Republicans had just feltrelief after they finally ousted Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a controversial member with a long history of making racially charged remarks, in a primary earlier this month.
Now GOP lawmakers, aides and operatives fear Greene — a wealthy businesswoman who already drew national attention because of her belief in a trove of “QAnon” conspiracy theories — could create an even bigger black eye for the party if she wins the nomination. Greene will face neurosurgeon John Cowan in the Aug. 11 primary runoff.
“These comments are appalling, and Leader McCarthy has no tolerance for them,” said Drew Florio, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) went further, throwing his weight behind Greene’s opponent.
“The comments made by Ms. Greene are disgusting and don’t reflect the values of equality and decency that make our country great,” Scalise said in a statement. “I will be supporting Dr. Cowan.”
In recordings obtained by POLITICO, Greene described Islamic nations under Sharia law as places where men have sex with “little boys, little girls, multiple women” and “marry their sisters” and “their cousins.” She suggested the 2018 midterms — which ushered in the most diverse class of House freshmen — was part of “an Islamic invasion of our government” and that “anyone that is a Muslim that believes in Sharia law does not belong in our government.”
In other videos, she directly compared Black Lives Matter activists to the Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members who marched at a white nationalist rally three years agoin Charlottesville, Va., denouncing them all as “idiots.” And Greene forcefully rejected the notion there are racial disparities in the U.S. or that skin color impacts the “quality” of one’s life: “Guess what? Slavery is over,” she said. “Black people have equal rights.”
When asked for comment on quotes from the videos, Greene campaign manager Isaiah Wartman did not deny their veracity but declined to elaborate.
“Thank[s] for the reminder about Soros. We forgot to put him in our newest ad. We’re fixing that now,” he wrote in an email to POLITICO. “Would you like me to send you a copy?”
Sitting cross-legged on the floor and sporting an American flag baseball cap, Greene said in one video that unemployment — which affects people of color at disproportionately higher rates — is simply the product of “bad choices” and being “lazy.”
Minorities, Greene added, are being held back in society by gangs, drugs, a lack of education, Planned Parenthood and abortions — “not white people.”
“I know a ton of white people that are as lazy and sorry and probably worse than black people,” she said. “And that has everything to do with their bad choices and their personal responsibility. That is not a skin-color issue.”
Greene later implied that black women have it easier because of affirmative action, complaining they are more likely to get into a college than a white male if they have the same G.P.A.
“The most mistreated group of people in the United States today are white males,” Greene said as she wrapped up one of the videos.
The recordings, in which Greene spends hours ranting to her social media followers, were taped direct-to-camera. The date of the videos is not clear, but they appear to have been recorded between late 2017 and early 2019. She initially launched a campaign in June of last year for Rep. Lucy McBath’s (D-Ga.) seat in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, but switched to the staunchly conservative 14th District when Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) announced his plans to retire.
The top three House GOP leaders, as well as the head of the party’s campaign arm, denounced Greene’s rhetoric upon learning from POLITICO of her derogatory comments about blacks, Muslims and Jews.
While the National Republican Congressional Committee does not get involved in primaries, NRCC spokesman Chris Pack said Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) is “personally disgusted by this rhetoric and condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”
And a spokesman for GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — who forcefully rebuked King and called on him to step down — said, “obviously, Rep. Cheney opposes these offensive and bigoted comments.”
McCarthy already pulled his support for another controversial GOP candidate in California, Ted Howze, after POLITICO uncovered dozens of social media posts that demeaned Muslims and immigrants.
Despite Greene’s penchant for controversy — she has already faced public criticism for taking a photo with a white supremacist, floating a conspiracy theory that the Las Vegas shooting massacre was a plot to abolish the Second Amendment and calling one of the student activists from Parkland high school “little Hitler”— Greene has earned some congressional support.
She nabbed endorsements from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus; Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill; Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), a Freedom Caucus member and former pastor; and the House Freedom Fund, the political arm for the Freedom Caucus. Jordan and Hice both said they disagree with her statements but have not yet pulled their endorsements;Biggs did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
There is now a growing effort in the GOP to rally around Greene’s opponent. Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) both backed Cowan on Wednesday morning, as did Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.). Ferguson called her comments “abhorrent” and said in a statement that she “shouldn’t have a place in Congress.”
Scott echoed a similar sentiment, saying “her statements would render her incapable of being an effective member of Congress.”
“This isn’t something that happened 10 years ago, when she said something out of context,” Scott said in an interview.
House Democrats have also pounced on Greene, even before the publication of the videos. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the chair of the House Democratic campaign arm, called her a “next-generation Steve King” in a statement.
And Greene’s opponent, Cowan, is making a similar argument ahead of the runoff.
“These comments do not reflect the views of the people of the 14th District,” he said in an interview. “I think she would embarrass our state, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep her from representing northwest Georgia in Congress.”
In one of the videos, Greene offered a full-throated defense of Confederate statues, saying that if she were a black person she would be “proud” to see a Confederate monument “because I’d say, ‘Look how far I have come in this country.’”
Her comments are surfacing amid a heated national debate over whether Confederate statues should be removed and whether military bases named after Confederate leaders should be renamed — a debate that is also unfolding in Congress.
Greene blamed the country’s racial wounds on “identity politics” and President Barack Obama, whom she said only won black voters because of “the color of his skin.” She also suggested that’s why Obama identifies as black, even though he is “half-white” and “American,” Greene noted.
And during another offensive diatribe, Greene accused Democrats of “trying to keep the black people in a modern-day form of slavery” and said black Republicans get called “coon” and “Uncle Toms” by liberal black voters.
“It’s a slavery system to keep their vote,” she said.
