Friday, November 28, 2014

Video shows Cleveland cop killed 12-year-old boy in under two seconds

By Andre Damon 

28 November 2014


Cleveland police released a video Wednesday of the shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by a police officer this past weekend. The video clearly shows that a police officer shot Rice within two seconds of pulling up to a park gazebo where he was sitting.

The shooting on Saturday, the latest in a series of nationwide police killings, came only two days before the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9.

The video released by Cleveland police Wednesday contradicts earlier police statements that the officers told Rice three times to drop a toy handgun he was holding and raise his hands. Given the tiny amount of time between the officers’ arrival and the shooting, they would not have had time to do this, and the boy would not have had time to comply.

Police also released an audio recording of a 911 call that preceded the shooting, in which a local resident complained that someone who was “probably a juvenile” was pointing a gun that was “probably fake.”

“The video shows one thing distinctly: the police officers reacted quickly,” Rice’s parents, Samaria Rice and Leonard Warner, said in a statement requesting that the video be made public.

“The news of Tamir’s death has devastated our family. Tamir was a bright young man who had his whole life ahead of him... Everyone loved him. The holiday season begins this week. Instead of the love, fellowship and joy the season brings to many families, we will be mourning the loss of Tamir.

“We feel the actions of the patrol officer who took our son’s life must be made public,” they said, asking for peaceful demonstrations against the young man’s killing.

This month, the FBI reported that 461 people were killed by police in “justifiable homicides” last year, the highest number in at least two decades, and up from 404 in 2011. By comparison, police in Germany killed only six people in 2011, while police in the UK killed two.

There is little doubt that the Rice’s killer will be treated in a similar manner as Wilson. In fact, the response to Brown’s killing has been deliberately used to set a precedent for protecting killer cops from prosecution, leading police to function in an even more openly violent and aggressive fashion.

In the days following the decision of the highly manipulated grand jury, Wilson has been treated as a quasi-celebrity by the media, which has largely swallowed his highly improbable and self-serving account of the killing of Brown. The tone was set by the interview of Wilson aired Wednesday by ABC News and conducted by George Stephanopoulos.

In the days prior to the grand jury decision, Wilson had met with nearly all of the leading TV news anchors, including Matt Lauer of NBC, Scott Pelley of CBS and Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon of CNN, essentially having the various newscasters audition for an exclusive interview.

Ultimately, it was Stephanopoulos, a former White House Communications director under the Clinton administration, who got the job. Stephanopoulos’s discussion with Wilson was entirely in continuity with Wilson’s treatment at the hands of St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch: that is, instead of treating Wilson as a man accused of a terrible crime, with every incentive to lie and misinterpret the truth, Stephanopoulos accepted every fact Wilson presented as good coin.

Wilson’s story falls somewhere between the highly improbable and the impossible. In his grand jury testimony, Wilson said that the unarmed Brown, after having been hit by at least three hollow-point .40 caliber bullets, somehow managed to charge at him full speed, headfirst. The cop described the teenager in comic-book language, saying Brown looked “like a demon” and described his conflict with the supposedly superhuman teenager as akin to “a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.”

Stephanopoulos did not question any element of this story, asking only if the killer cop would have done anything differently in retrospect. “No,” replied Wilson.

On Thursday, The New York Times published a front-page article analyzing Wilson’s ABC interview. It quoted two former police officers and an “expert” from the Homeland Security Management Institute at Long Island University, all of whom offered suggestions on how Wilson might have responded to Brown in a different fashion, including calling for backup. The article did not even mention the possibility that Wilson’s story could be false, once again serving to reinforce his version of events.

The grand jury proceeding was itself a fraud, in which the prosecution failed to specify charges it was pursuing against Wilson and did not provide an account of what laws it thought he violated. Prosecutors, functioning as defense attorneys for Wilson, sought to discredit and undermine the mass of evidence that clearly justified a trial, while allowing Wilson himself to speak for hours without any critical questions.

There is a line of continuity between the grand jury proceeding that exonerated Wilson and the subsequent treatment of the issue in the media. Nowhere was the cop subject to a frank and adversarial challenge to his absurd story.

