Category Archives: Law

FBI Targets ‘Black Identity Extremists’ Despite Surge in White Supremacist Violence The Trump administration is coming dangerously close to labeling Black Lives Matter a terrorist group.

A leaked FBI counterterrorism memo claims that so-called black identity extremists pose a threat to law enforcement. That’s according to Foreign Policy magazine, which obtained the document written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. The memo was dated August 3, 2017—only days before the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis killed one anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, and injured dozens more. But the report is not concerned with the violent threat of white supremacists. Instead, the memo reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Civil liberties groups have slammed the FBI report, warning the “black identity extremists” designation threatens the rights of protesters with Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many have also compared the memo to the FBI’s covert COINTELPROprogram of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, which targeted the civil rights movement. We speak with Malkia Cyril, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice as well as a Black Lives Matter Bay Area activist.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript.Copymay not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We end today’s show by looking at a leaked FBIcounterterrorism memo which claims so-called black identity extremists pose a threat to law enforcement. That’s according to Foreign Policy magazine, which obtained the document written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. The memo was dated August 3rd, 2017, only days before the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis killed an anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, injured dozens more. But the report is not concerned with the violent threat of white supremacists. Instead, the memo reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” end-quote.

Civil liberties groups have slammed the FBI report, warning the “black identity extremists” designation threatens the rights of protesters with Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many have also compared the memo to the FBI’s covert COINTELPRO program of the ’50s through ’70s, which targeted the civil rights movement.

For more, we’re going to San Francisco, California, where we’re joined by Malkia Cyril. She’s the co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice as well as a Black Lives Matter Bay Area activist.

Malkia, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this report and what your assessment is of this term they have used, “black identity extremists”?

MALKIA CYRIL: Well, thanks for having me. You know, it’s a great question. What is a black identity extremist? I think we’re all trying to figure that out. Nobody knows, in part because it doesn’t exist. It’s a term fabricated by the FBI, constructed. And it has a history. I mean, for a very long time, for many decades in this country, probably centuries, the FBI has criminalized black dissent. We saw it through the COINTELPRO, the Counter Intelligence Program, as you mentioned, in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. We’re seeing it again today. This term, this idea of black extremism are coming up by the FBI, being used as a way to criminalize democratically protected speech and activity. It’s wrong, it’s erroneous, and it should be withdrawn.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what is your understanding of where it stands now?

MALKIA CYRIL: You know, right now, we don’t know. I mean, that’s part of the problem. You know, we need some information from the FBI. It’s clear that the FBIshould provide an unredacted description. What do they mean by a “black identity extremist”? Right now that description is pretty vague. It refers to some anti-white ideologies. It compares—you know, it talks about ideologies of black separatism. But it doesn’t have anything concrete. I mean, I think that’s part of the problem, that this is a categorization that has been constructed. The definition has no—makes no sense. And we need some more information from the FBI, so that we can actually respond effectively to this categorization.

AMY GOODMAN: It doesn’t refer to Black Lives Matter specifically.

MALKIA CYRIL: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that, Malkia?

MALKIA CYRIL: Well, I mean, you know, it doesn’t refer to any specific organization, because the FBI, through its own guidelines, can’t really do that, number one. Number two, its guidelines say it can’t start investigations or investigate anyone solely on the basis of race. So what it’s done is it’s constructed, out of, you know, looking at six different cases over three years that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, of people who have committed violence against police officers. They have constructed a relationship between these cases that doesn’t exist, and then assigned some political ideology to those cases that doesn’t exist. So, anti-white feelings or sentiment doesn’t lead to police violence. Being angry as a black person in America about the—excuse me, doesn’t lead to violence against police. Being angry about police violence in America, police violence that is targeting largely people of color, also does not lead to violence against the police.

So, the bottom line here is that we have a rampant situation where white nationalism is on the rise. And yet the FBI has chosen to use its resources to construct and fabricate a threat that does not exist, instead of addressing a threat that does exist. So, whether it refers directly to Black Lives Matter as an organization or not, it’s clear this is an attempt to criminalize black dissent, which will have an outsized negative impact on those who are working in organizations like Black Lives Matter.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about another issue, about these allegations a Russian company spent more than $100,000 buying thousands of ads that sought to politicize the U.S. electorate ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Some of the allegations relate to Russian Facebook ads specifically referencing Black Lives Matter, targeting audiences in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

MALKIA CYRIL: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Google also says, quote, “suspected Russian agents,” unquote, paid for tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of political advertisements last year also aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election. Your thoughts?

