Review Category : National News

Fire at Florida mosque being investigated as arson, Fla.) — Officials believe an early morning fire at a mosque in Florida was intentionally set, and the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

The Hillsbourgh County Fire Rescue received a call around 2:09 a.m. local time Friday about a fire at the Islamic Society of New Tampa in Thonotosassa. Firefighters put out the blaze and no one was hurt, though the building, commonly referred to as the New Tampa Mosque, suffered some property damage, officials said.

Officials and mosque members said it appears someone tried to break into the building. There are marks on the door, which is locked every night when the mosque closes.

Authorities will review footage from surveillance cameras that are installed throughout the property. The investigation is ongoing.

Officials from CAIR Florida, the state’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, held a news conference with officials outside the mosque Friday morning. Members of the mosque told reporters they’ve already received incredible support on social media and from the community.

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, an attorney and the communications director for CAIR Florida, called the fire a “hate crime” and an “act of terror.”

“We congratulate the Hillsborough County first responders for their prompt response to this tragic situation. It is worrisome that our community have fallen victim of what appears to be another hate crime,” Ruiz said in a statement Friday. “CAIR-Florida urgently call [sic] all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to be on top of the investigation of what appears to be a heinous act of terror against the Muslim community.”

Due to the ongoing investigation, there will be no Friday prayer at the mosque Friday. All regular prayers will be held in the old mosque building, according to a press release from the Islamic Society of New Tampa.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Authorities investigating Indiana murders receive thousands of tips from public

Indiana State Police(DELPHI, Ind.) — Authorities investigating the slayings of two girls in Indiana have received over 1,900 tips since making an impassioned plea on Wednesday for people to come forward with information, a law enforcement source close to the investigation told ABC News Friday.

The surge in tips followed the release of a new video clip retrieved from the cellphone of one of the victims, 14-year-old Liberty “Libby” German. When police played some audio from the clip at a news conference in the town of Delphi on Wednesday morning, reporters heard just three words from a deep voice: “Down the hill.”

The audio quality is not great, but police said it’s enough for someone to recognize the individual’s voice. Investigators believe the clip was recorded just before the attack.

“Libby had the presence of mind to turn on her video camera,” Indiana State Police spokesman Capt. David Bursten said Wednesday. “There’s no doubt in our minds that that young lady is a hero.”

The rest of the video will not be released at this time because of the ongoing investigation. Investigators recovered other evidence from the girl’s phone that is also not being released, Bursten said.

German and 13-year-old Abigail “Abby” Williams, both of Carroll County, were reported missing by their families Feb. 13 after the two did not return from a hike.

After organized searches, the bodies of the two girls were found Feb. 14 outside Delphi in the woods near Deer Creek, about three-quarters of a mile from an abandoned railroad bridge where they were dropped off the day before to go hiking. An autopsy revealed their identities.

“Evidence in this case has led investigators to believe that this is a double homicide, and that’s what we’re investigating at this time,” Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Tony Slocum told reporters Wednesday.

Indiana State Police on Monday said a man in a photograph is the primary suspect in the investigation. The man — dressed in blue jeans, a blue jacket and a hoodie — was photographed on a nature trial around the same time the two girls disappeared.

He was previously labeled a person of interest, and police had said he might be only a witness to the crime.

“We are actively looking for this person. We believe this person is our suspect,” Slocum said.

Authorities spent much of Wednesday’s news conference delivering an emotional appeal to the public to submit tips to track down the man in the photograph and the person whose voice is in the audio clip.

“Someone knows who this individual is,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter told reporters, while holding back tears. “And if you’re watching, we’ll find you.”

Investigators said that there is the possibility of more than one suspect and that it’s unclear whether the voice in the audio clip belongs to the man in the photograph.

The FBI has been assisting local authorities in the investigation since last week. Agents have briefed FBI Director James Comey on the case on two occasions.

Gregory Massa, the FBI assistant special agent in charge in Indianapolis, asked the public to think back to Feb. 13, the day the girls went missing.