The implications of all of this are clear: If a police officer says he had grounds to use lethal force, he had the right to do so and will not be questioned. He will be exonerated by the courts and lauded in the media. The result will be more police murders like those of Tamir Rice.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Majority of global population agrees Internet access is a human right

by Pat Petronzio -- Nov 27, 2014


The United Nations Human Rights Council officially declared Internet access and online freedom of expression a human right in July 2012. According to the results of an extensive survey published this week, the majority of the world's citizens agree.

The CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust, commissioned by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and conducted by global research company Ipsos, surveyed more than 23,000 Internet users across 24 countries between Oct. 7. and Nov. 12. The report [PDF] found that 83% of users believe affordable access to the Internet should be a basic human right.

As might be expected, people living in the developing world and regions where nations often face censorship agree more broadly than regions where Internet access has become more or less standard. In fact, 90% of survey respondents in the Middle East and Africa believe Internet access is a human right.

In North America, 76% of people believe Internet access should be a human right — however, only 36% "strongly agree," while 40% "somewhat agree." The report didn't elaborate on the exact differences between the two statements.

Over the years, several high-profile people have criticized the idea that everyone is entitled to the Internet. Vint Cerf, often dubbed one of the "fathers of the Internet," wrote a 2012 op-ed inThe New York Times, stating, "Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself."

Brian Schepis, formerly of Google and now of SpaceX, wrote in the Canadian Journal of Politics and Law that the denial of Internet access "should be seen as a potentially urgent threat to a more basic list of human rights, namely the human right to assembly..."

Various human rights organizations offered rebuttals to these claims; Amnesty International, for example, called Cerf's view of human rights "exceptionally narrow."

The following chart, created by Statistics portal Statista, illustrates the regions containing the survey's 24 participating countries, and the percentages of people who strongly and somewhat agree that Internet access should be a human right.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Memoriam,Jeanette (née Epstein) Weinroth: June 18, 1929 – October 18, 2014


"Let me not forget that I am the daughter of a woman who herself … never ceased to flower, untiringly, during three quarters of a century." Sidonie Colette

by Michelle Weinroth, November 2014

A widely recognized public voice in the Montreal community, Janet Weinroth rose to prominence in the early 1980s as possibly the city’s first (female) Jewish critic of Zionism, committed to exposing Israel’s brutal oppression of Palestinians, from its beginnings in 1948, through its decades-long Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Janet’s first public outcry at a Montreal rally occurred in 1982 when she passionately denounced Ariel Sharon for abetting the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Her courage in speaking out came with a heavy price. She was summarily dismissed from McGill University’s Jewish Studies Department where she had been a much-loved Hebrew language instructor.

The year 1982 marked a watershed in her life. Following the Sabra and Shatila episode, she embarked on a mission to raise consciousness about the Israeli Occupation. Together with a small group of committed Palestinians, Arabs, and Jews (RDIP: Regroupement pour le Dialogue Israël-Palestine), she organized lectures and speaking tours for outspoken critics of Zionism, such as Felicia Langer and the former Israeli General Matti Peled, father of Miko Peled (author of The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine). During the late 1980s and 90s, she seized every opportunity to intervene in public debates about the Palestine-Israel question, bringing her message to the mainstream media (notably to Cross Country Check-Up on CBC Radio and most memorably to a CBC television news show hosted by Dennis Trudeau, where she faced off against Harold Waller of McGill University’s Political Science Department). She attended every possible lecture, political meeting, or event where her voice could be heard. A decade later, eager to intensify her activist work, she joined PAJU (Palestiniens et Juifs unis-Palestinian and Jewish Unity), an organization founded by Bruce Katz and Rezeq Faraj in 2000, and still vibrant today.

