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[l] at 6/16/21 2:19pm

The following was published as part of The Dissenter Newslettera project of Shadowproof. Become a subscriber here.

When the United States government had drone whistleblower Daniel Hale arrested and the judge revoked his bail, they deprived him of the ability to tie up loose ends and prepare for incarceration before his sentencing in July.

It meant Hale could not say goodbye to friends or family with one final meal before going off to federal prison. It meant he could not appropriately coordinate with his roommates to store his belongings. It meant he could not arrange a proper home for his cat, Leila.

But what happened to Hale is part of a stark trend in the government’s war on national security whistleblowers that has intensified over the past decade, especially against lower-level employees or contractors.

Hale pled guilty on March 31 to one charge of violating the Espionage Act, when he provided documents to Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill and anonymously wrote a chapter in Scahill’s book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. He was taken into custody and sent to the William G. Truesdale Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, on April 28.

A therapist from pretrial and probation services, who was assigned to Hale, violated patient confidentiality and shared details about what he allegedly said during a session.

“Daniel was called into the probation office for what he thought was a routine check-in,” recalled Jesselyn Radack, the head of the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts who has publicly represented Hale. “Instead, he was arrested on a pretrial services warrant because they were worried about his mental health.”

“It’s no secret that Daniel was struggling with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his involvement in the drone program,” Radack added. “Daniel felt that the therapist sold him out as being at risk of self-harm.”

The therapist reportedly backed away from the interpretation of Hale’s confession during therapy, which helped the government secure an arrest warrant. They are no longer seeing Hale. However, Hale remains in detention.

The Therapist’s Betrayal

Thomas Drake is an NSA whistleblower who was prosecuted under the Espionage Act during President Barack Obama’s administration and ultimately pled guilty to a separate misdemeanor. He called what the therapist did a “betrayal.”

“I know what the government tried with me, especially if you’re saying anything of any kind,” Drake shared. (According to Drake, the government tried to “seed rumors” about depression and his potential for self-harm to aid their case.)

Drake declared, “You can imagine, if you’re the government, wanting to know what is being shared in confidence with a therapist.”

Imagine that you’re honest enough to admit you’re suffering, honest enough to admit you have PTSD, and honest enough to admit you thought certain things that were not positive thoughts, Drake added. “And then you get turned in.”

Drake maintained Hale was not anywhere near self-harm. “I can tell you that right now. I am still in communication with him because I’m on a list of people he can call.”

Drone whistleblower Lisa Ling reacted similarly. “Being betrayed by a mental health practitioner and the carceral system not only puts Daniel’s future health at risk, but it happened at a time when there are 17 veteran suicides a day.”

“Daniel is nowhere near harming himself or anyone else, and that makes what happened completely unconscionable,” Ling added.

Hale’s roommate, Bob, said detention made it “really difficult to create a plan to support someone who is going to be incarcerated for a long time. And that’s what the government has done is made it more difficult for this individual to maintain his connections to the outside.”

‘A Cheap Shot’ By The U.S. Government

On April 29, Hale was brought before a magistrate judge. Radack said, “The public defenders, Daniel, and I all figured he’d be confined for a few days until he could get in front of Judge Liam O’Grady,” who is presiding over his case in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia.

O’Grady overlooked concerns related to what could happen to Hale in detention as a result of his mental health, despite past incidents of self-harm and suicide attempts at the jail. He was put in isolation to satisfy COVID protocol, but Radack indicated Hale was vaccinated. He is now in general population.

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was prosecuted under the Espionage Act while Obama was president, pled guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. It was part of an agreement to only serve 30 months at a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

“I had a date to which I had to report to Loretto, and I knew that I had until that date to get all my business taken care of,” Kiriakou said. “He never had that luxury and it’s not fair.”

Kiriakou continued, “The opportunity to get my finances in order, say goodbye to my family, my friends, my children especially meant everything to me. Daniel being snatched off the streets was a cheap shot because he’s not able to come to closure on a lot of these issues. He can’t say goodbye to his friends and family. He can’t arrange for the care of his cat.”

Both Drake and Kiriakou have the experience of pleading guilty to offenses in order to end the indefinite stress of a leak prosecution. Along with Radack, they advised Hale on the pros and cons of pleading guilty.

Hale was charged with five offenses. The public defender representing Hale argued during the hearing, where he pled guilty, that the charges are duplicative. But the prosecutors refuse to dismiss the remaining charges until after his sentencing on July 27.

“The prosecutors have been playing hardball with him,” Kiriakou contended. “He’s got terrific attorneys. And Daniel and the attorneys made this calculated decision that the one count that he decided to plead guilty essentially covers everything he did.”

‘A Manipulation Of Due Process’

To Drake, the Justice Department prosecutors are engaged in a “manipulation of due process,” which reminds him of what happened at his sentencing in 2011. Prosecutors maintained the punishment of probation was “insufficient to fit the crime.”

His case was before Judge Richard Bennett in the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland, not the Eastern District. Bennett strongly objected to how the prosecutors abused Drake and even compared their acts to British tyranny in the days before the Revolutionary War.

What the prosecutors are doing to Hale pushes the boundaries of what is permissible to the next level. They are doing a “bait and switch,” Drake contended. “If we don’t like what the judge’s sentencing is, then we’ll proceed to trial.”

Prosecutors theoretically could use Hale’s guilty plea to one Espionage Act offense to help them convince a judge or jury that he committed the other four offenses. After all, the guilty plea lays out the timeline of disclosures to a reporter.

Before detention, Hale was living with roommates near Washington, D.C. He moved in with them in February 2020, right before the U.S. was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, and his trial was postponed from March 2020 indefinitely.

The pandemic only compounded Hale’s anxiety and stress, Radack shared.

Hale was hit by a car in October while riding a motorcycle and broke his leg. It was no longer possible to work jobs at restaurants. He stayed home, recovered, and then turned to cooking and helping with chores for his roommates.

That same month, 20-year-old Karon Hylton was killed in D.C. when a car struck his moped while police were chasing him. The young Black man’s death sparked protests and officers involved were temporarily placed on leave.

According to Bob, he was on a street corner with Hale watching the pursuit unfold. Hale was still in a hospital gown with a broken leg. “We both saw him die in the street.”

Both Hale and Bob went to some protests. Hale connected with an attorney for the Hylton family, and they provided a list of witnesses to the assistant U.S. attorney. Prosecutors asked them to testify before a grand jury, which they did.

“I was very reluctant at first, and it was Daniel, who actually convinced me to give testimony,” Bob recalled. This is an example of the compassion Hale has for other people, he added.

Pleading guilty is “extraordinarily challenging on a personal level,” Drake asserted. “Is it in my best interest? I’m actually going to admit to something.”

For Hale, it conflicts with the belief that what was done was right because it involved exposing war crimes that occurred as a result of the U.S. military’s drone program.

“He ultimately made a very, very difficult choice under less than ideal circumstances to plead out to one count and then admit that he was the anonymous source,” Drake concluded.

The post The US Government’s Jailing Of A Drone Whistleblower appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Daniel Hale, Espionage Act, Justice Department]

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[l] at 6/16/21 10:32am

The following post was originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Music.

Experimental musician and acclaimed spoken word artist Camae Ayewa had a prolific 2020 with the free jazz project Irreversible Entanglements and a few projects released under her spoken word alias Moor Mother.

As Moor Mother, Ayewa released “Circuit City,” her punk-inspired “True Opera” album featuring producer Mental Jewelry, and her collaboration with rapper Billy Woods.

“Zami'” is Moor Mother’s first release in 2021 and since announcing that she has signed to the record label ANTI-.

The short but powerfully ominous tune gets its name from Audre Lorde’s 1982 book.

According to Ayewa, “‘Zami’ speaks to a number of different themes. Using the lenses of Black Quantum Futurism, the lyrics speak to time and space, injustice, racism, erasure of African identity.”

“‘Zami'” speaks of agency and something beyond freedom. It speaks of another future. It speaks about connections free from the stains of colonialism. It speaks about the expansive temporalities
of Afro Diasporan people around the world,” Ayewa added.

Black Quantum Futurism refers to the collective Ayewa co-founded with Rasheedah Phillips, dedicated to
“a new approach to living and experiencing reality by way of the manipulation of space-time in order to
see into possible futures, and/or collapse space-time into a desired future in order to bring about that
future’s reality.

“This vision and practice derives its facets, tenets, and qualities from quantum physics and
Black/African cultural traditions of consciousness, time, and space.”

Through various artistic expressions, the collective seeks to “explore personal, cultural, familial, and
communal cycles of experience, and solutions for transforming negative cycles into positive ones using
artistic and holistic methods of healing.”

Listen to Moor Mother’s “Zami”:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Lzfq7MlN5i8

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Zami’ By Moor Mother appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project, Moor Mother, Protest Music Project, Protest Song of the Week]

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[l] at 6/15/21 2:32pm

In the months before the coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted the United States economy in March 2020, graduate student workers and faculty members in the University of California system aggressively pushed for cost-of-living salary adjustments through strikes, protests, and rallies on campuses.

Though COVID-19 shutdowns and transitions to remote learning disrupted these organizing efforts ahead of a potential vote for a system-wide strike, workers in the UC system adapted organizing efforts to be conducted remotely, recently securing enough union authorization cards to represent over 17,000 student researchers at all ten campuses in the UC system and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

They joined post-doctoral students, academic researchers, tutors, teaching assistants in the UC system, who are already represented by UAW affiliated unions. 

Student researchers were initially classified as students rather than employees, exempting them from other bargaining units at UC campuses, until 2017 when the California State Legislature amended the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act of 1979 to classify student researchers as employees, paving the way for the formation of a union

On May 24, student researchers organizing with the United Auto Workers submitted 10,441 signed union authorization cards to the California Public Employees Relations Board in Oakland, California. They await the certification of the signatures and next steps forward.

The card campaign began in Fall 2020 after a statewide organizing committee planned out strategies to organize remotely and form campus-wide committees to lead organizing efforts at each UC campus. 

“It’s kind of incredible how organized we were and how so many people are working toward this,” said Donghyung Lee (or K-Dan), a graduate student researcher studying neurobiology at University of California, San Diego. 

Lee explained the widespread labor organizing efforts in the UCsystem are a microcosm of the socioeconomic inequities rampant in California, as workers in the UC system often work for low wages in cities with high costs of living, and these economic issues contribute to the lack of diversity in these programs, which exacerbates the risk of harassment, discrimination, and unfair dismissals.

According to Lee, the universities receive millions of dollars in funding from grants earned by student researchers, while administrators such as UC President Michael Drake receive an annual salary of $890,000. 

“We have this publicly funded institution that should be doing research for the greater good that doesn’t treat its workers or pay its workers with the same kind of respect,” Lee added. “We deserve to be paid more than $20,000 to $30,000 a year to live in California.”

“At the very least, we have to establish a firm baseline for everyone working as a student researcher to be guaranteed things like sick days and vacation days. I think that’s the bare minimum that needs to be in an enforceable contract,” Lee contended.

Student researchers turn in union authorization signatures (Courtesy of SRU-UAW)

The high cost of living in California compared to wages for workers in the University of California system were a driving factor in a graduate workers’ strike at UC Santa Cruz that lasted from late 2019 to early 2020 and spread to other UC campuses before the pandemic.

Workers on strike said large portions of their low wages go toward high rents required to live near campus.

UC Santa Cruz fired dozens of graduate workers, who participated in the wildcat strikes before reinstating them after months of protests and disciplinary hearings. The campaign across the UC system took credit for several wage increases and summer and housing stipends that were enacted on nearly every UC campus following the strikes and protests. 

The movement for a cost-of-living adjustment wage increase for workers in the University of California system has continued through the pandemic, the new union of student researchers intends to focus on the issue amidst a worsening housing crisis in California. 

“The cost of living is a huge, huge issue we really want to tackle to make sure every graduate student can afford housing and live comfortably, because if we’re not happy in our living situation, if we’re not getting a good night’s sleep or able to take care of ourselves very well, that turns into mistakes in the lab and poor quality of work,” said Kate Augspurger, a graduate student researcher at UC San Francisco. “We as graduate students don’t have a whole lot of control over our employment right now. Bringing in a democratic voice in the workplace to make these changes so they are as helpful as possible to us is really important.”

A spokesperson for the University of California system said, “The University of California values its graduate student researchers and their many contributions to the University. UC neither encourages nor discourages unionization. UC supports employees’ right to make an informed decision and choose for themselves.”

Shortly after student researchers at the University of California turned in their union authorization cards, around 2,000 non-tenured lecturers represented by the University Council-American Federation of Teachers voted overwhelmingly in favor to authorize a strike amidst new union contract negotiations, which have drawn out since April 2019.

“UC continues to negotiate with UC-AFT on a new multi-year collective bargaining agreement on wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment for UC lecturers,” a UC system spokesperson claimed. “In the latest round of negotiations, UC made significant movement toward compromises with union leaders on key union priorities including compensation, appointments, and leave policy.”

Lecturers cited low-pay and job security as prevailing points of contention in contract negotiations. The median salary for lecturers at the University of California is $19,067 and the union claims UC has not introduced proposals on evaluating and rehiring processes or offered lecturers contract renewals. 

Dr. Caroline Luce, a lecturer for six years at UCLA, explained lecturers currently are not compensated for duties that fall outside of their classroom time, such as mentoring and advising students or writing recommendation letters.

The low pay forces lecturers to cobble together gigs at different universities and colleges, find additional sources of employment, or rely on a spouse’s income in order to make ends meet, which contributes to the high attrition for lecturers (who also frequently do not receive contract renewals after a year or so with no explanation or review). 

“We’ve become like gig workers,” said Luce. “These jobs are advertised and held out as a bridge to tenured employment or tenured track positions. But it’s effectively a bridge to nowhere these days, because the job market is so bad.”

“What we want to do is try to make these bad jobs into better, more stable careers for people so that they can plan their lives and establish roots in the communities near campus.”

The post University of California Workers Organize For Salaries That Keep Pace With Cost Of Living appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, The Bullpen, California, Union Organizing, Workers Rights]

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[l] at 6/14/21 7:21pm

*The following report was originally published as part of The Dissenter Newsletter, a project of Shadowproof.

NSA whistleblower Reality Winner was released from federal prison to a halfway house in San Antonio on June 2. She was released one week later to home confinement with her family.

Prior to her release from Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, the facility confined Reality with five other women in a hospital-sized room for 23 days. Reality was informed it was a COVID-19 quarantine protocol.

Billie Winner-Davis, who is Reality’s mother, told The Dissenter that her daughter received both doses of the vaccine. She was past the two-week period necessary for the vaccine to become effective. Still, she was locked down with “very little contact with the outside world, no recreation, no commissary. You know, just contained to that one room for 23 days.”

All of the women in the room with Reality were on a release track, and according to Billie, she had no extra food. “They were only given the telephone every three to four days and only for like a fifteen minute period, and they all had to use it in that fifteen minute period. She wasn’t getting her mail.”

Meals were brought to the room, but for quite a few meals, the facility did not tailor her meal to meet dietary considerations that were well known to staff. Because Reality had no commissary access, she would go hungry.

“It was just another little period of hell for her, but at least she knew she could get through it because she knew she had to get through it in order to be released,” Billie declared. And, “There was no need for it.”

Reality Still Belongs To The Bureau of Prisons

Billie emphasized she still belongs to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). “She still is in federal custody. She’s allowed to be at home on home confinement, but she is pretty much confined. She’s on an ankle monitor. She’s not allowed to leave the residence. She’s not allowed to talk to anyone as far as giving interviews.”

Reality pled guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act when she disclosed an NSA report to The Intercept. She believed the report contained evidence of Russian hackers targeting United States voter registration systems during the 2016 election.

FBI agents raided Reality’s home in Augusta, Georgia, in June 2017, and when they interrogated her, they did not advise her of her rights before interrogating her.

Reality told agents, “I felt really hopeless, and seeing that information that has been contested back and forth, back and forth in the public domain for so long, trying to figure out, like, with everything else that keeps getting released and keeps getting leaked—Why isn’t this getting, why isn’t this out there? Why can’t this be public?”

On August 23, 2018, Reality was sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison.

Bobby Christine, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, boasted that Reality’s sentence was the “longest received by a defendant for an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information to the media. It appropriately satisfies the need for both punishment and deterrence in light of the nature and seriousness of the offense.”

Reality contracted COVID-19 in prison in July 2020 and survived one of the most severe outbreaks that occurred in the U.S. prison system. At one point, more than 500 women tested positive for the virus. (The facility holds around 1,600 women.)

While incarcerated during the pandemic, Reality sought compassionate release, but the request was denied by Judge Randal Hall, the same federal judge who made sure she remained in jail until her sentencing.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals later rejected her request for compassionate release as well.

Finally Taking Reality Away From Carswell

According to her mother, February 17, 2020, was the last face-to-face visit in prison prior to her release. Her family relied on the free video chat available through the BOP in order to see Reality for the last 15 months.

Billie recalled picking Reality up at the entry point of the prison and what it was like to have her back in her arms, actually knowing she could put her in a car and take her away from Carswell.

