Yellow Vests Shift to the Left

This YouTube video is a must see! The most inspirational thing I've seen in decades!
The yellow vests movement in France is now shifting decisively to the left, as shown by the huge anti-capitalist bloc in Paris on the December 8. Led by prominent campaigners against police violence, The Adama Committee for Justice and Truth, it included railworkers, striking postal workers, other rank and file workers, students, migrant workers groups, important collectives such as The Rosa Parks Collective, sex workers, LGBTQ groups and many more. The mood has changed completely since the horrific mass arrest at a school in a Paris banlieue; now workers are calling for a general strike, and the student movement is exploding with schools and universities blockaded throughout the country.





















We refuse to pay to protest!

Women's March on the Pentagon, October 2018

For Immediate Release
Contact: CindySheehan@MarchonPentagon.com

What: The day before Thanksgiving, Cindy Sheehan, co-coordinator of the recent Women's March on the Pentagon (WMOP) was presented with a $540.00 gill for "police escort" by the Arlington County Virginia Police Department (ACPD).

Background: Beginning in July, leadership of WMOP began taking steps to secure permits from the two jurisdictions that the WMOP would take on October 21st (51st anniversary of the March on the Pentagon during the Vietnam War): 

Arlington County (brief march) and the Pentagon. Although WMOP eventually obtained a permit from the Pentagon, WMOP was never able to obtain a permit from Arlington County and many phone messages left by DC area Co-ordinator Malachy Kilbride were never returned by the ACPD.

On the day of the March, about 1500 people gathered at the Pentagon City Metro station (for a 12pm March start) in front of the mall and at about 10:30am, to the surprise of March organizers, ACPD showed up and did stop traffic for the brief March through Arlington County.

The organizers of the WMOP are outraged and appalled by this obvious violation of our First Amendment rights to gather "peaceably" and demonstrate one of the sacrosanct rights to our Freedom of Speech. 

The DC area co-ordinator for the WMOP Malachy Kilbride had this to say upon receipt of the bill:  "As a former resident of Arlington County of over 20 years I am disturbed that the county is following in the footsteps of the Trump Administration which wants to charge people for First Amendment activity. Shame on Arlington County! The First Amendment is priceless and shouldn't be monetized."

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF)* the D.C. based non-profit legal organization that works to protect and advance the constitutional rights of protestors has issued the following letter to the ACPD on behalf of the Women's March on the Pentagon:

Chief Jay Farr

Lt. John Feden

Arlington County Police Department

1425 North Courthouse Rd
. Arlington, VA 22201
Dear Chief Farr and Lt. Feden:

We are writing on behalf of Cindy Sheehan in response to Lt. John Feden's e-mail correspondence dated November 21, 2018. 

The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) has issued an invoice to Ms. Sheehan seeking to charge her for engaging in constitutionally protected First Amendment activities. Specifically, the invoice is stated to be "for the police services we provided October 21st during the March On the Pentagon," and demands $540.00 for what is described as "police escort for The Women's March on the Pentagon." 

This attempt to tax free speech is without lawful basis and violates Ms. Sheehan's constitutional rights. We request that this invoice be immediately withdrawn.

Ms. Sheehan did not request police "services," nor was she given prior notice that the ACPD intended to send police to the demonstration and charge her for their time.  At no time did Ms. Sheehan agree to pay for any such charges. 

Indeed, the ACPD actually refused to respond to Ms. Sheehan's efforts to coordinate the First Amendment activities with them. An application for a permit was submitted for the March and thereafter, Arlington Country was nonresponsive to follow up efforts. After failing and refusing to return phone calls regarding the March, the ACDP appeared at the Pentagon City mall in front of the metro stop entrance at the starting point for the march, well before the march was scheduled to step off. At that time Ms. Sheehan expressed her surprise at their presence given their refusal to communicate with the March organizers. 

The ACPD may not charge demonstrators for First Amendment activities at its own discretion. We are requesting that the ACPD provide all policy documents, guidelines, and criteria that the department relies upon in assessing charges on demonstration activities as well as any notice it believes was given to Ms. Sheehan of such policies and procedures. 

We further request that the ACPD issue instructions to personnel consistent with constitutional obligations to ensure that organizers of demonstration activity are not improperly charged in the future.


Mara Verheyden-Hilliard (PCJF)  

The Women's March on the Pentagon adamantly refuses to pay for this appalling violation of our constitutional rights.

*The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund is a free speech and civil rights organization that has defended First Amendment rights for over 20 years in Washington, D.C. and around the country. It is currently challenging the Trump Administration's proposed anti-protest rules that would levy potentially bankrupting fees and costs on demonstrators who engage in constitutionally protected free speech on public parkland in the nation's capital. More information here.

*(Women's) March on the Pentagon is a women-led coalition of activists, professionals, military veterans, and everyday citizens of the world with one thing in common: we are anti-imperialist. More info can be found here.

  This press release can also be found on our website:

Join the Facebook group:



America has spent $5.9 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001, a new study says

  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
  • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
  • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.
  • https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/14/us-has-spent-5point9-trillion-on-middle-east-asia-wars-since-2001-study.html








Open letter to active duty soldiers on the border
Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern U.S. border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the U.S. are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country's elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.
Courage to Resist has been running a strategic outreach campaign to challenge troops to refuse illegal orders while on the border, such as their Commander-in-Chief's suggestion that they murder migrants who might be throwing rocks, or that they build and help run concentration camps. In addition to social media ads, About Face, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist, are also printing tens of thousands of these leaflets for distribution near the border. Please consider donating towards these expenses.

Don't turn them away

The migrants in the Central American caravan are not our enemies

Open letter to active duty soldiers
Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern U.S. border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the U.S. are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country's elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.
"There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone."
These extremely poor and vulnerable people are desperate for peace. Who among us would walk a thousand miles with only the clothes on our back without great cause? The odds are good that your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. lived similar experiences to these migrants. Your family members came to the U.S. to seek a better life—some fled violence. Consider this as you are asked to confront these unarmed men, women and children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. To do so would be the ultimate hypocrisy.
The U.S. is the richest country in the world, in part because it has exploited countries in Latin America for decades. If you treat people from these countries like criminals, as Trump hopes you will, you only contribute to the legacy of pillage and plunder beneath our southern border. We need to confront this history together, we need to confront the reality of America's wealth and both share and give it back with these people. Above all else, we cannot turn them away at our door. They will die if we do.
By every moral or ethical standard it is your duty to refuse orders to "defend" the U.S. from these migrants. History will look kindly upon you if you do. There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone. It is much harder to punish the many than the few.
In solidarity,
Rory Fanning
Former U.S. Army Ranger, War-Resister
Spenser Rapone
Former U.S. Army Ranger and Infantry Officer, War-Resister
Leaflet distributed by:
  • About Face: Veterans Against the War
  • Courage to Resist
  • Veterans For Peace
Courage to Resist has been running a strategic outreach campaign to challenge troops to refuse illegal orders while on the border, such as their Commander-in-Chief's suggestion that they murder migrants who might be throwing rocks, or that they build and help run concentration camps. In addition to social media ads, About Face, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist, are also printing tens of thousands of these leaflets for distribution near the border. Please consider donating towards these expenses.
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist*---------*---------*---------*---------*---------*---------*




New "Refuse War" Shirts

We've launched a new shirt store to raise funds to support war resisters.