“Just think if you had an interaction with an individual who inexplicably canceled an appointment that you had together,” Massa said Wednesday. “Or an individual called into work sick and canceled a social engagement. At the time, they gave what would have been a plausible explanation.”

Suspicious behavior or a change in someone’s behavior should also be a red flag, Massa said.

“Did [an] individual travel unexpectedly?” he asked. “Did they change their appearance? Did they shave their beard, cut their hair or change the color of their hair? Did they change the way they dress?”

In total, authorities have received approximately 3,900 tips via phone and email. Authorities and community leaders are offering a $50,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest, according to a press release from the Indiana State Police on Thursday.

Citizens can provide information about this case by calling the Delphi murder tip line at 844-459-5786. Information can be reported anonymously. Tips can also be emailed to

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Trump list shows 746 travelers ‘detained or processed’ under travel ban, lawyer says

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Nearly 750 people were “detained or processed” during the 26-hour period after a Brooklyn judge issued an order blocking part of Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban, according to an attorney representing plaintiffs.

In a letter obtained by ABC News, the government said, “This list includes legal permanent residents.”

A different federal judge in New York Tuesday ordered Trump’s administration to produce a list of all people detained as part of his executive order that limited travel and immigration from seven countries and temporarily shut down the U.S. refugee program.

On Thursday, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union told ABC News that the government provided the organization with 746 names of people held or processed from Jan. 28 at 9:37 p.m. — when the Brooklyn judge halted part of the ban that allowed for deportations — to Jan. 29 at 11:59 p.m.

The list was ordered to include travelers who arrived with refugee applications, valid visa holders and people from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — covered by the ban who were legally authorized to enter the U.S.

After Trump issued the order, the administration said that green card holders and others were not subject to the order.

But a Washington state federal court put a nationwide block on Trump’s order on Feb. 3. An appeals court declined to lift the restraining order.

At the time, Trump appeared to downplay the number of people detained as a result of the order’s implementation.

Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage,…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017

And White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the same day: “Remember we’re talking about a universe of 109 people. There were 325,000 people that came into this country over a 24 hour period from another country. 109 of them were stopped for additional screening.”

Tuesday’s order was delivered as part of a case filed by two Iraqi nationals who were detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The restraining order issued in Brooklyn on Jan. 28 expired Tuesday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: America is great because ‘it is receptive to all people’

Michael Kovac/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a large crowd that had gathered to see her Thursday that the U.S. is not at its best right now because “we are not as mindful of what makes America great.”

Ginsburg also said that “it makes a great difference” to have three women on the Supreme Court.

“We are one-third of the court. And we look like we are here to stay,” she said, noting that anyone who has observed her arguments knows that her colleagues Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan “are not shrinking violets.”

Ginsburg was expanding on comments she made about the state of the country to a packed and enthusiastic auditorium at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., alongside the co-authors of her book, My Own Words during a Newseum event, which was moderated by NPR’s Nina Totenberg.

She went on to say that what makes America great is “the right to speak one’s mind” and the “idea of our nation being receptive to all people, welcoming all people.”

Her comments come at a time when the Trump administration has sparked anger over its policies on refugees and immigration enforcement.

“Yes, we’ve had times in U.S. history like the time of the ‘America First’ movement, when anyone who wasn’t born and bred in the USA was considered an outcast. But for the most part those are our ideals – the treasured First Amendment and the notion that in our nation we are many and yet we are one,” Ginsburg said.

In his inaugural speech, Trump promised to put “America first,” noting that “every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”

Ginsburg said that despite the current climate she remains optimistic about the future of what she said will be a welcoming America, noting that she benefited from being the child of immigrants.

She also said that she has no second thoughts on her decision not to retire during the Obama administration in order to ensure a liberal justice could be appointed.

“I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam. And when I can’t, that will be the time to step down,” she said.

In fact, she said the politicization of the Supreme Court nomination process in recent years is “not the way it should be,” pointing out that Justice Antonin Scalia had not had a single “no” vote and she only received three.

