Portland, OR - Regardless of where we are, we are living in a reign of violence in which “we can’t breathe.” We are witnessing a global downward trend in terms of respect for fundamental human rights, freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. In most parts of the world, the human rights environment is radically transforming in a way that brings into question the basic concept of human rights: holding, possessing, claiming, and asserting rights legally as a human being. This deterioration in the human rights environment has accelerated over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olympia, WA - Last week, a Washington state law went into effect that requires a warrant for ongoing and realtime facial recognition surveillance. The new law will not only help protect privacy in Washington state; it will take a step toward hindering one aspect of the federal surveillance state. A coalition of 10 Democrats introduced Senate Bill 6280 (SB6280) on Jan. 14. The new law requires law enforcement agencies to get a warrant “to engage in ongoing surveillance, to conduct real-time or near real-time identification, or to start persistent tracking” with just a few exceptions. This includes using facial recognition technology to scan crowds, streets or neighborhoods. Police can utilize facial recognition without a warrant when exigent circumstances exist or with a court order authorizing the use of the service for the sole purpose of locating or identifying a missing person, or identifying a deceased person.
In 1905, Pennsylvania did something unprecedented: It founded America’s first state police force. The new institution, which was more highly militarized than previous law enforcement systems, was created for one reason: The state government wanted a more organized and efficient way to break strikes. The new force approached that mission with zeal — and violence. In 1909, members of the Pennsylvania State Police killed several strikers during the Pressed Steel Car Strike, a strike by workers who built railroad cars; after a crowd broke one state trooper’s leg, police were given orders to shoot to kill. A report by the New York World recorded similar orders that were given during the Philadelphia Car Strike, a transit strike that turned into a general citywide strike the following year.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 1969, Bernard Arafat awoke to explosions rocking the library of the Black Panthers’ 41st and Central Avenue headquarters in Los Angeles. Above him, footsteps stomped across the roof. Then gunfire erupted. Arafat wasn’t a seasoned Panther. He was a 17-year-old runaway from juvenile hall whose parents had both died when he was 13. After years of committing small-time crimes, Arafat was taken in by the Panthers and gained a sense of purpose. He helped with the organization’s breakfast program, feeding hungry kids on their way to school.
Washington, DC: The total number of persons arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws rose for the third consecutive year, according to data released by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, police made 663,367 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2018. That is more than 21 percent higher than the total number of persons arrested for the commission of violent crimes (521,103). Of those arrested for cannabis-related activities, some 90 percent (608,776) were arrested for marijuana possession offenses only.
Groups representing 15 million+ people plan to flood local, state, and federal lawmakers with letters and calls as a bipartisan backlash to biometric surveillance reaches a boiling point Opposition to facial recognition is reaching a boiling point. Today, nearly 30 organizations from across the political spectrum announced they had endorsed the BanFacialRecognition.com campaign calling for a federal ban on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology. The groups, which represent more than 15 million combined members, plan to flood lawmakers with emails and calls from constituents.
State and federal agencies are training Montana law enforcement officers to surveil anti-Keystone XL pipeline activists’ social media and arrest protesters en masse, according to correspondence obtained by the ACLU of Montana and provided to Montana Free Press. Agencies coordinating to train law enforcement officers in eastern Montana include police and sheriff’s departments, the Montana Highway Patrol, the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Montana Disaster and Emergency Services, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council.
Pipeline protester Cindy Spoon was trying to stop Energy Transfer Partners’ heavy tree-cutting equipment from coming onto a pristine cypress forest-covered island in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin. As she paddled in the bayou on Aug. 9, fan boats roared around her, blowing her canoe backward and kettling her in a smaller bayou. Within minutes, Spoon and fellow activist Sophia Cook-Phillips were handcuffed and yanked out of the canoe by armed officers who refused to fully identify themselves. “What law enforcement agency are you with and where are you taking me?” Spoon asked repeatedly, her voice cracking and growing increasingly frantic as she was pulled up a steep embankment and dragged onto Energy Transfer Partners’ Bayou Bridge pipeline easement.