In addition to the Courage to Resist logo shirts we've offered in the past, we now  have a few fun designs, including a grim reaper, a "Refuse War, Go AWOL" travel theme, and a sporty "AWOL: Support Military War Resisters" shirt.

Shirts are $25 each for small through XL, and bit more for larger sizes. Please allow 9-12 days for delivery within the United States.

50% of each shirt may qualify as a tax-deductible contribution.

Courage to Resist -- Support the Troops who Refuse to Fight!
484 Lake Park Ave. #41, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-488-3559
couragetoresis.org -- facebook.com/couragetoresist







Judge to Soon Rule on Mumia's Appeal Bid
By Kyle Fraser, December 4, 2018
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker promised a decision on whether a former prosecutor unlawfully took part as a judge in rejecting Mumia Abu Jamal's appeal of his 1981 conviction in the killing of a police officer. "We're not going to stop fighting until we see Mumia walk out of these prison walls," said Johanna Fernandez, of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. Pam Africa, of the MOVE organization, said Abu Jamal's supporters have sustained his defense for decades "no matter what kind of devious tricks this government has used to try to break this movement."
Listen to a radio report at Black Agenda Report:

Free Mumia Now!
Mumia's freedom is at stake in a court hearing on August 30th. 
With your help, we just might free him!
Check out this video:

This video includes photo of 1996 news report refuting Judge Castille's present assertion that he had not been requested at that time to recuse himself from this case, on which he had previously worked as a Prosecutor:
A Philadelphia court now has before it the evidence which could lead to Mumia's freedom. The evidence shows that Ronald Castille, of the District Attorney's office in 1982, intervened in the prosecution of Mumia for a crime he did not commit. Years later, Castille was a judge on the PA Supreme Court, where he sat in judgement over Mumia's case, and ruled against Mumia in every appeal! 
According to the US Supreme Court in the Williams ruling, this corrupt behavior was illegal!
But will the court rule to overturn all of Mumia's negative appeals rulings by the PA Supreme Court? If it does, Mumia would be free to appeal once again against his unfair conviction. If it does not, Mumia could remain imprisoned for life, without the possibility for parole, for a crime he did not commit.
• Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent and framed!
• Mumia Abu-Jamal is a journalist censored off the airwaves!
• Mumia Abu-Jamal is victimized by cops, courts and politicians!
• Mumia Abu-Jamal stands for all prisoners treated unjustly!
• Courts have never treated Mumia fairly!
Will You Help Free Mumia?
Call DA Larry Krasner at (215) 686-8000
Tell him former DA Ron Castille violated Mumia's constitutional rights and 
Krasner should cease opposing Mumia's legal petition.
Tell the DA to release Mumia because he's factually innocent.
Write to Mumia at:
Smart Communications/PA DOC
SCI Mahanoy
Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733



A Call for a Mass Mobilization to Oppose NATO, War and Racism
Protest NATO, Washington, DC, Lafayette Park (across from the White House)

1 PM Saturday, March 30, 2019.
Additional actions will take place on Thursday April 4 at the opening of the NATO meeting

April 4, 2019, will mark the 51st anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the internationally revered leader in struggles against racism, poverty and war.

And yet, in a grotesque desecration of Rev. King's lifelong dedication to peace, this is the date that the military leaders of the North American Treaty Organization have chosen to celebrate NATO's 70th anniversary by holding its annual summit meeting in Washington, D.C. This is a deliberate insult to Rev. King and a clear message that Black lives and the lives of non-European humanity really do not matter.   

It was exactly one year before he was murdered that Rev. King gave his famous speech opposing the U.S. war in Vietnam, calling the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" and declaring that he could not be silent.

We cannot be silent either. Since its founding, the U.S.-led NATO has been the world's deadliest military alliance, causing untold suffering and devastation throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Hundreds of thousands have died in U.S./NATO wars in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yugoslavia. Millions of refugees are now risking their lives trying to escape the carnage that these wars have brought to their homelands, while workers in the 29 NATO member-countries are told they must abandon hard-won social programs in order to meet U.S. demands for even more military spending.

Every year when NATO holds its summits, there have been massive protests: in Chicago, Wales, Warsaw, Brussels. 2019 will be no exception.

The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is calling for a mass mobilization in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 30.  Additional actions will take place on April 4 at the opening of the NATO meeting. 

We invite you to join with us in this effort. As Rev. King taught us, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

No to NATO!
End All U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad!
Bring the Troops Home Now! 
No to Racism! 
The Administrative Committee of UNAC,

To add your endorsement to this call, please go here: http://www.no2nato2019.org/endorse-the-action.html

Please donate to keep UNAC strong: https://www.unacpeace.org/donate.html 

If your organization would like to join the UNAC coalition, please click here: https://www.unacpeace.org/join.html



In Defense of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson

Update on Rashid in Indiana
By Dustin McDaniel

November 9, 2018—Had a call with Rashid yesterday. He's been seen by medical, psych, and
dental. He's getting his meds and his blood pressure is being monitored,
though it is uncontrolled. The RN made recommendations for treatment
that included medication changes and further monitoring, but there's
been no follow up.

He's at the diagnostic center and he (along with everyone else I've
talked to about it) expect that he'll be sent to the solitary
confinement unit at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, though it could
be 30 days from now.

He's in a cell with no property. He has no extra underwear to change
into. The cell is, of course, dirty. He's in solitary confinement. He
didn't say they were denying him yard time. He didn't say there were any
problems with his meals.

They are refusing him his stationary and stamps, so he can't write out.
He gets a very limited number of phone calls per month (1 or 2), and
otherwise can only talk on the phone if a legal call is set up.

They are refusing to give him his property, or to allow him to look
through it to find records relevant to ongoing or planned litigation.
He's already past the statute of limitations on a law suit he planned to
file re abuses in Texas and other deadlines are about to pass over the
next month.

He has 35 banker boxes of property, or 2 pallets, that arrived in IDOC.
He needs to be allowed to look through these records in order to find
relevant legal documents. Moving forward, I think we need to find a
place/person for him to send these records to or they are going to be
destroyed. It would be good if we could find someone who would also take
on the task of organizing the records, getting rid of duplicates or
unnecessary paperwork, digitizing records, and making things easier to
search and access.

Although he does not appear in the inmate locator for IDOC, he does
appears in the JPay system as an Indiana prisoner (#264847). At his
request, I sent him some of his money so hopefully he can get stamps and

Hold off on sending him more money via JPay - I've been told that some
of the IDOC facilities are phasing out JPay and moving to GTL and
wouldn't want to have a bunch of money stuck and inaccessible due to
those changes. If you want to send him more money immediately, send it
to Abolitionist Law Center. You can send it via Paypal to
info@abolitionistlawcenter.org, or mail it to PO Box 8654, Pittsburgh,
PA 15221. We will hold on to it and distribute it according to Rashid's

Please write to him, if you haven't already. He's got nothing to do in
solitary with nothing to read and nothing to write with.

you can also hear a recent interview with Rashid on Final Straw podcast here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/post/tag/kevin-rashid-johnson/
Write to Rashid:
Kevin Rashid Johnson's writings and artwork have been widely circulated. He is the author of a book,Panther Vision: Essential Party Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party, (Kersplebedeb, 2010).