MALKIA CYRIL: First of all, we have to be really clear. This is not simply about what Russia has done. This is about how Russia and the right wing of the United States has collaborated to undermine democracy. So I want to be very clear. When we talk about, you know, Russia buying these ads or using these Facebook pages, so on and so forth, what we’re really talking about is a collusion, a collaboration between a global right wing. That’s really important. We need to be really clear about that, number one.

Number two, whether the ads or the Facebook pages seem to be pro- or anti-Black Lives Matter, the fact is that these pages and these ads were anti-black. That’s what’s clear. They were using anti-black tropes of black militancy to sway an election and undermine democracy. This is not new. The CIA has done this for decades. This is a tactic that has been used by the United States internationally for decades. We should not be surprised that it is being used now. And we need to think very carefully about what is going to happen over the next several years to undermine the next presidential election. And we need to get ready.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about a CNN report, a social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the election. Again, they attribute it to two sources with knowledge of the matter talking to CNN. The Twitter account has been handed over to Congress. The Facebook account is expected to be handed over in the coming days, was the report. Your response to Blacktivist? Have you looked into this?

MALKIA CYRIL: You know, I’ve heard about it. I’ve actually seen the page in the past. You know, I spend a lot of time working on social media issues and looking at, you know, possibly fake pages that talk about black issues, trying to weed them out from pages that are related to real, on-the-ground organizations. And what we’ve seen is, interestingly, while this has come to light, you know, the Blacktivist page has come to light as being associated with this disinformation campaign, it’s clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of fake pages on Facebook, dozens of fake accounts on Twitter, that claim to be related to some black movement, but in fact are not.

What we need to be is very careful making sure that the pages we follow, the accounts we follow, are actually connected to real organizations that are doing real work on the ground. And it’s hard to do. It means that Facebook and Twitter have to take real responsibility for this kind of disinformation on their site, really do something to protect the black activists who are working on their site, and differentiate between the fake pages and the real pages, because it has real consequences for black activism.

AMY GOODMAN: Malkia Cyril, for young people who may not be familiar with COINTELPRO—you certainly are—can you talk about your own family experience? We have just about a minute. But, you know, December 4th, 1969, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton—Fred Hampton, the head of the Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois—are gunned down by police as they’re sleeping in bed. What the Counter Intelligence Program did and the effect, for example, on your family?

MALKIA CYRIL: My mother was a member of the Black Panther Party in New York. She ran the breakfast program in New York. And my mother was visited by the FBIjust weeks before she died in 2005. So this is not something—this harassment, the kind of FBI harassment of black activists, didn’t end in 1969. It didn’t end when COINTELPRO was, you know, exposed in 1971. It is continuing today. There are hundreds of political prisoners in our prison system—black political prisoners, Puerto Rican political prisoners, Native American political prisoners—because of the Counter Intelligence Program. And we need to make sure that never, ever happens in America again.

AMY GOODMAN: Malkia Cyril, thanks so much for taking this time with us, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice, also a Black Lives Matter activist.

MALKIA CYRIL: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That does it for our broadcast today. Happy birthday to Miguel Nogueira! Happy belated birthday, Miguel.

By Amy Goodman / Democracy Now

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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The 2nd Amendment Says a Lot More Than the ‘Right to Bear Arms’—And the True History of It Will Blow Right-Wing Minds The Founding Fathers weren’t advocating for mass shootings.

Many politicians, especially those on the Right, pretend they are strictly adhering to the U.S. Constitution when they often are just making the founding document mean whatever they want – but perhaps nowhere is that as dangerous as with their make-believe Second Amendment.

In the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas—where one individual firing from a high-rise hotel murdered 58 people and wounded more than 500 at a country music festival—we are told that the reason the United States can’t do anything to stop this sort of carnage is the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms.”

“Gun rights” advocates insist that pretty much any gun control violates the design of the Constitution’s Framers and thus can’t be enacted no matter how many innocent people die.

Some on the Right, as well as some on the Left, even claim that the Founders, as revolutionaries themselves, wanted an armed population so the people could rebel against the Republic, which the U.S. Constitution created. But the Constitution’s Framers in 1787 and the authors of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress in 1789 had no such intent.

