Archive for the ‘Grassroots Campaigns’ Category

Six years late and too many lives short: Obama & Holder on racial profiling

Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 10:10 am by

Last month’s police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri revealed to many Americans for the first time how unaccountable police have grown. Around the country, local police forces are effectively militarized, widely discriminate against people of color, and suppress democratic dissent despite its constitutional protection.

This week’s announcement of new forthcoming federal guidance by the Justice Department addressing racial profiling — as well as Holder’s decision to leave the Department — are welcome signs. Both, however, come with disturbing implications.

Better late than never

Proposed changes to the Justice’s Department guidance to law enforcement agencies include prohibiting religious profiling, and closing longstanding loopholes allowing blatant profiling in the context of national security and border integrity. These are intelligent choices, not only for the rights at stake, but also for the national security and border integrity interests that profiling also undermines.

The timing, however, is striking. First, why are these changes being implemented on the eve of the Attorney General leaving office? Without being codified in law, the new standards will survive only at the whim of the AG’s successors.

(more…)

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.

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 organizing@bordc.org.

(Photo by Grant Baldwin)

 

After the House watered it down, Sen. Leahy introduces a new US FREEDOM Act.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 7:55 am by

Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation that would restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.

freedom act

The updated version of the USA FREEDOM Act released yesterday builds on legislation passed in the House in May, as well as the original legislation Leahy introduced with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) last October. The legislation bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance authorities, requires the government to narrow the scope of a search to a clearly defined “specific selection term,” adds needed transparency and reporting requirements, and provides key reforms to the FISA Court. In an editorial on Monday, the New York Times wrote “the bill represents a breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power.”

Leahy noted the legislation provides significant reforms of surveillance authorities, while carefully maintaining the role of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and their responsibility to protect national security.

In his floor statement, Leahy said:

“If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act 13 years ago,” Leahy said in a floor statement.  This is an historic opportunity, and I am grateful that the bill has the support of the administration, a wide range of privacy and civil liberties groups, and the technology industry.”

(more…)

Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC July Newsletter

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 6:08 pm by

Constitution in Crisis

July 2014, Vol. 13 No. 07


Journalists reveal government monitoring political activists

Earlier this month, journalists revealed the names of five American targets of the NSA’s surveillance dragnet.  This was the first time that Americans who have never been arrested, or even suspected of terrorist activity, have been individually identified as targets for government monitoring.

Since the story was published, Greenwald has spoken candidly about the reasons for his delay in reporting the names, as well as why it matters. As he explained to Wired magazine, “This is the first time that there’s a human face on who the targets are….I think it’s important for people to judge—are these really terrorists or are these people who seem to be targeted for their political dissidence and their political activism?”



BORDC Analysis

Read the latest news & analysis from the People’s Blog for the Constitution

Have you read BORDC’s blog lately? The People’s Blog for the Constitution features news & analysis beyond the headlines.

Highlights include:


Grassroots News

Grassroots updates

To view campaigns supported by BORDC at a glance, visit our interactive campaign maps for local coalitions addressing surveillance and profiling by local law enforcement, or military detention under the NDAA. To get involved in any of these efforts, please email the BORDC Organizing Team at organizing (at) bordc (dot) org. We’re eager to hear from you and help support your activism!

Highlights include:


BORDC in the News

Activists within BORDC sometimes appear in the news. We make it a point to spread our message through various media, including print, online, radio, and television. Check out what we’ve been up to.

Highlights include:


New Resources & Opportunities

  • BORDC Microgrants offer resources to enable grassroots action
  • Take action! Volunteer, organize, raise your voice—we have an opportunity that’s right for everyone.
  • Read our blog. We publish the latest civil liberties news, plus analysis beyond the headlines.
  • Support our work! Contribute securely online, call (413) 582-0110 to donate by phone, or mail a check or money order to Bill of Rights Defense Committee, 81 Bridge Street, Suite A, Nothampton, MA 01060
  • Follow BORDC on Facebook and TwitterConnect with other supporters and help build the movement.
  • Spread the word! Share this newsletter with your friends and family.

Missouri to vote on protection of digital privacy, but will the Feds respect it?

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 11:45 am by

yes on 9On August 5, Missouri voters will decide in a referendum whether to expand its state constitution’s privacy protections to electronic communications and data. This follows the overwhelming approval of the measure by Missouri’s state legislature, where the state House of Representatives approved it by a vote of 114-28 and the state Senate had only one dissenting vote.

The ballot question, known as Amendment 9, would change the Missouri State Constitution to read:

“Section 15. That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes [and], effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be; nor without probable cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.”

The proposed revision comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision this past June regarding the privacy status of cell phones. In the US Supreme Court decisions in  Riley v. California and US v. Wurie, the court unanimously ruled that police must acquire a warrant to search a person’s cell phone. The cases involved arrested suspects whose cell phones were searched without warrant and the evidence found used against them in prosecution.  Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that “modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life.” (more…)

Restore the Fourth works to strengthen the USA FREEDOM Act

Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 9:00 am by

Restore the Fourth’s Chicago chapter rang in July in a lively fashion. After the House of Representatives watering down the proposed USA FREEDOM Act to resemble “little more than a Trojan horse” languishing in congressional purgatory, privacy advocates reached out to US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to invite him to strengthen the bill’s incarnation in the Senate.

