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8.3 Billion Reasons to Break Free From Plastic

Ever since seeing the now famous YouTube clip of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose, I?ve made an effort to avoid plastic straws. When I go grocery shopping I take my own bags and I also make a point of eschewing the single-use bags in the fresh produce section (much to the consternation of the person weighing my fruit and vegetables).

I try to buy things packaged in glass, I drink filtered tap water and wear flip-flops made from recycled rubber. There are plenty of zero-waste activists out there who make my efforts seem positively puny, but at least I?m doing something, right?

It?s better than doing nothing, sure, but when you consider that humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or the natural environment, you realize its time to up your game.

I mean, it?s a little embarrassing to learn that Rwanda has banned plastic bags in their entirety and the campaign to eliminate plastic straws was started by a nine-year-old, when you?re still buying the occasional single-use plastic item just because it?s easier.

As if that wasn?t enough of a wakeup call, I then found out about Break Free From Plastic, a global movement on a mission to stop plastic pollution for good. With The Story of Stuff Project as one of their anchor organizations, members on almost every continent and the likes of Greenpeace joining forces with them, Break Free is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with.

All the Plastic Ever Made: Breaking Study Tallies 8.3 Billion Metric Tons

There?s literally a ton of plastic garbage for every person on earth. Think about that for a moment and then ruminate on this: of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic produced since the 1950s, over half of it was made between 2004 and now.

We all know that plastic is a problem, but whether it?s the desire for convenience, the fact that we?re lazy or that the problem just seems overwhelmingly large, we?re all acting as if nothing?s wrong. That has to change.

I caught up with Shilpi Chhotray, Senior Communications Officer at Break Free From Plastic to find out how. Her suggestions for effecting change at both a domestic and civic level are more than doable. Literally, we have no excuse not to implement them.

Shilpi isn?t just paying lip service to the movement either. She?s implemented these practices at her own company?Sumudra Skin + Sea?as well. She?started the?skincare line with an ?ocean-first? business model (Sumudra means ‘ocean’ in Sanskrit)?that uses?reusable glass containers?instead of plastic and edible-grade kelp as an ingredient source.

Photo Credit: Sumadra Skin + Sea

How did you come to be involved in the Break Free From Plastic movement?

I’ve been involved in ocean advocacy for a decade and became immersed in plastic waste issues a few years ago through my work in stakeholder engagement with an ocean plastic lens. I took a deep dive, if you will, on the major players (the companies creating it and the organizations fighting against it) and the key research around the issue during this time. In July 2017, I was recruited to take the role as a Senior Communications Officer to amplify the work of the organizations behind the movement.

We?re each drawn to the causes we support for different reasons. What prompted you to focus your efforts on ocean conservation?

It was a study abroad trip to Cairns, Australia, home to the Great Barrier Reef, when I was a college undergrad at Virginia Tech University. Being exposed to the human impacts on the environment, specifically the ocean, sparked a lifelong desire to protect our blue planet. I took my interest a step further and focused my efforts in graduate school on marine protected areas, or creating underwater national parks to safeguard earth’s most precious resources. After being introduced to the rocky intertidal ecosystem (and the magical world of seaweeds), I was inspired to study marine organisms through underwater exploration via scuba (and a human-powered submersible in a later position!).

The stats released in the latest study (8.3 billion tons of plastic produced since 1950) are overwhelming to say the very least. Is it really possible to turn the tide on plastic pollution?

And to add to that, only 9 percent has been recycled since, which sparks two major considerations not being discussed enough: first, the global north (US + Europe) export copious amounts of waste overseas and second, recycling is clearly not a viable solution to the plastic waste crisis.

It’s absolutely possible to turn the tide on plastic pollution and that’s what Break Free From Plastic is all about. By emphasizing source reduction and investing in zero waste solutions at the city-level, we can greatly combat plastic waste ending up in our ocean, roads and waterways.

For instance, one of our member organizations in the Philippines, Mother Earth Foundation, helps cities develop programs to manage their waste. In the city of San Fernando 75 percent of waste gets composted or recycled and they aim to hit 93 percent. Mother Earth’s President, Froilan Grate says, “If you truly want to stop ocean pollution, it starts on land, which means rethinking how we manage our waste.”

What do you say to the person on the street who thinks the problem is too big to fix?

We created the problem in the first place so we can also fix it. We HAVE to fix it because we’ve already reached the tipping point of acceptable levels of plastic pollution. Microplastics (broken down from larger pieces of plastic) are literally everywhere, from fish to seabirds to our sources of drinking water, and even sea salt and beer.

