EarthLink – News
Caravan memorializes females murdered in grim Mexican suburb
By AMY GUTHRIE | 08:23 EDT
ECATEPEC, Mexico (AP) — A memorial caravan wound its way through Ecatepec’s streets Sunday carrying white roses in remembrance of a 2-year-old girl who was beaten to death and left on a sidewalk in the Mexico City suburb, one of many killed in a very dangerous country to be female.
The National Citizen’s Observatory of Feminicide says an average of 10 women are murdered every day in Mexico, often after a sexual assault. That makes Mexico one of the most violent countries for females. And Ecatepec, a humble working class community of 1.7 million residents, has seen more such killings in recent years than any other municipality in Mexico.
“The women of the ‘periphery,’ we are the forgotten. We only enter the statistics,” said Magda Soberones, 28, a mother of three and one of the founders of a performance troupe that led the procession in Ecatepec, which is part of “the periphery” — the band of suburbs that sprawl out from the core of Mexico City to form one of the most extensive urban areas in the world, home to 22 million people.
Soberones’ group calls itself Women of the Periphery for the Periphery and does performance art to call attention to violence against women.
People gathered for the caravan’s first stop at the site where little Samantha was abandoned in a blanket, beaten to death in June.
Neighbors recalled hearing shouts in the wee hours of Mexico’s Father’s Day. One woman said she looked out the window and saw a young woman put a bundle on the sidewalk that turned out to be Samantha’s body. The neighbor, fighting back tears and holding a small child of her own, didn’t want to give her name to The Associated Press.
“She never returned to hug her,” the neighbor said of the young mom. “I would have never let her go.”
Residents called police and waited an agonizing hour for a patrol car to arrive. Officers took statements, but have not returned. Samantha’s mother accused a boyfriend of hitting the child. Neighbors said they haven’t seen the couple since.
“Justice for Samantha!” the activists shouted Sunday before placing a needlepoint image of a little girl and Samantha’s name next to a mosaic depicting Jesus on the cross.
The procession then headed to a field of white and yellow wildflowers where the bodies of a mother and her teenage daughter were found after an evening of dancing. Both had been raped.
As the activists moved down a narrow street they called out to residents to be more vigilant.
“Sir, ma’am, don’t be indifferent. Women are killed right in front of people’s eyes,” they chanted.
Members of the performance troupe donned long purple skirts and roses crowned their heads. The sound of wind howled on a speaker as the women lifted their heavy skirts to traipse over the tall grass of the field where the half-naked bodies of the mother and daughter were found.
The performers took turns saying first the name of the mother —”I’m Angélica”— and then the name of the daughter —”I’m Karla”— while twirling skirts in the air like giant butterfly wings.
Relatives of the murdered women sobbed, and the troupe’s members embraced them, crying together.
Karla’s older sister, Angélica Estevez, said the 16-year-old was a homebody who liked to study and didn’t have a boyfriend. The night she was killed was the first time the teenager had gone out to dance, she said. Their mother sold bread at a market and was an avid salsa dancer.
“They didn’t deserve to die that way — either of them,” said Estevez.
Two men who have been accused of murdering the women face a hearing in mid-October.
Relatives of other women who have been slain on the outskirts of the capital stepped forward in the field to share their stories, with a common thread of violent deaths, impunity for perpetrators and practically nonexistent investigations by authorities.
Lilia Florencio, whose daughter Diana was found raped and strangled a block from home in 2017, described the performance art as a way to “visualize what is happening in this Mexico that is so hurt.”
She said the only thing she has gotten from police was a poster a year ago promising a reward for information to solve the crime.
“Us, the mothers, the families, we will continue to demand justice,” Florencio vowed.
The caravan’s next stop was a memorial to one of Mexico’s most shocking and painful crime sprees: the butchering of more than a dozen women by a single couple. Juan Carlos Hernández and Patricia Martínez, who were arrested last year, admitted to killing at least 20 young women in Ecatepec. They chopped them up, ate body parts and sold bones to religious cults.
The performance artists held red scarves above lighted votive candles. They handed red carnations to the crowd, and then draped a chain of paper dolls with question marks scrawled on the dolls’ skirts across the memorial to the couple’s victims, most of whom have not been identified.
“If we don’t organize, this could be one of us,” activist Lizeth Flores warned the crowd.
EarthLink – News
2 protesters charged in 1st use of Hong Kong’s new mask ban
Sun, October 6, 2019 11:27 EDT
HONG KONG (AP) — Two protesters have been charged with violating Hong Kong’s new ban that criminalized the wearing of masks at rallies.