In her videos, Greene is particularly preoccupied with the increase in Muslim members of Congress. She referred to freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) as “that woman out of Minnesota” who “has got to wear a head covering.” She said members should not be able to take the oath of office on a Koran: “No! You have to be sworn in on the Bible.”
In 2018, Omar and freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) became the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. They have become top targets of the right, along with freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who are also women of color.
“There is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now,” Greene said. “You saw after midterm elections whatwe saw so many Muslims elected. I don’t know the exact number but there were quite a few.”
She said that Muslims “are not being held back in any way” because the Constitution guarantees equality. “But what you people want,” she said, “is special treatment. You want to rise above us, and that’s what we’re against.”
And in another rant, she urged adherents of Sharia law to stay in their own countries and leave the U.S. alone.
“If you want Islam and Sharia law, you stay over there in the Middle East,” she said. “You stay there, and you go to Mecca and do all your thing. And, you know what, you can have a whole bunch of wives, or goats, or sheep, or whatever you want. You stay over there. But in America, see, we’ve made it this great, great country. We don’t want it messed up.”
She also spends several minutes attacking Imtiaz Ahmad Mohammad, a man who was running for the Florida state House, because he is Muslim and an immigrant.
“So let me tell you something. This man is not born in America. He’s from Pakistan. Ok?,” she said, warning he was the only candidate who had filed for the seat, and that “his last name is Mohammad.”
She then attempted to recruit a challenger: “Anyone that lives in that district, you better sign your butt up and run against this guy,” she said. “Because we cannot let him win.”
In a video and on social media, Greene has also touted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Soros, a Holocaust survivor, collaborated with the Nazis.
“George Soros says dark forces have been awakened by Trump’s win. I don’t think so,” she said in one video. “George Soros is the piece of crap that turned in — he’s a Jew — heturned in his own people over to the Nazis.”
In February 2019, Greene replied to a tweet that included several memes accusing Soros of being part of a secret totalitarian world government. One picture showed Soros as a vampire who controls “every single Democrat politician.” In her reply, Greene called Soros “the Nazi himself trying to continue what was not finished.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition was one of the first GOP groups to denounce herpublicly after the primary.
NEW YORK —
On a weekend when many pandemic-weary people emerged from weeks of lockdown, leaders in the U.S. and Europe weighed the risks and rewards of lifting COVID-19 restrictions knowing that a vaccine could take years to develop.
In separate stark warnings, two major European leaders bluntly told their citizens that the world needs to adapt to living with the coronavirus and cannot wait to be saved by a vaccine.
“We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch,” Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said, acceding to a push by regional leaders to allow restaurants, bars and beach facilities to open Monday, weeks ahead of an earlier timetable.
The warnings from Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came as governments worldwide and many U.S. states struggled with restarting economies blindsided by the pandemic. In the U.S., images of crowded bars, beaches and boardwalks suggested some weren’t heeding warnings to safely enjoy reopened spaces while limiting the risks of spreading infection.
Britain’s Johnson, who was hospitalized last month with a serious bout of COVID-19, speculated Sunday that a vaccine may not be developed at all, despite the huge global effort to produce one.
“There remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition,” Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
President Donald Trump, by contrast, promised Americans a speedy return to normalcy that sounded far more optimistic than most experts say is realistic.
“We’re looking at vaccines, we’re looking at cures and we are very, very far down the line,” he said while calling into a charity golf tournament broadcast Sunday broadcast on NBC. “I think that’s not going to be in the very distant future. But even before that, I think we’ll be back to normal.”
Trump said events would likely resume with small crowds — if any — but hopes that, by the time the Masters Tournament is played in November, the crowds can return.
Health experts, however, say the world could be months, if not years, away from having a vaccine available to everyone, and they have warned that easing restrictions too quickly could cause the virus to rebound.
With 36 million newly unemployed in the U.S. alone, economic pressures are building even as authorities acknowledge that reopening risks setting off new waves of infections and deaths.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed optimism Sunday that the U.S. economy could begin to recover in the second half of the year, assuming there isn’t a second wave. But he suggested that a full recovery won’t likely be possible before the arrival of a vaccine.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Powell said that, once the outbreak has been contained, the economy should be able to rebound “substantially,” while warning it would take much longer for the economy to regain its health than it took for it to collapse.
The coronavirus has infected over 4.6 million people and killed more than 314,000 worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts say under counts the true toll of the pandemic. The U.S. has reported over 89,000 dead and Europe has seen at least 160,000 deaths.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death.
Some experts noted recent infection surges in Texas, including a 1,800-case jump Saturday, with Amarillo identified as a growing hot spot. Texas officials said increased testing was playing a big role — the more you look for something, the more you find it. Many are watching hospitalizations and death rates in the weeks ahead to see exactly what the new Texas numbers really mean.
But Texas was one of the earliest states to allow stores and restaurants to reopen, and Dr. Michael Saag at the University of Alabama at Birmingham called Texas “a warning shot” for states to closely watch any surges in cases and have plans to swiftly take steps to stop them.
“No one knows for sure exactly the right way forward, and what I think we’re witnessing is a giant national experiment,” said Saag, an infectious diseases researcher.
In the U.S., many states have lifted stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, allowing some types of businesses to reopen.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, told CNN on Sunday that he was concerned to see images of a crowded bar in Columbus, on the first day that outdoor dining establishments were allowed to reopen.
“We made the decision to start opening up Ohio, and about 90% of our economy is back open, because we thought it was a huge risk not to open,” he said. “But we also know it’s a huge risk in opening.”