Using a reusable bag and skipping the straw is good place to start, but it’s a terrible place to stop. My colleagues at SOSP for instance, encourage a culture of ?leveling up? by taking these practices to your communities ?your office, your child’s school, after school clubs and even your favorite caf?, to effect widespread change.

Where you go next is to engage at the civic level. Talk to the companies! If you don’t like the business practices, tag them on Facebook, write to them about your concerns. You can also write to city government officials to pass regulations…these are all important steps to effect systems change.

I love this quote from our Campaigns Director, Stiv Wilson: “Our consumer muscles have gotten really strong and our citizen muscles have gotten really weak. Not everyone is an activist, figure out where you can contribute and plug in.”

How can we as individuals make a difference? Can you offer some suggestions (small and big) of changes we can make in our daily lives?

It’s important to make smart purchasing decisions and avoid brands emphasizing a throw away lifestyle (single-use plastics). Break Free From Plastic member organizations in the Philippines recently conducted an 8-day coastal cleanup and brand audit in Freedom Island, a critical area for migratory birds, to identify the most polluting brands. Turns out, six international brands are responsible for roughly 54 percent of plastic packaging pollution found there.

Among them are corporate behemoths like Nestl?, Unilever?and Proctor & Gamble ?parent companies of the brands sitting in your kitchen and bathroom right now. Break Free From Plastic is encouraging anyone doing coastal cleanup activities to combine it with a brand audit, because coastal cleanup is simply not enough. For more information visit Plastic Polluters.org.

There are greener alternatives that are better for us and the planet. Personally, I’ve transitioned to shopping for groceries in bulk, buying less, and a lot of DIY. Even slowing down and dining in can help reduce single-use plastic waste, and it’s more fun too!

What is the one thing you?d really like people to understand about the negative impact of plastic that we might not already know?

Plastic pollution is not just an ocean issue, it’s a social justice issue impacting low income people of color who are often on the front-lines of the crisis fighting incineration (or burning of plastic waste) for the safety of their communities. Many of these communities are also in Asia and being blamed for the waste they didn’t create, the waste coming from the developed world.

At Break Free From Plastic we are shining a spotlight on innovative and scalable solutions created by our Asian colleagues, focusing on zero-waste cities and making sure the responsibility falls on the corporations accountable.

Was being a socially conscious brand on the cards from day one for Samudra Skin + Sea or did the brand?s ethos evolve over time?

Absolutely ?it’s a social venture. We have an ?ocean-first? business model, which means protection for the ocean is the foundation for all aspects of our methods and mission. For instance, we hand harvest the wild seaweed used in our products to ensure the regenerative properties of the plant continue to thrive for generations to come.

We have a zero-waste packaging model which means all of our products are encased in reusable glass jars with bamboo lids and/or compostable boxes certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Our soap bar in particular, created for hair and body, eliminates the need for bottled shampoos and conditioners. We strongly advocate a ?less is more? mentality and repurposing and reusing when possible.

Our mission includes partnering on marine conservation campaigns that benefit people and marine life. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and 5 Gyres (who is also a Break Free From Plastic movement member) are two fantastic organizations we work with to communicate efforts around ocean stewardship. Personal wellness and ecological integrity need to go hand-in-hand, and Samudra is bridging that gap.

With so many people doing what they can to effect positive change in the world, it?s hard to just sit back and pretend that plastic is someone else?s problem. It?s everyone?s problem. In my own life, I?m definitely going to try harder to reduce the amount of waste I generate. What about you? How will you #breakfreefromplastic?

Related Stories:

5 Human Habits Harmful to Ocean Health

How to Tell if Your Sunscreen is Damaging Coral Reefs
22 Freaky Facts About Plastic Pollution

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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8.3 Billion Reasons to Break Free From Plastic

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Sure, Let’s Be Honest About Abortion

Mother Jones

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Over at The Corner, Alexandra DeSanctis is unhappy that Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president, refuses to say whether she considers a fetus to be a human being:

She avoided the questions because the abortion industry is built on the lie that the unborn child isn’t a living human, and if they acknowledge that this claim is fiction, their entire system will collapse.

….People on either side of the abortion debate can disagree on what rights that human being has. We can argue over the relevance of fetal viability, and we can differ on whether a woman’s right to “bodily autonomy” is more important than her child’s right to life. But these two fundamentally contradictory positions about the child’s humanity cannot both be correct; either each unborn child is a living human being, or it isn’t…..Until pro-abortion leaders such as Laguens are willing to admit to this humanity, it will remain impossible to have an honest disagreement about the competing rights at stake in this debate.

