ACLU-DC Sues D.C. Police For False Arrests, Free Speech Violations

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By Staff of ACLU – WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia today filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia, Metropolitan Police Department officers, and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham for making unconstitutional arrests, using excessive force, denying arrested people food, water, and access to toilets, and invasive bodily searches of protesters exercising their First Amendment rights on Inauguration Day. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a legal observer, a photojournalist, and two others arrested that day. While the overwhelming majority of Inauguration Day protesters demonstrated peacefully, a small number caused property damage. In response to the vandalism, MPD officers employed a controversial crowd-control tactic known as “kettling,” where officers corralled more than 200 protesters—including many who had broken no laws—by trapping and detaining them for several hours before formally arresting them. Officers also deployed nonlethal crowd-control devices—including pepper spray, tear gas, flash-bang grenades, concussion grenades, and smoke flares—upon protesters and others both on the street and inside the kettle, without warning or threat of harm to officers or other members of the public.

Students Urge End To US-Israel Police Exchanges

Students gather on campus at California State University, Long Beach in support of a divestment resolution. (Facebook)

By Nora Barrows-Friedman for EI – The student government of California State University, Long Beach passed a resolution earlier this month calling on the administration to pull its investments in companies profiting from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. The vote comes in spite of strong pressure on student senators by the university’s president to reject the resolution. Meanwhile, students in Wisconsin also passed a resolution standing up to the US-based weapons and policing industries that profit from Israel’s human rights violations. In the weeks leading up to the successful vote at Cal State Long Beach, Jane Conoley, the university’s president, echoed Israel lobby claims that the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is to blame for an increase in anti-Semitism. In a letter addressed to the student senators in late April, Conoley claimed that the passage of divestment resolutions “has often been accompanied by increases in anti-Jewish graffiti.” Her letter repeats a common false and anti-Semitic trope used by Israel lobby organizations to stifle debate: that Jews – conflated as a monolith with the state of Israel – are being singled out by Palestinian rights campaigners for special scrutiny.

Local Movements Demand Disclosure Of Police Technologies

Reflections of pedestrians in a window of a restaurant on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens, in an area known as Little Morocco that was under surveillance by the New York City Police Department, January 7, 2016. The department has agreed to even greater oversight of its intelligence-gathering programs as it tries, for the second time, to settle a lawsuit over its surveillance of Muslims. (Photo: Uli Seit / The New York Times)

By Candice Bernd for Truthout – President Trump issued a proclamation on May 15 dedicating last week to law enforcement officers, saying he would make it a “personal priority” to ensure police are “finally treated fairly.” Meanwhile, around the country, a different set of priorities is taking shape: Cities, counties and even one state are working to push legislation that would force police agencies to disclose their acquisition and use of surveillance technologies to local lawmakers and communities. At least 19 cities have introduced ordinances that would force transparency in local police departments’ acquisition and use of secretive surveillance technologies, which are disproportionately used to target communities of color. A statewide bill in Maine, sponsored by State Sen. Shenna Bellows, would take similar steps. The measures being introduced around the country mandate that the acquisition and/or use of local police surveillance tools like “Stingray” cellphone tracking equipment, automated license plate readers, facial recognition technology and closed-circuit television cameras, among other surveillance tools…

WeCopwatch Gets Its Due: Doc About Nationwide Police Watchdog Featured At Major Film Festival

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By Alexandra Rosenmann for AlterNet – From Staten Island to Standing Rock, “copwatchers” are everywhere in America. “Copwatching is an idea, it’s an act. WeCopwatch is a group,” explains WeCopwatch founder and Oakland-based guerrilla filmmaker Jacob Crawford at the documentary’s start. Crawford has been copwatching since the early 2000s, having been inspired by George Holliday, a Los Angeles plumber who used his Sony Handycam to tape the beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department in March 1991. “Seeing that there’s a real issue of police brutality in East Bay, I thought I’d take my camera out to the streets and really try to document what was going on,” Crawford says. But copwatching is often risky, and in extreme cases, creates a downward spiral of retaliation. Ramsey Orta, who filmed Eric Garner’s chokehold death at the hands of police, was sentenced to prison in April 2015. And he’s not alone. “I started to see a trend of arrests happening,” Copwatch director Camilla Hall told AlterNet. For the documentary, Hall went to great lengths to tell Orta’s story, both in and out of jail.