As for the new Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, Ginsburg didn’t have much to say.

“I know him I’ve worked with him. And I think he’s very easy to get along with. He writes very well,” she said to laughter from the crowd.

Ginsburg pointed out that she is almost 84 but said that she’s here to stay as well. She credited her personal trainer for her longevity, who keeps her fit with an exercise routine of planks and push-ups. She also marveled at her recently acquired nickname, “The Notorious R.B.G.”

“It is really beyond extraordinary that I’m 84 years old and everyone wants to take a picture with me,” she said of the nickname, which is a spoof on the stage name of the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. “We have a lot in common, we were both born and bred in Brooklyn, N.Y.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Authorities investigating whether Kansas triple shooting that killed one was a hate crime

iStock/Thinkstock(OLATHE, Kan.) — Authorities are investigating whether a triple shooting at a Kansas bar, which resulted in one death, was a hate crime.

On Wednesday evening, police responded to a 911 call of shots fired at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, located about 20 miles southwest of Kansas City, said Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke.

The suspect, Adam W. Purinton, was arrested in the early morning hours on Thursday in Clinton, Missouri and is being held on $2 million bond, said Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe. Purinton had fled the scene of the shooting, according to Menke.

Authorities said the perpetrator of the attack shot Alok Madasani and Srinivas Kuchibhotla, both 32, and 24-year-old Ian Grillot.

All three victims were taken to a local hospital, where Kuchibhotla died, Menke said, adding that authorities have been in contact with all of the victim’s families. The other two victims are in stable condition, Menke said.

Kuchibhotla worked as an engineer at Garmin.

“I am very disturbed by last night’s shooting in Olathe,” read a statement from Kansas Senator Jerry Moran. “I strongly condemn violence of any kind, especially if it is motivated by prejudice and xenophobia.”

Grillot said in an interview from his hospital bed that after the shooting started, he took cover until he thought the shooter’s magazine was empty.

“I got up and proceeded to chase him down, try to subdue him,” Grillot said in a video posted online by the University of Kansas Health System. “I got behind him and he turned around and fired a round at me.”

Grillot said he was hit in the hand and the chest, and that a bullet narrowly missed a major artery.

“I was told I was incredibly lucky for what happened to me,” Grillot said. “I could have never walked again or seen my family again.”

Purington has been charged with one count of premeditated murder and two counts of premeditated attempted murder, Howe said. It will be up to Clinton County to decide whether to waive extradition, he added.

Howe would not disclose the type of weapon used in the attack, which he described as a “pretty traumatic event in a very open, public situation.”

It is unclear if Purington has retained a lawyer.

The FBI is investigating whether the shooting was a bias crime, said Kansas City FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson. Local police will also aid in the investigation into whether the shooting was racially motivated.

Jackson FBI personnel are working the investigation into the shooting “from every angle to determine that the true facts are.”

Authorities were unable to provide further details in the case, which is still under investigation.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Howe said.

Howe said the community around Olathe bonded together after a similar incident three years ago.

“In these tragic instances, often the community bonds together,” Howe said. “I think we’ll see this again. I’m very proud of this community.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

POLL: Obamacare favorability nears record propelled by independents

iStock/Thinkstock(MENLO PARK, Calif.) — A new poll gauging the public’s feelings on the ongoing battle over healthcare finds continued displeasure with the current policy direction, but near record positive impressions of the Affordable Care Act.

The tracking poll, conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, finds 48 percent of its respondents had a very or somewhat favorable view of the legislation, commonly known as Obamacare, the highest level since September 2010, when 49 percent of those viewed it favorably.

President Obama signed the measure into law earlier that year.

The Affordable Care Act’s popularity in the poll was boosted by independents. Some 50 percent of that group answered that they view the legislation as very or somewhat favorable.

At the same time, 62 percent of those polled say that the country is headed down the wrong track when it comes to health care. On whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the poll is nearly split with 48 percent of respondents saying no and 47 percent saying yes.