Well, I’m not on TV and nobody cares what I think, so I can say what Laguens wouldn’t: a fetus is not a living human in any sensible way. I can’t prove this. It’s like asking whether a beanbag is a chair. It’s an opinion, not a fact.

As for why Laguens wouldn’t answer, it’s not because she’s dishonest. Certainly no more so than pro-lifers who refuse to say whether women who get abortions should be thrown in jail for murder. In both cases there are arguments to be made either way, but none of them really matter. The real reason for reticence is that neither side wants to make scary-sounding statements that might drive moderates away from their side.

In any case, it’s not as if this is a bewildering mystery. “Life,” in anything other than a technical biological sense, is a matter of human judgment.1 We decide when it starts and when it ends. Both of these are gray areas, but they’re gray areas where we set up semi-arbitrary rules: 20 weeks or viability or third trimester or EEG flatline or lack of retinal response or something similar. What other choice do we have? If you’re going to have the government involved, you have to create a reasonably bright-line rule for people to follow.

Speaking personally, I offer up this hypothetical. On your left you have a baby. On your right you have a vial with an embryo in it. At the end of 60 seconds, one of them will be randomly crushed unless you make a choice of which to save. So which is it?

I don’t think anyone, pro-life or otherwise, would hesitate. You’d save the baby even if the vial had two embryos in it. Or a hundred. Or a thousand. There’s simply no visceral sense in which we genuinely feel that a fertilized egg is a human being. You can make an intellectual argument for it, but not one that will survive contact with the real world.

1Needless to say, none of this applies to religious arguments. Dogma is not open to debate with nonbelievers.

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Sure, Let’s Be Honest About Abortion

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US Customs Agents Just Gave Airlines the Green Light to Ignore Trump’s "Muslim Ban"

Mother Jones

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(Reuters) – U.S. Customs & Border Protection has informed U.S. airlines that they can once again board travelers who had been barred by an executive order last week, after it was blocked nationwide on Friday by a federal judge in Seattle, an airline official told Reuters.

In a conference call at around 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT), the U.S. agency told airlines to operate just as they had before the order, which temporarily had stopped refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Individuals from those states who have proper visas can now board U.S.-bound flights, and airlines are working to update their websites to reflect the change, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Sandra Maler)


US Customs Agents Just Gave Airlines the Green Light to Ignore Trump’s "Muslim Ban"

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How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course


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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

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Perfect Puppy In 7 Days – Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

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The Art of Raising a Puppy (Revised Edition) – Monks of New Skete

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How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course

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Texas Authorities Just Released a Detailed Narrative of Sandra Bland’s Time in Custody

Mother Jones

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Officials in Texas on Friday released two crucial documents in the ongoing investigation into to the death of Sandra Bland, the African American woman who was found dead in a Texas jail July 13, three days after her controversial roadside arrest. Bland’s autopsy and custodial death report come amid doubts from her family about the official story of her death, namely that she hung herself. The autopsy results line up with the version of events that officials have made public so far: there were no signs of struggle on her body that would indicate her death was the result of a violent assault. The custodial death report provides a detailed narrative, written by police, related to Bland’s arrest and entry into the jail. Read the full reports below.

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Sandra Bland Autopsy (PDF)

Sandra Bland Autopsy (Text)

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Sandra Bland Custodial Death Report (PDF)

Sandra Bland Custodial Death Report (Text)

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Texas Authorities Just Released a Detailed Narrative of Sandra Bland’s Time in Custody

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New Video Shows Aggressive Arrest of Sandra Bland Prior to Her Death in a Texas Jail

Mother Jones

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On Tuesday, Texas officials released a police dash cam video showing the July 10 arrest of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from Illinois who died three days later in a Waller County jail cell, in a case ruled a suicide by local authorities. The footage shows Texas state trooper Brian Encinia aggressively confronting Bland after pulling her over for a traffic infraction and ordering her out of her car. “I’m going to drag you out of here,” he says, reaching into Bland’s vehicle. He then pulls out what appears to be a taser, points it at her and yells “I will light you up!” After Bland emerges, they walk out of the frame where the argument continues and Encinia eventually forces Bland to the ground violently as she continues to protest the arrest. (The confrontation can be heard on the police footage, and was already seen widely since late last week, after a different video recorded by a bystander appeared online.)

By Tuesday night, questions were swirling on social media about what appeared to be glitches in, or possibly edits to the dash cam video; a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Guardian that he did not have an immediate explanation for the inconsistencies.