Arguably other individuals disconnected from the drafting of those documents may have harbored such radical attitudes (at least rhetorically), but the authors didn’t. In fact, their intent was the opposite.

The goal of the Second Amendment was to promote state militias for the maintenance of order at a time of political unrest, potential slave revolts and simmering hostilities with both European powers and Native Americans on the frontiers. Indeed, the amendment’s defined purpose was to achieve state “security” against disruptions to the country’s new republican form of government.

The Second Amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

In other words, if read in context, it’s clear that the Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e., to put down armed disorder and protect its citizens.

In the late Eighteenth Century, the meaning of “bearing” arms also referred to a citizen being part of a militia or army. It didn’t mean that an individual had the right to possess whatever number of high-capacity killing machines that he or she might want. Indeed, the most lethal weapon that early Americans owned was a slow-loading, single-fired musket or rifle.

No Anarchists

Further to the point, both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were the work of the Federalists, who—at the time—counted James Madison among their ranks.

And whatever one thinks about the Federalists, who often are criticized as elitists, they were the principal constitutional Framers and the leaders of the First Congress. They constituted the early national establishment, people such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris and Madison.

The Federalists feared that their new creation, a constitutional republic in an age of monarchies, was threatened by the potential for violent chaos, which is what European aristocrats predicted for the new United States. Democracy was a largely untested concept that was believed likely to fall victim to demagoguery and factionalism.

So, the Framers sought a political system that reflected the will of the citizens (the House of Representatives) but within a framework that constrained public passions (the Senate and other checks and balances). In other words, the Constitution sought to channel political disputes into non-violent competition among various interests, not into armed rebellions against the government.

The Framers also recognized how fragile the nation’s independence was and how domestic rebellions could be exploited by European powers. Indeed, one of the crises that led to the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787 was the inability of the old system under the Articles of Confederation to put down Shays’s Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786-87. Washington saw the possible hand of British agents.

So, the Federalists were seeking a structure that would ensure “domestic Tranquility,” as they explained in the Constitution’s Preamble. They did not want endless civil strife.

The whole idea of the Constitution—with its mix of voting (at least by some white male citizens), elected and appointed representatives, and checks and balances—was to create a political structure that made violence unnecessary.

So, it should be obvious even without knowing all the history that the Framers weren’t encouraging violent uprisings against the Republic that they were founding. To the contrary, they characterized violence against the constitutional system as “treason” in Article III, Section 3. They also committed the federal government to protect each state from “domestic Violence,” in Article IV, Section 4.

Putting Down Rebellion

One of the first uses of the new state militias formed under the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts, which required able-bodied men to report for duty with their own muskets, was for President Washington to lead a federalized force of militiamen against the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt in western Pennsylvania in 1794.

In the South, one of the principal reasons for a militia was to rally armed whites to put down slave uprisings. On the frontier, militias fought against Native Americans over land. Militias also were called up to fight the British in the War of 1812.

But you don’t have to like or dislike how the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts were used to recognize how the Framers intended these legislative provisions to be used.

The Second Amendment was meant to maintain public order, even an unjust order, rather than to empower the oppressed to take up arms against the government. That latter idea was a modern reinterpretation, a distortion of the history.

The revisionists who have transformed the meaning of the Second Amendment love to cite provocative comments by Thomas Jefferson, such as a quote from a 1787 letter criticizing the Constitution for its commander-in-chief provisions.

Jefferson argued that violence, like Shays’s Rebellion, should be welcomed. He wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s [sic] natural manure.”

Jefferson, of course, was a world-class hypocrite who rarely believed what he was saying or writing. He crafted noble words, like “all men are created equal, … endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” but he was a major slaveholder who raped at least one and likely more slave girls and had slave boys whipped.

He also was never willing to risk his own blood as that “natural manure” of liberty. During the Revolutionary War when Benedict Arnold led a force of Loyalists against Richmond, Jefferson, who was then Virginia’s governor, fled the capital. Later, when British cavalry approached Charlottesville and his home of Monticello, Gov. Jefferson again took flight.

But more to the point, Jefferson was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, nor was he in the First Congress, which produced the Second Amendment. In other words, it’s a historical error to cite Jefferson in any way as speaking authoritatively about what the Framers intended with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was not directly involved in either.

