Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Tell Congress to stop militarizing law enforcement

Friday, September 19, 2014 at 11:41 am by

teaser_get-involved_write-congress-300x228Just this past Tuesday, two members of Congress introduced bipartisan legislation that would serve to hinder the current trend of over-militarizing our local police forces. Representatives Raul Labrador and Hank Johnson  presented the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014, the passive of which would be a step that would keep tensions between citizens and communities down.

This act would essentially help to limit the national government’s ability to send military grade weapons to local communities. The incidences of police brutality against the public and the media in Ferguson have been eye-opening. They demonstrate that our police are no longer acting as protectors but as military soldiers, suppressing free speech and grass roots activism. Labrador and Johnson are taking the first steps to combat this problem but we must show our support. Contact your representatives today to make sure your voice and beliefs are being heard.

Police militarization: spending money on things we don’t need

Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 11:22 am by

Anyone who was alive 13 years ago remembers the horrific images of what happened on September 11, 2001. In the wake of the attacks on 9/11, U.S. government programs began to help local police agencies obtain military equipment. More than a decade after 9/11, we are still fighting an ideology.  Finally, lawmakers are questioning why these small town police agencies need armored and mine-resistance vehicles, automatic weapons, and camouflage clothes.

Two days ago, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Capitol Hill. Some senators were critical of the programs that give police military equipment. (more…)

The police are taking your cash at traffic stops

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 12:22 pm by

cashActivists within our community have been speaking out and fighting against police militarization for some time. The issue was recently thrust into the limelight of public opinion after last months’s tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, various media programs have begun shining a light on the issue of police militarization, the various way in which it occurs, and ways for people to fight against it.

Recently, The Washington Post ran an investigative series on police militarization. While the pieces of lengthy, they do an excellent job of explaining how police use their power to confiscate cash during routine traffic stops.

The first in the series was published on September 6 and is titled Stop and Seize. This piece discusses the concerns inherent in traffic stops, and how police officers take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists who are not changed with crimes. The article discussing technology police use to watch motorists, and includes videos, documents, and retells specific stories regarding cash seizures.

On September 7 and September 8, The Post followed up with two more investigative pieces: Police Intelligence Targets Cash and They Fought the Law: Who Won? We encourage you to read these deeply informative pieces and share you comments.

Warning against the danger of criminalizing provocative Facebook postings

Monday, September 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm by

dislikeWeighing in on a case that will significantly impact expression on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who was charged with making unlawful threats (it was never proven that he intended to threaten anyone) and sentenced to 44 months in jail after he posted allusions to popular song lyrics and comedy routines on his Facebook page.

The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Anthony D. Elonis v. United States of America argues that the First Amendment protects even inflammatory statements that may give offense or cause concern to others unless the statements were a credible threat to engage in violence against another and made by the defendant with the intent to cause fear in the alleged victim. The case arises out of Facebook postings made by Anthony Elonis expressing his anger about events in his life, and which were based upon rap lyrics of artists such as Eminem and a comedy sketch of the group The Whitest Kids U’ Know. (more…)

Government surveillance in public spaces: is your data safe?

Friday, September 5, 2014 at 11:41 am by

big brotherBy Zack Youngren

Zack Youngren is a student at Northeastern University and front end web developer at a medium sized software company. He studies computer science and has particular interests in data analytics, privacy, and legislation surrounding information technology.

Significant public thought and scrutiny is being placed on the collection of data, including what is being collected and by what means. Should the government be collecting photos of your license plates? The metadata of your phone calls? The contents of your online exchanges? Over the past year since the Snowden leak, more thought has been given to what the government does with that data, insofar as storage and security, protecting it from not only people who might wish to access it illegally, but also from people with legitimate access that would use it for illegitimate means. (more…)

Torture report coming soon

Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 1:15 pm by

stop tortureThe Senate sent President Obama it’s torture report in April for declassification.  This report took five years to make. After innumerable redactions were made by the Obama administration, the report was nonsensical. “Redactions are supposed to remove names or anything that could compromise sources and methods, not to undermine the source material so that it is impossible to understand,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., a member of the committee, said Sunday in a statement. “Try reading a novel with 15 percent of the words blacked out. It can’t be done properly.” Additionally, the blacking out of  supporting evidence, such as proof that information derived from torture actually came from other intelligence sources was quite troubling.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein expects the executive summary of her staff’s long-awaited report on the torture of American detainees to be ready for public release before the end of September, she said in an unaired segment of her “Meet the Press” interview this weekend (starts at 10:25 of the video).

Feinstein said:

“What we are engaged in is working with the administration to see that the redaction is such that it does not destroy the report. If you redact the evidence — heavily — then we cannot sustain our findings. We will not put out a report that does not enable us to sustain our findings. And I believe that that is understood. Progress has been made. I think the report will likely come out in the second half of September sometime — but it won’t come out until it is readable and understandable.”


Don’t want to give police your name? You may be arrested.

Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 4:19 pm by

States_with_Stop_and_Identify_LawsVideo posted online on Tuesday depicts the arrest and TASERing of an unidentified black man in St. Paul, Minnesota for seemingly little reason other than his refusal to state his name, the Twin Cities Daily Planet reported.

