Archive for June 2012

Thanks, but no tanks: citizens oppose Berkeley police plans for armored vehicle

Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm by

The police departments for Berkeley, Albany, and the University of California system have partnered together to buy an armored personnel carrier (APC). Not quite a tank, the APC is a Lenco Ballistic Engineered Armoured Response Counter Attack Truck, better known as a BearCat.Using grant funding from the Dept. of Homeland Security, UC Berkeley is preparing to buy an armoured vehicle, which it will share with the city. Credit: Gary Dorrington/IPS

If approved, the APC will be paid for by a $200,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). Created in 2003, UASI funds counterterrorism measures in “high-threat, high-density urban areas.” From FY 2003 to 2011, over $6.5 billion was appropriated for UASI. In FY 2012, UASI had funding worth $490 million.

However, David Muhlhausen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has criticized UASI: ”Currently, there appears to be a virtual absence of independent, objective evidence indicating the effectiveness of UASI…Increased spending does not equal increased effectiveness.” Daniel Borgstrom, a former US Marine now active in the Occupy movement, recently urged the Berkeley City Council to reject the APC and police militarization: “I’m asking, please stay out of this urban warfare stuff.”

Meanwhile, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan praised the BearCat, calling it “a defensive resource” necessary to protect officers from being killed. But according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks the deaths of law enforcement officials, no officers from UC Berkeley or Albany have been killed in the line of duty and only two Berkeley police officers have ever been killed by gunfire. The last Berkeley police officer killed in the line of duty was in 1973. Furthermore, as Radley Balko observes at the Huffington Post:

We’re now about halfway through 2012, and this year is on pace to be the safest ever for America’s police officers…Fifty officers have died on duty so far this year, a 44-percent decrease from last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). More remarkably, 17 have died from gunfire, down 55 percent from last year. (21 died in traffic accidents, the remaining 12 in various other incidents.) If the second half of this year follows the first, fewer officers will have died on duty this year than in any year since 1944, a time when there were far, far fewer police officers.

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News Digest 6/29/12

Friday, June 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Thousands Protest Stop-and-Frisk

Friday, June 29, 2012 at 11:33 am by

New York City marked Father’s Day this year in protest, as thousands silently marched down Fifth Avenue. A sign of the growing opposition to Mayor Michael Blooomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy, this march brought awareness to the NYPD’s increasing use of racial profiling. Yet as Bloomberg stands firm in support of the policy, pressure to repeal the action is expected to rise.

First introduced in 2002, stop-and-frisk was designed to lower rates of violent crime and take guns off the streets. Since then, however, the intention has become mired by abuse. 685,724 people were stopped on the street in 2011, of which over 87 percent were black or Latino. Even more jarring, black and Hispanic males between age 14 and 24 made up 41.6 percent of stops, despite only accounting for 4.7 percent of the city’s population. And of these nearly 700,000 stops, only 780 guns were found and less than six percent were arrested.Mayor Michael Bloomberg

While touting claims that stop-and-frisk “saves lives” and has helped make New York the safest big city in the country, Bloomberg continues to resist allegations of racial profiling. Characterizing the problem as an issue of courtesy and respect, Bloomberg detracts from the real issue of discrimination and injustice within the New York Police Department.

Stretching beyond the confines of the city, instances of racial injustice are spiking around the country, prompting attention at a Federal level. Evidenced by the Senate recently holding their first hearing on racial profiling in over a decade; raising hopes for the resurrection of the long contended End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA).

As Bloomberg holds steady in New York and partisanship remains a deterrent in the Senate however, it is unlikely we can expect to see real improvements on these issues in the coming months.

CIA accused of running secret “black site” in Poland

Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 10:40 pm by

According to Polish senator Jozef Pinior, the CIA has ordered the construction of a “cage” to detain prisoners en route to Guantanamo Bay in a secret U.S. “black site” in Poland, where foreign terrorism suspects are tortured and cruelly interrogated. The site is allegedly operated through Stare Kiekuty, a Polish army base located in north-eastern Poland. In an interview with Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, senator Pinior expressed his outrage:

File:CIA.svg

Is this standard for a prison? Yes if it [is] one where torture was used. In a country where there is rule of law, normal prisons do not keep people in cages.

Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leszek Miller, Poland’s president and prime minister, have flatly denied the existence of an American “black site” in Poland. However, there is significant evidence of at least 20 prisoners being flown into the site, including Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashari, who were linked to have been detained and tortured there. Due to these allegations, both Zubaydah and al-Nashari have been granted “victim status” by Polish prosecutors.

