The account is reportedly being operated by one of Erica’s co-workers, who has posted numerous updates about her condition as well as shared messages of support for her family and hope that she would recover. The confirmation of Erica’s death was followed by another message: Continue reading →
Washington, DC – Several weeks into the first trial of the individuals who were mass arrested during President Trump’s inauguration in DC on January 20 (J20), the prosecution is almost ready to rest its case. The arrests occurred at 12th & L streets when police chased, trapped, and surrounded the ‘anti-capitalist and anti-fascist’ protest march.
The first trial group comprises those who insisted on their right to a speedy trial. Jury selection began on November 15, and the trial itself started with opening arguments on November 20. The next group of defendants exercising their right to speedy trial is set for trial later this month but may be delayed to January; many other trials for the remaining defendants are scattered throughout 2018. Continue reading →
Police beating firemen in Girona. Photo: Gerry Lynch/Twitter
As of Sunday afternoon, more than 760 people were injured in Catalonia after Spanish police clashed with voters who attempted to cast votes for the region’s independence referendum, which Madrid has deemed unconstitutional, Reutersreports.
Despite the reports of violence, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy praised the police force for its actions in Catalonia Sunday.
BREAKING: Spanish PM thanks police, says they acted with “firmness and serenity” to Catalonia’s independence referendum.
Catalan officials say Spanish police have injured more than 330 people who tried to vote during Catalonia’s independence referendum on Sunday.
Madrid has declared the vote unconstitutional, but Catalan citizens and members of the regional government have vowed to move forward with it. In recent days they have protested by the thousands, and even occupied more than 160 local schools that were set to serve as polling stations, in attempts to avoid the national police’s promise to prevent voting.
The BBC reports:
Police officers are preventing people from voting, and seizing ballot papers and boxes at polling stations. In the regional capital Barcelona, police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests.
Catalan emergency services said they had treated 38 people who were injured when police pushed back crowds of voters and forced their way into polling stations. The Spanish interior ministry said 11 police officers had been injured.
Catalan firefighters even battled with police officers on Sunday, trying to protect voters from the national police. Videos of their exchanges quickly circulated on Twitter:
As police continue to seize ballot materials, Catalan government officials are allowing voters to print their own ballot papers and use any open polling station if theirs is shut down. Ballot papers simply as voters “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” and instruct them to check a box for “Yes” or “No.”
The regional government leader Carles Puigdemont condemned violence by the national police and Guardia Civil, who were sent to Catalonia to help with Madrid’s effort to stop the vote.
“The unjustified use of violence,” Puigdemont said, “by the Spanish state will not stop the will of the Catalan people.”
Several public figures outside of Spain turned to social media on Sunday to condemn the violence:
Police violence against citizens in #Catalonia is shocking. The Spanish government must act to end it now.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department deployed a tank and sprayed peaceful protesters with a water cannon amid below-freezing temperatures on November 20, 2016. (Photo: Dark Sevier/flickr/cc)
The years-long, Indigenous-led fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) briefly captured the nation’s attention last fall as images of peaceful resisters being sprayed with water canons and surrounded by police in tanks and other military-grade equipment were spread widely, fueling global outrage and a fierce protest movement against the oil pipeline.
Now that the pipeline is operational and already leaking, internal documents obtained by The Intercept and reported on Saturday reveal the deep collusion between local police forces, the pipeline company, and defense contractors as they executed “military-style counterterrorism measures” to suppress the water protectors. Continue reading →
It was not always a crime to enter the United States without authorization.
In fact, for most of American history, immigrants could enter the United States without official permission and not fear criminal prosecution by the federal government.
That changed in 1929. On its surface, Congress’ new prohibitions on informal border crossings simply modernized the U.S. immigration system by compelling all immigrants to apply for entry. However, in my new book “City of Inmates,” I detail how Congress outlawed border crossings with the specific intent of criminalizing, prosecuting and imprisoning Mexican immigrants.
Knowing this history is important now. On April 11, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his plan to step up prosecutions of unlawful entries, saying it’s time to “restore a lawful system of immigration.” This may read like a colorblind commitment to law and order. But the law Sessions has vowed to enforce was designed with racist intent.
The Mexican immigration debate
The criminalization of informal border crossings occurred amid an immigration boom from Mexico.
In 1900, about 100,000 Mexican immigrants resided in the United States.
By 1930, nearly 1.5 million Mexican immigrants lived north of the border.
As Mexican immigration surged, many in Congress were trying to restrict nonwhite immigration. By 1924, Congress had largely adopted a “whites only” immigration system, banning all Asian immigration and cutting the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States from anywhere other than Northern and Western Europe. But whenever Congress tried to cap the number of Mexicans allowed to enter the United States each year, southwestern employers fiercely objected.
U.S. employers had eagerly stoked the era’s Mexican immigration boom by recruiting Mexican workers to their southwestern farms, ranches and railroads, as well as their homes and mines. By the 1920s, western farmers were completely dependent on Mexican workers.