The Isle of Palms, one of South Carolina’s most popular beaches, saw a rush of visitors this weekend— with Mayor Jimmy Carroll calling Saturday the busiest day he has seen in his more than 60 years there. But police said almost everyone on the beach and in the ocean was staying a safe distance apart.
Houses of worship are beginning to look ahead to resumption of in-person services, with some eyeing that shift this month. But the challenges are steeper in states with ongoing public health restrictions.
In Elgin, Illinois, Northwest Bible Baptist Church had sought to welcome back worshipers on Sunday, preparing to scan people’s temperatures and purchasing protective equipment. But that was postponed after local authorities raised questions.
The church’s preparations were “more than what they’d had to do if they were at Home Depot or Lowe’s or Walmart,” said Jeremy Dys, a counsel at First Liberty Institute, the legal nonprofit representing Northwest Bible Baptist. “Somehow people going to church are incapable, it’s insinuated, of safely gathering.”
Underscoring the tradeoffs involved in resuming such gatherings, officials in California’s Butte County announced Friday that a congregant had tested positive for the virus after attending a Mother’s Day church event that drew more than 180 people.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has suggested that early predictions were overblown. On Monday, Florida restaurants will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, as can retail shops, museums and libraries.
Paula Walborsky, a 74-year-old retired attorney in Tallahassee, Florida, has resisted the temptation to get her hair done and turned down dinner invitations from close friends. But when one of her city’s public swimming pools reopened by appointment, she decided to test the waters.
“I was so excited to be back in the water, and it just felt wonderful,” Walborsky said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got tested for the coronavirus on live television Sunday. Any New Yorkers experiencing flu-like symptoms or those returning to work can now get tested, Cuomo said.
“We’re all talking about what is the spread of the virus when you increase economic activity. Well, how do you know what the spread of the virus is? Testing, testing, testing,” he said.
Kunzelman reported from Silver Spring, Maryland. Associated Press writers Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Florida; Michael R. Sisak in New York; and AP writers around the world contributed.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
NIAGARA FALLS, ONT.—Ontario is careening toward a general strike unless Premier Doug Ford changes his ways, a key labour leader warned outside a convention hall where the Progressive Conservatives debated their next steps in running the province.
Carrying protest signs and waving union flags, about 1,000 people gathered in biting cold winds Saturday as Ford and an equal number of cabinet ministers, MPPs and party activists started developing the PC platform for the June 2022 election.
“If the Conservatives don’t listen to us … we will shut this province down,” declared Patty Coates, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which organized the event to fight what she called Ford’s “regressive agenda.”
Inside the convention later in the day, Ford said the government is sticking to its “pro-business, pro-jobs, pro-people government” and repeated a promise he has not yet been able to keep – putting beer and wine in corner stores.
“My friends, the 2022 campaign starts today, starts now,” he told delegates during an 18-minute dinner speech in which he boasted of cancelling unnecessary green energy projects, planning new subway lines in Toronto and pledging “we’re here for the little guy.”
“Absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to stop us,” Ford vowed. “Our economy is firing on all cylinders.”
He took aim at the Liberals who will elect a new leader in two weeks after a campaign that has seen former cabinet minister Steven Del Duca take a commanding lead.
“The people we’re up against are the same ones who ran this province into the ground.”
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Ford did not take questions, but Government House Leader Paul Calandra brushed aside the prospect of a broad labour disruption.
“We’re always willing to listen to anybody who wants to bring their opinions forward,” he told reporters amid unusually tight security and restrictions for a political convention by any party.
Journalists’ identities were checked and bags searched before they were escorted to a news conference with Calandra and Ford’s speech under instructions not to roam the convention hall where delegates were emerging from policy discussions.
“There is hot debate,” Calandara added. “Grassroots members would like to have that opportunity to have those discussions in private.”
Behind closed doors, former Ford campaign head Kory Teneycke advised delegates to hold steady in the face of opposition, particularly “those who have gotten fat from the largesse of past regimes” as the government works to balance the budget in 2023.
“Being a party of responsible choices is not just thankless, it’s often met with protests, anger and vitriol,” he says in a video obtained by the Star.
Other sources inside the convention told the Star party members were voting, among other items, on resolutions from social conservatives, including one from former PC leadership candidate Tanya Granic Allen to axe the old Liberal sex education curriculum which Ford initially opposed and later relented after a consultation with parents.
In education sessions, there were concerns raised that the government is not getting its message out on countering the rotating teacher strikes and there was talk of more “choice” in education, particularly for faith-based schools – a promise that former PC leader John Tory made in the 2007 election campaign only to be soundly defeated by then-premier Dalton McGuinty.
Calandra apologized “unreservedly” to CBC reporter Mike Crawley who was repeatedly interrupted by a guard from Viking Security Corp. while doing a live report on the sidewalk outside the convention centre on Friday night.
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“It wasn’t something that the PC party had asked to be done,” Calandra maintained.
But a co-owner of Viking challenged Calandra’s response.
“It was laid out ahead of time and in that moment,” Tammy Rolland said in a telephone interview with the Star, referring to an advance briefing with party officials and orders given on the scene. “He told me he was told to do it,” she added, referring to the guard.
At the rally outside Saturday, leaders of several unions, from teachers to health care and grocery store workers, hopped on the back of a flatbed truck to take the government to task for its 1 per cent public sector wage cap, plan for larger class sizes, more online learning, changes to autism funding that have left parents scrambling, and stalling the rise to a $15 minimum wage.
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“Let this government know that we will hold them accountable … for what they’re doing to working families,” Coates added.
“They need to change course.”
The crowd arrived on buses from as far away as Windsor and Ottawa, with two protesters bearing elaborate effigies of Ford and many sporting buttons saying “I am the people,” a twist on the premier’s victorious 2018 campaign slogan and theme song “for the people.”
