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#SaveChristopherYoungIn 2006, 21-year-old Christopher Young was sentenced to death for the 2004 murder of 55-year-old convenience store owner Hasmukhbhai “Hash” Patel. In his 12 years of incarceration, Chris has transformed himself into a thoughtful, peaceful man with a desire to help others. He has committed his final moments to sharing his story of transformation and asking for clemency from death. You can read/watch his story here: http://lawatthemargins.com/death-row-saved-my-life/ “I’m truly sorry for the crime I committed. There’s nothing I can do to bring back Mr. Hash Patel. If I knew taking my life would do that, I’d volunteer for it without any complaints. But that’s not going to do it. I can teach others to think about their actions. I’m sure I can stop something like this from happening again.” – 32-year-old Christopher Young, June 2018 Young’s attorneys are challenging the conviction itself and seeking a new trial based on what they consider a violation of his rights under the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment and “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Chris’ lawyers claim that religious discrimination occurred during the jury selection process of his trial, and in 2016 over 500 religious leaders signed a statement saying he deserved a new trial. “Unfortunately, the state court issued a ruling saying it is acceptable to exclude someone from serving as a juror in a death penalty trial merely because of the church that person belongs to,” said David R. Dow, Young’s attorney. “We hope the Supreme Court will agree to review the case and reaffirm that our Constitution and our nation’s commitment to religious liberty means that an individual’s membership in a church does not automatically disqualify that person from acting as a juror.” Sadly, the United States Supreme Court turned down Young’s latest appeal in January 2018. In his final days, he seeks clemency. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has the power to recommend clemency. Together, we must send a strong message to the members of the board and to Texas Governor Greg Abbott (who can accept or reject the board's recommendation) that Chris deserves mercy. Take action today to save Christopher Young’s life. Sign the petition.
Investigate the NRA for ExploitationThe current threats involving guns are very far-reaching. Lots of people are trying to have stricter laws put in place, but the NRA is preventing this. The government usually says that they can't do anything about it because there is no known illegal activity going on in the organization. What should be done is to determine whether there actually is any activity, instead of writing the issue off. Even members should want any illegal activities to be dispelled, so as to prevent worsening the organization's reputation.
Remove tax-exempt status from the NRAThe NRA uses this money to buy congress members' votes through lobbying activities that are corrupt, and not what the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States want. What we want is REASONABLE gun laws. Automatic, semi-automatic, bumpstocks, high capacity clips should only be in the hands of the military. More people die of gun deaths here by astronomical levels than in any other country. We are not taking away anyone's 2nd amendment, we simply want to make it sane. Less people dying of gun deaths is sane! Giving the NRA tax-exemptions is insane. Do you really think law enforcement entities want to be outgunned? No, less law enforcement people will lose their lives as a result of sane gun laws. Go to csgv.org/nra-tax-exempt-loaded-private-interest/ for more great information to support this petition.
Tell Charlottesville: No Weapons at RalliesActivists, including nonviolent peace activists, are often forbidden to carry posters on sticks, having to use hollow carboard tubes, at events around the United States. Yet in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 a group threatening violence and having engaged in it the night before was allowed to assemble in a public space with guns, sticks, and other weaponry. The results were brutal. There is no reason that Charlottesville cannot, under existing laws, do what many other localities do and set the terms of public rallies to forbid the possession of weapons. Here’s an expert legal opinion that forbidding weapons is legal. http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/free-speech-expert-restricting-weapons-at-virginia-rallies-could-be/article_75548987-1529-5deb-ae11-19d2e5a7c9ac.html Here is a report on Richmond, Virginia, forbidding weapons at a rally. http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/state/richmond-police-plan-weapons-ban-at-pro-confederate-protest-saturday/article_db0447fe-c0fc-509c-912d-2b85a0959b1f.html There is nothing to be gained by trying to ban rallies of particular political viewpoints, or by trying to ban all public rallies. Either would be in stark violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. There is no need for new laws. Charlottesville can and must commit to forbidding weapons from rallies. ********** UPDATE: Here's a list of items banned from an event in Gainesville, Florida, with hatemonger Richard Spencer. It includes all conceivable weapons, and even open flames of any kind. http://www.police.