In an email correspondence, organizer John Bumstead said his organization has engaged both Durbin’s office and the media. The group’s efforts focus on eliminating from the proposed legislation its measure extending for an additional two years beyond its present 2015 expiration date the sunset for Section 215 powers  under the Patriot Act.

Restore_the_Fourth_Logo

RT4 Chicago is planning a weekly flyering/postcard campaign in support of a Patriot Act Section 215 sunset pledge, which would formally usher the controversial law out of existence by adhering to the 2015 expiration date. Bumstead says the campaign’s rationale lies in the relative ease of convincing legislators to not vote for something to continue as opposed to sticking their necks out in support of something. He adds the campaign may also switch gears as necessary to focus on other topics, such as killing the USA FREEDOM Act if his group is dissatisfied with the resulting bill.

Chicago residents moved by RT4’s work attended a public meeting on July 3 at Chicago’s CivicLab and are organizing an RT4-wide event in honor of Orwell Day on August 4.

Torture awareness month events organized across the nation

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 6:00 pm by

tortureIn February 1998, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared June 26 to be the International Day of Support for the Victims of Torture. Human rights advocates across the globe join together on this day each year in an effort to raise awareness about inhumane abuse and express solidarity with survivors.

In Los Angeles, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace hosted the Close Guantánamo Justice Luncheon at United University Church, welcoming attorneys Anne Richardson and Michael Rapkin, each of whom represents detainees at the world’s most notorious prison camp. The event brought together people from a variety of religious communities, exposing the realities of American-sponsored torture at home and abroad.

Numerous legal and advocacy organizations in Chicago worked together to lead a town hall meeting on torture at the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. Drawing upon the Convention Against Torture, a legally binding document ratified by the US in 1994, this town hall meeting focused on prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement practices by the Chicago Police Department. In addition to demanding an end to all torture practices throughout the nation, this event called upon the Governor of the State of Illinois to pardon all victims of torture and recognize their right to rehabilitation.

Finally, the fight to end US-sponsored torture and other human rights abuses emerged in our nation’s capital, where the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT)  recognized Syracuse University Law professor David Crane with the 2014 Eclipse Award for his work to fight against impunity for torture. More recently, Crane has played a pivotal role in revealing the injustices perpetrated by the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad. The event also hosted David Luban, a professor at Georgetown University College of Law, and Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador at Large and Director of the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Guided by CVT Executive Director Curt Goering, these distinguished experts discussed principles to fighting impunity, and the challenges that emerge in implementing them.

For more information about how you can join the fight against torture email orgnanizing@bordc.org.

 

Cornel West supports Mothers Against Police Brutality

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 12:24 pm by

policeHundreds flocked to Dallas’s Friendship-West Baptist Church on June 20 as renowned intellectual Dr. Cornel West spoke at a town hall meeting sponsored by Mothers Against Police Brutality (MAPB) . West spoke with passion and candor on the desperate reality of police overstepping their authority and encouraged those in attendance to join the fight against police brutality.

“Dr. West’s message was exhilarating, uplifting, challenging and painfully truthful. His message left seeds of hope and uprooted some deep seedlings of oppression in the Dallas communities,” said MAPB founder Collette Flanagan. “Our sense of responsibility and ownership in our families and community was awakened.” Flanagan says her organization has registered more volunteers than ever before and credited MAPB supporters for “stepping up to the plate.”

MAPB’s next event is a public hearing for families that have lost loved ones to police brutality. The group will be inviting city officials, Dallas Police Chief Brown and local and state politicians. Flanagan feels it’s important for them to see the carnage left behind when unarmed children are killed by policemen and “stolen” from their families. Planning is underway to hold the event in August.

The Emperor’s New Clothes: The naked truth about the American police state.

Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm by

This guest post by John Whitehead was originally published on July 8 by the Rutherford Institute. 

“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself…Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”                                                                                                               —H.L. Mencken, American journalist

It’s vogue, trendy and appropriate to look to dystopian literature as a harbinger of what we’re experiencing at the hands of the government. Certainly, George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm have much to say about government tyranny, corruption, and control, as does Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report. Yet there are also older, simpler, more timeless stories—folk tales and fairy tales—that speak just as powerfully to the follies and foibles in our nature as citizens and rulers alike that give rise to tyrants and dictatorships.

One such tale, Hans Christian Andersen’s fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes, is a perfect paradigm of life today in the fiefdom that is the American police state, only instead of an imperial president spending money wantonly on lavish vacations, entertainment, and questionable government programs aimed at amassing greater power, Andersen presents us with a vain and thoughtless emperor, concerned only with satisfying his own needs at the expense of his people, even when it means taxing them unmercifully, bankrupting his kingdom, and harshly punishing his people for daring to challenge his edicts. (more…)