“We are a diverse group of people who have come together against the Israeli occupation and against the massacre. However,” says Kash Nikazmrad, an organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine, “every massacre, every occupation, every act of colonialism always has a mechanism and a supporter. The supporter in this situation has been America.” Nikazmrad is one of the organizers behind the Los Angeles “Stop The Massacre in Gaza” events. Judging by the (in)action of Congress, it is hard to dispute Nikazmrad’s claims. When it comes to Israel and Gaza, there is unanimous agreement. As Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss sums up:
When I took Megan’s first call from jail and heard her elation that they had gotten to exactly where they wanted and done all they had planned, it was clear the blessings of God or the universe had again supported the work of disarmament, as so often has happened with plowshares actions. This was evident too in the fact that they were found by a long-employed guard with prior experience with peace activists at Rocky Flats, so he knew that he faced no physical threat and did not use violence. The video of that meeting we later saw in court was touching; MGM bowing and holding out their hands in friendship, offering bread and flowers, and the guard’s calm demeanor in response. What a shame that plant management fired him for doing his job so well. His union continues to support his claim of wrongful dismissal, as well they should. So then the media frenzy began. . .
There are many crimes committed in the pursuit of, or as an accessory to, the crimes of US Foreign Policy. I’m not exactly sure where to rank the operation of Guantanamo Bay on that list, but consider these numbers, compiled by the Center for Constitutional Rights: 779 men and boys have been imprisoned at Guantánamo since January 2002. 100% of them are Muslim. Of the 149 who remain there, 78 have been cleared for release for years but are still imprisoned. President Obama’s Task Force has designated 38 men for indefinite detention without charge or trial. The longer the illegal prison remains open, the more accepting of its existence American citizens seem to be, at least according to Gallup poll conducted in the days after the release of Sgt. Bergdahl in exchange for 5 prisoners who were not on that list cleared for release. That poll revealed that 66% of Americans said the U.S. should not “close this prison and move some of the prisoners to U.S. prisons.” That is up from the 53% of Americans who said the same thing in July of 2007. Today, again, according to that latest Gallup poll, just 29% of Americans want the facility closed and the prisoners either released or transported to the U.S.
It is time to shed light on an unacceptable unspoken fact that lies in the belly beneath the surface of awareness in Los Angeles. As of July 2014, there are roughly 30,000 young people on probation or locked up in L.A. County, more than any other metropolitan area in the world. 95% of these youth face incarceration for nonviolent offenses. Once a young person meets such a fate, there is an 80% recidivism rate, which means 80% will end up incarcerated again. This system is broken and its rehabilitation depends upon the deployment of acute and revolutionary tactics. Fortunately, New Earth, a non-profit started in 2004, is making significant strides in reducing the recidivism rate in Los Angeles. They provide mentor-based arts, educational and vocational programs to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth ages 13-22.
Eight Atlantic Life Community activists joined with Upstate Drone Action at the main gate of Hancock Air Base, in Syracuse, New York. Hancock is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State Air National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing pilots weaponized MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan – killing and terrorizing an uncountable number of civilians. The eight delivered a People’s War Crimes Indictment to the Hancock chain of command by affixing it to the fence after being refused by the base personnel. Also delivered was an Order of Protection on behalf of the children of the world who are subject to U.S. drone surveillance and attack.
Free Marissa Now and thousands of Marissa Alexander’s supporters around the world are strongly disappointed that the Florida courts on July 18 denied Marissa a fair hearing to support her right to self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws. Yet again, Florida refuses to free this survivor of domestic violence and undermines women’s right to self defense, though it failed to convict two white men for the murder of two innocent black teen boys. It appears that Florida courts place less value on a young black mother’s fear in the midst of a life-threatening attack and more value on the anger and unsupported fear of two white men. Nine days after a premature birth, Marissa Alexander harmed no one when she fired a warning shot to stop another life-threatening attack by her estranged husband. She faces possibly sixty years in prison as a result of prosecution by the state of Florida.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women launched a public campaign under the hashtag #JusticeforJessica, urging people to both spread the word about her case and to call the jail. As a result, the jail began allowing De Samito methadone. On July 14, she was released and allowed to return home, albeit under electronic monitoring. This was not the only time public pressure has led to the release of a mother who would have otherwise remained in jail. Earlier this year, Shanesha Taylor, a homeless mother in Arizona, had a job interview at an insurance agency. When her childcare fell through, she left her two youngest children, ages two and six months, in the car outside the insurance agency while she went to the interview. A passerby called the police and, as she left the interview and headed towards her car, Taylor was arrested and chargedwith felony child abuse. Her children, including her nine-year-old daughter who was in school that day, were taken into the custody of Child Protective Services. In aninterview with local TV station KPHO, Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark said, “This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job.”
