Prosecution Of Inauguration-Day Protesters Is A Threat To Dissent

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By Chip Gibbons for The Nation – Late next month, the first mass trial will be held for some of the roughly 200 people facing years—or even decades—in prison after being arrested during an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist protest that took place on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The “J20” cases, as they are known, offer a glimpse at the treatment of dissent in this country, and the story they tell is one of overreach and criminalization. Defense lawyers have described the government’s approach as “unprecedented,” its indictments as “littered with fatal irremediable defects.” Sam Menefee-Libey of the DC Legal Posse, a group of activists who provide support to the defendants, was more blunt, criticizing the cases as “blatant political prosecutions” designed to “chill resistance.” The story of the J20 protesters should frighten anyone concerned about the future of both free assembly and dissent in the United States. The charges—which include felony rioting, inciting or urging others to riot, conspiracy to riot, and property destruction—all stem from the same mass arrest, during which police indiscriminately swept up protesters, journalists, and legal observers. What makes the charges all the more troubling is that prosecutors then failed to allege that the bulk of defendants did anything specifically unlawful; rather, merely being at the protest was a crime.

Ohio State Denies Request To Have Richard Spencer Speak On Campus


By Brandon Carter for The Hill – Ohio State University has denied a request to rent space for prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus, citing public safety concerns in the wake of Spencer’s appearance at the University of Florida earlier this week. “The university has deemed that it is not presently able to accommodate Mr. [Cameron] Padgett’s request to rent space at the university due to substantial risk to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the university,” a lawyer representing Ohio State said in a letter to an attorney representing Spencer’s associates and obtained by The Guardian. Earlier Friday, a lawyer for Spencer said he would file a federal lawsuitagainst the university if it denied a request for Spencer to speak on campus. WOSU reports that Ohio State senior vice president Christopher Culley told Michigan attorney Kyle Bristow last week that the university could not accommodate a request to rent space, but the lawyer held off suing while the school looked into “other alternatives.” Bristow told WOSU he is seeking an injunction to force the school to rent space for Spencer’s speech.

Activists Arrested Where Nuns Are Protesting A Pennsylvania Pipeline


By Julie Zauzmer for The Washington Post – In a dramatic showdown in a cornfield, owned by Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, 23 people stood holding hands and singing hymns until they were arrested and charged with defiant trespassing. “I feel really frustrated with our courts and our government,” Barbara Vanhorn, a local resident who came to the nuns’ cornfield to join the protest, said to NPR. The oldest of the 23 people arrested at 86, Vanhorn said she worries that the natural gas pipeline, which will carry the products of fracking in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale formation, will damage the environment. “They’re giving in to these big, paying, lying companies that are trying to destroy not only our country but the world.” According to the local Fox News station, 11 of the protesters who were arrested are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. NBC News reported that one protester, who suffered an apparent panic attack after his hands were zip-tied behind his back for more than an hour, was taken to a hospital. Most of the people arrested were local residents; one traveled from Massachusetts and another from West Virginia to join the protest. Mark Clutterbuck, who leads the group Lancaster Against Pipelines, said that almost 100 people participated in the demonstration. The nuns, most of whom are in their 80s and 90s, did not protest but did hold a prayer vigil in support. The sisters argue that allowing a fossil fuel pipeline on their land goes against the land ethic that members of their order sign, vowing to protect the earth.

Police Reportedly Claim A Brooklyn Teen Consented To Sex In Custody


By Natasha Lennard for The Intercept – ON SEPTEMBER 28, attorney Michael David filed notice of a claim against the New York Police Department, the City of New York, and two unnamed police officers, referred to as John and Jim Doe. These plainclothes cops, alleged the claim, “brutally sexually assaulted and raped” his 18-year-old female client. David told me that within a day, he needed to amend the claim: The officers had been identified by police in the press as Brooklyn South narcotics detectives Richard Hall and Edward Martins. “What was strange,” said David, “was that within only two or three hours of me filing, there was a story leaked to the New York Post saying that the detectives were claiming that the sex they had with my client in custody was consensual. They hadn’t even been named yet.” The attorney told me that he believes “the police were trying to get ahead of the story.” At a time of elevated public awareness about police violence and sexual assault, these detectives’ apparent defensive tack raises troubling questions about the way cops approach these national plagues. Let us be clear: Someone in police custody cannot give consent, in any meaningful sense of the word, to the officer holding them. Someone in police custody cannot give consent, in any meaningful sense of the word, to the officer holding them.