Of the 47 percent who believe the law should be repealed, a majority — 59 percent — think that lawmakers should wait to vote on it “until the details of [a] replacement plan have been announced.” Just 38 percent of the repeal group wants an immediate vote.

With regard to Medicare, 90 percent of the group polled wants to keep funding at similar levels or increase spending on the insurance plan for seniors, with just 8 percent in favor of decreasing spending. For Medicaid, the health program for low-income Americans, 84 percent favor stable or higher levels of funding, with 12 percent looking for a decrease.

Those polled were overwhelmingly covered by some form of health insurance, by a 85-15 percent margin. The largest subsection of respondents who receive coverage — 39 percent — do so through their employer, with a spouse’s employer finishing in second at 11 percent.

Of those who purchase their own coverage — 8 percent of those surveyed — fewer than half, or three percent of the total, did so through or a state marketplace.

The poll was conducted of 1,160 adults over the age of 18 and had a margin of error of 3 percent.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Man arrested in connection with 2005 disappearance of Georgia high school teacher

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Georgia police have arrested a 33-year-old man in connection with the 2005 disappearance of a high school teacher.

Ryan Alexander Duke, a former student of the Georgia high school where the woman taught, was arrested Wednesday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said today in a press conference. He was charged with burglary, aggravated assault, murder and concealing a death during his first court appearance Thursday.

On Oct. 22, 2005, Tara Grinstead vanished from her home in Ocilla, Georgia, a small town with a population of less than 3,500 about 160 miles south of Atlanta. She was 30 years old at the time. Police immediately suspected foul play in Grinstead’s case, the GBI said in a press release.

A massive manhunt was launched after Grinstead’s disappearance, but the case proved difficult due to the lack of evidence found in Grinstead’s home, according to the GBI. Though they have received many tips over the years, none led to credible information.

However, the case remained open and the GBI recently received a tip that led authorities to interview subjects they had never interviewed before, which led them to gather enough probably cause to charge Duke with Grinstead’s murder. The tip was given to police earlier this week in person when someone with the information walked into a local sheriff’s office, ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta reported.

“I can say that this gentleman never came up on our radar through the investigation,” Richardson said.

In today’s court appearance, Duke requested a court-appointed attorney and said he did not want a preliminary hearing. He will appear in court again on April 12.

Grinstead’s stepmother, Connie Grinstead, said in Thursday’s press conference that Duke’s arrest is “another chapter in a long and painful journey,” WSB reported.

Although the case is more than 11 years old, a GBI policy requires all investigative case files to be reviewed several times per year, and the case remained active for more than a decade.

Grinstead’s remains were never found. The investigation is ongoing.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Teen siblings involved in altercation with LAPD officer file lawsuits

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Lawyers for two teen siblings involved in an altercation with an off-duty LAPD officer filed civil lawsuits against the Anaheim and Los Angeles police departments today, alleging battery, negligence and state civil rights violations, among other claims.

The lawsuits come the day after as many as 300 people demonstrated and at least 23 were arrested after protests broke out over the altercation. Some vandalism was reported in the demonstrations, according to police.

Police say the off-duty officer fired his weapon into the ground during the scuffle on Tuesday, which was caught on video and spread through social media.

A video of part of the incident appears to show the off-duty officer struggling with a 13-year-old boy, clinging to the boy’s hooded sweatshirt as he tries to get away.

The officer appears to argue with the boy and several other people who began gathering around. At one point, the officer is shoved over a bush and a person appears to take a swing at his face.

The officer then draws what appears to be a pistol from his waistband and later reportedly fired a shot into the ground.

“The confrontation began over ongoing issues with juveniles walking across the officer’s property,” Anaheim Police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said in a statement. “During the confrontation, a 13-year-old male is alleged to have threatened to shoot the off-duty officer, at which time the officer attempted to detain the male until [Anaheim police] arrived.”

The boy’s mother, however, maintained that her son had said he was going to sue, not shoot, the officer.