Kevin Johnson D.O.C. No. 264847
G-20-2C Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Rd.
Pendleton, IN 46064-9001



Prisoners at Lieber Correctional Institution in South Carolina are demanding recognition of their human rights by the South Carolina Department of Corrections and warden Randall Williams.  Prisoners are also demanding an end to the horrific conditions they are forced to exist under at Lieber, which are exascerbating already rising tensions to a tipping point and people are dying. 
Since the tragedy that occured at Lee Correctional earlier this year, prisoners at all level 3 security prisons in SC have been on complete lockdown, forced to stay in their two-man 9x11 cells 24 hours a day (supposed to be 23 hrs/day but guards rarely let prisoners go to their one hour of rec in a slightly larger cage because it requires too much work, especially when you keep an entire prison on lockdown) without any programming whatsoever and filthy air rushing in all day, no chairs, tables, no radios, no television, no access to legal work, no access to showers, and no light!  Administration decided to cover all the tiny windows in the cells with metal plates on the outside so that no light can come in.  Thousands of people are existing in this manner, enclosed in a tiny space with another person and no materials or communication or anything to pass the time.  
Because of these horific conditions tensions are rising and people are dying. Another violent death took place at Lieber Correctional; Derrick Furtick, 31, died at approximately 9pm Monday, according to state Department of Corrections officials:
Prisoners assert that this death is a result of the kind of conditions that are being imposed and inflicted upon the incarcerated population there and the undue trauma, anxiety, and tensions these conditions create.  
We demand:
- to be let off solitary confinement
- to have our windows uncovered
- access to books, magazines, phone calls, showers and recreation
- access to the law library and our legal cases
- single person cells for any person serving over 20 years
Lieber is known for its horrendous treatment of the people it cages including its failure to evacuate prisoners during Hurricane Florence earlier this year:
Please flood the phone lines of both the governor's and warden's offices to help amplify these demands from behind bars at Lieber Correctional.
Warden Randall Williams:  (843) 875-3332   or   (803) 896-3700
Governor Henry McMaster's office:  (803) 734-2100

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Get Malik Out of Ad-Seg

Keith "Malik" Washington is an incarcerated activist who has spoken out on conditions of confinement in Texas prison and beyond:  from issues of toxic water and extreme heat, to physical and sexual abuse of imprisoned people, to religious discrimination and more.  Malik has also been a tireless leader in the movement to #EndPrisonSlavery which gained visibility during nationwide prison strikes in 2016 and 2018.  View his work at comrademalik.com or write him at:

Keith H. Washington
TDC# 1487958
McConnell Unit
3001 S. Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102
Friends, it's time to get Malik out of solitary confinement.

Malik has experienced intense, targeted harassment ever since he dared to start speaking against brutal conditions faced by incarcerated people in Texas and nationwide--but over the past few months, prison officials have stepped up their retaliation even more.

In Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement) at McConnell Unit, Malik has experienced frequent humiliating strip searches, medical neglect, mail tampering and censorship, confinement 23 hours a day to a cell that often reached 100+ degrees in the summer, and other daily abuses too numerous to name.  It could not be more clear that they are trying to make an example of him because he is a committed freedom fighter.  So we have to step up.

Phone zap on Tuesday, November 13

**Mark your calendars for the 11/13 call in, be on the look out for a call script, and spread the word!!**

- Convene special review of Malik's placement in Ad-Seg and immediately release him back to general population
- Explain why the State Classification Committee's decision to release Malik from Ad-Seg back in June was overturned (specifically, demand to know the nature of the "information" supposedly collected by the Fusion Center, and demand to know how this information was investigated and verified).
- Immediately cease all harassment and retaliation against Malik, especially strip searches and mail censorship!

Who to contact:
TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier
Phone: (936)295-6371

Senior Warden Philip Sinfuentes (McConnell Unit)
Phone: (361) 362-2300


Background on Malik's Situation

Malik's continued assignment to Ad-Seg (solitary confinement) in is an overt example of political repression, plain and simple.  Prison officials placed Malik in Ad-Seg two years ago for writing about and endorsing the 2016 nationwide prison strike.  They were able to do this because Texas and U.S. law permits non-violent work refusal to be classified as incitement to riot.

It gets worse.  Malik was cleared for release from Ad-Seg by the State Classification Committee in June--and then, in an unprecedented reversal, immediately re-assigned him back to Ad-Seg.  The reason?  Prison Officials site "information" collected by a shadowy intelligence gathering operation called a Fusion Center, which are known for lack of transparency and accountability, and for being blatant tools of political repression.

Malik remains in horrible conditions, vulnerable to every possible abuse, on the basis of "information" that has NEVER been disclosed or verified.  No court or other independent entity has ever confirmed the existence, let alone authenticity, of this alleged information.  In fact, as recently as October 25, a representative of the State Classification Committee told Malik that he has no clue why Malik was re-assigned to Ad-Seg.  This "information" is pure fiction.   



Listen to 'The Daily': Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?

By Michael Barbaro, May 30, 2018

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile deviceVia Apple Podcasts | Via RadioPublic | Via Stitcher

The sole survivor of an attack in which four people were murdered identified the perpetrators as three white men. The police ignored suspects who fit the description and arrested a young black man instead. He is now awaiting execution.

On today's episode:
• Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California for three decades.



Last week I met with fellow organizers and members of Mijente to take joint action at the Tornillo Port of Entry, where detention camps have been built and where children and adults are currently being imprisoned. 

I oppose the hyper-criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers. Migration is a human right and every person is worthy of dignity and respect irrespective of whether they have "papers" or not. You shouldn't have to prove "extreme and unusual hardship" to avoid being separated from your family. We, as a country, have a moral responsibility to support and uplift those adversely affected by the US's decades-long role in the economic and military destabilization of the home countries these migrants and asylum seekers have been forced to leave.

While we expected to face resistance and potential trouble from the multiple law enforcement agencies represented at the border, we didn't expect to have a local farm hand pull a pistol on us to demand we deflate our giant balloon banner. Its message to those in detention:

NO ESTÁN SOLOS (You are not alone).

Despite the slight disruption to our plan we were able to support Mijente and United We Dream in blocking the main entrance to the detention camp and letting those locked inside know that there are people here who care for them and want to see them free and reunited with their families. 

We are continuing to stand in solidarity with Mijente as they fight back against unjust immigration practices.Yesterday they took action in San Diego, continuing to lead and escalate resistance to unjust detention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and to ICE. 

While we were honored to offer on-the-ground support we see the potential to focus the energy of our Drop the MIC campaign into fighting against this injustice, to have an even greater impact. Here's how:
  1. Call out General Dynamics for profiteering of War, Militarization of the Border and Child and Family Detention (look for our social media toolkit this week);
  2. Create speaking forums and produce media that challenges the narrative of ICE and Jeff Sessions, encouraging troops who have served in the borderlands to speak out about that experience;
  3. Continue to show up and demand we demilitarize the border and abolish ICE.

Thank you for your vision and understanding of how militarism, racism, and capitalism are coming together in the most destructive ways. Help keep us in this fight by continuing to support our work.