Reality Winner after her release (Photo: Billie Winner-Davis)

For the first time in almost exactly four years, Reality was able to wear normal clothes.

Reality was a contractor for Pluribus International in Augusta and a cryptologic language analyst in the 94th Intelligence Squadron in the U.S. Air Force. Instead of viewing her service in the Air Force as meritorious, a federal appeals court interpreted it in the most negative way possible to justify keeping her in pretrial confinement.

“Evidence in the record indicates that Ms. Winner—who is fluent in Farsi, Dari, and Pashto—has long wanted to live and work in the Middle East,” the appeals court stated. “She wanted the Air Force to deploy her to Afghanistan. She researched traveling, working, and living in places like Kurdistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories. She researched flights to Kurdistan and Erbil. She researched buying a home in Jordan. And she researched how to obtain a work visa in Afghanistan.”

The mosaic the appeals court painted for the public made it seem like Reality was intent to join the Taliban in Afghanistan, even though she had been involved in helping the military kill “high value targets” who were considered terrorism suspects by the U.S. government. They even criminalized her desire to go to the Middle East to work for an aid organization confronting the refugee crisis fueled by U.S. wars in the region.

In January 2021, Reality alleged that a guard threatened her after she filed a sexual abuse claim under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

Reality Earned This Release

BThe BOP expects Reality to obtain employment, but Billie said they are not sure about the programs or what is expected of Reality right now. “It’s too new because she’s still not allowed to leave the house.”

For comparison, John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer who was prosecuted under the Espionage Act and pled guilty to a separate but related charge, recalled his time in home confinement at the end of his 30-month sentence.

“I believed that I could step back into my life again and just pick up where I left off, and that wasn’t the case at all. It turned out to be far more stressful than I thought it was going to be. And it took me quite a long time before I felt like I was leading a normal life again,” Kiriakou shared.

Home confinement was “more difficult on a day-to-day basis than being in prison, and it’s because in prison you can go work out. You can go do laps in the yard. You can sorta get out and about in the sunshine,” Kiriakou added. “When you are in home confinement, you are a prisoner within the four walls of the house, and if you want to leave, you can’t unless it’s to go to work, to a job interview, to the doctor, to the halfway house, or to church. And you’ve got to constantly ask permission.”

The BOP makes prisoners fill out forms and constantly apply for jobs. Case managers, according to Kiriakou, demand to know when prisoners applied, how prisoners applied, and whether prisoners applied in person or online, etc. However, it is a “fake exercise.” Prisoners apply for jobs at Target, McDonald’s, or Safeway and never hear back.

Kiriakou was hired by a progressive think tank to work on prison reform, but the BOP rejected this as valid employment. So whatever Reality does for work has to be approved by BOP. They are likely to limit her options to a menial job for a minimum wage.

Support for Reality’s pardon campaign increased with President Joe Biden’s election. For the first time, her mother—and later, her sister—were invited on MSNBC to discuss her case and urge Biden to grant her clemency.

Reality’s case inspired the play, “Is This A Room,” which was directed by Tina Satter and based on the transcript from the FBI’s interrogation. It also was the subject of a documentary by director Sonia Kennebeck, “The United States vs. Reality Winner,” which premiered at SXSW in March.  

Throughout extraordinarily tough circumstances, Billie has been Reality’s fiercest and most effective advocate.

“Her release date from the BOP is November 23, and up until that date, every single day she’s in jeopardy of them taking her back,” Billie declared.

“Following November 23, she still has three years of supervised release and so I still want to continue to ask for clemency because I want her sentence to be over. I want them to say, you’re done. You have served your time. You’re done. I feel like she deserves that.”

Despite all the work Billie did advocating for her daughter’s release, she does not believe this was some kind of victory.

“I don’t feel like we were able to achieve this for her because she did all of her time. She earned this release. Nobody gave this to her. She earned it,” Billie concluded.

The post Mother Of NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Describes Her Daughter’s Release From Prison appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Reality Winner News]

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[l] at 5/26/21 1:59pm

This article is reprinted with permission from Eoin Higgins. Subscribe to his newsletter, “The Flashpoint,” at https://eoinhiggins.substack.com/subscribe

After 11 days of relentless bombing that killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, there is a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

To Asma Alkhaldi, a 24-year-old communications professional in Gaza City with a B.A. in architectural engineering, the “ceasefire”—such as it is—is welcome, but the trauma of days of bombing remains.

“I don’t feel well, actually, right now, and I don’t know how long it will take me to get back to normal,” Alkhaldi told me on Friday. “I don’t know.”

“I’m trying to avoid seeing the news or reading people’s stories because I’m on the verge of collapsing and crying,” she added.

“Palestine is under occupation and Gaza is part of that equation”

Palestine’s commitment to the ceasefire has already withstood significant provocations from Israel’s military and police forces. Israeli police are rounding up and imprisoning Palestinians and Israeli Arabs and, in a provocative move, escorted Jewish settlers into Al Aqsa Mosque. 

In Gaza, the siege continues.

“I have never been anywhere else to do the comparison, but what I can say or tell you, it is a real big open prison,” said Alkhaldi, who has only left Gaza to travel to the occupied West Bank. 

After the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2006, Palestinians in the narrow, 25-mile-long territory were penned in. Conditions have only gotten worse as Israel has locked down the territory from the land and sea in what’s effectively a siege. To the south, Egypt also maintains a blockade. 

Asma Alkhaldi. Courtesy Asma Alkhaldi

“We got used to what we are having to deal with, such as power outages or the siege or frequent bombing and very high unemployment, trade and all of these like problems, it doesn’t mean they are right or we don’t suffer from them,” said Alkhaldi. “We do suffer for them. But we don’t have any other option to change that or to have a decent life.” 

Alkhaldi said she’s unsure of how the economy, already in a very serious crisis, will come back—and what this year’s elections will look like. The war set everything back. Nonetheless, she was heartened by the support from around the world during the most recent attacks and urged people outside of Palestine to continue to pay attention to the occupation. She also urged people to not separate the struggles of Gaza from the struggles of Palestine as a whole.

“Palestine is under occupation and Gaza is part of that equation; Gaza is not separated from that,” said Alkhaldi. “I want people to know that and to act accordingly.”

“It’s a constant state of fear”

Gaza City artist Malak Mattar, who has lived through four wars in her 21 years, told me on May 15 that the relentless bombing, violence, and fear from Israel’s 15-year-long siege on Gaza has left her with severe PTSD.

“It’s a constant state of fear,” Mattar told me. “I fear for my life even when there is no war.”

Uncertainty and fear pervade every aspect of life in the territory. Even the most mundane tasks are affected.

Before this month’s war, Alkhaldi had considered buying a car—an investment that would have allowed her to travel more easily around the territory. But the bombings and destruction put an end to that dream for now, she said. 

“It would literally be gone by now, it would be destroyed or bombed,” she said. 

And the trauma goes further than just the immediate day-to-day of life in the territory. It affects plans for the future. Alkhaldi told me that the continuing siege, the unpredictability of life in Gaza, and the constant fear of war are keeping her from starting a family. 

“Even if I want a family or to create a family here, I am so terrified to do that,” Alkhaldi said.

The people of Gaza are beginning to pick up the pieces from the latest round of bombing. For Alkhaldi, the thought of doing it again is exhausting. 

“I don’t know how long it will take me to recover and rebuild,” she said.

The post The Aftermath of War In Gaza appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Gaza, Palestine]

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[l] at 5/26/21 8:46am

The post was originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Songs.

Back in March 2020, ten-year-old Mila was approached by a boy in her school whose father told him to stay away from Chinese people.

“It was my first experience of racism, and I didn’t really know how to respond,” said Mila, who told the boy she was Chinese, and he backed away.

Considering the spike in anti-Asian racism since the pandemic outbreak, this could be considered a relatively mild example, but it still illustrates the discrimination that Asian youth are exposed to in either subtle or blatant forms.

In the case of Mila, she happened to be part of the garage punk band The Linda Lindas. This allowed her to compose the tune “Racist, Sexist Boy”, with Eloise, her 13-year-old bandmate and cousin. The tune is a direct response to the boy and others who express similar hateful ideologies.

The video of them performing the tune inside the Los Angeles public library for AAPI Heritage Month went viral. The band also recently announced that they signed with the influential independent punk label Epitaph.

“I hope the song empowers people who have been oppressed,” said Eloise.

“The song lets people know that they are not alone,” Mila added.

If you go back to the origins of punk, it was an all-inclusive scene that allowed diverse voices to speak their truth. It is refreshing to see a new generation of youth grabbing the torch and returning to those roots.

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ By The Linda Lindas appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project, Protest Song of the Week, Punk, Racism]

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[l] at 5/24/21 4:10pm

A federal court ruled in favor of journalist Abby Martin, who was barred from speaking at Georgia Southern University after she refused to pledge she would not boycott Israel.

Judge Mark Cohen in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia recognized [PDF] a Georgia state law requiring certification is not “narrowly tailored,” “burdens Martin’s speech,” and she has a valid claim that her rights were violated.

However, it also found three of the university officials Martin sued were immune from prosecution because in their “individual capacity” they supposedly could not have known the law was unconstitutional or “beyond debate.” 

“I am thrilled at the judge’s decision to strike down this law that so clearly violates the free speech rights of myself and so many others in Georgia,” Martin, the host of “Empire Files,” declared. “My First Amendment rights were restricted on behalf of a foreign government, which flies in the face of the principles of freedom and democracy.”

“The government of Israel has pushed state legislatures to enact these laws only because they know that sympathy and support for the population they brutalize, occupy, ethnically cleanse, and subject to apartheid is finally growing in popular consciousness.”

Martin added, “They want to hold back the tide of justice by preemptively restricting the right of American citizens to peacefully take a stand against their crimes.”

Yet in states like Arkansas, Arizona, Kansas, Texas, and now Georgia, federal courts have deemed these laws inappropriately prohibit certain speech.

On July 9, 2019, Georgia Southern University invited Martin to speak at the 2020 International Critical Media Literacy Conference.

A week after Martin accepted the invitation to participate as a keynote speaker, university officials sent her an agreement. They would offer a $1,000 honorarium and cover travel and lodging expenses. However, Martin had to sign a pledge.

“You certify that you are not currently engaged in, and agree for the duration of this agreement, not to engage in a boycott of Israel,” the pledge stated.

Martin told university officials, “I’m sure you know, a lot of my work advocates the boycott of Israel, and my new film features that call to action. I cannot sign any form promising not to boycott Israel.”

She was blocked from speaking at the university, and the conference was subsequently canceled.

In 2020, Martin sued Steve Wrigley, chancellor of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and Kyle Marrero, the president of Georgia Southern University, in their official capacities. She also sued three conference services staff members at the university: Michel Blitch, Bonnie Overstreet, and Sandra Lensch, who were involved in planning the conference.

According to the court decision, the Georgia law implicates Martin’s rights to freedom of speech and is discriminatory.

“Even assuming that Georgia’s interest in furthering foreign policy goals regarding relations with Israel is a substantial state interest, defendants fail to explain how Martin’s advocacy of a boycott of Israel has any bearing on Georgia’s ability to advance foreign policy goals with Israel,” the court contended.

Furthermore, as the court outlined “The certification requirement forces parties contracting with the state of Georgia to publicly assign a motive and speech element to what defendants deem merely economic conduct. The certification that one is not engaged in a boycott of Israel is no different than requiring a person to espouse certain political beliefs or to engage in certain political associations.”

State laws like the one in Georgia demand contractors like Martin pledge their loyalty to the Israeli government if they would like payment of $1,000 or more from state institutions.

Just like a federal court previously ruled in Arizona, restricting a person or company’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel “unquestionably burdens” protected expression under the First Amendment.

The lawsuit was brought by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter in Georgia and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). They called it a “major victory.”

“Israel’s latest violent onslaught against Palestinians underscores the importance of advocacy for Palestinian human rights,” proclaimed CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “By standing up against this illegal anti-BDS law, Abby Martin ensures that all Americans have the freedom to stand up for Palestine.”

“As the world watches Israeli aggression continue in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and against the population it besieges in Gaza, it has never been more urgent to advance the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli regime,” Martin concluded. “The striking of this law is a necessary and timely opening to build this urgent task.”

The post Journalist Abby Martin Had Free Speech Rights Violated By Georgia’s Anti-BDS Law, Court Rules appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, Abby Martin, Anti-BDS Laws, First Amendment, Georgia]

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[l] at 5/20/21 4:28am

Joya Stuckman returned home late at night after visiting her friend. It was Labor Day weekend but there was little to celebrate. She felt exhausted after spending the entire day loading a moving truck in order to escape what had become an untenable living situation. Her landlord and his sister had spent the better part of two years harassing Stuckman, who is a Black mother of three boys.  

She walked up to her house, which is nestled in the working class First Street neighborhood of Rome, New York, and glanced over at her U-Haul truck. The tires were slashed and the truck was completely covered in racist and neo-Nazi graffiti: thinly veiled death threats, racist slurs, an SS symbol, and swastikas. The numbers “1488,” which is a popular neo-Nazi code, were sprayed on the sides of the truck. Stuckman was terrified. 

As events unfolded, Stuckman found her footing in the tumultuous small town politics of Rome, and the growing Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. She joined with a small group of tenacious activists to navigate a minefield created by a corrupt police department, white supremacists, and a moribund political establishment—all three groups united in preventing any meaningful reforms. 

Her mind raced as she tried to figure out who would have done this to her. Was it her landlord Keith Tlod? Or was it his sister Noelle Heinig, who lived in the apartment downstairs?

Stuckman said that she was always called racial slurs by Heinig. “As time went on the comments got worse, and she would complain about anything and everything.”

The continued harassment was not limited to words. Stuckman is also convinced her landlord stole her son’s cat after its sudden disappearance a few days after Keith Tlod threatened to steal it. 

But for all of the transgressions of the landlord and his sister, it was Stuckman who was repeatedly reported to the police. She told Shadowproof that the police arrived at her house “18 times in 16 months,” all over fabricated complaints from Heinig.

Stuckman recalled a jarring late night encounter with the police who “basically bamboozled their way” into her house, pushing her out of the way. The officers responded to a false report that Stuckman’s children were locked in the basement. 

She brought the police officers upstairs to her children’s bedrooms. Startled, they awoke to three cops standing over them. Confused and frustrated, the officers eventually asked Stuckman why she thought Heinig called in so many false reports. The only obvious answer to her was that Heinig was racist. 

Stuckman filed multiple complaints to the Rome Police Department and informed city officials about the repeated harassment. Nothing ever came of it so she decided to move out. 

The night Stuckman discovered the vandalized moving truck, officers finally showed up after two hours of repeated calls to the police. They did not appear to share her sense of urgency or concern.

One officer told her that the swastika was simply “a sign of peace” and surmised the act was a case of “teenage mischief.”

The police declined to start a hate crime investigation, opting instead to look into the matter as mere graffiti. Stuckman felt hopeless but was determined to do something.

She spoke out about the incident on a Facebook livestream. It went viral locally and the news rapidly spread. By the end of the following day, an impromptu rally was organized on her block.

Her neighbor Connie Kangas heard about what happened from her son. “I immediately contacted Joya and she briefly told me what happened,” said Kangas. “Without knowing too much more I created my sign and ran down there.” Outside of Stuckman’s house, Kangas met over 40 neighbors and activists, including local BLM activist Jasmine Millner. 

At only 24 years of age, Millner, who worked as a model and actress, became well known in the BLM movement locally. She helped establish activist groups and delivered fiery speeches at rallies. Millner was also a social media influencer and delivered impassioned, unsparing statements condemning white supremacy and the actions of local police. 

When the police appeared on scene, Millner noticed RPD Officer Fred Pacicca sitting in his parked patrol car. Millner had recently learned about a series of racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-BLM posts Pacicca made on his Facebook page. Seeing an opportunity, she seized the megaphone. Millner read out loud many of his posts, and demanded Pacicca be investigated and fired. 

White Supremacy In Rome, New York

As the activists left the neighborhood, and Joya Stuckman, Connie Kangas, and their neighbors went back inside their homes, a man named John Smalden, who was circling the block earlier, parked his pick-up truck and started livestreaming on Facebook. He talked to Donald DeCarolis, one of Stuckman’s neighbors who acted aggressively during the protest.

DeCarolis demanded the police arrest the demonstrators. Witnesses claim he also made threats that he would use his “Second Amendment rights” against them.

Smalden then walked over to Officer Pacicca’s car, where the two complained to each other about the protest.

Video showed Pacicca initiating the conversation and identifying Jasmine Millner, her father who is a retired New York state trooper, and other BLM activists. He then shared information with Smalden about where and when another protest was scheduled for the following day. 

Many local BLM activists already knew about Smalden. The previous week he made his presence known at a “Blue Lives Matter” rally held in the nearby rural town of Schuyler.

Claudia Tenney, the recently elected Republican congresswoman for the 22nd District, was the main speaker that day. She ran on a “law-and-order” platform and was a close ally of former President Donald Trump.

