How Antifa is prosecuted, Celtics head coach suspended for the season: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Antifa on trial

National correspondent on extremism and emerging issues Will Carless reports on a criminal trial that could redefine the movement. Plus, Russia begins mobilizing more citizens for military duty, money reporter Bailey Schulz looks at how Americans are feeling about inflation, the Boston Celtics suspend their coach and a grieving Mississippi family gets an unexpected gift from strangers.

Podcasts: True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Friday, the 23rd of September, 2022. Today, how a criminal case could redefine Antifa. Plus, Russia’s military mobilization has begun and more.

Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. A hurricane warning is in effect for Bermuda as Fiona approaches. The storm has caused 50 foot waves, massive rainfall and power outages across the Caribbean. It’s now a category four hurricane.
  2. Iranian state television suggested today that the death toll from nationwide protests could be as high as 26. Iranians have been demonstrating after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22 year old woman held by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating its strictly enforced dress code.
  3. And a judge has approved a $230 million lawsuit settlement by the owners of a pipeline that spilled more than 14,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean off California in 2015. It was the worst California coastal oil spill since 1969.

Anti-fascists and right wing extremists clashed in San Diego three days after January 6th. And nearly a year later, a criminal case has emerged that could now have an impact far beyond Southern California. Experts say it could be a landmark prosecution that changes how American law enforcement handles the movement known as Antifa. Producer PJ Elliott spoke with national correspondent Will Carless for more.

Will Carless:

So this is a first of its kind prosecution. There’s never been a conspiracy case to my knowledge, or to the knowledge of the people I spoke to, against organized members of Antifa, against anti-fascist activists. And so it’s pretty groundbreaking. They’re not just bringing sort of small misdemeanor charges against individuals for going out and getting in fights, or beating people up or smashing windows. Instead, they’re alleging that this group acted as a group and were involved in a conspiracy, and this is really more like a gang prosecution than anything else.

PJ Elliott:

So Will, how could this case redefine the whole Antifa movement?

Will Carless:

So this is really a test case for conservative prosecutors around the country who are really going to watch this and say, does this work? Can you go after Antifa and call them Capital A Antifa, and say that they’re part of this organization and say that they’re part of a conspiracy, and therefore bring much more serious charges that hold a lot more weight? And so the experts that I talked to said, look, this is kind of what happens when you have these new movements. Nobody knew really who the Mafia were and how they were organized until the FBI started to charge them as the Mafia and to bring these sort of gang organized crime prosecutions against them. And so it’s sort of similar with Antifa. The idea is if this case is successful, if they get these charges against these defendants, this could really redefine the way that Antifa is approached and prosecuted around the country.

PJ Elliott:

So does this mean that the Antifa movement could come to an end essentially if the defendants are found guilty?

Will Carless:

I don’t think so. I don’t think Antifa is going to go anywhere. I mean, they show all signs of growing as a movement and growing in popularity. I mean the whole point of Antifa is they are anti-fascist. And I think you’ve seen a real growth of the groups that they would call fascists on the far right. As you’ve seen the extremist right increase its violence, increase its activities, increase its visibility, you’ve seen a corresponding rise in the number of people who identify with the anti-fascist movement.

So I don’t think that the threat of prosecution is going to necessarily quell that movement. What it will probably do is force anti-fascists to, I guess, be a lot more careful in how they act and how they behave. I mean, ultimately these prosecutors were able to find these people because they were wearing distinctive items of clothing and they were able to bring a case saying that they acted not in self-defense, but were really sort of going after people and causing fights. So it might have a tactical impact on the movement, but I don’t think Antifa is going anywhere.

Taylor Wilson:

You can find a link to Will’s full story in today’s episode description.

Russia recently announced that military mobilization amid its war in Ukraine has begun. Russian officials have said their military is adding some 300,000 soldiers out of 25 million reservists, but some draftees said they had no military experience. The new order announced by President Vladimir Putin this week has set off protests across Russia and similar to the days after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February, some Russians are again trying to flee the country. Russian outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe said flight tickets to countries not requiring visas were sold out on some airlines Wednesday night, and Estonia, Lavia and Lithuania closed their borders to most Russians this week. They said they will not offer asylum to those fleeing mobilization into the military.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the UN Security Council yesterday to condemn veiled nuclear threats by Russia. Putin earlier this week said his country will use all means available to defend itself. Blinken also argued Russia should face even more severe censure in response to its Ukraine invasion. He pointed to allegations of human rights abuses.

Antony Blinken:

As we assemble here, Ukrainian and international investigators continue to exhume bodies outside of Izium, a city Russian forces controlled for six months before they were driven out by Ukrainian counter offensive. One site contains some 440 unmarked graves. A number of the bodies unearthed there so far reportedly show signs of torture, including one victim with broken arms and a rope around his neck.

Taylor Wilson:

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, attended yesterday’s Security Council meeting in New York. He said that Ukraine’s allies have been covering up the crimes of the Kiev regime.

Interpreter for Sergey Lavrov:

Such outrages there remain unpunished because the United States and their allies with the connivance of international human rights entities, have been covering up the crimes of the Kiev regime.

Taylor Wilson:

He also said Ukraine has long suppressed Russian speakers in the country’s east, but he did not mention Russia’s nuclear capacity or this week’s troop mobilization. Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, said Russia continues to lie about atrocities.

Dmytro Kuleba:

The amount of lies coming from the Russian diplomats is quite extraordinary. Today we are mostly focusing on crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. But if anyone thinks they are the only one ready to kill, torture, rape, cut off genitals, they are wrong. Russian diplomats are directly complicit because their lies incite these crimes and cover them up.