However, they also believed that Mexican immigrants would never permanently settle in the United States. As agribusiness lobbyist S. Parker Frisselle explained to Congress in 1926, “The Mexican is a ‘homer.’ Like the pigeon he goes home to roost.” On Frisselle’s promise that Mexicans were “not immigrants” but, rather, “birds of passage,” western employers successfully defeated proposals to cap Mexican immigration to the United States during the 1920s.
The idea that Mexican immigrants often returned to Mexico contained some truth. Many Mexican immigrants engaged in cyclical migrations between their homes in Mexico and work in the United States. Yet, by the close of the 1920s, Mexicans were settling in large numbers across the Southwest. They bought homes and started newspapers, churches and businesses. And many Mexican immigrants in the United States started families, raising a new generation of Mexican-American children.
Monitoring the rise of Mexican-American communities in southwestern states, the advocates of a whites-only immigration system charged western employers with recklessly courting Anglo-America’s racial doom. As the work of historian Natalia Molina details, they believed Mexicans were racially unfit to be U.S. citizens.
Western employers agreed that Mexicans should not be allowed to become U.S. citizens. “We, in California, would greatly prefer some set up in which our peak labor demands might be met and upon the completion of our harvest these laborers returned to their country,” Friselle told Congress. But western employers also wanted unfettered access to an unlimited number of Mexican laborers. “We need the labor,” they roared back at those who wanted to cap the number of Mexican immigrants allowed to enter the United States each year.
Amid the escalating conflict between employers in the West and advocates of restriction in Congress, a senator from Dixie proposed a compromise.
Senator Coleman Livingston Blease hailed from the hills of South Carolina. In 1925, he entered Congress committed, above all else, to protecting white supremacy. In 1929, as restrictionists and employers tussled over the future of Mexican immigration, Blease proposed a way forward.
According to U.S. immigration officials, Mexicans made nearly one million official border crossings into the United States during the 1920s. They arrived at a port of entry, paid an entry fee and submitted to any required tests, such as literacy and health.
However, as U.S. immigration authorities reported, many other Mexican immigrants did not register for legal entry. Entry fees were prohibitively high for many Mexican workers. Moreover, U.S. authorities subjected Mexican immigrants, in particular, to kerosene baths and humiliating delousing procedures because they believed Mexican immigrants carried disease and filth on their bodies. Instead of traveling to a port of entry, many Mexicans informally crossed the border at will, as both U.S. and Mexican citizens had done for decades.
When the debate stalled over how many Mexicans to allow in each year, Blease shifted attention to stopping the large number of border crossings that took place outside ports of entry. He suggested criminalizing unmonitored entry.
According to Blease’s bill, “unlawfully entering the country” would be a misdemeanor, while unlawfully returning to the United States after deportation would be a felony. The idea was to force Mexican immigrants into an authorized and monitored stream that could be turned on and turned off at will at ports of entry. Any immigrant who entered the United States outside the bounds of this stream would be a criminal subject to fines, imprisonment and ultimately deportation. But it was a crime designed to impact Mexican immigrants, in particular.
Neither the western agricultural businessmen nor the restrictionists registered any objections. Congress passed Blease’s bill, the Immigration Act of March 4, 1929, and dramatically altered the story of crime and punishment in the United States.
With stunning precision, the criminalization of unauthorized entry caged thousands of Mexico’s “birds of passage.” By the end of 1930, the U.S. attorney general reported prosecuting 7,001 cases of unlawful entry. By the end of the decade, U.S. attorneys had prosecuted more than 44,000 cases.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the vast majority of immigrants imprisoned for breaking Blease’s law were Mexicans. Throughout the 1930s, Mexicans never comprised fewer than 85 percent of all immigration prisoners. Some years, that number rose to 99 percent. By the end of the decade, tens of thousands of Mexicans had been convicted of unlawfully entering or reentering the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons built three new prisons in the U.S.-Mexico border region: La Tuna Prison in El Paso, Prison Camp #10 in Tucson and Terminal Island in Los Angeles.
Only the outbreak of World War II halted the Mexican immigrant prison boom of the 1930s. The war turned the attention of U.S. attorneys elsewhere, and Mexicans workers were desperately needed north of the border.
With few exceptions, prosecutions for unlawful entry and reentry remained low until 2005. As a measure of the war on terror, the George W. Bush administration directed U.S. attorneys to adopt an “enforcement with consequences” strategy. In 2009, U.S. attorneys prosecuted more than 50,000 cases of unlawful entry or reentry. The Obama administration continued the surge, betting that aggressive border enforcement would help bring a recalcitrant Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform. It did not.
By 2015, prosecutions for unlawful entry and reentry accounted for 49 percent of all federal prosecutions and the federal government had spent at least US$7 billion to lock up unlawful border crossers.
Throughout this most recent surge, the disparate impact of criminalizing unlawful entry and reentry has endured. Today, Latinos, led by Mexicans and Central Americans, make up 92 percent of all immigrants imprisoned for unlawful entry and reentry.
Attorney General Sessions still wants more. Traveling to southern Arizona to announce his plan to even more aggressively prosecute unlawful entry, he signaled that, in the years to come, most prosecutions will happen on the U.S.-Mexico border and will target Mexicans and Central Americans.
