UN: Americans’ Right to Protest is in Grave Danger Under Trump

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by Common Dreams staff

www.commondreams.org

UN: Americans’ Right to Protest is in Grave Danger Under Trump

At least 19 U.S. states have introduced bills that attack the right to protest since Donald Trump's election as president

At least 19 U.S. states have introduced bills that attack the right to protest since Donald Trump's election as president, an "alarming and undemocratic" trend, U.N. human rights investigators said this week.

Maina Kiai and David Kaye, independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression respectively, are calling on lawmakers in the United States to stop the “alarming” trend of “undemocratic” anti-protest bills designed to criminalize or impede the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

"The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech," they said in a statement, calling for action to reverse such legislation.

“From the Black Lives Matter movement, to the environmental and Native American movements in opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and the Women’s Marches, individuals and organizations across society have mobilized in peaceful protests, as it is their right under international human rights law and US law,” Kiai and Kaye said.

The Arizona State Senate in February voted to expand racketeering laws to allow police to arrest anyone involved in a protest and seize their assets, treating demonstrators like organized criminals.

Portland, Oregon activists organizing against police killings of Black men, white nationalist politicians, and the countless systems of racism throughout our local, state, and federal governments are now considered “domestic terrorists” by Department of Homeland Security.

In January, North Dakota Republicans proposed legislation to legalize running over protesters if they are blocking roadways. (The legislation failed, for now.)

Missouri lawmakers want to make it illegal to wear a robe, mask or disguise (remarkably, a hoodie would count) to a protest.

In Minnesota, following the police shooting death of Philando Castile, protests caused part of a highway to shut down. Then, at the beginning of the state legislative session, Minnesota legislators drafted bills that would punish highway protestors with heavy fines and prison time and would make protesters liable for the policing costs of an entire protest if they individually were convicted of unlawful assembly or public nuisance.

Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.”

Lawmakers in North Carolina want to make it a crime to heckle lawmakers.

In Indiana, conservatives want to allow police to use “any means necessary” to remove activists from a roadway.

Colorado lawmakers are considering a big increase in penalties for environmental protesters. Activists who tamper with oil or gas equipment could be, under the measure, face felony charges and be punished with up to 18 months behind bars and a fine of up to $100,000.

A bill before the Virginia state legislature would dramatically increase punishment for people who “unlawfully” assemble after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.” Those who do so could face a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

The experts took particular issue with the characterization in some bills of protests being “unlawful” or “violent”.

“There can be no such thing in law as a violent protest,” the experts said. “There are violent protesters, who should be dealt with individually and appropriately by law enforcement. One person’s decision to resort to violence does not strip other protesters of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. This right is not a collective right; it is held by each of us individually,” the experts stressed.

“Peaceful assembly,” they added, “is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and the government has no business imposing a general requirement that people get permission before exercising that right.”

The experts also emphasized that legislators should be mindful of the important role that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly has played in the history of American democracy and the fight for civil rights.

“We call on the US authorities, at the federal and state level, to refrain from enacting legislation that would impinge on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and opinion,” they concluded.

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University of the Virgin Islands Rise Relief Fund

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University of the Virgin Islands Rise Relief Fund

www.uvi.edu

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, The University of the Virgin Islands has announced the creation of the UVI Rise Relief Fund. Substantial damage was sustained throughout the St. Thomas Campus and St John Academic Center, impacting classes and normal operations. The UVI Rise Relief Fund will provide assistance to students, faculty and staff who were impacted by the storm. 

Your support will aid in the recovery by assisting with basic needs required during a stage of emergency. Over 1,600 students and staff members were impacted by the storm, and your charitable gift will help to bring normalcy back to the campus community.

Our goal is to raise $750,000.  Text 2017IRMA to 71777 to support this effort.

The University of the Virgin Islands is recognized as an educational entity eligible to receive charitable contributions from companies that receive tax incentives through the Virgin Islands Economic Development Commission (VIEDA). Your gift to the UVI Rise Relief Fund is 100% tax deductible.

Feel free to contact the UVI Development Office at (340) 693-1040 for additional information.  

Many students and staff members at the University of the Virgin Islands are seeking your assistance in addressing immediate needs in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

The University of the Virgin Islands is a public, co-ed, land-grant HBCU (Historically Black College and University) in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). Approximately 2,500 students are enrolled on the two campuses: the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix and the St. Thomas campus. The institution offers 47 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across its five colleges and schools. If you would like to contribute to our students and staff in this time of need, please click the link below to donate.

uvi donate button: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/2017IRMA

The University of the Virgin Islands is a learner-centered institution dedicated to the success of its students and committed to enhancing the lives of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean through excellent teaching, innovative research, and responsive community service.  UVI is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Learn more about UVI ...

