(UPDATE) 300 Pa. Troopers Headed to Baltimore

Police stand in formation as a curfew approaches, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Baltimore, a day after unrest that occurred following Freddie Gray's funeral. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Police stand in formation as a curfew approaches, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Baltimore, a day after unrest that occurred following Freddie Gray’s funeral. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

[Update 11:20 a.m.] Gov. Tom Wolf announced today that the state will send 300 members of the Pennsylvania State Police to Baltimore to assist in restoring the calm there.

“Our troopers and emergency personnel are sources of pride for our commonwealth,” Wolf said in a press release. “Our thoughts will be with them and their families as they help our neighbors in Baltimore during this difficult time. We hope that with their assistance, calm will prevail and the Baltimore community can begin to move forward.”

The deployment will begin later this week. The State of Maryland will reimburse Pennsylvania for the expenses of the deployment.

[Original] The state of Pennsylvania is ready to send troopers to Baltimore to help restore calm in that city, officials say.


State police in Pennsylvania say they have offered assistance following riots in Baltimore but haven’t been asked to come to the area. Police say the offer was made in response to an Emergency Management Assistance Compact request from Maryland’s emergency management agency.

Pennsylvania state police say they have been talking with state police in Maryland and with Baltimore city officials but as of this point they “have not been requested to deploy to that area.”

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Court Strikes Down Anti-Mumia Law


A federal judge has struck down a new state law that attempted to keep convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and other Pennsylvania prisoners from having their voices heard by the outside world.

The law, passed in the wake of Abu-Jamal’s October commencement speech to students at Goddard College in Vermont, lets crime victims — or prosecutors — sue inmates whose behavior behind bars continues to create anguish for the victims. But a federal court says the law violates the First Amendment rights of Abu-Jamal and other prisoners.

“The fact that certain plaintiffs have been convicted of infamous or violent crimes is largely irrelevant to our First Amendment analysis. A past criminal offense does not extinguish the offender’s constitutional right to free expression,” Judge Christopher Conner wrote. “The First Amendment does not evanesce at the prison gate.” (See the full opinion below.) Read more »

Here’s the Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed by Brandon Tate-Brown’s Family

Tanya Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference on Thursday. Dickerson's son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December; DA Seth Williams announced earier in the day no charges would be filed in the death.

Tanya Brown-Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference in March. Dickerson’s son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December.

The family of Brandon Tate-Brown has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia — and is asking for a court to take control of the departmental reform efforts initiated by Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday with the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas seeks to be given class-action status, saying Tate-Brown’s December death after being pulled over by police is representative of broader training and oversight failures diagnosed by the Department of Justice in its March report on the department’s use-of-force practices.

“The deficiencies in PPD training found by the DOJ Report contributed to and were a substantial factor in the unlawful pullover, arrest, seizure, beating, and killing of Brandon Tate-Brown,” said the complaint filed by Brian Mildenberg, the attorney for Tate-Brown’s mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson. (See the full complaint below.)

A Philadelphia Police spokesman referred inquiries to the city solicitor’s office. A call to that office was not immediately returned. Read more »

5 Telling Quotes From the Comcast Franchise Meeting

Turns out, lots of people have very strong feelings about Comcast.

So many of them have strong feelings, in fact, that the basement conference room at the Philadelphia City Institute — the site of the first in a series of meetings about the company’s franchise agreement renewal with the city — was filled to overflowing during a lunchtime meeting today, as a parade of speakers marched forward to share how they believe Comcast can better serve the company’s Philadelphia customers.

There were the usual complaints about customer service and billing but also pleas for the company to maintain access to and funding for the PhillyCAM network of community-access channels, demands for a la carte channel selection, and challenges for the company to increase its commitment to public education in the city.

“We should be the shining example of what they can offer the rest of the country,” said one man, a Drexel grad who works as a web developer. Read more »

Analysis: What if Comcast Has Peaked?


Here’s an important question for Philadelphia’s future: Has Comcast peaked? Has its trajectory of ever-more success, ever-bigger profits, and ever-far-reaching power hit a plateau? Has its ability to grow found its limits?

The failure of the Comcast-Time Warner merger doesn’t mean the company is finished and should pack it in, of course. Even without the addition of Time Warner’s subscribers, Comcast is still the largest cable provider in the United States. But the company is facing some headwinds — some that have been apparent for a while, some that revealed themselves during the failed merger process.

Here are three reasons to suspect it’s possible — possible — that Comcast has seen its brightest days, and may be about to go into a bit of decline: Read more »

Lynne Abraham’s Startling Admission Should Disqualify Her

Lynne Abraham | Photo by Matt Rourke

Lynne Abraham | Photo by Matt Rourke

So, Lynne Abraham essentially disqualified herself in the mayor’s race last week.

She did so in such matter-of-fact, low-key fashion that I’m not sure that Philadelphians really noticed what she did. I’m not sure she noticed what she did. But the attitude she revealed was horrifying, dangerous, and a threat to the “new” Philadelphia so many people have worked to build in recent years. It needs a bit more sunlight.

Let’s rewind to the beginning. My Philly Mag colleague Holly Otterbein wrote about one of the last big decisions Abraham made during her two decades as the city’s district attorney — the decision not to prosecute Sgt. Chauncey Ellison or his then-girlfriend, Officer Robin Fortune, off-duty cops involved in the shooting of 20-year-old man, Lawrence Allen, over … pizza. Read more »

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