Alec Karakatsanis Profile picture
Jul 6, 2021 13 tweets 3 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Thread. Have you ever heard of "civil asset forfeiture"? You're never going to think about the police the same way again. (1)
A few years ago, when I was at the public defender's office, my very poor clients kept telling me the same story: they would be walking down the street and DC police would stop them, search them at gunpoint, tell them to open their wallets, and take all the cash they had. (2)
The wildest part? The DC police would then send them a letter saying that, if they wanted to challenge the police taking of their cash, they would need to pay either $250 or 10% of the amount taken, whichever was more! (3)
So, if police took $10 or $20 from someone, the person would need to pay $250 to even have the right to challenge the cops in court. If you couldn't pay, the cops kept your money. (4)
If you challenged them in court, you'd have to prove that your property was *not* somehow connected to a crime. Think about how hard that is. (5)
If you still wanted to challenge the DC police, they'd send a lawyer to litigate an entire civil asset forfeiture case against you, and you aren't entitled to a lawyer if you're poor because the cops call it a civil case not a criminal case. You have to fight them alone. (6)
Sure enough, when I examined the DC records, the cops had taken cash from thousands of people, almost entirely Black people. They'd also taken hundreds of cars from people, mostly older women of color. I couldn't find a single example of a person successfully challenging it. (7)
A lot of the time, cops were taking $5 and $30 from extremely poor people who were struggling to meet the basic necessities of life for their children, like buying food and diapers and shoes. (7)
In most places, there is no need for the cops to arrest you with civil forfeiture. There's no need for a conviction. They can just allege that your property is connected to a crime and take it. Then they can keep most of it for fancy weapons and corrupt travel junkets. (8)
To understand the scope of this problem, you should know that cops take more money from people in civil asset forfeiture than all burglaries combined in the U.S. (9)…
The cops at the local, state, and federal levels across the country have taken almost $70 billion in civil forfeiture in the past 20 years! (10)…
When cops ask you for more funding, remember that only 4% of all cop time is spent on what they call "violent crime." Next time they ask for money, remember the kafkaesque abuses at every U.S. police department and ask if cops actually care about safety for everyone. (end)
By the way, here's a great piece from @NewYorker that tells some of the stories of our clients in D.C.…

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More from @equalityAlec

Nov 27
THREAD. If you want to do some volunteering or if you're retired, a great thing to do is watch court. Join your local courtwatch program, or organize together with your community to start one. It will blow your mind, make you new friends, and make the right kind of enemies.
A defining characteristic of local courts in this unprecedented era of human caging, is that they are assembly line processing centers. I have seen flagrant constitutional violations in every local court I've ever observed.
The bureaucrats in these courts--prosecutors, judges, cops, probation officers, defense lawyers, clerks, deputies--are used to doing the most consequential things to people and their families without the slightest bit of scrutiny. You and your friends can change that.
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Nov 18
This is a thread of the photos from today's paywalled NYT article about the United Nations calling Gaza a "graveyard" for children.
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Nov 9
THREAD. Something must be said about today’s irresponsible New York Times article about antisemitism. I can’t believe it was published.
The article is a series of portraits of pro-zionist students. The thesis, as summarized by one student: “The mood on campus these days is not pro-Palestinian, it’s antisemitic.”…
After Antisemitic Attacks, Colleges Debate What Kind of Speech Is Out of Bounds  Pro-Palestinian students say that they are speaking up for an oppressed people, but critics say that their rhetoric is deeply offensive.
I care deeply about the media conflating criticism of far-right Israeli policies and antisemitism for many reasons, including 1) It cheapens the concept; 2) It is weaponized to distract people from horrific injustices.
Read 26 tweets
Nov 6
Do you remember when Israel posted fake audio and fake video to create confusion about who did one of the bombings of a hospital they had previously threatened to bomb? That was several dozen hospital bombings ago.
Even if you’re someone who thinks that Israel did not do that particular bombing, they have since bombed pediatric and cancer wards, churches, UN schools, fishing boats, pre-approved evacuation routes, refugee camps not even in Gaza, etc.
A number of fat-right Israeli doctors and extremist religious leaders have since issued statements calling for Israel to destroy the rest of the hospitals. The hospitals have ceased to function, no electricity, surgeries with no anesthetics. Gruesome. Unthinkable torture.
Read 5 tweets
Nov 5
THREAD. He has a point. Why would anyone whose own ethnic group isn't affected by it care about trying to stop the U.S. government from giving $14 billion to a far-right military whose leaked documents and public statements show that it intends a genocide and ethnic cleansing? The thing about Rashida Tlaib is she’s Palestinian, it makes perfect sense for her to be mad at Israel and fired-up about it … what’s sus is all the people who *aren’t* Palestinian and seem to care 1000x more about this than any other humanitarian issue.
Yglesias continues to marvel. Aside from not understanding how social movements work or the concept of solidarity, he again reveals something I've pointed out before: people like him find out about activism on an issue and assume that the activism happens in isolation.
Yglesias sees as people protesting an imminent genocide and he assumes they "care 1000x more about" it than many other things. It's hard to fathom for him, but a lot of people spend their lives *fighting injustices that are related to each other.*
Read 8 tweets
Nov 3
THREAD. We seeing an organized McCarthyist campaign unlike any in decades.
Across the U.S., people are losing jobs, being disciplined at schools, losing contracts, being cancelled for lectures, being threatened, etc. It's predicated on the fallacy that Jewish people and non-Jewish people who criticize the far-right Israeli government are “antisemitic.”
My grandparents dealt with antisemitism for their entire lives. Weaponizing "antisemitism" to insulate a monstrous anti-democratic government and fascist vigilante settler violence from measured criticism and application of basic international law cheapens the concept.
Read 8 tweets

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