Solidarity In Action: Puerto Rico Relief Efforts Underway In New York

A woman holds a black Puerto Rican flag during a rally in Union Square this October. Credit: Dean Patterson.

By Leninz Nadal for The Indypendent – I grew up in the Lower East Side as a Nuyorican, and this has been a really emotional experience. My extended family lives in the municipalities of Loíza and Carolina in the northeast of Puerto Rico. They do not have power. We spent a lot of time trying to find them. It’s hard to know that my family is in this urgent, desperate situation, and at the same time, I also feel disconnected. There is a lot of guilt and feeling like we can never really do enough. The Trump administration’s mistreatment and lack of knowledge is infuriating. It is so callous. I’ve been really inspired by the Nuyorican and Puerto Rican diaspora coming together. It makes me hopeful that we have a strong resilient foundation. We had a healing space at UPROSE where a lot of people came and were able to grieve and also plan our next steps together. We communicate regularly with folks on the island and are organizing to send sustainable supplies. The groups we are working with are asking about bicycles, quality soil, non-GMO seeds, water supplies and solar panels so Puerto Rico can move toward economic sovereignty. On Oct. 11 we held a rally at Union Square as a part of a national day of action for a just recovery. The following day we sent supplies down with bikes and generators. What we really want is a just recovery for Puerto Rico. We don’t want investment capitalists to further a plan that prioritizes their corporate interests. We want the communities that have been directly affected to determine what needs to be done for Puerto Rico.

Tearing Down Monuments Of Oppression Is First Step To Decolonization


By Ashoka Jegroo for Truthout – One of the most inspiring and audacious direct actions against a racist statue recently was in August in Durham, North Carolina. A group of more than 100 activists from leftist and anti-capitalist groups, such as the Workers World Party and the Industrial Workers of the World physically tore down the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse while chanting “No cops! No KKK! No fascist USA!” Multiple activists were later arrested and charged with felonies for tearing down the statue, the first of whom was 22-year-old student Takiyah Thompson. “I think it’s important to think about the position of the Confederate statue in front of the old courthouse,” Thompson told Truthout. “Even though that courthouse is no longer in use, it’s still a government building, and the fact that it’s on the courthouse steps makes a very clear statement to Black people, and people of color more generally, about what kind of justice they’re going to receive when they enter that courtroom. People are talking about tearing down history, but it’s not history. Not when the legacy is still very much alive.” Thompson said that the action started as a response to an uninspiring post-Charlottesville vigil organized by the liberal, pro-Democratic Party group IndivisiblesNC on August 13.

Millions Of Americans May Need Passport To Board Domestic Flights In 2018

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By Carey Wedler for Anti-Media – Come January 22, all states are required to be in compliance with the Real ID Act unless they have received extensions. DHS is currently reviewing extension requests from states like California, New York, and New Jersey. So far, 25 states are compliant with the act. According to the TSA, states that are not yet compliant “will have a grace period until January 22, 2018, meaning that Federal agencies (including TSA) will continue to accept driver’s license and identification cards issued by these states in accordance with each agency’s policies.” After that, travelers in states that have not yet met the requirements may be required to show their passports for interstate travel. DHS says that “Starting January 22, 2018, travelers who do not have a license from a compliant state or a state that has been granted an extension (a complete list of non-compliant states/ territories can be found here) will be asked to provide alternate acceptable identification. If the traveler cannot provide an acceptable form of identification, they will not be permitted through the security checkpoint.” By October 1, 2020, “every traveler will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel.”