That rally descended into violence after Smalden and others surrounded a smaller group of BLM counter-demonstrators. Following the rally, BLM activists in Utica received anonymous death threats and the addresses of some were made public by unknown sources following the event.

Smalden’s Facebook page includes several pictures of him decked in military fatigues and III% militia patches posing with other armed III% militia members, as well as frequent white supremacist posts.

The III% militia movement is considered extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other experts on the subject. Many militia members were involved with the January 6, 2021 siege at the US Capitol. 

Lifelong Rome resident Sarita Ruiz was one of the activists who was mentioned by Smalden when he again went live on Facebook, along with her food truck business.

Smalden “became very irate and angry and agitated and said he is not going to let this protest happen. It was basically a call to arms and he was calling people to action,” Ruiz stated. She saw people post openly and brazenly plans to shoot and kill the BLM activists. “He tried to organize against us. That’s when it got scary. They were out for blood.” 

Adding Fuel to the Fire

Joya Stuckman and her friend and fellow activist Anya Colón filed a complaint with the RPD that night about Pacicca’s conduct. Colón recalls the Rome police officer on duty telling them that there was “no racism” on the police force.

“He kept bringing up the BLM protests in Rochester and asked about something that was thrown at the police,” she said, frustrated by the exchange. Colón thought the police would be at Rome’s Triangle Park the following day, where the rally was scheduled to be held, especially in light of the threats. When the protest started however, the police were nowhere to be seen. 

The activists were relieved Smalden and his supporters did not appear. Still, many activists remained concerned with how the police enable white supremacists in the area.

“Pacicca and Smalden were an instigator and agitator,” commented Ruiz. “All Pacicca did was add fuel to the fire. Pacicca’s words did a lot of damage.”

This was not the first time the RPD displayed fundamentally different approaches to addressing BLM and racial justice activists on the one hand, and white supremacists, “Back the Blue” enthusiasts, and Trump’s base of support on the other. On July 8, 2021 local Trump supporters staged a “Back the Blue” and Donald Trump reelection rally in front of the Rome police station. Similar events were a weekly occurrence that roamed from town to town in Central New York, much to the ire of BLM activists. 

Many uniformed police officers along with Chief Beach, were at the rally, not so much as observers, but in the view of Ruiz and others, as participants. “That whole day sickened me,” said Ruiz. “Listening to the speeches that were being given and watching the cops chuckle. You knew exactly where they stood and they stood with Trump.”

Again, Trump supporters confronted BLM counter-demonstrators across the street. Again there were threats of physical violence. And yet again, the RPD stood idly by. So goes the struggle of organizing in rural, conservative communities.

Activists remain concerned about people like John Smalden. The far right has been growing in the region for a number of years. An array of neo nazi and fascist gangs and political groups have an organized presence, including the KKK, as well as the Proud Boys who have held protests that erupted into violence in Ithaca and Albany. In 2018, local residents organized a protest in response to the distribution of KKK recruitment flyers in Rome. 

A number of militias, not just III%ers, are active in the state. The Guardian reported that a high concentration of militia members live just north of Rome in the state’s North Country. Residents from the area were also arrested following the Unite the Right protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and more recently following the January 6 siege on Capitol Hill.

The actions of Stuckman and other activists, in what was later dubbed the “Justice for Joya” campaign, appeared to pay off. The RPD decided to change course, and started to investigate the incident as a hate crime. They ended up arresting Donald DiCarolis, the same neighbor who became aggressive during the protest, as the primary suspect. 

Stuckman found out during the grand jury investigation that two other neighbors were the victims of white supremacist threats, both allegedly from DiCarolis. However, although attorneys started to gear up for a potential trial, Stuckman felt entirely shut out of the process. She often wondered if any justice would ever be found through the court system. 

The Strange Career of Officer Pacicca

Following Officer Pacicca’s actions, matters became even more strained between the RPD and local activists. “There has been no transparency at all when it comes to the Pacicca case,” Joya Stuckman claimed, adding that “this man should not be walking the streets.” She has become more wary, and ever more vigilant about the safety of her family.

At first her main concern was over a racist neighbor, but the actions of Pacicca pushed her to take extra safety precautions. “I’ve been trying to keep my address private because I don’t trust officers like him.”

Jasmine Millner took to social media and launched a series of statements and short videos criticizing the RPD in what she called a pattern of racism. 

Just as Anya Colón and Stuckman filed a complaint with the RPD, Millner followed suit. “When I filed my complaint, one of the first things I was told was, ‘what did you expect?'” Millner recalled.

Millner and other activists were vexed and felt that Pacicca faced “no consequences” for his actions. 

She expressed frustration at the entire complaints process. She felt that the “only reason” she was able to successfully file the complaint was because she was the daughter of a former New York state trooper. She was convinced that if she was “some other Black resident” who came in from off the street that she would be turned away. 

Connie Kangas shared Millner’s concern over Pacicca and the same broken complaints process. “That weekend I started writing a whole bunch of letters. I knew the police were not going to do anything,” stated Kangas. So she contacted Rome mayor Jacqueline Izzo, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the state’s Hate Crimes Taskforce. She is still waiting for a response.

Kangas also opened up about her past interactions with Pacicca, followed by futile attempts to file complaints with the RPD over his conduct. For three years, Kangas rented an apartment from Pacicca’s ex-wife, who lived in the same building.

A year after moving in, Pacicca and his ex started seeing each other again, and his presence became common. She heard frequent fights from her neighbor’s apartment, and constant shouting and swearing from Pacicca. Kangas could see that his ex-wife “lived in a state of fear.” He soon turned his temper on Kangas. 

“One day I was working from home and heard pounding on my door,” recalled Kangas. She was shocked to see a police car outside and ran downstairs, fearing something had happened to one of her children. When she opened the door, she saw Pacicca standing there. He yelled at her to take in the garbage cans from the front of the house. Kangas politely told him she was busy at work and would take care of it later. She recalls an irate Pacicca who threatened: “You do this now or I’ll throw you out. I know people.”

She then saw Pacicca go to the back of the house where he proceeded to slash every tire and cut the brakes to her bike and her children’s bikes. She immediately called the police and attempted to file a complaint but they discouraged her from doing so. Just as he would later do so to Millner, Pacicca retaliated against Kangas. 

“Multiple times, he sent cops to do a well check on me,” recalled Kangas. He eventually followed through on his threat to evict her.

According to Kangas, on moving day, he pulled up with his police car and stole her AC from inside her moving truck. She told him not to, and again called the police who informed her they could not do anything about it.

While she moved to her new residence, Pacicca followed in his patrol car and walked over to her new landlord, warning her that Kangas “was a problem.” Kangas said the landlord didn’t believe him and had her own issues in the past with unwarranted searches from the RPD. “She laughed at the whole situation.”

When asked where Pacicca’s apparent resentment of her came from, Kangas replied, “I didn’t cow down. I didn’t cower. I wasn’t afraid of him and I stood up to him. He hated me from that point on.” Multiple emails and letters she sent to the chief of police, mayor, and council members never received a response. 

To date, the public has never been made aware if Pacicca was reprimanded. No officers ever followed up with any of the activists who filed complaints. FOIA requests were filed in December 2020 in an attempt to dig into the matter but the City of Rome has yet to release any information. The Rome Police Department declined to comment for this article after multiple requests for an interview were sent by Shadowproof. 

Activists feel that the RPD is plagued with a culture where police brutality is both encouraged and celebrated. Just one month after the protest in Stuckman’s neighborhood, they would be proved right. 

Yadana May, Robert Perry Wright, and Randall Beavers lead a Black Lives Matter march around Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York on June 6, 2020. (Credit: Brendan Maslauskas Dunn) Catalysts for Forming A Grassroots Network

On October 2, local residents held an anti police brutality rally at the police station in response to an incident that occured the day before where RPD officers brutalized a group of teenagers of color who were playing football. Mayor Jacqueline Izzo, sent out a press release in response to the incident, stating “I’m very comfortable with the actions of the police. Our police did a good job dispersing the crowd.”  

Irony was not lost on those at the protest when the police yet again brutalized the demonstrators. Three were arrested and charged, including teenager Juan Gonzalez who was given a black eye. 

These cases of police violence pushed Jasmine Millner and Sarita Ruiz to reach out to other activists with a plan to have a more deeply connected and strategic approach to organizing in Rome. Out of this loose network of activists formed the Copper City Collective. The new organization is just one of countless such groups that the Black Lives Matter movement gave birth to across the country. 

While much attention has been given to BLM as the movement exists in larger cities – New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta – as it ebbed and flowed since its inception in 2013, the true litmus of a mass movement may be measured in small cities, towns, and rural areas where there is often less of an organized progressive and leftwing presence. 

Since the eruption of BLM into a national, then international, rebellion against police violence and racism, the entirety of Upstate New York was also swept up in the fervor. The level of sustained mass protests in rust belt cities and the mere presence of protests in small farm towns across Upstate NY over the summer of 2020 has not been seen in the region since the 1960s-1970s.  

While some of the locally based organizations are called BLM, most, like Copper City Collective, have different names but still claim their position in the broader movement against police violence.

The movement in Upstate NY is decentralized, multiracial, and multigenerational. The politics that animate BLM range from a progressive and reformist wing to a Black revolutionary, socialist, anarchist, and abolitionist one.

It is a very pluralistic movement that rests largely on collective action and grassroots community organizing. Many of the groups are connected in a loose, ever changing network. 

Mass protests were held in virtually every city in the state. Troy, NY, with a population of just over 50,000, held a protest of 11,000 people. Rochester had daily protests, marked by arrests, highway shut downs, and the occupation of streets surrounding city hall in response to the police killing of Daniel Prude on March 23, 2020.

Protests in Albany were cleared by the police with pepper spray and tear gas. Martin Gugino, a 75 year old peace activist and anarchist, was shoved to the ground by police in Buffalo. Officers walked by him, refusing to offer aid, as blood gushed from his head onto the sidewalk. He was hospitalized for a month and treated for sustained injuries from a fractured skull. 

Indigenous activists in Syracuse pressured the city to take down a statue of Christopher Columbus and won. Demonstrators formed a 1,000 person strong protest in the nearby City of Utica where shouts to find justice for Walter Washington and Jessie Lee Rose, two local victims of police violence, echoed calls to find justice for George Floyd. 

Nearby rural and suburban communities, most of which have a white population of around 98%, held a series of protests: New Hartford, Clinton, Westmoreland, Oneida, Camden, Little Falls, and Hamilton were just a few.

In Rome, over 300 protestors gathered in June and marched around Fort Stanwix, the wood stockade fortress in the middle of the city where several battles were fought during the 1700s.

The number may seem small, but protests are rare in the Copper City. 

‘A Small Town With Big Hate’

The membership of the Copper City Collective is solidly working class, and predominantly women of color. This stands in stark contrast to the makeup of the city government which is exclusively white and leans to the right politically. Like elsewhere across the nation, members of the collective were drawn into the movement, spurred on by their convictions and desire to push for change. Many, however, have their own experiences with racism and police brutality. The year 2020 was a tipping point for them.

Sarita Ruiz’s pride for Rome runs deep. Her grandfather was a union laborer and helped rebuild Fort Stanwix in the 1970s, City Hall, and other iconic structures in the city. But growing up in Rome as a person of color was difficult, she said. “Sometimes you’re under a magnifying glass because you stick out. Rome is a small town with big hate.” Her family’s direct encounter with police brutality goes back generations. Her grandfather was brutalized by a Rome police officer and falsely arrested in the 1960s.

In recounting her family’s past, Ruiz opened up about a long repressed memory. She said her father, who was in the Air Force and worked as a correctional officer, was “very strict” and abusive. When she was 14, she was caught rollerblading away from the house at night, an act that angered her father. He beat her so she fled to the police station. She ran inside and “begged the police for help.” Her father followed her inside and continued to hit her. 

“I run outside and all of the sudden all these cops come out and they all started beating me up, restraining me. I end up getting arrested, put in handcuffs, and they put me in this room,” stated Ruiz. “‘That was my early interaction with the police.”

Ruiz added that when she witnessed the police brutalizing then arresting activists in front of the police station, “it was on those same exact steps—and that was years ago. This is still happening. It’s like reliving this” 

The most painful memory is that of her brother. In the mid-2000s, Ruiz’s brother Alexis went to hang out with friends at a Dunkin Donuts. According to her, the police “were looking for a young man who met a completely different description” over an alleged crime. The police questioned him and he gave them his nickname, Antonio, instead of his real name. He was arrested for giving a false name to the police. 

“They cavity searched him. That freaked him out and he never trusted the police after that. He was very young, and because of his autism and his epilepsy, he didn’t understand what was going on. It was a traumatic experience for him,” said Ruiz.

Her brother was only 17 at the time. Although he won a lawsuit against the RPD, Ruiz said her brother “was never the same after that.” He passed away in 2015. Ruiz believes that the trauma from his encounter with the police led to his untimely death. 

Every other member of the group has their own trauma. Elyssa Bolt talked about what she calls the “suspicious, strange circumstances” that surrounded the death of her Latina and Indigenous girlfriend seven years ago in Arizona.

“I believe her ethnic background played a role in the police and coroner not really taking her death seriously and essentially deciding that her life didn’t matter,” she said. “So when the Black Lives Matter movement began to take form… I’ve always wanted to take a part in this,” she stated in an interview with the Hudson Mohawk Magazine.

Connie Kangas, who has had a lifelong interest in Indigenous rights and sovereignty, discussed a visit from the FBI in 2001. She alerted the American Indian Movement about flyers that were distributed locally where a group anonymously threatened to bomb the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Casino. The FBI seemed more concerned that she was trying to warn people about it than the threat itself. 

Ruiz said that what the police did to her brother touched a nerve. “It just made it more meaningful to continue to fight.” She also said, ”I was born into activism. My mother was very involved with politics her entire life. My mother had me going to protests from a very young age.”

Joya Stuckman was similarly introduced to activism at a young age, noting that she and her sisters joined the NAACP when she was in elementary school. Black elders in the community, particularly Tuskegee Airman Herbert Thorpe, had a major impact on her. “We knew about the struggles and there was a fight,” she said. Their collective experience molded them and prepared them for the long fight ahead.

Copper City Collective member Elyssa Bolt holds a Black Lives Matter flag outside Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York on October 2, 2020. She was later assaulted then arrested by Rome police officers after the protestors marched to the police station.  (Credit: Brendan Maslauskas Dunn) You Can’t Reform This

Along with the local chapter of the NAACP, the group has been the organization most vocal against institutional racism, police violence, and other injustices in Rome.

One issue in particular that the group has been organizing in response to is the push from the state government for police departments to adopt and implement reform plans. In response to the BLM wave of protests and civil unrest, on August 17 Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the implementation of the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.

The act requires that police departments collaborate with the wider community to create robust reforms. And while there appeared to be a genuine attempt to include legitimate reforms elsewhere in the state, Rome proved to be a different situation.

For over two years, the NAACP in Rome reached out to the chief of police in hopes they could meet to discuss issues of racial justice. Not once did the chief agree to sit down with them.

It came as no surprise to Sarita Ruiz when the NAACP and other activists never got the invitation to be a part of the reform committee. They felt shut out and so created their own focus group to propose a more far reaching set of reforms. 

Ruiz, who is part of the NAACP’s focus group, stated that the group was formed so that local residents “could have a voice.” She found that the RPD pushed back against just about every mild reform that was suggested, including an expansion of mental health resources, and implementing the use of body cams.

“It’s unacceptable that the RPD does not have body cameras but everybody around us does,” said Ruiz. She complained that the RPD has spent the better part of a year coming up with excuses to delay the process to implement body cams. 

Recently, the RPD announced that they finally purchased four body cams to test out. However, the Rome NAACP called out the city government for transferring excessive funds for ammunition, instead of equipping the entire police force with body cams.

After half a year of meeting behind closed doors, the RPD and their appointed reform committee finally made their plans public. Ruiz and others were outraged. She believes that the reform plan was essentially “written by the police department.”

“There should have been more community inclusion from the beginning,” stated Ruiz. While the governor encouraged prolonged input from the wider public, little attempt was made for a mass democratic, inclusive, or even transparent process, according to activists. “There were only two short opportunities to comment via zoom, said Ruiz. “The RPD, I don’t believe, really took this seriously enough. They had a golden opportunity to connect with the community and they missed it.”

Complicating matters is the refusal of the RPD to comply with state law following the June 12, 2020 repeal of section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Law. That section of the law enabled police officers, fire fighters, and prison guards to shield disciplinary records from public view.

This change was a major win for activists who organized for years trying to have 50-a repealed. Momentum from activists grew after the 2014 NYPD killing of Eric Garner.

Cuomo responded to the sustained pressure. It was viewed as a major grassroots win. 

While nearby cities such as Utica publicly released disciplinary records of officers over the summer, the RPD has yet to release records and refuses to explain to the public why they are violating state law. 

Activists from both the NAACP and Copper City Collective spoke out against RPD’s refusal to release these records, as well as issues surrounding the reform plan. While the city council listened to the criticism, nothing was changed and the plan was unanimously approved. It is still unclear what the process for approval and implementation of these plans are from the governor’s office. 