More MoJo coverage on policing:

Video Shows Arrest of Sandra Bland Prior to Her Death in Texas Jail

How Cleveland Police May Have Botched a 911 Call Just Before Killing Tamir Rice

Native Americans Get Shot By Cops at an Astonishing Rate

Here Are 13 Killings by Police Captured on Video in the Past Year

The Walter Scott Shooting Video Shows Why Police Accounts Are Hard to Trust

Itâ&#128;&#153;s Been 6 Months Since Tamir Rice Died, and the Cop Who Killed Him Still Hasn’t Been Questioned

Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?

The Cop Who Choked Eric Garner to Death Won’t Pay a Dime

A Mentally Ill Woman’s “Sudden Death” at the Hands of Cleveland Police

In a press conference on Tuesday, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that Encinia failed to “maintain professionalism” throughout his interaction with Bland, and that he has been taken off the street and placed on administrative duty for duration of the investigation into Bland’s death. In answer to a reporter’s question, Texas state Sen. Royce West said that the dash cam footage showed that Bland should not have been taken into police custody.

The subsequent death of Bland has continued to raise troubling questions since she was found hanged on the morning of July 13. A medical examiner report and the county sheriff’s office ruled her death a suicide, but during the three days Bland spent in jail, Bland’s family members said they spoke to her on the phone about posting bail, and that a suicide seemed “unfathomable.” An hour before she was found, Bland had asked to use the phone again, county officials said.

On Monday, officials in Waller County released additional details about the morning Bland died, including surveillance video footage showing the hall outside of cell 95, where Bland was held. Citing interviews with family members and with the bail bondsman who was among the last to speak with Bland, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said it is “too early to make any kind of determination” and that “this investigation is still being treated just as it would be a murder investigation,” signaling that he had not ruled out any motives and would explore all leads and evidence, including videos, fingerprints in her cell, and the plastic bag found around her neck.

The Texas Rangers are currently leading the investigation into Bland’s death, with the FBI overseeing the process. The family’s attorney has also asked the US Department of Justice to open a federal investigation. Mathis said he will take the case to a grand jury, which is expected to be impaneled in August.

Bland’s death, which comes amid heightened public scrutiny over race and policing in America, is the latest episode in Waller County’s long history of racial strife. For family and friends, news of Bland’s death was sudden and unexpected, and it has raised questions about potential foul play, conditions at the jail, and the circumstances that led to her arrest. Bland herself often spoke out about police brutality, as chronicled in videos she posted on her Facebook page.

On the day she was jailed, Bland had been driving to to start a new job in Prairie View, Texas, where she had attended a historically black college. She was pulled over by Encinia for an improper lane change. The Department of Public Safety said Bland had been uncooperative and that she kicked Encinia, according to the Houston Chronicle. A bystander’s video capturing the arrest shows Bland being held down on the ground by an officer, shouting, “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear!”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Cannon Lambert, an attorney for Bland’s family, said the dash cam footage “doesn’t give us any more understanding of what actually happened to her,” and that the jail surveillance footage offered no insight into her death.

This story has been updated.

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New Video Shows Aggressive Arrest of Sandra Bland Prior to Her Death in a Texas Jail

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India slaps taxes on coal, while China uses less of it

India slaps taxes on coal, while China uses less of it

By on 3 Mar 2015 3:41 pmcommentsShare

India is doubling its tax on coal, and will put the revenue toward encouraging clean energy.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is increasingly looking toward renewable and nuclear power, the nation remains heavily reliant on coal. Last year, the government said it hoped to double how much domestic coal the country consumes over the next five years. That would be seriously bad news for Indians. In some areas, pollution is already so extreme that it is taking years off millions of people’s lives.

But the new coal tax might signal an intent to push the country’s energy economy in a more sustainable direction. Bloomberg reports:

Coal fires about 60 percent of India’s electricity generation capacity and is among the cheapest sources of power in the country. The higher tax will lead to an increase of as much as 0.06 rupees in coal costs for every kilowatt hour of electricity, [said Kameswara Rao, who oversees energy, utilities and mining at PwC India].

“As the Paris convention approaches, these steps will show the government is serious about climate change,” said Debasish Mishra, a senior director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. in Mumbai. “We have to take care of the environment, and at the same time use fossil fuel to make sure we have energy at a reasonable cost for our growth. It’s not an either or situation.”

Much of India is incredibly poor; hundreds of millions of people lack electricity, and the Modi government has maintained that, in its quest to develop rural areas, it won’t turn its back on any source of energy. But the new coal tax, along with new taxes on petroleum, show that the government is trying to make the country’s fossil fuel-intensive economy slightly cleaner — without going so far as reining it in. The tax will, in theory, incentivize coal-burning utilities to make their plants more efficient so that they use less fuel. It could also push the country to strengthen its grid system, which loses huge amounts of power.

