Archive for the ‘Action Alerts’ Category

USA FREEDOM Act doesn’t do enough: should it be passed?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 8:35 am by

“Some members of Congress have recently suggested that NSA [Nation Security Agency] reform could undermine national security and hamper our nation’s efforts targeting violent extremist networks. These concerns are entirely misplaced.”

cu4ogThis language, from a letter drafted by a coalition of civil rights organizations, including the BORDC, is just the beginning of a debate around the USA FREEDOM Act. Two letters have recently gone out about the act. Each letter poses a very differing opinion than the other.  One letter states that since the FREEDOM Act doesn’t even begin to adequately address the serious issues of privacy and surveillance in the U.S., it shouldn’t be passed, especially since it would reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act for an additional 2.5 years.  The other letter also points out the inefficiency of the FREEDOM Act, but instead suggests, that even though it isn’t a perfect start, it is still a start in fighting for privacy of U.S. citizens. (more…)

We told Congress to enact real surveillance reform. Who’s with us?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 10:45 am by

ReaganToday, dozens of grassroots advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum urged Congress to enact substantial reforms to surveillance authorities. The coalition supports the proposed USA FREEDOM Act while emphasizing the need to impose in the next congressional session further limits on surveillance practices beyond those currently under consideration in Congress.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) sent a letter to Congress on behalf of dozens of grassroots advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum, comprising a diverse array of organizations representing millions of Americans from every region of the country. The letter explains that while the USA FREEDOM Act will be a step in the right direction, it does not go nearly far enough to protect fundamental constitutional rights.

[UPDATE: The letter was covered, and quoted at some length, by media outlets including the Hill.]

If you’re concerned about mass surveillance, read it to inform what you might request your Senators to do once they return to Washington for the lame duck session next month.

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Stop LAPD Spying Coalition supports AB 1327 veto for different reasons than Governor Brown

Friday, October 3, 2014 at 10:00 am by
drone free LAThe Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and its partners in the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! Campaign support Governor Brown’s veto of AB 1327- The Drone Privacy Protection Act of 2014, for significantly different reasons than Governor Brown.  In vetoing AB 1327 on September 28th, Governor Brown stated “the measure appeared to impose restrictions on law enforcement that went far beyond federal and state constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to privacy.”

On August 21st, the Coalition along with its community partners launched the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! Campaign.  Later at a press conference on September 15th, the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! Campaign called upon the governor to veto AB 1327 because Drones signify a giant step forward in the militarization of local law enforcement that is normalizing continued surveillance and violations of human rights of our communities.  AB 1327, while masked under the guise of police seeking warrants to use drones, essentially authorized and legitimized their use under myriad of situations and loopholes that would allow the use of Drones for collection of information and surveillance.

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69% of Americans want to read the full Torture Report

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm by

torture report-02The long awaited and highly anticipated Senate Intelligence Committee Torture Report remains classified, and the subject of an ongoing battle between the Senate and CIA over how much of it to declassify to the public.

The Constitution Project commissioned a poll, administered Public Policy Polling, to find out exactly how Americans feel about the Torture Report. The poll finds that Americans overwhelmingly agree that the torture report should be made public, that it is important to establish whether or not the CIA’s interrogation methods after 9/11 were effective or more harsh than previously reported, and that CIA Director John Brennan should resign following revelations that the CIA hacked into Senate computers.

Today, the polling memo and the full survey results were released, yielding some powerful reflections of grassroots consensus supporting the full release of the torture report:

  •  69% of Americans believe a declassified version of the Senate Intelligence Committee report should be released to the public.
  • 60% of Americans believe that the CIA hacking incident violates our system of checks and balances and merits further investigation.
  • 54% of Americans believe that the CIA director should resign since it has been established that the CIA hacked into Senate computers.
  • 52% of Americans believe it is important to establish whether it is true that the CIA’s interrogations were “far more harsh” and less effective than has been previously reported.

The results are in and the country  has spoken. Please help us spread the word.