When the number of Mexicans as well as Central Americans imprisoned on immigration charges soon booms, there will be nothing unwitting or colorblind about it. Congress first invented the crimes of unlawful entry and reentry with the purpose of criminalizing and imprisoning Mexican immigrants and it has delivered on that intent since 1929. The Sessions plan will bear a similar result and, in the process, discharge the racist design of Blease’s law.
Rex Tillerson. Photo: premier.gov.ru [CC BY 4.0) , via Wikimedia Commons
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stirred outrage on Wednesday when he outlined what an “America First” foreign policy will look like under U.S. President Donald Trump, namely that values such as freedom and human rights will not get in the way of “national security and economic prosperity.”
“I think it is really important that all of us understand the difference between policy and values,” Tillerson told employees during a supposed State Department “pep talk” on Wednesday evening that was reportedly transmitted to U.S. diplomatic outposts around the world. “Our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated—those are our values. Those are not our policies.” Continue reading →
May Day strikes are planned nationwide, from rural communities to major cities. (Image: Design Action Collective)
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and allies are expected to strike and protest on Monday, taking part in what organizers are hoping will be the largest national strike since the May Day demonstrations of 2006.
“I definitely think this is going to be one of the biggest May Day marches,” Kent Wong, executive director of the UCLA Labor Center, toldThe Nation, which noted that “[t]he turbulent Trump era and draconian attacks on immigrant communities all but guarantee a bigger and more passionate turnout than usual this year.” Continue reading →
Houston, TX — 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. Soon after, Houston police arrived on the scene of two different intersections where the homeless advocates were giving out gifts and food.
According to witness testimony posted on Facebook, the police instructed the homeless to throw away everything they had been given. “Not only were the police called, but they brought a large waste management truck and are forcing the homeless to throw away their food, pillows and other items,” reads one post. Continue reading →
Photo: Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA (Helping the homeless Uploaded by Gary Dee) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Police departments across the country have been ramping up raids on the homeless, stealing coats, blankets, and other personal items and leaving those on the street with no protection from the cold and rain.
The Homelessness San Diego Facebook page recently posted a video of city workers conducting an “encampment sweep” that was recorded by homeless advocate Michael McConnell. According to CW6, “the city says it routinely posts clean-up notices downtown as part of its regular weekly abatement schedule.”
The Denver Police Department released a statement last Thursday evening defending police officers caught on video taking blankets, sleeping bags, and tents from homeless people and issuing some citations. Freezing temperatures didn’t stop the cold-hearted cops from confiscating the items “as evidence of the violations.”
The video taken by a bystander went viral after being shared by the ACLU of Colorado’s Facebook page. It was swiftly followed up by an open letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver City Council, and city officials. The letter, which expresses horror at the willingness of the local government officials to endanger the lives of the homeless, “demands that the City immediately (1) direct its police officers to cease confiscation of blankets and other survival gear possessed by people experiencing homelessness, (2) suspend enforcement of the Denver Urban Camping Ban through the winter months, using that time to explore alternative approaches to homelessness that do not criminalize people for having nowhere they can afford to live and (3) end the coordinated sweeps of people experiencing homelessness, whether they are conducted through police, public works, private security, all of the above, or any other means.”
This is not the first time Colorado authorities have come under fire for their brutal treatment of the homeless. In February of this year, Denver Law School released a report called Too High A Price: What Criminalizing Homelessness Costs Colorado, which examined the economic and social cost of the anti-homeless laws. According to the paper, “Laws that criminalize panhandling, begging, camping, sitting or lying in public, and vagrancy target and disproportionately impact homeless residents for activities they must perform in the course of daily living.”
Los Angeles deployed an entire task force to crack down on homeless people, imposing their own “encampment sweeps” in September. The ironically named “Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement” teams are supposed to help reduce the number of people living on the street, but they appear to be doing nothing more than turning those who are less fortunate into criminals.
The ACLU declared a small victory over the summer when it successfully defended the rights of a man charged with trespassing after trying to gain access to emergency shelter. According to Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts:
“Today’s landmark, unanimous ruling has affirmed, e.in the state high court’s own words that ‘our law does not permit the punishment of the homeless simply for being homeless.’”
Anti-homeless laws are cruel, unconstitutional, and create more hardship for those targeted, making it harder for them to get back on their feet. It is unthinkable to believe that stealing blankets and clothing from people living on the street is justifiable by any legislation, and it is terrifying to see law enforcement follow orders to do so without blinking an eye.
In 1918 in Bismarck, North Dakota, populist socialism won big: The Nonpartisan League, a political party founded by poor farmers and former labor organizers, captured both houses of the North Dakota Legislature. Farmers had been badly hurt by big banks charging double-digit interest rates and by grain companies that operated every elevator along the railroad route, underpaying and cheating the farmers. In response, the new government created the publicly owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) and the North Dakota Mill and Elevator. Both institutions epitomize American public cooperativism, creating democratic checks on private interests’ ability to manipulate financial and agricultural markets. The Bank of North Dakota, in particular, created a firewall against the destructive practices of Wall Street banks, a firewall that went on to protect the state from the worst effects of the financial downturns of the next hundred years. Continue reading →