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Archive for the ‘racism’ Category

Make sure – if you vote in Eureka, CA – that you do NOT vote for this jerk (pictured and discussed below), Anthony Mantova.

 

Also, add to that list of who NOT to vote for- Jeannie Breslin and Michelle Constantine. Please don’t vote for any of these ‘Take Back Eureka’ people. They do not like facts, public health, poor people, or social justice. People will suffer (even more) if this dishonest, hateful bunch get in to office. Mantova was a regular on Rush Limbaugh.  He is now renting a place in Ward 1 from Michelle Constantine, so he can run in this election.  Trump guy.

Please give your Eureka friends the no-vote list.

Here is a link to a sample of Mantova’s racist, cruel, climate crisis-denying, sexist Facebook posts (although a few years old, they appear to be currently posted!):  https://app.box.com/s/8ri5zjyki8cil7veiyd6ee9ashhmi397

Here is a poem called “PROFILES OF THE PERPETRATORS”

(9 minutes, read by Verbena on the radio in Dec 2017): https://app.box.com/s/8dnfbptkdvz1lid7nz2gupqqg54r4fwo  It includes details about bad actors Jeannie Breslin and other Take Back Eureka members. Take Back Eureka was founded by Michelle Constantine (running for Eureka mayor- NO!!) and Cornelius Loewenstein. [Click HERE if you’d like to listen to the whole Dec 2017 radio show on Violence Against Homeless People]

 

https://operationyellowelephant.blogspot.com/2006/08/yellow-elephant-anthony-mantova-its.html

Sunday, August 27, 2006: Yellow Elephant Anthony Mantova, National Field Director of the Leadership Institute, says that it’s “hillbilly, intellectually vacant and morally repugnant that those who call for war must serve.”

His hometown paper, the Eureka [CA] Reporter, published his columns supporting the Global War on Terrorism, and invading Iran, as recently as last year.

WAR MONGER, TRUMP SUPPORTER, RIGHT WING LIAR, MANTOVA

His hometown paper, the Eureka [CA] Reporter, published his columns supporting the Global War on Terrorism, and invading Iran, as recently as last year.

To its credit, the Eureka Reporter just published real American (and former U.S. Army paratrooper) Rob Ash‘s column Asking The Question: Is Mantova willing to serve in the wars he supports? Money quotes:

Why doesn’t he sign up?

Mantova gave me unconvincing answers. He speculated how his enlistment might undermine civilian control of the military.

He compared himself favorably to the ancient Roman politician Cato the Elder, Winston Churchill and Socrates. Clearly, Mantova has a very high opinion of his intellectual abilities.

Finally, Mantova demeaned all service members and veterans with his “hillbilly, intellectually vacant and morally-repugnant” comments and dismissed the very notion of military service. He treated a deadly serious question as if it were a joke.

You can bet Mantova will continue to “stay the course” — the one farthest away from the recruitment office.

He’s much safer cheering on the war from his cushy job at the nonprofit foundation and polishing his resume than he would be fighting those nasty terrorists.

Thanks also to Steve Gilliard. And Daily Kos. And Conservative Underground. And Respectfully Republican. And All Too Common Dissent.

Labels: Anthony Mantova

 

Warning Eureka, Trump wannabe is running for City Council

Eureka you should be very worried

Far right-winger Anthony Mantova a regular commentator on the local Rush Limbaugh radio channel, owner of Mantova’s Two Street Music in Old Town, and complete Trump apologist has announced that he is running for the Ward 1 Eureka City Council position currently held by Marion Brady who is thankfully termed out

No surprise his supporters are the usual rightwing suspects John Fullerton, Jeff and Sharon Lamoree, Jeannie Breslin, and Marian Brady.

mantova
Mantova, seen here with Brady and Fullerton in Chiv photo

Mantova, Eureka’s biggest Trump groupie weighs in on the Supervisors race

Surprise! Eureka City Council Candidate and all-around Trump sycophant Anthony Mantova has strongly endorsed Ryan Sundberg for fifth district supervisor in today’s Times-Standard.

No one actually should be surprised. While Ryan has cultivated his façade of being a calm, reasonable sort of middle of the road voice on the board of Supervisors, the reality is much different.  True compared to the bluster and bravado of fellow supervisor Rex Bohn, Sundberg does indeed seem calm, but that just his demeanor, when you look at his voting record both as a supervisor and as a coastal commissioner it’s indistinguishable from the positions espoused by chronic blowhard Rex Bohn.

Birds of a feather

So what is Mantova’s big closing argument to get you to vote for Ryan? “During the several years that I operated a store in McKinleyville, none of my customers ever complained about Mr. Sundberg.”
Seriously? That’s it?

 

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PARC’s Presentation to Veterans for Peace

Please check out the below presentation we gave in April 2017 about the origins and work of Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community.


WE THANK AND ACKNOWLEDGE ALL OF YOU who donate to PARC– we know you support us from your Social Security checks, as you struggle with health problems, while you raise a family, while you support your loved ones, as you work your asses off, even though you are thousands of miles away, while you struggle with injustice, as you create your art, as you teach, while you build or work to repair your communities, as you provide daily healthcare, as you rescue animals, and while there are so many worthwhile projects and movements and people to support. THANK YOU!

