[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 8/10/20 5:53pm
Editor’s Note This is the free edition of The Dissenter newsletter, which covers whistleblowers and the obstacles they face in government and corporate institutions.

To become a subscriber, visit https://dissenter.substack.com/subscribe

Legislation introduced in Congress would fill multiple gaps in federal whistleblower protections and finally grant access to courts and jury trials for review of their cases.

All private sector whistleblower laws since 2002 have included court access, yet when the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) moved through Congress in 2012, court access was removed before it was passed and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“The Make It Safe Coalition (MISC) Steering Committee praised the House Committee on Oversight and Reform (COR) leadership for combined legislation to finish what Congress started in the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012,” the coalition declared.

“Since that unanimously approved mandate, whistleblowers steadily have proven themselves indispensable against abuses of power that betray the public trust. Unfortunately, some of the most significant issues were postponed for further study eight years ago, without follow-up to add necessary teeth to the legislation.”

As a result, the MISC Steering Committee argues free speech rights for whistleblowers in the United States have “fallen far behind the pace for global best practices protecting whistleblowers.”

The Government Accountability Project, the Liberty Coalition, the National Security Counselors, the National Whistleblower Center, the Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Whistleblowers of America each engage in whistleblower advocacy and make up the steering committee.

Representative Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, introduced the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act (WPIA). It grants federal employees, former federal employees, and applicants for employment, who seek “corrective action from the Merits System Protection Board [MSPB] based on an alleged prohibited personnel practice,” access to courts and jury trials. [Note: Prohibited personnel practices are instances of retaliation.]

If no final order is issued by the MSPB within 180 days of submission, protected federal employees may notify the Office of the Special Counsel and the MSPB that they are filing a complaint for review by the appropriate U.S. district court. They would have the option to have the matter tried before a jury.

The MSPB, a quasi-judicial agency in the executive branch, is the only body that many federal whistleblowers can go to with their claims. However, it has an estimated backlog of nearly 3,000 complaints.

According to the National Whistleblower Center (NWC), the “MSPB has not had a quorum in over three years and has not had a single sitting member since May 2019.”

“The MSPB’s political nature is a drawback for whistleblowers,” the NWC further declares. “While the structure of the MSPB may be appropriate for handling the majority of its cases, which are simple civil service appeals that don’t raise political issues, it is not well equipped to handle whistleblower cases that can easily become politicized.”

“Two of the three Board members must be of the President’s own political party, and one of the three Board members must be of the opposing political party. With only three members in total, this is particularly fraught. Additionally, because the Board members are political appointees, there is a constant risk of a lack of any or sufficient appointees, in a particularly politically-polarized environment.”

John Kostyack, the executive director of the NWC, told The Dissenter, “We’ve had court access since the early 1990s for victims of discrimination, whether it is race, gender, or age. We think it’s a long overdue catchup for a very important class of victims of retaliation.

The House of Representatives has passed legislation that granted federal whistleblowers court access or judicial review at least three times.

Kostyack said the first time was in the 1990s. But the Senate has refused to pass legislation that grants federal whistleblowers access to the courts.

“I do think there are probably people in the federal government who don’t want to lose their prerogative and control over the issue in the executive branch, and then you hear some people claiming it’s going to gum up the courts,” Kostyack added.

The NWC submitted a report to Congress that documented how this concern was overblown. Anti-discrimination laws granted federal employees access to courts. Kostyack noted there was no sudden “flood of cases.”

Additionally, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act to ensure “all federal employees, contractors, and applicants can file an administrative complaint if their right to share information with Congress has been ‘interfered with or denied.'”

The legislation would permit whistleblowers to go to a federal court with their complaint if a “favorable decision” was not received “within 210 days of filing” an “administrative” complaint.

Provisions would also guarantee a jury trial and that federal whistleblowers could try to recoup “lost wage and benefits,” as well as reinstatement to their position in government.

For too long, federal whistleblowers have had to depend on the MSPB to check abuses that stem from the deep-seated contempt toward whistleblowers in many U.S. agencies.

An MSPB study highlighted by the NWC found that federal employee “perceptions of reprisal for disclosing wrongdoing nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016.”

“Nearly half of the respondents to the MSPB federal workforce study in 2016 (or 46 percent) reported that they had observed one or more prohibited personnel practices.”

Without access to courts, protection for whistleblowers will remain stronger in the private sector.

“Private sector protections are stronger, which is really insane considering that we need federal whistleblowers to expose waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government, and particularly at a time when trillions of dollars are flowing as part of the COVID relief packages,” Kostyack said. “New rules and rulemaking, including some that are rolling back regulatory actions, are flying fast and furious. We’re losing checks and balances at the same time that we are getting vastly increased spending.”

As the Make It Safe Coalition outlined, “Whistleblowers have long provided necessary oversight and accountability in our government. Unfortunately, executive branch leaders from President Roosevelt to President Trump have violated their workforce’s free speech rights, restricting Congress’ oversight capabilities.”

It will take quite a bit of effort to convince the Republican-controlled Senate to finally fix a major weakness in federal whistleblower protections.

Legislation introduced in Congress would fill multiple gaps in federal whistleblower protections and grant access to courts and jury trials for review of their cases.

All private sector whistleblower laws since 2002 have included court access, yet when the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) moved through Congress in 2012, court access was removed before it was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“The Make It Safe Coalition (MISC) Steering Committee praised the House Committee on Oversight and Reform (COR) leadership for combined legislation to finish what Congress started in the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012,” the coalition declared.

“Since that unanimously approved mandate, whistleblowers steadily have proven themselves indispensable against abuses of power that betray the public trust. Unfortunately, some of the most significant issues were postponed for further study eight years ago, without follow-up to add necessary teeth to the legislation.”

As a result, the MISC Steering Committee argues free speech rights for whistleblowers in the United States have “fallen far behind the pace for global best practices protecting whistleblowers.”

The Government Accountability Project, Liberty Coalition, National Security Counselors, National Whistleblower Center, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Whistleblowers of America each engage in whistleblower advocacy and make up the steering committee.

Representative Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, introduced the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act (WPIA). It grants federal employees, former federal employees, and applicants for employment who seek “corrective action from the Merits System Protection Board [MSPB] based on an alleged prohibited personnel practice” access to courts. [Note: Prohibited personnel practices are instances of retaliation.]

If no final order is issued by the MSPB within 180 days of submission, protected federal employees may notify the Office of the Special Counsel and the MSPB that they are filing a complaint for review by the appropriate U.S. district court. They will have the option to have the matter tried before a jury.

The MSPB, a quasi-judicial agency in the executive branch, is the only body that many federal whistleblowers can go to with their claims. However, it has an estimated backlog of nearly 3,000 complaints.

According to the National Whistleblower Center, the “MSPB has not had a quorum in over three years and has not had a single sitting member since May 2019.”

“The MSPB’s political nature is a drawback for whistleblowers,” the NWC further declares. “While the structure of the MSPB may be appropriate for handling the majority of its cases, which are simple civil service appeals that don’t raise political issues, it is not well equipped to handle whistleblower cases that can easily become politicized.”

The post Bills In Congress Would Grant Federal Whistleblowers Access To Courts appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Merit Systems Protection Board, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblower Protections]

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[l] at 8/7/20 1:52pm

On this edition of the “Dissenter Weekly,” host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola highlights a report from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) that showed dissent channels in federal government agencies aren’t leading to changes and most employees see them as risky.

“The report found that the existing channels at the State Department and other agencies are underutilized, and that the systems don’t provide sufficient incentives or protections for employees,” POGO declared. 

Later, Gosztola covers two whistleblower cases—one involving a prison whistleblower in New Mexico and one involving two officers in the Miami Beach Police Department. Both faced retaliation after they objected to violence.

This week’s stories:

Dissent Channels Widely Viewed By Federal Employees As Risky, ‘Waste of Time’

Justice Department Dismisses False Claims Act Cases Without Stating Reasons

Fake Small Business Exposed By Whistleblowers Received COVID-19 Federal Loan

New Mexico Prison Whistleblower Was Fired After Objecting To Officers Who Killed Prisoner

Miami Beach Police Clear Cop Who Punched Man, Punish Whistleblowers Who Exposed Video

Julian Assange Update: Declassified UK Reports Judge Reviewing Extradition Has Approved 96 Percent Of Extradition Cases

***

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The post Dissenter Weekly: Prison And Police Whistleblowers Face Retaliation For Objecting To Violence appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 8/5/20 1:11pm

This is the second part of Beyond Prisons’ two-part conversation with Dr. Dylan Rodríguez. If you haven’t already, listen to part one.

In this episode, Dylan shares a few thoughts about high profile reformers like Van Jones and the dangers of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC). We also talk about “The Problems with Community Control of the Police and Proposals for Alternatives,” a document that Dylan co-authored with Beth Richie, Mariame Kaba, Rachel Herzing, and others.

We discuss the problem with the notion of “police accountability” and why Dylan believes that it is more accurately described as casualty management. We spend some time talking about the ways that celebrities either help or hinder conversations about policing, and why we should not conflate celebrity with leadership. We close with a discussion about the politics of accessibility.

Episode Resources & Notes

Follow Dylan Rodríguez on Twitter: @dylanrodriguez

The Problems with Community Control of the Police and Proposals for Alternatives” by Beth Richie, Dylan Rodríguez, Mariame Kaba, Melissa Burch, Rachel Herzing and Shana Agid

Black Awakening in Capitalist America by Robert L. Allen (Doubleday, 1969)

Books by Dylan Rodríguez:

Pre-order his next book, White Reconstruction: Domestic Warfare and the Logic of Racial Genocide, and White Reconstruction II (Fordham University Press)

Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader  (Duke University Press, 2016)

Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime (University of Minnesota Press, 2006)

Suspended Apocalypse: White Supremacy, Genocide, and the Filipino Condition (University of Minnesota Press, 2009)

Credits

Created and hosted by Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein

Edited by Ellis Maxwell

Website & volunteers managed by Victoria Nam

Theme music by Jared Ware

Support Beyond Prisons

Visit our website at beyond-prisons.com

Support our show and join us on Patreon. Check out our other donation options as well.

Please listen, subscribe, and rate/review our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Google Play

Join our mailing list for updates on new episodes, events, and more

Send tips, comments, and questions to beyondprisonspodcast@gmail.com

Kim Wilson is available for speaking engagements and to facilitate workshops. Please contact beyondprisonspodcast@gmail.com for more information

Twitter: @Beyond_Prison

Facebook: facebook.com/beyondprisonspodcast

Instagram: instagram.com/beyondprisons

The post Beyond Prisons: Dylan Rodríguez, Part II: Police Accountability Is Casualty Management appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Beyond Prisons, Latest News, Prison Protest, Shadowproof Podcast Series, Interview, Police Reform, Policing]

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[l] at 8/4/20 2:10pm

The coronavirus pandemic has fueled strikes, protests, and union organizing efforts in response to mass layoffs and concerns of safety protections for essential workers around the United States since economic shutdowns began in March 2020.

As workers try to organize unions to improve working conditions during the pandemic, employers have engaged in retaliation, including laying off workers involved in organizing.

Sergio Ceballos, a truck driver contracted with XPO Logistics in the San Diego, California area, was banned from a Toyota supplier yard on June 29, following a demonstration outside the yard.The Teamsters union opposed the lack of personal protective equipment and reduced wages during the pandemic.

The Teamsters are trying to unionize XPO drivers around the U.S. and fight the classification of drivers as independent contractors.

“I talked to one of the Toyota supervisors and he told me I was banned because they saw me outside of Toyota with those ‘lazy Teamsters,’” said Ceballos. “It’s not fair for a driver working for them for a long time like me.”

Photo courtesy of the Teamsters

Ceballos noted over 95 percent of drivers’ contracted work in the area involves work for the Toyota supplier, essentially resulting in a layoff as he has only been able to work other loads once or twice a week.

Unfair labor practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by the Teamsters against the supplier and XPO Logistics alleging violations of the National Labor Relations Act, including retaliation for union and other concerted activity, threatening loss of work for participating in union activity, and surveilling union activity.

XPO Logistics denied Ceballos’ claims of retaliation, contending he accepted loads since the alleged incident. “Our customer did ask us to ban him from a site in San Diego due to a safety violation, and we did so consistent with protocol,” an XPO spokesperson told Shadowproof.

The drivers are independent contractors, responsible for equipping themselves with PPE, according to the XPO spokesperson, but XPO provides drivers with PPE free of charge and claimed payment rates are regularly reviewed to align with current market conditions.

A Toyota spokesperson added their suppliers are expected to abide by Toyota’s principles. “We are not aware of, nor do we condone, any labor law violations.”

It’s not uncommon for workers to lose their jobs due to involvement in union organizing in the U.S.

According to a December 2019 study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, one out of every five union election campaigns in the U.S. involves a charge that an employer illegally fired a worker for union activity.

U.S. firms spend around $340 million annually on consultants for union avoidance. With coronavirus cases surging in many parts of the U.S., and as millions of Americans remain unemployed, the stakes for union organizing have risen dramatically.

“What we’ve been seeing under COVID are the same dynamics and same tactics as always, except with everything intensified,” said Gordon Laufer, Professor at the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center. “There’s both greater intensity in wanting to organize and more intense fear of employer retaliation.”

“Unfortunately, many employers are responding by resorting to the same, standard intimidation tactics that ‘union avoidance’ consultants have practiced for decades, this time backed up with an even more real and frightening threat of people losing their jobs,” Laufer added

At the independent coffee retail chain Augie’s Coffee in California, 54 employees from all five stores were fired on July 4, shortly after workers informed management a firm majority of workers were in favor of forming a union.

“They held a town hall for all the shops. We showed up and told them we just want union recognition. Management was belittling, telling us we didn’t know what we were doing, that we were going to ruin the company. A week later, they [sent] out a mass email laying everybody off,” said Kelly Bader, a barista for six years, who filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB with other laid-off workers.

He explained support for forming a union started in response to management’s attempt to hire new people to replace workers who didn’t feel comfortable working through the pandemic, as Augie’s Coffee locations remained open. According to Bader, the few baristas who were opposed to forming a union were kept on to work out of Augie’s Coffee roasting facility, which remains open for online coffee orders.

“When Augie’s fired all its staff, it retained those workers, when other warehouse workers fired for being pro-union anymore,” added Bader. Augie’s Coffee would not comment on Bader’s allegations these workers were retained.

Augie’s Coffee denied the firings were retaliatory and cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the store closures.

Photo courtesy of the Teamsters

“It was a matter of time until Augie’s saw COVID infections among staff and customers as well, and preventing this was the main factor behind the final decision to close,” said a spokesperson for Augie’s Coffee in an email.

At Orlando International Airport, retail workers contracted by HMS Host recently filed complaints with the NLRB alleging layoffs and threats toward employees who support unionizing.

Their union election to join UNITE HERE was initially delayed due to the pandemic. In an effort to reschedule the election, HMS Host is argues only workers who have been called back to work—around ten percent of the workforce prior to the pandemic—should be eligible to vote.

“They get to pick and choose who is recalled, who they want to have recalled, so they get to choose who gets to vote, which means they might have the majority, but out of all the workers, the majority want the union,” said Rosanny Tejeda, who worked at Starbucks for HMS Host in the airport for about a year before she was furloughed in March 2020.

HMS Host did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

On June 30, the New Museum in New York City laid off 18 full and part-time staff among the 41 employees furloughed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite receiving between $1 million to $2 million in paycheck protection program funds from the federal government.

According to the New Museum Union, the firings were targeted and part of anti-union efforts on behalf of the museum that began when the union first petitioned to form a union in January 2019.

“They laid off the entire union steward committee. All three of us were laid off,” said Dana Kopel,a senior editor and publications coordinator at the museum, who served as the unit chair of the union. ”They laid off the other editor in April, another vocal union supporter, so they have no editors.

Kopel continued, “It’s hard to see how that’s a justified business decision. All four full-time bargaining committee members have been laid off. I felt targeted as a union supporter there for a long time.”

Other museums, including the Philadelphia Art Museum and Tenement Museum in New York City, have also been accused by workers of conducting permanent layoffs targeted against union supporters.

The New Museum denied layoffs were retaliation against union members, and they claimed revenue losses incurred due to the pandemic made layoffs necessary, even with PPP loans.

“The decision to proceed with layoffs during this unprecedented time was extraordinarily difficult and one we had hoped to avoid. We worked hard to preserve as many positions as possible,” a spokesperson for the New Museum stated.

The post Workers Face Retaliation, Including Layoffs, For Organizing Unions During COVID-19 Pandemic appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, The Bullpen, COVID-19, Labor Movement, Labor Organizing, Labor Unions]

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[l] at 8/3/20 6:23pm
Editor’s Note This is a preview of The Dissenter newsletter, which covers whistleblowers and the obstacles they face in government and corporate institutions.