Bruce Katz recalls that Janet came to PAJU with considerable political savvy and a lifetime of acquired skills in political organizing. Familiar with strategies of agitation and education, she was also a magnet of humanitarian compassion. Deeply moved by the suffering of others, and governed by an untrammelled belief in social justice, she spoke uninhibitedly about the violence of Israel’s colonialist regime. In the face of reprisals from Montreal’s Zionist community, she remained unshaken. She was a fiend for gathering critical analyses, notably from sources outside the mainstream. Her political knowledge was steeped in the poignant (and highly documented) writings of Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, and Ilan Pappe. She was a communications hub, receiving and disseminating information to others (much of it provided by Ed Corrigan and Sid Shniad), raising funds and stimulating discussion around events such as the celebrated play, “My Name is Rachel Corrie.” Together with her fellow PAJU members, she and her (second) husband, Jean-Philippe Aubert, prepared leaflets for distribution at weekly vigils before the Israeli consulate in Montreal. For several years, they worked collaboratively and constituted a network of ad hoc editors and translators, collecting and condensing critical and informative articles into short bilingual texts. At the vigils, these eye-catching leaflets countered the conservative press and exposed the complacent passerby to the atrocities of the Occupation.

Janet was about eighty-one years old when she last attended those vigils. At those gatherings, PAJU members regularly faced (and doubtless still face) the jeers of pro-Zionist demonstrators, the heckling, railing, and waving of Israeli flags. But even in her last years of active protest, she was fearless, willing to brave that hostile phalanx of political adversaries on the other side of the divide, as well as the merciless Canadian winter wind – if only to keep the flame of her beliefs alive and the hope that one day she, like others, might see the end of the Occupation.

Considerably older than other activists in her midst, she was often perceived as a mother figure, a matriarch who helped the less informed resist and dispel the rampant conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. She earned the respect of her activist peers precisely because her knowledge of Zionism was grounded in first-hand experience. Nurtured on the doctrines of Hashomer Hatzair, the American Zionist youth movement, she and her first husband sacrificed family and home, prestigious university scholarships, and material comfort to build ‘the new land.’ But within a few months of settling in a kibbutz, they both made an about-turn. Witnessing corruption and flagrant social iniquities in that otherwise romantically cast world of ‘cheerful’ agrarian workers, they discarded their Zionist ideals, and actively sought to redress the wrongs of their Zionist settlement, defending the human rights of the oppressed, most notably of victimized Arabs and Sephardic Jews. They waged this struggle in the kibbutz, and later in Jerusalem, amid formidable forces of reaction. 

The origin of Janet’s political dissent can be traced back to her early youth. The youngest of four children, she was brought up in Newark, New Jersey, in a large immigrant family that suffered economic hardship during the Depression. Her academic abilities and her passion for knowledge brought her into the world of inspiring rabbis and intellectuals. Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a civil-rights activist, was among her influential mentors.

At age 14, her political consciousness began to burgeon under his aegis. Defying her own family’s proscriptions and racist biases, she surreptitiously attended inter-racial meetings devoted to vindicating civil rights for Black African Americans. In 1945, at age 16, she met her future husband, Howard Weinroth. Both she and Howard were already ardent activists when



they met in the Zionist Youth Movement. They were also committed tribunes of social justice. Their assigned mission was to rouse commuters in the New York subway cars, to raise consciousness about the horrors of the Holocaust and the plight of the war’s refugees. Aflame with utopian zeal, they believed that they could bring about a form of Zionist Socialism to Israel. Young and passionate, they were undeterred, for their actions were governed by one central ideal: to help cultivate the kibbutz (the now prosperous Tel Amal) and make it the microcosm of a new social order. At the time, it seemed to them like a calling of noble worth that could not be left unheeded.



They were, to be sure, Zionist pioneers of the early 1950s; but both Janet and Howard were also pioneers of disillusionment. They were among the first kibbutz settlers to challenge Israel’s expansionism, its illegal appropriation of Arab land by stealth and intimidation, and the growing racism that accompanied Israel’s colonialist incursions, from the late 40s onwards. Embittered by the injustices that they both experienced and witnessed in Tel Amal, the young couple saw their Zionist ideals dissolve within a matter of two or three years. Both were ostracized for questioning the kibbutz’s expansionist practices and racist attitudes towards Arabs. Although initially recruited to teach English and History to kibbutz youth, Howard was eventually sent to work in the fishponds where his political views would be ‘held at bay’; in this, he was effectively being silenced. McCarthyism had clearly planted its roots in Israeli soil. But, at the end of four years, he spoke uninhibitedly through a one-man hunger strike, staged in the kibbutz’s common dining hall. This was the breaking point.