A Collective Right

The real history of the Second Amendment was well understood both by citizens and courts in the generations after the Constitution and Bill of Rights were enacted. For most of the years of the Republic, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment as a collective right, allowing Americans to participate in a “well-regulated Militia,” not an individual right to buy the latest weaponry at a gun show or stockpile a military-style arsenal in the basement.

It’s true that many Americans owned a musket or rifle in those early years especially on the frontier, but regulations on munitions were still common in cities where storing of gunpowder, for instance, represented a threat to the public safety.

As the nation spread westward, so did common-sense restrictions on gun violence. Sheriffs in some of the wildest of Wild West towns enforced gun bans that today would prompt a recall election financed by the National Rifle Association.

However, in recent decades — understanding the power of narrative on the human imagination — a resurgent American Right (and some on the Left) rewrote the history of the Founding era, dispatching “researchers” to cherry-pick or fabricate quotes from Revolutionary War leaders to create politically convenient illusions. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of apocryphal or out-of-context gun quotes.]

That bogus history gave rise to the image of the Framers as wild-eyed radicals – Leon Trotskys of the Eighteenth Century – encouraging armed rebellion against their own Republic. Rather than people who believed in the rule of law and social order, the Framers were contorted into crazies who wanted citizens to be empowered to shoot American police, soldiers, elected representatives and government officials as agents of “tyranny.”

This false history was advanced particularly by the American Right in the last half of the Twentieth Century as a kind of neo-Confederate call to arms, with the goal of rallying whites into a near-insurrectionary fury particularly in the South but also in rural areas of the North and West.

In the 1950s and 1960s, some white Southerners fancied themselves an armed resistance against the tyrannical federal government as it enforced laws on racial integration and other supposed infringements on “states’ rights.” In the 1990s, armed “citizens militias” began to pop up in reaction to the election of Democrat Bill Clinton, culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1994.

While designed primarily for the weak-minded, the Right’s faux Founding history also had an impact on right-wing “intellectuals” including Republican lawyers who worked their way up through the federal judiciary under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump.

By 2008, these right-wing jurists held a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and could thus overturn generations of legal precedents and declare that the Second Amendment established an individual right for Americans to own guns. Though even these five right-wing justices accepted society’s right to protect the general welfare of the population through some gun control, the Supreme Court’s ruling effectively “validated” the Right’s made-up history.

The ruling created a political dynamic to which even liberals in national politics — the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Biden — had to genuflect, the supposed Second Amendment right of Americans to parade around in public with guns on their hips and high-powered semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

What the Framers Wanted?

As guns-right activists struck down gun regulations in Congress and in statehouses across the nation, their dominant argument was that the Second Amendment offered no leeway for restrictions on gun ownership; it’s what the Framers wanted.

So, pretty much any unstable person could load up with a vast killing capacity and slouch off to a bar, to a work place, to a church, to a school or to a high-rise Las Vegas hotel and treat fellow Americans as targets in a real-life violent video game. Somehow, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was overtaken by the “right” to own an AR-15 with a 30-or-100-bullet magazine.

When right-wing politicians talk about the Second Amendment now, they don’t even bother to include the preamble that explains the point of the amendment. The entire amendment is only 26 words. But the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, find the preamble inconvenient because it would undercut their false storyline. So they just lop off the first 12 words.

Nor do they explain what the Framers meant by “bear arms.” The phrase reflected the reasoning in the Second Amendment’s preamble that the whole point was to create “well-regulated” state militias to maintain “security,” not to free up anybody with a beef to kill government officials or citizens of a disapproved race or creed or just random folks.

So, even after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

At the time, the clear message from the Right was that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama, the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) especially if he pressed ahead seeking common-sense gun restrictions. But Napolitano was simply wrong on the history.

Another dubious argument from the gun-rights lobby was that armed citizens could take down a gunman and thus stop a mass shooting before it became a full-fledged massacre.

But a gunfight among largely untrained civilians would likely add to the slaughter, not stop it. For instance, a 2012 mass shooting occurred in a darkened theater in Aurora, Colorado. Does anyone logically think that a bunch of terrified gun carriers exchanging fire in such a situation – not knowing who the original shooter was – would solve the problem?

And how about Sunday’s massacre in Las Vegas where the shooter positioned himself on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and fired down on a packed concert venue, a substantial distance away?