To become a subscriber, visit https://dissenter.substack.com/subscribe

Federal agency employees largely view dissent channels as a “waste of time” and fear they will face retaliation if used, according to a report from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

“There appear to be few public success stories where use of dissent channels led to change or factored into a serious reconsideration of policies,” POGO adds.

All too often, there are examples of how whistleblowers who go through “proper channels” in the federal government face retaliation.

POGO’s report , “Stifling Dissent: How the Federal Government’s Channels for Challenging Policies from Within Fall Short,” examines another dimension of what happens to employees or contractors, who use dissent channels specifically established for registering their objections. 

“The report found that the existing channels at the State Department and other agencies are underutilized, and that the systems don’t provide sufficient incentives or protections for employees,” POGO declared in a press release.

POGO also contended, “At a time when the White House is explicitly hostile toward career government experts, it’s clear that federal workers need more effective, independent channels for constructively criticizing policy decisions and need better protections for expressing policy dissent.”

Through agency and court records, interviews with “former career civil servants and political appointees,” and previously unpublished information, POGO outlined the use of dissent channels at the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Energy Department, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Dissent channels are “formal avenues within an organization to express their professional concerns about an agency policy or policy proposal.”

A dissenter’s policy disclosure may be protected under civil service whistleblower law, but as POGO notes, an employee or contractor has to prove the “impropriety” of the policy is not “debatable among reasonable people,” which is a “very high bar.”

Screen shot of cover page for the Project on Government Oversight’s report, “Stifling Dissent.”

There is an entirely separate process for potential whistleblowers, and the lack of protection for those who use dissent channels may limit the ability of someone with political differences to obtain whistleblower protections when they are not really blowing the whistle on corruption. On the other hand, without statutory protections that cover dissent, it is probably very easy for senior officials to root out individuals who challenge their decision-making.

As POGO describes, the “Afghanistan Papers” were “confidential government interviews” from over 400 government officials and others that revealed “top U.S. diplomats and military officials had expressed profound doubts to an independent government office about the United States’ policy goals in the conflict, what winning the war looked like, and whether there was even a plausible chance at success.” They were published in 2019.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, who led the office which conducted the interviews, said the American people were lied to about the war.

Before the Afghanistan Papers were published, “two members of Congress” pushed for a dissent channel to be established. Yet, after the Afghanistan Papers showed why a dissent channel is needed, the Defense Department still does not provide military personnel or agency civilians a mechanism for sharing their dissenting views against war-making or military policies.

Up until 2017, the Federal Reserve did not have a dissent channel, even though the economy collapsed as a result of systematic fraud on Wall Street in 2008.

“According to a 2016 report from the Federal Reserve’s inspector general, all regional banks have ‘various internal channels through which employees can raise a variety of concerns, in some cases anonymously,” but that at least within the New York [Federal Reserve], “some interviewees identified reservations, including whether anything would be done in response to their concern or whether these channels are truly independent.”

More Like A ‘Shredder’ Than A ‘Suggestion Box’

Former State Department diplomat Elizabeth Shackelford contends one could “generously describe” the agency’s dissent channel as a “suggestion box,” but it’s probably more accurate to “picture it as a shredder.”

“State Department employees rarely use the dissent channel,” according to POGO, and using the channel can “carry a degree of stigma,” like those who use it have failed to “effectively advocate a position through normal channels.”

“It’s common for dissenters to receive a response that does not engage the merits of the dissent.”

Dissent can be conflated with “disloyalty,” and there is little evidence that retaliators at the State Department are held accountable.

“In a November 2019 report, the State Department’s inspector general confirmed that Brian Hook, the political appointee overseeing the department’s Dissent Channel during the first year of the Trump administration, removed a career employee from her job for political reasons. Hook, who now leads the department’s efforts on Iran, denies he did anything improper.”

Hook was never “publicly disciplined,” and POGO acknowledges that hostile officials who conflate dissent with “disloyalty” are not unique to President Donald Trump’s administration. Similar retaliation occurred under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

At the Energy Department, not everyone who uses the dissent channel necessarily qualifies for protection from retaliation.

POGO states, “If an employee believes that the [Energy Department’s] elimination of a program for detecting nuclear explosions creates a risk to public safety, it isn’t clear whether disputing the elimination would be a protected disclosure based on a ‘reasonable belief’ of danger or whether it would simply be a debatable policy disagreement.”

“A factor that may deter employees from raising concerns is the department’s well-documented history of contractors (who run its national laboratories) that have retaliated against employees for speaking up,” the report adds.

Out of nearly 110,000 personnel, more than 95,000 work for Energy Department contractors.

Using The Dissent Channel Leads To Negative Consequences

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission differs from the State Department in that it publishes information on how often the agency’s dissent channel is used, the subject of dissents, how dissents are resolved, and how personnel perceive the channel. But the NRC’s channel still has a negative reputation.

A 2018 retaliation study by the NRC found, “Every single respondent felt they had experienced at least some negative consequences as a result of using the process.”

Yet another survey showed 100 percent of respondents believed “using the process had led to negative consequences, such as changes to their professional responsibilities or being excluded from meetings or career development opportunities.”

The report mentions that NRC managers are both in charge of preventing retaliation and responding to allegations of retaliation, which practically guarantees investigations will lack independence necessary to be viewed as fair.

Furthermore, POGO highlights one NRC example that shows how the inspector general may not back up dissenters when their support is needed.

“In 2012, an NRC reliability and risk engineer named Lawrence Criscione “believed the NRC was ignoring an important report on the danger faced by a nuclear reactor downstream of a large dam should that dam catastrophically fail.”

“He sent an unclassified report to several congressional offices, and included his superiors on those communications. At least one of the congressional offices shared that report with the public. Soon afterwards, Criscione’s superiors asked the inspector general to investigate, and the inspector general referred the case to the Justice Department to investigate Criscione for alleged computer fraud—a federal felony.”

POGO contends, “This criminal referral was especially egregious given that the inspector general is at least partially responsible for upholding the whistleblower laws that explicitly protect going to Congress and even the media, so long as the material isn’t restricted by law. The prosecutor declined to bring a case, with the declination form indicating that no federal offense had been committed.”

Fortunately, Criscione still works for the agency, but many individuals who face this kind of whistleblower retaliation resign or are forced out of agencies, which can be devastating to their careers.

‘Perception Of Negative Consequences Can Have a Chilling Effect’

Dissenters do not have to experience what Criscione survived to feel impacted.

A 2014 assessment of the NRC’s dissent channel recognized the “perception of negative consequences can have a chilling effect on employees.”

Often memos sent through the dissent channel, especially at the State Department, will remain classified for 25 years or more. But in 2017, more than 1,000 State Department employees signed on to a memo that objected to Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer blasted State Department employees saying they “should either get with the program or they can go.”

In contrast to many examples, it would appear if dissenters push for war they will be taken seriously.

State Department employees urged President Barack Obama to escalate U.S. military intervention in Syria through a 2016 dissent channel memo, which was leaked to the press.

“Then-Secretary of State John Kerry personally met with several of the authors,” POGO recalls. Kerry made sure “they understood that he was taking those concerns seriously. Media reports at the time indicated that Kerry was sympathetic to the memo’s arguments.”

To address the culture within agencies that stifles dissent, POGO recommends Congress expand the scope of whistleblower protections to cover policy-related communications that are not made through formal dissent channels.

POGO also believes employees or contractors should enjoy protections for engaging in protected speech and activity.” This could be accomplished by granting federal employees jury trials, when they experience retaliation.

The post US Government Employees View Dissent Channels As Risky And A ‘Waste Of Time’ appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Dissent Channels, POGO, State Department, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblower Protections]

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[l] at 8/1/20 10:01pm

We launched Shadowproof five years ago. Many of you helped us accomplish quite a bit so let’s take a moment to celebrate the impact we’ve had.

Since our last birthday, Shadowproof published 26 articles from 17 freelance journalists. While we published fewer freelance articles than last year, we paid writers greater amounts than in previous years. Members and donors, as well as journalists who contributed work and believed we could provide a solid platform for their reporting, made that possible.

Shadowproof managing editor Kevin Gosztola traveled to London—just before COVID-19 shut down the world—and covered a week-long extradition hearing in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s case. His coverage was featured on BBC Radio, Sky News Australia, Common Dreams, The Grayzone, The Real News, The Canary, and MintPress News.

Kevin also garnered widespread attention after he exposed the who’s who of corporate lobbyists and foreign policy hacks Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez appointed to Democratic National Convention Committees. It forecast the zeal in which the establishment would coalesce around former Vice President Joe Biden to extinguish Senator Bernie Sanders’ chances to win the Democratic presidential primary.

Beyond Prisons, which Shadowproof publishing editor Brian Sonenstein co-hosts, was recognized by Elle magazine’s list of the top 10 anti-racist podcasts. He continued to break stories about “gladiator fights” in California prisons for our “Prison Protest” column and collaborated with Solitary Watch to report on growing evidence that brief stints in solitary confinement may increase a person’s chances of death after release from prison.

Brian’s research found corrections departments in every state in America claimed to be “understaffed”—a claim historically used to increase investments in incarceration—and he delved into the backgrounds of every member on President Donald Trump’s commission on policing.

In addition to our “Trans Behind Bars” series by Adryan Corcione, which explored the incarceration of trans people, we published letters from incarcerated people who opposed plans to build new jails in New York City. We are in the midst of featuring reports on how prison abolitionists confront violence without involving the police.

We launched a YouTube show called “The Dissenter Weekly” last December that highlights whistleblower stories. And in July, we replaced our weekly member newsletter, Keeping the Issues Alive, with a more focused newsletter called The Dissenter.

The newsletter is still curated by Kevin, and it offers subscribers in-depth coverage of whistleblowers and the obstacles they face within government and corporate institutions. One weekly edition is sent to all subscribers, and paid subscribers receive a second and/or third edition every week with additional reporting and commentary.

Shadowproof maintained its support for two podcasts: “Unauthorized Disclosure,” hosted by Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola, and “Beyond Prisons,” hosted by Brian Sonenstein and Kim Wilson. And C.J. Baker, who curates a website called “Ongoing History Of Protest Songs,” kept up his “Protest Song Of The Week” contributions.

We now have 120 members, who give money monthly toward our stability and to ensure we can greenlight stories pitched to us by freelance contributors. This is a loss of six members compared to last year, which we find remarkable given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on individual finances. And we are grateful for all the new members and donors, who backed our COVID-19 relief fundraiser for freelance journalists.

Our podcasts, as well as our newsletter, are crucial ways for Shadowproof to sustain the work we publish.

We believe it is up to us to develop innovative ways to survive that can keep alternative and independent journalism at Shadowproof vibrant and impactful.

The more subscribers, the more we will be able to give a diverse range of voices a platform for their journalism on our website. (Subscribe for $5/month if you would like to receive the newsletter or support “Beyond Prisons” or “Unauthorized Disclosure.”)

Shadowproof recognizes its limitations. We do not have billionaire or millionaire donors who will give us vast sums of money and resources to achieve our potential. But we also believe if we relied on mega-donors that could lead members and readers to question our editorial independence. Plus, a mega-donor could abruptly cut their support and force us to shut down.

We recognize our failures and vulnerabilities in addition to our successes. Shadowproof ambitiously set out to publish a print zine during our fourth birthday. We envisioned a quarterly publication in the vibrant tradition of alternative magazines, with contributions from writers, satirists, artists, and more. However, the economic downturn and pandemic, as well as the small budget and resources we have, forced us to rethink how and when we may produce a zine.

Neither Kevin nor Brian pay themselves for the work they do at Shadowproof. Throughout the past five years, they have made sure the vast majority of funds went toward hiring journalists. But that can only last for so long before they will need to draw some small income from Shadowproof in order to keep operating what they built.

We also set a goal during our last birthday to publish more reporting on the climate catastrophe and give platforms to individuals from indigenous communities. We regrettably failed to do either, but we will redouble our efforts in the coming year by recruiting writers to cover these topics.

***

The left, however that may be defined, is incredibly atomized and scattered. This is evident within left or left-leaning media. In the next year, we plan to collaborate across more sites and cross-pollinate in ways that benefit all involved. We feel this will build some much-needed solidarity.

For example, Shadowproof already has a relationship with Truthout, where we republish each other’s articles. We have republished the work of Solitary Watch, which reports on solitary confinement and the dark underbelly of the criminal justice system. But we hope to do more through our website, newsletter, podcasts, YouTube, and social media accounts to support others engaged in this essential work.

Shadowproof was openly optimistic about the potential of grassroots movements to force socialist ideas into the Democratic presidential primary. Unfortunately, a combination of factors led to the demise of Sanders’ 2020 campaign, and in its place, a vacuum developed until George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police and Black Lives Matter uprisings intensified already-simmering rage and discontent toward political elites.

Additionally, we did not anticipate how the Democratic Party establishment, with help from Republicans, would coalesce around former Vice President Joe Biden, whose campaign was in shambles until the South Carolina primary. In retrospect, it represents a cautionary tale of what happens when grassroots movements invest their hopes and dreams in Democrats and the electoral process, which has never delivered justice.

From August to Election Day, we expect Biden and neoliberal Democrats will constantly lower our political expectations as they appeal to “Never Trump” Republicans, like former Ohio Governor John Kasich. It will constrain our discourse and pressure us to avoid certain journalism, but we have no patience for this anti-democratic impulse and will vigorously defy it.

If Biden somehow defeats Trump it will be Republicans and their corporate backers, who a Biden White House will serve—not liberal Democrats and certainly not any Democrats willing to meet with grassroots organizers.

Thankfully, Shadowproof finds wells of hope outside of the electoral process. In particular, anti-racist movements like Black Lives Matter, including the movement to abolish the prison industrial complex, have been hard at work building power and challenging oppressive norms over the last decade. We are seeing the fruits of that labor this summer.

We believe increased visibility and the impact of this organizing will radicalize segments of the American public and enable us to not only defend against fascism and white supremacy but also build a better world for all of us. We remain committed to covering this organizing as we have since we launched in 2015. At the same time, we are mindful of the history of racist backlashes to anti-racist organizing in the United States, and remain vigilant in the face of that possibility.

Neither a second Trump term nor a Biden presidency, which reveals what parts of the Trump project have become bipartisan political consensus, will fundamentally change what we do as an independent media organization.

We do not take any day for granted, and we are proud to still be here after five years.

It is exceptionally difficult to operate an independent media organization. And in a year where anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 jobs in the media industry have been lost (many of them permanently), we recommit ourselves to curating and expanding spaces for dissenting voices, who push back against the corporate and political culture that consistently refines its methods of dominance and control.

Thank you again for supporting and reading Shadowproof. Onward to another five years.

***

The 10 most popular articles in Shadowproof’s 5th year were:

1. Officials Ignored Warnings Before Massive ‘Gladiator Fight’ At Soledad State Prison In California by Brian Sonenstein

2. Journalist Max Blumenthal Arrested, Hit With Political Prosecution Related To Venezuela Reporting by Kevin Gosztola

3. New York Times Outs Individual Behind Ukraine Call Whistleblower Complaint, Sparks Outrage By Kevin Gosztola

4. Republicans, Including A Trump Supporter, Funded Joe Biden’s Super PAC In February by Kevin Gosztola

5. Northrop Grumman Accused Of Fueling False ‘Revenge Porn’ Allegations Against CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou by Kevin Gosztola

6. Familiar Faction Of Regime Change Advocates Lash Out At Journalists Reporting From Syria by Kevin Gosztola

7.  I’m Still Sorry I Listened To Susan Sarandon During The 2016 Election by Kevin Gosztola

8. US Government Expands Assange Indictment To Criminalize Assistance Provided To Edward Snowden by Kevin Gosztola

9. Street Medics See Cuba As A Model For COVID-19 Response In Vulnerable Communities by Devyn Springer

10. The Coronavirus Primaries Were Illegitimate Elections By Kevin Gosztola

The post Looking Back On Shadowproof’s Fifth Year appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Announcements, Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Announcement, Shadowproof, We Made It Five Years]

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[l] at 7/30/20 2:24pm

Professor, author, and abolitionist scholar Dr. Dylan Rodríguez joins Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein on an episode of the Beyond Prisons podcast. 

This is the first part of a two part conversation. In Part 1, Dr. Rodríguez explains his belief that abolition is our obligation, touching on the development of anti-Black algorithms used to keep people in prison, what it means to be vulnerable in the context of doing this work and how vulnerability is the starting point for an abolitionist practice, and the profound impact that Robert Allen’s book Black Awakening in Capitalist America had on shaping Dylan’s own thinking. 

We also talk about how academia declares institutional solidarity with white supremacy, and how some academics are the planners and architects of domestic war. Dr. Rodríguez reminds us that terror is not a thing that you can fix with training and he shares some of the conditions he places on conversations about prison reform. 