Taylor Wilson:

Ukraine has recaptured some towns and villages and pushed Russian forces back across the border in parts of the country’s north in recent weeks.

Inflation rates continue to hover around 40 year highs and Americans are feeling squeezed. USA TODAY asked people how it’s affecting them most. Here’s what they said with money reporter Bailey Schultz and producer PJ Elliot.

Bailey Schultz:

Yeah. So inflation is something that the country is very familiar with nowadays, but this is something that we are seeing especially hits consumers at the grocery stores where grocery prices are up 13.5% over the past 12 months. So that’s something that really has a big impact, especially on those families that have a lower income and that have just a bigger share of their income spent on groceries.

PJ Elliott:

So why are grocery prices up?

Bailey Schultz:

Yeah, there are a number of reasons why prices are going up. And it kind of depends on what food you’re talking about, where food in general is up because like everything else, we’re seeing inflation due to COVID era, supply chain interruptions. We’re seeing prices going up because of the war in Ukraine. Energy prices have been a factor. Climate change. And then when you look at some of the more specific items like eggs and chicken, that’s up 40% year over year in part because of an avian influenza outbreak. Then you look at coffee, that’s up 18% partially because Brazil, which is a major supplier, was hit by a drought and frost last year. And then with flour, that’s up 23% because of the war in Ukraine, which is a major wheat producer. So items across the board are going up and we’re seeing certain items that like those I listed there, are just up even more so these days.

PJ Elliott:

So what are some ways that people can save money at the grocery store?

Bailey Schultz:

So there are a few things people can do if they want to kind of cut back their spending at grocery stores these days. One example is look at where you’re shopping within the store. It seems like things on the middle shelves where your eye just looks naturally, those can tend to be more expensive. So look up, look down, go to different sections of the store where, like spices in one section of the store might be cheaper than those found in the spice aisle. So kind of looking around. Maybe compare costs from store to store. You can do that with flyers and through apps. Also has suggested maybe using cashback apps to try and earn some money back or gift cards from what you’re spending at the grocery store. And then, yeah, good old coupons is another thing you can do, which is just finding those ways to trim costs piece by piece can help add up in the long run.

Taylor Wilson:

The Boston Celtics have suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the upcoming NBA season for violating team policiesm and a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports that he had a consensual relationship with a female staffer. Udoka is considered one of the top up and coming coaches in the league. In his first season as Celtics coach last year, he led them to the NBA Finals and even a two games to one lead before losing to the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics said a decision about his future with the team beyond this season will be made at a later date. Assistant coach, Joe Mazzulla will serve as interim coach according to ESPN.

A grieving family in Mississippi got an unexpected gift from total strangers. Workers at a shipyard found a message in a glass bottle that they plucked out of a river and they went to painstaking lengths to track down the owner. They didn’t realize what it would mean to a family who had suffered an enormous loss. Zulekha Nathoo from USA TODAY’S Humankind traveled to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where they all got to meet for the first time.

Eric Dahl:

Nice to meet you.

Zulekha Nathoo:

They’re strangers, but Eric Dahl greets them with a big hug.

Eric Dahl:

Thank you so much. Thank you.

Zulekha Nathoo:

Eric, along with his wife, Melanie and son Chris, drove 200 miles through Mississippi to meet these shipyard workers. The workers found a message in a bottle on the river. Turns out it was written by the Dahls’ son 33 years ago.

Billy Mitchell:

What we can see is 11 year old boy saying, please.

Zulekha Nathoo:

It was a typical day on the water for Billy Mitchell and his team on the Yazoo River. Mitchell helps salvage sunken vessels and spotted the bottle. He says the glass was still sealed, not even a crack in it.

Billy Mitchell:

Michael, told my buddy, I said, there’s a message in this bottle. We took some shish kabob sticks and reached in there and barely pulled out a little bit at a time.

Zulekha Nathoo :

Most of the note had been destroyed, but they noticed a child’s handwriting and signature dated 1989. They were curious about who might have sent it and why so they posted a photo on social media. It leads them to the Dahls.

Billy Mitchell:

Love never goes away.

Zulekha Nathoo :

The message means more than anyone realized. The Dahls’ eldest son, Brian, sent the bottle afloat when he was 11. He died in an accident at his home at the age of 29. The bottle was a sixth grade school project led by his teacher at the time, Martha Burnett.

Martha Burnett:

We had a field trip. We dropped our bottles in the water. And for many years we heard nothing. His parents just felt like it was a voice from heaven and I have to agree.

Zulekha Nathoo:

Burnett says her class in 1989 had dropped their bottles in the Talahatchie River. Brian’s drifted about 200 miles away. The salvage team takes the family by boat to the area where they first spotted the bottle.

Salvage Team Member

See that float right there. That’s where it was, right up in woods.

Zulekha Nathoo:

Finding this bottle now, what does it mean to you?

Eric Dahl:

When you experience a loss of this magnitude, knowing that something he wrote is connecting strangers, yeah, that really helps.

Zulekha Nathoo:

The Dahls are visibly moved by the journey of both the bottle and their trip here. They say their late son, an athlete who survived cancer at one point, always brought people together. Billy Mitchell, the one who found the bottle, says that hasn’t changed.

Billy Mitchell:

I think what stands out the most is he passed away and we brought this family together with something that he wrote when he was a kid. He’s with them still. I think that’s what the note meant when we found it to let his parents know that he was watching over them as well.

Zulekha Nathoo :

For USA TODAY, I’m Zulekha Nathoo.

Taylor Wilson:

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us seven mornings a week right here, wherever you’re listening right now. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.