Having lost the support of most of their Zionist ‘compatriots,’ Janet and Howard were soon subjected to intimidation. The signs of aggression were evident in their ransacked room. A few allies quietly urged them to leave the kibbutz in haste. Howard fled with his 2-year old daughter to Haifa; Janet made her escape shortly after, having sought one last chance to defend her husband’s political position before her fellow kibbutzniks. She was beaten up for her outspokenness and then promptly ‘ex-communicated.’ A nearby medical centre in the outskirts of the kibbutz refused to give her medical attention. Bad press had already preceded her; malicious gossip then spread like wildfire. Once deemed the model nursery school teacher of Tel Amal, regularly lauded and showcased to visitors from abroad, she was abruptly repudiated and blacklisted as a traitor.

After their narrow escape, the couple settled in Jerusalem and thereafter in Tel Aviv. Throughout those years, both Howard and Janet witnessed an increasingly flagrant form of settler colonialism developing in Israel. What transpired before their eyes between 1951 and 1955 in the kibbutz was but a foreshadowing of a vast and complex process of expansionism yet to unfold. Those early pioneering years not only marked Janet and Howard’s politics, they henceforward shaped the couple’s critical and embittered attitude towards Zionism as such. In 1969, after a four-year stay in Cambridge, England, where Howard completed his PhD, they returned to Israel. The Six-Day War was now over and the country was brimming with triumphalist euphoria. Anti-Arab sentiment had swept the nation. Israeli patriotism, they felt, had become claustrophobic and oppressive, foreclosing any minor utterance of dissent. Once more marginalized and alienated within their social circles of friends, they abandoned all prospects of pursuing their political ideals within Israel. They left for Canada in 1969 where Howard secured a tenured academic post in history at McGill University.

On January 1, 1976, Janet’s life with Howard came to an abrupt end when he was struck by a massive heart attack. But as her 25-year companion and political mentor, and as a brilliant historian who foresaw, already in the early 50s, the catastrophic signs of an unbridled Israeli ‘empire,’ Howard bequeathed a wealth of knowledge and political understanding that remained with Janet till the last. In 1982, her children having flown the coop, she once more took up the torch of activism, and carried forward his legacy of social protest in the mode she knew best: in powerful political oratory and in patient political education, speaking out tirelessly for a cause that became her life’s guiding thread.

I write these words not only as a tribute to my mother, not only to honour her life and work for the cause of peace and humanity, but because I believe that she embodied the disillusionment and awakening that many Jews are now experiencing in Canada and elsewhere in the Diaspora. Indeed, she offers a beacon of light for those of us who are still here today, able to denounce and combat Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine. To be sure, while her optimism was sustaining for many, it was not always easy to emulate. For she was a child of postwar idealism, forever uplifted by an exuberant spirit that a younger generation of the 21st century may not always share. Public awareness of global ecological perils has tempered the confidence and ‘innocence’ of the 1950s. Nonetheless, her capacity to preserve hope against great odds was, and will always be, undeniably inspiring.

My mother’s most significant bequest, I believe, lies in her honesty – in her ability to confront her erstwhile faith in Zionism, to renounce it unabashedly, and to hoist herself onto a new level of thinking. Nor was this breakthrough merely intellectual; it was an act of moral strength. During her years of political struggle, she repeatedly faced hostility from the Montreal Zionist lobby and stoically suffered disapproval from her close kin in the US. If she has something to offer our younger generation today, it is the reminder that one of the most powerful and longstanding ideologies to date – Hasbara – will need to be dismantled fully, if peace in Palestine is to be achieved. Such a bold act will require a gargantuan collective effort, one fuelled by considerable moral strength: tenacity in confronting the Zionist institution; compassion and understanding in educating the public, and courage before the setbacks that irrationalism and social chaos are likely to spawn in times of intense conflict. These were my mother’s values, and she stood by them to the end of her activist days.

Demonstrations across the US against Michael Brown decision

By Tom Eley 

26 November 2014


In defiance of a nationwide police mobilization, demonstrations against the grand jury exoneration of the policeman who murdered Michael Brown took place across the United States on Monday and Tuesday.