The charges filed Monday are the first prosecution under the ban that took effect Saturday under sweeping emergency powers to quash rising violence in four months of anti-government protests. But the ban sparked more anger with rallies and violence in the last three days in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
An 18-year-old student and a 38-year-old unemployed woman were detained early Saturday shortly after the ban took effect and charged Monday with illegal assembly and for violating the mask ban. They were both released on bail pending trial.
A conviction for violating the mask ban carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine.
EarthLink – News
Judge says she couldn’t refuse convicted ex-cop a hug
By JAKE BLEIBERG | Mon, October 7, 2019 03:11 EDT
DALLAS (AP) — The judge who gave a hug and Bible to a former Dallas police officer after she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her neighbor said Monday that she watched the woman change during her trial and wants her to live a purposeful life.
Judge Tammy Kemp said she had never previously acknowledged her Christian faith to a defendant or given one a Bible, but Amber Guyger said she didn’t have one at the end of her trial for the September 2018 killing of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean.
In her first interview since the jury convicted Guyger of murder last week, Kemp said she felt her actions were appropriate since the trial was over and the former officer told her she didn’t know how to begin seeking God’s forgiveness.
“She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, ‘Yes, God can forgive you and has,'” Kemp told The Associated Press.
“If she wanted to start with the Bible, I didn’t want her to go back to the jail and to sink into doubt and self-pity and become bitter,” she said. “Because she still has a lot of life ahead of her following her sentence and I would hope that she could live it purposefully.”
Critics contend that it was unethical of Kemp to hug Guyger and give her the Bible. One group asked for a judicial misconduct investigation, and some activists have said the hug took the focus off justified anger at a police killing.
Jean’s death drew widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.
Guyger, 31, had just worked a long shift and was still in her uniform when she entered Jean’s apartment and shot the 26-year-old accountant, who grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. She testified that she had mistaken his fourth-floor apartment for her own, which was directly underneath his, and that she thought he was an intruder.
After Guyger was sentenced and the jury left the courtroom, Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, was allowed to address Guyger directly from the witness stand. He told her he forgave her and that Botham would have wanted her to devote her life to Christianity before the two shared a tearful embrace. Soon after that, Kemp walked over to the defense table to speak with Guyger, who she said went through a “marked change” after the verdict.
Kemp said that Guyger asked twice if she could hug her as well and, after a moment’s hesitation, the judge wrapped her arms around the former police officer.
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” said Kemp, who is black. “And I don’t understand the anger. And I guess I could say if you profess religious beliefs and you are going to follow them, I would hope that they not be situational and limited to one race only.”
Kemp said she doesn’t know “the state of Ms. Guyger’s Christianity, if she’s even a Christian.” But she said she pointed Guyger to a Bible passage about God’s love “so that she could recognize that, even given the fact that she murdered someone, God still loves her.”
Last week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a secular Wisconsin-based group that routinely files lawsuits challenging religious displays in government, said Kemp was proselytizing from the bench and filed a complaint with a Texas agency that investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.
Kemp defended her actions as appropriate Monday, saying they took place after the legal proceeding was over and were not part of the official trial record.
“I didn’t do that from the bench,” she said. “I came down to extend my condolences to the Jean family and to encourage Ms. Guyger because has a lot of life to live.”
EarthLink – News
Police: Kansas bar gunman caused disturbance before shooting
By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH | Mon, October 7, 2019 07:05 EDT
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — One of two suspects in the fatal shooting of four people in a Kansas bar caused a disturbance two hours earlier that brought officers to the scene, but they couldn’t find him in the area, the interim police chief said Monday.
Michael York said Kansas City, Kansas, police were still searching for one suspect, Hugo Villanueva-Morales, 29, in connection with the shootings at the Tequila KC bar early Sunday that also wounded another five people. Officers arrested the second man, Javier Alatorre, 23, late Sunday afternoon.
The Kansas City Star reported that Alatorre was recently released from jail in Missouri, where he faced pending charges for tampering with a motor vehicle, possession of a controlled substance and resisting or interfering with arrest, detention or stop. A judge reduced his bail and released him on his own recognizance over the objections of prosecutors.
Police said both men have been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, and bail has been set at $1 million for each. Villaneuva-Morales is considered armed and dangerous.
Surveillance video shows Villanueva-Morales entering Tequila KC, where he got into an argument and was told to leave late Saturday, police said. It wasn’t clear whether Alatorre also was in the bar during the argument.