Dylan Rodríguez is President of the American Studies Association (2020-2021). He served as the faculty-elected Chair of the UC Riverside Academic Senate (2016-2020) and a Professor at the University of California, Riverside. He spent the first sixteen years of his career in the Department of Ethnic Studies (serving as Chair from 2009-2016) and joined the Department of Media and Cultural Studies in 2017.

Dylan’s thinking, writing, teaching, and scholarly activist labors address the complexity and normalized proliferation of historical regimes and logics of anti-Black and racial-colonial violence in everyday state, cultural, and social formations.  His work raises the question of how insurgent communities of people inhabit oppressive regimes and logics in ways that enable the collective genius of rebellion, survival, abolition, and radical futurity. What forms of shared creativity emerge from conditions of duress, and how do these insurgencies envision—and practice—transformations of power and community?  

In addition to co-editing the field-shaping anthology Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader (Duke University Press, 2016), Dylan is the author of two books: Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime (University of Minnesota Press, 2006) and Suspended Apocalypse: White Supremacy, Genocide, and the Filipino Condition (University of Minnesota Press, 2009). His next book, White Reconstruction: Domestic Warfare and the Logic of Racial Genocide , is forthcoming from Fordham University Press in Fall 2020 and will be followed in 2021 by White Reconstruction II

Follow Dylan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dylanrodriguez

Support Beyond Prisons

Support our show and join us on Patreon . Check out our other donation options as well.

Please listen, subscribe, and rate/review our podcast on iTunes , Spotify , and on Google Play

Visit our website at beyond-prisons.com

Join our mailing list for updates on new episodes, events, and more

Send tips, comments, and questions to beyondprisonspodcast@gmail.com

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The post Beyond Prisons: Abolition Is Our Obligation feat. Dylan Rodríguez appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Beyond Prisons, Latest News, Prison Protest, Shadowproof Podcast Series, Prison Reform, The Academy]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 7/30/20 8:45am
Editor’s Note Substack is dealing with a bad bug that has interfered with our ability to bring on new paid subscribers for over a week. This is unfortunate, as it has undermined the launch of The Dissenter newsletter. Until Substack can fix this, all editions, including exclusive editions, will be sent to everyone.

To subscribe, visit https://dissenter.substack.com/subscribe

On July 30, 2013, United States Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act and various other offenses.

It was National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, and though she was not found guilty of “aiding the enemy,” the verdict in her trial crystallized a contradiction among the political establishment. Officials profess a commitment to whistleblowers except when they blow the whistle on abuse, fraud, or corruption that they have a vested interest in defending.

The resolution for this year’s National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, like prior resolutions, stipulates that the United States will encourage whistleblowing but only according to federal law and only if it protects classified information (including “sources and methods of detection of classified information”) and also only if the whistleblowing involves “honest and good faith reporting of misconduct, fraud, misdemeanors, and other crimes to the appropriate authority at the earliest time possible.”

With those disqualifiers, Manning, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, FBI whistleblower Terry Albury, NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, alleged drone whistleblower Daniel Hale, and a number of other whistleblowers in recent history are rendered criminals.

Both Albury and Winner pled guilty to violating the Espionage Act and were sentenced to federal prison, where they are at the mercy of the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) cold-hearted protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hale was charged with violating the Espionage Act, but the pandemic delayed his trial.

Snowden remains in Russia, where he has lived for around seven years under political asylum. He was charged with violating the Espionage Act and trapped in the country after the State Department revoked his passport. (The Justice Department is now criminalizing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks staff for engaging in source protection and helping Snowden travel from Hong Kong.)

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and other U.S. senators, who support National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, do not view these whistleblowers as the whistleblowers they are. They did not blow the whistle the right way. They did not prioritize the interests of the national security state or military industrial-complex. That makes them “insider threats,” or worse, “traitors.”

There are whistleblowers from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who have exposed lies and disinformation around the case for military strike against Syria. Unfortunately, neither Democrats nor Republicans care much for what they have exposed to the world.

Who is and is not a whistleblower has grown more partisan. Under President Donald Trump, Democrats have their whistleblowers, who Republicans refuse to recognize. Likewise, when Barack Obama was president, Republicans had their own individuals who they designated as whistleblowers, which Democrats treated as illegitimate (Larry Alt and Pete Forcelli, who exposed the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, are good examples).

Support for whistleblowers may always be fraught with contradictions and inconsistencies within institutions and among political elites. Yet, the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on low-income, working class, and middle class Americans has shown how crucial it is to protect whistleblowers.

Countless citizens have risked their careers and jobs during a time when unemployment has skyrocketed and millions have been stripped of their health insurance.

A slaughterhouse worker in Denver blew the whistle on unsafe working conditions. Medical center staff in California revealed that management kept them in the dark as COVID-19 spread among nurses.

Prison staff at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, complained in April that the BOP was knowingly misleading the public on the threat of COVID-19 to prisoners and staff. Months later, Carswell had a massive outbreak where around 40 percent of prisoners tested positive for COVID-19.

Lauri Mazurkiewicz was fired from her job as a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after she emailed colleagues that she did not want to work without a mask. She has asthma and an elderly father with a respiratory disease.

Corporate retaliation against whistleblowers was documented throughout the country. At an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, Chris Smalls was fired after he brought attention to Amazon’s lack of concern for worker safety. But what Smalls and others revealed was largely validated, and it sparked an investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office that forced Amazon to make modest changes to workplace conditions.

In recent weeks, media reports have brought attention to a blacklist that McDonald’s management apparently has at some franchise locations, where “mitoteros,” which translates into gossipers or troublemakers, are designated for termination, especially if they organize workers for better conditions.

The Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA), which is part of the Labor Department, was reportedly receiving two dozen whistleblower complaints a day during the COVID-19 pandemic. OSHA had over 1,000 open complaints in May. However, when Grassley and others celebrate whistleblowers, these are not the kind of whistleblowers they support because they make it harder for corporations that fund their campaigns to continuously make record profits.

Days for celebrating whistleblowers are certainly important, and there are plenty of lesser known whistleblowers, who this newsletter will spotlight. But as necessary is a shift in the culture away from one that lets officials arbitrarily decide who is and is not a whistleblower and which dissenters citizens are allowed to support.

Our advocacy must not limit whistleblowing to “proper channels” that are compromised or terribly constrained by authorities that will see to it that they do not work.

To truly appreciate whistleblowers, we need to see the press and public as one of the proper channels for revealing corruption and create greater protections for freedom of speech and expression that shield employees in corporations and governments from termination and prosecution.

***

Note: The July 30 edition of “Dissenter Weekly” will air at 1:45 PM ET and feature CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. We’ll be spotlighting some lesser known whistleblowers who deserve celebration. You can watch a livestream on our Youtube.

The post Celebrating National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, Despite All Its Contradictions appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 7/29/20 2:02pm

For many people dissenting from the carceral state, namely the policing and prison systems, the act of existing outside of these modes is about the value they place on their life and the lives around them. They say the state fails to give said value and care to much of the country’s population from urban communities of color to poor, white rural pockets of the midwest. And if you’re queer or transgender, it’s tenfold.

“When you’re Black or trans and formerly or currently incarcerated, our culture says you’re disposable,” said Dominique Morgan (they/them). “We’re comfortable engaging in throwing them away because we’ve made it seem like ‘Oh, they chose to not be amongst us. So this is their consequence.’ It’s a false narrative we’ve been sold to dispose of us.”

Morgan is a queer organizer and executive director of Black & Pink, an open family of LGBTQ+ prisoners and free world allies who support each other. They’re a national abolitionist organization dedicated to dismantling the carceral system and the harms caused to LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS. They are building a world without dependence on prisons and policing.

For a national organization with 13 chapters and more than 20,000 members, Morgan’s rise to leadership was far from the norm in the non-profit industrial complex. A decade before Morgan’s ascension, they spent a year and a half in solitary confinement at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.

Solitary confinement, isolation within an institution already existing to isolate, is often used as retribution for the most minuscule of things—a tool used to break down incarcerated people.

According to the last data released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2011-12, there are more than 80,000 people in solitary confinement in prisons, jails, and detention centers across the United States.

In 2015, Black & Pink conducted a survey taken by 1,118 incarcerated LGBTQ+ people across the country. They found that 85 percent of respondents had been in solitary confinement at some point during their sentence totaling more than 5,110 years combined.

Beyond the harmful psychological effects of long-term solitary confinement, solitary confinement poses an insidious public safety and community health threat once folks are released.

Much like the hundreds of thousands of formerly incarcerated people re-entering “society” annually, those subjected to the atrocities of solitary confinement are not given the tools to succeed once they’re released. And even when traditional success is afforded to them, there are lingering effects around respectability.

“I’ve been out for 11 years,” added Morgan. “But it took me doing all the right structural things, going to Georgetown and becoming a director, for the world to say ‘okay, you have value again.’ That’s not how this world is supposed to work.”

“It’s about loving each other”

As a result, under Morgan Black & Pink works to center those who have been what they call “system impacted,” and to create an environment where they’re given the value their lives deserve.

System impacted people are those seemingly shoveled into a prison system that inherently perpetuates queer violence by a policing system that disproportionately ends queer lives. This is especially true for Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people, according to Morgan.

“When we see folks who are system impacted, especially young folks, who are looking for safe housing or in need of direct aid, these babies are drowning in all of their needs,” declared Morgan.

“They’re suffocating from the amount of trauma and struggles they’re holding.”

Their 2015 report found that only 52 percent of the survey respondents were living in a home of their own before being incarcerated. In the same vein, their unemployment rate was seven times higher than the national average, nearly two-thirds of respondents’ first arrest occurred before their 18th birthday and less than one-third of respondents completed high school outside of prison.

Following their 2015 national survey, the organization created a report meant to be a tool for organizers, both inside and outside of prisons, to build national and grassroots level campaigns to alleviate the immediate suffering of incarcerated folks and abolish the carceral system while centering the needs of LGBTQ+ prisoners. The tool packet has helped to inform their own work as well.

Black & Pink has various working groups on everything from immigration to decriminalizing sex work. Their Transitions program works to facilitate safe housing for people who are system impacted. The organization also runs a Youth Leadership Institute, not to mention the three programs they are most known for REAP, their pen pal letter-writing group, and Black & Pink News.

REAP stands for “Restore, Embolden, Amplify, Power, and focuses on addressing issues that queer and transgender formerly incarcerated people face when they reenter the community, including increasing access to mental health services, job training, and housing.

The letter-writing group is a life-affirming practice between incarcerated people and folks existing outside of the prison walls. It “reminds people of their inherent value” in a system that can be especially dehumanizing. It also serves as harm reduction inside prisons because it shows that there are people paying attention to an incarcerated person’s wellbeing and reaffirms their feelings of being accepted regardless of their gender and sexuality.

Black & Pink News, which is sent to thousands of incarcerated folks for free, is the only source of outside news for roughly half of the people who receive it inside of prisons. As of lately, they’ve been gathering self-care tips to send to the incarcerated readers through the newspaper.

“It’s about loving each other in spite of all the harm that has been inflicted upon us,” suggested Morgan. “We have to see each other and respect and appreciate the diversity amongst us. Because otherwise, we’re not going to get collective liberation.”

“Abolition and the world-building outside of the carceral system is the only answer”

With the globally catalyzing murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade underscoring thousands of other murders at the hands of U.S. police officers per year, abolition has entered the mainstream consciousness. However, those who have been personally addressing harm in their communities without police and fighting for a world where police aren’t needed, have made it clear to separate the historical call for abolitionist world-making from current calls to defund police.

“Black communities don’t often call the police,” said Morgan. “Those are the remnants of abolition that Black people have always had. That’s something that has been ours and should be our legacy. Even as it has been co-opted and stolen, making it harder for us to navigate our communities and communities around us.”

It’s no surprise that communities that exist outside the confinements of respectability and what is acceptable, like Black Queer and/or transgender communities alike, are forced to work outside of policing for their safety.

Not only does carcerality function as a gendering apparatus, meaning it dictates and enforces sexual and gender conformity under the gender binary, it also creates the conditions where sexual and gender violence thrives. Nearly 50 percent of LGBTQ+ victims of violence report police misconduct and one-in-two Black trans people have been to prison, often as punishment for crimes of survival.

To alleviate LGBTQ+ people’s interactions with police, Black & Pink recommends goals on the short-term, intermediate, and long-term levels. In the short-term, they suggest ending “Quality of Life” policing practices, in which LGBTQ+ people who are disproportionately unhoused, involved in sex trading, and live with mental illness, are criminalized for doing what they need to do to survive.

This means redistributing the billions of dollars spent in local municipalities on policing and prisons, including a hundred billion in funding from the federal government, into safe housing, food sovereignty, and access to green spaces among a plethora of other life-affirming practices, according to Morgan.

To help in this process of mutual aid and wealth redistribution, Black & Pink organizes aid funds and donation zaps like their “Give Out Day.” The money is directly injected into Black and Brown trans communities.

Intermediately they suggest creating addiction treatment‐on‐demand programs, as well as public physical and mental health treatment programs in non‐carceral settings. They understand that the acts of policing and isolation exist outside of traditional carceral modes and that many mental health facilities, public health workers, and social workers use carceral techniques as well.

“People aren’t randomly positioned to be impacted by the carceral state and these carceral systems,” stated Morgan. “There were years of harm positioning them to experience the carceral violence that was enacted against them. And that’s why abolition and the world-building outside of the carceral system is the only answer because otherwise, we’re always going to be chasing our tails.”

“We’re talking about a system and world that wasn’t created for them.”

By eradicating interactions with police, the traumas of prisons and detention centers would cease to exist as well. However,  organizations are needed on both ends of the carceral system to ensure a freer world for LGBTQ+ people, according to Morgan. One organization working on the detention side of the system is the LGBTQ+ Freedom Fund.

Those organizing for LGBTQ+ liberation understand the daunting hold carcerality has on LGBTQ+ bodies and acting outside of carcerality is a key way for them to live with the love and freedom they deserve. LGBTQ+ people are some of the most ‘system impacted’ in the country, so it’s vitally important that the struggle is against the carceral disposition of LGBTQ+ bodies, according to Tremaine Jones, the project director for the LGBTQ+ Freedom Fund.

“It’s very important that we look at ways of making sure that we’re getting LGBTQ+ folks out of jail and immigration detention centers,” declared Jones. “But we must always constantly make sure that we’re building a critical mass insurrection against the incarceration of LGBTQ+ folks.”

The fund is working to build the insurrection, or revolution, against LGBTQ+ incarceration. The fund pays bails to free LGBTQ+ folks from jails and detention centers while raising awareness of the “twin epidemics” LGBTQ+ people are facing, carcerality, and HIV/AIDS.

In Black & Pink’s survey, they found nearly three-quarters of respondents were held in jail before their conviction, more than half of those were detained for a year or more before being convicted of any crime.

Pretrial detainees have a suicide attempt rate that is about 7.5 times higher than the general population. While those with the financial means are released from confinement, those in poverty face only maleficent choices: accept deportation or a guilty plea to get out of jail—often to crimes they didn’t commit.

“The bail system is not a system that is set up for equity,” stated Jones. “It’s a system that perpetuates poverty and, unfortunately, without it people are taking horrible routes just to get out of prison and jail conditions.”

In addition to bailing detainees, they connect people to legal, social, and medical support systems as well as doing on-site HIV rapid testing and counseling, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) linkage, and condom distribution.

Freedom Fund staffer Gabby Mahabeer (they/them) believes on-site connections are the best part of the job, it’s about creating a world where LGBTQ+ are affirmed rather than punished, especially where the organization is based in Florida. Of the more than 75 reported murders of transgender or gender non-conforming people since 2018, about one in seven were in Florida.

“When we’re talking about LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ folks of color, we’re talking about a system and world that wasn’t created for them,” contended Mahabeer. “It’s a world that is set up to have them fail and cycle through a system of terror.”

As Mahabeer described, the Freedom Fund builds a “path towards recently incarcerated lives being valued” through their different programs, but most importantly by building relationships.  And at its core, that is what abolition is; It’s about building a new, free world for everyone just as much as it’s about ridding the world of carceral violence.

“So many people just don’t get the support they need. All they want is relief,” concluded Jones. “There’s a level of violence that the state enforces against people and just by doing something as simple as building relationships we’re combatting that.”

The post For Black & Pink Organizers, Decarceration Must Grapple With Constant Violence Against LGBTQ+ People appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Prison Protest, Abolition, LGBTQ, Queer Incarceration, Queer Liberation]

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[l] at 7/29/20 9:20am

The following was originally published at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.

Jyoti is the one-woman jazz ensemble moniker of experimental soul artist, Georgia Anne Muldrow and it is the nickname given to her by a family friend, the legendary Alice Coltrane.

Muldrow’s forthcoming studio album “ Mama, You Can Bet!” is out August 28, and she released two socially conscious singles from the album “This Walk” (which includes the B-side “The Cowrie Waltz”) and “Orgone.”

