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Release Kevin "Rashid" Johnson From Solitary Confinement ImmediatelyKevin “Rashid” Johnson has been a Virginia prisoner (#1007485) since 1990. During his imprisonment, he became a human rights advocate and a journalist. His journalistic work in particular exposes abuses by prison administration and staff. His related steps toward litigation have resulted in his being “interstate compacted” or transferred to prisons in different states. Currently, Rashid is being held in solitary confinement with no legitimate security justification at Sussex I State Prison in Virginia. Between 2012 and June of 2018, Kevin "Rashid" Johnson was transferred to prisons in three other states (Oregon, Texas, and Florida) before being returned to Virginia. He was kept in solitary confinement in Texas and Florida, where he witnessed and suffered many acts of abuse by prison staff. All this, in reprisal for his political and journalistic activity. Each state prison transfer has subjected Rashid to serious abuses -- including, while in northern Florida last January, being caged for over a week in a freezing cold cell without heat or a blanket. Over the years, Rashid has had his life threatened by corrections officers and has endured explicit, violent retaliation for exercising his First Amendment right of protected free speech. Rashid expects to be transferred again soon and fears being subjected to extreme isolation. Kevin Rashid Johnson does not call for violence or illegal activity and has not been charged with anything of the kind during his imprisonment. He is not a threat to the Virginia Department of Corrections – he is an imprisoned journalist and human rights advocate – and should be released from solitary confinement immediately. Solitary confinement has been increasingly recognized by courts and society as a form of torture. This punitive measure has been imposed on Kevin Johnson not because of any violent conduct on his part but because of his relentless exposure of abuses by prison officials, his willingness to challenge those abuses through the legal system, and his efforts to educate fellow prisoners and encourage them to challenge by peaceful means the unhealthy and humiliating conditions to which they are subjected. Using solitary confinement as a tool to silence someone who exposes prison abuses and advocates for prison reform is a human rights abuse and unconstitutional. We call for the immediate release of Kevin Johnson from solitary confinement and for the VADOC not to transfer him again out of state.
#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.
Pass the Equality Act to Protect LGBTQ Americans from DiscriminationWhile the groundbreaking Marriage Equality Act expanded marital protections for LGBTQ people in 2015, there is still much to be done to ensure non-discrimination protections and equal treatment under the law. Federal law and the majority of states lack explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people at work, at school, and elsewhere, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination. In other words, a person can be fired from their job, evicted from their home, denied access to housing, credit, loans, hotel services, and even jury duty on the strict basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other key federal non-discrimination laws to provide clear, explicit federal protection against discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, credit, federally funded programs (including education), and federal jury service. The bill would provide clear, explicit federal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the following six areas: ● Employment: The Equality Act would explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and in the workplace. ● Federally funded programs and activities: Any program that receives federal funds would be prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This provision would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination by institutions that receive federal funds – including schools, hospitals, domestic violence shelters, and police departments. ● Housing: The Equality Act provides explicit protections for LGBTQ people against housing discrimination. ● Public Spaces and Services: LGBTQ people would be protected from discrimination in “public accommodations,” including stores, restaurants, hotels, transportation, and healthcare services. ● Banks and Credit: The Equality Act would explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in credit, financing, and lending. ● Federal Jury Service: The Equality Act would explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in selecting federal juries. All LGBTQ Americans deserve a fair chance to live, love and provide for their families without the burden of legalized discrimination. This bill will help ensure that no one is fired, evicted from their home, or denied basic services because of who they are or whom they love. Urge your members of Congress to support this critical piece of legislation. H.R. 2282, The Equality Act https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2282?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Equality+Act%22%5D%7D&r=1 Human Rights Campaign: Why the Equality Act? https://www.hrc.org/resources/why-the-equality-act