York said officers went to the area late Saturday to investigate the disturbance but couldn’t find the suspect. He said officers remained in the area “doing their patrol duties.”
“They cleared the call and then two hours later, he returns back,” York told reporters during a news conference. “But we had no information that he was going to return back.”
Bartender Jose Valdez told The Star that he had refused to serve one of the suspects because the man had previously caused problems at the bar. Valdez said the man threw a cup at him and left, but that he returned later with another man shortly before closing time.
Authorities identified the four people killed as Francisco Anaya-Garcia, 34; Alfredo Calderon, 29; Ebar Meza-Aguirre, 29, Martin Rodriguez-Gonzalez, 58.
All of those killed were Hispanic, and two were Mexican citizens, that country’s foreign relations secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, said Sunday on Twitter. He did not identify the two but said the Mexican government would support their families.
Authorities have said they do not believe the shooting was racially motivated. The shooting happened in a neighborhood with a large Hispanic population.
“The investigation is leading us to believe that it was not random,” York said.
Family members told The Kansas City Star that Calderon owned a heating and cooling business for several years and was the devoted father of a 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. They said he went to the bar to watch a boxing match.
“He cared about those babies so much,” recalled sister-in-law Celeste Trevino. “Those babies need their dad.”
Trevino also said that Meza-Aguirre pushed her to the floor when the gunfire started, and she believes it is why she survived. Meza was a regular at the bar, and it was where he and friends usually watched the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs. Friends had plans to catch a game there Sunday, said Toni Maciel, Trevino’s cousin.
“He’s always going to be a hero in my eyes,” Maciel said.
Around 40 people were inside the small bar when gunfire erupted, police spokesman Thomas Tomasic said. The gun shots sent people running for the exits, with the injured leaving trails of blood as they fled. Two of the wounded were treated and released and three others remained hospitalized in stable condition, he said.
Alatorre is jailed again in Missouri after he was arrested without incident at a home that court records listed as his place of residence. He does not yet have an attorney.
Alatorre will have an initial court appearance in the coming days in Kansas, said Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jonathan Carter. Carter said it’s too soon to determine whether prosecutors will consider the death penalty in the case.
Villanueva-Morales had a pending third-degree assault charge in Missouri. It stemmed from an incident in August outside a club in which an off-duty sheriff’s deputy reported that left both men bloodied.
Alatorre had past convictions for fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement in Kansas and for driving while intoxicated in Missouri, in addition to the pending charges in Missouri.
In 2017, an court order barred Alatorre from abusing, stalking and possessing a firearm after a woman who had a child with him reported physical abuse and threats. It expired in February 2018.
Alatorre’s mother, Teresa Minerva Alatorre, declined to comment when reached by phone.
Associated Press writer John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.
EarthLink – News
Greece transfers 570 migrants from overcrowded camp
By DEMETRIS NELLAS | 02:40 EDT
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities were transferring around 570 migrants from an overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos on Sunday, officials said.
A regularly scheduled ferry left Lesbos carrying the migrants, who used to live in the migrant camp of Moria.
Authorities say this is part of the plan to reduce overcrowding at the camp, where about 13,000 people live in a space designed for 3,000.
Migrants, most of them Afghans, have protested, sometimes violently, over the prevailing conditions, demanding their transfer out of Moria and a quick response to their asylum demands.
Authorities say the 570 are among what they term “vulnerable categories” — families, single women with children and unaccompanied minors.
The ferry will arrive at Piraeus, the main port in Athens, on Monday morning. The migrants will be moved to a camp near the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Separately, Greek authorities said a Syrian toddler drowned at a beach in southern Greece after the boy wandered away from his parents and exited a migrant camp.
The Ministry of Citizen Protection, which oversees Greek police, says that the boy was 2 ½ years old. The boy drowned Sunday afternoon after leaving the camp in the city of Andravida in the western Peloponnese region. An inquiry has been launched by Greek officials.
Germany’s top security official, meanwhile, said European Union nations need to work better together on the issue of migration or they risk facing a new flood of asylum-seekers that could rival that of 2015.
Following a trip last week to Turkey and Greece, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told the Bild newspaper on Sunday that “we need to do more to help our European partners with the controls on the EU’s external borders.”
He said “if we don’t do that, we will experience a surge of refugees like 2015, perhaps even bigger.”
Germany alone took in 890,000 migrants in 2015.
The comments come ahead of meetings Tuesday with EU interior ministers on the issue.
Seehofer also tells the Welt newspaper that Europe needs to do more to help Turkey in dealing with millions of Syrian refugees.
David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.