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Richard-Spencer-Speaking-Engagement-Prohibited-Items-List.pdf Here's an NBC 29 report on our petition to ban weapons from public rallies in Charlottesville. http://davidswanson.org/petition-asks-charlottesville-to-keep-weapons-out-of-rallies/ It seems to focus on this Virginia state law, which bans loaded guns from public places in a list of localities that does not include Charlottesville. https://www.lawserver.com/law/state/virginia/va-code/virginia_code_18-2-287-4 The intent in citing this seems to be to claim that Virginia state laws allowing "concealed" and "open" carrying of guns cannot be overridden in any way except in the list of localities found in that law. Yet, Richmond, which is in that list, apparently decided it could ban every type of weapon except guns. http://www.richmond.com/news/local/city-of-richmond/richmond-police-say-they-can-t-stop-unpermitted-confederate-rally/article_c25223b6-4d05-54c1-9b88-8289a0dfb90b.html Still, here is a list of weapons banned in Gainesville that nobody in Charlottesville has yet proposed, as far as I know, any justification whatsoever for not banning from the fascist rally in August or any future rally: simulated firearms, tasers, knives, sharp objects Lighters, matches, torches or open flame Any athletic equipment or other items which could be used as a weapon Masks of any kind, goggles, bandanas/scarfs, neck gaitersFlag Poles, bats, clubs, sticks (including sticks on signs) Aerosol/pressurized cans, mace Chains, padlocks, bicycle locks Shields Fireworks Backpacks, bags, purses, clutches Signs made of anything other than cloth, paper, foam core, cardboard Cans, metal or glass containers, premixed beverages or alcoholic beverages water bottles of any kind Perhaps some of the items above go overboard. Certainly the rest of the list not reproduced here does. And of course it seems crazy to ban non-gun weapons while allowing guns. But we are asking the City of Charlottesville to ban guns, knives, and sticks, and it has yet to produce any excuse for not banning knives and sticks. And the city will only be moved to pursue banning guns from public rallies if we keep up the pressure.
Ban Solitary Confinement for Youth Prisoners in State CustodyThousands of adolescent youth, ages 11 to 18, are being held in solitary confinement in jails and state prisons across the U.S. These youth spend 22 or more hours each day alone, often in a small 8-by-8-feet cell, completely isolated both physically and socially, often for weeks, months, or even years at a time. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 10,000 youth prisoners are held in isolation in juvenile jails nationwide. For youth being held in isolation in adult facilities, there is no official count. The ACLU reports that solitary confinement can "cause serious psychological, physical, and developmental harm, resulting in persistent mental health problems, or suicide." Since youth are still developing, the physical and neurological effects are even more detrimental. These risks are magnified for children with disabilities or histories of trauma and abuse. On Jan 26, 2016, President Obama announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system. He said that the practice is often overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences on young people. Although Obama’s ban affected close to 8,000 youth in federal prisons, it had absolutely no impact on those in solitary confinement in state and county facilities. It is up to us to pressure Congress and state prison systems to follow suit!
Rahm Emanuel must be released from the position or he should resign after DOJ ReportIn the wake of the DOJ report and 2016's historical Chicago violence level, most of the activists and community right now believe it is way beyond any possible opportunity for Rahm to take any meaningful action to help a wounded Chicago. Also, it's increasingly difficult to envision a scenario in which Emanuel's political movement isn't viewed as a political Hail Mary to save his career by understandably frustrated and suspicious Chicago residents.
SIGN: Support for University of Nebraska football players taking a knee during the national anthem.Three Nebraska football players are under siege by state officials and some fans calling for their expulsion from the university (and worse) for backing Black Lives Matter. The governor and some university regents are adding to the turmoil against the student athletes. One person called for lynching the protesting student athletes.
Replace US Two-Party Election System With Ranked VotingPractically speaking, the US is stuck in a two-party system of Republicans and Democrats. This system frequently results in having two candidates who both have very low levels of overall public support. Currently, supporters of non-mainstream political parties (e.g. Green, Independent, Libertarian) can't realistically vote for their own candidates because they are sabotaging the final election by taking votes away from either the Republican or the Democratic candidates. For example, a liberal Green party supporter would assist the conservative cause by removing a vote for a Democratic liberal candidate. They would actually increase their chance of getting their last-choice candidate by voting for their first-choice candidate. The same is true in reverse for a conservative voter. Being able to vote for only two candidates artificially polarizes many issues, reduces the possibility of introducing innovative ideas, and encourages both candidates to move towards centrist, status quo policies. Regardless of whether you are a Bernie supporter, right-wing evangelical, environmentalist, etc, you should be supporting a shift to a ranked voting system that lets you vote based on your beliefs, not based on fear of getting the worse of two candidates you don't want. Ranked-voting is used successfully by many other countries including Australia and is much more democratic than the current US system. If we had a ranked-voting system in the US during the 2016 elections it is less likely that Trump would have come out as the top republican candidate, and Bernie would realistically have been able to run as third-party candidate and stand a real chance of winning. In short, moving the US to a ranked-voting system will give us a foundation for more representative and innovative government in future elections.