“This Walk” is a vocal driven tune, which according to Muldrow deals with how “violence can both ignite and snuff out a voice.” It is accompanied by a beautiful animated lyric video which includes Georgia’s powerful illustrations.

“Orgone” is a more direct protest tune, and it is timely in light of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests.

According to Muldrow, the song is “a double entendre, ‘Orgone’ being a supposed device that helps to dampen extra low frequencies that come from electronics.”

Muldrow hopes “this song can be a device for the extra low frequencies that occur to people in places, namely in the African Diaspora, in the way that the diaspora affects the people in places.”

“The second part of the double entendre is “Orgone,” which means “repatriated back to the source of origin; gone from here. And the song is another poem, and it’s my way of being able to get my feelings out. I just closed my eyes and played piano, and then I wrote to it, and then I orchestrated on it, and then at the end, I sang the blues on it.”

Elaborating further, Muldrow said, “This is a song for all of us, in this transatlantic nightmare. And this is a song just to say ‘I know how you feel, and maybe you feel the way I feel,’ and maybe we can live in a place where being Black ain’t such a big deal, because it’s just normal. Because it’s a natural thing.”

“It ain’t a result of… somebody else’s story on our lives, we’re just human beings, that are looked upon with a little bit more… Je ne sais… plain, you know?” Muldrow added. “Even though we’re not plain people, we’re much more than that. We’re beautiful people. We’re ugly people. We’re happy people. Sad people. Peaceful people.”

“We’re people just like everybody else.”

Jyoti – Orgone by SomeOthaShip Connect

The post Protest Songs Of The Week: ‘This Walk’ and ‘Orgone’ By Jyoti appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 7/28/20 10:22am
Editor’s Note Substack is dealing with a bad bug that has disrupted our ability to bring on new paid subscribers for over a week. This is unfortunate, as it has undermined the launch of The Dissenter newsletter. Until Substack can fix this, all editions, including exclusive editions, will be sent to everyone.

To subscribe, visit https://dissenter.substack.com/subscribe

Fossil fuel companies dramatically understate the risks posed to them by climate change and threaten the global economy, according to the National Whistleblower Center (NWC).

NWC, a whistleblower advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., compiled a report [PDF], “Exposing a Ticking Time Bomb: How Fossil Fuel Industry Fraud is Setting Us Up For A Financial Implosion—and What Whistleblowers Can Do About it.”

It is a call to action for “executives of fossil fuel companies and others with knowledge of improper accounting and disclosure practices, such as external auditors.”

NWC urges such individuals to work with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to obtain “protected whistleblower status” in order to help government officials root out industry fraud.

“In light of the deceptions we found, the handful of pending fraud cases challenging climate risk disclosures by fossil fuel companies are probably just the tip of the iceberg,” declared John Kostyack, who is the executive director for NWC and lead author of the report.

While calling attention to a looming economic catastrophe, the report educates potential whistleblowers on rewards and protections available. For example, the Dodd-Frank Act offers a route for whistleblowing on climate risk fraud, and more than $500 million in whistleblower rewards have been paid out since the legislation passed in 2010.

The NWC breaks the risks, which they believe the fossil fuel industry is systematically hiding, into two categories: “transition risks” and “physical risks.”

Transition risks are “financial risks associated with the global shift away from fossil fuels as environmental policies change (through court rulings, tax and subsidy changes, etc).” The rise of inexpensive “low-carbon technologies” also threatens the industry.

Physical risks are the “risk of physical damage to property, economic productivity, and household wealth from climate change, including an increase in frequency and severity of catastrophic weather events as well as long-term environmental changes.”

As the report notes, the fossil fuel industry has a “long history of fraud and deception, from systematic underpayment of oil and gas royalties to schemes by mining companies to defeat benefit claims from minors with black lung disease.”

“In a 2016 survey of the oil and gas sector and mining sector (which includes coal), the management consulting firm EY found that 35 percent of respondents would ‘act unethically to help a business survive an economic downturn.’ EY concluded that increased pressure on managers provides ‘a strong incentive to do whatever it takes to make the numbers look good.'”

COVID-19 Intensifies The Rationale For Deception From National Whistleblower Center's "Exposing a Ticking Time Bomb" report

From National Whistleblower Center’s “Exposing a Ticking Time Bomb” report

The report adds, “Rationalization of cheating appears to be prevalent in the fossil fuel sector. In the same EY survey referenced above, 43 percent of respondents said that ‘potentially unethical action could be justified to meet financial targets.'”

COVID-19 has intensified the compulsion to commit fraud to deceive shareholders and the wider public.

Forbes described, “As Covid-19 spread to other countries and quarantines were implemented, oil prices ultimately fell into negative territory, which had never happened before with a major benchmark. Power demand fell as businesses closed and people stopped traveling or commuting. This created a perfect storm that obliterated fossil fuel demand in April.”

Furthermore, fossil fuel corporations are likely to engage in deception when it comes to “plans for removing carbon from emissions” and their liability for toxic waste, carbon pollution, or other environmental degradation.

“Oil and gas companies are required by law to close wells no longer in use in accordance with environmental standards. As demand for fossil fuels falls below the projections that justified development of wells, companies must accelerate the date of the wells’ retirement,” according to the report.

Fossil fuel corporations have also accumulated “extensive liabilities” for cleaning up toxic waste and environmental damage they caused, and a failure to disclose has previously resulted in securities fraud.

“In 2015, oil & gas company Anadarko Petroleum (now owned by Occidental Petroleum) agreed to a $5.15 billion penalty to settle allegations that Kerr-McGee Corporation (acquired by Anadarko) had fraudulently sold assets in order to avoid substantial environmental liabilities when spinning off a new company,” the report recalls.

One fraudulent technique corporations employ to avoid paying to clean up the messes they create involves offloading liabilities “onto poorly managed companies destined for bankruptcy.

…A 2004 report by the Rose Foundation found that BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron USA, Oxy USA and Atlantic Richfield had offloaded millions in asset retirement obligations by selling old wells to Panoco, a smaller company that declared bankruptcy after racking up $60 million in costs for decommissioning wells. A 2019 study of coal companies published in the Stanford Law Review found that between 2012 and 2017, four of the largest coal companies in the U.S. managed to evade US$5.2 billion of environmental and retiree liabilities by filing for bankruptcy…

The National Whistleblower Center focuses on Murray Energy, a coal company that filed bankruptcy in 2019 to ensure it did not have to pay $2.7 billion in debts or $8 billion for coal miners’ pension and health care plans.

“Bankruptcy filings show that Murray earmarked nearly $1 million to fund political action committees and groups working to deny climate change and roll back emission reduction laws,” the report notes. “For example, Murray gave $300,000 to Government Accountability & Oversight, a group that describes its efforts as an ‘antidote’ to climate campaigner efforts.”

“Other beneficiaries [included] the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank that denies human activity is the main cause of global warming, and the Heartland Institute, which has worked for years to instill doubt about climate science.”

A Key SEC Lawsuit Screen shot from National Whistleblower Center report, "Exposing a Ticking Time Bomb"

Screen shot from National Whistleblower Center report, “Exposing a Ticking Time Bomb”

NWC has a history of challenging industry-wide practices and well-financed opposition in the energy sector. In particular, NWC’s first case challenged a nuclear energy practice that involved coercing employees to sign non-disclosure agreements to prevent them from blowing the whistle on safety concerns.

Their work has centered on expanding laws like Dodd-Frank and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act so that whistleblowers are incentivized to come forward with information and risk their careers and livelihoods.

In addition to lawsuits against corporations, like Exxon Mobil, that states, local governments, and children have filed, NWC recommends potential whistleblowers provide anonymous and confidential tips to the SEC under Dodd-Frank that will root out securities fraud within the fossil fuel industry.

“One group of whistleblowers, led by former Exxon senior accounting analyst Franklin Bennett and including a former partner in a major U.S. accounting firm, has elected to publicize the key allegations of a pending complaint with the SEC challenging Exxon’s asset valuations,” the NWC highlights.

Bennett’s whistleblowing centers on Exxon’s “failure to write down assets to account for the dramatic recent declines in demand for shale gas,” which directly relates to climate change risks.

“It will be important for whistleblowers to pay attention to whether the SEC acts on this complaint and if so, how it approaches Exxon’s obligations with regard to climate risk disclosures.”

The post Whistleblower Center Warns Fossil Fuel Industry Fraud Spurred By Climate Change Is A ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, The Dissenter, climate change, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 7/27/20 10:31am

In the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks, protesters have taken to the streets against the violence of policing and to make demands, including defunding policing.

That demand is gaining traction as organizers have ignited a new wave of interest in the abolition of prisons and policing—a concept theorized mostly by Black women and femmes.

But this newfound hunger for abolition is accompanied by questions and concerns about how to implement abolition in practice. People wonder how society would hold people who commit violence accountable for their actions, and in particular, use sexual violence as an example.

One way abolitionists have confronted these questions is through the development of Transformative Justice (TJ) processes. These processes, which have roots in Indigenous practices, model a different set of skills and principles for approaching harmful and dangerous situations.

Abolitionists argue we should eliminate all forms of policing and incarceration, and instead fund life-giving, community-based social services. They understand that properly executing such services requires shifting values and resourcing the development of valuable relationship skills to give communities the tools they need to disrupt and intervene in patterns of harm. That’s where TJ comes in.

What Is Transformative Justice?

Abolition is not a new idea; it’s been theorized, practiced, and advocated for by Black feminists like Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Rachel Herzing for decades. They argue the carceral state emphasizes individual acts of harm, labeling those who commit harm as criminals to justify dehumanization, isolation, and punishment.

As demonstrated by the violence of policing, as well as the demographics of incarcerated populations, this is a mechanism of control over the most marginalized in American society: Black and brown people, Indigenous people, and often those who are poor, trans, sex-working, and/or disabled.

Those same people are proposing ways to exist and solve problems outside of this violent system.

In other words, abolitionists identify the punishment bureaucracy as a source of harm itself. Leila Raven is a queer mama, prison abolitionist, and organizer with Decrim NY and Hacking//Hustling, points out that “a thousand people are killed by police every year, Black people are three times as likely to be killed as white people, and half of those killed are people with disabilities. Sexual assault is also the second most common form of police brutality, primarily used against Black women and women of color who are also frequently criminalized for the strategies that we use to survive.”

A police car on fire. Illustration by Dan Nott on Instagram (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBV0i3kD8bl/)

A police car on fire. Illustration by Dan Nott on Instagram (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBV0i3kD8bl/)

While the state is actively harming folks at the margins, transformative justice seeks to do the opposite.

According to Mia Mingus, a writer, educator, and community organizer for disability justice and transformative justice, the process is “a political framework and approach for responding to violence, harm and abuse. At its most basic, it seeks to respond to violence without creating more violence and/or engaging in harm reduction to lessen the violence.”

Je’Kendria—a fat, Black, disabled, non-binary femme who is the Executive Director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS)—argues TJ  necessitates an understanding that the carceral system does not actually protect or heal survivors, but rather “thrusts [them] into cycles of harm and trauma.”

Like other abolitionists, she points out that sexual harm is still so prevalent despite having carceral systems in place. Not only is sexual violence prevalent within the carceral system, but she says that most rapists are not actually incarcerated. Instead, many have “prominent positions of power.”

Erin Gar-Yun Andriamahefa is a queer, genderfluid, Malagasy, Chinese person, who volunteers with CASS. She describes TJ as a framework through which people can begin to understand and address why harm is happening, while emphasizing collective responsibility to seek accountability when it happens.

It is a humanizing process, she told Shadowproof, that “equips us to move beyond shame and punishment to normalize navigating conflict, seeing it as a portal for accountability, transformation, and healing.”

CASS facilitates the creation of such a portal to accountability, transformation, and healing. Je’Kendria describes the organization as a small grassroots group that “trains and supports communities, workplaces, bars/restaurants, and collectives in building safer environments that address harassment and assault through an intersectional, anti-carceral lens.”

By prioritizing the survivors’ consent, safety, and healing, TJ ensures that carceral culture and systems aren’t recreated within communities.

Modeling Different Approaches To Harm

Transformative justice is not one type of response, explains Ejeris Dixon, Executive Director of Vision Change Win.

“We use transformative justice depending on what has happened,” Dixon told Shadowproof. “This can mean accountability processes, ways that we protect and interrupt violence in the moment through de-escalation or bystander intervention, ways that we can support survivors to heal, and structures that we create for communities to address violence, harm, and emergencies outside of the carceral state.”

On an individual level, Je’Kendria explains that survivors lead the process, explaining what they need to feel safe. On a larger community scale, they say it can look like “creating consistent containers for people to engage in co-learning, co-processing, and co-conspiring around upholding principles of collective safety and wellness. Communities have to be ready to pause, to assess and be accountable, to [create] shared agreements, principles, and methods that facilitate safety for everyone.”

To Je’Kendria, this internal processing and work is paramount in collectives that organize externally as well.

A common refrain about transformative justice and other alternatives to carcerality is that they would only work in a utopia, or that they have never been used effectively. Though TJ generally requires community buy-in and consent of all of those involved, it’s untrue that alternatives to state solutions are not being practiced.

Raven points out that “trans and queer people of color, especially those who are sex working, disabled, and housing insecure, have always known that we could not rely on policing for safety, and so we experiment frequently with many other strategies to keep each other safe.”

“Many of these folks may not have known or used the terms ‘transformative justice,’” Dixon adds. “But if we ask folks what they worked on, we will hear these practices in their answers.”

Apart from engaging in community accountability and TJ processes, other non-carceral responses to harm can look like shared housing models that provide safety and stability to people by helping them rapidly exit houselessness.

It can also look like public calls for consequences. In these instances, people use the strength and reach of their combined platforms in an attempt to impose consequences on powerful individuals, who will not take accountability for engaging in harm.

Abolitionists are keenly aware that some people who engage in abuse will continue their harmful behaviors. That’s why TJ practitioners still believe in boundaries and consequences.

Je’Kendria emphasizes that consequences should be “a series of steps grounded in minimizing future harm, taking power away from the harm-doer, and increasing the survivor’s agency and ability to thrive. This is different from  punishment because to punish someone is to dehumanize, villainize, and inflict more harm on someone.”

She offered examples of consequences, including “the harm doer moving out of a housing situation, stepping down from a job, making a statement to every group they’re a part of disclosing the harm they caused, taking a break from social spaces where the survivor is present, dispersing funds to the survivor or to survivor-centered work, moving to another city,” and “gathering a dedicated group of accountability partners.”

These steps require acknowledgment of the harm, as well as intentional and explicit actions to rectify it. According to Je’Kendria, this is something that punishment does not and cannot accomplish.

“Consequences for gendered violence don’t naturally occur in a cis heteropatriarchal society,” Raven told Shadowproof. ”We have to actively disrupt oppressive behaviors and create consequences to keep people safe.”

To her, such consequences can include the removal of someone engaging in abuse from spaces where they have power or access.

Since many people who engage in abuse are able to continue harming others and avoid taking accountability by expanding their access to important positions on multiple platforms, it can be important to deplatform them on social media, magazines, podcasts, and other media.

But experimentation is still necessary, as are adequate resources, to attempt to refine and increase the capacity of these approaches.

Je’Kendria sees this as “rigorous study and training to continuously evolve in collective understanding of community safety and accountability…healing spaces that are proactive and address ancestral trauma…radical consent and Black queer feminist trainings as a requirement for entering a movement space (shoutout to BYP100!).”

The Challenging & Personal Work Of Confronting Harm

Abolitionists apply these frameworks to their own lives and organizing spaces. To make those spaces safer, abolitionists continually analyze the environments they create and the harm that is perpetuated within them.

“By questioning the conditions, environments, and systems that have allowed the harm to happen,” Andriamahefa says, “we reveal the spectrum and connection between our individual behavior and experiences and larger oppressive systems, including and upheld by the carceral state.”

Understanding everyone is capable of committing harm, abolitionists have had to reckon with harms committed by other self-described abolitionists.

Je’Kendria argues that this should be a wake-up call “for us to investigate how often we’re perpetuating harm in our movement spaces, how often we’re ignoring the signs of survivors, how easy it is for us to evade accountability, and how some of us weaponize and manipulate each other with TJ language.”

A tree and stream appear where a burned out police car once was. Illustration by Dan Nott on Instagram (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBV0i3kD8bl/)

A tree and stream appear where a burned out police car once was. Illustration by Dan Nott on Instagram (Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBV0i3kD8bl/)

It’s not easy work, as it requires us to focus on ‘killing the cop in our heads’ and owning when we commit harm or enable others to do so. As we begin to actualize a world without police and prisons, we have to do the work to build communities of trust, with infrastructures of care to prevent the resurgence of carcerality as a solution.

Right now, organizers in New York City are confronting harm in their movement spaces. Lily Mishra, a Brooklyn-based organizer, is part of several organizing collectives in NYC. In response to abuse within one of her collectives, she and others entered a TJ process.

