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CI: Justice As Theft

June 11, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Education, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Voting Rights, Workers' Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Justice As Theft: Into the Twilight Zone
by Kay Whitlock

In 2011, Tonya McDowell, a homeless woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was charged with first degree (felony) larceny  and conspiracy to commit larceny for enrolling her 6-year-old son in Brookside Elementary School in the community of Norwalk.  Because McDowell and her son did not legally reside in Norwalk, the rationale for the charges was theft of $15,686 in educational costs from the Norwalk public school system. She faced a possible sentence of 20 years in prison. Moreover, McDowell’s babysitter was evicted from public housing because she apparently assisted by providing  false documents necessary for enrolling the young boy.

McDowell and her son are black; the Norwalk public school system is predominantly white – and therefore better funded than the Bridgeport system, in which people of color predominate. Essentially, she was charged with “stealing” a good public education for her son, who is entitled to public education, but not, presumably, a good one.

This prosecution was outrageous, right?  Yes – by any reasonable standard of human decency, anyway. But we live in a societal Twilight Zone in which the often-subterranean currents of the dominant U.S. public imagination respond to virtually all claims to social and economic justice as some form of theft, with all of the dissonance, danger, anxiety, emotional vulnerability, defensiveness, and fury associated with its evocation.

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Government For Good: The Wellstone! Way

October 25, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Education, Government for Good, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, Poverty, What People are Doing to Change the World

wellstone 2

“Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.”

~ Senator Paul Wellstone ((July 21, 1944 – October 25, 2002)

wellstone 2

In era where government is so vilified, we at Critical Mass Progress would like to consider Government for Good. Collective governance – past present and future -  can work to defend/secure rights, distribute social and economic goods, provide legal recognition, jobs, healthcare and more., create opportunities via public schools, public works, and public policy that centers everyday people.

Everyday.

In this recurring feature,, we will highlight the many ways that government has worked for the common good. It is a call too to imagine what more can be done – locally, at the state level, and nationally to reclaim the idea — the reality too – that government can work to “improve people’s lives.”

Perhaps there is no better recent role model here than the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who died along with  his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and five others, in that fateful plane crash 11 years ago today. His legacy and his words speak for themselves, and remind us, always,  of what  government for good can do. Please check the links below for more.

The Conscience of the Senate .

Thank you Paul, this one’s for you.

Wellstone’s Revenge: How Minnesota Democrats Took Their State Back

MPR, Memorials Keep Paul Wellstone’s Memory Alive

Al Franken, Paul Wellstone’s Legacy, 10 Years Later

Wellstone Action

Wellstone!

Steve Heitzeg has put together a bench memorial to Paul Wellstone. On the bench is a photograph of a smiling Wellstone, along with a Wellstone quote about social justice. (MPR Photo/ Mark Zdechlik)

Steve Heitzeg has put together a bench memorial to Paul Wellstone. On the bench is a photograph of a smiling Wellstone, along with a Wellstone quote about social justice. (MPR Photo/ Mark Zdechlik)

 

CI: Two Years On, UK Riots in Context

August 07, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Immigration, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Riot is the voice of the unheard.
~ Maxine Waters
(Los Angeles Times, 4 May 1992)

Editors Note: It has been two years since the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham sparked 4 days of rioting in London and elsewhere in England between August 6 and 10. The riots resulted in at least 4 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and millions in property damage.

Two years later, a final police report on Duggan’s killing has not yet been released, as officers are refusing to cooperate. There are community complaints that the government has largely ignored recommendations from The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel. The conditions that laid the foundations for the riots remain — poverty and a youth unemployment rates of more than 20%, and an aggressive police presence in communities of color.

CI is pleased to republish this excellent piece from Susan Pashkoff*, originally written in the immediate aftermath of the riots. It is as relevant today as it was at the time of publication, and sadly, echoes USA issues of police violence and racism in the criminal injustice system that are covered here each week..