In Solidarity,
Ramon Mejia
Field Organizer, About Face: Veterans Against the War

P.O. Box 3565, New York, NY 10008. All Right Reserved. | Unsubscribe
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Major George Tillery
April 25, 2018-- The arrest of two young men in Starbucks for the crime of "sitting while black," and the four years prison sentence to rapper Meek Mill for a minor parole violation are racist outrages in Philadelphia, PA that made national news in the past weeks. Yesterday Meek Mills was released on bail after a high profile defense campaign and a Pa Supreme Court decision citing evidence his conviction was based solely on a cop's false testimony.
These events underscore the racism, frame-up, corruption and brutality at the core of the criminal injustice system. Pennsylvania "lifer" Major Tillery's fight for freedom puts a spotlight on the conviction of innocent men with no evidence except the lying testimony of jailhouse snitches who have been coerced and given favors by cops and prosecutors.

Sex for Lies and Manufactured Testimony
For thirty-five years Major Tillery has fought against his 1983 arrest, then conviction and sentence of life imprisonment without parole for an unsolved 1976 pool hall murder and assault. Major Tillery's defense has always been his innocence. The police and prosecution knew Tillery did not commit these crimes. Jailhouse informant Emanuel Claitt gave lying testimony that Tillery was one of the shooters.

Homicide detectives and prosecutors threatened Claitt with a false unrelated murder charge, and induced him to lie with promises of little or no jail time on over twenty pending felonies, and being released from jail despite a parole violation. In addition, homicide detectives arranged for Claitt, while in custody, to have private sexual liaisons with his girlfriends in police interview rooms.
In May and June 2016, Emanuel Claitt gave sworn statements that his testimony was a total lie, and that the homicide cops and the prosecutors told him what to say and coached him before trial. Not only was he coerced to lie that Major Tillery was a shooter, but to lie and claim there were no plea deals made in exchange for his testimony. He provided the information about the specific homicide detectives and prosecutors involved in manufacturing his testimony and details about being allowed "sex for lies". In August 2016, Claitt reaffirmed his sworn statements in a videotape, posted on YouTube and on JusticeforMajorTillery.org.
Without the coerced and false testimony of Claitt there was no evidence against Major Tillery. There were no ballistics or any other physical evidence linking him to the shootings. The surviving victim's statement naming others as the shooters was not allowed into evidence.
The trial took place in May 1985 during the last days of the siege and firebombing of the MOVE family Osage Avenue home in Philadelphia that killed 13 Black people, including 5 children. The prosecution claimed that Major Tillery was part of an organized crime group, and falsely described it as run by the Nation of Islam. This prejudiced and inflamed the majority white jury against Tillery, to make up for the absence of any evidence that Tillery was involved in the shootings.
This was a frame-up conviction from top to bottom. Claitt was the sole or primary witness in five other murder cases in the early 1980s. Coercing and inducing jailhouse informants to falsely testify is a standard routine in criminal prosecutions. It goes hand in hand with prosecutors suppressing favorable evidence from the defense.
Major Tillery has filed a petition based on his actual innocence to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Larry Krasner's Conviction Review Unit. A full review and investigation should lead to reversal of Major Tillery's conviction. He also asks that the DA's office to release the full police and prosecution files on his case under the new  "open files" policy. In the meantime, Major Tillery continues his own investigation. He needs your support.
Major Tillery has Fought his Conviction and Advocated for Other Prisoners for over 30 Years
The Pennsylvania courts have rejected three rounds of appeals challenging Major Tillery's conviction based on his innocence, the prosecution's intentional presentation of false evidence against him and his trial attorney's conflict of interest. On June 15, 2016 Major Tillery filed a new post-conviction petition based on the same evidence now in the petition to the District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit. Despite the written and video-taped statements from Emanuel Claitt that that his testimony against Major Tillery was a lie and the result of police and prosecutorial misconduct, Judge Leon Tucker dismissed Major Tillery's petition as "untimely" without even holding a hearing. Major Tillery appealed that dismissal and the appeal is pending in the Superior Court.
During the decades of imprisonment Tillery has advocated for other prisoners challenging solitary confinement, lack of medical and mental health care and the inhumane conditions of imprisonment. In 1990, he won the lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens, that forced the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) to end double celling (4 men to a small cell) at SCI Pittsburgh, which later resulted in the closing and then "renovation" of that prison.
Three years ago Major Tillery stood up for political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and demanded prison Superintendent John Kerestes get Mumia to a hospital because "Mumia is dying."  For defending Mumia and advocating for medical treatment for himself and others, prison officials retaliated. Tillery was shipped out of SCI Mahanoy, where Mumia was also held, to maximum security SCI Frackville and then set-up for a prison violation and a disciplinary penalty of months in solitary confinement. See, Messing with Major by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Major Tillery's federal lawsuit against the DOC for that retaliation is being litigated. Major Tillery continues as an advocate for all prisoners. He is fighting to get the DOC to establish a program for elderly prisoners.
Major Tillery Needs Your Help:
Well-known criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio represents Major pro bonoin challenging his conviction. More investigation is underway. We can't count on the district attorney's office to make the findings of misconduct against the police detectives and prosecutors who framed Major without continuing to dig up the evidence.
Major Tillery is now 67 years old. He's done hard time, imprisoned for almost 35 years, some 20 years in solitary confinement in max prisons for a crime he did not commit. He recently won hepatitis C treatment, denied to him for a decade by the DOC. He has severe liver problems as well as arthritis and rheumatism, back problems, and a continuing itchy skin rash. Within the past couple of weeks he was diagnosed with an extremely high heartbeat and is getting treatment.
Major Tillery does not want to die in prison. He and his family, daughters, sons and grandchildren are fighting to get him home. The newly filed petition for Conviction Review to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office lays out the evidence Major Tillery has uncovered, evidence suppressed by the prosecution through all these years he has been imprisoned and brought legal challenges into court. It is time for the District Attorney's to act on the fact that Major Tillery is innocent and was framed by police detectives and prosecutors who manufactured the evidence to convict him. Major Tillery's conviction should be vacated and he should be freed.

Major Tillery and family

    Financial Support—Tillery's investigation is ongoing. He badly needs funds to fight for his freedom.
    Go to JPay.com;
    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:
    The Conviction Review Unit should investigate Major Tillery's case. He is innocent. The only evidence at trial was from lying jail house informants who now admit it was false.
    Call: 215-686-8000 or

    Write to:
    Security Processing Center
    Major Tillery AM 9786
    268 Bricker Road
    Bellefonte, PA 16823
    For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org
    Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com
    Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com



    Free Leonard Peltier!

    Art by Leonard Peltier
    Write to:
    Leonard Peltier 89637-132
    USP Coleman 1,  P.O. Box 1033
    Coleman, FL 33521



    Working people are helping to feed the poor hungry corporations! 
    Charity for the Wealthy!





    1) In Paris, 'Yellow Vest' Protests Cut Sharply Into City's Luxury Trade
    By Elizabeth Paton, December 17, 2018
    Riot police outside the Louis Vuitton flagship store on the Champs-Élysées. Violent demonstrations have forced retailers to close in the midst of their busiest season.

    From the Champs Élysées to Avenue Montaigne and along the Rue St.-Honoré, the glossiest and most glamorous shopping streets of central Paris are usually bustling on Saturdays in December. 
    Tourists and local residents alike, many of them wearing fur or cashmere and laden with bags, hurry into glittering temples of French heritage like Chanel and Dior, Longchamp and Ladurée to stock up on holiday gifts. 
    This year, that has changed.
    Five straight weekends of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron and his economic policies by members of the so-called Yellow Vest movement have caused some of the worst civil unrest France has experienced in more than a decade. Storefronts have been smashed, cars have been set ablaze and some of Paris's best-known landmarks have been damaged. 
    The number of protesters dwindled significantly this past Saturdaycompared with previous weekends, but many shops were closed nonetheless in anticipation of further violence, including those owned by the French group Kering, including Gucci, Balenciaga.