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Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument

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By Juliet Eilperin December 8, 2017

www.washingtonpost.com

Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument

 

A uranium company launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.

“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”

But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.

In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”

Trump instructed Zinke in April to assess 27 monuments designated under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents wide latitude to protect federal lands and waters under threat. Conservationists, tribal officials, ranching groups and other interests sought to influence the review’s outcome, unsuccessfully in the case of the two Utah sites.

Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R-Utah) addressed the energy considerations in an interview Monday. “The only thing that smacks of energy is the uranium,” he said. “The uranium deposits are outside the monument now.”

Energy Fuels Resources did not just weigh in on national monuments through public-comment letters. It hired a team of lobbyists at Faegre Baker Daniels — led by Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation as the Environmental Protection Agency’s deputy secretary — to work on the matter and other federal policies affecting the company. It paid the firm $30,000 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, according to federal lobbying records, for work on this and other priorities.

The company’s vice president of operations, William Paul Goranson, joined Wheeler and two other lobbyists, including former congresswoman Mary Bono (R-Calif.), to discuss Bears Ears in a July 17 meeting with two top Zinke advisers.

Goranson said Friday that the session with Downey Magallanes, who oversaw the monuments review and serves as Zinke’s deputy chief of staff for policy, and Vincent De Vito, his energy policy counselor, was focused on fairly narrow issues.

Company officials “were trying to get a sense of what was going on” with the review because some of their air and water quality monitoring stations and a road leading to the now-dormant Daneros mine all lay within the original monument, Goranson explained.

“The goal of the meeting . . . was not to go and advocate on the boundaries,” he said, adding that the lobbying for that was “on a separate track.” Still, the officials proposed small boundary adjustments to accommodate the monitoring stations as well as the mine, he acknowledged. And they emphasized that the company had cut its workforce by more than half since 2015 because of low uranium prices.

Areas cut out of Utah monuments could reopen to mining and drilling View Graphic

“They heard what we had to say about the job losses, etc.,” he said. Zinke’s deputies “were pretty positively disposed to” the idea of spurring future domestic uranium production.

The Interior Department did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The price of uranium has recently hovered between $20 and $25 per pound. To justify mining activity, it needs to approach $40 to $50. Michael Heim, a securities research analyst at Noble Capital Markets, said Friday that the current amount “is not a sustainable price” for firms such as Energy Fuels Resources. Given today’s price, Heim said, “the idea of creating more areas to mine wouldn’t have much impact.”

But Goranson said he and other company officials are “confident” that the construction of nuclear plants in Asia and elsewhere, along with other factors, will eventually push prices higher and justify reopening the Daneros mine.

Greg Zimmerman, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation and advocacy group, said the Energy Fuels Resources effort shows the extent to which industry interests influenced the monuments review.

“You listen to the rhetoric about how this was all really about taking special interests out of the equation,” Zimmerman said. “They’re doing this on behalf of special interests. When you look in terms of public access to recreation areas, there’s not a hunter or angler or outdoor recreationist who wants to be out and around an uranium mine.”

The idea of uranium mining is particularly sensitive among members of the Navajo Nation, who have a reservation near Bears Ears and played a key role in pressing for its creation. More than 500 uranium mines have been left near or on their lands, and most of these designated Superfund sites have not been cleaned up. Contamination still affects drinking-water wells, springs and storage tanks.

Navajo Nation Council delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who represents several communities near Bears Ears, said Friday that the nation opposes any additional uranium development. “We felt the full brunt of uranium contamination and lost a whole generation of men who were mining or milling uranium,” she said.

The Navajo Nation and other tribes are challenging Trump’s Bears Ears proclamation in federal court, and Navajo President Russell Begaye expressed confidence in an interview that the move will be overturned.

Yet “there is a definite door that’s been opened” with its signing, he said. “With this proclamation, it’s an open invitation for mining companies to come in and start mining uranium and other minerals in the area.”

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URGENT ACTION: ICE Arrests Arturo - Help stop his deportation

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URGENT ACTION:  ICE Arrests Arturo - Help stop his deportation

April 26, 2017 our brother in Sanctuary, Arturo Hernandez Garcia, was arrested by ICE at his workplace, after living in Sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church in Denver for nine months in 2014-15. We have worked closely with Arturo as part of the national Sanctuary Movement and are devastated by his arrest.

We believe that this is a retaliatory action to punish Arturo for his on-going activism and public stance against deportations. We condemn Arturo’s detention and demand his immediate release.  

Take action now to bring Arturo home to his family. Call ICE Deputy Director Jeff Lynch at (720) 875-2050 and demand the immediate release of Arturo Hernandez Garcia, A# 087-952-389. You can also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

An undocumented immigrant from Mexico with two children, Arturo lived in Sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church in Denver. He left Sanctuary over a year ago after being issued a letter by the Department of Homeland Security stating that he would not be deported. His detention by ICE at his workplace on Wednesday comes in direct contradiction to this letter. 