Police arrested the 13-year-old on charges of criminal threats and battery and a 15-year-old for assault and battery. Both have since been released.

Police said today they knew of a 2015 report in which the officer had reported youth walking across his lawn. That report did not involve a physical confrontation or the same youth, authorities said.

The officer and the two juveniles arrested have not been named.

The teen siblings who filed suit today are identified in court papers as John Doe and M.S.

“I personally wish the off-duty officer would have awaited our arrival,” Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said at a press conference today.

“As a father and a police chief, I too am disturbed by what I saw on the videos that were posted on the internet … Having said that, as a police chief, I am charged with enforcing the laws absent my personal feelings,” Police Chief Raul Quezada said today. “I thank God that no one was hurt.”

Police said they interviewed 18 juveniles after the incident along with the officer’s father and others and that they have insufficient evidence at this time to prove any criminal wrongdoing by the officer.

Quezada said his department was close to completing its investigation and would presents its findings to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office within the next two weeks. Charges could still be brought against all parties involved, he said.

The step-father of 13-year-old boy is a civilian employee of the Anaheim Police Department, officials said.

“Like many I am deeply disturbed and angered by the video,” Anaheim mayor Tom Tait said at the press conference, adding that the city was “committed to full and impartial investigation.”

The officer has been placed on administrative leave, according to assistant Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore. The LAPD is conducting a separate investigation into the officer’s actions.

Moore said the LAPD is looking into the off-duty officer’s decision to initiation action, his reasoning and tactics along with his decision making.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Dakota Access pipeline protest site cleared after police in riot gear enter main camp

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CANNONBALL, N.D.) — The protest site for the Dakota Access pipeline has been cleared after some demonstrators refused to leave Wednesday, when a deadline for evacuation passed.

The Oceti Sakowin camp was cleared as of 2:09 p.m. local time, a spokesperson for the North Dakota Joint Information Center told ABC News.

About 50 demonstrators who remained in the camp were present when law enforcement made announcements to disperse or be arrested, according to the North Dakota JIC. About two dozen people who did not comply were arrested.

While many protesters exited the camp voluntarily throughout the day, law enforcement arrested about 46 people total Thursday as the process to clear the camp progressed.

One veterans group occupying a tent refused to leave voluntarily, the North Dakota JIC said. The group informed law enforcement that they would not be violent but would only go with passive resistance, so they were carried out of the camp by authorities.

“I am very happy to say that we finally introduced rule of law in the Oceti camp,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. “I am hopeful that this announcement brings us closer to finality in what has been an incredibly challenging time for our citizens and law enforcement professionals. Having dealt with riots, violence, trespassing and property crimes, the people of Morton County are looking forward to getting back to their normal lives.”

This morning, more than 200 law enforcement officers clad in full riot gear entered the main encampment for those protesting the Dakota Access pipeline near Cannonball, North Dakota, where some people remained despite state and federal orders to leave.

ABC News observed lines of military-style Humvees entering the camp, which is at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

Officials said most people left the soggy campsite peacefully on Wednesday before the 2 p.m. deadline, amid concerns about spring flooding. But as many as 50 people remained there Wednesday night, and authorities were still deciding this morning how to remove them.

Activists protesting the four-state Dakota Access crude oil pipeline told ABC News on Wednesday that they are committed to staying and estimated that dozens would remain in the Oceti Sakowin camp.

On Wednesday, 11 people were arrested outside the camp at its main entrance, outside a barrier put up protesters to keep out authorities. Those who were arrested were charged with obstruction of a government function, a class B misdemeanor, Gov. Doug Burgum said at a news conference that night.

The protesters lit about 20 fires on Wednesday, which were characterized as ceremonial, with many saying they would rather burn camp structures than have authorities seize and destroy them. Two people in the camp were injured as a result of the fires, including one person with severe burns who had to be airlifted to Minneapolis for treatment.

Burgum set up a travel assistance center to offer camp residents water, snacks, a food voucher, a personal hygiene kit, a health and wellness assessment, hotel lodging for one night, a taxi voucher to local bus terminal and bus fare for a return trip home, and transportation was provided from the Oceti Sakowin camp to the assistance center in Bismarck.