Protests, involving youth, students and working people of all races, took place in scores of cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit, Seattle, Boston, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Oakland, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Demonstrations were also held in small towns, among them Duluth, Minnesota; Burlington, Vermont; Superior, Wisconsin; and Asheville, North Carolina.

Dozens of campus protests, some counting hundreds of protesters, took place at a wide variety of schools— public and private, elite schools and community colleges, and colleges both predominantly black and majority white. A small sample of these include protests at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Princeton University, the University of Washington in Seattle, the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the University of Michigan, Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University in Michigan, Virginia Commonwealth University, Ohio University and Kent State in Ohio, Xavier University in Chicago, the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, the University of Kentucky, Stanford University and Tulane and Loyola Universities in New Orleans.

High school walkouts and sit-ins also took place in major cities, including Philadelphia, Seattle, and Minneapolis, and in smaller cities and towns, including White Plains, New York.

The demonstrations took place in spite of an unprecedented mobilization of the police and other security forces. With the clear intention of intimidating workers and youth in advance of the ruling, the Obama administration, mayors and police chiefs across the country had warned that security would be on “high alert” to handle “disturbances”—pronouncements that also implicitly threatened the possibility of police infiltration and provocation. There were few reports, however, of violence.

In St. Louis, along miles from the site where Ferguson cop Darren Wilson murdered 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, hundreds of protesters blocked downtown intersections and a bridge over the Mississippi River linking the city to Illinois. Police used pepper spray to disperse the peaceful protests on Interstate 44 near the Edward Jones Dome.

In Seattle, thousands of students walked out of their high schools. Some converged on the University of Washington campus, while other protesters blocked roads. There were at least five arrests after police attacked demonstrators.

“Out of nowhere, the cops started pushing us back with their bikes, started pepper spraying us in the face,” said young protester Todd Peralta. “I got sprayed. He got sprayed. A group of people got sprayed that were right there in front. We were just protesting. Simply protesting.”

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles was placed on “lockdown” on Monday night after “a large contingent of protesters” gathered on campus after the ruling, according to a local news report.

In Oakland police arrested 43 protesters Monday night. A crowd that gathered at an intersection near city hall grew to over 500. Protesters lay in the middle of an intersection in silent protest, then marched down Broadway shouting, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “Black lives matter—all lives matter.”

Oakland was the site of the 2009 police murder of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, which was captured on videotape. Nevertheless, the killer, officer Johannes Mehserle, was not convicted of murder.

My radicalized son chose the other Islam

MICHELLE WALROND

Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Nov. 26 2014


Michelle Walrond is an Ottawa resident.

Two days after Corporal Nathan Cirillo was murdered, a man berated an Ottawa imam at the end of a Friday sermon for condemning the killings of two Canadian soldiers and not declaring the killers as heroes. He was arrested the next day by Ottawa police on unrelated charges.

That man is my son. He has been radicalized.

It began in 1997, when he was 20 years old. He came to Ottawa and found friendship, financial help and a new interpretation of Islam among a group of ultraconservative men known as Wahhabis or Salafis.

They provided him with religious licence to follow his desires, permission to ignore inconvenient facts and common sense, and the right to judge others.

Even though he had been raised in a Muslim household, they considered him a convert, since they regarded everything I taught him about Islam as incorrect.

I am a Muslim convert. I started studying Islam in 1968 and embraced the faith in 1972. There were few foreign-born Muslims in North America back then to impose their influence on us. We learned Islam from books, written by various authors from many different countries, with diverse points of view.

Basically, we practised Islam as we had practised Christianity – peacefully.

Our imams initially received support from Saudi Arabia in the 1960s and early 1970s, but when subsequent funding came with strings attached, most community leaders cut overseas ties with the Wahhabis. As African-Americans, we found them racist, xenophobic and doctrinaire. The Islam they promoted was not practical or respectful of our indigenous American Muslim culture, which lent a beneficial influence to the communities in which we were established.

Over the past 40 years, I have observed two parallel versions of Islam develop in North America: one integrated into society, nearly invisible, without overseas financing, and scorned by more recent, Salafi-influenced immigrant Muslims. The second, a foreign-born, Saudi-financed version that crept in during the 1980s, gained prominence in the 1990s and attempted to rebrand itself after 9/11. In the 1990s, when my son was being indoctrinated, they preached aggressively and openly. Now, they let the Internet do most of their dirty work and try to pass themselves off as moderates.