Arturo and Angela during Angela's visit in 2015.

New Sanctuary Movement leader Angela Navarro, who lived in Sanctuary at member congregation West Kensington Ministry for 58 days before winning an end to her final deportation order, traveled to Denver to provide support for Arturo after she won her own Sanctuary campaign. Both continue to be active in the on-going cases of immigrants living in faith communities in defiance of deportation orders. 

“We will always remain firm in the fight to win justice for our brothers and sisters facing deportation, most especially my friend Arturo in this difficult moment,” said Angela. “As leaders of the nation-wide Sanctuary Movement, I have worked alongside Arturo to end deportations and injustice against immigrants, and remain committed to winning his freedom. I trust that God will do his work to bring Arturo home to his family.” 

Arturo’s family and organizers in Denver believe that he has already been transferred from the ICE Field Office to a private immigration detention facility run by the for-profit prison company the GEO Group in Aurora, Colorado. This swift transfer from ICE detention to prison furthers indicates that his detention is to punish Arturo’s public activities and further terrorize the immigrant community, particularly those who may consider taking Sanctuary. 

Currently, undocumented mother Jeannette Vizguerra is living in Sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church in Denver, where Arturo lived without stepping foot out of the church. Last week, Jeanette was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Please make an immediate call to ICE Director Lynch to #KeepArturoHome and forward this urgent call to action to your networks. Call (720) 875-2050 and demand the immediate release of Arturo Hernandez Garcia, A# 087-952-389, and then email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Urgent Calls for Justice in Charlotte as Window for Police Transparency Closes

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by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

www.commondreams.org

Urgent Calls for Justice in Charlotte as Window for Police Transparency Closes

Blasting officials' "piecemeal" transparency, rights groups demand public release of all footage and audio recordings of Keith Lamont Scott's death

Not satisfied with the portions of body and dashcam footage showing the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott released over the weekend, community members and civil rights groups on Monday continued to demand transparency and accountability from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD).

Condemning local law enforcement for their "piecemeal" approach to transparency, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina has again asked the CMPD to publicly release all footage and audio recordings of the events surrounding Scott's shooting.

"The videos released this weekend raise a host of questions about why police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, and whether, in doing so, the officers involved violated state or federal law, in addition to failing to follow the department's own rules regarding the use of deadly force, de-escalation, when to wear and activate body cameras, and more," said Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina. 

"In the interest of full transparency," Birdsong continued, the CMPD "must stop releasing information to the public on a piecemeal basis and disclose all remaining body and dash camera footage, as well as audio of dispatch recordings, of the moments before and after Mr. Scott was killed."

"The public and Mr. Scott's family deserve to see and hear all available information about whether something was in his hand and why a man who was suspected of no crime, other than the newly disclosed accusation that he possessed a minor amount of marijuana, is now dead," she added.

Though the family has repeatedly insisted that Scott did not possess a weapon—even in her cellphone recording of the shooting, Scott's wife Rakeyia repeatedly told police, "he doesn't have a gun"—officials claim that he was armed and allegedly found a gun at the scene. During a Saturday press conference, officials said they recovered a gun and ankle holster bearing Scott's fingerprints.

The ACLU further expressed concern over the officers' inappropriate use of force against Scott, who they were informed had suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as the shooting officer's failure to use a body camera.

"The department must not simply run out the clock," Birdsong added, referring to the controversial new law, HB972, set to take effect on October 1. The law bars the public from seeing body camera footage without a court order.

Picking up on the urgency of the moment, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP, and the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice on Monday is holding a Rally for Justice & Transparency at the Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte. The groups are expected to issue a list of demands, which will include the immediate repeal of HB972.

Charlotte organizers and activists also released a statement Monday expressing "no confidence" in CMPD Chief Kerr Putney's "ability to either serve or protect our community."

The statement reads:

    We believe the execution of Keith Scott by CMPD, the lack of transparency on the part of the CMPD in providing explanations for Keith Scott's death, and attempts to intimidate and stifle protests reflect and established pattern of misconduct and cover-up on the part of CMPD. The outrage being seen, heard, and felt in Charlotte this week is not solely about the Kieth Scott case, but rather this moment represents a tipping point for a community that has had its trust repeatedly broken by CMPD. Keith Scott's family is not the first to demand the release of police footage connected to the death of a loved one at the hands of police.

Putney had indicated during a weekend press conference that once HB972 went into effect, the public would be required to obtain a court order to access the remaining videos related to Scott's killing.

However, the organizers say that they've examined HB972 and that language "makes it clear that this new law does not apply to the video recorded in the Keith Scott case." Thus, they are calling for the CMPD to release all video related to the Scott case, "as well as any videos from any cases prior to October 1st."

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