PARC Presentation to Veterans For Peace, Humboldt Bay, Chapter 56 

PARC is an organizing and resource space that has been in Eureka CA, where it started, since Nov. 2007. Many of us who established the space had been organizing as PEOPLE PROJECT and Acción Zapatísta for several years. Earlier in 2007, we created a beautiful encampment in Arcata, the purpose of which was to expose and bring attention to: the fact that there is no free and legal place for people to sleep; the criminalization of people who are poor, homeless, and have no place for dignified rest; and the human rights violations that accompany an intentional politics of cruelty. Some of you might remember that 12 day and night encampment because Jim Sorter and other Vets For Peace would share dinner with us during sunsets.

So, PARC was created with that kind of organizing in mind- the need for space to meet and simply be, to work and build solidarity and power among the people, and a space that was welcoming, and often run by people of color and LGBTQI folks. In the summer of 2007, Martin Cotton II, a white homeless man with visible mental health issues, unarmed, was beat to death by Eureka Police in front of the Eureka Rescue Mission, and thrown in the jail- where he died. Those of us doing copwatch work realized that we needed a place where the many witnesses could safely come and talk about what they saw and experienced.

Those are the origins of PARC which we say is “focused on justice and care.”

We have run a modest, grassroots space for almost 10 years now- all donation-based, all volunteer. We’re still dealing with the same realities that led to the PEOPLE PROJECT encampment, and have created other safe sleeping spaces in Eureka, weekly “End the War on the Poor” protests, a campaign to raise Eureka’s minimum wage, and myriad projects against state violence. Many groups have used the space. Many military veterans plug in with PARC, as volunteers or to access resources. PARC is very active in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS), working to end solitary confinement in CA prisons and jails and support the prisoner class led human rights movement. Currently, we are trying to end a torture campaign of sleep deprivation in CA’s solitary confinement units. We have 4 phone lines-for the statewide PHSS, PARC, Jail Support, and Redwood Curtain CopWatch. We do court support and strategizing- for tenants’ rights, for people getting put through the in-justice system, assisting people who’ve had their rights violated, child custody and family court support, help with restraining orders, homeless court intake, filing paperwork, documenting situations, and the list goes on. We also do a lot of dishes, laundry and vacuuming.

PARC is open 7 days a week, 9-12 hours a day, facilitating many essential community functions and what the Black Panthers would call “Survival Programs.” Unlike other facilities, we have a no paperwork, no hoops policy. No applications, no breathalyzers, no proof of id. A person does not have to meet any special requirements in order to receive experienced advocacy or have their basic needs met. No one is charged (or gets paid) for assistance, space, food, literature or other resources.

PARC is the ONLY place that provides jail support to assist people who’ve been arrested. Many of these arrests result from direct actions (environmental, anti-war, homeless rights, immigration rights, anti-police brutality). Also, jail support is provided for people arrested unexpectedly on the streets or in their cars.  We help people successfully navigate through the complicated court proceedings resulting from arrest and organize more support.

PARC takes a stand against sexism, racism, heterosexism, homophobia, bullying, and state intrusion. PARC not only provide services and resources, but we ACTIVELY organize and speak against oppressive state forces of violence, intimidation, control, and harassment and discrimination from anyone in general. The daily PARC crowd is multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-gendered, and from a wide spectrum of life experiences. We assist people on an individual basis, understanding the ‘big picture’ injustices that have created such needs, traumas, and crises of humanity and planet.

(more…)

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Days Of Action Against Police Brutality, Oct 22-23 2013 EUREKA

ImageImage

Below is a reportback from Skye, a participant this year.  Verbena, of Redwood Curtain CopWatch, wrote the following 3 paragraphs only to fill in what Skye was not present for.

Sending love & comfort & solidarity to young Andy Lopez‘ spirit and his family & community.  13 year old Andy was killed by Santa Rosa deputies on Oct 22.Image

from Verbena
On the night of Oct 22, 2013, while some protestors slept at Cesar Chavez park, a couple of us went, from midnight to 3am, to the Humboldt County Jail for “Welcome Out”!  ImageWe sat in a car right near where people exit the jail, with a bin of warm socks and clothes, tobacco, and a sign on the windshield to welcome people out on the cold, blustery night.  It is such a worthwhile and necessary activity; should be a regular thing. We encountered about 7 people who needed something warm, the use of a phone, maybe a cigarette, a friendly face and listening ears.

The next morning, October 23rd, people gathered for breakfast at Clarke Plaza, open to everyone who was hungry or wanting coffee or tea.  One of Chris Burgess’ brother’s came by; this being the 7th anniversary of his brother’s death.  Even those of us who never met Christopher during his short life, will always remember him.

After some music, some tears, and gathering up our signs, we marched and biked to Eureka Police Department where murder and cruelty are common practice.  And where violent creeps, like Terence Liles, Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez, Murl Harpham, and Justin Winkle, reside.  We are not afraid to call that out. Then we moved on (happily) to the neighborhoods of Eureka, where we talked with folks, and people remember Christopher and show spirited agreement- from their cars, houses, and yards- with the messages in our chants and banners: STOP POLICE BRUTALITY, LILES IS A KILLER, BEING A YOUTH IS NOT A CRIME, R.I.P. ZACHARY COOK (DEC 23 1989-JAN 4 2007) KILLED BY EPD’S LILES, CHANGE IS POSSIBLE,  WE REMEMBER CHRIS BURGESS. With dignity and strength, and care for each other, we decry and defy the intimidation of the police state.  ~Verbena

from Skye 10-25-13
For the past eighteen years, cities across the United States have rallied on October 22nd to show solidarity against police brutality. I am learning that occurrences of police brutality are much more numerous and severe in the United States than they are back home in Canada. A sad truth that is only deepened through the discovery that such violence often leads to death. This sharp reality felt all too often in the communities of the most northern part of California where police brutality ranges from daily intimidation to outright murder, tasering to decades of confined isolation.

