear a similar scenario could play out if Kobach wins the party’s Senate nomination. State Sen. Barbara Bollier, the Democratic candidate, is expected to win her primary. Kansas also has a number of House primaries. In the Arizona Senate race, endangered incumbent Sen. Martha McSally faces a challenge from businessman Daniel McCarthy. While McSally is expected to beat McCarthy and go on to face unopposed Democrat Mark Kelly in the general, some political observers are watching to see if there’s dampened enthusiasm for McSally from Arizona’s conservative Republican base. Less exciting is Michigan’s US Senate primary, where both Democratic incumbent Sen. Gary Peters and his Republican challenger John James are running unopposed on Tuesday. Instead,the most interesting Michigan primary to watch will be progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s reelection race in her safely Democratic district; Tlaib is being challenged by Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones. Missouri’s primaries feature a rematch in the state’s First Congressional District between incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay and challenger Cori Bush, a nurse who campaigned in 2018 as a progressive champion and has argued the district needs more responsive leadership. Additionally, Missouri voters will decide whether to make their state the 38th to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Finally, Washington state features a handful of competitive House primaries, most notably the Third, Eighth, and 10th Congressional Districts. The 10th District, left open with longtime Rep. Denny Heck (D) stepping down to run for lieutenant governor, has a field of around 20 candidates vying to replace him. Vox is covering the results live, with our partners at Decision DeskHQ. Arizona Tuesday’s highest-profile race in Arizona is for the US Senate. On the Democratic side, former astronaut Mark Kelly has no challenger, and will go on to face whoever wins the Republican primary in November. On the Republican side, incumbent Sen. Martha McSally faces a challenge from businessman Daniel McCarthy. While McSally is expected to beat McCarthy, some political observers are watching for any unexpected problems. “If there are any issues between McSally and the base, it will be revealed in the primary,” Paul Bentz, a political consultant in Arizona, told Vox. “If McSally’s victory is smaller than expected, it would spell trouble for her in the general, as she would run the risk of some of the Republicans choosing to stay home — or vote for president but skip her race.” That would be especially bad news for McSally, since the RealClearPolitics average of the polls already shows her behind Kelly. If Democrats win the seat in November, it would put them one step closer to taking control of the Senate — and, therefore, Congress as a whole. Democrats also will decide an interesting primary in Arizona’s flippable Sixth Congressional District, where progressive Anita Malik, a former tech executive, is facing off against themore moderate Hiral Tipirneni, a physician, to run against Republican incumbent David Schweikert in November. And Republicans will decide a contentious primary in the Maricopa County sheriff’s race, where former sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned after Arpaio violated a court order meant to stop racial profiling, is running to get his old job back. If Arpaio wins, he’ll face Democratic incumbent Paul Penzone, who beat Arpaio in 2016, in November — and many experts don’t expect Arpaio to fare better this time around. Maricopa County sheriff GOP primary Arizona Senate and House primaries Kansas From the presidential contest and an all-important Senate race to several House elections, Kansas is shaping up to be one of the more unlikely 2020 battlegrounds. The state’s electorate, which tends to skew moderate, seems to be souring on President Trump. Control of the US Senate could end up being decided here. Running in the Republican primary, vying for the opportunity to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, are former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, US Rep. Roger Marshall, and businessman Bob Hamilton. Kobach is a well-known commodity and has been an immigration hawk for years: “Trump before Trump was Trump” in the words of Patrick Miller, a political scientist in Kansas. Marshall won his US House seat in 2018 before quickly being courted by the Republican establishment to run for Senate after the national party’s preferred choice, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, declined to enter the race. Hamilton, who started his own plumbing business in the 1980s, is the wild card. He’s put more than $3 million of his own money into the campaign, portraying himself as the archconservative outsider. Barbara Bollier, a state senator expected to easily prevail in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, has raised more than $7 million so far, much more than any of her potential GOP opponents. Kansas’s Second and Third congressional districts should be competitive in the general election as well. In the Second, GOP Rep. Steve Watkins, who faces charges of voter fraud, has a primary challenge from state Treasurer Jake LaTurner. In the Third, a crowded Republican field will produce the opponent for first-term Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids. The Kansas First is almost assured to go Republican in the fall, but Tuesday’s primary election will determine which Republican will replace Marshall, who left his seat to run for the Senate. Tracey Mann, a former lieutenant governor, is