A Municipal Vote In Providence For Police Reform Carries National Implications

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By Shahid Buttar for EFF – After three years of sustained community mobilization and advocacy, the Providence City Council in Rhode Island voted this Thursday to unanimously approve among the most visionary set of policing reforms proposed around the country to protect civil rights and civil liberties, including digital liberties. EFF supported the proposed Community Safety Act (CSA), and its adoption represents a milestone that should prompt similar measures in other jurisdictions. Reflecting an understanding of of how many different communities endure parallel—but seemingly separate—violations of civil rights and civil liberties, the CSA aims to address surveillance alongside racial and other dimensions of discriminatory profiling. The ordinance imposes crucial limits on police powers at a time when local police have become the leading edge of mass surveillance, as well as longstanding abuses of civil rights and digital liberties rooted in the war on drugs. The most notable facet of the CSA is its sheer breadth. It addresses a wide-ranging set of issues in a single reform measure.

Cybersecurity For The People

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By Micah Lee and Lauren Feeney for The Intercept. Planning on going to a protest? You might not be aware that just by showing up, you can open yourself up to certain privacy risks — police often spy on protesters, and the smartphones they carry, and no matter how peaceful the demonstration, there’s always a chance that you could get detained or arrested, and your devices could get searched. Watch this video for tips on how to prepare your phone before you go to a protest, how to safely communicate with your friends and document the event, and what to do if you get detained or arrested. This is the first in a new series of videos I’m hosting called Cybersecurity for the People. In future videos we’ll dive into topics such as encrypted messaging apps, password management, and how to become a whistleblower.

Police-Inflicted Injuries Send 50,000 To ER Annually In U.S.

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By Robert Preidt for HealthDay – WEDNESDAY, April 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — More than 50,000 Americans are treated each year for injuries inflicted by police, a new study says. While deaths at the hands of police have garnered national attention, less focus has been paid to nonfatal injuries by U.S. law enforcement. Nationwide, there were more than 355,000 emergency department visits for injuries caused by police between 2006 and 2012, according to researchers from New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. The number of injured each year — about 51,000 — remained stable over the seven-year period, the researchers found. “While it is impossible to classify how many of these injuries are avoidable, these data can serve as a baseline to evaluate the outcomes of national and regional efforts to reduce law enforcement-related injury,” Dr. Elinore Kaufman and colleagues said in the study. Substance abuse and mental illness were common in patients injured by police, the researchers said. The findings were published online April 19 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

D.C. Police Infiltrated Inauguration Protest Group, Court Papers Show

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By Perry Stein and Keith L. Alexander for The Washington Post – D.C. police this month searched the home of a local activist they say helped spearhead Inauguration Day protests that injured six police officers and resulted in extensive damage in downtown Washington. Dylan Petrohilos, a 28-year-old graphic designer, said officers broke through the door of his Petworth home early April 3. Police were led to the house after an undercover police officer secretly attended protest-planning meetings in the weeks before the Jan. 20 inauguration, court documents show. Authorities seized cellphones, computers and a black “anti-capitalist, anti-fascist” flag from Petrohilos’s front lawn, according to the court documents. Petrohilos has not been charged with any crimes. He says he did nothing illegal as he helped plan the protests and participated in them. The search was part of an effort by authorities to build a legal case against hundreds of activists accused of conspiring to riot and incite violence on the day President Trump was sworn in. But it also has reignited concerns from activists and others who question whether police went too far in making mass arrests Jan. 20 or in investigating demonstrators exercising their right to free speech.