The event followed Friday’s much larger encirclement of Queen’s Park by thousands of teachers from four unions whose one-day strike shut down every school in the province.
“This isn’t just about education,” Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said during 90 minutes of speeches.
“Next comes health care. Next comes all our public services — unless we push back.”
Sarah Labelle of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents tens of thousands of civil servants, echoed the OFL’s threat of widespread labour unrest.
“If it takes a general strike down the road we’re not scared.”
New Democrat MPP Wayne Gates, who represents Niagara Falls in the legislature, said the government has proven itself incapable of managing the province with a number of high-profile policy reversals after measures have backfired.
“They can’t even make licence plates,” he added in a mocking tone, referring to a problem that dogged Ford’s administration all week.
New double-blue plates which went into distribution Feb. 1 are hard to read in the dark because they give off a glare under some lighting conditions.
After initially denying the problem first raised by a Kingston police officer in a tweet that went viral, Government and Consumer Services said Thursday a fix is the works and plates already issued will be replaced.
The plates have been dubbed “propaganda plates” because they are in Conservative blue colours.
MONTGOMERY, ALA. – It’s dusk and just outside the windows of Room 107 at Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, Alabama, the final remnants of the band are leaving practice the same way they came: blaring and filling the now chilled crisp of the December air with the powerful and royal tones of brass.
Justin Heideman, better known as “Vanilla Funk” or “that boy John,” shifts his position in his chair and postures up from a slouch, clutching the ever so familiar mace drum majors wield. There is a calm intensity that covers him as if he is still in front of his band – as if he’s still in control.
That’s because he is.
Heideman raises his hand, as if to say, “Hold on one second,” reaches for his iPhone and dials the number of his band director Brandon Howard.
“Can you tell the guys outside to be quiet? They are interrupting what’s going on in here.”
He hangs up, slouches back, tilts his head toward the tiled ceiling and takes a breath before moving his fingers through his hair against the grain. Now, back in his position of comfort, Heideman focuses in; it’s time for another interview.
This is his life now, but he hasn’t changed a bit, despite the few who misunderstand who he is and what it took for him to be in the position he is in now.
This isn’t a game for Heideman. It never has been.
Music is his passion, and before he went viral in October, a white boy leading an all-black band, Heideman carried out his job as head drum major the same way he does now: with discipline, fervor, an intense desire to learn at all costs and a dedication to uphold the legacy of Jeff Davis drum majors who came before him.
But, Heideman’s existence is not and was not about clicks, laughs, followers or being invited to the proverbial “cookout.” It’s about being a Jefferson Davis “Intermission Magician” from his first breath to his last, and he’ll stand for that in the face of prejudice and those suggesting he’s a talentless token who doesn’t belong.
“They say it’s ‘white mediocrity,’” Heideman said. “I don’t care if I’m white, I don’t care if I’m Asian, Hispanic, black, whatever. I don’t care if I’m in the front, in the back, 5 miles behind … mediocrity is not the word.
“I don’t care if you call me white. You can call me white all day, you can call me a cracker, but as soon as you call me ‘mediocre,’ don’t come after my craft, because I have worked tirelessly to perfect this craft.”
Oct. 5, 2019, was the day Heideman’s life changed forever.
It was Saturday, the day after JD’s band conducted its annual homecoming parade around the school, when social media personality @PubbyLongway released a video commentary of Heideman leading the JD band.
It went viral.
“The first thing that I thought was, ‘This is hilarious! He’s talking about us!’” Heideman said, without realizing how popular @PubbyLongway was. “When I looked at his profile, he was really popular on social media. I was like, ‘He’s actually really famous on social media; this might go viral!’”
By the end of the weekend, the video had amassed hundreds of thousands of views on Instagram and Twitter, each.
Heideman’s fellow drum majors, Xavier “Cruise Control” Jackson, Dominic “D-Willy” Williams, and Jaylon “Freak Nasty” Jones, said they had the same reaction.
Jackson and Williams reached out to Heideman as soon as they saw the video picking up steam, but he played it cool, Jackson said.
“I saw the video, and I busted out laughing, that’s all I could do,” Jackson said. “Then I went to Justin and said ‘Justin, did you see this video? and he said ‘Yea, I been seen it.’ And I’m looking like, ‘How did you feel about it?’”
Heideman’s response: “I just busted out laughing, I can’t feel no way.” There was a collective feeling of disbelief, Jones said. The group didn’t expect it to “blow up” and when it did, it became “surreal.”
When the four got to school on Monday they were met with praises and the most popular lines of the video’s commentary, ‘Slideee, to the Sky!’ and ‘Where that boy John at?’ Williams said.
Heideman was a celebrity.
The viral nature of the video was exciting, but Howard, the band’s director of nine years, said he was afraid his band would be viewed as a joke, among other things. He was concerned about the image of the band and protecting his kids from the horrors of the comment section online – an intuition that became a reality.
“When I saw it, of course it was pretty funny,” Howard said. “But when I was watching the video I was like ‘Man, how are you all going to catch this video?’ This was probably the worst video that I wanted put out there of my group.”
There were a lot of variables to consider for Howard: His band wasn’t completely dressed, as it was a minor parade JD does every year for homecoming where they march from the school to the elementary school across the street and back; Heideman had a ponytail at the top of his head, put in by his girlfriend, Jenilyn Davis, as a joke, “that no one would notice,” according to Jackson; and the focus of the video was placed solely on Heideman.
“It’s funny to put them on display like that,” Howard said. “But I don’t want my band to turn into a joke. I don’t want him (Heideman) to turn into a joke.”