“One of the difficult things,” she says, “is that we’re all at different points of personal reflection regarding everything that occurred.” This makes an already difficult problem even harder, because people are going through their individual processes while realizing “there were deeper structural issues that led to..how we collectively enabled abuse.”

As Mishra notes, entering a transformative justice process is the beginning of a long journey—a journey that takes commitments and consensus. Though these commitments are not always the most comfortable because of differences of opinion, they’re necessary when a group is prioritizing “deep collective reflection.” She says that this is particularly important in abolitionist collectives, where it’s important to “organize at the scale of interpersonal relationships as well as institutional ones.”

As such, it’s important to center survivors where they hadn’t been centered before, such as within this particular collective. If not, the TJ process will not be “a vehicle through which we learn how to transform that harm into vigilance and care,” says Mishra.

Raven shared that after a recent experience of abuse and assault, she engaged in a process of community accountability with her abuser and their community.

“I found myself revictimized and abused all over again by the community of the person who harmed me, and so I turned instead to the broader community to call on this group to be accountable by dissolving their collective and shifting resources toward Black-led abolitionist anti-violence work,” Raven shared.

“Something that I learned through this process, that now seems obvious, is that people who rape and abuse others are often surrounded by people who enable them.”

Raven reiterates that despite the traumatic experience, she is hopeful that we can implement community accountability and TJ processes where we all acknowledge our role in causing harm, echoing Je’Kendria comments.

Dixon shared that one of the most important things to note is that TJ builds into the framework mechanisms through which we can support people who are “navigating intense forms of violence.” They note that TJ is as much about creating cultures of consent as it is about encouraging people to hold their friends and loved ones accountable, even when it is them who have committed sexual violence.

“I’m in a process right now holding a dear friend accountable,” says Dixon, and “it is both heartwrenching, challenging, and hope-creating.”

Harm exists and will continue to exist. But the frameworks communities can use to address that harm are not static and can be improved. Transformative justice provides space to explore and react to individual situations as they arise.

“We can use [transformative justice] to interrogate which systems need to be abolished and replaced in order for everyone to have their basic needs fully met,” Je’Kendria said, “and to grow communities that are communal, interdependent, and boldly accountable to each other.”

The post How Transformative Justice Responds To Violence Without The Carceral System appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Prison Protest, Abolition, Community Accountability, Incarceration, Policing, Transformative Justice]

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[l] at 7/24/20 4:42pm

On this edition of the “Dissenter Weekly,” host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola provides an update on the COVID-19 outbreak at Federal Medical Center Carswell, where the number of women who have tested positive is now over 500. NSA whistleblower Reality Winner is one of the prisoners that received positive results.

Later in the show, Gosztola covers the Pentagon’s “aggressive” leak investigation that Pentagon Secretary Mark Esper apparently launched in early 2020. He breaks down how the insider threat program was likely used and the impact it probably has had on potential whistleblowers.

This edition also highlights multiple stories of workplace retaliation against employees at Disney and McDonald’s because they demanded safety protections during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, McDonald’s apparently has a “blacklist” of gossipers or troublemakers.

To watch the show, click on the above player or go here.

This week’s stories:

At Carswell, More Than 500 Women, Including Reality Winner, Have Tested Positive For COVID-19

In Early 2020, Pentagon Launched ‘Aggressive’ Investigation Into ‘Bad Leaks’

McDonald’s Worker Says Corporation Fired Her For Organizing, Seeking Safety Gear During COVID-19

Disney Allegedly Fired Performers After They Demanded COVID-19 Testing

Lucasfilm Supports Sgt. Esqueda, Who Blew The Whistle On Eric Lurry’s Death

***

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The post Dissenter Weekly: Massive COVID-19 Outbreak At Women’s Medical Prison—Plus, Disney, McDonald’s Retaliate Against Workers appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, COVID-19, Reality Winner News, The Dissenter Weekly Update | Shadowproof]

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[l] at 7/24/20 10:53am

*The following is a collection of some of the best albums of protest music released in 2020 (so far). They were selected by Kevin Gosztola and C.J. Baker, who publishes writing regularly at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs. They are in alphabetical order by artist.

Fiona Apple — Fetch The Bolt Cutters

In March, Fiona Apple announced that the recording of her long-awaited album was completed. The record company planned to release it in October, but Apple insisted it come out sooner. So fans were treated to a release on April 17, amidst a global pandemic.

The timing was appropriate, as the songs encapsulate feelings of anxiety that are compounded by a sense of isolation. It is one of the best-reviewed albums of the year, and Apple addresses themes of empowerment and encourages listeners to get out the metaphorical bolt cutters to release themselves from oppression.

Also, it is a prime example of how the personal is often political. For example, on “Under the Table,” Apple sings, “Kick me under the table all you want. I won’t shut up.” This relates to an uncomfortable dinner party, where Apple decides to call out one of the other guests for their offensive remarks, but it can apply to any situation where someone tries to silence your voice.

Apple shows empathy for the trauma of others. For instance, “For Her,” was written, with permission, about a friend who used to intern for a Hollywood producer. The disconcerting line, “Good morning. You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in,” resonates in the #MeToo era.

At the bottom of the tracklist, the back album cover reads, “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.” This is Apple acknowledging the land on which she recorded belonged to indigenous people.

(C.J. Baker) Algiers — There Is No Year

The album cover arranges textures and images like some abstract version of the front page of a newspaper. It takes poetic fragments and articulates a world of gloom while at the same time saying, “We’ll be ok with the darkness.” And the final words allude to Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, or any demagogue thriving off chaos to amass and consolidate their power.

It was released in January before a pandemic shut down the entire world and way before resurgent Black Lives Matter uprisings spread globally. This gives the music a stark prescience as it ruminates on the collective fear of civilization collapsing.

Algiers is from Atlanta, Georgia, and their music is a combination of gospel, soul, and industrial styles. The name of the band connects it to anti-colonial struggle and the need for a global consciousness that can supplant the elite cosmopolitanism that dominates society.

We have all felt like, “There is no year,” in 2020. It is a somber yet perfect mantra for grappling with how we survive the rest of this year.

(Kevin Gosztola) BL Shirelle – Assata Troi

This was the first album released by Die Jim Crow Records, the first nonprofit record label for current and formerly incarcerated musicians. It translates to “she who struggles is a warrior,” and it was released on Juneteenth.

BL Shirelle, who is the deputy director for the label, put together an intensely personal album. It partly reflects on her time in prison while seeking to transcend that chapter in her life.

On “SIGS,” an acronym for “shit I gotta say,” and “Generational Curse,” Shirelle spits lyrics that deal with breaking a cycle. She grew up as the child of a crack addict and sold crack to her mom at the age of 12. That put her on a path that she does not want for her children. 

“Conspiracy,” Shirelle describes, is a “cinematic” song that tells an incarceration story specific to Pennsylvania, where she lives. It focuses on a juvenile, who is sentenced to life in prison after making some choices that put them in a situation that results in conspiracy charges. The beat is grimy, and the track ends with a guitar solo.

Each entry on the album is sonically diverse enough to create a tapestry that brings out both the joy and pain, which inspires BL Shirelle to make music and collaborate with artists who remain behind bars.

(Kevin Gosztola) Steve Earle – Ghosts Of West Virginia

Centered on survivors of the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion, most of the music on “Ghosts of West Virginia” comes from a play called “Coal Country” that was performed at the Public Theater in New York until the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down. 

Songs like “Time Is Never On Our Side” and “If I Could See Your Face Again” humanize residents of Appalachia Country in a manner that creates solidarity by introducing their lives and experiences to metropolitan communities, who may know very little about what rural West Virginians endure.

Earle blends styles of folk, bluegrass, and American to reinforce the pride workers have for their labor, their land, and their sacrifices and their families’ sacrifices. It honors their blood, sweat, and tears, and through “Devil Put the Coal In the Ground” and “It’s About Blood,” the music acknowledges their indignation and resolve to fight on in spite of decades of exploitation.

(Kevin Gosztola) Irreversible Entanglements – Who Sent You?

Irreversible Entanglements describes itself as a liberation-oriented free jazz collective. They formed at a Musicians Against Police Brutality event after the New York Police Department murdered Akai Gurley. The ensemble’s second album builds on the free jazz sound they developed to restore the genre’s connection to Black liberation.

The ensemble describes the album as an “entire holistic jam of ‘infinite possibilities coming back around,’ a sprawling meditation for afro-cosmonauts, a reminder of the forms and traumas of the past, and the shape and vision of Afrotopian sounds to come.” 

Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother), Keir Neuringer, Aquiles Navarro, Tcheser Holmes, and Luke Stewart collectively reckon with past demons while agitating for a better future for humanity.  “At what point do we stand up? At the breaking point? At the point of no return?” declares Ayewa on “The Code Noir/Amina.” “At what point? At what point do we pull each other up, up out of the void, up out of a hell? At what point? At what point? At what point do we give a shit? Do we stand up and say something?”

Another track “No Más” revolves around the concept of Africans fleeing Earth to escape oppression. “No más. No more. No longer will we allow them to divide and conquer, divide and oppress, define our humanity.”

It’s provocative and invigorating jazz, both sonically and lyrically, that pushes boundaries as the best music should.

(Kevin Gosztola) Pink Siifu – NEGRO

The rapper’s second full-length album is a departure from his 2018 full-length debut “ ensley .” It also does not feature much rap. Instead, it features intense growls, which Pink Siifu effectively uses to express black rage. The eclectic album is a hybrid of several genres, including hardcore punk and free jazz. 

The confrontational album heavily addresses systemic racism and police brutality. This is best exemplified with the back-to-back tracks “ameriKKKa, try no pork” and “run pig run.” The first of those two tracks features news soundbites of police murdering black people, and the next track addresses the potential backlash that will come if the system is not overhauled.

The songs express the natural desire to see a reckoning for those who abuse power. At over 20 songs that last 37 minutes, Pink Siifu does not waste any time in taking aim at his targets.

(C.J. Baker) Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 4

Killer Mike and El-P’s rap duo never shy away from the political. On their fourth album, their music is more relevant than ever. It also has had quite an impact in the two months since its release, making it a momentous album.

Many of the songs were composed before 2020 and written before widespread protests against police brutality. Yet the album perfectly encapsulates the current political climate.

A prime example of the prescient nature of the album is “walking in the snow.” Killer Mike raps, “And every day on the evening news, they feed you fear for free. And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me. Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, ‘I can’t breathe,’” referring to the dying words of Eric Garner. He could’ve been referring to the murder of George Floyd.

Likewise, the tune “JU$T” features the lines, “Where murderous chokehold cops still earnin’ a livin’. Funny how some say money don’t matter. That’s rich now, isn’t it? Get it? Comedy. Try to sell a pack of smokes to get food. Get killed and it’s not an anomaly.”

That same song, which features vocals from Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha, is a pointed examination of the link between capitalism and systemic racism. The lyric “Look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar” packs a lot of weight.

(C.J. Baker) SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is)

Over 20 tracks, SAULT weaves a sonically rich and spiritually affirming tapestry for an era, when more people than ever seem to be throwing off the chains that have oppressed them for so long.

SAULT is a collective that in the past has presented their music anonymously. This album credits Inflo and Cleo Sol, an R&B singer-songwriter, and the collective presented it to “mark the moment in time where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives.” They connected it to the murder of George Floyd and “all those who have suffered from police brutality and systemic racism.”

There has been an eruption of music centered on Black experiences, especially as they relate to policing and protests. But “UNTITLED” distinguishes itself by having so many collaborators and a diverse sound that truly represents what is a global movement. Each track, like “Hard Life,” “Don’t Shoot,” “Bow,” or “Monsters,” plays like a dispatch from those on the front lines of struggle.

And this incredible album is SAULT’s spiritual contribution to Black people, and those of Black Origin, facing everything from trauma and hardship to cracks in political structures that finally present them with openings for revolutionary change.

(Kevin Gosztola) Special Interest – Passion Of

The New Orleans anarcho-glam band aptly describes their sophomore album as “a precise and deranged vision of punk, an apocalyptic celebration, a step forward into a perverse and uncertain landscape.” 

Gloomy soundscapes provide the backdrop for lead singer and lyricist Alli Logout to express the emotions many feel in the current state of upheaval.

One of the album’s highlights is “All Tomorrow’s Carry,” which Shadowproof highlighted as a “Protest Song Of the Week.” It addresses how gentrification contributes to systemic poverty and homelessness (“Arise from the rubble. Another tawdry condo. And a high rise suite. Yeah, they were pushed out. Soon evacuated. House was near dilapidated.”).

The song calls attention to the prevalence of apathy (“We were willingly blind”). Similar issues are explored on “Homogenized Milk” (“What happens when there’s nothing left to gentrify. And genocide is on your side”). Altogether, the album is an intense and urgent wake-up call.

(C.J. Baker) David Strickland – Spirit Of Hip Hop

David Strickland has had a successful career as a producer, mixer, and engineer. After spending over two decades behind the scenes, he finally received prime billing with his debut album. 

Strickland heavily taps into his Mi’kmaq heritage, a lineage that can be traced back five generations. It explores indigenous themes, yet many of the subjects resonate across several demographics.

For example, multiple tunes address the issue of policing. Lyrics such as “Fuck em, we need less cops” (“Times Running Away”), “Ain’t nothing new on the block, getting shot by the cops” (“Turtle Island”) and “Looking so cold outside, remind me of the po-po, when they beat my ass that night and threw me in a chokehold” (“Rez Life”)  call out brutality.

It is a powerful album, which educates the mind and moves the body. And while his name appears on the album, he still provides a platform for other artists to shine, as he has done throughout his career. Hip-hop luminaries, such as EPMD, Def Squad, and young and upcoming Canadian and American indigenous hip-hop artists like Que Rock, Supaman and Snotty Nose Rez Kids are featured.

(C.J. Baker) HONORABLE MENTIONS: “The Long Goodbye” – Riz Ahmed | “South Somewhere Else” by Nana Grizol | Else”Amazones Power” by Les Amazones d’Afrique | “Notes From A Failed State” – David Rovics | “We Are Sent Here By History” – Shabaka & The Ancestors | “Heavy Light” – U.S. Girls

The post Top 10 Protest Albums Of 2020 (So Far) appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 7/24/20 10:53am

*The following is a collection of some of the best albums of protest music released in 2020 (so far). They were selected by Kevin Gosztola and C.J. Baker, who publishes writing regularly at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs. They are in alphabetical order by artist.

Fiona Apple — Fetch The Bolt Cutters

In March, Fiona Apple announced that the recording of her long-awaited album was completed. The record company planned to release it in October, but Apple insisted it come out sooner. So fans were treated to a release on April 17, amidst a global pandemic.

The timing was appropriate, as the songs encapsulate feelings of anxiety that are compounded by a sense of isolation. It is one of the best-reviewed albums of the year, and Apple addresses themes of empowerment and encourages listeners to get out the metaphorical bolt cutters to release themselves from oppression.

Also, it is a prime example of how the personal is often political. For example, on “Under the Table,” Apple sings, “Kick me under the table all you want. I won’t shut up.” This relates to an uncomfortable dinner party, where Apple decides to call out one of the other guests for their offensive remarks, but it can apply to any situation where someone tries to silence your voice.

Apple shows empathy for the trauma of others. For instance, “For Her,” was written, with permission, about a friend who used to intern for a Hollywood producer. The disconcerting line, “Good morning. You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in,” resonates in the #MeToo era.

At the bottom of the tracklist, the back album cover reads, “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.” This is Apple acknowledging the land on which she recorded belonged to indigenous people.

(C.J. Baker) Algiers — There Is No Year

The album cover arranges textures and images like some abstract version of the front page of a newspaper. It takes poetic fragments and articulates a world of gloom while at the same time saying, “We’ll be ok with the darkness.” And the final words allude to Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, or any demagogue thriving off chaos to amass and consolidate their power.

It was released in January before a pandemic shut down the entire world and way before resurgent Black Lives Matter uprisings spread globally. This gives the music a stark prescience as it ruminates on the collective fear of civilization collapsing.

Algiers is from Atlanta, Georgia, and their music is a combination of gospel, soul, and industrial styles. The name of the band connects it to anti-colonial struggle and the need for a global consciousness that can supplant the elite cosmopolitanism that dominates society.

We have all felt like, “There is no year,” in 2020. It is a somber yet perfect mantra for grappling with how we survive the rest of this year.

(Kevin Gosztola) BL Shirelle – Assata Troi

This was the first album released by Die Jim Crow Records, the first nonprofit record label for current and formerly incarcerated musicians. It translates to “she who struggles is a warrior,” and it was released on Juneteenth.

BL Shirelle, who is the deputy director for the label, put together an intensely personal album. It partly reflects on her time in prison while seeking to transcend that chapter in her life.

On “SIGS,” an acronym for “shit I gotta say,” and “Generational Curse,” Shirelle spits lyrics that deal with breaking a cycle. She grew up as the child of a crack addict and sold crack to her mom at the age of 12. That put her on a path that she does not want for her children. 