Typically a one day event, the March is extended to two days in Eureka to honour the memory of Christopher Burgess, a 16 year old who was shot by a Eureka police officer on October 23rd, 2006. The supporters met at noon on the 22nd to share in discussion, food, and sign making. Despite the cloudy skies and serious purpose, spirits were high with the anticipation to flex our vocal cords and work our legs during the march. The call went out to begin and we each picked up a sign and gathered outside the park on the street.

Marching along an unplanned route, the group walked past the high school as the students were being released for the day. ImageMany showed their support to the idea of removing police from schools. An understandable reaction from students who are finding their schools resembling prisons more and more – security check points, undercover police, random locker searches, metal detectors. I hope we realize soon that treating people like criminals does not help in any way, especially when they are not. After a quick break the group continued to march through the city, waving signs, yelling chants, and throwing up peace signs to passing traffic.

Much to the group’s gratitude, the police encounters passed by without incident. Many people showed their support for our protest with honks from their vehicles as they drove by. The drivers who found themselves in a hurry were not too pleased with our presence on the street, even though we always left room for them to pass around. An understandable reaction to the injustice of having one’s life run by a clock – we wished them free time in response to their show of frustration. As the time to march came to a close, we stopped at another park to set up for the evening’s events.

An abundant feast was gifted to the sore footed group to nourish their bodies and hearts after the day’s walk. And while we ate, entertainment of the highest calibre was shared for our pure enjoyment. As night fell the community came a little closer together through the sharing of gifts and the exciting of our taste buds and ear drums. The live music provided reflection and introspection, as well as laughter and participation. Deeper connections were made as we were given space to share stories, jokes, and hugs. Through the coming together over a common surface problem, we are given practice to dive deeper into a shared community experience.Image

 After dark fell, a humid, foggy candlelight vigil took the remaining group back to the day’s starting point for an overnight park camp out. This is where my path diverged – to return the next day in the late afternoon with one of my gifts – fresh cucumber mango guacamole and baked yam fries. Posted on a busy street corner with signs and free food for whomever was hungry, the group honored the fallen victims by sharing their stories with passerby’s. Another year to gather and remember those whose lives continue to be afflicted by the brutality of violence from those we give our trust to be protectors.

I am grateful for the opportunity to show support to a community bringing awareness to an important shadow of our culture – the disconnection that allows one person to take another’s life and to perpetuate violence of the most disgraceful sort. The pervasive and obvious favoritism, elitism, and corruption infecting the enforcement agencies of this area have left me stunned and humbled. I honor and acknowledge the challenges faced by a population of people who are dealing with such a horrible treatment on a regular basis. No being deserves oppression at any level – be it physical, psychological, or spiritual. To commit such acts of violence require a disconnection from one’s heart so vast that the whisper of consciousness seems to have disappeared entirely.

Somewhere inside, buried deeper in some, the spark of light resides and awaits its chance to be heard and felt. This light exists in all of us. A hell inside creates the horrors of our lives. The love inside creates heaven on Earth. In this dawning age of truth, justice, and integrity we are each asked to step into our highest expression and to take responsibility for the actions we take and words we speak. Are you looking at a badge, uniform, or costume – or are you looking into someone’s eyes and seeing them standing there – as scared as you are – as full of beautiful creative potential as you are? The resolution and healing processes being born through the new consciousness of humanity will seek not the false, demeaning, and inadequate deterrence and ‘punishment’ oriented solutions, but ones focusing on root causes, emotional healing, and collective community restoration. Sickness and health in a community is shared by all.

photos from Rogue Planet News and radmul.blogspot.com

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November’s “Radical Rap” Addresses Inhumane Treatment of Houseless People in Southern Humboldt

Radical Rap is a radio show on KMUD radio that runs the 2nd Wednesday of the month (most months).  You can listen live at:  http://kmud.org/programs-mainmenu-11/listen-live-kmud

Here is a link to download and hear Radical Rap from Nov. 14, 2012:  https://www.box.com/s/m6qi2q41bt3xf9g3fh75

 

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This Crow Won’t Fly

The United States has a long history of using mean-spirited and often brutal laws to keep “certain” people out of public spaces and out of public consciousness.  Jim Crow laws segregated the South after the Civil War and Sundown Towns forced people to leave town before the sun set. The anti-Okie law of 1930s California forbade poor Dustbowl immigrants from entering the state and Ugly Laws (on the books in Chicago until the 1970s) swept the country and criminalized people with disabilities for allowing themselves to be seen in public.

Today, such laws target mostly homeless people and are commonly called “quality of life” or “nuisance crimes.”  They criminalize sleeping, standing, sitting, and even food-sharing.  Just like the laws from our past, they deny people their right to exist in local communities.

In June of this year, Rhode Island took a meaningful stand against this criminalization, and passed the first statewide Homeless Bill of Rights in the country. The Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP)—a West Coast grassroots network of homeless people’s organizations—is now launching simultaneous campaigns in California and Oregon. Rhode Island will only be the beginning.