The litmus test of whether or not a Muslim teacher, leader or imam is an undercover extremist is to ask whether they think Islam allows them to impose sharia on non-Muslims, or whether they consider the Islamic State or al-Qaeda to represent Islamic values. Ask their opinion of the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah and Mohammad Abdul Wahhab. There are no other teachings prevalent among Muslims that promulgate extremism and the use of religion for political means other than the teachings of those two historical figures.

My son embraced the harsh, isolating view of the Wahhabis. He was encouraged to reject any information from non-Saudi sources. He scorned moderate imams and his parents. He learned to speak Arabic, read the Koran and form his own legal rulings. But since he’d never lived under a totalitarian regime, he broadcast their teachings openly. You mix a few ounces of religious fervour with a pound of a dogmatic, irrational ideology and you end up with extremists and terrorists. That’s the concoction ultraconservatism offers. His teachers and friends criticized him and withdrew. Now they claim they don’t know him.

They offer no guidance to men who take Wahhabism to its inevitable extreme. There is no authority among them who can rein in people who let their emotions or lusts inform their religion. No one among them takes responsibility for what they teach. If a follower becomes mentally ill, he will be scorned, perhaps accused of demonic possession.

Wahhabism or Salafism is the same Dr. Frankenstein that created the monstrous Islamic State, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda. It’s a politically motivated, pseudo-religious cult designed to extinguish the free-thinking liberality of moderate, traditional Islam. Salafism, fed by petro-dollars, teaches political obedience to Muslim rulers as a religious obligation.

Wahhabism is one of the vehicles by which ignorance is spread. Ignorance of Islamic history, Islamic law and modern politics fuel that vehicle. Ignorance should not be spread by religious leaders.

Here in Canada, religious teachers should be held responsible for what they teach and how their students interpret their teachings, especially when those teachings have led to the kind of chaos, strife and destruction Wahhabism has caused. Men like my son have taken sail on the ship of ultraconservatism, and his mentors have abandoned him and set him adrift. He was not a radical until he was radicalized.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson Protesters Release Open Letter After Grand Jury Decision 2014

Ferguson protestors posted an open letter after it was revealed a grand jury would not indict officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of teen Michael Brown. The message, in its entirety, has been posted below:

The Results Are In An Open Letter from Protestors On The Grand Jury Decision (Nov 24, 2014)

In Ferguson, a wound bleeds. For 108 days, we have been in a state of prolonged and protracted grief. In that time, we have found community with one another, bonding together as family around the simple notion that our love for our community compels us to fight for our community. We have had no choice but to cling together in hope, faith, love, and indomitable determination to capture that ever-escaping reality of justice. After 108 days, that bleeding wound has been reopened, salt poured in, insult added to the deepest of injury. 

On August 9th, we found ourselves pushed into unknown territory, learning day by day, minute by minute, to lead and support a movement bigger than ourselves, the most important of our lifetime. We were indeed unprepared to begin with, and even in our maturation through these 108 days, we find ourselves reinjured, continually heartbroken, and robbed of even the remote possibility of judicial resolution. A life has been violently taken before it could barely begin. In this moment, we know, beyond any doubt, that no one will be held accountable within the confines of a system to which we were taught to pledge allegiance. The very hands with which we pledged that allegiance were not enough to save Mike in surrender. Once again, in our community, in our country, that pledge has returned to us void.

For 108 days, we have continuously been admonished that we should “let the system work,” and wait to see what the results are. 

The results are in. 

And we still don’t have justice.

 This fight for the dignity of our people, for the importance of our lives, for the protection of our children, is one that did not begin Michael’s murder and will not end with this announcement. The ‘system’ you have told us to rely on has kept us on the margins of society. This system has housed us in her worst homes, educated our children in her worst schools, locked up our men at disproportionate rates and shamed our women for receiving the support they need to be our mothers. This system you have admonished us to believe in has consistently, unfailingly, and unabashedly let us down and kicked us out, time and time again.