UK Riots in Context: Police Brutality and Institutional Racism in the UK
by Susan Pashkoff*

The name, Mark Duggan, has been absent from the discussion of the riots that have wracked first London and which have spread to the rest of the United Kingdom. But the name Mark Duggan is a name that must not be lost; mark duggan as the man, Mark Duggan, and the shooting of this young black man by police in Tottenham is the spark that led to the fires in Tottenham . His shooting by police raised clear distress and concern to family, loved ones and members of the community and the absence of an explanation by the police lead to a peaceful vigil being undertaken to request answers from the police. Consensual and Community policing is dependent upon community relations and support and this has been compromised due to a history of institutional racism, deaths in police custody and the clear racist component both in practice and in theory to Stop-and-search procedures historically in the UK. In fact, it was a stop-and-search procedure which yielded no weapons which led to the riot in Hackney that followed the next day.

These incidents cannot be understood as isolated events. Police brutality against working class people, but especially people of colour, and institutional racism in policing (both in theory and in practice) and in the judicial system has a long history in the UK. The death of Mark Duggan is the latest in a history of problems of race and class that has plagued the UK since black immigration began in the post-war period.

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Turning Up the Heat on GOP During August Recess

August 01, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Education, Immigration, Poverty, Workers' Rights


Tomas Martinez, of Atlanta, chants during a rally in front of the White House on July 24, calling for of immigration reform.
(Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)

From USA Today:

As they prepare to leave the Capitol for a month-long August recess, Republican members of the House of Representatives are taking with them legislative summaries and informational packets to tackle tough questions in their districts about immigration.

Supporters of a proposal to revamp the nation’s immigration laws plan to use the recess to pressure House GOP members in their districts to pass a plan like that which passed the Senate in June.

Those in favor of granting citizenship to an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants say they will use rallies, marches, coordinated phone calls, social media campaigns and pressure from big-dollar donors.

“This is the beginning of a long, hot summer for the House of Representatives,” said Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union, a labor union that supports the Senate’s immigration bill.

Republicans will also face pressure from Tea Party groups and other opponents of the Senate immigration bill.

From HuffPo:

“This is a new approach. The theory in the past has been to be stealth about the effort to confront members at town halls — but sometimes it’s been too stealth, and we haven’t generated enough activity,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of the progressive group Americans United for Change. “Since everyone knows that both sides are doing this, we’re going to be public-facing about it.”

On Wednesday, the group is launching Accountable Congress, a new website meant to be a summer toolkit for the progressive community, providing information about where Republican members of Congress and senators will be speaking during the August recess away from Capitol Hill. It includes progressive talking points on issues of the day, including immigration, climate change and gun violence, in addition to suggested questions to ask Republican lawmakers.

Woodhouse said he wants supporters to confront the elected officials, ask them tough questions and record the exchanges. The group plans to share noteworthy responses, and to collect and share information about what Republicans are doing and saying. Americans United has presented its plan to various progressive organizations already and will be holding daily calls with activists to coordinate the strategy.

“We’re also not just focusing exclusively on swings -– whether in the issue or electoral sense,” said Woodhouse. “We’ll try to have a presence at any GOP member event.”

House Republicans are putting together their own August recess playbook. The House Republican Conference has created a 31-page document offering instructions to members for meeting with constituents, promoting the House GOP’s agenda and garnering media attention. It does not, however, advise members on how to deal with confrontational town halls.

Democrats took a thumping during the 2009 summer recess, when lawmakers faced tea party activists at town hall meetings during the height of the health care debate. The party lost control of its message, with the myth of “death panels” often dominating discussions.

North Carolina’s Moral Mondays

July 23, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Education, Housing, Immigration, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Voting Rights, White Privilege


Moral Mondays protest in North Carolina. Photographer: Eric Etheridge.