Today’s “quality of life” laws and ordinances have their roots in the broken-windows theory.  This theory holds that one poor person in a neighborhood is like a first unrepaired broken window and if the “window” is not immediately fixed or removed, it is a signal that no one cares, disorder will flourish, and the community will go to hell in a handbasket.

For this theory to make sense, you first have to step away from thinking of people, or at least poor people, as human beings. You need to objectify them. You need to see them as dusty broken windows in a vacant building.  That is why we now have Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) with police enforcement to keep that neighborhood flourishing by keeping poor, unsightly people out of it.

We have gone from the days where people could be told “you can’t sit at this lunch counter” to “you can’t sit on this sidewalk,” from “don’t let the sun set on you here” to “this public park closes at dusk” and from “you’re on the wrong side of the tracks” to “it is illegal to hang out” on this street or corner.

Unless we organize, it isn’t going to get much better soon.   Since 1982, the federal government has cut up to $52 billion a year from affordable housing and pushed hundreds of thousands of people into the  shelter system or into the street.  Today we continue to have three million people a year without homes.  1982 also marked the beginning of homelessness as a “crime wave” that would consume the efforts of local and state police forces over the next three decades.  Millions of people across the country sitting, lying down, hanging out, and — perhaps worst of all – sleeping are cited in crime statistics.
WRAP and our allies recently conducted outreach to over 700 homeless people in 13 cities; we found 77% of people had been arrested, cited, or harassed for sleeping, 75% for loitering, and 73% for sitting on a sidewalk.

We are right back to Jim Crow Laws, Sundown Towns, Ugly Laws and Anti-Okie Laws, local laws that profess to “uphold the locally accepted obligations of civility.” Such laws have always been used by people in power against those on the outside. In other words, today’s Business Improvement Districts and Broken Window Laws are, at their core, a reincarnation of various phases of American history none of us is proud of.

And they reflect a political voice now openly entering the political and media mainstream that dismisses social justice as economically irrelevant and poor people as humanly irrelevant.

This is not about caring for or even advocating for “those people.” This is about all of us. As Aboriginal leader Lilla Watson said, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”  If you are not homeless, if you are not the target now, then understand that you are next. Isolated and fragmented, we lose this fight.

But we are no longer isolated and fragmented.  On April 1, WRAP and USCAI (US Canadian Alliance of Inhabitants) sponsored a  Day of Action in 17 cities.  We are one of hundreds of organizations and allies, from Massachusetts to NewYork and from Tennessee to California, all separate but all working together to give meaning to social justice and protect the civil and human rights of all of us.

We can only win this struggle if we use our collective strengths, organizing, outreach, research, public education, artwork, and direct actions. We are continuing to expand our network of organizations and cities and we will ultimately bring down the whole oppressive system of policing poverty and treating poor people as “broken windows” to be discarded and replaced.

To join our campaign for a Homeless Bill of Rights in both California and Oregon contact WRAP at wrap@wraphome.org and we will hook you up with organizers working in both of these states or others as this movement continues to grow.

 

Posted on August 27, 2012 by WRAP Comms

This Crow Won’t Fly:
http://wraphome.org/?p=2466&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

Criminalization Fact Sheet:
http://wraphome.org/?p=2474&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

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Anti-Okie Laws

The agricultural workers who migrated to California for work in the 1900s were generally referred to as “Okies”. They were assumed to be from Oklahoma, but they moved to California from other states, as well. The term became derogatory in the 1930s when massive numbers of people migrated West to find work. In 1937, California passed an “anti-Okie” law which made it a misdemeanor to “bring or assist in bringing” extremely poor people into the state. The law was later considered unconstitutional.

Jim Crow Laws

After the American Civil War (1861-1865), most Southern states passed laws denying black people basic human rights. Later, many border states followed suit. These laws became known as Jim Crow laws after the name of a popular black-face character that would sing songs like “Jump Jim Crow.” In California, Jim Crow played out against Chinese immigrants more than black people. From 1866-1947, Chinese residents of San Francisco were forced to live in one area of the city. The same segregation laws prohibited inter-racial marriage between Chinese and non-Chinese persons and educational and employment laws were also enforced in the city. African and Indian children had to attend separate schools from those of white children. In 1879, the California constitution read that no Chinese people could vote and the law was not repealed until 1926. Oregon and Idaho had similar provisions in their constitutions. In 1891, a referendum required all Chinese people to carry a “certification of residence” card or face arrest and jail. In 1909, the Japanese were added to the list of people who were prohibited by law from marrying white people. In 1913, “Alien Land Laws” were passed that prohibited any Asian people from owning or leasing property. The law was not struck down by the California Supreme Court until 1952.

Ugly Laws

From the 1860s to the 1970s, several American cities had laws that made it illegal for people with “unsightly or disgusting” disabilities to appear in public. Some of these laws were called “unsightly beggar ordinances”. The first ordinance was in San Francisco in 1867, but the most commonly cited law was from Chicago. Chicago Municipal Code section 36034 stated: “No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.”

Operation Wetback

Operation Wetback began in 1954 in California and Arizona as an effort to remove all illegal, Mexican immigrants from the Southwestern states. The Operation was by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and coordinated 1,075 border control agents along with state and local police agencies. The agents went house-to-house looking for Mexicans and performed citizenship checks during traffic stops. They would stop any “Mexican-looking” person on the street and insist on seeing identification. Operation Wetback was only abandoned after a large outcry from opponents in both the United States and Mexico.