“Conspiracy,” Shirelle describes, is a “cinematic” song that tells an incarceration story specific to Pennsylvania, where she lives. It focuses on a juvenile, who is sentenced to life in prison after making some choices that put them in a situation that results in conspiracy charges. The beat is grimy, and the track ends with a guitar solo.

Each entry on the album is sonically diverse enough to create a tapestry that brings out both the joy and pain, which inspires BL Shirelle to make music and collaborate with artists who remain behind bars.

(Kevin Gosztola) Steve Earle – Ghosts Of West Virginia

Centered on survivors of the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion, most of the music on “Ghosts of West Virginia” comes from a play called “Coal Country” that was performed at the Public Theater in New York until the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down. 

Songs like “Time Is Never On Our Side” and “If I Could See Your Face Again” humanize residents of Appalachia Country in a manner that creates solidarity by introducing their lives and experiences to metropolitan communities, who may know very little about what rural West Virginians endure.

Earle blends styles of folk, bluegrass, and American to reinforce the pride workers have for their labor, their land, and their sacrifices and their families’ sacrifices. It honors their blood, sweat, and tears, and through “Devil Put the Coal In the Ground” and “It’s About Blood,” the music acknowledges their indignation and resolve to fight on in spite of decades of exploitation.

(Kevin Gosztola) Irreversible Entanglements – Who Sent You?

Irreversible Entanglements describes itself as a liberation-oriented free jazz collective. They formed at a Musicians Against Police Brutality event after the New York Police Department murdered Akai Gurley. The ensemble’s second album builds on the free jazz sound they developed to restore the genre’s connection to Black liberation.

The ensemble describes the album as an entire holistic jam of ‘infinite possibilities coming back around,’ a sprawling meditation for afro-cosmonauts, a reminder of the forms and traumas of the past, and the shape and vision of Afrotopian sounds to come.” 

Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother), Keir Neuringer, Aquiles Navarro, Tcheser Holmes, and Luke Stewart collectively reckon with past demons while agitating for a better future for humanity.  “At what point do we stand up? At the breaking point? At the point of no return?” declares Ayewa on “The Code Noir/Amina.” “At what point? At what point do we pull each other up, up out of the void, up out of a hell? At what point? At what point? At what point do we give a shit? Do we stand up and say something?”

Another track “No Más” revolves around the concept of Africans fleeing Earth to escape oppression. “No más. No more. No longer will we allow them to divide and conquer, divide and oppress, define our humanity.”

It’s provocative and invigorating jazz, both sonically and lyrically, that pushes boundaries as the best music should.

(Kevin Gosztola) Pink Siifu – NEGRO

The rapper’s second full-length album is a departure from his 2018 full-length debut “ ensley .” It also does not feature much rap. Instead, it features intense growls, which Pink Siifu effectively uses to express black rage. The eclectic album is a hybrid of several genres, including hardcore punk and free jazz. 

The confrontational album heavily addresses systemic racism and police brutality. This is best exemplified with the back-to-back tracks “ameriKKKa, try no pork” and “run pig run.” The first of those two tracks features news soundbites of police murdering black people, and the next track addresses the potential backlash that will come if the system is not overhauled.

The songs express the natural desire to see a reckoning for those who abuse power. At over 20 songs that last 37 minutes, Pink Siifu does not waste any time in taking aim at his targets.

(C.J. Baker) Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 4

Killer Mike and El-P’s rap duo never shy away from the political. On their fourth album, their music is more relevant than ever. It also has had quite an impact in the two months since its release, making it a momentous album.

Many of the songs were composed before 2020 and written before widespread protests against police brutality. Yet the album perfectly encapsulates the current political climate.

A prime example of the prescient nature of the album is “walking in the snow.” Killer Mike raps, “And every day on the evening news, they feed you fear for free. And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me. Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, ‘I can’t breathe,’” referring to the dying words of Eric Garner. He could’ve been referring to the murder of George Floyd.

Likewise, the tune “JU$T” features the lines, “Where murderous chokehold cops still earnin’ a livin’. Funny how some say money don’t matter. That’s rich now, isn’t it? Get it? Comedy. Try to sell a pack of smokes to get food. Get killed and it’s not an anomaly.”

That same song, which features vocals from Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha, is a pointed examination of the link between capitalism and systemic racism. The lyric “Look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar” packs a lot of weight.

(C.J. Baker) SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is)

Over 20 tracks, SAULT weaves a sonically rich and spiritually affirming tapestry for an era, when more people than ever seem to be throwing off the chains that have oppressed them for so long.

SAULT is a collective that in the past has presented their music anonymously. This album credits Inflo and Cleo Sol, an R&B singer-songwriter, and the collective presented it to “mark the moment in time where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives.” They connected it to the murder of George Floyd and “all those who have suffered from police brutality and systemic racism.”

There has been an eruption of music centered on Black experiences, especially as they relate to policing and protests. But “UNTITLED” distinguishes itself by having so many collaborators and a diverse sound that truly represents what is a global movement. Each track, like “Hard Life,” “Don’t Shoot,” “Bow,” or “Monsters,” plays like a dispatch from those on the front lines of struggle.

And this incredible album is SAULT’s spiritual contribution to those facing down everything from trauma and hardship to cracks in political structures that finally present openings for revolutionary change.

(Kevin Gosztola) Special Interest – Passion Of

The New Orleans anarcho-glam band aptly describes their sophomore album as “a precise and deranged vision of punk, an apocalyptic celebration, a step forward into a perverse and uncertain landscape.” 

Gloomy soundscapes provide the backdrop for lead singer and lyricist Alli Logout to express the emotions many feel in the current state of upheaval.

One of the album’s highlights is “All Tomorrow’s Carry,” which Shadowproof highlighted as a “Protest Song Of the Week.” It addresses how gentrification contributes to systemic poverty and homelessness (“Arise from the rubble. Another tawdry condo. And a high rise suite. Yeah, they were pushed out. Soon evacuated. House was near dilapidated.”).

The song calls attention to the prevalence of apathy (“We were willingly blind”). Similar issues are explored on “Homogenized Milk” (“What happens when there’s nothing left to gentrify. And genocide is on your side”). Altogether, the album is an intense and urgent wake-up call.

(C.J. Baker) David Strickland – Spirit Of Hip Hop

David Strickland has had a successful career as a producer, mixer, and engineer. After spending over two decades behind the scenes, he finally received prime billing with his debut album. 

Strickland heavily taps into his Mi’kmaq heritage, a lineage that can be traced back five generations. It explores indigenous themes, yet many of the subjects resonate across several demographics.

For example, multiple tunes address the issue of policing. Lyrics such as “Fuck em, we need less cops” (“Times Running Away”), “Ain’t nothing new on the block, getting shot by the cops” (“Turtle Island”) and “Looking so cold outside, remind me of the po-po, when they beat my ass that night and threw me in a chokehold” (“Rez Life”)  call out brutality.

It is a powerful album, which educates the mind and moves the body. And while his name appears on the album, he still provides a platform for other artists to shine, as he has done throughout his career. Hip-hop luminaries, such as EPMD, Def Squad, and young and upcoming Canadian and American indigenous hip-hop artists like Que Rock, Supaman and Snotty Nose Rez Kids are featured.

(C.J. Baker) HONORABLE MENTIONS: “The Long Goodbye” – Riz Ahmed | “Notes From A Failed State” – David Rovics | “We Are Sent Here By History” – Shabaka & The Ancestors | “Heavy Light” – U.S. Girls

The post Top Ten Protest Albums Of 2020 (So Far) appeared first on Shadowproof.

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

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[l] at 7/23/20 7:44am

As more Americans wake up to the notion of police abolition, one organization in California is already making it a reality. Mental Health First—from the Anti Police-Terror Project—is a community-centered initiative to eliminate the need for law enforcement as the first response to mental health crises.

On May 22, Maurice Gordon’s friend called the cops concerned about the 28-year-old’s whereabouts. He informed the dispatcher of Gordon’s mental health history, and said Gordon appeared “panicked” and told him he was having a “paranormal experience.” More than 24 hours later, Gordon was fatally shot by a state trooper during a routine traffic stop in New Jersey.

What happened to Gordon is not an unusual occurrence in the United States. One-in-four people fatally shot by police have a severe mental illness, according to a 2015 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Government statistics on police shootings and mental illness show that mental health disorders comprise about one-in-two fatal police encounters in the U.S. and across the Western world. Roughly 1 to 4 percent of calls made to the police are for violent crime, according to a New York Times analysis of publicly available data from a handful of police departments. And yet nationally, one-in-ten calls to the police are related to mental health.

Calls to defund the police have grown louder in response to the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. As cities grapple with how to redistribute funds, some American communities have already adopted an abolitionist model.

A Quarter Of People Killed By Police Struggle With Mental Illness

The Sacramento chapter of the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), a multiracial coalition seeking to eradicate police violence, launched Mental Health First (MH First) in January.

In developing this program, APTP collaborated with medical professionals, community organizers, and people who have used mental health services to understand what currently exists and what is needed.

“When you’re in crisis, what you need isn’t necessarily the formula that we use within our current system,” Carly Brannin, a core member of APTP, said. “It’s a lot better to have somebody come in and be like, ‘Hey, I get where you are. I’ve experienced something similar before. Here’s how I can help you feel better.’”

Volunteers work in shifts of three people—a crisis interventionist, a medic, and a safety liaison. The crisis interventionist works directly with the person in need. While the medic cannot prescribe medication, the individual can provide basic first aid. And the safety liaison keeps an eye out for any potential dangers. Brannin illustrated that the team usually dispatches when they receive a call, especially if the person is in an unsafe environment or the police are present.

“We automatically dispatch if the police are on scene because we also teach all of our volunteers how to cop-watch, which may influence the officers’ behavior to be a little bit less bad. It’s a way to document any civil rights violations,” Brannin said. “And the whole team can also advocate for the person. So if cops are trying to arrest the person, we can say, ‘That person needs to go to a mental health urgent care center, not to jail.’”

The team responds to a wide range of situations including psychiatric emergencies, domestic violence, substance use, and individuals walking into traffic. MH First only works nights on the weekends and has responded to an average of 30 calls per month since its debut.

“If somebody were to call us and say, ‘I’m in an abusive relationship and I want to know how to get out,’ we can help them build a basic plan and let them know what resources are available,” Brannin told Shadowproof. “What it comes down to is coming in and helping that person build their own self-determined exit plan or treatment plan or whatever is needed at that time.”

Despite mental health situations making up the bulk of calls to police, law enforcement is not required to undergo mental health-related training. And with police abolition sweeping the nation, the Sacramento City Council passed a measure earlier this month to establish a non-police response to mental health calls. Given its community connections, MH First hopes to be part of this initiative.

‘It Is Not Criminal To Be Poor, To Be Mentally Unwell, Or To Even Have An Addiction’

Community-driven approaches to emergencies are gaining greater momentum in California with the proposal of the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (CRISES Act).

The legislation introduced by Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) and co-sponsored by APTP would fund community organizations responding to emergency situations—like mental illness, substance use, and homelessness—that police are traditionally called in for.

“This bill came about because of the number of instances where law enforcement has intervened, and the result has been deadly,” Kamlager said.

“We’ve seen a ballooning of folks entering our justice system never to get out,” Kamlager continued. “We have now decided to criminalize all kinds of activity, including activity that is not inherently criminal. It is not criminal to be poor, to be mentally unwell, or to even have an addiction.”

The CRISES Act is currently on the Senate floor and is expected to be voted on once the legislature reconvenes on July 27. However, Kamlager fears the bill may not make it out of the Senate because of its $16 million price tag.

“I’m concerned that in the time of COVID, when we already are dealing with a budget deficit, that we will try to pass something that doesn’t come with funding or that we will pass something that is so diluted that we don’t get the kind of solutions that we want,” Kamlager said. “And I believe that activists are tired of hollow legislation.”

“Defund” and “abolish” have become rallying cries in demonstrations against police brutality. Kamlager emphasizes that the state can’t defund police departments. Only cities and counties can do that. Yet, she does point out that different approaches can encourage municipalities to rethink how they allocate funding.

For APTP, even just the mainstream conversation about defunding and abolition is a victory in itself.

“If folks agree with or disagree with [abolition], it’s still in the forefront of folks’ minds,” Asantewaa Boykin, co-founder of the APTP told Shadowproof. “Just like years ago, we were saying ‘police terrorism’ and people were like, ‘Oh my God, that’s so radical!’”

“And now it’s like common knowledge and people at home who don’t share our common ideology are using the word police terrorism. So, there’s room for folks to sway onto our side,” Boykin concluded.

The post California Initiative Moves Away From Relying On Police To Address Mental Health Crises appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Featured Reporting, Latest News, Prison Protest, Abolition, Mental Illness, Police]

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[l] at 7/22/20 6:23pm

Editor’s Note The following is the third edition of a newly launched newsletter, “The Dissenter,” which covers whistleblower stories and the obstacles they face. A subscription is $5/month. To subscribe, visit https://dissenter.substack.com/subscribe

The Pentagon launched an “aggressive” investigation of leaks earlier this year that relies upon an insider threat program established and expanded under President Barack Obama.

Officials are also employing “continuous evaluation,” or total surveillance, of personnel, yet there is very little evidence that safeguards have been implemented to protect the rights of employees and ensure a chilling effect that already lingers does not intensify against potential whistleblowers.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on July 9, Esper revealed the Pentagon is pursuing “bad leaks” from “last fall.” He encouraged personnel to focus on “operational security,” however, leaks continued. So, Esper initiated an investigation into leaks, whether it was classified information or “unclassified information” that was “sensitive.” He also urged investigators to examine “unauthorized discussions with the media.”

Esper ticked off nearly every box an official typically would when providing an evidence-free boilerplate condemnation of leaks.

“All those things, again, hurt our nation’s security. They undermine our troops, their safety. They affect our relations with other countries. They undermine our national policy. It’s bad, and it’s happening all over the government—executive branch, legislative branch, to some degree.”

“So it’s something we need to get control of, and that is not new to this administration,” Esper added. “Previous administrations, Republican and Democrat alike, have had to deal with this. It’s just, it’s bad, and it’s unlawful, and it needs to stop.”

Esper’s testimony was in response to a question from Don Bacon, a Republican Representative in Nebraska. Bacon was upset about leaks to the media that alleged the Russian government paid militants to attack United States soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

“I think it’s imperative that we start holding people accountable to the maximum sentence, you know, that the law allows,” Bacon declared. (Note: U.S. intelligence agencies never found conclusive evidence to corroborate allegations, which were laundered through the press.)

The zeal to crack down on leaks is emblematic of President Donald Trump’s administration. As reported by Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News, the number of “classified information” leaks referred for prosecution by the Justice Department surged to their highest levels in 2017 (120 referrals) and 2018 (88 referrals).

But the infrastructure for controlling the free flow of information was not developed in the era of Trump. It largely stems from the U.S. government’s panicked response to U.S. military whistleblower Chelsea Manning and the publication of hundreds of thousands of documents by WikiLeaks, as well as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures on mass surveillance.

A ‘Top Down’ System For Surveillance Of Hundreds Of Thousands Of Pentagon Personnel

In 2012, Pentagon Secretary Leon Panetta oversaw the implementation of a “top down” system for monitoring “major, national media reporting for ‘unauthorized disclosures.'”

The system further established training on what constituted an “unauthorized disclosure” and developed an “Automated Security Incident Reporting System,” an “online reporting system for significant security incidents for use across the department.”

Limitations were set on the use of removable storage devices on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), which is a network of databases with information shared among numerous agencies in the federal government.

Surveillance of Defense Department networks was “escalated” to “spot anomalous behavior” and identify “malicious insiders.” That involved the creation of a “Comprehensive Insider Threat Program” and the establishment of an Unauthorized Disclosures Working Group.

That same year, the Army Times reported that the military would monitor soldiers’ “keystrokes, downloads, and web searches on computers.”

By 2015, according to a report to Congress also obtained by Secrecy News , at least 100,000 military, civilian, and contractor personnel at the Defense Department were placed under constant surveillance with all their electronic activities and communications tracked.

The amount of personnel monitored was on track to balloon to 225,000 agency personnel by the end of the year. One million employees were expected to be tracked constantly by 2017.

McClatchy Newspapers exposed the McCarthyism central to the operations of newly implemented insider threat programs.

During 2016, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) called attention to the Pentagon as it required contractors to “gather, integrate, and report” information on “potential internal threats in order to identify and stop the unauthorized disclosure of classified information before it occurs.”

POGO warned such an expansion of insider threat programs in government “ threaten whistleblowers’ ability to report waste, fraud, and abuse because they do not differentiate between genuine threats and those who are acting in the interest of the public.”

Indeed, training has lumped Chelsea Manning and NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and Reality Winner in with Nidal Hasan and Aaron Alexis, the Fort Hood and Navy Yard shooters.