Undo Unconstitutional Life-Without-Parole Sentence for Bobby BosticBobby Bostic was only 16 years old when he was sentenced to 241 years in prison for non-fatal crimes. He is now 38, and will not be eligible for parole until he is 112 years old. Despite two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that determined life without parole sentencing for juveniles who have not been convicted of murder to be unconstitutional, the state of Missouri has repeatedly refused to offer Bobby an appeal. We must stand with Bobby in his effort to take his appeal, if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1995, Bobby Bostic and an older accomplice were convicted of 18 crimes stemming from an armed robbery and carjacking. While the older accomplice pleaded guilty and took a plea bargain for a 30-year sentence, Bostic took the case to trial. He was found guilty on all counts and was given the maximum possible sentence: 241 years. "Your mandatory date to go in front of a parole board will be the year 2201," the judge said. "Nobody in this room is going to be alive in the year 2201." At the time, Bobby was just 16 years old. "Two of the Supreme Court's rulings in recent years have barred judges from imposing sentences of life without parole for juveniles who haven't killed anyone," reports Riverfront Times. "But Missouri is one of a small number of states arguing that doesn't apply to defendants who aren't technically sentenced to life without parole — even if their sentences add up to just that." In addition, the Missouri Supreme Court has defended its ruling by claiming that the U.S. Supreme Court rulings pertain only to defendants convicted of a single charge, not multiple charges added together. "In practice, that means Bostic would have been better off committing a single act of murder than being convicted of multiple, non-fatal crimes," noted Doyle Murphy, a journalist at the Riverfront Times. Bostic's sentence also violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty to which every single nation on earth other than the United States is party, and which is therefore international law. The treaty states: "Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age." While Bobby Bostic awaits his parole date in over 100 years from now, his accomplice will be eligible for parole next year. The case of Bobby Bostic illuminates the punitive nature of the U.S. criminal justice system. Instead of managing prisons as spaces of rehabilitation, the U.S. Department of so-called Corrections has made it a point to punish offenders in the most retributive ways possible, depriving juveniles like Bostic of any meaningful opportunity to obtain release. According to the ACLU's state legal director, Tony Rothert, "Bobby Bostic should get a chance to show that crimes he committed as a teen do not define him. The Constitution demands nothing less." Background: Riverfront Times: Bobby Bostic, Sentenced as a Teen to 241 Years, Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court https://www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2017/12/21/bobby-bostic-sentenced-as-a-teen-to-241-years-appeals-to-us-supreme-court
Support OperationPUSHJanuary 15 marked the beginning of a month-long work stoppage organized by prisoners throughout the Florida Department of Corrections demanding an immediate end to unpaid labor and inhumane working conditions at their facilities. The strike, announced in late December, aims to force corrections officials to pay prison laborers monetary compensation for their work as opposed to “the current slave arrangement,” in which they are paid in time deducted from their sentences. In written statements to news media, the strikers have also demanded increased access to parole, cheaper and more reasonable prices for basic food and hygiene items, voting rights for former felons, and an end to prison-guard brutality. The organized strike began on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — and is named #OperationPUSH, after civil rights leader Jesse Jackson’s 1970s-1990s campaign to improve economic conditions for African Americans. Almost a third of Florida inmates are black, compared with fewer than 17% in the general population. Florida has the nation’s third-largest prison system in the United States, with 97,000 inmates. Prison work inside Florida correctional facilities consists of doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, maintaining the facilities, and even growing food for the inmate population. Before the strike began, one organizer wrote that “[the strike’s] goal is to make the Governor realize that it will cost the state of Florida millions of dollars daily to contract outside companies to come and cook, clean, and handle the maintenance, [which] will cause a total breakdown." Outside of the prison, incarcerated laborers work in “community work squads,” providing free labor to state offices such as the Department of Transportation, the Division of Forestry, and the Department of Environmental Protection. According report by the FDOC, “community work squads” worked over 3.15 million hours in 2017 alone and saved the state more than $38 million in payroll expenses, including flooding and debris cleanup work after Hurricane Irma. Ironically, these same incarcerated workers are barred from employment at the state-level upon release, due to their criminal records. Another incarcerated organizer wrote that Florida prisoners “want to create an environment where someone can do their time, be rehabilitated, and enter into society with some type of hope…that would be helpful for society instead of creating a revolving door where you lock people up and just set them up for failure so that they keep coming back.” In fear of retaliation, these organizers have asked to remain anonymous. One week into the month-long work stoppage, internal sources have reported the participation of strikers in at least eight different Florida facilities in the FDOC. Internal sources have reported that many of these strikers have been placed into solitary confinement by