Sundown Towns

Sundown Towns did not allow people who were considered “minorities” to remain in the town after the sun set. Some towns posted signs at their borders specifically telling people of color to not let the sun set on them while in the town. There were town policies and real estate covenants in place to support the racism, which was enforced by local police officers. Sundown Towns existed throughout the United States and there were thousands of them before the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited racial discrimination in housing practices. Sundown Towns simply did not want certain ethnic groups to stay in their towns at night. If undesired people were to wander into a Sundown Town after the sun had set, they would be subject to any form of punishment from harassment to lynching. While the state of Illinois had the highest number of Sundown Towns, they were a national phenomenon that mostly targeted anyone of African, Chinese, and Jewish heritage.

Today…… Broken Windows Laws Current “Quality of Life” laws also take a certain population into account: homeless persons. Using these laws, people are criminalized for simply walking, standing, sleeping, and other regular human behaviors. In other words, they are penalized and harassed simply because of who they are. Just as with Jim Crow, Ugly Laws, Anti-Okie Laws, and Operation Wetback, how people look and their very existence is the basis for charging them with criminal behaviors.

Posted on August 27, 2012 by WRAP Comms

This Crow Won’t Fly:
http://wraphome.org/?p=2466&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

Criminalization Fact Sheet:
http://wraphome.org/?p=2474&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

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Troy Anthony Davis

Executed by the State of Georgia 11:08 PM Sept 21, 2011


Rest In Peace

 

 

Martina Correia on Execution of Troy Davis: “My Brother’s Fight Will Continue”

Martina_web The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says Georgia’s execution of high-profile death row prisoner Troy Davis last Wednesday may have violated international law, citing serious concerns that the rights of Davis to due process and a fair trial were not respected. We speak with Davis’s older sister, Martina Correia, one of his most steadfast advocates. “I know the fight is not over,” says Correia. “Millions of people from around the world are very upset by this. Troy’s case is going to be a catalyst for change in the death penalty, particularly in the South.” The funeral for Troy Davis is planned for October 1 in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia.

Watch Video Interview

For Transcript of this Democracy Now! Interview with Martina, Click Here:

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An Innocent Man Facing Execution in Georgia.

Troy Davis faces execution in Georgia, September 21.
Davis was framed up, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of a Savannah policeman in 1989.

Please, call, fax or email today.


Stop the execution of Troy Davis!


* Gov. Nathan Deal: phone (404) 651-1776, fax (404) 657-7332, email georgia.governor@gov.state.ga.us, web contact form http://gov.state.ga.us/contact.shtml

* Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole: phone (404) 656-5651, fax (404) 651-8502

 

Sign all the petitions:

Visit these sites:

 

Major organizations condemn the scheduled execution of Troy Davis

From the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): “After reviewing the evidence, I am convinced that Troy Davis is an innocent man,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “It is appalling to me that with so much doubt surrounding this case, Mr. Davis is set to be executed in 14 days [now only four days]. Justice will never be served by the state-sanctioned murder of an innocent man.”

From Amnesty International USA: In the state of Georgia, the Board of Pardons and Paroles holds the keys to Troy’s fate. In the days before Davis’ execution, this board will hold a final clemency hearing – a final chance to prevent Troy Davis from being executed. One witness said in a CNN news interview, “If I knew then, what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row.” It’s difficult to believe that a system of justice could be so terribly flawed, but keep in mind that Troy has survived three previous execution dates, because people like you kept the justice system in check!

From the International Action Center: On March 28, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court failed to take up the appeal of Troy Anthony Davis. We join with millions in the U.S. and around the world in demanding that Gov. Deal and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles stop the execution of Troy Davis. Serious doubt remains. I call on all those with authority and influence in this decision to grant clemency to Troy Anthony Davis and overturn the death sentence.

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in English w/ Spanish subtitles
See this before they take it off the air!

PASS THIS ON!

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The Quality of Whose Life? Final Part

Linocut by Art Hazelwood

 

Author’s Note: This is the final part in “The Quality of Whose Life?” series.  It focuses on the proliferation of “quality of life” laws across the country that make it a crime to sit or lie on a sidewalk, sleep outside, panhandle, and urinate or defecate in public even when suitable alternatives do not exist. “These repressive new laws trample on the constitutional rights of the poorest of the poor, but few people are even aware of the massive extent of these human rights violations because they are targeted at people who are almost invisible to mainstream society, explains Terry Messman, editor of Street Spirit. “The sheer inhumanity of these discriminatory laws would cause an immediate outcry if imposed on any other minority group in our society.”

“Quality of life” laws are usually part of the gentrification and redevelopment of downtowns and they are enforced in conjunction with the closure of public parks, banning of free food and clothing distribution, and banishment policies like trespass admonishments. To gain public support for passing these laws, officials promise homeless services that seldom get fully implemented.

Part 1 introduced the series, Part 2 examined the broken windows theory that these laws are based on, and Part 3 showed how these laws revive the disgraced vagrancy and banishment frameworks found in Ugly Laws, Sundown Towns, and Bum Blockades. This concluding part details what four West Coast cities have done and are doing to expose and challenge these unjust and discriminatory laws. Their efforts illustrate the dedicated work that is being done across the country. 

Congress and the President recently negotiated how intense this round of the bipartisan war on the middle class and poor will be. The situation will only get worse if Representative Paul Ryan and company get their way.  In this “winner-take-all” social order, “quality of life” laws establish control over shopping and business districts and push the collateral human damage out of sight.  It is a social order that masks and suppresses untenable inequality and cruelty.