In Rome and elsewhere, activists feel discouraged that most reform plans are a far cry from what many people demand—defunding, demilitarizing, and in some cases, the abolition of police altogether.

The Copper City Collective is currently working on their own plan, based in part on a list of reforms listed on the website 8toabolition. They plan to release their vision soon.

‘She Would Want Us to Fight’

Recently, the collective faced a number of setbacks. A major blow to morale came in late March when activists received the heartbreaking news that group cofounder Jasmine Millner unexpectedly passed away.

For weeks, activists were in a state of bewilderment and grief. “She was out there and voiced her opinion with no shame,” said Sarita Ruiz of Millner. “She made it feel like there was a team behind you, even if it was just Jasmine.” Other activists echoed Ruiz’s sentiment, and shared the conviction that Jasmine Millner helped build the foundation of BLM activism locally, and was a key movement leader.

Still grieving over this tragedy, on April 13 Joya Stuckman learned that the case against Donald DeCarolis was dismissed for lack of evidence a whole month earlier. The district attorney never bothered to inform her. Everyone in the group shared a sense of anger and frustration. 

As time slowly marches on in Rome, the Copper City Collective pushes to pick up the pace of political change. 

The group organized the first May Day rally in Rome in over a century. Plans are currently underway for a Juneteenth celebration, as well as a public tribute to Jasmine Millner. Several Black tenants at the sprawling Park Drive apartment complex reached out to the group for assistance over harassment and death threats they received from racist white neighbors. The friends and family of loved ones killed by local police maintain contact with the organization, hoping for some semblance of justice.

Although an insurmountable wall of injustice remains in this rustbelt city, the will to tackle it head on is unshakeable in the Copper City Collective. “I want us to keep fighting,” said Sarita Ruiz. Her desire and grit are shared by her fellow activists. She stated there are times when she feels like walking away from everything, “but Jasmine wouldn’t want us to do that. She would want us to fight.” 

The post Movement For Black Lives In Upstate New York: Confronting Police, White Supremacists, And Craven Politicians appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Black Lives Matter, Police, Upstate New York, white supremacy]

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[l] at 5/18/21 11:33am

Maybe in another rural, conservative county, a proposal to build a new jail would’ve been approved with very little fanfare. Even in Haywood County itself, a mountainous region in western North Carolina, the idea probably wouldn’t have garnered much attention a few years earlier. 

After all, Haywood County is a place where Donald Trump won in 2020 by almost 30 percentage points, Republican firebrand Madison Cawthorn was elected to Congress, and support for the military runs strong. Law-and-order politics tend to carry the day. 

But remarkably, a proposal for a new jail has become a matter of genuine debate throughout the county. Local newspapers have run numerous articles exploring its nuances, protests have been staged in the county’s downtowns, and even many not-particularly-political residents understand the basic tenets of the issue and its controversy.  

That’s largely due to the work of Down Home North Carolina, a grassroots organization that has worked to empower poor and working class people since 2017. The group has been making inroads among local residents who, while conservative, are independent-minded and difficult to stereotype.

The result is an example of something prison abolitionists have been arguing as the movement enters the national debate more deeply: the politics of safety and punishment don’t necessarily fall as cleanly within ideological lines as conventional wisdom suggests. The abolition movement has a wide range of potential allies with whom they can campaign to reduce incarceration and policing.

But many of them would never put themselves in that category—not, that is, until organizers like Down Home help them to untangle some of the issues at stake. 


It was last fall when Haywood County Sheriff Gregory Christopher began arguing for a bigger facility projected to run to around $16.5 million in construction costs. 

He was responding to North Carolina’s new rule, established in September 2020, mandating that different categories of incarcerated people be housed separately, depending on their offenses and security requirements. The new regulation could easily render the current detention facility too small, particularly since the number of people incarcerated there has spiked in the past few years.  

“If you look at how the Haywood County jail is set up, there’s no room for that,” said Rev. Court Greene, who leads Canton First Baptist Church and has been following the issue. “Looking at the sheer numbers, we have to have a new jail.” 

But those numbers only tell part of the story. 

Norman Hoffmann, a clinical psychologist and researcher who has been studying the Haywood County jail for a decade, found in 2018 that 86 percent of people incarcerated there suffered from substance use disorder and cost the county significantly more money as a result. Additionally, 48 percent seemed to be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and roughly one-third reported symptoms compatible with a major depressive disorder or an anxiety disorder.

To Haywood County residents, those numbers aren’t too surprising. Like other parts of rural America, it’s seen a loss in manufacturing jobs and an accompanying rise in substance use over the last decade. This year, the county ranked highest in the state for visits to the emergency room for opioid overdoses. 

“So many people have family members suffering,” said Victoria Castle, a Haywood County resident and a member of Down Home. “Just about every family is dealing with it.” 

But familiarity doesn’t necessarily translate into a softer perspective on crime and incarceration. 

“The stigma against substance use disorder is so prevalent; it’s something you don’t talk about,” said Castle. Instead, people default to ideas of tough love and personal responsibility. “The idea is still law and order. They don’t know there’s an alternative.”

That’s where Down Home has found a powerful niche. As a member-driven group with a presence in five rural North Carolina counties, it may not be a high-profile organization, but it has developed a strong group of supporters who have spoken out on several key issues.

Down Home’s goals aren’t explicitly progressive. Its organizers try to unearth and target issues that matter most to the people in their regions, which often fail to align with political self-identification. The role of Down Home, then, is to educate locals and help them connect the dots between what affects them and their own opinions and actions. 

“People can have a knee jerk reaction like, ‘Bad people need to be in jail,’ but I think when they actually think about it, they might be like, ‘Wait a minute—this don’t make no damn sense,’” says Jesse-Lee Dunlap, Down Home’s community organizer for Haywood and neighboring Jackson County. 

“We’re paying a lot more money to harm people. And we’re not reducing crime or drug use; we’re not helping anybody.” 

Dan Bayer, a canvasser for Down Home NC, walks in a neighborhood knocking on doors. Photo by Sugelema Lynch

Down Home points out that the jail is crowded because it’s become the de facto primary mental health facility in the region. A busy behavioral health urgent care facility that operated 24/7 had its hours greatly reduced last year due to state budget cuts. There is also a policy on the books to send people to harm reduction programs instead of jail, but it’s rarely utilized because the harm reduction programs themselves scarcely exist.

The North Carolina General Assembly has shrunk the budget for mental health and substance use disorder programs for over a decade. Between 2016 and 2020, the managed care organization that oversees those programs for the western part of the state lost more than $52 million in public funding. 

Meanwhile, the Republican-led state legislature has refused to expand Medicaid. So even if services existed, low-income people who need long-term treatment or residential therapy would have no way to pay for them. 

“They’ve got squat” when it comes to facilities and options, Hoffman says of Haywood County—particularly more sophisticated treatments that are necessary to treat combinations of PTSD, depression, and serious substance abuse. 

In a study a few years ago, he said, “we found that there’d been a steady decline in the number of providers, which coincided with a steady increase in the number of people incarcerated. If you’re not getting services and you have an addiction problem, you’re liable to get in trouble with the law.” 

To highlight those funding discrepancies, Down Home and its members responded with an “alternative budget” they presented to stone-faced county commissioners at a February 2021 meeting. The budget includes a wide range of services, including providing licensed social workers at all of the county’s middle and high schools, fully reopening the behavioral health urgent care clinic, building affordable housing, and establishing outpatient and residential treatment options. 

The total cost of those social programs, which could potentially reduce the jail population enough that another facility is unnecessary, is estimated at $3.4 million. 

That’s a far cry from the $165 million that Down Home claims a new jail would cost taxpayers. They cite a Vera Institute study asserting that staffing and other needs over a detention facility’s lifetime increase the price tag to ten times the construction cost.


Down Home’s leaders say the organization doesn’t specifically support prison abolition; it tries to stick closely to its members’ beliefs and positions. Regardless of this, the group has employed a classic abolitionist framework in its focus on the root factors of incarceration and the creation of the alternative budget. 

They’re making the point that investment in social services does a far better job of helping people and responding to harm than incarceration. And the group’s organizers are doing it without the stereotypical hectoring or lecturing.

Craig Gilmore, a longtime anti-prison organizer and co-founder of the California Prison Moratorium Project, agrees that the potential constituency for prison abolition is much wider than political ideologies might indicate. He thinks change is already afoot. 

“There are any number of people who have come to see that increasing or even in some cases just maintaining current levels of spending and staffing isn’t making them safer,” said Gilmore. “I think there’s a growing awareness that cuts across the political spectrum, that the things we’ve been spending money on in our criminal justice system are taking money away from things they’d rather see funded.”

The North Carolina organizers face an uphill battle. Funding for jail construction already exists in the form of an old bond, whereas funding for new social services does not. And the county commissioners—who need to make a key decision on the jail project in June—largely seem to be leaning in favor of a new facility. 

But Down Home’s leaders have another weapon in their arsenal. In early April, the group began a four-week “deep canvassing” project, knocking on doors throughout the county and talking to residents about substance use, incarceration, and their own experiences.

“If we can say, ‘Hey look, 74 percent of Haywood County voters don’t approve of this project’—that’s really what these elected officials care about,” Dunlap said. “I think that information would be the thing that makes them say, ‘We can’t do it.’”

But deep canvassing is more than just polling. At heart, it’s about eliciting residents’ empathy and changing their minds. Down Home has had success on this front on a variety of topics, and co-founder Todd Zimmer is confident it works. 

“We worked really hard to be able to reach a conclusion on that question” of deep canvassing’s effectiveness, he said. “And we stand by it. People are narrated to constantly through the media. Very infrequently do people have conversations about, ‘What is your personal experience with this issue in your life?’” And that just might help counteract the “Fox effect,” which can encourage people to vote against their own material interests.

Down Home may not prevail this time. But it has laid the groundwork and educated many people on an issue that will deeply impact them. 

“The fact that this conversation is happening in Haywood County is an example of what wouldn’t be happening if we weren’t there,” says Zimmer. “Poor and working people’s voices weren’t part of the conversation, and now they are

The post In Rural, Conservative North Carolina County, Anti-Jail Movement Takes Shape appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Prison Protest, Anti-jail campaigns, North Carolina, Organizing]

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[l] at 5/12/21 9:37am

The post was originally published as part of Ongoing History of Protest Songs.

Tom Morello has a long career creating political music as the guitarist of Rage Against The Machine, The Nightwatchman, and for several other projects. It should come as no surprise that he joined forces with Russian musical activist collective Pussy Riot.

“Pussy Riot is one of the most radical and important activist musical groups of all time,” Morello declared in a press statement. “Their fearless blending of art and confrontation is a constant inspiration and it’s an honor to combine forces on this powerful, revolutionary track ‘Weather Strike.’”

Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova added: “Both for Tom and me politics has been always closely intertwined with our music, like two sides of a Möbius strip. It’s an honor to collaborate and be friends with Tom. I feel strong, empowered, supported, seen, respected, when I work with Tom.”

“I feel that we’re forming a good part of a revolutionary art army together, true allies and comrades,” Tolokonnikova shared. “‘Weather Strike’ is a dreamy, utopian track for me. We loudly proclaim the future we want to see: alternative systems of public safety where police violence is no longer an issue, an ultimate joy of rebellion and rejecting injustice.”

Tolokonnikova and Morello both come from countries where police brutality is an issue, and the topic of abolition is a timely one. The song is a rousing call to stand against injustice and work toward lasting change.

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Weather Strike’ By Tom Morello and Pussy Riot appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project]

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[l] at 5/12/21 8:10am

California community organizers continue to fight for reparations after the state forcibly sterilized people for more than a century, offering little more than an empty apology and three rejected compensation bills. 

Since 2017, organizers have pushed for legislation to compensate survivors of forced sterilizations during the eugenics era, when states allowed the practice to be carried out against over 60,000 disabled and imprisoned people and later, in the 2000s, when hundreds of people in women’s prisons were illegally sterilized against their will.

Community organizer Kelli Dillon and attorney Cynthia Chandler have fought the abuse in California prisons for twenty years. In 2001, Dillon was sterilized without her knowledge or consent while imprisoned. She later reached out to Chandler for help getting access to her medical records. 

Their meeting unfolded into a political struggle, documented in Erika Cohn’s Belly of the Beast, after Dillon and Chandler uncovered a disturbing pattern within the California Department of Corrections (CDCR), which paid doctors to perform illegal tubal ligations on hundreds of Black and Latinx prisoners against their will, often without their knowledge. 

Lorena Garcia Zermeño is the Policy and Communications Coordinator for California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ). She holds political education events across the state. 

“It’s happened more often than we would like, where we’re giving these presentations and more than one person comes forward and says, ‘oh my god, I think this happened to me with my doctor. I signed a consent form but it wasn’t the correct one, and then there was some kind of weird medical malpractice that happened.’ And then they realize they were sterilized,” Zermeño said.  

Aminah Elster was imprisoned during her “childbearing years.” As the Campaign and Policy Coordinator for California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), Elster organizes for reproductive justice and prison abolition. She sees these two causes as deeply connected. 

“All of the work around police violence, defunding the police, reparations [for forced and coerced sterilizations], the Prison-Industrial Complex, it’s all interwoven and intertwined,” Elster said.

Chandler, Zermeño, Elster, and their organizations fight for reparations for survivors. They have held political education events, circulated a petition that has garnered nearly 14,000 signatures, sponsored compensation bills, and more. 

Since 2017, they have pushed for legislation to compensate survivors of forced and coerced sterilizations between 1909 and 2013. 

The most recent iteration of the bill, AB 1007—co-sponsored by CLRJ and CCWP, as well as  Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and Back to the Basics—is currently making its way through committees in the California state assembly. In addition to survivor compensation, the bill would establish an outreach program in consultation with community-based organizations, whereby markers would be placed at designated sites, raising public awareness of California’s history of mass sterilization abuse. 

“Many people in this country are not aware that these heinous acts of reproductive injustice even occurred. A vital step is raising awareness that this happened and educating people about it,” Carly Myers, an attorney for DREDF said. 

The original 2017 bill included a mandate for education about eugenics in public schools, but legislators removed it. 

In fighting to preserve the memory of forced sterilizations in California, organizers are helping people better understand, and thereby combat, present reproductive injustice. Political education, organizers argue, is crucial to transforming the conditions that lead to this injustice. 

AB 1007 would also require that the state formally notify every individual it has coercively sterilized. 

“The state shouldn’t be able to hide the violence that it’s done to people’s bodies,” Chandler said. 

Organizers say compensation is a critical component of the push for reparations, to acknowledge this abuse that has been practiced in California for over a century, and to demonstrate an authentic commitment to preventing it in the future. 

“People need to be compensated for the harm that has been done to them. And also it sends a statement as well that this is not acceptable. This is not acceptable for medical professionals to be coming in here experimenting on individuals,” Elster said.

Myers is hopeful that, in passing AB 1007, California might set an example for other states. 

“We really need a material acknowledgment to set a strong precedent nationwide that we don’t stand for this behavior, and by making a meaningful gesture recognizing its wrongdoing, we’re making a true promise that it will never happen again,” Myers said.

Importantly, financial compensation is just one pillar of a reparations platform. Community Organizer Mariame Kaba describes reparations as a framework including repair, restoration, acknowledgment, cessation, and non repetition.

Writing about reparations after Breonna Taylor’s murder by Louisville police officer Myles Cosgrove, Kaba and co-writer Andrea J. Ritchie state, “Under a reparations framework, Breonna’s family—and all of us—are also entitled to more than an individualized response to what is a systemic problem.”

Organizers recognize that monetary compensation does not equate to justice. No amount of money can bring back a survivor’s reproductive capacity or transform the conditions that led to this reproductive abuse. 

“But it does go far beyond words,” Meyers said, “and it will more effectively acknowledge the wrongs done by the state.” 

The compensation bill has bipartisan support, but so far, no iteration has made it past the appropriations committee, where state legislators decide how and where to allocate funds. AB 1007 is currently suspended in that committee. It will be heard on May 20th. 

“Most people, in theory, want to be on the side of history that’s opposed to eugenics. But where they’ve been lacking in action is actually putting a dollar priority behind it,” Chandler said.

While many legislators have agreed that survivors of forced and coerced sterilizations deserve compensation, they continue to stop short of actually granting it. 

“I’ve heard legislators say, ‘if we were to do reparations for this, we have to do reparations for other things. Why should we start with this issue?’ Well, why not start with this issue? Why not start with an actual public mandate and resolve that says ‘we will not tolerate the annihilation of Black women’s families?’” Chandler said. 

“I think that until the state legislature agrees to compensate people for this abuse, they are complicit with the racism and sexism that was at the root of this abuse,” Chandler said. “Absent real accountability, I think we’re doomed for this to repeat over and over and over again.” 

Breaking Cycle Of State-Sanctioned Reproductive Violence

Throughout the 20th century, the United States waged a violent campaign against the reproductive rights of disabled and imprisoned people, the vast majority of whom were Black and/or Latinx. It was eugenics, and California was the national leader. 