AS LAW ENFORCEMENT officers advanced in a U-shaped sweep line down North Dakota Highway 1806 last October, pushing back Dakota Access opponents from a camp in the pipeline’s path, two sheriff’s deputies broke formation to tackle a 37-year-old Oglala Sioux woman named Red Fawn Fallis. As Fallis struggled under the weight of her arresting officers, who were attempting to put her in handcuffs, three gunshots allegedly went off alongside her. According to the arrest affidavit, deputies lunged toward her left hand and wrested a gun away from her. Well before that moment, Fallis had been caught in a sprawling intelligence operation that sought to disrupt and discredit opponents of the pipeline.
By Staff of JVP - JVP activists demonstrated at Anti-Defamation League offices from New York to Seattle, New Haven to Chicago, and 11 other cities across the country Wednesday as part of a nationwide action organized by Jewish Voice for Peace calling on the ADL to end #DeadlyExchange programs between U.S. and Israeli law enforcement officials. At protests throughout the day, ADL executives refused petition deliveries, and told JVP activists that the New York headquarters would receive the text of the petition signed by 20,000+ people. When organizers arrived at the ADL’s national headquarters in Manhattan they were again refused. After a large rally where 70 recited the mourner’s kaddish for those killed by state violence, seven JVP members–ranging in age from 24 to 72– remained in the lobby of the building, waiting for the the ADL to take the petition. Instead, 30 police officers arrested them as they were reading testimonies from those harmed by police exchange programs and singing “Ain’t gonna study war no more.” In a letter delivered to ADL Director Jonathan Greenblatt Wednesday morning, JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson requested a meeting to discuss the demand that this self-proclaimed civil rights organization put an end to these dangerous training programs that perpetuate discriminatory, repressive and violent policies in the U.S. and Israel.
By Lauren McCauley for Common Dreams - Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, made infamous for leading his department in brutal confrontations with opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline, is reportedly advising other law enforcement on how to deal with protesters. In an interview with the Omaha World-Herald published Tuesday, Kirchmeier predicted that the next flashpoint will come in Nebraska over the pending construction of the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. Throughout the months-long standoff in North Dakota, the sheriff's office was repeatedly criticized for acting as a security force for pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, as well as for routinely employing an excessive use of force against demonstrators.
By Emily Verdugo for AlterNet - Back in August, the Obama administration issued a memo that many hoped signaled an end to the government's use of for-profit prison corporations. That memo, issued by then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, stated that the Justice Department would stop contracting with CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) to run 13 federal prisons. This directive was a symbolic win for many of us who opposed these contracts, and we were thrilled when stocks in CoreCivic and GEO Group, another for-profit prison corporation, plummeted as a result. But the election of Donald Trump dashed a lot of those hopes. Acting on his campaign promise to be "tough on crime,"
By Emma Niles for Truthdig. Palantir Technologies, a software company founded by Silicon Valley conservative Peter Thiel, has almost finished creating a $41 million program for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The new technology, called Investigative Case Management (ICM), will greatly help ICE and the Trump administration deport undocumented immigrants. Palantir won the government contract in 2014 and is expected to complete the project this fall. Spencer Woodman of the Intercept explained " It allows ICE agents to access a vast “ecosystem” of data to facilitate immigration officials in both discovering targets and then creating and administering cases against them. ... can provide ICE agents access to information on a subject’s schooling, family relationships, employment information, phone records, immigration history, foreign exchange program status, personal connections, biometric traits, criminal records, and home and work addresses. …
By Brian Bowling and Andrew Conte for Trib Live - Federal prosecutors declined to pursue civil rights allegations against law enforcement officers 96 percent of the time since 1995, a Tribune-Review investigation found. The Trib spent six months analyzing nearly 3 million federal records on how the Justice Department and its 94 U.S. Attorney offices handled criminal complaints against law enforcement officers from 1995 through 2015. The records include matters referred to Justice by the FBI and other agencies and those it opened on its own.
By Sarah Ryley for ProPublica and the New York Daily News - A wide swath of public officials are calling for change in response to a Daily News and ProPublica investigation about the NYPD’s use of an obscure type of lawsuit to boot hundreds of people from homes. The cases are happening almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods. Several city council members said they were considering amendments and other reforms to safeguard abuses. Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson said the statistics included in the story are “shocking.”