As a smart and high achieving woman who has spent the better part of two decades in public life, Kamala Devi Harris is no stranger to the intense public scrutiny that comes with high office.
Now that Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden has chosen her as his running mate, making her the first Black woman and first Asian American to be picked as a vice presidential running mate on a major-party ticket, the scrutiny will only get worse.
Critics of the trailblazing prosecutor-turned-senator have warned that Harris has a chequered past people are selectively ignoring. They warn that Harris has a dark side, which many in mainstream media have been eager to gloss over.
Here is a compilation of some events and allegations from her history which has led critics to allege that Kamala Harris has a dark side.
1.”Kamala Harris Slept Her Way To The Top”
Critics have alleged that despite her talents, Harris slept her way to the top. They highlight her relationship with Willie Brown, a powerhouse in California politics who was 30 years older than Harris.
From his powerful position, Brown appointed Harris to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the Medical Assistance Commission — positions that together paid her around $80,000 a year on top of her prosecutor’s salary.
Brown who later became the Mayor of San Francisco, last year claimed that while dating Harris, he gave her powerful and influential appointments that furthered her political career. In a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown wrote,
“Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago…Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker,”
“And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco,”
“The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I ‘so much as jaywalked’ while she was D.A.,” Brown wrote. “That’s politics for ya.”
2. Kamalan Harris Is Excessively Punitive And Treated Parents Of Absentee Children As Criminals
The former presidential candidate has been accused of being excessively punitive with no regard for the consequences of her actions.
When she was district attorney, Kamala Harris established a truancy court that prosecuted parents if their children missed school. In 2010, Harris sponsored a state law that made truancy a criminal misdemeanour. As a result of the law, dozens of parents have been charged across California and at least 2 parents have served jail time.
Some of the people who suffered from the truancy laws include chronically ill people and single mothers as well as parents of children who had been traumatized by perpetual bullying at schools.
Critics of truancy crackdowns say such efforts unfairly target poor parents and children without actually helping students.
3. Harris Ignored Police Brutality and Black Lives Matter Movement Until It Was Convenient.
Harris stands accused of turning a blind eye to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter Movement until it was convenient and politically expedient for her to do so.
When she was Attorney General, Harris refused to investigate the police shootings of two Black men in 2014 and 2015. She also did not support a 2015 bill in the state assembly that would have required the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor who specializes in police use of deadly force.
Surprisingly, in 2019 Harris called for mandatory independent reviews of police shootings, something she had rejected.
Brendon Woods, the public defender of Alameda County told The New Yorker,
“She was A.G. when Black Lives Matter was taking hold and we were focussing on state brutality and state-sanctioned murder. She gave us silence.”
4. Harris Mocked The Slogan To End Mass Incarceration:”Schools Not Jails”
In video footage from 2013, Harris appears to mock those on the left who chanted reforms like “build schools, not jails” and “put more money into education, not prisons” Her response suggests that they are naive sloganeers who do not understand crime prevention.
Critics argue that this depicts that Harris was more interested in sending people to prison rather than looking at preemptive measures to reduce crime.
5. Kamala Harris Fought Tooth And Nail To Uphold Wrongful Convictions
Both as district attorney and as state attorney general, Harris led offices that criminal justice advocates say was overly aggressive in pursuing convictions and lacked transparency. She is alleged to have “fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.”
In March 2010, just as Harris was campaigning to become California’s attorney general, San Francisco authorities shut down a police department crime lab in the city’s Hunters Point naval yard. A technician named Deborah Madden was accused of skimming drugs, raising broader questions about the lab’s ability to appropriately handle evidence in criminal cases. (Madden later pleaded guilty).
Harris immediately dismissed 20 drug cases, but the number eventually grew to over 1,500 after documents showed that prosecutors within Harris’ office had known about Madden’s potential unreliability months before the lab was closed, but had neglected to tell defense attorneys.
A superior court judge later excoriated Harris’ office, writing that the violations infringed on the defendants’ constitutional rights. Harris said did not know about the problems at the crime lab until after the scandal blew up.
In 2015, lawyers for an inmate convicted of murder attempted to have the case thrown out after new evidence suggested that Riverside County prosecutors lied on the stand during the initial trial. Harris’ office, representing the state prison system, resisted, only backing down after footage of one of her deputies being eviscerated by three federal judges went viral.
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