The Detroit News
Senate Dems prep for $1.9T relief bill
Grosse Pointe Park case ‘despicable’ but ‘not a crime,’ prosecutor says
Washington — Democrats sorted through lingering disagreements over emergency jobless benefits and other issues Tuesday and prepared to commence Senate debate on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan that would deliver a major victory to President Joe Biden.
With Democrats having no margin for error in the evenly split 50-50 Senate, Biden was expected to urge them on by conference call. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he planned to bring the sweeping bill to the floor as early as Wednesday, teeing up first votes on a bill aimed at energizing the nation’s battle against the pandemic and its wounded economy.
“That’s what the American people sent us here to do,” said Schumer, D-N.Y., “That’s what our government is for. Not to sit back and wait for problems to fix themselves.”
The huge package is a too-big-tofail moment for the fledging president, who would be politically staggered if Congress – controlled narrowly by Democrats but controlled nonetheless – failed to deliver. Conquering the virus that’s killed half a million Americans and thrown the economy and countless lives into tailspins is Biden’s top initial priority.
But Republicans are following the template they set in former President Barack Obama’s presidency. GOP senators seemed on track to oppose the relief bill solidly, perhaps with the unanimous “no” vote their House counterparts cast early Saturday when that chamber approved its similar version of the measure.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of ignoring signs that the economy and the deadly virus’ rampage through the U.S. were beginning to turn around. He also accused Democrats of loading the bill with spending for favored constituencies, saying they were “taking advantage of the crisis to check off unrelated liberal policies.”
The Senate bill was expected to largely mirror the House-approved package. Democrats want Congress to send Biden a final version for him to sign by March 14.
The legislation would provide $1,400 payments to individuals plus hundreds of billions of dollars for schools and colleges, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, mass transit systems, renters and small businesses. It also has money for child care, tax breaks for families with children and assistance for states willing to expand Medicaid coverage.
No charges will be filed against a White Grosse Pointe Park man accused of hanging a KKK flag at his home that directly faced the home of a Black neighbor, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Tuesday.
The man, whose name has not been released, hung the flag in a window at his home on Wayburn Street. The flag faced the dining window of JeDonna Dinges, who had installed a security camera facing the man’s house following an incident Jan. 20 when Dinges discovered a full gas can inside her garbage container and was concerned for the safety of herself and her family.
The man’s flag was hung across the window from Dinges’ security cameras. The incident sparked widespread outrage, culminating in a “Hate Has No Home Here” rally attended by several hundred people Feb. 21 in Grosse Pointe Park.
Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Statue requires that “there must be physical contact, damage, destruction, defacement of property, or threats to do so.”
“After a thorough review of the facts and evidence in this case it has been determined that there is insufficient evidence to charge Ethnic Intimidation or any other charge,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
“There is absolutely no question that what happened to Ms. Dinges was despicable, traumatizing, and completely unacceptable,” Worthy said. “But, very unfortunately in my view, not a crime. The KKK flag, while intending to be visible to Ms. Dinges, was hanging inside of her
neighbor’s house. We could not even begin to charge Ethnic Intimidation under current Michigan law.
“I strongly encourage the Michigan Legislature to look, revise, and create laws to protect citizens from this kind of horrible conduct.”
Dinges said she talked to the prosecutor about the case and the
“Although I appreciate the prosecutor’s office and how effectively they went through every aspect of this case, I’m disappointed in the outcome,” she said.
Dinges said she supports Worthy’s call for legislation to make incidents such as this illegal.
“I think she hit the nail on the head,” Dinges said. “This was an act of intimidation, an act of aggression, an act designed to elicit fear in myself and my Black daughter . ... I appreciate that Prosecutor Worthy says the law
needs to be improved. I hope the lawmakers are listening.”
Dinges added: “I’m a decent person. This person is a racist. Someone putting a Klan flag is an act of hatred. It is a threat. The prosecutor saying it doesn’t meet the level of a hate crime does not mean it’s not a threat. I feel threatened. The average person would not own a Klan flag, which is a true symbol of hatred.”
Cynthia M. Douglas, the president of the Grosse Pointe Park & Harper Woods NAACP, said Tuesday said she is “not surprised”
that criminal charges were not issued. Because of the way the law is written, the man who flew the flag can’t be prosecuted because it was inside his house.
“Clearly he knew what he was doing and clearly ... it was meant as an intimidation and especially for Ms. Dinges and her family being of African American descent and just this history of the Ku Klux Klan flag ... clearly that was his intent,” she said.
Douglas said the NAACP will continue to engage the community to fight racism, insisting that
Grosse Pointe police departments hire more racial minorities and urging state lawmakers to come up with a more “stringent” ethnic intimidation law.
Dinges, the owner of a clothing boutique in Oakland County, said she deeply appreciated the support from the hundreds who came out for the Feb. 21 rally.
“It really touched my heart ... the support they showed for me and my family,” she said.