The aggressiveness by which “quality of life” laws are enforced varies from place to place depending on local politics, police departments, and community opposition, but three things are consistent across the country. Downtown business alliances and Chambers of Commerce wield too much power over the process, urban public space is being privatized, and poor and homeless people are being stripped of basic citizenship rights.

Civic determination and private resources support “quality of life” restrictions. Chambers of Commerce, business alliances, city officials, and consulting groups meet to share expertise and troubleshoot obstacles.  For example, in 2007, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce sponsored representatives from the Business Alliance of Portland to come to San Francisco to present Portland’s “Street Access For Everyone” plan to city officials. The plan included a sit/lie ordinance. A few years later, Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced a sit/lie ordinance for San Francisco.

Resisting A Filthy, Rotten System

Local social justice groups like the ones we detail below are at the center of opposing what Dorothy Day once described as “our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”  They are forceful and often successful in confronting this trend in individual cities, but they also recognize that as long as this work remains isolated by geography and jurisdictional limitations, it is no match for the formidable wave of power and money that is sweeping the country.

In recognition of this reality, seven west coast groups came together to create a social justice alliance that has communities working jointly whenever and wherever needed.  In 2005, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness (the Coalition), Sisters Of The Road (Sisters), Street Roots, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Street Spirit, and Real Change became founding members of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).  We recognized that only by joining forces, first regionally, then nationally, can we build a movement strong enough to counter the ongoing assaults on poor people and present injustices like the current “quality of life” laws.

For this final part, we look at the groups that make up WRAP.  We highlight the multifaceted civil rights work they are doing to educate, activate, and defend their communities in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Berkeley. Strategies include research, public education, grassroots media, community organizing, advocacy, Community Watch, and citation defense. We conclude with the collaborative work that is being done as WRAP to challenge “quality of life” laws at the regional and national level.

Los Angeles – LA CAN

The Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles is the most heavily policed area outside of Baghdad. In the three years of the Skid Row Safer Cities Initiative, 36,000 “quality of life” citations were issued and more than 27,000 arrests were made in a 50-square block community of 15,000 people who are mostly poor African Americans. These mind boggling statistics give Skid Row the notorious distinction of being ground zero for “quality of life” policing.

Photo Credit: LA CAN

To educate, mobilize, and share the stories of their community, LA CAN produces the Community Connection newspaper, their rendition of the North Star and Liberator. Community Connection covers policing, housing, health, budgetary, and other community issues from the perspective of Skid Row residents.  At the end of 2010, LA CAN also released an influential human rights assessment on the negative impacts of the Safer Cities Initiative in Skid Row. Most recently, they published Downtown Blues: A Skid Row Reader, which explores the struggles against displacement, misrepresentation, and civil rights violations in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. In February, a release party for the book at the University of Southern California featured contributors Robin D.G. Kelley, Cedric J. Robinson, Clyde Woods, Pete White, General Dogon, Gary Blasi, Damien Schnyder, LisaGay Hamilton, and Jonathan Gomez. Over 100 people attended the event in celebration of Black History Month.

LA CAN has fearlessly attempted to address the police’s “culture of abuse” through official channels at the local level.  They have used public records and declarations to illustrate illegal actions, public testimony to the Public Safety Committee and City Council, and, with the help of the ACLU and civil rights attorney Carol Sobel, lodged a complaint in federal court that found LAPD — by its own admission — guilty of illegal stops and seizures in Skid Row. Since most attempts have been rebuffed, they submitted a color of law complaint to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and are now in conversation with DOJ staff over the violations that need to be addressed.

In 2005, LA CAN launched a Community Watch program to reduce the harmful impacts of unaddressed state and private security violence. Teams of four LA CAN members patrol the neighborhood with clipboards and a video camera, monitor the police and Business Improvement District security guards known as “red” or “purple” shirts, and gather evidence when the civil rights of residents are violated. Their presence and documentation ensures fewer incidents of brutality and racial profiling. The Nation has recognized Community Watch as “One of the Top Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets.”

LA CAN also runs a legal clinic that provides education, services, and representation to help low-income tenants and homeless Skid Row residents get their housing needs met. In 2007, they launched a Citation Defense Program in response to the dramatic increase in “quality of life” citations (roughly 1,000 a month) issued under the Safer Cities Initiative.

In order to break the vicious cycle of poverty, incarceration, and disenfranchisement in Skid Row, LA CAN teamed up with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Fulbright and Jaworski, LLP, and other law firms working pro bono to defend Skid Row residents.  Of the 700 tickets handled by the clinic in 2009, 90% were issued for crosswalk violations like jaywalking.  Among the 700 tickets from 2009 that have been resolved to date, 86% had the charges and/or all penalties dismissed and an additional 10% had the community service penalty significantly reduced. Amongst those who reported their disability status on intake forms for the tickets, 60% had a disability.

Through the legal clinic, organizers were also able to identify a resurgence of illegal property confiscation by LAPD from homeless residents.  Again with pro bono legal support, residents claimed initial victory when a Temporary Restraining Order was issued on April 22, 2011 to prevent LAPD and the City’s Public Works Department from seizing or destroying personal property without following proper procedures.