That wasn’t the intention of Pubby Longway’s post. He said he was impressed and that Heideman deserved the attention. However, Longway didn’t account for the seeds of hate that would sprout in response. No one really did.
Longway stumbled across the initial video of Heideman performing, while browsing on Facebook. He said he was thoroughly impressed because had never seen a white drum major lead an all-black band.
“I was just chilling, and I had videos just running,” Longway said. “Next thing you know I left the room, and I heard some band stuff playing, and I like band music, because I was in band myself. So, I said, ‘Let me go back and listen to that.’ I ran back to my room and I saw Justin. I was like ‘What!? It’s a white boy leading the pack.’”
That was enough for Longway to record one of his famous voice-overs, and the internet took care of the rest. Longway said he expected to get a little more views than he usually does, “50K maybe 100K,” he said, because of the unique nature of the content.
It blew up beyond expectations, and today the video sits at 4.4 million views.
Even with the praise and positive social engagement, hate, ignorance, and prejudice countered with a punch of its own.
I’m Sorry!!!.. The “Sonic Boom!” Is A Very!! Rich Black Legacy!!.. I’ve Been Gone Many!!, Many! Years But, To See How This White Kid Is All!! Up Front!!????.. He CAN’T!!! Do ANY!! Of The Moves Or, Steps Right! He’s Stiff!! ..It’s A Slap!!! In The Face!! To Black People!!! …The College That’s The Originator!! Gets Sometimes NO!! Hits Or, Very Few!!!… & Last!!.. It’s The Left!!! Side Whites!! In Government!!& Hollywood!!.. Ect… Pushing This Crap!!! NOT!!! The Right!!! & It’s Been Going On Ever Since Blacks Have Been BS! Played By The Left!!! It’s Been!!! Done In Hollywood!!! All The Time!!!… Put This Kid Back!!! In The Band WITH!! A HORN!!…The “White Bitin!??” Has To STOP!!!.. (Stephen Herron, YouTube)
A slice of the African American community saw Heideman’s lead as a crime. Comments poured in on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other online forums incriminating Heideman of not being worthy to lead the band.
“They don’t know the full story behind that, you can’t just go off what you see,” Jackson said. “I feel like people are saying that because he’s the first person you see and then you got us behind him. No, it should all just be about that one band, because it’s one band.”
Others suggested there was something heinous about a group of black children following the lead of a white boy and expressed that Heideman took the attention away from the three other drum majors:
Ya’ll (sic) the reason we can’t get ahead as people!!! Do not share or praise this fellow ALL THE WHILE IGNORING THE BLACK DRUM MAJORS DOING JUST AS GOOD IF NOT BETTER! I have nothing against him personally but stop praising white mediocrity. (username: tsugraytiger, hbcusports.com forum)
“I saw all the slander,” Longway said. “I even got some slander off of that, because it’s a lot of people that are real pro-black now, and they were like ‘Yea, you’re just helping another white dude get on. He’s just on your back and he gonna ride ya.’ And I saw Justin was getting the lash of a white boy being in that position, while black people been doing it for so long and he’s getting recognition off of it like it’s just something brand new.”
However, “I don’t even think it phased him really,” Longway said.
That wasn’t the case, the words cut deeper than Heideman let off.
Howard said Heideman ultimately came to him considering quitting, all the while letting on that he was fine. Howard wasn’t having that. Thus, Heideman told Howard if quitting was “too far of a step,” then let’s shake up the formation. “Put Xavier in the front, Dom can take his spot, Jalen can take (Dom’s) spot, and I’ll sit in the back, since everybody wants to talk about how I don’t deserve to be in the front.”
The public backlash from a select group of people was an “eye-opener” for Heideman, Howard said. “He didn’t realize people would approach it that way. But a high school kid, really? This kid is 17 years old, he didn’t ask for this.”
Those commenting saw their words as a protection of the culture – a culture that African Americans fight to preserve daily. Yet many did not give Heideman the benefit of the doubt. Rather, he was viewed as an invader, someone that encroached on a piece of black culture that they weren’t willing to surrender as so many other things.
In many ways, the opposition that Heideman faced is an age-old story blacks have been up against for years when attempting to enter a space not everyone agreed they belonged in.
“I just feel like he’s in our shoes a little bit, like in a black person’s world,” Longway said. “You know how black people try to get into a sport or something new like hockey or something? Or anything like polo, you know you’re the first black to do something? In high school, I’ve never seen a white drum major do anything like that.”
What’s not understood by some onlookers is Heideman’s journey and the work he put in to achieve this status, as alluded to by Longway. Some have not taken a look beyond the viral nature of the video, or the idea of Justin as just another white person trying to be cool. But the ones closest to Heideman say it’s beyond that.
It’s about the band and functionality thereof. It’s about Heideman earning his spot just like every other drum major that came before.
“They just think he just gets out there and just dances,” Williams said. “It’s bigger than that.”
Race is not the whole story, they said though the viralization of Heideman’s existence made that his narrative.
“When you get to looking on the internet, everybody is slandering him,” Williams said. “Saying, ‘What is he doing as a white head drum major leading a black band?’ To me, (his race) really doesn’t faze me, but as to see people talk about him, it’s stupid. Justin, all the things he went through, all the trials and tribulations that he took to become the person he is, a lot of people don’t see that side of him, because they just see him on the internet.”
For starters, Heideman has been the head drum major at JD the past two years, and America is late to the party.
Furthermore, the process of becoming a drum major is a rigorous task. Howard takes those auditioning through a one- to two-month process of punctilious training before auditions start.