Eugenicists advocated for forced sterilization to prevent people they deemed “unfit” from having children. California eugenicists justified mass sterilization by framing the procreation of these groups as harmful to the state. 

Forcibly stripping “unfit” people of their right to reproduce, they argued, was a convenient way to save state funds and prevent overcrowding in state institutions. 

California passed its first sterilization law in 1909, targeting primarily people in state hospitals, “mental institutions,” and prisons. Over the next eight years, the state legislature expanded its scope, increasing its capacity to sterilize people. By 1917, the state had empowered itself to sterilize virtually anyone it deemed “unfit to reproduce” for any reason.

Notably, the law did not afford patients control over their bodies. Under all iterations of the law, patient consent was not required for sterilization, patients had no legal rights to challenge sterilization orders, and state officials had no obligation to notify patients or their families that they had been sterilized. 

Eugenic sterilizations were a tool of white supremacy used against communities that eugenicists believed threatened “the strength and wellbeing of the race.” People who were sterilized were typically categorized by white supremacists in at least one of three ways: dependent, delinquent, or mentally deficient.  

People labeled “dependent” were usually poor, receiving welfare payments from the state. People considered “delinquent” were often sterilized as a “cure for sexual promiscuity,” or a treatment for “criminal” behavior. “Mentally deficient” was used as a catchall, referring to people with substance use disorders, depression, Down’s syndrome, and a wide range of other mental and physical disabilities. 

Across all three categories, people targeted for sterilization were disproportionately women and racial and ethnic minorities, specifically Black and/or Latinx.

“It’s these very particular notions of who is fit to parent that are at play here, and it’s very deeply rooted in white supremacy. And [that’s] what we have been continuously screaming at the top of our lungs for a very long time,” Zermeño said. 

California’s sterilization law went largely uncontested by state officials for 70 years. By 1921, the state accounted for over 80 percent of sterilizations in the U.S. In the 1930s, California’s aggressive sterilization law was used as a model for the Nazi regime’s “purification” efforts.   

By the time the law was repealed in 1979, the state had forcibly sterilized over 20,000 people.

“Throughout history, people with disabilities have been looked down upon and seen as not only unfit to reproduce, but unfit to exist. The eugenics era and the sterilizations that happened in this country were emblematic of those ideas,” Myers said.  “With the repeal of the eugenics law, those ideologies certainly didn’t disappear.” 

Losing Survivors To Time

Tens of thousands of survivors of eugenic sterilizations have died over the course of a century, and many living survivors of both past and contemporary sterilizations are at high-risk for COVID-19. The fact that so many haven’t had an opportunity for reparation lends a greater sense of urgency to pass legislation in support of those who are still alive. 

“Every year, that number of survivors that would be able to receive compensation and reparations is dwindling,” Zermeño said. “We really hope that this will be the year. But also, it has to be.” 

Of the over 20,000 disabled and imprisoned people forcibly sterilized in California during the eugenics era, there are an estimated 455 alive today. 

“If we don’t provide reparations this year, these 455 people, just like the [over] 19,500 people before them, will die without seeing any form of justice. That’s not okay,” Myers said. 

Recent uprisings in response to racism, calls to defund and abolish the police, and the COVID-19 pandemic all make the reparations bill even more timely. 

“The global pandemic has exposed disparities in healthcare treatment that not only disabled people, but also Black people, people of color, women, and poor people have experienced for decades. And this bill provides California an opportunity to be a leader in addressing these disparities and the violence that has occurred within carceral settings,” Myers said. 


When Kelli Dillon wrote to Cynthia Chandler in 2001, she was imprisoned at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), 24 years-old and experiencing symptoms of menopause. Dillon sought treatment from prison medical staff for cramps, and was told she needed an operation for cervical cancer—cancer she later found out she did not have. 

After the operation, she was denied access to her own medical records, so she enlisted Chandler’s help. The two finally met when Chandler obtained the records and discovered Dillon had been involuntarily sterilized. 

“I had to tell her in that first meeting that I had figured out that she had been sterilized without her knowledge,” Chandler said. 

Dillon’s sterilization happened over two decades after forced sterilizations were outlawed in California. 

When Dillon reached out to her, Chandler was running Justice Now, a Prison-Industrial Complex (PIC) abolitionist organization centering the experiences of people in women’s prisons. 

Critical Resistance defines the PIC as “the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social, and political problems.” Justice Now maintains that the PIC upholds patriarchy by perpetuating gender-based violence, specifically against women of color, who make up two-thirds of women in prison.  

“People in women’s prisons are so often the survivors of gross interpersonal violence that goes unacknowledged by our current criminal legal system,” Chandler said. 

Organizations like Justice Now oppose carceral feminism, which advocates for increasing the scope of prisons and policing as a solution to gender-based violence. “We wanted to be able to create a very gender-focused abolitionist organization that would challenge the idea that prisons and policing are a response to violence against women, and instead show that prisons and policing are a form of violence against women,” Chandler said. 

Some call it the abuse-to-prison pipeline, whereby survivors are criminalized and imprisoned for their responses to domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence. 

Nearly 79 percent of people in women’s prisons nationwide have experienced domestic or sexual abuse prior to their imprisonment. And 86 percent of women in prisons and jails report having experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Still, the data on imprisoned survivors is sparse and in many cases outdated—an indictment in and of itself.

As many as 90 percent of women imprisoned for killing men have been abused by those men prior to killing them. Dillon herself is a survivor of domestic violence—she was coercively sterilized while imprisoned for killing her abuser in self-defense. 

“I Do Not Feel ‘Safer’ Here” “Stop Forced Sterilization” Poster, circa 1977. Image via Library of Congress.

In prison, survivors are isolated from their communities and subjected to further violence. In Are Prisons Obsolete?, longtime prison abolitionist Angela Davis quotes prisoner Marcia Bunny, who said, “I do not feel ‘safer’ here because ‘the abuse has stopped.”

“It has not stopped,” Bunny said. “It has shifted shape and paced itself differently, but it is as insidious and pervasive in prison as ever it was in the world I know outside these walls.”

Sexual assault by staff occurs in carceral facilities across the U.S. It is particularly rampant in women’s prisons. 

In 2011, Amnesty International found that staff routinely sexually assault, harass, and extort people in women’s prisons with impunity. 

“Male correctional officials retaliate, often brutally, against [prisoners] who complain about sexual assault and harassment,” the report reads. “Guards threaten the prisoner’s children and

visitation rights as a means of silencing the women. Guards issue rules-infraction tickets, which extend the woman’s stay in prison if she speaks out. Prisoners who complain are frequently placed in administration segregation.”

According to data that the CDCR released in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act , 326 instances of prison staff sexual assaulting prisoners were reported in California in 2019. Between 2014 and 2018, the CDCR fired at least six prison guards for sexually assaulting people in women’s prisons. The vast majority of instances of sexual violence in prisons go unreported and unaddressed. 

Prisons also enact gender-based violence by obstructing prisoners’ right to family. 

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every individual has the right to “found a family, without limitation due to race, nationality, or religion.” Prisons function to prevent people from accessing their right to family through systematic isolation, confinement during reproductive years, forced and coerced sterilization, and a lack of reproductive healthcare. 

The CDCR obstructed Dillon’s right to family both by sterilizing her without her consent while she was imprisoned, and by imprisoning her in the first place, separating her from her two children.

“Prison in itself is a eugenic tool,” Elster said. “I was arrested when I was 24. I got out of prison when I was 39. And [I’m] trying to start a family and learning I have my own reproductive issues.” 

“So in a sense, being in prison for so long—especially during my childbearing years—is a form of sterilization that I’m personally experiencing myself.” 

Building An “Underground Network”

Dillon contacted Chandler for help after hearing about Justice Now’s participatory human rights program, which involved training an “underground network” of hundreds of people confined in women’s prisons in international human rights law. 

Program participants documented abuses they witnessed and experienced in prison, including sexual violence and coerced sterilization. 

After discovering she was sterilized, Dillon began connecting with other people in women’s prisons who had the same experiences. She documented the abuses and collected testimonies for Justice Now, and the organization began petitioning for legislation to ban sterilizations for birth control purposes in prisons.

“Documenting and working to challenge forced and coerced sterilizations highlights, perhaps most clearly, how prisons are functioning as a form of neoslavery,” Chandler said.

Historically, systems of enslavement are partially maintained through natal alienation. Historian and Professor Tyree Boyd-Pates defines natal alienation as “the estrangement or disconnection from historical memory, which occurs by severing an individual from their kinship traditions, cultural heritage (including language and religion), and economic inheritance through experiences of social death.”  

“When you look at that abuse in women’s prisons—and frankly, when you look at the experience of people in women’s prisons in general—you see most clearly the destruction of kinship ties,” Chandler said. “Sterilization abuse is the ultimate manifestation of this destruction of family.”

Justice Now’s investigation found illegal forced and coerced sterilizations were widespread in California. Between 1997 and 2013, the CDCR forcibly and coercively sterilized nearly 1,400 people in women’s prisons. 

“The doctors were not hiding the fact that they were doing this. The Department of Corrections wasn’t hiding it. There was sort of a general unawareness that there would be any problem with it,” Chandler said.

In July 2013, Corey Johnson of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) found that between 2006 and 2010, California paid doctors to perform illegal, forced or coerced bilateral-tubal ligations on at least 148 prisoners at California Institution for Women and Valley State Prison for Women. Documents and interviews showed there may have been as many as 100 more forced or coerced sterilizations in women’s prisons dating back to the 1990s. The vast majority of people sterilized were Black and/or Latinx. 

Between 1997 and 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the illegal tubal ligations. Prisons were able to get the state to pay for the procedures by falsely reporting them “medically necessary.” 

Dr. James Heinrich, a now 77-year-old white male OB-GYN, performed several coerced sterilizations with state funds. He told CIR the $147, 460 “isn’t a huge amount of money, compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children.”

Heinrich’s words, uttered in 2013, sound eerily like that of eugenicists one hundred years prior. 

“There’s still this very eugenic belief that these women—that low income people, that disabled people, that people who are categorized as criminals—that their reproduction is harmful to the state,” Sterilization and Social Justice Lab researcher Natalie Lira said. 

Sterilizing Women In Prison Today

By the time CIR published its investigation, members of Justice Now had been trying to get legislators to pay attention to forced and coerced sterilizations in women’s prisons for years. Many lawmakers dismissed them. 

“I was treated as if I was walking into legislative offices and telling them that space aliens had landed,” Chandler said. 

It wasn’t until 2013, after years of action by Justice Now and the CIR article, that the state agreed to conduct an audit. 

 “The audit hearings […] were looking at the illegal use of state funds on illegal surgeries. They were not looking at the abuse of Black and Latina women. They were looking at inappropriate fiscal allocations. That’s how we were able to get the state legislature’s ire up,” Chandler said.  

The audit, published in June 2014, found that 144 people in women’s prisons were illegally sterilized via bilateral-tubal ligation in the seven years leading up to 2013—a procedure “generally performed for the sole purpose of sterilization.” It also found that prison staff  “infrequently” obtained proper approval to sterilize prisoners and, in many instances, failed to obtain lawful consent for these procedures. 

In September 2014, after years of campaigning, the California Senate passed SB 1135 outlawing sterilizations for the purpose of birth control in prisons. The bill also mandated that state prisons annually submit public data on every sterilization procedure performed on prisoners. 

The data indicates that ten tubal ligations—surgeries that, as the 2014 audit stated, are typically performed for the sole purpose of preventing pregnancy—were performed in California women’s prisons between 2015 and 2019. 

Five of the prisoners sterilized via tubal ligation during these years were Latinx, four were Black, and one was white American. Of the ten tubal ligations, seven were reported “medically necessary,” just like the sterilizations of the 1920s. One was reportedly performed for the “immediate preservation of life in an emergency situation.” 

According to the report, only two of the ten patients sterilized via tubal ligation during those years requested the procedure of their own volition. The data also indicates that between 2015 and 2017, at least two sterilizations were performed without the necessary approval and/or knowledge of the appropriate CDCR health services centers. 

“There are still instances of sterilization that look to be, on their face, in violation of law, both federal and state,” Chandler said. “I believe that the numbers of coerced sterilizations have shrunk since we did that bill, but I do not believe that they have ended.”

Outlawing Forced Sterilization Is Not Enough

While the 2014 bill was a step toward ending forced and coerced sterilization in prisons, there’s still much work to be done to end these abuses in earnest. Rather than just lobbying the state, Chandler said the community must continue to mobilize. 

“The Sunshine Statue that we were able to pass to stop coercive sterilization is now being used to deny access to reproductive care and justify denial of care for people inside prison,” Chandler said. 

“Reform efforts in the absence of grassroots mobilization typically end up kicking people in the butt in ways that you can’t really predict,” she added. “So if all we were doing was trying to do just that bill, I don’t think that we could even call that a success in the end, in terms of how we reduce suffering in the world.” 

The CDCR’s healthcare system is infamous for its brutality, including systematically sterilizing Black and Latinx people, allowing for the preventable deaths of multiple prisoners, and refusing to release medically vulnerable people as COVID-19 ravages its prisons. 

In 2002, after years of preventable prisoner deaths, the CDCR healthcare system was found to violate the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment. A California court of appeals ordered the CDCR to release tens of thousands of prisoners and provide adequate healthcare. 

The CDCR failed to comply with the court order, and its healthcare system was put under a federal receivership, wherein a “receiver” oversees its operations, reporting to a federal court. 

Hundreds of coerced sterilizations have been performed under the supervision of federal receivers. 

The CDCR routinely treats prisoners’ lives, health, and bodies as expendable. The carceral system is dehumanizes prisoners by design, deeming them unworthy of protection or bodily autonomy. 

The state controls whether, how, and for what prisoners are allowed to seek medical care; when and how they’re able to practice hygiene; and when, how, and with what they’re able to nourish their bodies, among other things—including one’s ability to reproduce. 

It follows that forced and coerced sterilizations were allowed to occur in women’s prisons long after they were outlawed. 

“We’re talking about people that are really confined and imprisoned and have no autonomy over their own bodies,” Elster said. “We’re talking about really disadvantaged people that are easily taken advantage of and, for the most part, larger society has cast away as rejects. They don’t even see them as human.”

Napa State Hospital, Demolished In 1949. Public domain image. “Who Gets To Decide?”

Lira has studied eugenic sterilizations in California for several years. 

“For me, history is really about, yes, drawing parallels between then and now, but also figuring out how to learn from that moment,” she told Shadowproof. 

“Eugenicists were progressives as well. They were about using the government in ways to ‘benefit’ society. But really, we need to understand: what is our vision of a ‘better’ society? Who gets to decide that? Who is included in that and who is excluded?”

Ironically, California’s “progressivism” has motivated reform ideologies and practices that deeply entrench structural oppression. 

In 1917, California established Pacific Colony, an institution for “feeble-minded” individuals. A Board of Trustees was empowered to grant permission to sterilize people there. The mean age of people confined at Pacific Colony was 18. 

“Mental institutions” like Pacific Colony have a long history of collaboration with the carceral system. Much like the “delinquent” label, the state used “feeble-minded” as a way to identify people for exclusion from society and confinement in institutions. 

The juvenile court system played a significant role in determining who would be confined at Pacific Colony. 

“Part of the argument around establishing Pacific Colony was very much about wanting to humanize the juvenile court system—that young people don’t need to be in prisons, but they do need to be confined. But if we create this new institution, then it will be more humane,” Lira said. 

“But actually, it was about punishment. It was about control and punishment.”

Today, Lira worries that the state is repeating its pattern of finding “more humane” ways to control and punish marginalized people. In the wake of calls to defund the police, Lira warns of a progressive push to allocate more funds and power to health professionals. 

“That sounds a lot more humane and less violent, but if we look at this history of eugenics and this history of institutionalization, it was social workers and mental health professionals that were doing these things, too. And so we have to be really careful,” Lira said.

In 2003, California Governor Gray Davis publicly apologized for forced sterilizations after four other states issued apologies for their roles in the eugenics movement.

 “To the victims and their families of this past injustice, the people of California are deeply sorry for the suffering you endured over the years. Our hearts are heavy for the pain caused by eugenics. It was a sad and regrettable chapter […] that must never be repeated,” he said. 

Davis made no mention of compensating survivors in this apology or the remainder of his term as Governor. And his decision to frame eugenics as a “past injustice” obfuscates the reality that sterilization abuse is a contemporary issue. 

At the time of Davis’ apology, there were likely over 1,000 living survivors who had received neither compensation nor support for the abuses the state inflicted upon them. 

“Apology is not enough. Apology is just words and writing,” Elster said.


Above all, organizers stress the need for systemic change in order to truly end and further prevent sterilization abuse in all settings. 

To many organizers, this ideological shift requires abolishing the systems that have made mass sterilization abuse possible in the first place. This means eliminating the PIC, including its manifestations in healthcare settings, like the institutions where tens of thousands of eugenics sterilizations took place in the 1900s. 

The central issue for organizers is not just that California has yet to grant reparations for forced sterilizations, or even that they continued in women’s prisons long after they were outlawed. It’s the PIC itself. 

