Category Archives: Social Justice

‘Strong Hearts to the Front!’: Indigenous Water Protectors Take Direct Action Against Minnesota Tar Sands Pipeline

Construction on the Enbridge Line 3 extension—which will transport up to 760,000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil daily—began earlier this week, despite strong Native opposition.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-4-2020

Hundreds of Indigenous and allied people gathered on the shore of Gichi-gami (Lake Superior) on September 27, 2019 to protest the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr/cc)

Indigenous-led water protectors on Friday engaged in multiple direct actions against Enbridge’s highly controversial Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota, on the same day that state regulators denied a request from two tribes to stop the Canadian company from proceeding with the project.

Water protectors blocked pipeline traffic and climbed and occupied trees as part of Friday’s actions. Urging other Indigenous peoples and allies to “take a stand,” the Anishinaabe activists at one of the protests told other Native Americans that “your ancestors are here too.” Continue reading

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Director of National Intelligence Admits Government Used Section 215 to Track Browsing History

After initially denying the practice, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe admitted the government engaged in activity “that could be characterized” as tracking website visits.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-3-2020

Protesters march in a demonstration demanding an end to government mass surveillance in Washington, D.C. on October 26, 2013. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

The Trump administration recently used one of the most controversial surveillance provisions in U.S. history to record an unidentified person or group’s visit to an unspecified website, the New York Times revealed Thursday.

The Times reports Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe wrote to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on November 6 to inform him that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act had not been used to collect internet search terms, and that none of the 61 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders issued in 2019 involved “web browsing” records. Continue reading

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Critics Smell ‘Economic Sabotage’ as McConnell Unveils Covid Plan With $0 for Unemployment Boost, Direct Payments

“McConnell is making it pretty clear that if Dems don’t win the Georgia Senate races, he will cripple the American economy, hoping it will let the GOP win the midterm.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-2-2020

Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday began circulating a coronavirus relief proposal whose contents offer so little assistance to the tens of millions of jobless, hungry, and eviction-prone Americans that critics warned the Kentucky Republican is actively working to ensure the U.S. economy remains mired in deep recession as Biden administration takes charge next month.

Described as a “targeted” relief proposal, McConnell’s plan is heavily geared toward providing corporations with immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits; the offer includes a liability shield that Public Citizen’s Remington Gregg described as “breathtakingly broad.” The Kentucky Republican’s plan also contains a 100% tax deduction for business meals. Continue reading

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France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment

Sparked by a new bill that would make publishing photos of police illegal and a viral video soon after that shows French police brutally beating a black man, it appears that France may be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment.

By Alan Macleod. Published 11-30-2020 by MintPress News

Screenshot: EuroNews

Award-winning Syrian photographer Ameer Alhalbi lies dazed on the ground. His head is heavily bruised and bandaged, blood covers his face, arms, and much of his body. Lengths of cotton wool have been stuffed up his broken nose, giving him an almost comical appearance. Alhalbi has been badly beaten by police. But this is not Syria, it is Paris, where he was covering — ironically — huge, nationwide protests against police brutality this weekend.

Perhaps even more concerning is that new laws pushed through by the government of Emmanuel Macron and passed by France’s National Assembly (akin to the U.S. House of Representatives) mean that sharing images of Alhalbi or other victims of police brutality might soon be considered illegal.

Article 24 of the country’s new national security bill, which now only needs to be ratified by the Senate, specifically outlaws the publishing and dissemination of images of police that undermine their physical or psychological “integrity,” and is punishable with a fine of up to €45,000 and up to one year in jail. The bill specifically states that filming police in such a manner would be against the law, but questions have been raised about how liberally authorities would interpret the nebulous language of the new edict. Media unions and human rights groups warn that it could prevent journalists from documenting police abuses.

The National Assembly’s decision to approve the law last week sparked large protests in many major cities around France, including Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, and Nantes. However, an incident caught on camera on Saturday threw large amounts of fuel on the fire of resentment, drastically increasing the demonstrations’ size and intensity.

Images from mobile phones and closed-circuit television showed an unprovoked police attack on a young black music producer at his place of work. A group of four officers can be seen chasing after Michel Zecler, following him from outside into his studio, where they kick, punch and beat him with truncheons. Zecler also alleges they shouted racial abuse while they assailed him.

Before the videos went viral on social media, the officers testified that Zecler had, in fact, attacked them, and was resisting arrest. The officers have now been charged with “deliberate violence” and with “falsifying statements.” Two of the gang of four, including a 44-year-old senior officer with the rank of brigadier, remain in custody, while two others have been released.

The viral images provoked a storm of condemnation across the country this weekend, and propelled as many as 500,000 people into the streets, with demonstrations in dozens of cities. Protestors marched through the streets, setting light to cars, damaging buildings, and clashing with police, of whom a reported 98 were injured nationwide. Many of Paris’ iconic boulevards resembled a war zone as thousands of demonstrators pitched battle with lines of police in riot gear.

President Macron said he was “very shocked” by the footage of the police attack on Zecler, yet continues to be a driving force behind the new security law, under which many have noted that the images might never have come to light, given as they essentially identify the Parisien officers and clearly undermine their integrity or authority. Without the footage, it is possible that Zecler would have been facing prosecution himself.

Although the bill and the protests against it are dominating French politics, the story has been covered sparsely in the American corporate press, with no coverage whatsoever in MSNBCCBS News, or CNBC. Fox News, meanwhile, reprinted one Associated Press article, featuring an egregious, uncorrected error in its subheadline, asserting that protestors were shooting tear gas at themselves.