This process starts with about 15 individuals. Practices last hours and extend to the weekends, weeding out the unqualified. The number of participants dwindles with each week, and by audition time there are usually about four or five, “because everybody can’t really hang,” Howard said.
Once the audition gets underway, those remaining are graded on a 80-point scale by judges on stationary points (detailed body control and executing specific movements), conducting, facial and whistle commands and a small routine they must execute.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, you pick your drum majors because they can dance,’” Howard said. “No, we pick them because they are meticulous in the way they do things.”
Of those 80 points, the year Heideman auditioned, he scored a 78 out of 80. The highest score.
Earning his keep: The birth of ‘Vanilla Funk’
Unlike most white children in Montgomery and the surrounding areas, Heideman attends one of the city’s traditional public schools, instead of one of its magnet or private schools.
Demographically, JD is roughly 91% black and 6% white, according to the Alabama Department of Education report card. So, Heideman was always going to stand out, but his parents didn’t think this was an issue.
“His mother and I both went to public school here in Montgomery,” Eric Heideman, Justin’s father said. “To this family, color is not an issue. We don’t look at race. We look at the quality of the person.”
Heideman was hesitant about many things his freshman year, which included joining the band. It all was foreign to him.
Heideman attended the first practice but didn’t return at the request of his parents who wanted him to spend the first semester of school focusing on his grades.
When he got his shot to join again in the spring, Heideman was still unsure.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Heideman said, “didn’t know anything about the SWAC or HBCU show style-bands.”
His hesitancy quickly turned into love, and Heideman made the decision to give all that he had to band: “back-breaking work,” he described it. Nonetheless, there were still some obstacles to be scaled and questions to be answered.
One of those questions was posed by fellow drum major Jackson and trombonist at the time: “Is he going to be able to keep up? Will he be able to do this how we do this? I wasn’t quick to judge, I gave him a shot,” Jackson said. “I just couldn’t seem to wrap my head around him.”
However, Jackson and others soon found the character ultimately unearthed was of an individual who wants to be the best, learn as much as he can, and yearns to lead. Heideman pursues those things unrelentingly, and he meticulously studies his craft.
“He might be one of the most passionate kids I’ve had here at Jeff Davis,” Howard said. “From the time he stepped foot in the door, he was excited about playing his (trumpet). He wanted to be the best player. Then he noticed the drum majors, and he wanted to be the best leader.”
By the summer of 2016 that’s what Heideman set his sights on.
“It was instinctively inside of me saying, ‘If you work hard maybe others will see it, and try to outdo you, and then you can try to outdo them. Iron sharpens iron. So, then I worked harder and harder, and I told myself, ‘I want to be drum major.’”
He’d only been with the band for a handful of months, but he wasn’t shy about declaring his interest in leading.
“He would come in here every day saying, ‘Mr. Howard, let me show you what I learned,’” Howard said. “Then he would show me a drum major routine that he tried to put together. Everything was kind of shaky, but you could tell he was really driven to get it done.”
Heideman spent hours in his room studying styles and marching sequences. He’d watch videos of HBCU drum majors from around the country, emulating what he saw. Everything was trial and error, he said.
He mixed styles together, tried moves that didn’t necessarily go with one another. He blazed his own path in the confines of his home and laid the groundwork for the day he’d get his shot. He visualized it and made it a reality for himself in advance.
Heideman remembers the first time he ever attempted to move like a show-style drum major. It was the summer of 2016, before his first band camp with JD. He walked outside into his backyard dressed for the occasion, shirt tucked into pants, the only thing missing was a whistle. “I wanted to dance like a drum major,” he said, “so, I marched like a drum major,” and he used his imagination to fill in the rest.
He could hear the music, he could see the crowd and the formation of the band he led. He felt his fellow drum majors behind him, and his backyard transformed into welcoming greens of a football field with a roaring sea of people cheering.
“Growing up I always had an imagination,” Heideman said. “I imagined that I was the head drum major alongside whoever was there, and I marched in, and the band started playing and I started throwing some random stand that wasn’t even an actual drum major stand.
“I thought it was actually good, and then I cut off and said, ‘Yeaaa, I’m a drum major.'”
He prepared for what he knew would come. He led the trumpet section, Howard said, and emerged as one of the best trumpet players in the band.
“(He) marched through the entire year headed toward that drum major goal that he had already set,” Howard said.
When the time for tryouts came around as he entered his third year, Heideman told people through the band that he was going to make head drum major.
They doubted him, not all but some, telling him flat out he couldn’t do it.
“A lot of people thought he wasn’t going to make it because of his color,” Howard said, “and that was definitely something that would be a hindrance for most, but that wasn’t for him.”
Entering the audition Heideman competed for the four spots against four other people, including Jones and Jackson. It was muscle memory for Heideman and, “he knocked it out of the water,” Howard said.
The decision was made.
Howard announced the names third to first, Heideman said, as they waited nervously.
“OK ,OK, good job,” Heideman said to himself.
“OK ,OK, good job. Either I didn’t make it or I’m head drum major,” Heideman said.
Jones said that when they announced Heideman’s name as the head drum major, Heideman was “calm and chill” about it. Jones said they all knew it was going to be him because of how strong he performed, but Heideman’s reaction, though he was excited and in disbelief, was that of a fulfilled expectation.
Now, it was time to lead.
The news of Heideman’s appointment spread across the band’s Facebook page and left many in shock, including Williams.
“When I saw that, I was like, ‘Wow,’” Williams said. “It was really shocking. It was not bad, I was just thinking of ‘How is it going to be now that we have a white head drum major,’ and how that was actually going to change things?”
