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Houston’s Fight To Decriminalize Mental Illness And Homelessness

While Harris County is spending millions of dollars on mental health services and service-providing agencies to reduce the number of mentally ill people entering its county jails, activists on the ground are tackling the problem from another angle—by providing direct support to the county’s homeless population. “We don’t have the best safety nets in Texas, and from the mental health standpoint, there really aren’t the mental health services available that people need,” Catherine Villarreal, director of communications at the Coalition for the Homeless, told TRNN. But Villarreal also stressed that, for people experiencing homelessness and/or mental health crises, the lack of healthcare resources and social support is a crisis unto itself: “when someone ends up homeless, often that didn’t happen overnight.”

Grand Jury Refuses Felonies For Greenpeace Activists And Others Charged In Houston Oil Industry Protest

Houston, Texas — Today, a grand jury refused to issue felony indictments against the Greenpeace USA activists and others charged following the peaceful protest on September 12, 2019 at the Houston Ship Channel [1]. Thirty-one people had been charged with a felony by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office under Texas’ controversial new anti-protest law, but none were indicted on this charge by a Harris County grand jury.

Greenpeace Protesters Arrested After Hanging From Bridge; Shuting Down Section Of Houston Ship Channel

Nearly a dozen Greenpeace protesters were arrested after hanging from the Fred Hartman bridge in Houston and forcing the closure of part of the Houston Ship Channel Thursday while taking on President Donald Trump and the oil industry. The U.S. Coast Guard confirms a portion of the upper channel near Baytown was closed during the protest, between Light 102A and Light 104. This happened as the city was preparing for Thursday's Democratic presidential debate. Greenpeace tweeted Thursday morning that they were in Houston to protest the use of fossil fuels outside the country's largest oil port...

White Nationalists Terrorize Houston Book Fair

By Alex Reid Ross for AlterNet - Together, they raised their arms in a salute of "Sieg hiel." On Sunday, September 24, about 25 men in masks and balaclavas descended on an anarchist book fair in Houston. The group call itself Patriot Front and is loosely affiliated with Vanguard Front, a fascist organization that includes Heather Heyer's murderer, James Alex Fields, as one of its members. They rushed the door of a multicultural community center, igniting a pair of smoke bombs. Witnesses say the assault was led by construction worker and area neo-Nazi, William Fears. Fears, 30, has made a name for himself in recent weeks. After returning from the Charlottesville demonstration, he began camping out at the Robert E. Lee statue in Dallas before its eventual removal. Activists allege Fears also pulled a knife on unarmed protesters with the local migrant justice group, Indivisible Houston, at a rally at George Bush Intercontinental Airport earlier this year. “[The Patriot Front] were being really irresponsible,” a member of the San Antonio chapter of the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation who witnessed the altercation told AlterNet. “There were children inside of that building, and they were outside with smoke bombs.” Volunteer security saw the fascist group approaching and rushed to lock down the building's entrances, while organizers looked after the book fair's attendees.

Toxic Waste Sites Flooded In Houston Area

By Jason Dearen and Michael Misecker for Associated Press. The Associated Press surveyed seven Superfund sites in and around Houston during the flooding. All had been inundated with water, in some cases many feet deep. On Saturday, hours after the AP published its first report, the EPA said it had reviewed aerial imagery confirming that 13 of the 41 Superfund sites in Texas were flooded by Harvey and were "experiencing possible damage" due to the storm. The statement confirmed the AP's reporting that the EPA had not yet been able to physically visit the Houston-area sites, saying the sites had "not been accessible by response personnel." EPA staff had checked on two Superfund sites in Corpus Christi on Thursday and found no significant damage. AP journalists used a boat to document the condition of one flooded Houston-area Superfund site, but accessed others with a vehicle or on foot. The EPA did not immediately respond to questions about why its personnel had not yet been able to do so.

Superfund Sites And Oil Refineries Already Poisoning Storm-Wracked Houston

By Whitney Webb for Mint Press News - Houston is still struggling to cope with the impact of Hurricane Harvey, as many parts of the city are still under water. But the worst damage done by the storm may be yet to come, as receding floodwaters have revealed widespread chemical contamination stemming from the city’s petrochemical plants. As the “apocalyptic” floodwaters in Houston and other parts of east Texas have been rising thanks to Hurricane Harvey, media attention has been largely focused on the immediate human impact, such as displacement and property damage. However, with much of Houston underwater, the environmental impact – and its short- and long-term effects on public health – deserve substantial attention as well. Houston is home to several toxic Superfund sites, as well as numerous petrochemical and oil refining facilities, many of which were found to be leaking during the storm. Though water levels are starting to decline, concern is growing that a new, more persistent crisis may be beginning for Houston residents. Texas is home to numerous Superfund sites, areas identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as containing highly hazardous waste. Such sites are usually targeted for cleanup efforts.

