Archive for July 6th, 2012

News Digest 7/6/12

Friday, July 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

“Why would we want to militarize our police force?” Berkeley police won’t get an armored vehicle

Friday, July 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm by

On Thursday, officials from the Berkeley, Albany, and the University of California police departments announced that they are no longer seeking an armored vehicle. Also known as a BearCat, the vehicle would have been paid for by a $200,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). But once the plan to procure this armored personnel carrier (APC) was made public, the decision sparked a public backlash. As I noted last week, there were also grave concerns about police militarization and a lack of accountability for law enforcement. A petition to stop the APC earned over 900 signatures on change.org.

In an interview, George Lippman from the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley (which is advised by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee) praised “community pressure” for cancelling the BearCat. Lippman called for the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) to end its relationship with UASI. He continued:

The Coalition is campaigning to bring Berkeley’s policing in line with its human rights values.  Cancellation of the police request for the armored vehicle is an important win for our campaign.
We also urgently call for a re-evaluation of the department’s relationship with the UC police.  UC cops violently cracked down on peaceful Occupy Cal protesters last fall.  That is not the kind of agency that should have prime responsibility for an armored personnel carrier!

For his part, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates insisted the city reject police militarization:

When we found out about this grant application we sort of went ballistic. I mean, why do we need this here in Berkeley, and why would we want to militarize our police force?

Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore, noted ”In a university setting, it’s not really appropriate” for police to operate an APC. While this is a huge victory, activists are already looking to future organizing. Lippman urged greater citizen engagement:

Now, how about an investigation into how these proposals get cooked up without notification of the public or even the City Council?  And, a campaign to ensure civilian control of the police?

To get more involved in your local community, take action with a grassroots organizing toolkit from the BORDC.

FBI’s no-fly list prevents Muslim-American peace activist from flying home

Friday, July 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm by

A 27-year-old Iranian American was banned from flying home to the United States after learning his name was on the “no-fly list.” Kevin Iraniha had recently graduated from the University of Peace in Costa Rica and was trying to fly back home on June 5. Born in California, Iraniha is a pro-Palestinian, anti-war activist with absolutely no connection to any form of terrorism. Unable to fly home, Iraniha and his father went to the U.S. embassy in Costa Rica for assistance. Once there, the two were relentlessly interrogated for over six hours, primarily about Iraniha’s faith, his time abroad in Muslim nations and Iraniha’s opinions about American foreign policy.

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However, this was not Iraniha’s first encounter with U.S. security officials. In August 2011, an FBI agent visited him after Iraniha returned home from a trip to India, Egypt and Iran. The agent encouraged Iraniha to approach the FBI at any point if he had information regarding terrorist activity that could be useful to them. Although Iraniha’s interaction with the FBI officer was cordial, he was shocked to find his name on the no-fly list that prevented him from flying home.

Iraniha soon learned through the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) that this encounter was a well-known FBI tactic: by placing their names on the no-fly list, the Bureau attempts to intimidate Muslim Americans into becoming FBI informants. Iraniha has yet to receive a clear reason for why his name was on the list. Eventually, Iraniha was forced to fly to Tijuana and cross the border on foot.

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