Williams’ question represented what a majority of people were thinking: “Will he be able to do his role and play his part? Will people accept him as a drum major and respect him?”
There was an unspoken sense that Heideman had to prove himself, despite his accomplishment. So, he led with a heavy hand, the trio of Williams, Jackson and Jones said.
“Justin’s approach last year when he first made it was more so taking leadership,” Jones said, “because we all knew this was going to be a totally different squad, like a different group of drum majors, the band is going to try to run over him. So his thing was, ‘maybe if I come in with strong leadership, strong discipline, then they’ll follow me,'” but that was not the case at all.
There were some members in the band that did not respect Heideman, Williams said, and he struggled with it at first, but ultimately, “He found ways to overcome that.”
“It took a lot to gain respect,” Heideman said. “Even still I don’t think I’m done with gaining respect from people.”
Though Heideman still has to prove himself, leading this band has become second nature to him. He doesn’t take offense to some of the resistance he’s seen and doesn’t see race as being the factor. He said leading this band, “is just like leading any other band.”
“High school students are going to be high school students,” Heideman said. “Everybody has their own little personality, and the ones that aren’t really disciplined are going to stay undisciplined until you show them that you deserve respect. It’s only then, when they decide. ‘OK, I’ll listen.”
He’s been able to gain this respect through being a teacher, his peers said. If there is trouble or conflict he knows how to handle it now. If a band member is struggling with some of the music, he has a knack for explaining and breaking things down, bit by bit to them, his fellow drum majors said.
“He earned his spot. He earned the fame. He earned all of that,” Williams said. “He’s been working so long to earn his spot, and he honestly did.”
While some feel the black band experience is “for the culture” and protected by the culture, those close to Heideman insists he is not here to steal it. Rather, he has worked hard to be a part of it and lives to honor it. He’s an ally, not an invader.
“Justin came to be a part of this, not to overtake it,” Williams said.
Jackson further explained: “We (the black band) keep marching on. I say that because back in the day we used to march for our freedom,” Jackson said, “and now today we have that freedom, but we’re still marching on. We’re showing that ‘Hey, it’s about culture now,’ and bringing the nation together as one.”
That’s apropos since according to Heideman and Howard, Heideman is receiving interest from HBCUs and predominantly white institutions (PWIs): Jackson State, Auburn, Alabama State, Texas Southern, Kentucky State and Troy.
Though Heideman said he prefers the HBCU show-style, he remains undeclared and says that it’s his dream to introduce the two styles to one another.
“I’m just another person that happens to be a different race doing what other people have done,” Heideman said. “Yea, it’s viral because nobody expected somebody like me to actually care about what people a part of this culture do.”
Follow Montgomery Advertiser reporter Andre Toran on Twitter @AndreToran.
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MADRID ― At a high-level event Wednesday at the United Nations climate summit, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg slammed world leaders for “misleading” the public with insufficient emission-reduction pledges and dove into the growing science that shows governments must act quickly to prevent catastrophic warming.
Thunberg kicked off her speech at the 25th Conference of the Parties, or COP25, by telling world leaders that she wouldn’t have any personal or emotional headline-grabbing one-liners, like when she told world leaders she wanted them to panic.
“I will not do that, because then those phrases are all that people focus on,” she said. “They don’t remember the facts, the very reason why I say those things in the first place. We no longer have time to leave out the science.”
Thunberg highlighted numbers from last year’s sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations consortium of researchers studying human-caused temperature rise. It found that to have a 67% chance of keeping the global temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels ― the aspirational goal of the Paris climate agreement ― the world can only emit 570 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Studies show we are on track to blow past that carbon budget within a decade, and that meeting the 1.5-degree target requires cutting global emissions 7.6% every year from 2020 to 2030.
“How do you react to these numbers without feeling at least some level of panic?” Thunberg asked a room full of delegates and others gathered at the summit. “How do you respond to the fact that basically nothing is being done about this without feeling the slightest bit of anger?”
CRISTINA QUICLER via Getty ImagesSwedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gives a speech during a high-level event on climate emergency Wednesday during the U.N. climate change conference in Madrid.
Thunberg noted that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions, and that since the Paris agreement, global banks have invested $1.9 trillion in fossil fuels. She accused political leaders from rich countries of “misleading” people about the crisis and “finding clever ways around having to take real action,” including outsourcing emissions overseas to poorer countries and refusing to compensate vulnerable nations for climate-related damages.
The U.N. climate talks, she said, “have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition.”
The biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.
In just three weeks, we will enter a new decade ― a decade that will define our future. Right now we are desperate for any sign of hope. Well I’m telling you there is hope, I’ve seen it. But it does not come for the governments or corporations. It comes from the people.
Wednesday’s “High-Level Event on Climate Emergency” also included speeches from Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, and Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a youth climate activist from Uganda. As the panel discussion came to an end, dozens of young activists from the Fridays for Future movement stormed the stage, where they chanted and staged a sit-in to demand immediate action.
“We need leadership on climate action, not talks,” an emotional Nakabuye said. “You’ve been negotiating for the last 25 years, even before I was born. Do you want the whole of Africa to first perish before you start acting?”
Ahead of the two-day NATO summit in London, four countries discussed their efforts to end the conflict in Syria.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met at the prime ministerial residence in London.
According to a statement from the British Prime Minister’s office, the leaders agreed that attacks against Syrian civilians, including in the rebel-held area of Idlib, must end.
The leaders vowed to work for creating conditions for safe return of refugees, and agreed the fight against terrorism in all its forms must continue. They also discussed Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring targeting the terrorist YPG/PKK in northern Syria. Merkel described the meeting as “good and useful”.
Erdogan also described the meeting as good, and added that developments regarding the operation “will be evaluated”.