Manning obtained a document from 2014 that showed agencies may target anyone who has “motives of ‘greed,’ ‘financial difficulties,’ is ‘disgruntled,’ has ‘an ideology,’ a ‘divided loyalty,’ an ‘ego’ or ‘self-image,’ or ‘any family/personal issues’—the words used to describe [Manning’s] motives.”

“Such subjective labeling could easily be applied to virtually every single person currently holding a security clearance,” 

Nothing in the file described what would happen if a person exhibiting these “behavior indicators” or “insider threat motives” was, in fact, going through “proper channels”—through the chain of command or to a member of Congress—to reveal waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, or other acts of corruption.

However, it is entirely possible an employee could exhibit these behaviors because he or she was concerned their superiors would find out he or she was exposing their misconduct to officials. They may seem paranoid because they feared what would happen to their careers.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaks with media en route to Czech Republic (Photo: Defense Department)

 

The Loose Lips Of High-Ranking Pentagon Officials

While Panetta was in the middle of expanding the intrusive infrastructure for an insider threat program, the Pentagon chief leaked classified information about the Osama bin Laden raid. He was never prosecuted.

But Daniel Meyer, a Pentagon employee, provided an unclassified version of an inspector general’s report to Congress, which contained details on the leak. Meyer became the target of a leak prosecution.

The episode is one of many examples in the past decade of the double standard in the Pentagon and all U.S. intelligence agencies, where high-ranking officials are allowed to engage in freedom of speech on issues and policy matters and low-ranking personnel are forced to submit to authority or face the consequences.

In 2017, Pentagon Secretary James Mattis, Esper’s predecessor, issued a memo warning personnel against leaks the same week that he leaked information about rules of engagement in Afghanistan before they were “issued as orders to troops.”

The New York Times reported, “With the new rules caught in bureaucratic limbo, Mr. Mattis effectively telegraphed the military’s plans to the Taliban before they could be put into action.

“The disclosure signaled to Taliban fighters that some of their well-established sanctuaries [were] no longer safe and that they will need to change how they move around the battlefield to avoid American bombs,” according to the Times. “It also [took] away the element of surprise, a core aspect of any battle plan.”

Mattis even told the House Armed Services Committee in 2018, “What I don’t want is pre-decisional information, or classified information or any information about upcoming military movements or operations [disclosed], which is the normal loose lips sink ships kind of restriction.”

Justice Department officials have prosecuted several individuals for leaks in the past 12 years, and in each of those cases, they have invoked elements of the Espionage Act—particularly the part about disclosing information that “could be used to the injury of the United States”—to make an example out of lower level government employees.

Yet, someone like Mattis will never be categorized as an “insider threat” and spied upon until their access to classified information is revoked or monitors determine greater intervention is necessary.

At the same hearing, Mattis also stated, “I want more engagement with the media. I want you to give your name. I don’t want to read that somebody [spoke] on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak. I have yet to tell anyone they are not authorized to speak. So if they are not willing to say they know about the issue and give their name, that would concern me.

“If they are giving background, they should just be a defense official giving background information authorized to give it.”

Which shows the present system is one of authorized leaks from “senior officials.” It encourages propaganda that serves the Pentagon’s daily talking points but conceals waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality. It relies on the over-classification of information to shield those high in the chain of command from accountability.

The outcome of Esper’s “aggressive” leak investigation will reflect this dynamic. To the extent that anyone is penalized or punished, it will depend on their rank at the Pentagon and whether what was revealed disrupted the gears of a war machine.

The post In Early 2020, Pentagon Launched ‘Aggressive’ Investigation Into ‘Bad Leaks’ appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, The Dissenter, insider threat program, Leaks, Mark Esper, Pentagon, The Dissenter Newsletter]

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[l] at 7/22/20 7:53am

Community support prevented the eviction of a massive tent city and protest in Philadelphia, and unhoused organizers say they are not going anywhere until all residents have a guaranteed home.

The encampment formed June 10 to provide shelter, social support, and resources to Philadelphia’s unhoused residents, many of whom have been denied access to housing and COVID-19 prevention hotels. But its existence remains threatened by the city, which is determined to remove hundreds of unhoused people to prioritize the needs of the baseball field upon which the encampment has encroached.

Hundreds gathered on July 13 for an anti-eviction rally outside the protest encampment. Large “No Cop Zone” and “Housing Now” banners hung high over the neighboring streets. Protest demands were posted in all communal spaces and distributed as flyers to passersby.

“Make no mistake, this is a homeless encampment, this is a protest,” said organizer Jennifer Bennetech. “But this is really a civil war between the poor and Black citizens of Philadelphia, and the city.”

For many left without homes or shelter of any kind in Philadelphia, this tent city is a haven. Encampment founders, inspired by the recent anti-police revolts and frustrated by the city’s inaction to protect unhoused populations from the COVID-19 outbreak, formed an encampment of five tents. Word-of-mouth quickly increased that number to over 150 in a sprawling tent city on a grassy field along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Organizers look for more stable housing for those who arrive with children, and they have moved nearly fifty families into empty public housing units. For those living at the encampment, every resident is provided with a tent and access to free supplies, a medic station, a library, and even movie nights.

Despite meetings between organizers and city officials to discuss encampment demands and negotiate housing solutions, the city has offered no plan for where camp residents could otherwise live. Instead, they asked campers to relocate based on the hope of housing some time in the future, including the “potential” of a city-sanctioned encampment or tiny houses.

For people under the severe stress of living without a house during a global health crisis, a far-off promise wasn’t good enough.

On July 9, organizers announced the dissolution of negotiations, citing “the failure of the City to provide or even offer a single unit of housing to any of the camp’s 150+ residents.” Shortly after, they received a notice to vacate the parkway encampment by July 17.

Residents held strong, yelling publicly and tearfully at a press conference days later that they would not be moved.

“They’ve been painting it as if we want to live here–in tents, out in the rain, relying on donations,” said camp resident Scott, standing in front of a sea of tents and signs demanding housing. “If you want people out of here by Friday, then by Friday take our elderly out of here. Take our very young people out of here. Take our people with disabilities out of here. If the city wants us to play our part then they can stop being the obstacle.”

Unhoused organizers called for the city to rally around them on eviction day and defend the camp at all costs, assembling supporters through public Facebook events. The day before the camp’s removal was to take place, city officials backed down and it was postponed.

This did nothing to sway hundreds of supporters from gathering in the early hours of the morning to deliver a clear message that the city would not be able to dismantle the camp without pushback.

Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted about the postponed closure of the camp, noting “this also gives our outreach teams and providers more time to engage people experiencing homelessness to offer housing and other services.”

However, according to organizers, the only services offered so far were abstinence-based drug treatment and access to the COVID-19 prevention hotel for people with certain health conditions. While offering far-off promises of affordable housing, the city has offered no solutions for housing at the time of the camp’s end.

A Home And A Protest

James-Talib Dean Camp, as its residents now call it, is both a home and a protest. The community is visible from every intersecting street surrounding the massive field. Tents are decorated with sunflowers and front porches sculpted out of tarps with cushions for visitors. There are PPE giveaway and handwashing stations, with COVID-19 testing offered every Monday.

Residents can charge their phones at a charging station. Medical, kitchen, and supply tents form the heart of the field, surrounded by long strips of tents. This includes mini-communities for queer and trans inhabitants.

Days after the city agreed to postpone the closure, a new street mural appeared along the stretch of the parkway, spelling out boldly “I Will Breathe.”

While the Workers Revolutionary Collective and Occupy PHA have supported the unhoused organizers from the beginning, the camp has since taken on its own life. It is led by unhoused people.

Many of the residents have experience with foodservice and restaurants, allowing for careful kitchen hygiene as mass meals are prepared and served. Groups of unhoused organizers sort through piles of clothing donations, pick up trash, and set up tents for the steady flow of new arrivals.

Tara Taylor moved to the camp as a full-time resident after leaving unstable housing. For them, community is really what this is about.

“I think there’s this idea that the homeless don’t already have communities, which isn’t true. They very much do have communities, even though they are displaced and often disconnected from one another.”

Despite the hardship of living outside, this is home for Taylor. “When you walk around here, we call each other ‘neighbor,’ and it actually feels like that.”

The city feels differently about the encampment. Marsha Cohen of the Homeless Advocacy Project shamed the camp for its risk during a pandemic, calling the unhoused people living there “political pawns” of the organizers.

“The problem is that folks refuse to recognize that the homeless are organizers. So yes, these are the demands that were put together by the organizers of this homeless encampment, which is the homeless,” Tara explains.

“They wanted permanent ownership that was going to be able to be managed by people they trusted. We brainstorm and talk about actions together.”

Taking Housing Into Their Own Hands

The residents’ most pressing demand is to transfer city-owned properties into a community land trust for permanent low-income housing. The city estimates it has approximately 40,000 vacant parcels of housing and lots, 26 percent of which are publicly owned. Though many homes are in need of major repairs, some are ready to move into.

Sterling Johnson, an organizer with the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative, insisted a community land trust is the only viable solution.

“People can be in community, work together, survive together. But not within a program, not within a security state or a surveillance state. The focus is on getting actual houses for people so they can have a stake in the property ownership.”

In the meantime, people are taking housing solutions into their own hands. Encampment organizers have moved fifty unhoused families into empty publicly-owned properties, with volunteers doing the work themselves to fix up the homes. The Public Housing Authority (PHA) has given out notices to vacate, but people see no reason to bring their children back outdoors when the properties have otherwise been sitting empty.

Camp residents claim they have the ability to remove blight and transform this unused property into stable and safe housing if given the chance.

Dee Black, a lead organizer at the camp, quickly points to the handwashing, medic and kitchen stations, and other structures that required handy skills to create.

“All we are asking for is at least an abandoned building, a big one, that we can actually fix-up. We got some of us in the community that know how to fix cars, houses, you name it.”

Others point to the money invested in the police budget, which could be used to pay people to repair houses.

‘It Shouldn’t Be A Crime To Exist’

The tent city was birthed in the weeks following the Black Lives Matter uprisings, as is evident in the primarily Black (though multi-racial) demands around policing.

Residents demand both disarming and defunding the police, including the housing authority’s private police force. Early on, they established their space as a no-cop zone, an attempt to combat the police harassment experienced by many residents.

As Johnson put it, “We’re talking about people being able to smoke without being hassled, being able to go without being sexually assaulted by police or harassed by police, woken up by police or outreach workers on a daily basis. It shouldn’t be a crime to exist, but it is right now.”

In Philadelphia, camping in tents on the streets is illegal. Designating the camp as a protest rather simply than a homeless community provides the unhoused with more protection from the police.

On hot summer days, a tent offers relief from the sun, in addition to privacy and the ability to social distance. Tent living without police harassment draws many people to the camp.

Cops seem to have accepted their exclusion from the area despite conflict between camp residents and its neighbors. Tara reported that annoyed neighbors would come to ask questions, but they were often unwilling to call the city and ask for housing for the residents so they could relocate.

Taylor has had to de-escalate fights between neighbors and residents. Most recently, they responded to tension when a white woman jogging past the camp confronted residents in their tents. She was annoyed she paid $1700 a month for her apartment only to have a homeless camp outside of it. Tensions escalated, and an organizer called the woman a racist. The woman called the cops, but none came.

Declaring a no-cop zone has its difficulties, but it’s given residents room to breathe. Black told Shadowproof, “It’s beneficial to have a no-cop zone. It gives us the time to dwell on what we need to do, what steps we need to take, to get paperwork done.”

Black has been struggling living without stable housing for the last eight years, separated from her children who she wanted to keep off the streets. Her goal is to have a place—any place—she can call home and bring her children.

This has sparked her organizing. Black created a petition demanding permanent housing for Philly’s unhoused. She’s humbled by the signatures it has received–her initial goal was for only a thousand. “I’m not just speaking for myself, I am speaking for every individual that is homeless out here. Who can hear us if we don’t speak out?”

Surviving Without Shelter During COVID-19

The root of the encampment is the substantial failure of the city to meet the needs of its unhoused population, and to offer only basic services rather than housing.

Both shelters and homeless outreach have fallen flat. Before the encampment, organizers fought for months for better services, like public bathrooms and expanded access for people to reside in hotels. None of their demands were met, and in the meantime, more tent encampments were destroyed.

The city reports that Philadelphia has about 5,700 people experiencing homelessness, and of those 950 are without shelter. COVID-19 prevention hotels have been offered to those on the streets, but only to those with disabilities and who are otherwise at high-risk for the virus.

These hotels also prevent partnerships. Some people are approved to enter hotels but return to the streets because their partner is still sleeping outdoors. It’s also common for people to be discharged from shelters, due to fights with other residents, drug use, for example. One mistake can get a person booted out of shelter access for months or even years.

Notably, the solutions of the camp have all developed outside the scope of what critics call the “nonprofit industrial complex,” a system in which nonprofits facilitate the government’s imposition of houselessness by providing an endless loop of ‘access to resources’ but never housing.

The camp has taken a position against allowing outreach providers, who organizers say have only offered drug treatment and spaces in shelters.

Johnson explained that many of the residents have been through treatment and shelters, and are already aware of the services available. He described how outreach providers were allowed in for the first two days but were dismissed by residents after they started taking photos and notes, which felt dehumanizing.

Between the documentation and the distribution of “mostly water bottles and granola bars,” their presence felt like an insult when residents have made it clear their biggest need is housing.

At the beginning of the pandemic, tent camps in Philadelphia were viewed by the city as a risk and broken up, leaving residents scattered. Yet breaking up the tent camps may pose a greater risk.

The city has been defying CDC guidelines and relocating residents from tent encampments to shelters. The indoor, crowded environment means these shelters have been a hotspot for COVID-19. The dismantling of one major encampment led to a large shelter outbreak and one death. While the encampment is not the stable home residents are demanding, it is the preferred option for many when compared with sleeping rough or risking the shelter system.

City officials’ reasons for shutting the camp down include safety and health concerns. But many of the risks are not inherent to the camp, simply risks that arise from being unhoused. Organizers maintained violence due to theft and health scares from lack of proper bathrooms are not new problems for those without stable housing.

COVID-19 is as much of a risk in the rest of the city, and regular testing of residents helped keep numbers down (at the time of reporting, there has only been 1 confirmed case). The encampment has seen both violence and overdoses, but “those are things that happen regularly in our city,” Johnson emphasized. “The way communities are safest is together. Here we reverse many overdoses for people who are using. We are also there to monitor drug poisoning due to K2 and crack. We’re providing Narcan.”

To the risks of setting up an encampment, they ask—what about the risks of leaving people homeless during a pandemic?

“We know that the demands we are fighting for are imminently actionable, and available to us right now” Taylor shared. “I think once the city sees we are not giving them any other options, they will follow our graceful guidance in terms of how they can make this problem go away.“

According to organizers, the city claims it doesn’t have control over the housing authority and cannot transfer its properties to a community land trust, despite an act signed in 2012 that explicitly grants it control over PHA. In response to this claim, organizers took the fight directly to protest at PHA headquarters, and have now established a second encampment there.

Housing activists have long complained about the practices of the public housing authority and its private police force. Last year members of Occupy PHA established an encampment at the same location to demand an oversight board. Many long-term Philly residents see PHA as simply a tool of gentrification.

The housing authority has been authorized by the city to practice eminent domain, recently seizing one-third of an entire neighborhood. But the city lacks the funds and capacity to repair all of its seized property. So PHA has held an auction almost every year since 2011, most recently auctioning off nearly 150 of their properties, including to large developers known for building high-income housing. To many unhoused people, a walk down the block past empty, publicly-owned housing is a looming sign of the city’s disordered priorities.

The unknown future of the camp is uncomfortable for people whose lives have already been steered by housing instability. But they are very clear they have no plans to go anywhere, regardless of the city’s actions or neighbors’ insistence on baseball as a human right. Every day living without shelter under COVID-19 is a matter of survival and a need to support the survival of others.

“It’s hard to be in a situation where you are fighting not just for your own life but for your families’ lives, and other people around you,” Black said of her fellow camp residents. “We might not be blood, but technically all of us are family. No matter how you see it.”

The post Philadelphia Threatens Protest Encampment With Eviction But Still Has No Plan For Unhoused Residents appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Featured Reporting, Latest News, The Dissenter, Black Lives Matter, Homelessness, Housing Rights, Philadelphia, Protest Encampment, Unhoused People]

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[l] at 7/20/20 4:49pm
Editor’s Note The following is the first edition of a newly launched newsletter, “The Dissenter,” which covers whistleblower stories and the obstacles they face. A subscription is $5/month. To subscribe, visit https://dissenter.substack.com/subscribe

More than 500 women imprisoned at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, have tested positive for COVID-19. The facility has the second-most cases out of all federal prisons in the United States, and one of the prisoners who has tested positive is NSA whistleblower Reality Winner.