“This free service will provide protesters with support as they prepare for their return home,” Burgum’s office said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night. “All camp residents are encouraged to take advantage of these amenities.”

Last week Burgum signed an emergency evacuation order for the camp that reaffirmed a Feb. 22 deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began coordinating a cleanup in late January, but state officials said it wasn’t happening fast enough. The governor’s emergency evacuation order cited increasing temperatures and the threat of flooding as the impetus for accelerating the camp’s cleanup.

“Warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt in the area of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, and the National Weather Service reports that the Cannonball River should be on the watch for rising water levels and an increased risk of ice jams later this week,” the statement from Burgum’s office read.

“Due to these conditions, the governor’s emergency order addresses safety concerns to human life, as anyone in the floodplain is at risk for possible injury or death. The order also addresses the need to protect the Missouri River from the waste that will flow into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe if the camp is not cleared and the cleanup expedited,” the statement added.

The Cannonball River is a tributary of the Missouri River.

The 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline is nearly finished, except for a 1.25-mile segment, part of which will run under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in just upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. Construction of this final phase has been the focus of a contentious legal battle and massive protests in recent months.

While the Army Corps says this area is federally owned land, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cites an 1851 treaty that it says designates the land for Native American tribes. The tribe, which claims its members were never meaningfully consulted before construction began, sued in July to block the pipeline. That lawsuit is pending, and the Army Corps and the company behind the pipeline argued in court papers that they followed a standard review process.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been at the forefront of the fight against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. The protests have drawn thousands of Native Americans, environmental activists and their allies to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. The protesters, who call themselves water protectors, argue that the pipeline will threaten the reservation’s water supply and traverse sacred sites.

Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based developer behind the project, has said that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local water supply are unfounded” and “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Calls to ‘protect trans kids’ after Trump administration reverses transgender bathroom guidance

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Advocates and the transgender community are putting out a loud call to “protect trans kids” after the Trump administration revoked federal guidance established by the Obama administration that directed schools to allow trans students to use restrooms aligning with their gender identity.

The U.S. Justice and Education Departments said in a letter to schools on Wednesday that the issue of bathroom access for trans students should be determined by states instead of the federal government. The letter added that the Obama administration’s guidance caused legal confusion and sparked lawsuits.

Though the new federal guidance to schools does not affect other safeguards against harassment and bullying, the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement that it does send “a dangerous message that the current administration will not enforce inclusive policies or stand up for [trans students] at school.”

In a statement, the White House defended the guidance. “As President [Donald] Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level,” the White House said Wednesday. It added that the guidance letter “paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.”

ABC News spoke to several trans students and their families about the Trump administration’s new guidance. They largely expressed heartbreak and concerns that some states would feel empowered to discriminate more against trans people, but they also emphasized the resilience of the trans youth community in their fight forward.

Here’s what they had to say:

Gavin Grimm

One of the most vocal trans students in the fight for bathroom access is Gavin Grimm — a teen who sued the Glocester County, Virginia, school board in 2015 to use the boys’ bathroom at his school. His case has garnered national headlines and will be heard by the Supreme Court in March.

At a gathering in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Grimm told the crowd his school board “stepped in to complicate my ability to be myself,” and unfortunately, “my story is the story of many young people around the nation.”

Despite this, Gavin declared that trans youth “will not be beaten down by this administration or any.”

“No one — not even the government — can defeat a community so full of life, color, diversity, and most of all, love,” he said through tears.

Scores of people at the gathering in D.C. held signs that read, “Protect Trans Kids,” and “Love Trumps Hate.” Many were also chanting phrases like “Save our students!” and “No hate! No fear! Trans students are welcome here!”

Gavin told ABC News on Wednesday that he believes there were always going to be “setbacks” and “twists in the road,” but said he was hopeful that the nation would move toward love, equality and acceptance.