While foreign desks have been seriously cut in recent years, huge demonstrations in central Paris should not have been too difficult to cover. Lebanese political commentator Sarah Abdallah suggested that if the rallies had been happening in countries antagonistic to the United States, they would have been front-page news. Certainly, similar protests in Iran and Hong Kong dominated the news cycles last year, prompting constant reaction from Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State is yet to comment on the events in France, suggesting that they are not at the front and center of his thoughts.

President Macron came to power in 2017, winning in the final round of the election against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. A strong believer in neoliberalism and an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has insisted that France must not merely be reformed, but transformed, and has attempted to radically alter the shape of French society, away from a social democratic model to one more resembling the United States. Almost immediately after gaining the presidency, however, his average approval rating tumbled and has not risen above 40% since.

Indeed, the 42-year-old former investment banker has faced almost constant resistance to his agenda from the general public. His attempts to increase the cost of fuel in 2018 sparked the Yellow Vest movement across the country. Meanwhile, his plans to raise the age of retirement and reform France’s pension system was met with a months-long general strike that paralyzed the country last winter. Despite losing over 50,000 people to the coronavirus pandemic, he has seen his popularity increase this year due to the government’s financial response to the virus, which included aid to small businesses and paying employees to stay home. Despite this, it appears possible that France might be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment, where its racial injustices are finally reckoned with.

This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

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‘Housing Is Healthcare’: Evictions Have Exacerbated Covid-19 Pandemic, Research Shows

“This is a time where it’s not an overstatement to say that for many people, eviction can lead to death.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-30-2020

Image: Emily A. Benfer/Twitter

“There is no way for a vaccine to be successful without addressing the eviction crisis.”

That’s how housing justice advocate Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest University, put it when describing her co-authored research, which found that the premature expiration of state eviction bans led to more than 433,000 excess Covid-19 cases and 10,700 preventable deaths in the United States between March and September.

Although the CDC issued a national eviction moratorium in early September to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, thousands of tenants across the United States had already been displaced prior to that as a result of uneven state-level protections. Continue reading

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A Deputy Prosecutor Was Fired for Speaking Out Against Jail Time for People Who Fall Behind on Rent

Arkansas prosecutor Josh Drake called the state’s criminal eviction statute “cruel” and “unconstitutional.” Criminal charges against tenants falling behind on rent have continued, even as the pandemic has worsened.

By Maya Miller and Ellis Simani  Published 11-27-2020 by ProPublica

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

An Arkansas prosecutor has been fired after speaking out against the state’s criminal eviction statute in an October ProPublica story. Garland County deputy prosecutor Josh Drake was let go from his position on Oct. 31 by Michelle Lawrence, the prosecuting attorney.

Arkansas is the only state where landlords can file criminal charges rather than civil complaints against tenants for falling behind on rent. Drake told ProPublica, “I hate that law. It’s unconstitutional.” It constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, he said, echoing other Arkansas legal experts and advocates across the political spectrum. Continue reading

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‘Hunger Like They’ve Never Seen It Before’: US Food Banks Struggle as 1 in 6 Families With Children Don’t Have Enough to Eat

“We’re now seeing families who had an emergency fund but it’s gone and they’re at the end of their rope,” said one Texas food bank director.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-27=2020

Lines for a food bank in Little Rock, Arkansas. Screenshot: CNN

One in six U.S. families with children don’t have enough to eat this holiday season, a national emergency exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the unemployment crisis it has generated. Over the past several days, remarkable reporting in the Washington Post and National Geographic, among other outlets, has explored this alarming trend.

According to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S., more than 50 million people will experience food insecurity by the end of the year. Among U.S. children, the figure rises to one in four. The group, which runs a network of some 200 food banks across the nation, says it distributed over half a billion meals last month alone, a 52% increase from an average pre-pandemic month. Continue reading

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Under Cover of Thanksgiving, Trump Administration Pushes to Relax Rules Protecting Birds

The proposal—which the administration admits would likely lead to more avian deaths—would let energy and other companies off the hook for “incidentally” killing birds.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-27-2020

A Bohemian waxwing spotted in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory on December 27, 2012. (Photo: Keith Williams/Flickr/cc)

Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.

As part of the administration’s race to rush through as many regulatory rollbacks as possible before President-elect Joe Biden enters office on January 20, the U.S. Department of the Interior released an analysis that sets the stage for modification of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s interpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Continue reading

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Victory for Tribes, Waterways, and Planet as Pebble Mine Denied Permit

“Sometimes a project is so bad, so indefensible, that the politics fall to the wayside and we get the right decision.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-25-2020

Photo: Brandon Hill/NRDC

Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska’s Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened “lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem” and death to the area’s Indigenous culture.

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Calling for End of ‘Shadow Pandemic,’ Rallies Across Globe to Mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

“Men’s violence against women is also a pandemic—one that pre-dates the virus and will outlive it.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-25-2020

Activists and policymakers around the world on Wednesday marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and kicked off 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, with advocates holding rallies as global leaders took steps toward fighting what many have called the “shadow pandemic” of violence against women.

The rallies were held as experts reiterated warnings that were first issued when economic shutdowns began in many countries around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic: As many families have been largely confined to their homes this year to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, reports of violence by men against women have skyrocketed. Continue reading

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