    The luxury-goods industry, one of France's top export categories and a major driver of tourism in Paris, has been hit hard during its most important month of the year. A police lockdown and fears of widespread vandalism prompted executives at several high-profile companies to close their Paris stores, and their mouths, after some protesters seized on French fashion logos as symbols of inequality and elitism. 
    Some chief executives, however, did stick their heads above the parapet.

    Jean-Philippe Hecquet, chief executive of Lanvin, said the company had closed its flagship store near the Champs-Élysées for three weekends for its employees' safety. 
    "This time of year is the most important selling period for Lanvin, with December counting for at least two regular months of full-price sales," Mr. Hecquet said. "One could say that our online business could cover our losses, but when it comes to shopping for luxury ready-to-wear, physical stores remain very important." 
    Dior, Burberry and Kering all declined to comment on how the protests were affecting sales. Chanel confirmed only that its stores had been closed as a safety precaution, although Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director, noted in an interview with New York magazine last week: "I like the moment we are living through, but not the 'yellow raincoats' in the street."

    Some people in the industry expressed concerns that luxury brands could become targets in a workers' revolt against the increasingly unpopular Mr. Macron.

    The protests have already taken a heavy toll. Retailers across all sectors have lost approximately 1 billion euros, about $1.1 billion, since the protests began, according to the French Retail Federation.
    Bruno Le Maire, the finance minister, has declared the riots "a catastrophe" for the French economy. Small retailers — many of which have also been forced to close — revenue that was 20 to 40 percent below expectations this month, he said. Hotel reservations were down 25 percent, and restaurants in Paris had seen revenue collapse 20 percent to 50 percent depending on their location, he added. 
    Fears are growing that Paris could enter a sharp downturn similar to the one that followed the terrorist attacks of 2015.
    "You don't want to shop at Louis Vuitton on the Champs-Élysées when cars are burning on the street," said Mario Ortelli, managing partner of the luxury advisers Ortelli & Company. "You don't want to walk around with an Hermès bag when there's a violent protest happening."
    Marc-Andre Kamel, the head of Bain's retail practice for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, said that while sales elsewhere might help luxury brands with global footprints offset the losses in Paris, wholesale department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps were more likely to experience a blunt impact from the protests, since regional stores outside Paris are affected by disruption in other cities.

    "It is a grim situation for those retailers," Mr. Kamel said. "Just how bad will be seen when sales figures are released early next year."
    Until the protests began, Mr. Kamel said, "it had been a relatively decent year" for luxury spending.

    "For France as a brand, for luxury players, who are a major reason many people travel here, these are nerve-racking times," he added.
    Yet, there a quiet sense of defiance was in evidence on some street corners. 
    Around the Place Vendôme, a hub of luxury jewelry shops and designer stores, rioters had smashed windows and built barricades on recent weekends. Many of the shops had boarded their windows up entirely, blocking everything inside from view. 
    Other stores, like Louis Vuitton, created giant, clear barriers instead, allowing a showcase for sparkling Christmas trees framed by expensive shoes, handbags and accessories, a reminder that those dream purchases were still available, if out of reach for many.
    Jean Cassegrain, the chief executive of Longchamp, said some of his Paris stores were closed and security had been added at others. But he emphasized that luxury brands were not the primary object of the protesters' ire.
    "The protests did not target luxury stores specifically: bus stops, cafes, construction sites, cars were also damaged," he said. "This is a moment in the life of the city. Paris remains a great and enjoyable city for residents and for tourists."
    Nevertheless, for an industry that builds itself on trading in branded aspiration and fantasy, the recent upheaval in luxury's capital city has undeniably tarnished that image. Just how badly will only become clear in the coming weeks.


    2) What Can Make a 911 Call a Felony? Fentanyl at the Scene
    By Peter Andrey Smith, December 17, 2018
    Eric Weil sits in the bedroom of his home that was once occupied by a friend's son who was struggling with addiction. Mr. Weil was prosecuted after calling 911 to report finding drugs belonging to the youth.

    ALTON, N.H. — Eric Weil, a gregarious 50-year-old painter who lives in a wooded neighborhood hugging the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, never suspected he would face felony charges when he called 911 last August.
    He had agreed to take in a friend's son who was struggling with addiction, on the condition that no drugs be brought into his house. When Mr. Weil discovered a packet of white powder in the guest bedroom, he called 911. "Somebody's messed up in my house," he recalled saying. "He's on drugs. I don't know what he's on. Can we get somebody here?"
    When officers arrived, Mr. Weil tried to hand over the packet, but was told to drop it onto his gravel driveway. He did, but picked it up again out of concern, he later said, that his Yorkshire terrier, Schnoogabutch, or his free-range chickens would be exposed.
    As he picked up the packet, some powder got on his index finger and he blew it off. The police later said that he blew "a large cloud" of the powder toward them, exposing one officer to fentanyl, an opioid whose use has driven up the number of overdose deaths nationwide to a record high.

    Mr. Weil was charged with reckless conduct, something akin to waving a loaded gun in the air. Prosecutors argued that fentanyl was a deadly weapon.
    As stories circulate of the lethality of powdered fentanyl and its cousin, carfentanil, similar cases have been brought in Maine, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Kentucky, with charges ranging from wanton endangerment to assault.
    At least two people are serving sentences of up to three years. In the widely reported case of an Ohio officer who was said to have nearly died after brushing some fentanyl off his shirt, a man pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 18 months. More than 10 other cases are pending.
    Medical professionals say that the risks from accidental exposure to opioids, even potent ones, are actually very low. The prosecutions have been driven by fear, they say — not science. None of the incidents has caused a death, or even symptoms of opioid overdose, a review of the available evidence shows.
    Even so, fear is rampant: there has been no shortage of warnings that unidentified powders can kill. A 2016 video by the Drug Enforcement Administration warned law enforcement that touching fentanyl or breathing in just a few airborne particles could be fatal.

    Dozens of police officers and medics have been given naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, to treat suspected on-the-job exposures. Those affected have often complained of dizziness, nausea, and lightheadedness. Some pass out.
    In Ohio, after a prisoner overdosed, 23 correction officers and four nurses were treated for possible opioid exposure, 31 inmates were relocated, and a nearby school was placed on modified lockdown.
    "I never want to be in a position where I have to go see a family member, a wife, kids, and explain to them why their father or husband is not coming home that evening, or ever, for that matter," Ryan Heath, the police chief in Alton, N.H., where Mr. Weil was charged, said in an interview.
    "Everybody knows it's a dangerous substance," Chief Heath added. "I've seen it on the news."
    More recently, the Justice Department released another video, urging emergency medical workers to use precautions like gloves, eye protection and a face mask. In several cases, officers and emergency workers have conducted drug busts while wearing biohazard containment suits.
    But such messages worry doctors, who contend that these precautions are unnecessary and could even do harm, stigmatizing patients — as happened in the early years of the AIDS crisis — and causing deadly delays while responders don protective gear.
    "I want to tell first responders: 'Look, you're safe,'" said Dr. Jeremy S. Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital in Boston. "You can touch these people. You can interact with them. You can go on and do the heroic lifesaving work that you do for anyone else."
    True, a dose of powdered fentanyl the size of a few grains of sand can prove lethal, and carfentanil is even more potent. But the drugs must generally be deliberately ingested, not accidentally touched or inhaled, to cause a reaction.