Assuming that the concertgoers were armed and tried to defend themselves, they would likely have ended up shooting other innocent concertgoers because of the initial confusion as to where the shooter was positioned. That would have further complicated the challenge to police who could have mistakenly opened fire on armed people in the crowd rather than locate and stop the original killer as he kept firing from his sniper’s perch. In other words, the horrific death toll could have been even higher.

To pretend that such carnage was the intent of the Constitution’s Framers, who wrote about achieving “domestic Tranquility,” or the goal of the First Congress, which drafted the Second Amendment to promote “the security of a free State,” is intellectually dishonest and a true threat to the lives of American citizens.

By Robert Parry/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Guns and Profit – Why We’ll Do Absolutely Nothing New After This Las Vegas Shooting

Wake up, America.

We are not the land of the brave or the home of the free.

We are the land of the gun and the home of the free market.

Stephen Paddock’s killing spree last night in Las Vegas will not change anything – except the bottom line for numerous gun manufacturers.

Ca-ching, people!

Scores of American companies are going to clean up over this!

That’s what happens every time we get a high profile mass shooting.

Not new gun regulation. Not additional services for the mentally ill. Not stricter guidelines against fake news on social media.

More from Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

‘Year late & bad info’: California says DHS falsely accused Russia of hacking its voting systems

It appears that in its eagerness to accuse Russian hackers of meddling in the US presidential election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wrongly claimed California’s election systems had been breached.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla released a statement in which he confirmed that DHS officials had told him that the state’s election system had been “scanned” by Russian hackers.

“Last Friday, my office was notified by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites. Following our request for further information, it became clear that DHS’ conclusions were wrong,” he wrote in a statement published on Wednesday.

He went on to stress that last Friday’s notification from the DHS wasn’t just “a year late,” but was also “bad information.”

Now the DHS instead maintains – without any stated evidence – that “Russian scanning activity…occurred on the California Department of Technology statewide network,” rather than Secretary of State websites.

California’s Secretary of State does not use the Department of Technology to provide IT services for its website, internet-facing applications, or the statewide voter registration database, according to Padilla’s office.

Padilla’s statement added that based on this additional information, “the California Secretary of State elections infrastructure and websites were not hacked or breached by Russian cyber actors.”

As for the Department of Technology allegedly being breached, the office said its security systems were able to block “suspect activity.” However, claims that Russians were behind any such attempt remain unsubstantiated.

Padilla’s statement comes after California – along with 20 other states – was told last week that its systems were targeted last year “by Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to US election infrastructure.”

The DHS’ mistake in California is the second time in a week that the department’s credibility has come into question, as it was forced to backtrack earlier this week on its claim that Russian hackers attempted to hack Wisconsin’s election infrastructure.

Just as in the case of California, the DHS quickly pointed to another government department which the elusive Russians allegedly tried to hack – the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

It is an interesting – and once again unproven – claim, considering the office merely oversees job training and unemployment benefits.

Despite ongoing claims and an investigation into Russian meddling in the US presidential election, no evidence has been provided to support the hysteria.

A congressional investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the US election has been dragging on 10 months, with any hard evidence explicitly pointing to the role of Russian authorities yet to be produced.
Moscow has repeatedly denied interfering in the election campaign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rebuffed the meddling claims, on one occasion noting that the US is not “a banana republic,” for others to interfere with its people’s choice.

In an interview with filmmaker Oliver Stone in June, Putin instead accused the US of meddling in Russia’s most recent presidential elections in 2012, by campaigning on the side of the Russian opposition.

Moreover, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in August that there is “no doubt” the US will again try to meddle in the 2018 presidential election.

That same month, US President Donald Trump told a rally in West Virginia that the Russia story is a “total fabrication” and an excuse used by Democrats for the “greatest loss in the history of American politics.”

He said that prosecutors should instead be focused on Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails rather than alleged Russian meddling.

From RussiaToday

Posted by The NON-Conformist

With DACA Gone, Black Immigrants Find Themselves in the Cross Hairs

Black undocumented immigrants are detained and deported at disproportionate rates. So black DACA recipients are particularly fearful.

er first memory of being in the United States is the taxi ride from the airport to her new home in Maryland. It was 2002 and Mwewa Sumbwe was 4 years old. Not long after, Sumbwe started school. Sumbwe, who is from Zambia, an English-speaking country, said she was put in ESL classes. “I think the assumption was just that I [needed them because I] was coming from a different country,” she said. “It was so weird and insulting.”

