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Airbnb Cancels Reservations
Of Potential D.C. Troublemakers

     Airbnb’s announcement last week that ii canceled or blocked all reservations in the Washington area around the time of Inauguration Day risks entangling the company in lawsuits by angry customers.
     The online vacation housing rental company said it had linked some reservations to “numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building.”
     Airbnb’s announcement coincides with FBI warnings that violent hate groups plan potentially illegal action during the inauguration. Local officials are telling travelers to stay away from the Washington area until calm is restored.
     The company said it would refund guests and reimburse hosts for the canceled reservations.
     The bigger question for Airbnb is whether its move into politics could lead to lawsuits that allege either breaches of contract or violations of free speech rights.
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D.C. in Brief

Legal Briefs

Police Lockdown of D.C. Quiets Protesters
But Prompts First Amendment Debate

     Demonstrators made good on their pledge to protest the inauguration Wednesday of Joe Biden as president but not in the way they wanted.
     This time, there was no large-scale protest of the election that drew thousands to Washington like the Jan. 6 riot that included an invasion of the Capitol.
     The tamer demonstrations Wednesday by two groups were restricted to a small area between the National Archives and the Canadian Embassy in downtown Washington. The total number of demonstrators was about 200.
     Anywhere else during the inauguration, anyone police considered a troublemaker was excluded from the area around the National Capital Mall or arrested.
     Concerns about what the National Guard and police lockdown of downtown Washington means for First Amendment free speech rights continue among local residents and visitors.
     Local and federal officials tried to address the concerns during a press conference on Friday. 
     Jeffrey Reinbold, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said at the press conference that government officials would prefer to allow First amendment activities, which often mean demonstrations.
     “We are the premier First Amendment arena in the country, in the world, probably,” Reinbold said.
     However, he added, “These are different times and require different measures.”
     Matt Miller, who manages the Secret Service’s Washington field office, said the government would not allow a recurrence of the Jan. 6 mob violence.
     “Our democracy is built upon the rule of law,” Miller said at the press conference.

U.S. Attorney Searches for Assailants
Of Journalists During Capitol Riot

     The U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia is searching for the assailants who attacked members of the media during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
     At least nine media members were assaulted, including reporters from The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC and the Associated Press, according to the news organizations. Several of the organizations reported damage to their cameras and other equipment.
     Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, put out a notice saying, “We will spare no effort to bring to justice all those who committed lawless and violent acts of any kind, including against members of the media.”
     He is asking that anyone with evidence of threats, assaults or property damage against the media email their information to: USADC.CAPITOLRIOTS-PRESS-INJURY-DAMAGE@usdoj.gov.
     “Such violence will not be tolerated,” Sherwin said.
     One of the threats was found scrawled on a door inside the Capitol building. It said, “Murder the Media.”
     The National Press Club put out a statement after the riot saying, “The attacks on the press covering the scene last Wednesday were driven by President Trump’s repeated rejection of truth and his demonization of the purveyors of it.”
     The National Press Club characterized the assaults of journalists as an attack on First Amendment rights to a free press.
     Police arrested at least five people for attacking the media during the siege.



We Could Use Your Help

     Thousands of DC residents need a lawyer, but can’t afford one. They could be illegally evicted from their homes, lose custody of their children, experience domestic violence, and more, all because they lack legal representation. 
      You could make a difference. By making a donation to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, you will provide free, high-quality, zealous legal representation to low-income DC residents. Click the photo above to make a donation today. 
      Your support could prevent homelessness, domestic violence, hunger, or family separation. In fact, if just 10 people who see this ad give $28 to Legal Aid, it will be enough to staff an experienced attorney at the courthouse for a day.
      That way, DC residents like Keith King (pictured above) can get the legal representation they need to win their cases. As Mr. King put it, if it wasn’t for his Legal Aid lawyer, “I would have been homeless again.”
     Here is the link to the Legal Aid website for donations: https://www.legalaiddc.org/donate-to-legal-aid/

     For more information, contact Rob Pergament at Legal Aid at rpergament@legalaiddc.org

Power the Civil Rights Work of Our Time

     Each day members of our community are experiencing wage theft, the effects of gentrification, discriminatory policing, collateral consequences, marginalization in schools, and barriers to public accommodations. 
     We fight alongside people facing the effects of gentrification like Amira Moore. Our work empowers the people and communities who need it most, “We can do more than we think. There’s a path to equity, we just have to step to it.” –Ms. Moore
     For more than 50 years, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights in our community. We deploy the best legal talent, we tackle the tough cases, we fight, and we win. 
     Our work is as important today as it has ever been. Through your support, you can play a role in creating justice for thousands of marginalized members of our community. Together, we will dismantle injustice and pursue lasting change.
     Join us! Donate & subscribe: https://www.washlaw.org/support-us
     Volunteer with us: https://www.washlaw.org/get-involved/
     For more information, contact Gregg Kelley at Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org​

Letters to the Editor

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Latest News

College Sports Faces Bribery Scandal
After Conviction of Adidas Marketers

     College sports are being dragged through another scandal after a federal appeals court last week upheld the convictions of three Adidas sportswear company executives for paying bribes to basketball recruits to direct them to specific universities.
     The bribes were supposed to ensure the recruits signed with Adidas-sponsored schools. If they later turned pro, they also agreed to endorse Adidas products.
     Federal prosecutors successfully argued the marketing scheme violated NCAA rules, similar to the earlier bribes paid during the Varsity Blues scandal by parents to coaches to get their children into good schools under fraudulent athletic scholarships. One of them was Georgetown University, where a tennis coach was fired and prosecuted.
     In the Adidas case, prosecutors said the payments to recruits or their families defrauded the universities of their right to recruit athletes eligible under NCAA rules.
     George Mason University, whose basketball team is the George Mason Patriots, is an Adidas-sponsored school.
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Virginia Lawmakers Set to Abolish
Long-Standing Death Penalty

     A Virginia General Assembly bill introduced last week to abolish the death penalty won quick support from the governor in a state that has led the nation in the number of convicts given lethal injections.
     Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam spoke in favor of the bill in the same week that a man convicted of murdering seven people in Richmond was put to death.
     During Northam’s State of the Commonwealth Address to a virtual joint meeting of the General Assembly, he said, “But when we all agree that a crime deserves the strongest punishment we can give, it’s still vital to make sure our criminal justice system operates fairly and punishes people equitably. We know the death penalty doesn’t do that. But make no mistake—if you commit the most heinous crimes, you should spend the rest of your days in prison.
     “But here are the facts about the death penalty. Virginia has executed more people than any other state—more than 1,300 people. And here’s another truth: a person is more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death when the victim is white, than when the victim is Black.”
     With a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate, as well as a Democratic governor, the bills, SB 1165 and HB 1779, are nearly certain to pass, ending a four century tradition of the death penalty in Virginia.​

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