3 ways to celebrate Constitution Day

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 8:35 am by

constitution day

Today is Constitution Day. On September 17, 1787, our Founding Fathers ratified our Constitution, which provided for life, liberty, freedom, and prosperity. When you donate to BORDC, you are supporting those Constitutional rights we hold so dear.

Want to celebrate Constitution Day this year?  Here are three ways how:

1. Urge the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act.

This past month has brought this nation a lot of turmoil. Shootings of young people of color have become commonplace. Rather than investigate these tragedies, local police agencies have further violated the rights of communities that organize peacefully to raise their concerns, compounding abuses of the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments with First Amendment violations.

Write to Congress and let them know that equal protection is important. BORDC has been working on this issue for years, and we need your help.

2. Stop the NSA from spying on us.

It seems as though we are repeating the early days of the Bush administration. Fear mongering is rampant. The NSA continues to spy on you, and your family, invading your privacy and undermining your freedom of thought. The CIA is undermining human rights principles that have stood since we established them 50 years ago. More than ever, our country needs grassroots activism.  More than ever, we need support from people like you. You can also help out by signing this letter to Congress to express your concerns.

3. Start a local campaign.

BORDC is happy to work with you to help you start your own local campaign. Are you concerned about the state of your constitutional rights? Do you want to recruit friends & neighbors to join in the fight? You can get started by using our Grassroots Toolkit to start a campaign of your own. And also remember that donating to BORDC helps us help others.

538 people killed by tasers

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm by

The militarization of our country’s police force has become a much-talked-about and controversial topic over the last several weeks. With officers shooting our citizens and residents, many may be wondering whether taser use may be a more effective way for police to restrain combative individuals without taking lives.

Indeed, using a taser to immobilize an adult seems like a good idea when you consider the alternative would be to pull out your gun and kill the guy. But it’s important to know the facts: As of April 2013, there have been 538 taser-related deaths in the United States since 2001.  Some of those killed were children.

Truth Not Tasers and Electronic Village have been compiling a list of North Americans who died after they were tasered since 2001 and the statistics are staggering. More than 790 people have died since 1984 as a result of being tasered, and 530 of those deaths have occurred just since 2001.

Additionally, it seems that taser use is targeted at both racial minorities and people with mental illness.  The video above involves a case of an 11-year-old girl with autism who was found naked, walking beside a highway.  Though an eyewitness described the girl as calm, the police officer who appeared on the scene tazed her. This is merely one example of the possible problems with tazing.

BORDC is aware of the concerns regarding tasers and is taking action and reaching out. In Berkeley, California, police are asking the City Council for tasers.  The City Council wants a study. The Coalition for TASER Free Berkeley is convening a diverse panel to discuss their experience with tasers to help Berkeley make an informed decision. Tomorrow, BORDC’s Executive director will be part of a panel discussion regarding  taser effects on various communities, people with mental illness, previous cities’ experience with tasers, and how taser use would be monitored and police officers held accountable.

If you are in the Berkeley area, please join the discussion at 1939 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA 94704 at 7 p.m.

Other panelists will include:

  • Aram James, Activist and former Public Defender in Palo Al
  • Barbara Ann White, Berkeley NAACP representative and Berkeley Mental Health
  • James Chanin. Founding member of the Police Review Commission and Civil Rights lawyer
  • Jeremy Miller, Program Director, Idriss Stelley Foundation, Co-organizer of the successful campaign to stop San Francisco from getting TASERs

This event is free, open to the public, and is wheelchair accessible.

Police are trained to shoot to kill

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 5:46 pm by

shoottokillInformation released yesterday indicates that Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown, suffered facial fractures as a result of a struggle the two had. But does this struggle–which caused Wilson to suffer an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket”–warrant gunshots?

Witnesses have come forward to corroborate Wilson’s version of events. It is difficult to believe that a struggle with police (even one in which a police is punched in the face) warrants gunshots.  Indeed, nearly all police SOPs require that an officer be able to show that the response was “proportionate” to the offense. While these guidelines do not ban the use of tactics that may kill, they at least set the standard for proportionality.  Police officers are trained in how to restrain suspects, even when those suspects are attacking them. So why the gunshots?  Why the killing?