Sumbwe is one of 12,000 black Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, according to an estimate from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). And on Tuesday, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would rescind the program, this community was not spared. “Black immigrants comprise just 5 percent of the overall immigrant population, but 21 percent of those deported as a result of criminal contact. [A similar disparity] holds true when we look at detention rates,” said Carl Lipscombe, deputy director of BAJI. “This is abnormally high and points to racial disparities when it comes to deportation rates and outcomes in immigration court.” According to Lipscombe, most black DACA recipients come from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, and the Dominican Republic.

It was during a class on financial planning in high school that Sumbwe first realized her status was going to impact her life. “We were doing a scenario, and my friend asked me, ‘Do you know your Social Security number?’” It was then, says Sumbwe, that she “fully understood what it meant to be undocumented.” But, she added, “you find ways to assimilate.”

Sumbwe’s parents always told her that she needed to be careful, that she couldn’t do “stupid things.” Of course, most parents tell their teenage children to stay out of trouble. But for Sumbwe, doing a “stupid thing” meant something different. It was “don’t do stupid things because you’re black, and not only are you black, but your status will be affected.”

The precarity of having undocumented status for this community is compounded by the realities of having black skin in America. “The first thing people see is that I’m black,” Sumbwe said. “There’s already that negativity,” but also, “the deeper aspect is you don’t even have documentation.” Jonathan Green, co-founder of the UndocuBlack Network, a group that brings together black undocumented immigrants, echoed Sumbwe. “The same ills that are a result of white-supremacist policies that impact black Americans are impacting us,” he said. This community is at an economic disadvantage: “African immigrants are among the most educated but have the highest unemployment rate,” he said. But that’s not all—black undocumented immigrants share the fear for their physical safety that many black citizens have: “Yes I’m worried about being deported, but I’m also a young person living in Baltimore. It doesn’t always matter that I’m an immigrant. I’m still faced with consequences of being black.”

In 2015, Green, 25, started the UndocuBlack Network after the Baltimore protests that followed Freddie Gray’s death and other high-profile police killings of black Americans. “Folks didn’t see our stories and our lives,” said Green, who was born in Panama. “It was easy to erase us.” So he sought to create a space where undocumented black immigrants could come together to support one another and organize.

Tuesday’s announcement brought with it many mixed emotions. “It’s dual,” Green said. “They are continuing to wage war on all of our communities. But there is so much resiliency and we are willing to fight—this isn’t new.” And, he says, ”people like us have been surviving through these policies.” Sumbwe agrees. “[The government] doesn’t make us human, we are human. We still exist. We are still powerful and resilient,” she said. “I’m motivated to work even harder for immigrant and human rights in general.”

By Collier Meyerson/TheNation

Posted by The NON-Conformist

L.A. City Council replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day on city calendar

LA changes Columbus Day to ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ as statues continue to be destroyedA statue of explorer Christopher Columbus © SPENCER PLATT / AFP

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to eliminate Columbus Day from the city calendar, siding with activists who view the explorer as a symbol of genocide for native peoples in North America and elsewhere.

Over the objections of Italian American civic groups, the council made the second Monday in October a day in L.A. to commemorate “indigenous, aboriginal and native people.” It replaces a holiday that served as a touchstone for Italian Americans, marking the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean.

Italian Americans voiced anguish over the proposal, telling council members it would erase a portion of their heritage. Some said they supported the creation of Indigenous Peoples Day as long as it is held on a different date.

“On behalf of the Italian community, we want to celebrate with you,” said Ann Potenza, president of Federated Italo-Americans of Southern California, speaking in a room packed with Native American activists. “We just don’t want it to be at the expense of Columbus Day.”

That idea was unacceptable to Chrissie Castro, vice chairwoman of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission. She argued that city lawmakers needed to “dismantle a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous peoples.”

“To make us celebrate on any other day would be a further injustice,” Castro said.

The day will remain a paid holiday for city employees, regardless of the name.

Wednesday’s debate had been driven by two men with different visions of how to replace Columbus Day, which was established as a federal holiday in 1937. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a member of the Wyandotte Nation tribe in Oklahoma, argued that the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day would provide “restorative justice.”