considered the frontrunner, though Bill Clifford, a doctor and businessman, has spent more than $500,000 of his own money to try to make the primary competitive. Kansas Democratic Senate primary Kansas Republican Senate primary Kansas House primaries Michigan Though the biggest question on everyone’s mind is whether Joe Biden can reclaim this Midwestern state in 2020, Michigan is boasting a number of other competitive races in November, including Sen. Gary Peters’s (D) bid for reelection and a slew of House races flipped by moderate Democratic candidates in 2018. Tuesday features a number of primaries for US House races, including a Democratic primary opponent challenging outspoken progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Democratic and Republican primaries to replace outgoing libertarian Rep. Justin Amash. Amash’s departure has set up a competitive Republican primary to replace him. The GOP contenders on Tuesday include Iraq War veteran Peter Meijer, state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, veteran Tom Norton, entrepreneur Joe Farrington, and attorney Emily Rafi. The winner will face Democrat Hillary Scholten, an immigration attorney who is running unopposed and has been putting up big fundraising numbers. In Michigan’s Eighth and 11th congressional districts, Republicans are squaring off to see who will challenge Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens, two moderate Democrats who flipped their respective districts in 2018. Stevens and Slotkin are both expected to be tough to beat in November, but these races are seen as competitive. And with incumbent Rep. Paul Mitchell (R) retiring from his seat in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District this year, three Republicans and two Democrats are running for the seat. Finally, unabashed progressive and member of “the Squad” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D) is up for reelection in 2020. In this safely Democratic district, her primary face-off against Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones — an influential Detroit politician whom Tlaib has run against in the past — will be where the action is. Michigan Democratic primaries Michigan Republican primaries Missouri Democrats in Missouri’s First Congressional District face a rematch between incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay and challenger Cori Bush, a nurse who campaigned as a progressive champion in the vein of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Clay defeated Bush when she first challenged him in 2018. The race between Clay and Bush is perhaps more of a generational dispute than an ideological one. Clay, who has served in Congress since 2001, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a supporter of Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal. Bush, meanwhile, is 20 years younger than the 64-year-old Clay. Her campaign touts her as “protest-to-politics candidate” who organized anti-police violence protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and who promises to continue attending protests if elected to Congress. She was an outspoken supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during his 2016 presidential bid. Additionally, Missouri voters will decide whether to make their state the 38th to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. The state’s Republican leaders have resisted expanding Medicaid, but voters in deep-red Oklahoma recently bypassed their state legislature to expand the program. About 230,000 people could gain health coverage if Missouri voters follow Oklahoma’s lead. Missouri House primaries Missouri Amendment 2 (Medicaid expansion) Washington Washington state’s primaries aren’t flashy: In fact, they’ve gotten virtually no coverage in the national press. Yet a close look at three of the most interesting races — in the state’s Third, Eighth, and 10th congressional districts — reveals some important trends for the state of 2020 nationwide. The state’s House primaries operate on a “top two” system, where candidates don’t compete in separate partisan primaries; instead, all candidates run in an open contest and the top two vote-getters compete against each other in the fall. In the Third Congressional District, Republican incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is in what one local outlet calls “the fight of her political life” — one of many signs that Republicans are on the defensive in the battle for Congress. She is facing opponents including Democrats Carolyn Long (a repeat challenger andthe candidate backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), Devin Gray, and Davy Ray, as well as independent candidate Martin Hash. In the Eighth Congressional District, first-term Rep. Kim Schrier (D) is up for reelection after having flipped the district in 2018. Schrier is crushing a large field of opponents in the race for campaign cash — part of a broader money problem Republicans are having in 2020 congressional races. And in a race for the safely Democratic 10th Congressional District left open by retiring Rep. Denny Heck, there are close to 20 candidates running to replace him. It’s tough to determine a frontrunner with a massive slate of candidates, but the top tier of candidates includes state Rep. Beth Doglio, former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, and former state Rep. Kristine Reeves. Doglio has been endorsed both by Sanders and progressive Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Washington House primaries Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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