Posts Tagged ‘racial profiling’

News Digest 08/02/13

Friday, August 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

Grassroots groups push better policies in Seattle and San Francisco

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 8:13 am by

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Tuesday, July 23, was an exciting day for grassroots organizers on the west coast fighting against overbroad national security policies that extend to immigration enforcement. Coalitions in San Francisco County and King County (which includes the city of Seattle) both moved forward with legislation that would curtail the participation of local law enforcement in mass deportation.

Local action is particularly important as “immigration reform,” in the form of severe border militarization and increased enforcement, moves through Congress.

In King County, the committee on Law, Justice, Health, and Human Services held its first public meeting on a policy proposed by celebrated civil rights leader King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. The room was packed with supporters of the new policy.

The proposal, based on the language of a policy adopted by Santa Clara County, California in 2010, would limit county compliance with detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to those inmates who have been convicted of violent or serious felony. The hearing made the need for the legislation, and the huge amount of support for it, very clear.

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Ray Kelly nomination to lead DHS? A disaster for We the People

Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 9:44 am by

mobThe primary concern of the Secretary of Homeland Security is the safety of the US, and since the position’s creation, that has largely meant enlisting the country in the “war on terror.”

As Janet Napolitano steps down as Secretary of Homeland Security, President Obama has looked for a new candidate to fill the position. Raymond Kelly, Police Commissioner of New York, has been cited as a possible successor to Napolitano, but his appointment would likely exacerbate the profiling and surveillance of Muslims throughout the country.

A Secretary of Homeland Security should be able to protect this country from true acts of terrorism and harm without eroding the civil liberties of American citizens of any faith, but Kelly’s possible appointment puts this possibility into question.

Raymond Kelly served as police commissioner for the NYPD from 1992 to 1994, and again from 2002 to the present. During his second term, New York City was shaken by the attacks of 9/11, and (speaking from my own observations as a native New Yorker) stricken by a xenophobic, anti-Muslim paranoia.

Kelly fed this paranoia, developing the Demographics Unit of the NYPD (now the target of a constitutional challenge), which was specifically designed to map and track Muslim Americans in the Tri-state area absent any suspicion of wrongdoing. The unit did not notify local law enforcement or elected officials when the surveillance took place outside of New York City, essentially subverting local law by fiat.

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News Digest 07/19/2013

Friday, July 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 07/10/13

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 07/09/13

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

NYC City Council passes historic NYPD reforms

Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm by

photoIn a late night session, the New York City Council passed two historic pieces of legislation that will bring desperately needed reform and accountability to the New York City Police Department.

One bill will substantially broaden protections against profiling by police. The other will appoint a commissioner at an independent agency to oversee the NYPD.

The passage of the bills is important both for the added protection they bring to New Yorkers and because it shows the power of the broad based organizing model employed by the coalition promoting the bill, Communities United for Police Reform. The legislative victory builds on decades of courageous work in the movements for police accountability and racial justice.

Both pieces of legislation passed by 34 or more votes, assuring that if the votes stay the same a threatened veto by Mayor Bloomberg can be overridden by the city council.

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News Digest 06/20/13

Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

Constitution in Crisis::BORDC’s May Newsletter

Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm by

Constitution in Crisis

May 2013, Vol. 12 No. 05

View this newsletter as a webpage: http://www.bordc.org/newsletter/2012/05/


Department of Justice seizes phone records of journalists

BORDC News

Grassroots News

Law and Policy

New Resources and Opportunities

 

‘Boston Strong’: Marching in lockstep with the police state

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm by

This commentary was written by John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. It was originally published on April 22, 2013.

“Of all the tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”—C.S. Lewis

Caught up in the televised drama of a military-style manhunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon explosion, most Americans fail to realize that the world around them has been suddenly and jarringly shifted off its axis, that axis being the U.S. Constitution.

For those like myself who have studied emerging police states, the sight of a city placed under martial law—its citizens under house arrest (officials used the Orwellian phrase “shelter in place” to describe the mandatory lockdown), military-style helicopters equipped with thermal imaging devices buzzing the skies, tanks and armored vehicles on the streets, and snipers perched on rooftops, while thousands of black-garbed police swarmed the streets and SWAT teams carried out house-to-house searches in search of two young and seemingly unlikely bombing suspects—leaves us in a growing state of unease.

Mind you, these are no longer warning signs of a steadily encroaching police state. The police state has arrived.

Equally unnerving is the ease with which Americans welcomed the city-wide lockdown, the routine invasion of their privacy, and the dismantling of every constitutional right intended to serve as a bulwark against government abuses. Watching it unfold, I couldn’t help but think of Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering’s remarks during the Nuremberg trials. As Goering noted:

It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.