“Whenever you put people in conditions of confinement and into carceral institutions, they lose power over their bodies. And that’s how we get these really unjust histories of reproductive oppression,” Lira said.  

Forcibly sterilizing people is a logical extension of confining people and denying their human rights as punishment for violating the laws of the state. As Chandler notes, “Imprisonment itself is the vector of human rights abuse. It’s doing its job when it is, in fact, sterilizing people.”

Lira says prisons should not exist. “I think that’s the biggest factor. Any prison, jail, setting of confinement, is open to abuse. Period. So I think until we get rid of that, it’s going to be really hard to prevent [mass sterilization abuse] from happening again.”

“I think [this will continue] until we start really saying, […] ‘Even if you broke the law, you shouldn’t be incarcerated. You shouldn’t be separated from your family,’” she said.  

The way forward then, is dismantling the systems that allow for reproductive oppression and creating new ones, that affirm everyone’s humanity. 

“We should really be upholding bodily autonomy, self-determination, and making sure that there are systems in place that support our communities, and that we’re making sure that everyone has the resources and the support they need to thrive and to be able to live with dignity,” Zermeño said. 

Or, as  Elster put it, “Incarceration is a tool of reproductive suppression. And the only way around that is abolition.” 

The post Survivors Of Forced Sterilizations In California Fight A Century Of Violence In Women’s Prisons appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Marvel Cooke Fellowship, Prison Protest, Eugenics, Forced Sterilization, Incarcerated women, Reparations]

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[l] at 5/11/21 11:18am

The following was originally published as part of The Dissenter Newsletter.

Former UK diplomat-turned whistleblower Craig Murray was sentenced to eight months in prison at the High Court in Edinburgh for contempt of court resulting from his coverage of the trial of former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

A three-judge panel determined on March 25, 2021—following a two-hour trial in January—that information published by Murray in a number of his blog posts was likely to lead indirectly to people being able to identify witnesses in Salmond’s sexual assault trial.

This process, known as “jigsaw identification,” refers to the possibility that a person may piece together information from various sources to arrive at the identification of a protected witness.

In doing so, the judge ruled that Murray violated a court order prohibiting the publication of information that could likely lead to the identification of the alleged victims in Salmond’s case.

Murray is a broadcaster, human rights advocate and journalist, who has extensively covered the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and is known to support other whistleblowers. He also strongly supported Salmond and the Scottish campaign for independence.

He denied the charges, arguing he went to great pains to cover the prosecution without identifying the witnesses.

The trial and eight-month prison sentence was heavily criticized by a number of veteran Scottish journalists and lawyers.

Hugh Kerr, a former vice chair of the National Union of Journalists who was once a Labour Party Member of the European Parliament before he joined the SNP, told The Dissenter that he considered both the verdict and the sentence in Murray’s case to be “disgraceful.”

“[This decision represents] a real threat to civil liberties,” Kerr argued.

“A key point, of course, the women who are meant to be threatened with jigsaw ID all remained anonymous, Alex Salmond’s life was destroyed, and Craig Murray’s life is about to be destroyed too.”

“I know that Craig shall appeal not only to the Supreme Court but also to the European Court of Human Rights. He will do so with the support of many people in Scotland and many people around the world,” Kerr added.

“It is believed to be the first instance in Scottish legal history where ‘jigsaw identification’ has led to an individual being imprisoned,” a statement released on behalf of Murray’s family declared.

Award-winning investigative journalist John Pilger said, “In these dark times, Craig Murray’s truth-telling is a beacon. He is owed our debt of gratitude, not the travesty of a prison sentence which, like the prosecution of Julian Assange, is a universal warning.”

“Craig Murray has compiled a remarkable record of courage and integrity in exposing crimes of state and working to bring them to an end,” Professor Noam Chomsky stated, contending Murray “fully merits our deep respect and support for his achievements.”

Court Felt It Had No Choice But To Imprison Murray

“A significant fine is how this court normally deals with media contempt, even those that actually interfere with the course of justice,” Roddy Dunlop QC, Murray’s lawyer, told the High Court on May 7. “To rule otherwise, in this case, would be harsh to the point of being disproportionate.”

In mitigation, Dunlop informed the court that Murray is 62 years old, the father to a newborn child, and suffers from pulmonary health conditions, which will worsen if incarcerated. There was also no risk of repeating the crime and Murray’s intent was never to violate the anonymity order.

Murray’s legal team highlighted sentences handed down in other cases, such as the English contempt of court case against Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), the far-right co-founder of the English Defense League.

In 2017, Yaxley-Lennon filmed and published a video online of criminal defendants on trial for rape, in which he described them as “Muslim child rapists”. He was given a three-month suspended sentence for contempt of court that was conditioned on him not prejudicing any other pending trials.

One year later, Yaxley-Lennon published another video in explicit defiance of a reporting ban regarding three related sex-assault cases. He was ultimately sentenced to 9 months in prison.

‘At The More Serious End Of the Scale’

Murray’s case is “at the more serious end of the scale,” Judge Lady Leeona J Dorrian said on 11 May, when addressing the other cases raised by the defense.

Dorrian, who also presided over Salmond’s trial, headed the panel of senior Scottish judges that heard Murray’s contempt of court case.

In reading out the court’s sentence, Dorrian said that Murray’s actions created “a real risk that complainers [in sex offense cases] may be reluctant to come forward in future cases, particularly where the case may be high profile or likely to attract significant publicity.”

The publication of jigsaw identification strikes “at the heart of the fair administration of justice,” and therefore “notwithstanding the previous good character of [Murray] and his health issues, we do not think we can dispose of this case other than by way of a sentence of imprisonment,” Dorrian added.

As part of his defense, Murray submitted examples of mainstream outlets which he argued published even more “jigsaw identification.” In effect, an argument of selective prosecution could be inferred.

But the judges in Murray’s case considered that to be “irrelevant to whether what [Murray] published constituted a contempt of court.”

A Politically Motivated Stitch-Up

Murray was critical of the prosecution of Salmond which he described as a politically motivated stitch-up, a fact which appears to have irked the judges in his case. 

“As with many of the articles with which these proceedings are concerned, the respondent does not merely identify information, put the material before the public, and ask questions arising from it. He acts as arbiter, presenting the matter on the basis that his belief, opinions and interpretation of the information, assuming that is the right word to use, is “the full truth,”” the judges noted in their opinion [PDF] on March 25.

For his part, Murray contends the charges against him are politically motivated as a result of his support for Salmond.

Salmond was acquitted by a jury on all 14 counts of sexual harassment and assault brought against him. However, that fact was considered irrelevant by the court when deciding the contempt of court case against Murray. 

Before Salmond was tried in March 2020, evidence had already emerged of a potential conspiracy against the former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Emails and text messages between members of the Scottish civil service, the SNP bureaucracy, and some of Salmond’s alleged victims revealed an apparent conspiracy to destroy Salmond’s political career and reputation.

A number of legal and journalistic observers, such as Scottish lawyer Gordon Dangerfield, Scotland’s former Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill MP, and Murray himself called attention to this evidence.

The High Court of Scotland, which reviewed the investigation and handling of Salmond’s case, determined that the process was “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias,” a year before the trial commenced.

Salmond, along with Murray, is known to be a fierce proponent of Scottish independence and his prosecution comes at a time of splits within the SNP about the direction of the party and how the matter of independence is being approached by the current leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

A number of well-known Scots joined with Salmond to form the pro-independence Alba Party in February 2021. However, the overall politicized nature of Salmond’s case did not feature in Murray’s contempt of court trial. 

Murray’s Intentions And Motives Deemed Irrelevant

The contempt of court offense is one of “strict liability,” which means Murray’s intentions or motivations were deemed irrelevant by the court.

“The question which must be asked is whether in its context the material was such as was likely, objectively speaking, to lead to identification of the complainers,” the court determined. 

Also of significance was the court’s decision to apply a wide test when deciding whether Murray committed contempt of court. Though the defense argued that the threshold should be whether “the public at large” was likely to be able to piece together the identification of a protected witness, the court disagreed.

“If the material would be likely to enable a particular section of the public to do so that would be sufficient.”

In other words, if someone who knows the complainants in Salmond’s case is likely to be able to piece together their identity from a combination of Murray’s articles along with their own specific knowledge – that is enough for Murray to have violated the court order.

Two other charges—one alleging that Murray violated a court order barring the reasons given for the dismissal of a juror and the other alleging that two articles he published created a substantial risk of prejudicing the jury—were both dismissed by the court.

According to Kerr, Dorrian, who presided over both Salmond’s trial and Murray’s contempt of court proceedings, “has led the campaign to get rid of juries in the cases of sex offenses in Scotland.”

The Scottish government has been looking into specialized legal proceedings in sex offense cases, whereby complainants might be able to give evidence via video link as a matter of course and where judges would give the final verdict as to guilt or innocence.

Kerr considered this to be a “very worrying” development, which would have deprived Salmond of a jury and likely resulted in a conviction.

Appealing To The Supreme Court

Although the court originally gave Murray 48 hours to surrender himself to authorities, they extended that to three weeks after Dunlop requested more time so an appeal to the Supreme Court could be lodged.

The decision means that Murray will not be able to attend in person as a witness in the ongoing Spanish criminal case where of David Morales, the latter of which is being prosecuted for his role in the alleged illegal surveillance of Julian Assange, his lawyers, and their privileged communications.

In a twist of irony, Dunlop, who is Scotland’s most senior lawyer – known as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, was among the attorneys representing the Scottish government when Salmond successfully sued them in the High Court. Dunlop and one of his colleagues, threatened to resign if their client, the Scottish executive, didn’t concede the lawsuit, once it became apparent that they withheld evidence that they were obligated to disclose to Salmond’s lawyers.

“We have a very serious problem in Scotland at present”, veteran journalist Mark Hirst told The Dissenter.

In Hirst’s view, the Crown Office is “an institutionally corrupt prosecuting authority” which is “abusing their power and acting in an evidently biased and political manner.”

Hirst, a longstanding friend of Murray, said he knows through his own discussions “with senior lawyers and serving police officers that there is concern the Crown Office are bringing the entire legal system in Scotland into utter disrepute.”

“Major reform is needed or we will see other journalists and political activists falling victim to malicious proceedings,” Hirst concluded.

The post Whistleblower Craig Murray Sentenced To 8 Months In Prison Over His Reporting On Former Scottish First Minister’s Trial appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, The Dissenter, The Dissenter Newsletter]

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[l] at 5/5/21 12:27pm

A man incarcerated at the Toledo Correctional Institution in Ohio has ended a 48-day hunger strike, his family said.

Thirty-nine year-old Mark Hinkston, who now goes by Mustafa, has been incarcerated at the Toledo Correctional Institution (TOCI) since 2013, according to public records.

Mustafa began a hunger strike from solitary confinement on February 26, 2021, where he expects to stay until his release. 

Due to COVID-19, he wears a face mask adorned with “I Can’t Breathe,” a rallying cry that rose in popularity following the killings of George Floyd and Eric Garner by police.

Mustafa launched a hunger strike after staff confiscated his electronics, including a tablet, and because he could not communicate with his fiancé 

“It’s pure torture and over a period of time it has the ability to diminish the things inside an individual that makes him a human being,” Mustafa said, referring to  solitary confinement. “Guys begin to act like animals locked in a cage, only knowing how to communicate through loud noises, only knowing how to express themselves by throwing feces and urine and doing things that a normal human being would never do.”

Mustafa has had various run-ins with prison staff, including a write-up for allegedly masturbating in a prison hospital—an allegation he denies.

“I actually did nothing!” Mustafa wrote through his team on Facebook. “This conduct report is very creepy to me!”

In solitary confinement, Mustafa has no electricity, no ability to send outgoing mail, and no contact with the outside world. He  started a $10,000 fundraiser to hire an attorney to seek judicial release.

Prison reform activists have described Mustafa’s treatment as “torture” in retaliation for revolutionary organizing from inside the prison walls, which began in the mid-2000s.

Following the beginning of his hunger strike, a prison abolitionist group, Prisons Kill, publicized his demands through Twitter and various methods of online communication.

Prisons Kill, which describes itself as “a movement led by incarcerated people that aims to expose the abuse inherent to prisons,” put out documents calling for public support, otherwise known as phone or email “zaps.” 

“Last time, Toledo Correctional Institution staff did not even recognize his hunger strike, which is very dangerous.” (Under TOCI regulation, inmate hunger strikes must be recognized within 9 days.) 

The group described Mustafa as an organizer, abolitionist, comrade, and friend, and urged supporters to “tell TOCI to immediately meet all his demands”.

Mustafa demands the right to personal property, the right to communication, the right to visitation, and the right to equal treatment in prison.

***

Various stories and articles have been authored by Mustafa across multiple blogs, including the Prisons Kill website, as well as a site founded by former Ohio prisoner Jason William-Goudlock. He describes himself as a prison journalist, reporting on “the other side of Amerikkka”.

In May 2020, Mustafa published a prison COVID-19 update on SoundCloud through a recorded phone call.

“On 10-28-2020 mental health staff came to the restrictive housing (RH) unit, where I was being held against my will.” Mustafa recounted.

“As this mental health physician slid a packet of crossword puzzles into the crack of the door to the cell where I’m forced to live, I expressed to her that I was having suicidal thoughts and needed to speak with a mental health staff member,” he shared.

Mustafa added that the physician later made jokes about his suicidal thoughts with a corrupt correctional officer.

“Mentally ill prisoners make the ‘perfect victims’ because most of them don’t possess the mental capacity to articulate their issues of abuse and neglect,” Mustafa declared.

The 39-year-old’s frightening experiences around suicide later came to the forefront after a hostile experience with a prison guard. Mustafa was allegedly told, “I have to see blood,” by a CO after attempting to voice his concerns.

In January 2021, Mustafa witnessed a suicide at TOCI.

“Nothing was done about the role of neglect in the death of this prisoner. This served as an incident without a victimizer!” according to Mustafa. “Although mental health staff (as caretakers) had a prior knowledge that this prisoner would kill himself and they allowed him to do it for the sake of seeing if he would!” Mustafa felt like he had no other avenue to have his pleas taken seriously, and cut himself, his fiance, Cynthia Colunga, told Shadowproof.

“I would send him JPay and whatnot, and in turn, they would not allow him to even write me,” Colunga said. “I guess from there, he went on suicide watch.”

In Ohio prisons, prisoners under suicide watch are required to be checked on every 15 minutes.

She added that Mustafa felt like guards were bullying him and that Warden Harold May’s approach was to “say one thing and do another.”

Despite the prison’s policy mandating hunger strikes be acknowledged after 9 days, Colunga said Mustafa’s demands haven’t been met. He still can only communicate with her “very briefly” and she said his electronics remain confiscated.

Mustafa said that, because incarcerated people most often come from poverty, no light has been shed on their struggles and harm.

“For example, look at the case of Jeffrey Epstein,” he said. “This very wealthy person hung himself in lock up and it was world news! It was broadcasted on every station with a media outlet in existence, ‘Good Morning America,’ etc. Even Court TV showed extensive footage about the incident.”

“The only difference between the death of Jeffrey Epstein and the death of the prisoner who hung himself was their ‘financial worth!’” Mustafa angrily stated. “They were both human beings in lock up! They both committed suicide. However, there was evidence that the prisoner here was coaxed into the act by prison officials and mental health staff. No one cared enough to look into it though!” 

Mustafa’s release date is slated for 2030. TOCI officials have repeatedly denied allegations of wrongdoing.

Despite the prison’s denial of culpability, Mustafa’s fiance told Shadowproof she will continue to inquire and file grievances to have his electronics and communication privileges returned to him. She plans to reach out to Ohio-area media outlets in an attempt to garner mainstream awareness of his story.

The post Ohio Prisoner In Solitary Confinement Ends Hunger Strike, Despite No End To Retaliation appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Prison Protest, Hunger Strike, Ohio Department Of Rehabilitation And Correction, Prison Resistance]

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[l] at 5/5/21 11:41am

The post was originally published as part of The Dissenter Newsletter.

A federal judge ordered drone whistleblower Daniel Hale’s arrest, and United States authorities took him into custody.

On April 23, Judge Liam O’Grady signed an order suggesting Hale violated the terms of his supervised release. An arrest warrant was issued, and on April 28, he was jailed. 

Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan, a different judge than the one who has presided over his case, held a hearing on the alleged “pretrial release violation.” Hale maintained no violation had occurred, yet the court scheduled a bond revocation and detention hearing for May 4.

The chain of events came after a “special condition” was added to Hale’s conditions of release—that he submit to “substance abuse testing and/or treatment as directed by pretrial services.”

According to Jesselyn Radack, the head of the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts who has publicly represented Hale, “Because of concerns about whistleblower Daniel Hale’s mental health, he was taken into custody and is in solitary.”

Since Hale’s case is in the Eastern District of Virginia, he is detained in the Alexandria Detention Center, where U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning attempted suicide in 2020 while she was resisting a grand jury investigation against WikiLeaks. It is also where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would be jailed if he was extradited to the U.S. for a trial.