Canadian Police Surveilling Journalists

Martin Prud'homme, chief of the Sûreté du Québec, testified Monday before the commission looking into the surveillance of journalists by police. (CBC)

By Staff for CBC News – The head of the Quebec provincial police revealed Monday that its officers had a seventh journalist under surveillance — Nicolas Saillant of the Journal de Québec. Sûreté du Québec Chief Martin Prud’homme revealed the information about Saillant in his testimony Monday at the commission tasked with looking into police surveillance of journalists. The commission is led by Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Jacques Chamberland. The revelation about Saillant came out of a cross-examination by Christian Leblanc, the lawyer representing a number of news organizations in the province, including CBC / Radio-Canada, before the commission.

Police In Maine Treat Black And White Protesters Differently, Attorney Claims

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By Kyle Jaeger for ATTN – The jail came under fire in August after it released photos of two other black Muslim women without their hijabs. Department policy requires Muslims wearing head scarves to take two mugshots — one with the covering and one without — but it also stipulates that photos of Muslims without their head scarves will not be released. Activists called the decision to release the photos “a form of public shaming” and “a violation of their First Amendment religious rights.” Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce apologized for releasing the photos in September 2016, The Portland Press Herald reported. Courthouse records show that the five black protestors received more charges than the dozen white protestors who were arrested.

PepsiCo CEO The Target Of Actual Protest

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By Kelsey Baker for The Understory – Ms. Nooyi was obviously taken by surprise in the middle of her speech, as she was confronted with this huge banner hanging from the balcony directly in front of her. People in the audience began to turn around in their seats to check it out, causing a stir throughout the whole crowd. In addition to dropping the eye catching banner, activists also left postcards around the venue with information about Ms. Nooyi’s company’s failure to address the human rights and labor abuses in its supply chain. Thousands of people attending the event learned about PepsiCo’s true business practices – the ones that Ms. Nooyi failed to mention during her speech. PepsiCo earns billions by turning Conflict Palm Oil, one of the world’s most controversial commodities…

Sessions Orders DOJ To Review Police Reform Agreements

In March 27 Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

By Sari Horwitz, Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery for The Washington Post – Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure that these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime. In a two-page memo released Monday, Sessions said agreements reached previously between the department’s civil rights division and local police departments — a key legacy of the Obama administration — will be subject to review by his two top deputies, throwing into question whether all of the agreements will stay in place.

With Nighttime Raids, Police Wage War On Black And Brown Families In New York

From the Bronx to Harlem to Brooklyn, hundreds of people -- mostly young, poor men of color -- have been rounded up by heavily armed cops and thrown into jails and prisons, leaving their families and communities damaged, divided and even more impoverished. (Photo: Vhmh)

By Ashoka Jegroo for Truthout – This story is the fourth in a new Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series will dive deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States’ incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more — including 2.7 million children. Paula Clarke and her family found themselves crawling half-naked on the floor of her Bronx home at 4:51 am on April 27, 2016, after multiple heavily armed men broke through her front door and demanded that she tell them where her son was. Helicopters could be heard hovering right about her home.

Police Killings In The US Continue To Rise

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By Rachael Revesz for Independent – More people have died at the hands of law enforcement in the US so far this year than during the same period in 2016, casting a dark shadow over the Donald Trump administration as it invests more power in the police. By 19 March this year, 271 people have already been killed by police, compared with 262 people by the same date in 2016, according to a database called Killedbypolice.net. There were fewer deaths (255) in 2015 and even fewer (209) in 2014 by the same point. The rising numbers do little to reassure critics of Donald Trump, who signed an executive order in February to invest more power in the police and who has all but scrapped the former Justice Department’s investigation into law enforcement violence around the US.

How Chicago Became First City To Make Reparations To Victims Of Police Violence

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By Yana Kunichoff for Yes! Magazine – He was among the first of at least 120 young, primarily Black men whom Chicago police officers would torture into false confessions. Yet while many who suffer at the hands of the police never get justice, Smith’s story ended differently. More than 40 years later, following the passage of historic reparations legislation, he became one of the first Black people in America to be granted reparations for racial violence. After receiving parole, Smith moved out of the city and attempted to rebuild his life. But his struggles were far from over. Given the conviction on his record, Smith faced difficulty in everything from finding work to accessing his car insurance benefits. He remained haunted by his experiences as a teen inside the interrogation room and never felt at ease in Chicago again—until May 6, 2015.