A United Nations body has issued a damning report blasting the United States for its rampant violations of a major human rights treaty that it ratified in 1992. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) enshrines the rights to life, to vote, and to freedom of expression and assembly; and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It forbids discrimination in the enjoyment of civil and political rights based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status (which includes sexual orientation).
Civil rights groups in the US have warned of a “wave of McCarthyite backlash” against criticism of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza after Americans expressing support for the Palestinians have been sacked, faced threats of violence and hounded by pro-Israel groups. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of the “continued criminalisation of advocacy for Palestinian rights” and described an “increasing tide of anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab attacks in the US” following the Hamas cross-border attack in which about 1,400 Israelis were killed and more than 200 abducted.
If Michael Tomlinson KC, the Solicitor General, hoped that prosecuting Trudi Warner, a 68 year old retired social worker from Walthamstow, East London would deter others from doing the same thing, it’s not going to plan for him. On Monday, 25 September, a matter of days after the announcement of his decision to apply for the committal to prison of Ms Warner, for holding up a sign, more than 250 members of the public are replicating her action outside criminal courts around the country (including in London, Bristol and Manchester) as part of the growing public campaign, Defend Our Juries. Meanwhile many others, including the Climate Psychology Alliance and a Professor of Law have spoken out.
Police have their sights set on every surveillance camera in every business, on every porch, in all the cities and counties of the country. Grocery store trips, walks down the street, and otherwise minding your own business when outside your home could soon come under the ever-present eye of the government. In a quiet but rapid expansion of law enforcement surveillance, U.S. cities are buying and promoting products from Georgia-based company Fusus in order to access on-demand, live video from public and private camera networks. The company sells police a cloud-based platform for creating real-time crime centers and a streamlined way for officers to interface with their various surveillance streams, including predictive policing, gunshot detection, license plate readers, and drones.
The draconian Public Order Act was given royal assent on 2 May, dramatically increasing police powers to arrest protesters. The Home Office has already cited the new Act in threatening letters to anti-monarchists. The campaign group Republic received intimidating letters this week, listing the arrest powers under the new Act. Extinction Rebellion has also received similar threats. In fact, the Guardian reported that one ‘senior’ insider, who knew about the discussions between the police and the government, confirmed that the Act had been brought into force early, ahead of the coronation on 6 May.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), and its Center for Protest Law & Litigation, filed a federal lawsuit against the District of Columbia challenging the Metropolitan Police Department’s “repressive and violent tactics including the authorized indiscriminate use of ‘less lethal’ projectile weapons against peaceful protestors and bystanders, gratuitously and without notice or warning and in order to intentionally retaliate against and inflict pain upon protestors challenging policing in our society.” The lawsuit seeks to end the MPD’s unconstitutional and punitive tactics of indiscriminately deploying less lethal weapons, including maiming projectiles, into crowds of persons engaged in First Amendment protected activities, in particular those challenging racist police violence.
CLDC has been providing movement aligned legal support to the campaigns and activists in the so called U.S. for over 20 years now. In that time period, I have personally witnessed numerous waves of state repression targeting the campaigns that were moving the needle on the moral compass—anti-racism, environmental and animal defense, water and food safety, Indigenous sovereignty, LGBTQIA+, and others. The state, whether government actors or big corporate profiteers, have a limited playbook that they tend to repeat over and over. This is why knowing your movement history is core to building resilience. History has demonstrated that when state repression comes to town it is often because your campaign is winning or demonstrating strength and the state elects to spend vast resources on derailing your momentum.
From the outset, the gutting of Roe by Dobbs is so devastating for, of course, the constitutional reasons, that at one time, Roe codified and really affirmed that abortion was a basic right. Dobbs, in overruling that, overturning that, has laid open states to pick and choose whether they will allow abortion providers and individuals that kind of right. But we’re in a very different moment now in 2022 than we were in the 1970s, and that’s really because of the rise of the digital age. With it, as you mentioned in your opening, is that the Internet is our primary pathway for almost everyone, I think, to information, to healthcare to, you know, telehealth appointments. And so there are these huge questions now about how people will access both just information, and then who is going to have access to that data that we are all of us engaging in and creating a footprint for.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision on Thursday illustrated the extent to which the court has transformed a Reconstruction-era law meant to protect the rights of freed slaves and marginalized Americans into a formidable shield for the most powerful, including police, prosecutors and businesses. The June 23 decision bars lawsuits against police for using evidence obtained without advising people of their rights – the ‘Miranda’ warnings the court mandated nearly 60 years ago that have since become the framework through which most Americans understand their rights against police intrusion.
Vincent Chin was beaten to death in Detroit in June 1982, by two white auto workers who reportedly said it was because of him that they had lost their jobs. At the time, listeners may recall, Japan was being widely blamed for the collapse of the Detroit auto industry. Chin was Chinese-American. Elite media, as reflected by the New York Times, didn’t seem to come around to the story until April 1983, with reporting on the protests emanating from Detroit’s Asian-American community about the dismissive legal response to the murder.
As 2021 comes to a close, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is collaborating closely with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak as they organize collective actions inside prisons and jails from August 21 to September 9, 2022. These actions will include labor strikes, work equipment sabotage, sit-ins, boycotts and hunger strikes. The campaign, called “Shut ‘Em Down 2022,” plans to focus on locally organized actions driven by incarcerated people to meet their abilities and the demands of their specific facilities. IWOC is a committee of the Industrial Workers of the World. “When you’re incarcerated, human rights abuses are happening left and right because the mentality is that you are there as a punishment,” says Courtney Montoya, media liaison for IWOC and Jailhouse Lawyers Speak.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to Michael Smith about civil rights attorney Michael Ratner's recently published memoir, "Moving the Bar – My Life as A Radical Lawyer". Smith was a close friend and collaborator of Ratner's for over three decades. Michael Ratner was one of the most important civil rights attorneys in our era. He spent his life fighting on behalf of those who state and empire sought to crush, from the leaders of the prison uprising at Attica to Muslim prisoners held in Guantanamo, to Julian Assange.
As public defenders, it's been hard to watch the defacement of our federal courts by the Trump administration. From the Supreme Court on down, the country's judicial benches are occupied by fewer people who have fought for compassion over cages. For every public defender on the federal bench, there are four former prosecutors —and the ratio is seven to one if you expand the comparison to lawyers who represented people instead of just lawyers who represented the government. State and federal judicial posts are packed with individuals who have spent their careers defending corporate polluters, protecting big real estate, or filling our jails and prisons, leaving ordinary people looking for the protection of the courts out in the cold.
The Supreme Court just issued a landmark decision penned by Neil Gorsuch, a conservative justice appointed by President Donald J. Trump, deciding that “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.” “Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” the decision reads. “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”