Hale is set to be sentenced on July 13. He could be sentenced to anywhere from three to five years.

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, he helped expose the targeted assassination program, including drone warfare.

Hale pled guilty on March 31 to one charge of violating the Espionage Act, when he provided documents to Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill and anonymously wrote a chapter in Scahill’s book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.

The guilty plea made Hale the first whistleblower to be convicted under the Espionage Act during President Joe Biden’s administration.

Under President Barack Obama, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was targeted in the Eastern District of Virginia with an Espionage Act prosecution. He wound up pleading guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in order to ensure he only went to prison for 30 months.

Kiriakou has been an ardent Hale supporter and reacted to his detention, suggesting this was a “government power play.”

“I think that the government is unhappy with the way that their case is going,” Kiriakou stated. “Daniel Hale is viewed as a whistleblower and as someone who has done a great public service. Rather than allow him to continue to be free until his case is resolved, they’ve decided to incarcerate him and to bully him until his sentencing is final.”

Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of CODEPINK, which launched a campaign urging the judge to give Hale no jail time at sentencing, was distressed to learn he was in jail.

“This seems to me like a form of psychological torture,” Benjamin declared. “Daniel Hale has PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] precisely because of the drone program that he was part of when he was in the military, and the sentencing that he faces is something that has obviously weighed very heavily on him, as has the entire episode from the time that the U.S. government has gone after him as a whistleblower.”

“He needs help from people in the public health field, but he certainly should not be in detention and much less in isolation. He is a sensitive young man, who cares about people’s lives, and that’s why he revealed the information about U.S. drone killings.”

Benjamin continued, “This was the same jail where Chelsea Manning attempted suicide and where the judge in the case of Julian Assange said that he couldn’t be extradited because he would risk psychological harm being in this prison, where they put whistleblowers in isolation. Now, to put Daniel Hale, who is already suffering mentally, in this same situation is cruel and inhumane.”

During Hale’s plea hearing on March 31, O’Grady was particularly concerned about his mental health and urged him to notify his probation officer if he felt like hurting himself.

Prosecutors from the Justice Department refused to dismiss four additional charges and cancel the trial altogether.

This development imposes a tremendous barrier on Hale’s ability to consult with his attorney ahead of his sentencing.

If prosecutors are not pleased with the severity of the sentence issued, they can theoretically proceed with a trial on the four charges and apply further pressure to an unemployed military veteran, who suffers from mental health problems and is now enduring isolation.

The post Drone Whistleblower Daniel Hale Detained At Facility Where Chelsea Manning Attempted Suicide appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Daniel Hale, Justice Department, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblowers]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 5/5/21 11:41am

The post was originally published as part of The Dissenter Newsletter.

A federal judge ordered drone whistleblower Daniel Hale’s arrest, and United States authorities took him into custody.

On April 23, Judge Liam O’Grady signed an order suggesting Hale violated the terms of his supervised release. An arrest warrant was issued, and on April 28, he was jailed. 

Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan, a different judge than the one who has presided over his case, held a hearing on the alleged “pretrial release violation.” Hale maintained no violation had occurred, yet the court scheduled a bond revocation and detention hearing for May 4.

The chain of events came after a “special condition” was added to Hale’s conditions of release—that he submit to “substance abuse testing and/or treatment as directed by pretrial services.”

According to Jesselyn Radack, the head of the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts who has publicly represented Hale, “Because of concerns about whistleblower Daniel Hale’s mental health, he was taken into custody and is in solitary.”

Since Hale’s case is in the Eastern District of Virginia, he is detained in the Alexandria Detention Center, where U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning attempted suicide in 2020 while she was resisting a grand jury investigation against WikiLeaks. It is also where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would be jailed if he was extradited to the U.S. for a trial.

Hale is set to be sentenced on July 13. He could be sentenced to anywhere from three to five years.

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, he helped expose the targeted assassination program, including drone warfare.

Hale pled guilty on March 31 to one charge of violating the Espionage Act, when he provided documents to Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill and anonymously wrote a chapter in Scahill’s book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.

The guilty plea made Hale the first whistleblower to be convicted under the Espionage Act during President Joe Biden’s administration.

Under President Barack Obama, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was targeted in the Eastern District of Virginia with an Espionage Act prosecution. He wound up pleading guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in order to ensure he only went to prison for 30 months.

Kiriakou has been an ardent Hale supporter and reacted to his detention, suggesting this was a “government power play.”

“I think that the government is unhappy with the way that their case is going,” Kiriakou stated. “Daniel Hale is viewed as a whistleblower and as someone who has done a great public service. Rather than allow him to continue to be free until his case is resolved, they’ve decided to incarcerate him and to bully him until his sentencing is final.”

Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of CODEPINK, which launched a campaign urging the judge to give Hale no jail time at sentencing, was distressed to learn he was in jail.

“This seems to me like a form of psychological torture,” Benjamin declared. “Daniel Hale has PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] precisely because of the drone program that he was part of when he was in the military, and the sentencing that he faces is something that has obviously weighed very heavily on him, as has the entire episode from the time that the U.S. government has gone after him as a whistleblower.”

“He needs help from people in the public health field, but he certainly should not be in detention and much less in isolation. He is a sensitive young man, who cares about people’s lives, and that’s why he revealed the information about U.S. drone killings.”

Benjamin continued, “This was the same jail where Chelsea Manning attempted suicide and where the judge in the case of Julian Assange said that he couldn’t be extradited because he would risk psychological harm being in this prison, where they put whistleblowers in isolation. Now, to put Daniel Hale, who is already suffering mentally, in this same situation is cruel and inhumane.”

During Hale’s plea hearing on March 31, O’Grady was particularly concerned about his mental health and urged him to notify his probation officer if he felt like hurting himself.

Prosecutors from the Justice Department refused to dismiss four additional charges and cancel the trial altogether.

This development imposes a tremendous barrier on Hale’s ability to consult with his attorney ahead of his sentencing.

If prosecutors are not pleased with the severity of the sentence issued, they can theoretically proceed with a trial on the four charges and apply further pressure to an unemployed military veteran, who suffers from mental health problems and is now enduring isolation.

The post Drone Whistleblower Jailed Ahead Of Sentencing In July appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Daniel Hale, Justice Department, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 5/2/21 10:24pm

Secretary of State Antony Blinken marked World Press Freedom Day by calling attention to governments that are “becoming less transparent” and “more repressive.”

“Some governments incarcerate journalists, harass them, target them for violence,” Blinken stated. “Some use other, more subtle [methods] like mandating professional licenses for journalists and using endless bureaucracy to keep them out of reach, or imposing high taxes on newsprint to push independent media out of business.”

Blinken’s comments entirely ignored press freedom in the United States and instead focused on countries like China, Russia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, and “third world countries” in Africa and Central Asia. Yet, he could have been describing his country.

In 2020, 416 journalists were assaulted. One hundred and thirty-nine journalists were arrested or detained. One hundred and nine journalists had their equipment damaged. Thirty-one journalists or news organizations were subpoenaed, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker curated by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and several other leading press freedom organizations.

On average, the police kill about three men per day (or 1,000 people each year). Only a small fraction of these killings result in uprisings, but when they do, journalists face repression from local police forces and city governments that decline to intervene.

Journalist Linda Tirado lost an eye in 2020 while covering the uprising after George Floyd was murdered.

After Kim Potter, a white police officer in Minnesota, killed a 20 year-old black man named Daunte Wright, journalists were attacked with “crowd control” munitions. A CNN team complained of assault and harassment. Two reporters with the Minnesota-based social media news outlet Neighborhood Reporter were detained.

Several Minneapolis Star-Tribune journalists were assaulted by police: reporter Andy Mannix was hit by a “less-lethal” munition in his foot, photojournalist Mark Vancleave’s hand was injured by a rubber bullet, and photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez was pepper-sprayed.

During the first 100 days of President Joe Biden’s administration, the White House has failed to take any meaningful action that would bolster First Amendment rights and improve press freedom in the United States. 

The Knight First Amendment Institute put forward a “First Amendment agenda” for the Biden administration in December. Of the 12 items, just three were completed.

Biden’s administration released the report from the Director of National Intelligence’s office on the role of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi.

Sanctions on International Criminal Court investigators were lifted on April 2. They were levied by former President Donald Trump in retaliation for an inquiry into war crimes in Afghanistan, and violated the First Amendment by “impeding U.S. citizens and residents from engaging in protected advocacy and association,” according to the Knight Institute.

A Trump executive order targeting “diversity training” in the workplace, which encouraged “viewpoint-based discrimination” when federal contracts were awarded, was overturned as well.

However, the Biden Justice Department continues to target journalists and their sources with the U.S. Espionage Act.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has allowed the extradition case to proceed against former WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.

Assange has been detained at the Belmarsh high-security prison in London for more than two years, and every reputable press freedom organization recognizes the case poses a distinct threat to journalism.

For example, Reporters Without Borders international campaigns director Rebecca Vincent pointed out, “If the U.S. government is successful in securing Assange’s extradition and prosecuting him for his contributions to public interest reporting, the same precedent could be applied to any journalist anywhere. The possible implications of this case simply cannot be understated. It is the very future of journalism and press freedom that is at stake.”

“It is clearly politically motivated and intended to make an example of Assange and create a chilling effect on media around the world,” Vincent added.

Furthermore, instead of abandoning the prosecution launched under Trump, the Biden Justice Department secured a guilty plea from Daniel Hale, a former military contractor and drone whistleblower.

Hale helped expose the targeted assassination program, including drone warfare. He pled guilty on March 31 to one charge of violating the Espionage Act, when he provided documents to Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill and anonymously wrote a chapter in Scahill’s book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.

Astonishingly, prosecutors refused to dismiss additional charges and cancel the trial altogether. Hale is set to be sentenced in July, and if prosecutors are not pleased with the severity of the sentence, they can continue to target an unemployed military veteran already coping with mental health problems.

The Biden administration has done nothing to rein in policies that allow Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to engage in suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronic devices in violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments.

On February 9, 2021, the First Circuit appeals court overturned a district court decision and claimed “reasonable suspicion is not required before a border agent can conduct a basic search,” according to the Knight Institute, which filed the lawsuit. They also contended “probable cause is not required before a border agent can conduct an advanced search.”

Between 2006 and June 2018, according to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), “37 journalists were stopped collectively for secondary screenings more than 110 times.”

“Many of the 37 cases identified for this report were among journalists who travel to the Middle East or report on terrorism or national security—all factors that increase the likelihood of being stopped,” CPJ added. “Arabs, Muslims, and individuals of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent face increased scrutiny at the border, according to the ACLU and other civil liberties organizations.”

Canadian journalist Ed Ou traveled to the U.S. to cover the protests at Standing Rock in October 2016. He was questioned about his interest in indigenous groups. An officer even said “covering a protest is not a valid reason to come into the country.”

Ou had worked in authoritarian countries previously and secured all his electronics before traveling to those countrijn  liberal democracy like the U.S., which claims to protect press freedoms and freedom of expression.”

In another lawsuit by the Knight Institute, the Biden administration is defending a prepublication review system former government employees, especially those who work in security agencies, must submit to in order to publish books. It frequently employs arbitrary and politically driven censorship to suppress content that could embarrass the U.S. government.

Mark Fallon, a former Naval Criminal Investigative Service employee, is a plaintiff, and he waited almost eight months for a review of his book about torture policies under President George W. Bush to be completed. A letter had to be sent to six senators. Numerous requests for updates were sent. Fallon went to the press, and the ACLU and Knight Institute got involved before a review was completed.

The registration requirement imposes unjustifiable burdens on the expressive and associational rights of visa applicants, as well as on the rights of U.S. citizens and residents who communicate and associate with them. The Biden administration should rescind the State Department’s social media registration requirement and reject proposals to extend the requirement.

The State Department continued a Trump policy that requires social media registration for visa applicants. Rather than ditch the policy immediately, the Biden administration launched a review of the State Department and Homeland Security Department’s collection of social media information from such applicants.

“We call on all governments to ensure media safety and protect journalists’ ability to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats, or unjust detention,” Blinken separately declared in a press release marking World Press Freedom Day.

Already in 2021, twenty-nine journalists have been arrested or detained in the U.S. Thirty-five journalists have faced assaults. Seven have had their equipment damaged.

If Blinken and other officials want any of these pronouncements to be taken seriously, they should stop lecturing other countries and address clear and present threats to press freedom in the United States.

The post US Government Marks World Press Freedom Day By Ignoring Their Attacks On Press Freedom appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Espionage Act, First Amendment, Press Freedom, World Press Freedom Day]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 5/2/21 10:24pm

Secretary of State Antony Blinken marked World Press Freedom Day by calling attention to governments that are “becoming less transparent” and “more repressive.”

“Some governments incarcerate journalists, harass them, target them for violence,” Blinken stated. “Some use other, more subtle [methods] like mandating professional licenses for journalists and using endless bureaucracy to keep them out of reach, or imposing high taxes on newsprint to push independent media out of business.”

Blinken’s comments entirely ignored press freedom in the United States and instead focused on countries like China, Russia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, and “third world countries” in Africa and Central Asia. Yet, he could have been describing his country.

In 2020, 416 journalists were assaulted. One hundred and thirty-nine journalists were arrested or detained. One hundred and nine journalists had their equipment damaged. Thirty-one journalists or news organizations were subpoenaed, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker curated by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and several other leading press freedom organizations.

On average, the police kill about three men per day (or 1,000 people each year). Only a small fraction of these killings result in uprisings, but when they do, journalists face repression from local police forces and city governments that decline to intervene.

Journalist Linda Tirado lost an eye in 2020 while covering the uprising after George Floyd was murdered.

After Kim Potter, a white police officer in Minnesota, killed a 20 year-old black man named Daunte Wright, journalists were attacked with “crowd control” munitions. A CNN team complained of assault and harassment. Two reporters with the Minnesota-based social media news outlet Neighborhood Reporter were detained.

Several Minneapolis Star-Tribune journalists were assaulted by police: reporter Andy Mannix was hit by a “less-lethal” munition in his foot, photojournalist Mark Vancleave’s hand was injured by a rubber bullet, and photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez was pepper-sprayed.

During the first 100 days of President Joe Biden’s administration, the White House has failed to take any meaningful action that would bolster First Amendment rights and improve press freedom in the United States. 

The Knight First Amendment Institute put forward a “First Amendment agenda” for the Biden administration in December. Of the 12 items, just three were completed.

Biden’s administration released the report from the Director of National Intelligence’s office on the role of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi.

Sanctions on International Criminal Court investigators were lifted on April 2. They were levied by former President Donald Trump in retaliation for an inquiry into war crimes in Afghanistan, and violated the First Amendment by “impeding U.S. citizens and residents from engaging in protected advocacy and association,” according to the Knight Institute.

A Trump executive order targeting “diversity training” in the workplace, which encouraged “viewpoint-based discrimination” when federal contracts were awarded, was overturned as well.

However, the Biden Justice Department continues to target journalists and their sources with the U.S. Espionage Act.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has allowed the extradition case to proceed against former WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.

Assange has been detained at the Belmarsh high-security prison in London for more than two years, and every reputable press freedom organization recognizes the case poses a distinct threat to journalism.

For example, Reporters Without Borders international campaigns director Rebecca Vincent pointed out, “If the U.S. government is successful in securing Assange’s extradition and prosecuting him for his contributions to public interest reporting, the same precedent could be applied to any journalist anywhere. The possible implications of this case simply cannot be understated. It is the very future of journalism and press freedom that is at stake.”

“It is clearly politically motivated and intended to make an example of Assange and create a chilling effect on media around the world,” Vincent added.

Furthermore, instead of abandoning the prosecution launched under Trump, the Biden Justice Department secured a guilty plea from Daniel Hale, a former military contractor and drone whistleblower.

Hale helped expose the targeted assassination program, including drone warfare. He pled guilty on March 31 to one charge of violating the Espionage Act, when he provided documents to Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill and anonymously wrote a chapter in Scahill’s book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.

Astonishingly, prosecutors refused to dismiss additional charges and cancel the trial altogether. Hale is set to be sentenced in July, and if prosecutors are not pleased with the severity of the sentence, they can continue to target an unemployed military veteran already coping with mental health problems.

The Biden administration has done nothing to rein in policies that allow Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to engage in suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronic devices in violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments.

On February 9, 2021, the First Circuit appeals court overturned a district court decision and claimed “reasonable suspicion is not required before a border agent can conduct a basic search,” according to the Knight Institute, which filed the lawsuit. They also contended “probable cause is not required before a border agent can conduct an advanced search.”

Between 2006 and June 2018, according to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), “37 journalists were stopped collectively for secondary screenings more than 110 times.”

“Many of the 37 cases identified for this report were among journalists who travel to the Middle East or report on terrorism or national security—all factors that increase the likelihood of being stopped,” CPJ added. “Arabs, Muslims, and individuals of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent face increased scrutiny at the border, according to the ACLU and other civil liberties organizations.”

Canadian journalist Ed Ou traveled to the U.S. to cover the protests at Standing Rock in October 2016. He was questioned about his interest in indigenous groups. An officer even said “covering a protest is not a valid reason to come into the country.”