As the events in Boston have made clear, it does indeed work the same in every country. The same propaganda and police state tactics that worked for Adolf Hitler 80 years ago continue to be employed with great success in a post-9/11 America.

Whatever the threat to so-called security—whether it’s rumored weapons of mass destruction, school shootings, or alleged acts of terrorism—it doesn’t take much for the American people to march in lockstep with the government’s dictates, even if it means submitting to martial law, having their homes searched, and being stripped of one’s constitutional rights at a moment’s notice.

As journalist Andrew O’Hehir observes in Salon:

In America after 9/11, we made a deal with the devil, or with Dick Cheney, which is much the same thing. We agreed to give up most of our enumerated rights and civil liberties (except for the sacrosanct Second Amendment, of course) in exchange for a lot of hyper-patriotic tough talk, the promise of “security” and the freedom to go on sitting on our asses and consuming whatever the hell we wanted to. Don’t look the other way and tell me that you signed a petition or voted for John Kerry or whatever. The fact is that whatever dignified private opinions you and I may hold, we did not do enough to stop it, and our constitutional rights are now deemed to be partial or provisional rather than absolute, do not necessarily apply to everyone, and can be revoked by the government at any time.

Particularly disheartening is the fact that Americans, consumed with the need for vengeance, seem even less concerned about protecting the rights of others, especially if those “others” happen to be of a different skin color or nationality. The public response to the manhunt, capture and subsequent treatment of brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is merely the latest example of America’s xenophobic mindset, which was also a driving force behind the roundup and detention of hundreds of Arab, South Asian and Muslim men following 9/11, internment camps that housed more than 18,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II, and the arrest and deportation of thousands of “radical” noncitizens during America’s first Red Scare.

Moreover, there has been little outcry over the Obama administration’s decision to deny 19-year-old U.S. citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his due process rights and treat him as an enemy combatant, first off by interrogating him without reading him his Miranda rights (“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”).

Presently, under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule, if law enforcement agents believe a suspect has information that might reduce a substantial threat, they can wait to give the Miranda warning. For years now, however, the Obama administration has been lobbying to see this exception extended to all cases involving so-called terror suspects, including American citizens. Tsarnaev’s case may prove to be the game-changer. Yet as journalist Emily Bazelon points out for Slate: “Why should I care that no one’s reading Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights? When the law gets bent out of shape for him, it’s easier to bend out of shape for the rest of us.”

The U.S. Supreme Court rightly recognized in its 1966 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona that police officers must advise a suspect of his/her civil rights once the suspect has been taken into custody, because the police can and often do take advantage of the fact that most Americans don’t know their rights. There have been few exceptions to the Miranda rule over the last 40 years or so, and with good reason. However, if the Obama administration is allowed to scale back the Miranda rule, especially as it applies to U.S. citizens, it would be yet another dangerous expansion of government power at the expense of citizens’ civil rights.

This continual undermining of the rules that protect civil liberties, not to mention the incessant rush to judgment by politicians, members of the media and the public, will inevitably have far-reaching consequences on a populace that not only remains ignorant about their rights but is inclined to sacrifice their liberties for phantom promises of safety.

Moments after taking Tsarnaev into custody, the Boston Police Dept. tweeted “CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won.” Yet with Tsarnaev and his brother having been charged, tried and convicted by the government, the media and the police—all without ever having stepped foot inside a courtroom—it remains to be seen whether justice has indeed won.

The lesson for the rest of us is this: once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government. Increasingly, those on the left who once hailed Barack Obama as the antidote for restoring the numerous civil liberties that were lost or undermined as a result of Bush-era policies are finding themselves forced to acknowledge that threats to civil liberties are worse under Obama.

Clearly, the outlook for civil liberties under Obama grows bleaker by the day, from his embrace of indefinite detention for U.S. citizens and drone kill lists to warrantless surveillance of phone, email and internet communications, and prosecutions of government whistleblowers. Most recently, capitalizing on the nation’s heightened emotions, confusion and fear, government officials used the Boston Marathon tragedy as a means of extending the reach of the police state, starting with the House of Representatives’ overwhelming passage of the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which opens the door to greater internet surveillance by the government.

These troubling developments are the outward manifestations of an inner, philosophical shift underway in how the government views not only the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but “we the people,” as well. What this reflects is a move away from a government bound by the rule of law to one that seeks total control through the imposition of its own self-serving laws on the populace.

All the while, the American people remain largely oblivious to the looming threats to their freedoms, eager to be persuaded that the government can solve the problems that plague us—whether it be terrorism, an economic depression, an environmental disaster or even a flu epidemic. Yet having bought into the false notion that the government can ensure not only our safety but our happiness and will take care of us from cradle to grave—that is, from daycare centers to nursing homes, we have in actuality allowed ourselves to be bridled and turned into slaves at the bidding of a government that cares little for our freedoms or our happiness.