General Dogon, a LA CAN organizer and Skid Row resident, summed up the paradox of punishing the poor this way, “How do you criminalize the blind for being blind or the lame for being lame? If a man don’t have no where to go, he don’t have a job, and the city don’t have nothing to offer him, you can’t criminalize the man for that and this is what they’re doing. The cold part about that is, on this street right here, Main Street, they were allowing the yuppies to sit on the sidewalk. That’s the new in-crowd, and the city is supporting them. They’re the ones getting everything.”

San Francisco – The Coalition

San Francisco suffers similar harassment.  Since the mid-1990s, San Francisco police have issued well over 100,000 citations for minor offenses that target homeless people on the streets.  While these citations do not allow incarceration, the failure to pay the fine is a misdemeanor. Since most homeless people cannot afford to pay the fines, warrants are issued for their arrest.  The end result is that up to 25% of the people in the San Francisco County Jail are homeless.

Outstanding bench warrants for these misdemeanors can also block access to housing and other services needed to exit homelessness. To provide some defense for its community, the Coalition initiated the Citation Defense Program in 1995. Volunteer outreach workers collect citation information and narratives, which they give to pro bono attorneys who provide representation in court. Over the past several years, the Citation Defense Program represented roughly a quarter of all “quality of life” citations issued in San Francisco. The attorneys in these cases have a 97% success rate for getting cases either discharged, dismissed, or fines stayed in guilty findings. LA CAN and Berkeley’s Citation Defense Programs were modeled on the Coalition’s.

In addition to outreach and citation defense, the Coalition has documented police and other government employee harassment and court inequalities to better protect homeless people from injustice and uses its newspaper, Street Sheet, to educate and mobilize the community against anti-homeless measures.  It also used video documentation to end a Department of Public Works program called “Operation Scrubdown” in 2008. Operation Scrubdown sent police-escorted water trucks through the Tenderloin, a neighborhood where homeless people sleep on the sidewalks.  Every morning before dawn, the trucks power blasted the sidewalks and hosed down sleepers with water and a cleaning agent that city officials identified only as “lemon.”  The video documentation brought media attention to this inhumane practice, which led to the program’s termination.

In 2009, the City of San Francisco opened a new Community Justice Center (CJC) in the Tenderloin neighborhood, against the wishes of the electorate. It targeted homeless people, half of whom were charged with no crime other than sleeping outside. Because the City and the courts claimed that they could not provide documentation of the cases heard at CJC, the Coalition attended court almost daily for three months and collected every court calendar that was produced in order to document the injustices occurring.  Although the Coalition was unsuccessful at closing down CJC, the court began to document its work and move away from a homeless focus toward more serious crimes.

In 2010, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors considered a sit/lie law to make sitting or lying down on the sidewalk a criminal act. The Coalition produced reports on the effects of similar laws on small business in other cities, the impact on real crime in other cities, the constitutionality of the law, racially unequal enforcement of similar laws, and the impacts of criminalization on homeless people’s daily lives and on their chances of housing access. This documentation and reporting, in combination with meeting with public officials, public actions, and strong community organizing, led to the Board ultimately deciding to oppose the law.

The law then barely passed in the November election after a $400,000 media campaign that was aired during the San Francisco Giants World Series and financed by individuals from Charles Schwab, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America. However, with less than $10,000, the Coalition and a newly formed group, Sidewalks Are For People Coalition,  reduced support by 16% from just nine months earlier.

Photo Credit: Sidewalks Are For People Campaign

Since then, Coalition civil rights organizer Bob Offer-Westort writes, “the Coalition on Homelessness has begun developing documentation and know-your-rights trainings for members of our community who are cited or threatened with citation.  Simultaneously, attorneys from the ACLU and Disability Rights Advocates, as well as independent attorneys, have begun work developing legal strategies to challenge what we believe to be an unconstitutional law. Through coordinated documentation, litigation, and through public pressure on our legislators, on a new mayoral administration, on the media, and on the consciences of fellow San Franciscans, we know ultimately we will win.”

Portland, Oregon – Sisters and Street Roots

In Portland, Sisters Of The Road (Sisters) and Street Roots have been at the forefront of resistance to “quality of life” measures, including a camping ban and sit/lie ordinance. In 2003, Sisters and Street Roots launched the Right to Sleep Campaign, urging City Hall to look at alternatives to criminalization measures that target individuals living on the streets. In their newspaper, Street Roots highlighted the civil rights issues faced by people experiencing homelessness through in-depth reporting on private security in downtown Portland and how it relates to the criminalization of homelessness. Over the years, the newspaper reported on a number of criminalization efforts, including alternatives to the camping, sit-lie, and Drug Free Zones. Due to community pressure and legal challenges, the sit/lie ordinance was twice struck down as unconstitutional in 2004 and 2009.

 

Photo Credit: Michael Lloyd/Oregonian

In 2010, the city proposed another version of the sit-lie law called the Sidewalk Management Ordinance. In response, Sisters organized an action in celebration of sidewalks being for everyone that was attended by over 200 unhoused and housed allies who then marched to City Hall to testify against the measure.  Sisters exposed the classism and bias of the new ordinance in a public statement they used in their media work, outreach to the community, and in City Council hearings.

Sisters also gave a presentation to the city’s Human Rights Commission on the history of the two previous sit/lie ordinances, how it had been used against homeless people, and how the Council was manipulating the issue to make the new ordinance seem like it was about mobility rights for “differently-abled” people.  They specifically objected to the way the ordinance used the Americans with Disabilities Act. Homeless people were targeted for blocking sidewalk access for people with disabilities even though the Portland Housing Bureau recently found that 47% of homeless people had a high risk of mortality caused by untreated disabilities.