    "I would say it's extraordinarily improbable that a first responder would be poisoned by an ultra-potent opioid," Dr. David Juurlink, a clinical researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said. "I don't say it can't happen. But for it to happen would require extraordinary circumstances, and those extraordinary circumstances would be very hard to achieve."
    For exposure by inhalation, powdered drugs would have to be aerosolized; for absorption through the skin, they would have to be dissolved in liquid or formulated with a "permeation enhancer," according to a scholarly article.
    To counter the false alarm, toxicologists released a formal position paper last year, saying the risks involved in touching or inhaling powdered forms of fentanyl are "extremely low."
    If that were not the case, said Dr. Kenneth A. Williams, a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University in Providence, one would expect to see more reports of exposure involving people who use drugs, or ordinary civilian bystanders. But virtually all of the cases involve the police and other emergency personnel.
    Experts say the symptoms that are reported, like nausea and dizziness, may be real, but could stem from an expectation of harm, commonly known as the "nocebo" effect — the placebo effect's evil twin.
    In one Kentucky case, an emergency medical technician named Scottie Wightman radioed for help after he used a towel to dry off a patient who overdosed. He lost consciousness and was treated with naloxone, but his drug test was negative for opiates.
    "What was going through my mind was, 'Here I am trying to help someone and keep them alive, and I almost died doing that,'" Mr. Wightman said in an interview. "I'm supposed to be helping someone, yet in my mind, it's like they just tried to kill me."

    Three people have each been charged with 10 counts of wanton endangerment as a result of the episode. One of them, the patient who overdosed, recently pleaded guilty. The case against his stepson, Scotty Hatton, who had called 911, is still pending.
    Mr. Hatton said he had lost custody of his son and that local officials had thrown all his possessions over fears of contamination. "I would understand if they found a bunch of dope or had a test that said, 'Yeah, that's carfentanil,'" Mr. Hatton said. "But they had no test or anything."
    Had he not called 911, he said, his stepfather could have died, laying Mr. Hatton open to "some kind of manslaughter charge, or murder, or something like that." If he had it to do over, he would call 911 again, he said: "I didn't want him to die."
    In Mr. Weil's case, the officer who was reportedly exposed, Jamie Fellows, wrote, "The cloud of fentanyl came down around me and I had breathed in a portion of the powder." Officer Fellows said he felt something drip down the back of his throat, and later complained of a headache. He declined a request for comment.
    An emergency medical technician employed by Alton Fire and Rescue who treated Officer Fellows that night observed that he had an ordinary respiratory rate and blood oxygen saturation. After consulting a doctor, the technician determined that the officer required no treatment and had "no apparent illness or injury."
    The prosecutor, Adam Woods, offered no evidence that Mr. Weil had caused injury, but said that was not the point. "What he's charged with doing is knowing that that substance was dangerous, disregarding that danger, that risk, and recklessly blowing it in the air," Mr. Woods said in an interview. "He's not charged with calling the police. He's not charged with possessing the drug."
    Mr. Weil was convicted by a jury in September.
    His lawyer, Harry N. Starbranch Jr., asked that the verdict be overturned, arguing that there was no evidence that fentanyl was a deadly weapon or that Officer Fellows ingested any. On Nov. 1, the judge granted the motion, setting aside the verdict. The prosecutor has vowed to retry the case.

    Mr. Weil, who said he spent more than $10,000 on legal fees and another $300 on security cameras trained on his driveway, said the experience had changed him.
    "If ever I go into a situation where somebody's O.D.-ing, I'm going to stand over them and watch them die," he said. "If they say, why didn't I call? Are you out of your mind? The last time I called somebody, I got a Class B felony."

    Jose A. Del Real contributed reporting from Los Angeles.


    3) They Grabbed Her Baby and Arrested Her. Now Jazmine Headley Is Speaking Out.
    By Ashley Southall and Nikita Stewart, December 16, 2018
    Jazmine Headley

    Jazmine Headley took her baby boy to a public benefits office in Brooklyn on a recent Friday to find out why the city had abruptly stopped paying for him to go to day care while she worked cleaning offices.
    Nearly four hours later Ms. Headley, 23, left the Boerum Hill facility in handcuffs, after police officers and security guards pried her son from her arms in a chaotic arrest that began when she got into a dispute over whether she was allowed to sit on the floor.
    The incident, caught on cellphone videos and shared widely online, has propelled her into the center of a public reckoning over how the city treats people seeking public assistance.

    n the last week, Ms. Headley has become a cause célèbre for New Yorkers who depend on food stamps and cash public assistance and who say they are often met with hostility and are sometimes threatened with arrest at city benefits offices.

    "It's the story of many other people, it's not just my story," Ms. Headley said in an interview. "My story is the only one that made it to the surface."
    Her arrest highlighted the tension that plays out in public benefit offices throughout the city every day. People seeking benefits are usually under tremendous financial strain and are dealing with an unyielding bureaucracy, and city workers at these offices are under pressure to follow rules, ferret out abuse and keep order.
    Those strains occasionally boil over into physical confrontations and arrests, officials said, an outcome that can have lifelong consequences for people already struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder. Since January 2017, law enforcement agencies have been called to food-stamp offices across the city 2,212 times and have arrested 97 people, mainly for assault and offenses against public administration, the police said.
    Ms. Headley had had a difficult two years — a disappointing move to North Carolina, a failed relationship with her son's father and an arrest on charges of credit-card fraud in New Jersey.
    On Thursday, she notified the city that she plans to file a potentially lucrative lawsuit to prevent what happened to her from happening to others.

    The political fallout from her detention was another blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio's image as a champion of the poor. Mr. de Blasio has apologized to Ms. Headley, but he drew harsh criticism from other Democrats for waiting several days before condemning the arrest.
    For the city's police commissioner, James P. O'Neill, who has committed to training officers to recognize unconscious biases and to de-escalate tensions, the incident raised questions about whether that coaching is taking hold among officers.
    "They never asked me my name," Ms. Headley said. "They never said, 'Hello, who are you?' They never asked me."
    In the interview, Ms. Headley said she tried to leave the office with her son shortly after the police showed up. The officers had been called because Ms. Headley had a heated argument with a female security guard, who told her she could not sit on the floor.
    She picked up her baby and started to leave, but the police said the guard grabbed her arm, and they all tumbled to the floor. Ms. Headley said she tried again to go, but a male police officer told her it was too late. She went into "defense mode," she said.
    "In my head, I told myself they're not going to let me leave," she said. "I was so afraid. I was combative with my thoughts."
    Ms. Headley grew up in Brooklyn, where she is raising her son, Damone Buckman III, in her mother's apartment in the Brevoort Houses, where she has lived since she was 3 years old. She went to public schools and worked briefly at a nonprofit that helps developmentally disabled adults.
    Suzanne Jones, the program's case manager, said that Ms. Headley was driven and knew how to stand her ground. "You don't roll over Jazmine," she said. "She's always going to push her way through."
    Ms. Headley said it was too upsetting to watch video of the incident.
    Ms. Headley stayed on with the nonprofit, Jewel Human Services, for nine months until she said she fell in love and moved to Charlotte, N.C., to join her boyfriend.
    That summer, she was arrested outside Trenton, N.J., and charged with taking part in an identity theft and credit-card fraud scheme, prosecutors said. The police seized five phony cards with her name on them.
    Her relationship broke up around the time she gave birth to Damone in June 2017, her mother said. Her savings from her job at a Belk department store ran out a couple of months later, and she returned to New York, where she went on public assistance — a monthly allowance of $280 in food stamps and $140 in cash.
    In September, she went back to work cleaning offices part time for $13 an hour. Her benefits were cut after she started working, but the city still paid $1,200 each month for Damone's day care. Then that payment stopped, too.
    Ms. Headley had taken that Friday off work after the owner of her son's day care told her Damone could not return if the payment issue was not fixed.
    She packed a bag with snacks for him, as well as his favorite toy, a figurine of Chase, a police dog who stars on the children's television show, PAW Patrol.