Lucas Segal

Lucas Segal is a senior at Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and a youth ambassador for the Human Rights Campaign.

He and his mother, Connie Dean, told ABC News today that they were concerned the Trump administration’s decision would lead to more discrimination against trans youth and the passage of more “anti-trans” bills by states.

“I think there’s going to be a lot more bathroom bills popping up across the country,” Segal said. “If the president really cared about trans youth and youth in general, he would have kept the guidance to protect trans youth and not put out guidance allowing states to discriminate.”

Dean added that she was fearful more “religious freedom” bills could also pop up in states across the country, allowing businesses and services, including health-care providers, to discriminate against trans people.

The mother also said that the new guidance from Trump has renewed anxieties she has over her son’s physical safety, as well as his emotional and mental well-being.

Dean added that she believes more officials “need to put a face to the name and get to know us because a lot of their decisions have come from a place of ignorance.”

Kimberly Shappley

Kimberly Shappley is the mother of 6-year-old Kai, a trans girl in Pearland, Texas. Shappley has been fighting against the Pearland Independent School District to allow her daughter to use the girls’ bathroom.

The mother told ABC News that her daughter is still required to use a private bathroom in the nurse’s office, and said that she fears that the discrimination her kindergartner has had to face will only get worse from here.

“When the president of the United States has come out and said, ‘I’m going to allow your state to discriminate against your child,’ that is not comforting to me as a mom,” Shappley said. “Ever since the news last night, I’ve gone through the whole gamut — crying, being mad and being scared.”

Though 6-year-old Kai is not aware nor understands the new guidance from the Trump administration, “She has noticed she’s not allowed to use the same bathroom as her peers and is upset by that,” Shappley said.

“Adults are teaching my child something she shouldn’t have to learn at 6 years old,” she said.

Shappley added that she has anxieties over what Trump’s decision could mean for parents of trans kids across the country.

“Do we have to change states and move to a state where I know there are laws to protect my child?” she asked. “It’s challenging because if our government starts dictating where we can live safely, then politicians will continue gerrymandering and we’ll continue to see presidential elections won by the minority because we have the majority huddled in places that are safe.”

Juliet Evancho

Another trans teen who has garnered national attention is Juliet Evancho, the 18-year-old sister of Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old opera singer who performed the national anthem at President Trump’s inauguration.

The two sisters said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” today that they were “very disappointed” by the Trump administration’s decision to leave the issue of bathroom access for trans teens up to states. They also said they wanted to meet with the president and “enlighten” him and his administration on trans issues.

Juliet Evancho told GMA she would tell the president that she has experienced discrimination every day as a student “at a high school where the policies on the bathroom are unclear.”

Juliet Evancho recently joined forces with Lambda Legal, a legal advocacy group for LGBT rights, to file a lawsuit against her local school board in suburban Pittsburgh after the board voted to ban transgender students from using the bathrooms in line with their gender identity.

“I’ve had things thrown at me, I’ve had people say pretty horrible things — and the unsafe environment is just very unhealthy,” she said.

Alisa Bowman

Alisa Bowman is the mother of Ari, a 12-year-old trans boy from Pennsylvania who became a local celebrity after a video of him delivering a powerful speech to his school board went viral in September.

During his speech, Ari countered what he saw as hateful and ignorant rhetoric about trans students, according to his mother.

Today, Bowman told ABC News that she believes the country has “taken a step backward” as a result of the Trump administration’s revocation of guidance supporting bathroom access for trans kids in school.

“This is not a states rights’ issue,” she said. “If we care about all children, then we all have to say no to limiting bathroom access for trans kids. Right now, it’s the right thing to do — to stop all schools from discriminating against trans students.”

Bowman added that she and Ari are lucky to live in a community where trans students “are affirmed and treated like normal beings,” but said it’s important for everyone to realize that this isn’t the case for thousands of other students in areas where “trans students are honestly being brutalized.”

The mother also said that many families of trans youth are “very scared right now,” but she felt that “the only way we can move forward and create change is if we speak out.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →