The United States government and internet “watchdog” NewsGuard Technologies, Inc. were sued today in federal court in Manhattan for First Amendment violations and defamation by news organization Consortium for Independent Journalism, a nonprofit that publishes Consortium News. Consortium News‘s court filing charges the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, an element of the Intelligence Community, with contracting with NewsGuard to identify, report and abridge the speech of American media organizations that dissent from U.S. official positions on foreign policy.
Tampa, Florida – Defense attorneys representing three US citizens accused of operating a Russia-directed “malign influence campaign” to “sow discord” in the United States urged Federal Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli to dismiss the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) case against their clients this September 28, arguing their continued prosecution threatens to “blow a hole in the 1st Amendment.” “This is a very dangerous case. I have not seen anything like it in 25 years of practicing law. The government is trying to put three of its critics in jail for making political speeches, organizing peaceable rallies and publishing political articles,” Leonard Goodman, an attorney representing one of the defendants, commented to The Grayzone outside the US district courthouse in Tampa, Florida.
Below is a solidarity statement from the US Peace Council. The USPC and Popular Resistance recently joined the Hands Off Uhuru Fightback Coalition. You can show your support by signing the petition above, asking any organization you are involved in to join the coalition and mobilizing for the November 4 Black is Back March on the White House in Washington, DC to demand the charges against the Uhuru 3 are dropped. For more information, listen to this recent Clearing the FOG interview with Chairman Omali Yeshitela, one of the Uhuru 3. He provides important background on the FBI raids and subsequent indictments against them.
Bartow County, GA — Over 7 weeks after they were arrested while distributing fliers in a small suburb of Atlanta, Charley Tennenbaum continues to be held in the Bartow County Jail for actions they say are protected by the First Amendment. On April 28, Charley and two other individuals were arrested in the city of White, Georgia and slapped with felony charges for distributing fliers containing information about Jonathan Salcedo, a Georgia State Patrol trooper who has been linked to the killing of Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Esteban Paez Terán. Tortuguita was killed by police during a raid on the Weelaunee Forest on January 18.
On June 14, the DC Court of Appeals will hear arguments around internationally-recognized housing advocate Cheri Honkala’s appeal of a misdemeanor conviction for seeking an audience in 2018 with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson. The case could set an important precedent on the First Amendment right of the people to petition their government for assistance without fear of punishment for doing so, a right that extends back to the 1215 Magna Carta. Watch the hearing live on the court’s YouTube channel: bit.ly/cheritrial. For decades, Cheri Honkala has been a fearless defender of people’s right to have housing.
Southeast Dekalb County, Georgia—Belkis Terán raised her arms wide to welcome the rain now pounding hard over the newly thatched pavilion in the parking lot of the “Weelaunee People’s Park,” a space once known to residents of Atlanta and Southeast DeKalb County as Intrenchment Creek Park. Long before settlers dubbed the South branch of the Ocmulgee River here as simply the “South River,” the Mvskoke tribe, who were forcibly relocated from this area to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, called the river Weelaunee, the tribal word for “green/brown/yellow water.”
Speaking as a historian, I believe that the work of UFF-UF officers, delegates, volunteers, and allies during the global pandemic will be remembered as among the finest moments of unionism this nation has ever witnessed. Under duress and constantly bullying by forces outside of our campus, we continued to grow as a union. We also continued to support a plethora of causes that the membership believes are essential to sustaining a democratic society. I believe that UFF’s consistent and public support of academic freedom was a factor in the federal court’s preliminary injunction against UF’s repressive speech policies in January. Our struggles are far from finished. Members of the Florida State Legislature continued their assault on the First Amendment by passing House Bill 7, the so-called “Stop Woke Act.”
Defending Rights & Dissent (DRAD) is a national civil liberties organization founded in 1960 and based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to strengthen our participatory democracy by protecting the right to political expression. The right to free speech faces enumerable threats, but we have long identified FBI counterterrorism authorities as a significant detriment to the First Amendment. In 2019, we published a report, Still Spying: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse, documenting FBI abuses of First Amendment rights since 2010. The overwhelming majority of abuses documented were carried out pursuant to counterterrorism authorities. More often than not, these were related to domestic terrorism, not international terrorism.
Tiffany Crutcher was worried. Oklahoma lawmakers had passed a new measure stiffening penalties for protesters who block roadways and granting immunity to drivers who unintentionally hit them. The state NAACP, saying the law was passed in response to racial justice demonstrations and could chill the exercising of First Amendment rights, filed a federal lawsuit challenging portions of it. But the new law was only weeks from taking effect. Crutcher, an advocate for police reform and racial justice, was moderating a virtual town hall about it, featuring panelists who brought the lawsuit. At the end, she asked a question that went directly to the stakes. Under the new law, “is it safe for the citizens of Oklahoma to go and do a protest?” The three men on the panel were silent.
This June, a dangerously low-flying helicopter operated by the Department of Homeland Security descended on the largest civil disobedience action yet against the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. In an attempt to disperse the crowd, hundreds of demonstrators were pummeled with debris — and misdemeanor trespassing charges. If Minnesota Republican House Members Shane Mekeland and Eric Lucero had their way, demonstrators and anyone involved in the organizing process would have been hit with serious felony charges, a $5,000 fine, and liability for any damages incurred by the multibillion-dollar company Enbridge. Mekeland and Lucero, who introduced these measures in a bill in late February, aren’t alone in their repressive ambitions.
Minneapolis, MN – Three months after six hundred forty-six people were mass arrested on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis, calls to drop the charges are continuing. A February 5 rally at the Hennepin County Government Center demanded specifically that a felony charge on college student Amina McCaskill be dropped, along with the charges and citations given to the other 645. Dozens braved single-digit temperatures for the Friday rally that featured Amina and numerous speakers that were also part of the 646. Unicorn Riot live streamed the rally and spoke with Amina afterwards. Civil rights lawyer, Nekima Levy Armstrong, expressed outrage that Amina is facing “worse charges than most of these cops out here in the street” that are doing harm to the community.
Seattle's police department is investigating two of its officers after finding out they were in Washington, DC, as public and private employees face scrutiny for partaking in the pro-Trump rally-turned-riot at the US Capitol. “The department fully supports all lawful expressions of First Amendment freedom of speech, but the violent mob and events that unfolded at the US Capitol were unlawful and resulted in the death of another police officer,”Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said on Friday night in astatement. The two officers were placed on administrative leave during the investigation. Any officers who were “directly involved” in the "insurrection"at the Capitol will be fired right away, Diaz said.
Saint Paul, MN – Charges against an Illinois man facing federal felonies from this summer’s uprising in Minneapolis showcase the tactics, techniques and procedures applied by the U.S. government against some of the more enthusiastic participants in the George Floyd rebellion. Repressive responses by the federal government to anti-police protests illustrate the ease with which they can charge and indict people who document their own activities on social media. The case also shows how federal agencies are using their deep access to both physical and technical surveillance to nab targets associated with George Floyd protests.
Three organizers from the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) – Lillian House, Eliza Lucero and Joel Northam – who were arrested on trumped up charges in connection with anti-racist protests in the US State of Colorado were released on Thursday, September 24. They were arrested last Thursday in Denver and spent a week in jail in unsafe and inhumane conditions and were denied their right to due process. One of their fellow organizers, Russel Ruch, was released earlier. On Thursday, the judiciary in Colorado set the bonds of the three activists which once paid means that they can no longer be held in preventive detention.
It is immaterial whether one considers Julian Assange to be a reporter because he was engaged in "journalistic activity" when obtaining and publishing classified US documents, the director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation told the court on day three of the WikiLeaks publisher's extradition hearing. The US indictment against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange represents an "unconstitutional" threat to the First Amendment of the United States constitution and to press freedom more generally, Professor Trevor Timm told the Old Bailey on Wednesday.