North Carolina Body Cam Law Breaches Trust and Transparency in Local CommunitiesLast month, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 972 into law, officially restricting public access to voice and video footage from police dash and body cameras. The new law states that access to police camera footage is to be restricted to local police departments and court officials. According to the law, if anyone outside of that realm wants access to footage of community interactions with law enforcement via dash or body cam (including the families of those affected), they would need to obtain either approval from the local Police Department Chief or a superior court order from a state judge. Among other quirks, the law also includes the implementation of a “Blue Alert” signal, modeled after the commonly used “Amber Alert,” used via smartphone to warn police officers about suspects who have harmed or killed cops. In 2015, the Obama administration provided $20 million to local police departments across the country -- to be used strictly for police dash and body cameras, technologies of accountability requested by the ACLU and Black Lives Matter activists in the wake of protests against police brutality and the killings of Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott and more. In recent months, round-the-clock police surveillance has raised awareness about normalized acts of racial profiling and police brutality in local communities, and has forced law enforcement officers to be responsible with their power and accountable for their actions. The implementation of police body cams is arguably the greatest on-the-ground achievement of anti-police brutality groups like CopWatch and Black Lives Matter activists. The purpose of police body cameras is to create trust and transparency between law enforcement officers and the communities in which they patrol. Citizens feel safer when they know that others are watching, or at least soon will be, if they were to be attacked, abused, or at worst, murdered. Law enforcement officers have relied on and credited the efficiency of body cameras as well, in cases where they were falsely accused of excessive force or police brutality and dash/body cameras proved their innocence. The transparency provided by body cameras has overall helped improve community relations with police officials. North Carolina is not the only state to restrict body cam footage from public access. Florida, Oregon, Illinois, Georgia, South Carolina and a few other states have restrictions on police footage as well. What makes North Carolina’s policy uniquely harsh, however, is its restriction of both video and sound from dash and body cameras, as opposed to other states that ban public access to police video footage but not sound recordings. The law is also novel in that it restricts footage access not just from the public, but also from the families of those affected. The implementation of NC House Bill 972 is a bold act of anti-transparency by North Carolina legislators. NC’s harsh law on dash and body cam access has serious implications and raises questions about why legislators are so adamant about “protecting” law enforcement officers from their own sound and video footage. It can take up to months to be granted a superior court order for the release of police sound and video footage -- leaving time and space for false accusations and possible illegal editing on behalf of officials. The passing of this legislation also raises a critical question in minority communities: If we can no longer rely on police footage as a defense or as evidence of innocence, should we be filming ourselves? We have seen local communities’ reaction to city officials withholding police camera footage, in cities like Charleston, SC and Chicago, IL. Most notably, we remember the killing of 16-year old Laquan McDonald, who was repeatedly shot 16 times while lying on the ground, as revealed by later-released camera footage. Chicago natives and residents protested for days in response to mayor Rahm Emanuel’s deliberate withholding of the video. NC Governor McCrory insists that recordings of police interactions with the community can “mislead and misinform the public...while work[ing] against police officers.” On the other hand, members of local minority communities fear that without the immediate release of these recordings (to their families or otherwise), police officials have the ability to manipulate both their version of the story and any voice/video evidence. At the very least, police footage should be available to the families affected by the incident, and audio recordings should be available for public access, as it is in other anti-transparency states like Florida. North Carolina’s new body cam law is a direct blow to the efforts of BLM activists as well as to the trust of both citizens and police officers who relied on the immediate release of body cam footage to clear their name of media criticism. We must reverse this miscarriage of justice, sooner rather than later, before a domino effect begins to take place in surrounding states. The law goes into effect on October 1st, 2016.
Law Enforcement Personnel Held Totally Accountable By Using BodyCam Equipment.Law Enforcement Is Not Working Well in the USA. Too Many People Being Incarcerated with High Recidivism Rates. Too Many Cops Shooting Suspects, Too Many "Deals" in Prosecution and Sentencing. Too Much Individual Discretion Applied in the Whole Process By Law Enforcement Personnel .