From The Nation:

North Carolina was long regarded as one of the most progressive Southern states—an island of moderation amid a sea of conservatism. But since Republicans took over the state legislature in 2010 and the governorship in 2012—putting the GOP in control for the first time since 1896—the state has personified the hard-right shift in state capitols across the country after the 2010 elections, moving abruptly from purple to deep red. So far this year, legislation passed or pending by Republicans would eliminate the earned-income tax credit for 900,000; decline Medicaid coverage for 500,000; end federal unemployment benefits for 170,000 in a state with the country’s fifth-highest jobless rate; cut pre-K for 30,000 kids while shifting $90 million from public education to voucher schools; slash taxes for the top 5 percent while raising taxes on the bottom 95 percent; allow for guns to be purchased without a background check and carried in parks, playgrounds, restaurants and bars; ax public financing of judicial races; and prohibit death row inmates from challenging racially discriminatory verdicts. “They’ve drank all the Tea Party they could drink and sniffed all the Koch they could sniff,” Barber says.

The Moral Monday protests began in April, after the legislature introduced voting restrictions that would require a state-issued photo ID (which 318,000 registered voters don’t have) to cast a ballot, drastically cut early voting, eliminate same-day registration during the early voting period, end the $2,000–$2,500 child dependency tax deduction for parents whose college students vote where they attend school, and rescind the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. Pro-democracy groups dubbed the legislation the Screw the Voter Act of 2013 and the Longer Lines to Vote Bill. The clear aim was to dampen turnout of the young and minority voters who propelled Obama to a surprise victory in North Carolina in 2008 and a near repeat in 2012.

On April 29, Barber and sixteen others, mostly ministers, were arrested inside the North Carolina legislature for trespassing and failure to disperse. He called it a peaceful “pray-in.” The next week, thirty more people were arrested, including the former dean of arts and sciences at Duke University. The numbers grew quickly. By July 15, 838 people had been arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.

“It really caught on like in the old days,” says Bob Zellner, a former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who lives in the city of Wilson. “We’ve been waiting for a renewal of the civil rights movement, and this is it.” The protests are building something unique in North Carolina—a multiracial, multi-issue movement centered around social justice. It’s the kind of thing the South hasn’t seen much of since the 1960s, when students at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro jump-started the modern civil rights movement by refusing to leave the lunch counter at Woolworth’s.

Barber is the MLK of the Moral Monday movement, a charismatic preacher and savvy political organizer. “What do we do when they try to take away our rights?” he asks at the church. “We fight! We fight! We fight!” the crowd shouts, standing and pumping their fists. “Forward together,” Barber says, invoking the slogan of the protesters. “Not one step back,” the congregation responds. Simple placards are passed around: Protect Every American’s Right to Vote; Stop Attacks on the Poor and Working Poor; Why Deny Unemployment Benefits?

Marry the Movement #intersectionality #race #gender #class #sexuality #ability #age #markersofdifference

June 27, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Education, Immigration, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Voting Rights, White Privilege

Marry the Movement from Southerners on New Ground (SONG) on Vimeo.

From Southerners on New Ground:

The Supreme Court of the United States has issued many opinions affecting the lives of marginalized people across the country this week. We know that here in the South our SONG family will be grappling with the reality of our lives, many of which have been made worse by the Supreme Court’s rulings affecting Affirmative Action, the Voting Rights Act, the Indian Child Welfare Act and the 5th Amendment.

While the court also struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8, SONG knows that all the good that can radiate out from those decisions is because the climate around the lives and realities of LGBTQ people in our country has changed. Why has it changed? Because LGBTQ people and our families, friends and allies have made it change. We have come out, we have transformed our lives and each other, and we have built power in countless ways. That work makes these moments happen AND we still have so much work to do together as LGBTQ people… the regression and contradictions of the decisions affecting People of Color in this country highlight that reality.

We know that in times like these we need each other and that we must turn to each other in the spirit of our collective survival. There is still much work to be done in order to bring the reality of true justice home to the South: so join us in Marrying the Movement: until every LGBTQ person has full dignity, safety, and liberation.