    "My main objective was to get there, handle business and get home," Ms. Headley said.
    With Damone in a stroller, she arrived a few minutes before 10 a.m. at the Human Resources Administration office on Bergen Street and took a number for her turn to talk to a case worker who handles child-care assistance.
    At 12:20 p.m., she said, her turn came and a case worker told her that she would have to reapply for child care benefits, a process that could take up to a week.
    Determined to accomplish something, she decided to check the status of her cash allowance, for which she had reapplied in November. That meant taking another number, and more waiting.
    By then, Damone was getting restless. She said she took him to a play area, but workers turned her away because he is not toilet trained.
    All the seats in the main waiting area were taken, she said, so she sat on the floor with her back against the blue wall and talked to Damone, who was in a stroller to her right.
    A security guard came over and told Ms. Headley that she was blocking a fire zone and needed to move.
    Ms. Headley said she refused, noting that there were trash and recycling bins against the wall on the other side of Damone's stroller.

    "I just remember being talked to very viciously," she said. "It was more or less: 'You're going to do what I say, and that's it.'"
    The exchange grew heated, Ms. Headley said, and another security guard — the city calls them peace officers — came to demand that she move.
    Incensed, Ms. Headley said she asked to talk to a supervisor. The guards walked away, Ms. Headley said, and 10 minutes passed. Then they returned with two police officers.
    She picked Damone up and rose to her feet. One of the police officers told her they did not want to arrest her and she began to leave, holding Damone and pushing the stroller.
    Her memory of what happened next is blurry, she said. The police said the first guard grabbed Ms. Headley's arm and they fell to the ground.

    "I should've left, and I didn't because if I would've left, my son would not have the things that he needs," Ms. Headley said.
    Body-cameras worn by the officers recorded the guard telling Ms. Headley that if she did not leave she would be taken to central booking and the city's child-welfare agency would take her son away, according to a person briefed on the matter.

    "You're a joke," Ms. Headley replied, then turned to go, according to the person who was briefed. The peace officer replied: "Really?" then lunged at Ms. Headley and grabbed her arm, the person said, and "everyone tumbles down."
    If the guard "had just swallowed it, this would have been over," a law enforcement official briefed on the body-camera evidence said.
    A video posted on Facebook shows Ms. Headley trying to reason once more with the officers. "Let me get up," Ms. Headley tells the police officers, who appear to be speaking to her. "I have my rights. I have my rights." She sits upright on the floor, then says, "Don't touch me when I get up."
    But the two officers then restrained her while the two guards stripped Damone out of her arms. The baby shrieked while onlookers yelled at the police to leave her alone. Ms. Headley fought hard to hold onto him, gripping his shirt in her teeth.
    Gregory Floyd, the guards' union president, said the guards, Bettina Barnett-Weekes and Toyin Ramos-Williams, tried to reason with Ms. Headley for 40 minutes before the police arrived, and that there were rows of seats available in the waiting area. He said Ms. Barnett-Weekes was bitten during the fracas.
    As Ms. Headley's arrest began drawing attention worldwide — the Facebook videos have been seen more than 1.3 million times — the city social services commissioner suspended the two security guards and started the process of firing them.
    "I could only see my children in that situation, and it's just heartbreaking," the commissioner, Steven Banks, said.

    Mr. Banks said his agency was reviewing tactics for dealing with people accompanying children and would retrain the peace officers. The guards also will now be ordered to talk to a supervisor before calling the police, unless there is an immediate threat to someone's safety, he said.
    The bureaucratic headache that kept Ms. Headley at the Brooklyn office for hours is not unusual. The practice of prematurely closing public benefits cases and forcing recipients to reapply is so common that advocates for the poor have a word for it: churning.
    "They call the cops for everything, even if you're smoking outside," said Mae Green, an administrator at Bethel Baptist Church, a few doors down from the Boerum Hill office.
    Synthia Jean, 38, said she left the Boerum Hill office last month after waiting six hours for officials to reissue a check that was dated for April, but had arrived in November, and to give her an identification card to cash it. She said public benefits offices are "just a bunch of aggravation in one place."
    The Police Department has defended the actions of the two officers, saying the security guards were to blame for the incident getting out of hand. The Civilian Complaint Review Board is investigating the arrest.
    Police officials did not respond to questions about whether the officers followed the department's protocols.
    For Ms. Headley, the outpouring of sympathy that followed publicity of the arrest has brought her some relief.

    She is being represented by the Midtown law firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. Her public assistance benefits have been restored. The Brooklyn district attorney dropped charges of resisting arrest and child endangerment, and New Jersey authorities agreed to dismiss the unrelated charges against her if she completes a pretrial diversion program.
    "What happened was completely unacceptable and should never happen again in New York City," Mr. Banks said.
    Nate Schweber, Sean Piccoli and William Neuman contributed reporting.


    4)  Sons of Revolution: Vietnam's New Protest Movement
    Hanoi's conservative leaders are increasingly haunted by Ho Chi Minh's legacy.
    By Tom Fawthrop, December 17, 2018
    Vietnamese shout anti-China slogans during a protest in Hanoi, Vietnam (March, 14, 2016).