Ou had worked in authoritarian countries previously and secured all his electronics before traveling to those countrijn  liberal democracy like the U.S., which claims to protect press freedoms and freedom of expression.”

In another lawsuit by the Knight Institute, the Biden administration is defending a prepublication review system former government employees, especially those who work in security agencies, must submit to in order to publish books. It frequently employs arbitrary and politically driven censorship to suppress content that could embarrass the U.S. government.

Mark Fallon, a former Naval Criminal Investigative Service employee, is a plaintiff, and he waited almost eight months for a review of his book about torture policies under President George W. Bush to be completed. A letter had to be sent to six senators. Numerous requests for updates were sent. Fallon went to the press, and the ACLU and Knight Institute got involved before a review was completed.

The registration requirement imposes unjustifiable burdens on the expressive and associational rights of visa applicants, as well as on the rights of U.S. citizens and residents who communicate and associate with them. The Biden administration should rescind the State Department’s social media registration requirement and reject proposals to extend the requirement.

The State Department continued a Trump policy that requires social media registration for visa applicants. Rather than ditch the policy immediately, the Biden administration launched a review of the State Department and Homeland Security Department’s collection of social media information from such applicants.

“We call on all governments to ensure media safety and protect journalists’ ability to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats, or unjust detention,” Blinken separately declared in a press release marking World Press Freedom Day.

Already in 2021, twenty-nine journalists have been arrested or detained in the U.S. Thirty-five journalists have faced assaults. Seven have had their equipment damaged.

If Blinken and other officials want any of these pronouncements to be taken seriously, they should stop lecturing other countries and address clear and present threats to press freedom in the United States.

The post US Marks World Press Freedom Day By Ignoring Their Government’s Attacks On Press Freedom appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Espionage Act, First Amendment, Press Freedom, World Press Freedom Day]

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[l] at 4/28/21 11:24am

Credit Suisse, a financial services firm headquartered in Switzerland, violated the terms of a 2014 plea agreement, but the Justice Department under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump declined to punish the investment bank.

Former Credit Suisse bankers blew the whistle on the firm’s use of sham companies, foundations, and trusts to evade tax authorities in the United States. As Bloomberg noted, in May 2014, when the bank pled guilty, it “did not tell the Justice Department about a $200 million account held by an American client” named Dan Horsky.

Whistleblowers revealed the account to U.S. investigators two months later, and they have demanded that the government impose an additional punishment beyond the $1.3 billion penalty that was paid around seven years ago.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Credit Suisse requesting more information, given the likelihood that the firm’s executives made false or deceitful statements to a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Senate subcommittee in February 2014.

To better understand the “circumstances surrounding the disclosure of Mr. Horsky’s hidden offshore assets to the U.S. government,” Wyden asked [PDF] Credit Suisse when it first disclosed the accounts to the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or any other U.S. agency.

Wyden also asked if the accounts were not reported to the U.S. government before July 2014, when a whistleblower claimed Credit Suisse was still managing tax-dodging accounts, why weren’t they disclosed.

Furthermore, Wyden sought information on the number of accounts held by U.S. clients that Credit Suisse has determined to be in “non-compliance” with the plea agreement.

“In 2016, Mr. Horsky pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States and to submitting false documents to the IRS, and in 2017 he was sentenced to seven months in prison. Mr. Horsky’s sentence was based, in part, on a filing by the DOJ that detailed how employees of Credit Suisse (identified in the filing as ‘International Bank’) helped Mr. Horsky go ‘deep into the shadows to conceal his ownership of his foreign financial accounts from U.S. authorities,’” according to Wyden.

At least one whistleblower reportedly informed the Justice Department of Horsky’s undisclosed assets in July 2014 and alleged that the bank continued to conceal his assets and other U.S. accounts, even after they pled guilty to crimes.

Wyden’s letter requested [PDF] a briefing with Justice Department officials by May 11 on the actions, or lack of action, taken by officials.

The New York Times described Horsky as a “retired business professor who lived in Rochester, N.Y., and amassed much of his fortune by investing in start-up companies in the 1990s.”

“In September 2014, when Credit Suisse appeared in court to plead guilty, the judge asked both the bank and prosecutors whether they had any information that would affect the settlement agreement. Both sides said no,” the Times recalled.

Credit Suisse’s scheme to dodge taxes involved placing Horsky’s funds under a relative’s name, who lived overseas. The bank’s Israel desk managed his wealth.

At any time, the Justice Department could have brought new whistleblower claims to the attention of the federal court that was involved in overseeing the plea agreement. Prosecutors never bothered to enforce the agreement, despite evidence of clear violations.

The post Credit Suisse Faces Renewed Push To Investigate Whistleblower Claims They Violated Plea Deal appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Credit Suisse, Ron Wyden, Tax Dodging, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblowers]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/22/21 5:17pm



In this edition of “Dissenter Weekly,” host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola covers a British oil industry whistleblower in Croatia who was taken by police to a psychiatric hospital against his will.

He highlights an exceptional report from Julia Carrie Wong at the Guardian that profiled Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang and amplified her revelations related to Facebook’s inaction when suspicious accounts in Honduras, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, etc, were brought to the attention of executives.

Later in the show, Kevin talks about two stories involving police in Washington, D.C., and Honolulu. He concludes with an update on a U.S. Geological Survey whistleblower who was restored to their position at the Seattle-based Western Fisheries Research Center.

This week’s stories:

Police Take British Oil Industry Whistleblower To Psychiatric Hospital Against His Will

Facebook Whistleblower Exposes Inconsistent Handling Of Suspicious Accounts In Various Countries

Whistleblower Accuses Ant-Gun Police Unit In D.C. Of Fabricating Charges

Honololu Police Spent $150,000 In COVID Relief Funds On Robot Dog

US Geological Survey Whistleblower Who Faced Retaliation Has Job Restored

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The post Dissenter Weekly: Attack Against British Oil Industry Whistleblower Escalates appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, The Dissenter, The Dissenter Weekly Update | Shadowproof, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 4/21/21 8:38am

When news hit that Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts for the murder of George Floyd, there was a collective sigh of relief. But the fact that the verdict was in doubt is evidence that there is still a long way to go.

The reality is that since the trial started on March 29, police have on average killed more than three people a day in the United States, including 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago and 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Minnesota.

Singer-songwriter Chris Pierce highlights this long history of violence against black people is highlighted by singer-songwriter tune, “It’s Been Burning for a While.” The song first premiered on the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race
Massacre, and it linked the events of the summer of 2020 with the dark past.

“This song was written in memory of George Floyd and all those whose lives have been affected by abusive, excessive, and inhumane force,” the songwriter says. “The lyric, wrapped around a thought
Malcolm X expressed many years ago, is about the current and historic storm engulfing our nation and
world.

“The melody and chord structure are in the spirit and structure of African-American work and
protest songs. This song is written as a call, in the enduring hope of a response.”

It is included on Pierce’s excellent 2021 album “American Silence,” which also explores America’s
troubled history with race relations.

There may still be a lot of work to do, but hopefully, we are finally getting closer to extinguishing the
fire.

Listen to Chris Pierce’s “It’s Been Burning for a While” on Bandcamp or watch the video for it here:

The post Protest Song Of The Week: ‘It’s Been Burning For A While’ By Chris Pierce appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Latest News, The Dissenter, The Protest Music Project, Protest Song of the Week]

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[l] at 4/20/21 7:19am

When it became clear in March 2020 that COVID-19 would spread around the United States, incarcerated people and their advocates on the outside sounded the alarm. They recognized jails would become a powder keg of infection.

Yet at the state and local level, officials attempted to delude the public into believing that incarceration could somehow be safe during a pandemic, even as reports from the inside grew increasingly dire.

In Massachusetts, Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi has been one of incarceration’s biggest local advocates during the pandemic. He staked out this position early on in a March 2020 speech, warning of the “the evil temptations that exist in our society” awaiting those he keeps locked up, as well as touting his facility’s healthcare capacity and COVID-19 prevention plan.

While the impression among Hampden County’s police is that judges aren’t sending people to jail anymore, the opposite is actually true. Local incarceration levels during the pandemic largely surpassed numbers from 2019.

The pandemic presented a new set of axes for social control and a worsening of already poor conditions for those incarcerated in Hampden County Jail and House of Correction (HCJ), as prisoners struggled to avoid contracting the virus.

Many wrote to the local advocacy group Decarcerate Western Massachusetts (DWM) feeling that the jail was disregarding their grievances, prompting them to launch planned and spontaneous actions with support from the outside. With many of their correspondents desiring more attention to the conditions they faced, DWM shared their letter archives from the fall and winter with Shadowproof.

Jail In A Pandemic

Officials from Governor Charlie Baker down to county sheriffs roundly rejected persistent calls from public health experts as well as the state legislature to reduce jail populations. Meanwhile, the actions taken by jail staff to supposedly curb the virus’s spread were inconsistent, punitive, and seemed to have little basis in the science of virology, according to letters from incarcerated people. 

In August, one person reported that they were locked down for six days with no shower or recreation time following a round of COVID-19 testing. This lockdown was three days longer than what is allowed by law.

During the following months, other incarcerated people reported a standard use of solitary confinement (which jail staff refer to as “isolation”) following a positive test or display of symptoms. But the testing regime, which Cocchi boasted about in March 2020, and its association with a 23-hour-plus lockdown eroded any trust they might have had in the facility’s safety measures.

Letters describe weeks spent in lockdown or solitary between tests, which Cocchi previously claimed took place weekly.

In December 2020, Jose Soto told DWM he did not want to be released from solitary into a COVID-infected pod because he thought his initial positive test, taken nearly a month earlier, was a false positive. He alleged that jail staff did not show inmates their positive results, leading him to believe they were keeping many on lockdown because the facility was understaffed.

Another inmate, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said staff didn’t report symptoms because they don’t want to miss work, which meant the virus was brought into the jail.

“We get tested more than the [staff],” Soto declared. “It should be the other way around.”

DWM’s correspondents see the jail staff as the main vectors of the virus. Another inmate who requested anonymity and we will refer to as “John” wrote in December that correctional officers (CO) didn’t change personal protective equipment (PPE) when moving between pods, which are separated based on COVID-19 positive status, and often did not practice correct mask use.

John, who is asthmatic, was informed around the same time that he “tested” positive for the virus and was let out for recreation time with the COVID-positive pod.

The following day, John was informed by another staff person that he had not tested positive and that he should write a complaint against the CO who let him out with the positive group. John could only conclude that the CO had done it for laughs. Similarly, another incarcerated person wrote that a CO forced him to shower with the COVID-positive group.

Organizing On The Inside

The pandemic restrictions have allowed jail staff to exert an extreme level of control over inmates’ lives. 

They have reported frequently being denied phone calls or recreation time. One correspondent wrote that COs would go around asking people if they wanted their recreation time while they were still sleeping so they wouldn’t have to give them recreation time at all, another wrote that COs would simply lie and claim the inmates had already had their recreation time.

To protest the lack of phone access, Soto and several others broke their cells’ sprinkler heads on December 5.

Soto reported that the COs cuffed him and slammed his head on the ground. They left him and the others who had joined the action in their cells for fifteen hours overnight, still wet and with no clothes or mattress.

One individual developed cold symptoms after being wet all night and was sent to solitary for having COVID symptoms.

According to Soto, phone calls and hot meals were eventually reinstated after the action.

John argued that inmates, who would normally have the opportunity to work, should be compensated while locked down. Much of the money earned by incarcerated people at HCJ before the pandemic was spent at the commissary to supplement the regular meals.

However, following the cancellation of work programs, nearly all correspondents reported that the meals were insufficient.

Soto was reportedly served a sandwich, apple, cereal bar, chips, and juice at 4 pm for dinner and nothing else until the next day. He sometimes had to eat toothpaste or gulp water to feel full.

According to Soto, the shrinking portions were because the guards were working the kitchen, not the inmates. He later wrote that he paid a worker to bring extra portions to the segregation unit, where he was housed. 

Incarcerated people circulated a petition demanding adequate portions and received support from DWM. They demanded more cleaning supplies, the standard two hours of recreation time, and access to COVID test results. (So far, the petition has circulated around two units, gaining 60 signatures, but copies were only recently sent to other units as well. It is also online, where it has gathered 530 signatures from community members on the outside.)

Aya Mares of DWM confirmed that all that has changed so far has been increased access to recreation time. Additionally, some programs, such as group meditation, are being offered again but only to vaccinated inmates.

“What the public doesn’t understand is how stressful this is for families and loved ones of those who are incarcerated,” Mares stated. “They haven’t been allowed to have their three-hour long weekly visits that are free while being held in jail. That hasn’t been replaced by anything.”

As Mares noted, “video calls are only ten minutes long and few and far between. So that has made it so that phone calls are super expensive for families.”

Families have also been forced to send more money for commissary, as their loved ones are unable to work to afford food to supplement inadequate portions.

The jail provides no communication about lockdowns or positive COVID tests to families, sparking worry when their loved ones go silent for extended periods because they lack phone access.

“There’s hardly any accountability in the jail,” Mares said. “The COs seem to be making up their own rules on the spot, and when it comes down to the sheriff, it seems like he’s hardly held accountable either. Who is witness to this?”

In addition to helping inside organizers share their petition, DWM also set up a bail fund for incarcerated people in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties, where twice as many people are incarcerated pre-trial as are serving sentences. In a cruel irony, many of those arrested locally face much longer pretrial incarceration than they would have before the pandemic, as courts work through a backlog generated by a year of limited-capacity operations.

Vaccines And A Regime Of Medical Neglect

As the past year has shown, congregant living in general and in jails is prone to devastating COVID outbreaks which, by their nature, are never limited to their own facilities.

While Governor Baker and the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts refused to commute sentences or implement a home confinement system as the legislature directed, the state was one of few to prioritize incarcerated people and jail staff as part of the first phase of its vaccine rollout.  Yet both of these groups have remarkably low rates of vaccination months after they first became eligible.

MassLive reported with the Associated Press and the Marshall Project that more than half of Massachusetts prison guards have declined the vaccine, a trend roughly on par with their counterparts around the country (WGBH reported slightly different numbers). They point to concerns over short- and long-term side effects, distrust of prison administration, and embrace of conspiracy theories to explain this trend.

For those on the inside, many of the same factors are at play, albeit from a sharply different positionality. The jail’s use of the pandemic as yet another means of social control, coupled with an infantilizing lack of transparency about testing and safety practices, has fueled vaccine skepticism.

Incarcerated people are not allowed to work without the vaccine, though no similar requirement has been placed on the guards, who are obviously far more likely to spread COVID around the facility.

Of the six incarcerated people contacted for this report, none said they wanted the vaccine at this point in time.

Christian Castro referred to a lack of information given about the vaccine. He suspected that flyers posted by the officers’ station were “only informing you of the good and what they want you to know.” Tyrell Mitchell-Bress learned information about the vaccine from DWM.

Some pod-mates received the vaccine and experienced side effects. “Some had mild symptoms, others felt worse as if they had COVID all over again,” Mitchell-Bress wrote. 

Danny Ramos mentioned people who visited and went to each unit promoting the vaccine and answering questions, and believes they “changed people’s mind from not getting it to getting it,” though he himself wanted to wait to get it due to his diabetes.

Joshua Cruz, however, wrote less glowingly that the nurse who came to his unit spoke only to those who were around at the time, and didn’t want to answer questions or repeat herself. “I personally don’t trust the vaccine nor staff who give it here,” added Cruz.

Significant numbers of DWM’s correspondents told stories of medical neglect unrelated to COVID-19.

Routinely, people who voice medical needs are ignored or minimized. Soto has consistent ghost pain and numbness in his leg from old gunshot and stab wounds and is offered only Tylenol.

John was given antibiotics for an “inflammation” about which he never received any information and was denied an inhaler for asthma after he showed normal blood-oxygen levels. His condition was previously noted by jail medical staff, and he requested the inhaler at the start of the pandemic, anticipating that he might need it.

One person who declined to be named complained of a basketball injury and was denied an MRI, postponing his treatment until he could convince jail staff to grant him one, which vindicated his complaints. Still another claimed he was denied insulin.

The facility largely ignores mental health and uses it to humiliate or control people, even as activities like recreation and work that might help have been curbed for a year now.

Writing after a week in solitary and 20 days without family phone calls, one DWM correspondent said he was told he would have to wait 7-10 days for a mental health appointment. The only regular check he received was “a daily wellness check asking if I am gonna kill myself.”

Soto mentioned that some incarcerated people say they are suicidal during these checks just to expedite the wait, which still takes 24 hours. They are then left naked in their cell.

Though Soto asked for medication for post-traumatic stress from his shooting, he was denied and told he “looked fine.”

Another person in solitary insisted the medication he is given does not work and alleged the jail keeps most Black people in the hole.

He believes the facility is sedating him so he does not “get out of hand.”

The post Letters From Massachusetts Jail Reveal Struggle To Survive Pandemic Winter appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Prison Protest, COVID-19 Behind Bars, jail healthcare, Massachusetts Jails]

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