This same system in which you’ve told us to trust --this same system meant to serve and protect citizens-- has once again killed two more of our unarmed brothers: Walking up a staircase and shot down in cold blood, we fight for Akai Gurley; Playing with a toy after police had been warned that he held a bb gun and not a real gun at only twelve years old, we fight for Tamir Rice.

So you will likely ask yourself, now that the announcement has been made, why we will still take to the streets? Why we will still raise our voices to protect our community? Why will still cry tears of heartbreak and sing songs of determination? We will continue to struggle because without struggle, there is no progress. We will continue to disrupt life, because without disruption we fear for our lives.

We will continue because Assata reminds us daily that “it is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

 Those chains have bound us-all of us- up for too long. And do not be mistaken- if one of us is bound, we all are. We are, altogether, bound up in a system that continues to treat some men better than others. A system that preserves some and disregards others. A system that protects the rights of some and does not guard the rights of all. 

And until this system is dismantled, until the status quo that deems us less valuable than others is no longer acceptable or profitable, we will struggle. We will fight. We will protest. 

Grief, even in its most righteous state, cannot last forever. No community can sustain itself this way. So we still continue to stand for progress, and stand alongside anyone who will make a personal investment in ending our grief and will take a personal stake in achieving justice. 

We march on with purpose. The work continues. This is not a moment but a movement. The movement lives.

For questions regarding this Open Letter, please contact @deray .

This letter was written and signed by numerous protestors and supporters, too many to list. Permission is granted in advance for reproduction by all outlets.


Update: Saudi Arabia – Human rights defender Mr Fowzan Al-Harbi sentenced to ten years in prison

Twitter: @FrontlineHRD

25 November 2014 

On 19 November 2014, human rights defender Mr Fowzan Al-Harbi was sentenced in appeal to 10 years' imprisonment and a further 10-year travel ban by Riyadh Criminal Court. The court increased the 7-year sentence, with six years suspended, handed down on 25 June 2014. The human rights defender was immediately arrested upon pronouncement of the appeal verdict. 

Fowzan Al-Harbi is co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Right Association (ACPRA), and is known in Saudi Arabia for speaking out on the human rights situation in the country. The ACPRA has been refused registration from the Saudi authorities. 

On 17 November 2014, Fowzan Al-Harbi received a phone call from the office of the Criminal Court'spresiding judge, Mr Omar Al-Sahan, asking him to appear before the court on Wednesday 19 November at 10 am. During the hearing, the human rights defender was informed by the judge that the Court of Appeal had requested an increase of the prison term from 7 to 10 years without suspension. In the same hearing, the public prosecutor requested the immediate execution of the sentence on the basis that Fowzan Al-Harbihad published the text of the first instance sentence as well as his lawyer's arguments against it. 

Front Line Defenders remains gravely concerned by the prison sentence and travel ban handed down to Fowzan Al-Harbi. Front Line Defenders considers the conviction to be a direct result of the human rights defender's legitimate and peaceful human rights work and urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to review and quash the conviction, and to ensure Fowzan Al-Harbi's release. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

90 Human Rights Groups Call for Migrant Labor Reform in Gulf States

by Mostafa Heddaya on November 24, 2014


Ahead of a meeting of labor ministers from Gulf and Asian states later this week, Human Rights Watch released a call for the reform of laws protecting migrant workers co-signed by 90 human rights organizations and unions worldwide. Of particular concern to the coalition of organizations are the debts shouldered in the recruitment process and restrictive visa and passport withholding practices affecting laborers working in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

“The GCC should work in closer coordination with — not separately from — countries of origin to develop labor migration policies that fully respect the human and labor rights of migrants,” Sharan Burrow of the International Labor Organization, a United Nations body, said in the November 23 statement from Human Rights Watch. The calls echo those made recently by the Gulf Labor group, a coalition of artists and activists pressuring the Guggenheim on workers rights issues surrounding the construction of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on the Emirate’s Saadiyat Island.

In comments to Hyperallergic earlier this month, Gulf Labor’s Walid Raad specifically called on the Guggenheim to “publicly recommend that the UAE Ministry of Labor seek and follow the advice of experts from, for example, the International Labor Organization, to help the Ministry fine-tune the implementation and enforcement of existing laws, close loopholes in the law, and develop and implement new laws to protect workers (with regards to, for example, recruitment fees paid by workers).”