Last week, The Dissenter reported that COVID-19 cases tripled at Carswell in one week. The article included comments from Winner’s sister Brittany Winner. Staff at Carswell apparently read the story, and according to Brittany Winner, she is experiencing retaliation for our reporting.

“Reality is being retaliated against for speaking out about the conditions in the prison, but she won’t stop fighting for better treatment for herself and her fellow inmates,” Brittany Winner declared. “She will continue to update us, and I want everyone to know that we are watching and won’t stop being her voice.”

Brittany Winner continued, “I am terrified that she will develop severe symptoms and require urgent medical care, but with the huge swell of cases in FMC Carswell and the likelihood that the region’s hospitals are already overwhelmed, I have no confidence that she will receive the care she needs.”

“She belongs at home where she can be safely quarantined and receive medical care,” Brittany Winner contended.

It took at least five days for Reality Winner to receive the results of her COVID-19 test, and fortunately, she has not exhibited symptoms of the virus yet.

Reality Winner is waiting on the 11th Circuit to rule on an appeal that she filed after a lower court denied her request for compassionate release.

As her attorneys warned in May, “The entire basis for Reality’s motion—and so many like hers—is that she cannot afford to wait until she is removed from FMC Carswell in a stretcher, or worse, before she is afforded relief.”

Reality Winner pled guilty in 2018 to one count of violating the Espionage Act when she disclosed an NSA report to The Intercept. She believed the report contained evidence that Russian hackers targeted United States voter registration systems during the 2016 election. She has served well over half of her 63-month sentence.

On July 20, the Bureau of Prisons’ number for “inmates positive” with COVID-19 spiked dramatically from less than 200 cases to 509 cases.

The spike raises questions about the extent to which the facility has failed to report or track the spread of an outbreak that seems to increasingly be out of control.

According to Brittany Winner, Reality Winner is in a “home unit” that is quarantining more than 200 inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19.

Reality Winner told her family that she sought “administrative remedies” for retaliation she experienced as a result of reporting that was published on her case and the prison outbreak.

One corrections officer apparently visited Reality Winner to tell her, “I just wanted to congratulate you on your positive results,” said Brittany Winner.

As Brittany Winner recalled, the same officer confronted Reality Winner last week and refused to allow her to clean. She alleges this officer tried to have her thrown in isolation so she would not be able to talk to her attorney.

“I think they know that she enjoys cleaning. It’s how they are punishing her,” Brittany Winner stated.

For a prisoner, cleaning the little amount of space that they can call their own gives them some sense of control, and in a pandemic, that means being able to disinfect and dramatically slow the spread of the virus. But in a system, where facility personnel want prisoners to remain dependent on them, staff can impose their authority by refusing to permit cleaning is a cruel act.

It effectively intensifies the trauma a prisoner is already feeling, as they deal with the fact they are trapped in a facility in which it is nearly impossible to social distance from fellow prisoners.

Brittany Winner shared a story from Reality Winner about an incarcerated person, who has diabetes, COVID-19 symptoms, and can barely walk on the stairs. They tried to have this woman do Reality Winner’s paid prison detail.

Furthermore, according to Brittany Winner, Reality Winner said the virus spread in a hospital unit with chemo and dialysis patients after someone who tested positive was allowed into the unit.

There are isolation units that did not have prisoners with COVID-19, but that is not the case anymore. Reality Winner believes this is a result of staff coming and going and spreading the virus.

Previously, The Dissenter reported that Reality Winner’s bunkmate tested positive and was removed from her unit.

Reality Winner’s prosecution was a high-profile prosecution and received a substantial amount of attention. The warden at Carswell, as well as the staff, are well aware that she can marshal press coverage to a degree that no other prisoners in the facility can and may have even marked this down in her file.

When CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was imprisoned at Federal Correctional Institution Loretto in Pennsylvania, his file was marked with, “CAUTION – Inmate has extensive access to the press,” and, “CAUTION: Publicity.”

“[Staff] will do everything in their power to stop prisoners from telling the world what conditions are like in these prisons, and they’ll operate both within the rules and outside the rules,” Kiriakou declared. “They know that there is so little that a prisoner can do to protect herself that they push the envelope daring that prisoner try to do something about it.”

“In my case, the media were my friends because they allowed me a voice that I otherwise would not have had. And, yes, I was punished for being outspoken in the media,” Kiriakou added. “But it was worth it.”

Joe Whitley, an attorney for Reality Winner, told R. Robin McDonald at Law.com that they hoped the 11th Circuit would permit her to “serve the balance of her sentence in home confinement.”

“She fits all the parameters that have been set by the Bureau of Prisons for release. It serves no real purpose to have her confined any longer, given the incidents of COVID at Carswell,” Whitley added.

***

Reality Winner has not emailed or mailed any messages to The Dissenter. Everything we have published comes from Reality Winner’s family, and the Bureau of Prisons should cease their retaliation against Reality Winner immediately.

The post COVID-19 Cases At Carswell Spike To More Than 500 As Reality Winner Tests Positive, Faces Retaliation appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Bureau of Prisons, COVID-19, Reality Winner News, The Dissenter Newsletter, Whistleblowers]

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[l] at 7/18/20 5:56pm

Jen Perelman has had the same representative in the United States Congress for nearly 16 years—Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat in Florida’s 23rd congressional district. Now, Perelman is mounting a primary challenge against Wasserman Schultz.

Primary day is August 20. She has until July 20 to convince independents in the district to switch their registration to Democrat to vote for her.

Wasserman Schultz is a well-known corporate Democrat, who chaired the Democratic National Committee until she was forced to resign in 2016 after WikiLeaks published emails that exposed the DNC helped rig the presidential primary to favor Hillary Clinton.

Perelman is running on a platform of demilitarizing the police, ending marijuana prohibition, abolishing for-profit prisons, and forgiving student loan debt. She also backs Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and affordable housing initiatives.

She is quick to point out that Wasserman Schultz’s political career has been funded by special interests opposed to these popular proposals. Wasserman Schultz opposes marijuana legalization, and that is likely because she has relied on money from political action committees tied to the alcohol industry.

Wasserman Schultz has served the interests of Big Sugar at the expense of cleaning up environmental degradation in the Everglades. She voted for farm bills in 2008 and 2014 that contained what Politifact described as “lucrative benefits” for major sugar companies.

In a bid to become the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, if she is re-elected, Wasserman Schultz promises to “establish an advisory panel to address systemic racism in federal funding.” However, according to Perelman, Wasserman Schultz’s past campaigns have relied on donations from police groups that have objected to proposals to address the killings of Black people by officers. 

Wasserman Schultz has benefited from campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs, and she is one of several Florida lawmakers who defended a payday lending law that consumer advocates bashed because it “traps the poor in a debt cycle.” She also voted against a bill that Politifact concluded was “intended to provide clarity about the law on racial discrimination related to car loans.”

Plus, when it comes to appropriation, Perelman called attention to the fact that the websites jenperelman.com and jenperelmanforcongress.com redirect to Wasserman Schultz’s government website.

‘Most Of The Things That I Support Are Populist’

Democratic presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson, along with Brand New Congress, the Sunrise Movement, and 350 Action, have all endorsed Perelman’s campaign.

“You know most of the things that I support are populist. Most of the things that we are behind and pushing are what most people want,” Perelman told Shadowproof. “Seventy-two percent of the American people want Medicare For All. So these are not fringe radical ideas”

“She’s representing a very small faction of people that are served by corporate interests,” Perelman added.

Perelman said her background is in journalism. “I went to college for journalism, and I’ve always had this sort of investigative journalism kind of sense to me, and I’ve been the same with regard to policy and following the money trail.”

“Journalism then led to advertising, which regrettably was a few years of whoring myself to corporate interests. But eventually I ended up going to law school because I decided I wanted to get involved in policies for nonprofits.”

As a supporter of abolishing the death penalty, Perelman first sought out a job as an advocate for the Innocence Project or a similar organization that advanced criminal justice reform. She did not live in a state capital so this kind of lobbying work was difficult to do. She moved into criminal defense and witnessed firsthand the disparities in the justice system.

Perelman would like to see profit removed entirely from policing in the United States. “whether it’s different municipalities having different quotas, whether it’s things like stop-and-frisk versus citations of any kind, those things are incentives to harass and patrol and police.

“When you get into incarceration, Florida has the most for-profit facilities of any other state in the country. There are literally people that profit per person per night in a facility. And it isn’t just the facilities. It’s the subcontractors, so all the people that provide the laundry, the transportation, the internet service, the commissary, all of the different things. They also then utilize prison labor as basically current slave labor.”

Like most criminal justice reform advocates, Perelman supports marijuana legalization and releasing, commuting, and expunging the records of so-called nonviolent drug offenders. Wasserman Schultz, however, has a record of opposing even medical marijuana because she contends it is a gateway drug to harder substances like heroin. (Perelman says this is because she takes money from Big Pharma.)

Perelman supports the effort to de-prioritize policing and reallocate funds from departments to mental health or other social services. She does not believe massive amounts of money need to continue to go to departments to patrol vulnerable or marginalized communities.

‘They’re Serving At The Behest Of Corporate Overlords’ Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at Netroots Nation 2011 (Marta Evry on Flickr)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at Netroots Nation 2011 (Marta Evry on Flickr)

Over 5.4 million laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic lost their health insurance.

Asked whether she thinks establishment Democrats have botched a key opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic to back the expansion of Medicare to cover all Americans, Perelman suggested it shows the vast majority are “not really interested in solving problems.”

Perelman welcomes the fact that President Donald Trump is essentially facilitating the revolution and more people are paying attention, which I knew they would. More people are paying attention. What’s happening now is because of COVID, more and more people see the man behind the curtain and know they don’t really give a crap.”

“It’s not like [Democrats] don’t understand how it works and how we’re going to pay for it. They understand that it’s all possible. They completely understand that we could have Medicare For All. This isn’t rocket science. They’re choosing to not do it because they’re serving at the behest of corporate overlords.”

Many Democrats are losing the ability to hide behind circumstance, Perelman added. “More and more people are saying, wait a minute. Maybe having my health care tied to my employment isn’t a good idea now that I’m unemployed. So more and more people are getting a taste of how backwards we actually are.”

This shift has fueled successes in a number of primary races, where progressives have defeated incumbents or the candidate backed by the Democratic Party establishment. For example, in New York, Jamaal Bowman roundly defeated Congressman Eliot Engel, a hawkish neoliberal who was a 16-term incumbent backed by Hillary Clinton, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House.

Perelman supports Representative Barbara Lee’s push to cut the Pentagon’s budget by 50 percent. She believes troops should be brought home from overseas wars, including in Afghanistan. She think the revolving door between defense contractors and Washington, D.C., institutions must be shuttered.

Dismantle The Military Industrial-Complex

In effect, Perelman is a rare voice running for Congress who advocates for dismantling the military industrial-complex. It distinguishes her from Wasserman Schultz, who has accepted $170,000 in contributions from PACs tied to defense contractors during her career.

She is tired of regime change wars and finds it offensive to enlisted members of the military because they are used as “profit pawns.”

“I’m against our intervention in other sovereign nations. I think short of a genocide it’s really not our business, and then even then, it’s really more of the world that has to come together. It isn’t us. We are not the police of the world. So I do not support an imperialist agenda.”

“I do not support American exceptionalism. I do not support any of that. I do not support propping up nations that are rife with human rights violations. I don’t support illegal sanctions. Those are illegal acts of war. What we’re doing in Venezuela, what we’re doing in Iran, I don’t support any of that,” Perelman declared.

Wasserman Schultz, Representative Donna Shalala, and other representatives in Congress, particularly from Florida, have consciously acted as demagogues on Venezuela. They invoke the country to drag down progressives and make it harder for advocates to campaign for public programs that would help address basic human needs. They pander to upper class white Venezuelans and prey upon citizens’ ignorance of what is actually unfolding in Venezuela to sow discord.

Perelman does the best she can to “reeducate people.” She tells those in her district “look, the problems in Venezuela and Cuba are not because of socialism. It’s because of authoritarianism and also because of our interference [with] sanctions and things that are basically suffocating their economy. It isn’t because of a social democratic system.” 

“Debbie is just an example of one of many corporate Democrats that are essentially Republican on this issue. She supports who we decided, this Juan Guaido, that we tweeted is the new leader Venezuela—which is the most absurd American exceptionalist thing that it even happened. It disgusts me.”

Perelman continued, “I’m not making a personal statement on [Venezuela President Nicolas] Maduro one way or the other. I really am not. I’m not a fan, but that was a democratically elected person. And the only people that don’t recognize that is so are the people that are pushing their different agenda.”

As Perelman acknowledged, Wasserman Schultz, Shalala, and others are “sucking up to the wealthy white Venezuelans that reside in south Florida.” It is a “pretty large contingency of people.” They’re known as Westonzuelans because they live in Weston, Florida, which Money magazine ranked 19th in a list of cities with the “biggest earners” in 2010. (Median annual family income was near $120,000.)

“When you go to people that are not the rich white Venezuelans but are just your regular average working class Venezuelans, they support Maduro, and that’s really what matters to me. He’s not committing a genocide, like I said earlier. So it’s not something that warrants our interference,” Perelman said.

“Debbie, she stood in front of the Venezuela embassy with [Florida Republican Representative] Mario Diaz-Balart and was standing there talking about getting rid of Maduro and bringing in Guaido. I don’t see how that’s not Republican.”

‘Just A Bunch Of Empty Platitudes’

Democratic Party insiders typically whip up outrage these days when someone like Perelman challenges an incumbent like Wasserman Schultz. Any time a candidate like Perelman highlights policy differences, that candidate is accused of creating division or violating guidelines for “civility.” But this charade is all a way to protect those with entrenched power in the system.

“The thing about the Democratic Party in Florida is they’re fairly feckless. You’re talking about a state that out of sixty-something counties I think there’s only six that are blue. They’re a feckless party. Our [Democratic Executive Committee] in Broward [County] hasn’t made quorum in like four years. They’re pretty weak,” according to Perelman.

“If you came down here right now and got on to one of their Zoom meetings, you wouldn’t even know there was a congressional race. They’re just completely ghosting the whole race. So they’re doing forums for sheriffs, state attorney, public defender, clerk of court. They’re doing all these different types of things for candidates and they are not even addressing that there’s a congressional race and primary in [the 23rd District].”

Perelman is convinced Wasserman Schultz does not want to debate her because she has no policies. She is a “just a bunch of empty platitudes.” So the Democratic Party must protect her by pretending there is no race.

The insurgency in the Democratic Party, spurred by Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns, has brought out major generational differences within the party, especially between the base and elite representatives.

“Your older sort of centrist blue Democrats, they are clinging on for dear life for everything to be exactly as they know it, and they’re just not capable of seeing past that,” Perelman said.

Most in the United States support term limits for members of Congress. They are sick and tired of politics and wholeheartedly agree with the idea of out with the old and in with the new.

The question is, how long before some of these “insider dinosaurs” retire or die off and progressives outnumber them on Capitol Hill?

Until they are no longer a presence in Congress, such Democrats will remain an obstacle for movements for racial, economic, environmental, and social justice that are working to truly improve people’s lives.

The post More Than A Bunch Of Corporate Platitudes: Jen Perelman’s Campaign Against Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, debbie wasserman schultz, Jen Perelman]

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[l] at 7/18/20 8:50am

On this edition of the “Dissenter Weekly,” host and Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola covers the COVID-19 outbreak at Federal Medical Center Carswell with a particular focus on NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, who requested compassionate release months ago.

Later in the show, Gosztola covers allegations from whistleblowers who work for LaSalle Corrections, a private company contracted by ICE to operate immigrant detention facilities. At Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana, whistleblowers say the facility has not taken the coronavirus seriously.

Richwood’s Health Service Administrator reportedly said two days after the Louisiana governor declared an emergency that COVID-19 was not a big deal, no worse than the flu, and employees who got flu shots had no right to complain about the need for extra precautions.

We also cover the story of an Oregon worker who faced retaliation after she challenged the way Gray Construction was manipulating thermometer readings taken to determine whether workers at an Amazon construction site had COVID-19.

To watch the show, click on the above player or go here.

This week’s stories:

In A Week, COVID-19 Cases Triple at Prison Where NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Is Incarcerated

Whistleblowers Say Immigrant Detention Facility Is Not Following COVID-19 Safety Guidelines [PDF]

Oregon Worker At Amazon Construction Site Fired After Refusing To Manipulate Thermometers

Georgia Addiction Center Company Ordered To Pay $122 Million To Settle Dozens Of Whistleblower Suits

One Of Assange’s Lawyers Is Named French Justice Minister

***

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The post Dissenter Weekly: Whistleblowers Expose ICE, Bureau of Prisons’ Indifference To COVID-19 appeared first on Shadowproof.

[Category: Dissenter Featured, Latest News, The Dissenter, Reality Winner News, The Dissenter Weekly Update | Shadowproof, Whistleblowers]

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