America and China, the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, took a medium-sized stride toward combating climate change when they announced a pact last November to curb their emissions over the next two decades. India, the world’s third largest emitter, hasn’t made any similar big announcement. But the country is taking smaller steps forward as the world collectively trundles toward a U.N. climate conference in Paris this December, at which diplomats hope nations will sign a global climate deal. The new coal tax is one of them.

And at the same time that India is boosting taxes on coal, China is using less of it. The country cut its coal use 2.9 percent in 2014, and may be on track to continue reducing its dependence on the fossil fuel. If this drop signals the beginning of a trend, China would also be on track to meet its goals of capping coal use by 2020 and peaking its carbon emissions by 2030, as it promised it would in the U.S.-China pact. China also said in the pact that it would try to beat that 2030 deadline. At ThinkProgress, Joe Romm argues that it might actually do that:

[W]hy would China announce with such public fanfare they are going to “make best efforts to peak early” if they didn’t think they could and would? Failure to peak early would show the “best efforts” of the Chinese failed. That is not how China rolls.

So no one should be surprised if China peaks in coal use before 2020 — as that would be key for them to peak CO2 emissions before 2030.

Coal is becoming less and less popular in the U.S. as well. That’s left American coal companies scrambling to ship their product to new markets abroad, like energy-hungry China and India. But now maybe that’s not looking like such a great idea.



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India slaps taxes on coal, while China uses less of it

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The Best Corrections of 2014

Mother Jones

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In 2014, journalists produced a number of solid blunders and fails. That’s bad news for industry esteem, but great news for lovers of hilarious corrections. Here are some of our favorites from the past year:

The Economist, Drug Legalization: The magazine’s collective memory gets hazy when attempting to recall the finer details of their push for drug legalization.

New York Times, Dick Cheney: An amazing error that speaks volumes about the Bush years.

New York Times, Kimye Butts: In a story titled “Fear of Kim Kardashian’s Derriere,” the Grey Lady cites a fake interview where Kanye West compares his butt to the infamous butt of his wife.

Mumbai Mirror, Narendra Modi: Sarcasm!

NPR, Cow Farts: In a story about gassy cows and climate change, NPR “ended up on the wrong end of cows.”

New York Times, “Good Burger”: In which the Times made it embarrassingly obvious their newsroom is unfamiliar with the 1997 film classic, “Good Burger.” (Plus, a bonus #teen error!)

Vox, Barry Manilow: While cataloging the slew of celebrities who appeared on Stephen Colbert’s final show, Vox confuses old white man Barry Manilow for old white man Rod Stewart.

New York Times, Gershwin grammar gaffe: Gershwin 101.

Courier-Mail, Birth Announcement “Retraction”: Let’s end on a heartwarmer. Well done, Bogert clan!

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The Best Corrections of 2014

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NYPD Officer Allegedly Caught On Video Throwing Pregnant Woman To the Ground

Mother Jones

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Yet another video has surfaced capturing what appears to be a violent arrest conducted by an officer of the New York Police Department.

In the video caught by a bystander over the weekend, a visibly pregnant Sandra Amezquita and her husband Ronel Lemos say they were attempting to intervene while officers arrested Amezquita’s son, seen sitting on the ground.

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The arresting officer suddenly slams Amezquita to the ground, right before he forcefully shoves another woman out of the way.

“What we saw in that gruesome video is a woman who’s trying to protect her son, who is being stopped and frisked by police, and she herself became a victim, slammed onto the floor,” said Dennis Flores, from local blog El Grito de Sunset Park, the site that first posted the video.

“The first thing I thought was they killed by baby and they’re going to kill my wife,” Lemos said.

Amezquita says she suffered vaginal bleeding and bruises to her stomach. She was given a summons for disorderly conduct; Lemos was arrested for hitting an officer.

The disturbing incident comes just less than a week after another officer, from the same Brooklyn precinct, was suspended after being caught on video kicking a street vendor in the head.

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The NYPD is reportedly investigating the latest video.

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NYPD Officer Allegedly Caught On Video Throwing Pregnant Woman To the Ground

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39 Dead, Dozens Missing After Japan Landslides


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Dataslate – Officio Assassinorum – Games Workshop

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Champions of Fenris – a Codex: Space Wolves Supplement (Enhanced Edition) – Games Workshop

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39 Dead, Dozens Missing After Japan Landslides

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