A week after the presentation, the Human Rights Commission took a public stand against the ordinance. At the next City Council hearing on the ordinance, three Commissioners testified that it violated human rights and the City Council should vote no on it.

Despite these efforts the ordinance passed. Sisters immediately switched gears and launched a “know-your-rights” campaign. They did street outreach that included handing out 2,000 flyers to educate Portlanders on their rights under the law and invited them to organize with them to oppose the ordinance. Sisters’ organizer Chani Geigle-Teller notes, “Largely because of this organizing on the streets, conversation by conversation, our weekly Civil Rights Workgroup consistently has over 12 volunteers who come in throughout the week to help us carry out this work!”

Berkeley – BOSS

Berkeley, another “liberal” city, is now considering its own no-sitting ban to go along with a no-lie ordinance passed in 2007 under Mayor Bates’ Public Commons for Everyone Initiative.  Since the 1990s, there have been multiple attempts by merchant associations such as the Downtown Berkeley Association and Downtown Berkeley Business Improvement District, the Mayor’s office, and City Council to clear out homeless people from People’s Park and the shopping districts along Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues.

Like anti-homeless measures in other cities, the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative promised a mixture of services and policing. Largely due to pressure from groups like BOSS, East Bay Community Law Center, and Homeless Action Center, the city made a little progress on outreach, Social Security Income advocacy, extension of public bathroom hours, treatment services, and addressing harassment complaints against the Berkeley HOST Program (a private ambassador program paid by the city to patrol the downtown area).  But it has fallen woefully short on providing housing and other services that were promised.

Photo Credit: Janny Castillo, BOSS

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Association are now pushing to ban sitting on the sidewalk. The Chamber of Commerce says the ban is necessary to curtail negative behavior and scary pets that are frightening people away from the downtown area. Advocates argue that there are laws already in place to address these issues and the new ban will target homeless people. Like the new sit/lie law in San Francisco, Berkeley’s latest effort directly targets homeless youth. To assert any homeless person’s right to exist in public space, BOSS and allies organized a “sit down for justice” action last month. Michael Diehl, a long-time community activist led a sit-in and demonstration that drew local news and passersby. UC Berkeley students from the Suitcase Clinic and other student groups joined the sit-in. Later that evening, the group marched to a Berkeley City Council meeting to speak out against the sit ordinance and its likely negative impact on the homeless population.

To focus public attention on this growing trend of discriminatory laws and reclaim public commons in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Portland, WRAP, the Coalition, BOSS, Sisters, Right to Survive, and other allies coordinated a “Sidewalks Are For People Day” on May 22, 2011. This three-city action is a small example of the type of collaboration and solidarity that is needed to overcome the civil and human rights issues raised in this series.

As shown by the work described above, local civil rights efforts have been effective at curtailing the level of criminalization in individual neighborhoods and cities.  They have led to many successful actions and put pressure on mayors, police chiefs, local human rights commissions, and even the DOJ, to begin responding to these widespread abuses. Important victories have been won, but they have been separated by geographical boundaries.   They need to be joined and that is the mission of WRAP.

Coming Together For A More Inclusive Quality of Life

WRAP is creating an organizing model that builds strategic relationships across local boundaries and unites community organizers, poverty and civil rights activists, students, the faith community, public defenders and progressive lawyers in the civil rights struggle.

In our short history, we have organized a regional “House Keys not Handcuffs” action in San Francisco that brought together over 1,000 people from up and down the West Coast to demand the federal government begin addressing our civil rights and housing issues.  We are now organizing a Community Congress for August that will bring together our member organizations and hundreds of grassroots leaders from their communities. It will include know-your-rights, citation defense, and Community Watch trainings, as well as strategic planning on how we can combat discriminatory “quality of life” laws, enforcement, prosecution, and homeless courts on a regional level.

WRAP has also documented the impact of “quality of life” policing on over 300 self-identified homeless and mentally ill people in six cities.  Our research found that nearly 80% of the people surveyed had been stopped, arrested, or cited for “quality of life” offenses, 60% were harassed by Business Improvement District private security, and 29% had lost their housing or were discharged from a program due to incarceration. This coming June, we will use this research on a criminalization panel and Congressional briefing that are part of the National Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s Forum on the Right to Housing in Washington, DC.

We are in the beginning stages of building a movement.  The recession, jobless recovery, and gridlock in Washington, DC lay bare the bankruptcy of the current system. Never has the need and imperative been more critical to defend the due process and civil rights of those being criminalized as more of our neighbors are forced onto the streets.  But in the end “defense” is not enough. We must also assert a vision for the future that reflects our humanity and interconnection. We all need a safe place to call home, freedom from fear and want, nutritious food and health care to sustain our bodies, education and culture to expand our minds, and dignified work.

Throughout the many civil rights struggles in our nation’s past, communities have bound together to fight for a more inclusive democracy. The abolitionist, women’s rights, labor, civil rights, disability rights, and environmental movement have all shown that change happens on a large scale only when pockets of resistance create a network of support and solidarity. The collective resistance forming to the present injustice of “quality of life” laws is no different.

Will you join in this movement for a better quality of life for everyone?

Special thanks to Marlene Griffith, Casey Gallagher, Becky Dennison, Chani Geigle-Teller, Israel Bayer, Bob Offer-Westort, Janny Castillo, and Michael Diehl for their contributions to this article.

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