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News Digest 6/28/12

Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

U.S. Treasury investigates elected officials and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran

Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm by

Recently, the Department of Treasury has been conducting an investigation of U.S. officials to determine whether or not they accepted payments from a known terrorist organization to make speeches on their behalf.Maryam Rajavi - Mojahedin

Michael Isikoff, a reporter from NBC, states that investigators “are looking to see if these officials took payments from the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a designated terrorist group, and thereby violating federal law barring financial dealings with terrorist groups”. For example, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell reportedly made “as much as $160,000 for making at least seven speeches since July 2011 calling for the MEK to be taken off the terrorist list, and was told the money came from Iranian-American supporters of the MEK.”

There is also some ambiguity behind the MEK as well, also known as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. It says that it is an advocate for overthrowing the Islamic government of Iran, for the citizens, but it has used violent means in the past (including the killing of Americans) to do so. (more…)

COINTELPRO 101, the documentary

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 8:03 pm by

COINTELPRO, which stands for Counter Intelligence Program, was a sequence of covert operations that were created by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the 1960s to illegally spy on, infiltrate, and destroy domestic political organizations in the United States. The documentary COINTELPRO 101 shows a variety of activists’ experiences with the program and covers a general history of the time period in which it occurred. In fact, COINTELPRO’S first targets were Pedro Albizu Campos, the leader of Puerto Rico’s independence movement, and many of the movement’s supporters within the United States. Groups targeted included Native Americans, Chicano communities, the Black liberation movement, an the political left.

In April 1971, a group of antiwar activists broke into what they thought were offices that held draft papers. However, they accidentally broke into a FBI office instead, and this led to what we know about COINTELPRO today. J. Edgar Hoover started COINTELPRO in the 1950s against social movements that would benefit people of color and other minorities. Although this program may seem shocking, this sort of repression has been an American tradition since the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans. COINTELPRO 101 emphasizes that modern measures like the National Defense Authorization Act and the USA PATRIOT Act allow the tradition of repression to continue and even flourish while mocking the rights of every American.

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News Digest 6/27/12

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

 

NYPD department spies on Muslims, gets honored for “exemplary conduct”

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm by

About three months ago, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was found to be spying on Muslims. Police officers conducted surveillance on Muslim Americans in New York and New Jersey while they were praying in mosques, hanging out in coffee shops, or working at their places of business—all under the guise of fighting the “war on terror.”

"Stop NYPD Spying On Muslims"None of the officers involved have been charged with violating the privacy of Americans. Further adding insult to injury, the NYPD is actually honoring its Intelligence Department, which conducted the surveillance. The department is being recognized for “exemplary work in combating terrorism and reducing crime throughout the city.” Is targeting a certain group of people really the most effective way to fight terrorism and reduce crime? Is that not what we did against Japanese Americans?

Fortunately, some Muslims are fighting this discrimination and Islamophobia.  Muslim Advocates, a national Muslim advocacy organization, is suing New York City on the grounds that “individuals may not be singled out for intrusive investigation and pervasive surveillance simply because they profess a certain faith.”

Whether this lawsuit is successful or not, it demonstrates that these citizens are trying to defend their civil rights. Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, says that “this lawsuit is perhaps the most important legal challenge brought to date by American Muslims.”

Plus, Muslim Advocates are not only standing up for American Muslims, but for all those throughout the country who have suffered discrimination. According to Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ):

America is not safer when we spend valuable law enforcement resources on investigating the innocent multitudes rather than identifying the guilty few…This lawsuit is a thoughtful, sensible step toward bringing law enforcement practices back into line with constitutional protections and the standards of good policing.

SCOTUS upholds racial profiling in SB1070 decision

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 11:58 am by

SB1070 Rally @ the White HouseThe Supreme Court of the United States made a decision on Arizona’s infamous immigration enforcement law, SB 1070, this week.  To make a long story short, SCOTUS upheld racial profiling.

The decision made four main points clear:

  1. Police cannot arrest without a warrant.
  2. Being undocumented is not a state crime.
  3. Accepting work as an undocumented person is not illegal.
  4. Police can demand “papers” if they suspect a person is undocumented.

The fourth point, officially known as section 2B, is a decision to uphold racial profiling, because there are no guidelines defining what constitutes suspicion of being undocumented. This policy has only been upheld in relation to the Arizona law, but other states, such as Alabama, have similar laws on the books. Hopefully, other states will see how expensive and unnecessary are programs that promote racial profiling and other civil rights violations. But thankfully, there was more to the Supreme Court’s decision than this terrible news: the Supreme Court struck down three major parts of Arizona immigration law and 287(g) agreements (which deputize local police as immigration enforcement officers) have been suspended.

We cannot allow the institutionalization and legalization of discrimination in America. Congress must consider this when voting on the End Racial Profiling Act and realize that the outcome of that vote should directly reflect this country’s core values: justice, freedom, and equality.

It’s time that we see some of these values in something other than textbooks and postage stamps. We must demand that lawmakers recognize this growing problem in the United States. It’s time to end racial profiling.