In October, Turkey launched Peace Spring to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria, in order to secure Turkey’s borders and aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees. Later, the operation was paused to allow the withdrawal of the terrorists from the planned Syria safe zone, but they, instead, continued attacking soldiers and civilians.
LONDON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders have been caught on camera apparently talking candidly on Tuesday night about U.S. President Donald Trump,
Hours later, the backlash materialized.
“Well, he’s two-faced,” the president said Wednesday when asked about the video. After a long pause, he added, “He’s a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy.”
Trump, who was taking questions from reporters before a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, attributed Trudeau’s frustration to the president’s pressure campaign to increase Canada’s military spending to 2% of its economic output.
“He should be paying more than he’s paying,” Trump said. “I called him out on that and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it, but that’s the way it is.”
Trump later said on Twitter he would leave the NATO summit early and skip a closing news conference.
At a news conference Wednesday, Trudeau explained he was talking to Macron and Johnson in the video about Trump’s announcement earlier in the day that the next G7 summit in June would be held at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.
“Last night, I made a reference to the fact there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with president Trump, I was happy to take part in it but it was certainly notable,” Trudeau told reporters.
“We were all surprised and I think pleased to learn that the next G7 will be at Camp David, I think that was an unscheduled announcement and … I think every different leader has teams who every now and then their jaws drop at unscheduled surprises, like that video itself for example,”
Trudeau said he did not believe the video would come back to haunt Canada.
“The relationship with the United States is extremely strong and I have a very good relationship with the president and his team,” he said.
The video was shot by the British host’s pool camera during a reception at Buckingham Palace held Tuesday night in London, where leaders from NATO’s 29 countries are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance with two days of meetings and discussions.
Snippets of the conversation involving Trudeau, Princess Anne, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands rose above the din and were captured in the short video.
“Is that why you were late?” a smiling Johnson asks Macron in the 25-second clip.
“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau chimes in.
The leaders do not use Trump’s name, but hours before the reception, Trump had turned what were “expected to be brief photo opportunities” with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron and Trudeau into what The Washington Post described as “his own personal daytime cable show”.
In his meeting with Trudeau, Trump questioned the Canadian prime minister about how much his country spends on its own defence. Canada does not meet NATO’s target for member countries to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on their militaries.
“What are you at? What is your number?” Trump asked.
Trudeau tried to evade answering directly, saying: “The number we talk about is a 70% increase over these past years. We are increasing significantly our defence spending from previous governments that cut it.”
But Trump followed up. “Okay, where are you now, in terms of your number?”
After some discussion with an aide, Trudeau answered: “1.4.”
Trump said on Wednesday that he had called out Trudeau for failing to meet the 2% target for national output on defence.
By early Wednesday, the Tuesday video had been watched nearly 5 million times.
Others quickly noticed that a member of the royal family was also involved in the exchange, identifying Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, by her distinctive hair.
Earlier in the evening, Anne was seen in another viral video appearing to shrug off a “scolding” from the Queen for not joining the royal receiving line to greet the president and first lady.
The Queen chastising Princess Anne for not greeting Trump and Anne not giving a single shit is the mood we all need to take into today pic.twitter.com/W5cCFlq2Ui
Trump on Tuesday did not publicly address the Trudeau video, only tweeting early Wednesday morning that he “enjoyed” his post-reception meeting with Johnson at 10 Downing Street, where the pair “talked about numerous subjects including @NATO and Trade.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The Canadian Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
By Tuesday afternoon, Johnson claimed at a news conference that he had not been party to any discussion about Trump.
“That’s complete nonsense, and I don’t know where that has come from,” he said. “I really don’t know what is being referred to there.”
When Trudeau arrived at the summit early Wednesday, he walked briskly by reporters and did not answer shouted questions regarding his remarks allegedly about Trump.
Later, as leaders sat down for their meeting, Trudeau could be seen going over to Trump and shaking his hand politely. The two men said something quickly to each other, then Trudeau walked away.
The video had prompted concerns about how the mercurial U.S. president would react.
“By this point in his tenure, the prime minister should realize that events with pool cameras need to be approached and managed as on-the-record events,” Andrew MacDougall, former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper, wrote on Twitter.
“Hopefully this gaffe doesn’t wind the president up at a sensitive time for NAFTA and the Meng (Wanzhou)/Huawei file.”
Trump has long bridled at the idea of other world leaders poking fun at the United States.
“The world is laughing at us,” he said frequently during his 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing the leadership of President Barack Obama.
In June 2017, when he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, Trump said that “we don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won’t be. They won’t be.”
In 2018, after laughter broke out at the United Nations General Assembly when Trump claimed his administration had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the president insisted that he was not the target.
“They weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me,” he said.
While Trudeau has spent much of the past three years trying to establish a good relationship with Trump, the U.S. president has not shied away from lashing out any perceived slight from fellow world leaders.
The U.S. president also previously attacked Trudeau following the G7 summit in Quebec City in June 2018, describing the latter as “so meek and mild” amid a trade row over Canadian dairy and American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
Chris Rands, a producer at the CBC’s Parliamentary news bureau in Ottawa, said he had first unearthed the video while searching for images of Trudeau in footage from Buckingham Palace.
Rands added that based on his listening, Trudeau was discussing Trump’s surprise announcement that a Group of 7 summit meeting next June would be held at CampDavid rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.
Folks we are told the source was the Royal TV Pool distributed by Summit Host broadcaster-it was filmed at Buckingham Palace-and then sent to all TV networks that are part of the Pool (6 in Canada etc etc) #cdnpoli https://t.co/MU6rZae51D