The 90 organizations issuing the call to the GCC states — a group comprising unions, like the United States’s AFL-CIO, and NGOs and advocacy groups from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Phillippines, and other labor exporters — issued the following list of recommendations:

 - Establish and enforce comprehensive labor law protections for migrant workers, including domestic workers;

- Reform the kafala (sponsorship) visa system to ensure that workers can change employers without being required to first obtain their consent;

- Remove the “exit permit” requirement in Saudi Arabia and Qatar;

- Strengthen regulation and monitoring of labor recruitment agencies, including eliminating recruitment fees for workers;

- Ensure that migrants have access to justice and support services; and

- Expand the Abu Dhabi Dialogue to include labor-origin countries from Africa, such as Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya, and participation by nongovernmental groups.

The joint statement follows the release of a report last week from Amnesty International on the treatment of political dissenters in the United Arab Emirates. That 80-page document, titled “There is no freedom here”: Silencing dissent in the UAE, highlights individual cases demonstrating that “activists [are] routinely persecuted and subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment.”

Victims of 1960s Thalidomide seek Canadian justice SPECIAL

BY TIM SANDLE  -- Nov 24, 2014


Toronto - Over fifty years after the drug, Thalidomide, was prescribed as a morning sickness treatment for pregnant women, their surviving children are campaigning for financial support from Canada's federal government.

Ninety-five of the victims from the Thalidomide scandal are alive and residing in Canada. The victims have to cope with the appalling results of the wrongly prescribed drug. Their unfortunate legacy includes missing and malformed limbs, deafness, blindness, disfigurement, and a range of other internal disabilities. Day to day living is hard, for the survivors’ health care and mobility needs exceeds the support available under provincial health care plans. As it stands, the financial costs of being a Thalidomide victim runs into several hundred thousand dollars a year.

A charity called Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada has launched a new campaign for justice. The non-profit organization aims to work with MP’s and the Federal Government with the aim of providing long term financial support to the survivors.

Contacting Digital Journal, Mercedes Benegbi, Executive Director, Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, explained why the current campaign is important. Benegbi states: “Without government funding, most survivors will continue to live a state of never-ending crisis – one that is not only physical, but also financial, and emotional."

Mercedes Benegbi is herself a 51 year old thalidomide survivor born with no arms and a stunted shape as a result of the drug.

In 1959 the drug Thalidomide became available worldwide, developed by the German drug company Chemie Grünenthal. The medication was prescribed by doctors to treat nausea and insomnia in pregnant women. During this time period the use of medications during pregnancy was not strictly controlled, and drugs were not thoroughly tested for potential harm to the fetus.

In 1959, Benegbi explains, despite the fact that the U.S. Government had refused to authorize the medication, the Canadian Food and Drug Directorate (CFDC) gave its approval. Worse still, once the drug’s tragic side effects became evident to the scientific community, the drug was withdrawn in in Germany and in the U.K.. In Canada itself, two months the medication went on sale, pharmaceutical companies sent physicians letters warning about the risk of birth defects.However, it took three months for the CFDC (now Health Canada) to put a stop the use of Thalidomide.

Outlining what is needed, Benegi states succinctly: “Canadian-born survivors will need at least $100,000 a year, on average, plus a lump-sum payment to bring them up to par with their UK brothers and sisters.”
The only direct funding support from the federal government, to date, occurred in 1991, when Health Canada provided a one-off payment of around $65,000 to each survivor. However, no long term solution was offered. The limited funds that were provided have long been used up.

Benegbi went onto to outline what the victims expect: “The living victims of Thalidomide bear a physical and financial burden that is extraordinary and undeserved. By granting our funding request, Canadians and their government will be acknowledging that, in the past, a wrong was done. And, not only will such a wrong never happen again, they can be proud that they have done the best they can to make right to victims of this serious error in judgment and drug regulation. ”

The victims are hoping that many Canadians will contact the federal government and MPs and ask them to right the wrong. A special webpage has been set up called "Right the Wrong." The aim is to publicize the issue and to put pressure on those in power.

See also: Opposition parties to urge Ottawa to fairly compensate thalidomide survivors