The Saudi Marathon Man

April 24, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Immigration, White Privilege

From The New Yorker:

A twenty-year-old man who had been watching the Boston Marathon had his body torn into by the force of a bomb. He wasn’t alone; a hundred and seventy-six people were injured and three were killed. But he was the only one who, while in the hospital being treated for his wounds, had his apartment searched in “a startling show of force,” as his fellow-tenants described it to the Boston Herald, with a “phalanx” of officers and agents and two K9 units. He was the one whose belongings were carried out in paper bags as his neighbors watched; whose roommate, also a student, was questioned for five hours (“I was scared”) before coming out to say that he didn’t think his friend was someone who’d plant a bomb—that he was a nice guy who liked sports. “Let me go to school, dude,” the roommate said later in the day, covering his face with his hands and almost crying, as a Fox News producer followed him and asked him, again and again, if he was sure he hadn’t been living with a killer.

Why the search, the interrogation, the dogs, the bomb squad, and the injured man’s name tweeted out, attached to the word “suspect”? After the bombs went off, people were running in every direction—so was the young man. Many, like him, were hurt badly; many of them were saved by the unflinching kindness of strangers, who carried them or stopped the bleeding with their own hands and improvised tourniquets. “Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood,” President Obama said. “They helped one another, consoled one another,” Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, said. In the midst of that, according to a CBS News report, a bystander saw the young man running, badly hurt, rushed to him, and then “tackled” him, bringing him down. People thought he looked suspicious.

What made them suspect him? He was running—so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb—as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead—a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?

What happened next didn’t take long. “Investigators have a suspect—a Saudi Arabian national—in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, The Post has learned.” That’s the New York Post, which went on to cite Fox News. The “Saudi suspect”—still faceless—suddenly gave anxieties a form. He was said to be in custody; or maybe his hospital bed was being guarded. The Boston police, who weren’t saying much of anything, disputed the report—sort of. “Honestly, I don’t know where they’re getting their information from, but it didn’t come from us,” a police spokesman told TPM. But were they talking to someone? Maybe. “Person of interest” became a phrase of both avoidance and insinuation. On the Atlas Shrugs Web site, there was a note that his name in Arabic meant “sword.” At an evening press conference, Ed Davis, the police commissioner, said that no suspect was in custody. But that was about when the dogs were in the apartment building in Revere—an inquiry that was seized on by some as, if not an indictment, at least a vindication of their suspicions.

Reddit Mob Falsely Accuses Missing Brown University Student of Boston Bombing

April 23, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Immigration, Intersectionality, White Privilege


Sunil Tripathi and his mother, Judy Tripathi. Brown University student Sunil Tripathi (right) was at one point accused by Reddit users of being a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, despite no evidence.

From NBCNews:

“It’s had a huge cost on our family. We are all very depleted right now, just baseline over the past 34 days, and this has been very, very difficult,” she added. “Without Sunil in our life, it’s been very hard to have that publicity.

“We are absolutely convinced, with no question at all, it’s not Sunil. We are eagerly awaiting formal public news to calm the pain on my family. We have not received a public apology at all. The FBI is incredibly busy as you can imagine in the investigation. The second law enforcement releases complete information on the suspects, it’s going up on our Facebook page.”

On Friday afternoon, the Tripathi family received an email from Erik Martin, the general manager of Reddit, “to apologize personally and on behalf of all our employees for … some of the people on our site’s role in the spreading of this false idea about Sunny.” The Tripathi family immediately forwarded that email to NBC News.

“It’s an extreme situation and we are deeply sorry that your family got caught up in it,” Martin wrote in the email. “I can’t imagine what it must be like for your family to deal with this on top of what you must already be going through.”

The Tripathi family’s Facebook page, set up to help locate Sunil and, until Thursday, filled with messages of hope and pictures of the student, began being hit with posts Thursday evening “from individuals who for whatever reason were making the association between what happened (at the Boston Marathon) and him, Sangeeta Tripathi said.

Sunil Tripathi is still missing. Anyone with any information that might help find him is encouraged to call police in Providence, RI at (401) 243-6191. For more on the efforts to locate him, visit the Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi page on Facebook.