Can The Politicians Heed The Lessons Of Hurricane Harvey?

By Ralph Nader of The Nader Page - Hovering Hurricane Harvey, loaded and reloading with trillions of gallons of water raining down on the greater Houston region—ironically the hub of the petroleum refining industry—is an unfolding, off the charts tragedy for millions of people. Many of those most affected are minorities and low-income families with no homes, health care or jobs to look forward to once the waters recede. Will this tragedy teach us the lessons that so many politicians and impulsive voters have been denying for so long? The first lesson is that America must come home: we must end the Empire of Militarism and of playing the role of policeman of the planet. Both of these habitual roles are backfiring and depleting trillions of taxpayer dollars that could be better used toward rebuilding our country’s infrastructure, strengthening our catastrophe-response networks and preparing for the coming megastorms like Hurricane Harvey. A projected trillion dollars being spent by Obama, and now Trump, just to upgrade nuclear weapons will only spur another arms race with Russia and China. This money could be more productively spent protecting Americans from immediate threats, such as natural disasters from man-made climate change.

Houston Plots A Sustainable Path, Leaving This Neighborhood Behind

By Raj Mankad for Grist - Juan Parras gives one hell of a tour of Houston’s east side. He’s charming and funny. Wearing a beret, he strikes an old-world look, like he might lead you to a cafe on a plaza. He doesn’t charge a fee for his services. After all, you’re on a “toxic tour,” and Parras is on a mission. Parras grew up in 1950s West Texas. He remembers segregated schools, the restaurants that wouldn’t serve him, the unpaved roads, and the people who lived closest to the local refinery. Those experiences led him to a career as a social justice advocate. The resident of Houston’s heavily industrial east side has worked in a city housing department, for a union, for a law clinic, and on a campaign that stopped a PVC factory from being built in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.” For the last decade, he has served as executive director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (better known as t.e.j.a.s.). Part of his work is leading tours past the heaping piles of scrap metal along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou and by Cesar Chavez High School, which opened in 2000 within a quarter-mile of three large petrochemical plants.

Unhappy Holidays: Houston Police Force Homeless People To Throw Away Food

By Derrick Broze for The Anti-Media - On Thursday, the Houston Police Department targeted a group of homeless advocates who were attempting to hand out hot food and gifts to the homeless. Houston, TX – On Thursday, the Houston Police Department targeted a group of homeless advocates who were attempting to hand out hot food and gifts to the homeless. Local activists attempting to hand out food and gifts were shocked on Thursday afternoon when Houston police forced the homeless to throw away the donations. Around 1 pm on Thursday, several individuals met in downtown Houston to distribute plates of hot food, blankets, and other supplies to the city’s growing homeless population.

Houston Opt-Out Movement Ramps Up Boycott This Testing Season

By Laura Isensee for Houston Public Media - There’s no official state policy on opting out, but the Houston school district says students won’t be disciplined for missing the exam. This week, thousands of students in Texas public schools will take the state’s standardized exams. They’re called the “STAAR.” Except some parents want their children to boycott the exams. Earlier this month, a few dozen people rallied outside of the headquarters of the Houston Independent School District.

Houston Residents Fear Impact Of Chemical Spill

The Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) calls on Houston’s petrochemical giants to act now to protect their neighbors after a collision in the Houston Ship Channel today led to a shelter-in-place order for several ship channel communities. “Houston’s petrochemical industry is often called the ‘economic engine’ in the region,” said Adrian Shelley, Director of Air Alliance Houston, “For many residents of ship channel communities, though, the industry is an engine of uncertainty and fear. It is disproportionately low-income and minority communities that suffer these negative impacts.” The people and environment of the Houston ship channel need better protection from the deadly risks associated with this industry. Today’s spill of MTBE in the ship channel is only the most recent disaster.

Assassination Plot Records Won’t Be Released

Details of a plot to kill Occupy Houston leaders won't be released after a federal court upheld the FBI's claim that the documents are legally exempted from the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI argued information was withheld, including 12 of 17 relevant pages, to protect the identity of confidential sources who were "members of organized violent groups," according to Courthouse News Service. A heavily-redacted FBI document first revealed a Houston plot "to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles."

Grand Jury Fails To Indict Another White Cop

It's becoming an all-too-familiar story. After months of hearing testimony, a grand jury in Texas decided not to indict officer Juvenito Castro in the fatal shooting of Jordan Baker, an unarmed 26-year old, in January. Castro was off duty and was working as a private security officer at a strip mall when he confronted Baker on suspicion of burglary. Authorities indicated that a “brief struggle and foot chase” followed. Officers claim that at one point Baker stopped running and turned around. When he reached for his waistband, Castro fired. Castro was wearing his police uniform at the time of the incident. A string of burglaries had been reported at the mall that same month, though no evidence suggested that Baker was involved.
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