“Why am I going to jail?” the man can be heard saying toward the end of the nearly 6-minute long clip.

“It’ll be explained to you,” a male officer responds.

The video, which seemed to have been taken on a cell phone this past winter, begins with a female officer walking beside the man and asking for his name.

“Why do I have to let you know who I am?” the man asks. “I don’t have to let you know who I am if I haven’t broken any laws.”

Unfortunately, in some states (though Minnesota is not even one of them), individuals may face arrest if they refuse to identify themselves to police officers, even if the officer has no reason to suspect that a crime has been or is being committed. So-called stop and identify statutes require an individual approached by police to give his or her name or face arrest.  Such statues are problematic.  First, stop and identify laws lend themselves to pretextual stops that may result in racial profiling.

Furthermore, no reasonable suspicion, much less probable cause, is required for arrest.  Indeed, if a police officer chooses to ask a person for his or her name, that person may be arrested for nothing more than refusing to give a name. This is both patently absurd and egregiously unconstitutional.

What can we do about it?

Know your rights: Is your state a stop and identify state?  Take a look at the map above and determine whether police in your state may legally require you to identify yourself (stop and identify states are colored in red).

Spread the word: Take the time to educate others, even if all you do is post blog post to your social media pages.  The more people know, the more prepared they are to assert their rights.

Contact us at to learn how to get involved.



Targeting racial minorities in urban areas: ‘The Newburgh Sting’

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 10:29 am by

NEWBURGHSTINGposterOn May 20, 2009, four men from the impoverished and largely African-American city of Newburgh, NY, were apprehended for an alleged terror plot. They had no history of violence or terrorist ties, but had been drawn by a Pakistani FBI informant into a carefully orchestrated scheme to bomb Jewish synagogues in a wealthy New York City suburb and fire Stinger missiles at U.S. military supply planes. Their dramatic arrest, complete with armored cars, a SWAT team and FBI aircraft, played out under the gaze of major TV outlets, ultimately resulting in 25-year prison sentences for the “Newburgh Four.”

Amidst the media frenzy surrounding the case, political figures extolled the outcome as a victory in the “war on terror” and a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted,” though others believed the four men were victims of FBI entrapment. The documentary The Newburgh Sting delves deeply into this case–one of many cases across the country where people have been allegedly drawn into a plot with extreme consequences.

This is an impressive film that deals with issues of racial profiling in a unique way. Watching this is a fantastic way to educate yourselves and others on issues regarding governmental overreach as it relates to racial profiling and targeting in this country. The Newburgh Sting is currently available on HBO.

The Final Nail in the Coffin: The Death of Freedom in Our Schools

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 1:28 pm by

This guest post was written by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute.

“Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.”―D.H. Lawrence

No matter what your perspective on the showdown between locals and law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri, there can be no disputing the fact that “local” police should not be looking or acting like branches of the military.

Unfortunately, in the police state that is America today, we’re going to find ourselves revisiting Ferguson over and over again. Every time an unarmed citizen gets shot by a police officer who is armed to the hilt, or inclined to shoot first and ask questions later, or so concerned about their own safety, to the exclusion of all else, that everything becomes a potential threat, we’ll find ourselves back in Ferguson territory again.

police-stateHere’s the thing, though: whether or not it ever gets reported, whether it incites any protests or marches or showdowns of epic proportions, whether it elicits any outrage on the part of the citizenry, Ferguson is already happening over and over again, all around us.

It’s happening in small towns and big cities alike every time a citizen gets stopped and frisked for no better reason than they “look” suspicious. It’s happening on the nation’s highways and byways, where corporate greed disguised as road safety is making a hefty profit off of drivers who have the misfortune of passing a red light camera or a speed camera or a license plate reader. It’s happening in the privately run jails, which are teeming with prisoners doing time for nonviolent crimes that should have landed them with a slap on the wrist and a fine instead of hard time and forced labor.

It’s happening in our airports and train stations and shopping malls, where menacing squads of black-garbed, jack-booted, up-armored soldiers disguised as law enforcement officials are subjecting Americans to roving security checkpoints, allegedly in the pursuit of terrorists. And it’s happening in the schools, where the school-to-prison pipeline is fully operational and busy churning out newly minted citizens of the American police state who have been taught the hard way what it means to comply and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates. (more…)

150 people peacefully gathered to recognize victims of police brutality

Friday, August 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm by

nmos-08Grassroots activists have taken to the streets in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Last Thursday, August 18, interns from North Carolina’s NAACP along with Charlotte Civil Rights coalition members participated in a National Moment of Silence for Michael Brown.

About 150 people peacefully gathered in Marshall Park Thursday evening to recognize a national moment of silence for victims of police brutality. Speakers recollected experiences they’ve had with local police, such as demeaning searches, and attorneys called for reform of the Citizens Review Board, which is tasked with reviewing citizens’ complaints against police.

Reia Chapman, the organizer of the event, was happy with the turnout and said it’s a step towards the right direction. “I understand black anger and enraged communities in terms of these things that are occurring. We’re calling on silence to also pay respect and to acknowledge that a life has gone on, a person is no longer with us,” Chapman said. She plans on putting together other campaigns to promote mutual understanding and social cooperation.

To learn more about putting together campains, contact

(Photo by Grant Baldwin)