The truth is that police are trained to shoot to kill. This guide states that deadly force is justified “to protect the officer or others from what is reasonably believed to be a threat of death or serious bodily harm; and to prevent the escape of a fleeing violent felon who the officer has probable cause to believe will pose a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

Regardless of the facts of Michael Brown’s case, it is clear that police training and protocols must be reexamined.  Police officers should not have the power and authority to kill people.  To learn more about how you can help, contact BORDC at info@bordc.org.

 

Yet another black man is killed in Missouri

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 10:44 am by

After 11 days of protests after the police murder of Michael Brown, people are still in the streets.  Now they have another reason: A police officer shot and killed another black man, 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, this time in St. Louis City–fewer than three miles from the unrest in Ferguson. Right after noon yesterday, police say a man with a knife charged officers. Police are still trying to determine what happened and keep the peace.

A crowd former shortly after the 12:20 p, shooting, carrying signs and protesting. “Hands up! Don’t shoot! Hands up! Don’t shoot!” they chanted. According to police, Powell shoplifted energy drinks from a local market.  The second time he did this, police were called to the scene.  When police arrived, they say Powell charged the officers with a knife once.  The second time he charged, they say, they opened fire.

Witnesses on the scene gave reports. One witness said, “The store owner and the alderwoman said the suspect was armed with a knife, acting erratically, pacing back and forth in the street talking to himself.” Another witness reported Powell saying, “Kill me.” (more…)

Activists speak out against police militarization

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 8:00 am by
copmorph
Vernellia Randall is author of Dying While Black, a book about living in our nation’s racist society. In discussing the events in Ferguson, MO regarding the murder-by-police of Mike Brown, Vernellia said:

“This isn’t about one boy being killed or about one town. It’s about the lives of all African Americans. What’s surprising to me is that there isn’t more protest and outrage. Just recently, in the town where I live, a black man, John Crawford, picked up a toy gun in Wal-Mart and he got killed by a policeman–even though this is an open carry state.”

BORDC’s Executive Director agreed, and spoke directly to the militarization of US police departments:

“The only thing more disturbing than the use of military tactics and weapons to suppress dissent in violation of constitutional rights is the use of US taxpayer dollars to pioneer those abuses in foreign countries used as laboratories for policing tactics. From automatic license plate scanners to shot spotter audio listening devices, surveillance drones to tear gas and SWAT teams, local policing has emerged as a part of the military industrial racket. But while the trend remains disturbing nationally, communities across the country have taken action to prevent and roll back the militarization of their police forces.”

Since the protests in Ferguson began, the public is becoming more aware of the programs that exist to give police departments military weaponry.  Once such program, 1033, has been in existence since the 1970s. Michael Shank, associate director for legislative affairs at Friends Committee on National Legislation, just co-wrote The New York Times op-ed Get the Military Off of Main Street. In it, he said:

“Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. … To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union.”
For information about what you can do to stop police militarization, contact us. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Turning cops into soldiers in the wake of Mike Brown’s murder

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 8:55 am by

ferguson-policeA week after Mike Brown was shot, people are still taking to the streets.  After a week of protests, the governor of Missouri announced yesterday that an overnight curfew had been helpful to maintain the peace in Ferguson.  Yet police fired smoke grenades and tear gas into crowds despite the fact that Captain Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and commander in charge of overseeing activity and security in Ferguson, that such drastic measures would not be taken to enforce the curfew.

For the past week, residents of Ferguson have come into conflict with very heavily armed police officers.  How well armed is the suburban Ferguson P.D.?   How heavy are their military assault vehicles that  poured gas on a burning protest? And how did this happen?

Since the early 1990s, state and local police departments obtain some of their military-style equipment through a free Defense Department program. While the portion of their gear that comes from the program is relatively small (most of it is paid for by the departments or through federal grants), detailed data from the Pentagon illustrates how ubiquitous such equipment has become.

The militarization of our country’s police forces is not new. The recent events following the murder of Mike Brown has highlighted how important it is that we end this practice and stop making soldiers of our police forces.