correctional officials. In solidarity with prisoners, marches and protests have been organized throughout the state, and more than 135 civil rights and activist groups, including local chapters of the NAACP and the Florida Women's March, have voiced their support for #OperationPUSH. At a speech at Florida State University, civil rights leader Angela Davis said there is "no better way to keep the legacy of Dr. King alive than by supporting the prisoners' strike." Will you sign the petition to support #OperationPUSH and to demand an immediate end to unpaid labor and inhumane work conditions in Florida prisons? Sources: Movement Against Prison Slavery Ramps Up With OperationPUSH in Florida https://shadowproof.com/2018/01/11/operation-push-movement-against-prison-slavery-florida/ Florida Prisoners Set to Strike January 15th Against Prison Slavery https://itsgoingdown.org/florida-prisoners-set-strike-january-15th-prison-slavery/ Striking Florida Prisoners Thrown in Solitary Confinement, Activists Say http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/striking-operationpush-florida-prisioners-placed-in-solitary-activists-say-10006900
Protect Bethesda African CemeteryThis community built the main thoroughfares in the county. It manufactured building materials and provided the manpower building the bunker under the White House. By around the 1850s free Africans owned property in Bethesda but were confined to a small area by covenants preventing them and Jews from living elsewhere. A community once thrived there. That history has been erased, but needs to be preserved. A museum could provide the archive for that history as well as serve as the vehicle for conveying the story to future generations. Washington Post death notices, County plat and plot maps, oral histories, aerial photos and other historic materials substantiate the existence and location of the cemetery. No documentation of bodies being disinterred has ever been produced. Currently there is a Sector Plan that seeks to place a parking garage and housing units on top of what is now a parking lot that was placed on top of the African Cemetery (allegedly at least in part to prevent erosion from exposing the remains). History of the enslavement of Africans is American history. More importantly, the triumph of Africans against enslavement in a living museum and memorial will be an ongoing testament to these people, their heritage and their legacy.
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.
Giving politics back to the peopleNo corporations, non-profits, superPACS, churches, political action committees, or any other entity is allowed to donate. This government is of the people, by the people, and for the people and the PEOPLE should be the only ones allowed to donate. That way our representatives can no longer be bought and paid for my corporate America and/or wealthy individuals. Our representitives will no longer be beholden to their wealthiest donors and they will actually be beholden to the will of their constituents. One person, one vote.
Stop the Dakota Access pipelineThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had failed to conduct a proper environmental and cultural impact study. ... The Standing Rock Sioux tribe believes that the pipeline would put the Missouri River, the water source for the reservation, and the local environment at risk.
Close the Disgraceful California Rehabilitation Center in Riverside CountySign this petition to ask California Governor Jerry Brown to shut down California Rehabilitation Center at Norco in Riverside County. A recent report from the California State Department of Public Health revealed shocking conditions at CRC-Norco, a medium-security state prison. This prison houses an astonishing 3,400 prisoners in unsafe and unsanitary conditions that include broken floor tiles, rat and cockroach infestations, and standing pools of water. With a population capacity of 2,491 people, the facility is both overcrowded and structurally neglected. "CRC-Norco is dilapidated and unsafe…. We have known for years that this prison is in terrible shape," said California State Senator Loni Hancock. In 2012, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation publicly acknowledged the unsafe conditions at CRC-Norco and set forth a plan to close the facility by June 2016. One year later, however, prison administrators suspended the deadline, stating that a federal court order to ease crowding in California’s already overcrowded prisons mandated the CDCR to keep the facility open until further notice. That decision was reaffirmed in January 2016 when Governor Brown released the CDCR budget proposal for the 2016-17 cycle, which reflected an extended continuation of operations at CRC-Norco. It is unconscionable for Governor Brown and prison officials at the CDCR to continue to house incarcerated people at a facility that is publicly known to be infested with vermin and structurally unsafe. Keeping the prison open and operating creates a host of health and safety hazards for both the inmates and employees. In addition, it reflects an extraordinary disregard for the human rights of the 3,400 people who are forced to live at the overcrowded, decaying facility. CRC-Norco should be shut down immediately.
Impeach Trump and Republican agendaTrump will not release his tax returns. Trump refuses to divest himself of his vast business interests. That creates obvious conflicts of interest, especially when it come to overseas matters. That is forbidden under Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution and is grounds for impeachment. Trump should not be allowed to enrich himself and his family through sweetheart deals. Need I say more?