Councilman Joe Buscaino, a first-generation Italian American raised in San Pedro, had sought to replace Columbus Day with a different name, one that celebrates “all of the diverse cultures in the city.” Buscaino said many had forgotten the prejudice faced by Italian Americans in the United States — and asked his colleagues not to “cure one offense with another.”

“All of our individual cultures matter,” said Buscaino, who represents neighborhoods from Watts to San Pedro.

Buscaino and three colleagues — Gil Cedillo, David Ryu and Mitchell Englander — pushed an alternative plan to hold Indigenous Peoples Day on Aug. 9, a date selected by the United Nations for recognizing native peoples. The council rejected that proposal on an 11-4 vote.

Councilman Mike Bonin, the great-grandson of Italian immigrants, said he felt genuinely pained at having to disagree with Buscaino. But he argued that Columbus Day diminishes the accomplishments of his ancestors, who came to the U.S. to “build something and not to destroy something.”

“This gesture of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is a very small step in apologizing and in making amends,” said Bonin, who represents coastal neighborhoods from Westchester to Pacific Palisades.

The council’s vote comes at a time of heated discussion over the nation’s holidays and historic monuments.

Activists have been pushing for the removal of statues honoring military leaders who served the Confederacy. Two weeks ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a 90-day review of “all symbols of hate” on city property.

Several U.S. cities — including Seattle, Albuquerque and Denver — have already replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

O’Farrell, who represents an Echo Park-to-Hollywood district, said his plan for Indigenous Peoples Day also establishes Oct. 12, the date of Columbus’ arrival in 1492, as Italian American Heritage Day at City Hall. It would not be a day off for paid employees.

Replacing Columbus Day, O’Farrell said, would right a “historical wrong.”

“We are not creating a racial conflict,” he said. “We are ending one.”

The council replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day on a 14-1 vote, with Buscaino opposed. The move followed a fractious hearing, with Italian Americans and Native Americans cheering and jeering at different moments.

One opponent of the holiday name change called it “a slap in the face” to Italian Americans. Another called it racially divisive.

John Giovanni Corda, a Beverly Hills resident who identified himself as Sardinian, told the audience to “shut your mouths” after they started heckling. He told the council that O’Farrell’s proposal was anti-Italian.

“Why don’t you stop picking on Christopher Columbus as though you’re picking on our people,” he said. “We never hurt you. We never wanted to hurt you.”

Backers of the name change spoke of newcomers to the Caribbean and North American enslaving, raping and killing Native Americans. They argued that the human cost has not been accurately described in schools and public life.

“We’ve been erased from education. We’ve been erased from the history books,” said Joseph Quintana, development director for United American Indian Involvement, which supports Native Americans in the Los Angeles area.

By David Zahniser/LATimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

GOP-drawn districts not much better than before

As he does so often, Bob Phillips, head of Common Cause in North Carolina, had it exactly right with his comments on some pitiful, harshly partisan legislative districts as redrawn by Republican lawmakers, or rather by their hired consultant.

Made necessary by federal court rulings that found some of their 2011 districts to be racially gerrymandered, the new maps – likely in a drawer for some months while the court cases played out – continue to skew districts toward Republicans. That was entirely expected, since the rules for new maps the GOP leaders made for themselves allowed partisan consideration and voting patterns to be used in the new districts. Phillips, long an advocate of nonpartisan redistricting – done after every 10-year census – said GOP lawmakers blew a “golden opportunity to adopt fair, nonpartisan standards” for districts. Instead, he found “partisanship at the core,” and that’s right.

Making things worse is that by calculation, GOP leaders have offered the public a very limited amount of time to comment and offer input on the maps. In reality, of course, Republicans couldn’t care less about what the public thinks, which is the point of not allowing them time to offer their own opinions. If they did, they’d likely state the obvious: Why not form a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw new maps and avoid what has been a huge public expense as Republicans have tried to defend the indefensible in federal court, to no avail?

Now, of course, Republicans are taking a chance that their maps will again be found to be gerrymandered in the extreme by the courts, at which point the courts would come in and draw the maps.
This story has been like the maps themselves – twists and turns and misdirection and confusion that do no favors for the fair democratic process in which people should vote for their representatives based on geographical good sense and competing ideas, not on ridiculously-drawn districts designed to give Republicans an advantage in keeping control of the General Assembly. If Republicans believe so strongly in their ideas, they should not fear a fair competition. But they do.

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD/News&Observer
Posted by The NON-Conformist