Portuguese Children To Sue European Govs Over Climate Change

By Staff of The Herald – Seven children are to sue European governments in a landmark lawsuit over the impact that climate change is having on their lives. The Portuguese youngsters, some from the Leiria region which has been devastated by wildfires twice this year, are seeking a ruling to force 47 countries to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions. And they want the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to order nations to keep remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground. One of the children spearheading the unprecedented case is 18-year-old Claudia from the Leiria district, who said older generations have a responsibility to stop releasing dangerous pollution. “What worries me the most about climate change is the rise in temperatures, which has contributed to the number of fires taking place in our country,” she said. Claudia said she is taking the case “for the children and for the future generations who are not responsible for the current state of the environment”. Three days of national mourning are being held in Portugal after scores of people died as deadly forest fires twice hit the country this year. Outbreaks in June claimed 64 lives and another 41 are believed to have been killed in the last week after winds associated with Storm Ophelia fanned flames sparked in drought-like conditions.

Texas City Declares No Harvey Relief Unless Applicants Promise Not To Boycott Israel


By Emma Fiala for Mint Press News – DICKINSON, TX — The town of Dickinson, Texas is home to just over 20,000 people, an annual crawfish festival, and one of the most absurd requirements for disaster relief imaginable. The town recently made non-support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign a condition for receiving hurricane aid. How can a small town like Dickinson put forth such a gratuitous disaster relief requirement? In this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — Dickinson is simply following in the footsteps of the entire state of Texas. Recently, Texas banned any contractor who supports the BDS campaign from receiving state funds. In the opinion of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies. Despite the head-scratching nature of that claim, at least to many critics in- and out-of-state, House Bill 89 was signed into law in July. The bill specifies that the state may enter into a contract with a business only if that business does not boycott Israel. The bill also takes the extra step of specifying that businesses must “not boycott Israel during the term of the contract” either. The legislation also prohibits the state from entering into a contract with a business that refuses to buy products made in Israeli settlements — settlements that are illegally located on Palestinian land.

Catalans Are Protesting Against Banks That Have Moved Their HQ

By James Bissell for The Nation – Bank customers in Catalonia are withdrawing symbolic amounts of money from financial institutions that have moved their official headquarters to other locations in Spain amid a political crisis over the region’s independence bid. Pro-independence umbrella group Crida Democracia called on consumers late on Thursday to put pressure on banks that made the decision. By Friday morning, dozens of people were lining up at a CaixaBank branch in central Barcelona, most of them withdrawing 150 or 160 euros from ATMs. The amounts were closest to 155, in reference to the Spanish constitutional article with which the central government plans to revoke some of Catalonia’s autonomous powers to prevent regional politicians from pushing ahead with secession. CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, the largest Catalan lenders, are among hundreds of financial institutions and businesses that have moved their official registration out of Catalonia. “These banks are traitors,” said Oriol Mauri, 35, owner of a children’s game business in central Barcelona. “They need to see that it’s lots of us who are angry.” Mauri, who withdrew 150 euros because the ATM would not allow him to take out 155, said he was not worried about businesses fleeing Catalonia. “I’m not afraid of economic repercussions,” he said. “Our power as consumers is perhaps the only way to influence and have our voice heard in Europe.”

Univ. Of Florida Drowns Out White Supremacist


By Alex Harris and Martin Vassalo for the Miami Herald. When prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer came to the University of Florida on Thursday, incidents of violence were limited because of a $600,000 police presence from across the state. What conflict did occur — pepper spraying, punching, chasing — was largely instigated by anti-fascist protesters. There were five minor injuries and two arrests — one for a Gainesville man charged with resisting arrest without violence and the other for a media member’s security guard found with a pistol and a knife. Supporters of the alt-right firebrand were largely outnumbered, as hundreds of protesters flooded the street outside the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where Spencer spoke.