Like Guantanamo Bay, the CMU is a child of the war on terror. In 2006 and 2008, respectively, the Bureau of Prisons, under the directorship of Harley Lappin, created two secret units: one in Terre Haute, IN, and the other in Marion, IL. The bureau’s stated purpose was “Limited Communication for Terrorist Inmates” But as at Guantanamo, Muslims were the real targets. Muslims make up roughly 70 percent of the prisoners in CMUs but only 6 percent of the federal prison population. The CMUs are part of a philosophy that makes Muslim synonymous with terrorist, that views “terrorists” as both contagious and superhuman—so dangerous that they must be subject to ultimate control. Andy was the rare white CMU prisoner. Guards told him he was there as a “balancer.” CMUs are another reflection of the double standard to which the United States holds Muslims. Acts of speech, travel or association that would be A-OK for a Christian are enough to get a Muslim branded a terrorist.
he U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to retroactively apply an amendment approved earlier this year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that lowers federal guidelines for sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking offenses. The vote could shorten sentences for tens of thousands of people who are already incarcerated and serving sentences for drug offenses by granting eligible individuals a hearing before a federal judge to evaluate whether their sentence can be reduced to match the reduced guidelines. . . .According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, mandatory minimums have significantly contributed to overcrowding and racial disparities in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The BOP operates at nearly 140 percent capacity — and is on track to use one-third of the Justice Department’s budget. More than half of the prisoners in the BOP are serving time for a drug law violation.
Ninety-three years old. That’s how old Marissa Alexander will be when she’s released from prison if she receives the 60-year prison sentence she’s facing for firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband. But before a Florida trial that could impose that lifetime sentence begins this fall, another even more important hearing will take place. On Friday, Aug. 1, the same judge will take testimony and rule if Alexander is entitled to a hearing to decide if she is immune from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The stakes are tremendous. The rest of Alexander’s life hangs in the balance. But there’s also the deeply disturbing question of whether “Stand Your Ground” laws apply mostly to often-paranoid men wielding guns but not women fighting off domestic abusers.
A half-century since the apex of the Civil Rights Movement, the quest for racial and economic justice continues unabated in the United States. Arguably the most powerful expression of that struggle today is the growing movement to end the racialized system of mass incarceration. At the forefront of leadership in the struggle to dismantle the US prison-industrial complex and to alleviate its negative consequences, stands the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement (FICPM). The FICPM is a nationwide coalition of formerly incarcerated men and women who are holding forth a radical vision for justice and transformation and who are putting that vision to work in towns and cities across the nation. This 29-minute radio documentary highlights the voices of nine members of the FICPM steering committee, men and women who have experienced the workings of the US criminal justice system from the inside out and who have dedicated themselves to the work of building a new and better future, not only for presently and formerly incarcerated people, but for the entire nation.
Jack Gilroy of Binghamton, NY was convicted after a two-day jury trial in DeWitt Town Court of charges stemming from his arrest during a nonviolent protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base on April 28, 2013. Jack was convicted of Trespass, a violation, and Obstructing Governmental Administration, a misdemeanor by a jury of five women and one man. He will be sentenced by Judge Robert Jokl on October 1st, a year and a half after his arrest. The sentence for the latter charge may be up to one year in jail and a fine of $1000. Jack’s Order of Protection was also reissued today as a 2 year Permanent Order protecting Commander Greg Semmel, the commanding officer at Hancock Base.
Governors from across the country are in Music City to tackle key issues including education, health care and jobs. Saturday, protestors gathered outside the Omni Hotel demanding to be a part of the conversation. Legislative Plaza served as a meeting point for the hopes and dreams of dozens who gather under a collective front called the Freedom Side. With signs and tape over their mouths they walked in silent protest through downtown to the Omni, straight for the National Governor’s Association meeting. “We just want to talk to the Governors about four issues,” protestor Jayanni Webster said, “The criminalization of black and brown youth, living wage jobs, equal education and democratic rights.” Protesters were greeted by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who created a barrier to prevent them from entering private property. After learning no one would come out to speak to them, five protestors tried to walk inside and were arrested and charged with trespassing.
On July 10, grandmother of three, Mary Anne Grady Flores was sentenced to one year in prison after being found guilty of violating an Order of Protection. A packed courtroom of over 100 supporters was stunned as she was led away, and vowed to continue the resistance. Mary Anne began her sentencing statement with, “Your honor, a series of judicial perversions brings me here before you tonight.” She concluded that the “final perversion is the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone attacks?”
Edward Snowden submitting to prosecution in the United States would be like Alice going into the courtroom in Wonderland. Alice stood before the King and Queen of Hearts who served as the judges. Knaves were chained on the ground before them. The jurors, Alice realizes are ‘stupid things.’ The first witness against her was the Mad Hatter who is as mad as the culture he represents. The guinea pigs who protest are immediately “suppressed” by having the mouths tied up and being put into a bag and sat on by the King so their protests cannot be heard. The most important evidence in the trial was secret, a poem for which the author is unknown and concludes: For this must ever be a secret, Kept from all the rest, Between yourself and me.