Challenge To AIM Pipeline Approval Goes To DC Circuit Court


By Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion. Washington, D.C.- Two and half years after asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reverse its decision to permit construction of the “Algonquin” Pipeline Expansion, residents are finally getting their day in court. Ellen Weininger from Westchester County, New York made the trip to DC Circuit Court for oral arguments Thursday. “From its inception Spectra’s massive Algonquin pipeline expansion violated federal law to avoid a full review of its cumulative impacts. While the courts finally hear oral arguments on the case today in D.C., tens of millions of people in New York and across New England, living and working in the pipeline’s path, continue to remain in harm’s way.”

University Of Chicago Grad Students, Told Their Labor Isn’t Work, Vote On Union

Graduate students at the University of Chicago begin voting on their union election October 17 (Graduate Students Union via Facebook)

By Daniel Moattar for In These Times – In 2016, in response to a petition by graduate students at Columbia University, the NLRB ruled that graduate instructors at private institutions could unionize, certifying that students can be classified as workers. The ruling set off a wave of union elections at private institutions, including the University of Chicago, where grad students filed for recognition this spring. UChicago’s administration challenged the filing, arguing that while some grad students are workers, its students are not. UChicago insisted it wasn’t attacking the standard set by the 2016 Columbia ruling. Columbia’s students instructors, it conceded, worked when they taught, whereas UChicago’s didn’t. According to the UChicago administration, its grad students, unlike Columbia’s, didn’t provide any financial benefit to the university through their teaching, tutoring, grading or research. The university’s administration had to make provocative claims in support of this argument. First, it maintained that the entire university is run primarily for graduate students’ benefit. Quality undergraduate education, officials testified, was a “second goal.” UChicago was also forced to argue that no grad student labor—including teaching entire courses—had a benefit to the university more important than the experience it provided grad students. Professors with administrative positions and funded chairs testified that grad-student graders made grading more difficult and research assistants slowed down their research.

How These Librarians Are Changing How We Think About Digital Privacy


By Eoin O’Carroll for The Christian Science Monitor – In August, New York University and the Library Freedom Project – an organization that trains librarians on using privacy tools to protect intellectual freedom – received a $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency. Its purpose: to train librarians to implement secure protocols on their own web services, and to teach members of the community to evade the prying eyes of governments, corporations, and criminal hackers. According to the Library Freedom Project’s website, the group aims to create what it calls “a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the communities they serve.” As society’s sole public space dedicated to collecting and sharing information, public libraries have long been a flashpoint for conflicts over censorship, surveillance, and secrecy. The digital age has accelerated these conflicts, placing librarians squarely between the government’s and corporations’ desire to pursue their interests and the public’s desire to learn how to seek information in private. “Libraries teaching this stuff can really have a big effect on getting them into wider adoption,” says Alison Macrina, the project’s founder and director. “There are a lot of libraries. They reach a lot of people. They are a place where a lot of people already get introduced to new technologies.”

Even A Modest Basic Income Could Improve Economic Security

Amanda / Flickr

By James King for Peoples Policy Project – The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) – a cash payment made to every person in the country with no strings attached – is becoming increasingly popular in experimental policy circles. Most proposals for a universal basic income are “complete” UBI proposals: payments large enough to guarantee a minimum standard of living to every person independent of work. In the US, that would be roughly $12,000 per person based on the poverty line. However, it is more likely that any universal cash payment passed in the US would be more modest to begin with, e.g. a low UBI of a few hundred dollars a month. As UBI advocates continue to advance their policy objectives, it is imperative to make the case that any UBI, even a small one, has significant benefits. In 2016, the Federal Reserve reported that nearly half of all Americans would not be able to cover a $400 emergency expense without either borrowing money or selling valuables. Although the financial status of Americans has been improving since the Great Recession, the majority of Americans earning less than $30,000 a year still worry about paying their bills every month and maintaining their standard of living. Money may not buy happiness, but even a partial UBI could help buy Americans peace of mind and provide many Americans an avenue to save money for emergencies. Opponents of a UBI might claim that such a low UBI would just get absorbed into each family’s normal consumption level and thus not improve their overall financial security.