    The extraordinary eruption of nationwide protest in June 2018 highlighted widespread fears in the Vietnamese populace that growing Chinese investment in Vietnam could undermine the nation's independence, and erode the legacy of founding father of the nation Ho Chi Minh.
    An environmental campaigner and NGO consultant, Ms. Huong, in an interview with The Diplomatcommented, the "Vietnamese people have long been very proud of their independence. They are ready to fight for it at any price. We can't stand being colonized or oppressed by outsiders.
    "The movement now against the SEZ [special economic zones] is in continuity with the past." (Ms. Huong — not her real name — requested anonymity to protect her work for civil society).
    During the summer protests, tens of thousands occupied the streets in Ho Chi Minh city. Thousands more demonstrated in six provinces nationwide in June 2018 in an attempt to block a controversial draft law that offered new special economic zones (SEZs) in three strategic locations, with 99-year leases on offer. Chinese companies were the front-runners to be the prime beneficiaries of these locations.
    Vietnam's Minister for Plan and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung hopes that the SEZs, located in special positions and run with special preferences, will become magnets for investments, thus helping economic development.
    In spite of ongoing conflict with China over disputed islands in the South China Sea, and recent protests over special economic zones, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently wooed Chinese investors at November's International Import Expo conference, held in Shanghai. China is Vietnam's top trading partner.
    Independent analyst and writer Nguyen Quang Dy, a former foreign ministry official, argues that China's soft power (including investment) is a complementary threat to their militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea. "Chinese crony firms would take over the SEZs as a 'soft invasion without fighting'" in accordance with Sun Tzu's Art of War, he said. "For those critical positions on land that China could not take by force, they would try to take over by investment"
    The Paradoxes of Special Economic Zones
    Corrupt local officials stand accused both by social media bloggers and the protest movement of "selling Vietnamese land in SEZ zones to Chinese investors." Critics say that the lack of good governances in SAEZs (special administrative economic zones) has endangered Vietnam's hard-won struggle for independence.
    The Vietnamese leaders, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) chief Nguyen Phu Trong, issued statements after the protests  acknowledging the concerns of the Vietnamese people. Phuc told the media that the government welcomed the "enthusiastic feedback" on the law and promised some revisions to the law would be made.
    The government leadership was caught off balance by the passion of the protests and the hostile pubic reaction and has now delayed the National Assembly vote on the draft law until May 2019.
    The new, amorphous opposition to the government's reliance on SEZs and Chinese investment for economic growth has resonated far beyond small groups of dissidents. Newly minted protesters include war veterans, intellectuals, civil society, and disgruntled cadres inside the Communist Party, who feel that Vietnam's "market-orientated socialism" has failed to uphold the principles of social justice.
    The late Bui Tin, the former deputy editor of the Nhan Dan, the Communist Party daily, was granted political asylum in France 1990 as an outspoken left-wing critic. Back in 1997, he explained to this correspondent in an interview from Paris that "the Communist Party is full of opportunists and privileged elites. The morality is lost. All is the search for dollars."
    Bui Tin was not alone in this sentiment. Many today inside Vietnam still cherish the revolutionary ideals of the nation's founding father, Ho Chi Minh, inspired more by a deep-seated nationalism rather than any allegiance to communism.
    Former advisor to the minister of planning and investment (2001 – 2006) Le Dang Doanh, a VCP member, was among the many intellectuals who signed a petition to the National Assembly, urging a postponement of the special economic zones law.
    In the past, dissident groups calling for human rights and multiparty democracy, backed by Vietnamese exile communities in the United States and France, had only marginal impact on the general public.
    This new genre of mass protest, which is capturing the imagination of a wider public, can be traced back to a 2007 campaign launched against a controversial Chinese investment in a bauxite mine in the Central Highlands.
    This was the first broadly based protest comprising prominent intellectuals, scientists, and CPV cadres, as well as Catholic activists and Buddhist monks.
    The movement gained a huge boost from the support of legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap. 55 years after he masterminded the epic defeat of the French colonial army at the battle of Bien Dien Phu, he emerged from retirement at the grand old age of 98 as the world's oldest green campaigner.
    In an open letter to the then-prime minister, Giap urged that the mining contract be scrapped on environmental grounds, and warned of the dangerous toxic sludge and damage it would inflict on that Montagnards, the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands.
    Bowing to public pressure, the prime minister invited scientific experts to advise the government and collaborate on minimizing the environmental damage from the bauxite exploitation.
    Professor Vo Quy, one of Vietnam's internationally awarded experts on environment and conservation, was one of the scientists who strongly opposed the bauxite project.
    In another challenge to the authorities, in 2015, hundreds of people staged weekly protests in Hanoi over a government plan to chop down 6,700 trees in the capital city's much-revered tree-lined boulevards. The protests pressured city officials to abandon their plan and Hanoi citizens' right to preserve their unique heritage won the day.
    The importance of Ho Chi Minh legacy's today, according to Southeast Asia specialist Anton Tsvetov, is that "The nation-building narrative in Vietnam that evolves not so much around 'Ho Chi Minh's  thought', but rather around the fight of the Vietnamese against foreign rule."
    According to Tsvetov, writing for Southeast Asia Globe, "It was the force that drove away the French and the United States, and then repelled Chinese aggression in 1979. The [CPV] sees itself  as a successor in a long line of heroes and rulers revered for protecting the realm from foreign invaders, especially China."
    The current protestors are convinced Vietnam's independence is again endangered by China. The movement is a convergence of disparate groups — bringing together pro-Western dissidents, partisans of Ho Chi Minh's independence struggles, war veterans, and a new generation of civil society activists.
    The current wave of anger directed at China, which also targets the government's lack of transparency and poor economic governance, is far more awkward and embarrassing for the government to handle.
    Civil society academic Nguyen Trinh (not his real name) observed that in the many different strands that have come together in today's protest movement, there are two different agendas: reformist and more radical.
    "There are at least two movements here," he explained. "One is arranged, controllable, aimed at bargaining to retain the current regime. People following this path can go home peacefully go home after the protest" or just sign petitions
    Many critics back a reformist agenda seeking to bring the party back to its original ideals of striving for a more egalitarian society based on social justice.
    But the other strand of the movement, Trinh explained, "is aimed at more radical changes and filled up with democratic ideas, which attracts a more brutal response from the police." The democratic ideas include the setting up of a multiparty democracy and the dismantling of one-party rule.
    Nine members of the "Brotherhood of Democracy" received harsh sentences for their role in the June demonstrations.
    Ms. Huong elaborated on the drive for change: "While most people trained abroad would like have a Western-style multiparty system, many Vietnamese would probably be okay with a single party. What most people really care about is having a system that works for the people, [one that is] less corrupt and more accountable."
    It is also clear that, in spite of the asymmetry of power between the giant neighbor to the north and Vietnam, the opposition demands a government that will more firmly stand up to China with greater vigilance in safeguarding the nation's independence.
    As Ho Chi Minh affirmed, "Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty."
    Tom Fawthrop is a freelance journalist and film-maker based in Southeast Asia.


    5)  The Gilets Jaunes and the Unions: A convergence over what?
    By Rachel Knaebel, Joe Hayes, December 18, 2018
    Originally published by Basta!, and translated by Joe Hayns.

    Translator's introduction

    Whilst the gilets jaunes' uprising began outside of the traditional organisations of the working class, and indeed continues without formal political institutions per se, it's development has, quite naturally, prompted every party and every union in France to respond. 
    Who though have they responded to? The largest-yet quantitative study of the jaunes found that of 160 interviewees, the huge majority are either inactifs (unemployed or retired; 25.5%), employés (service sector workers; 33.3%), ouvriers (industrial workers; 14.4%), or in professions intermédiaires (nurses, primary-school teachers; 5.2%) - in other words, they are very largely of the population that tends to live not from profits or rent, but from wages and social security.1 Just over 40% identify as left-wing to some extent, and three times as many identify as far-left (14.9%) as far-right (4.7%),though by far the largest single group consider themselves "neither right nor left" (33.1%).2 A full 40% of the respondents have been on strike at least once; 64% think that "the unions have no place in the movement". 
    And so, if "this signifier with a low symbolic charge, the gilet jaune, places the protest outside the world of work", as sociologists Etienne Penissat and Thomas Amossé wrote, it's wearers nevertheless appear to be overwhelmingly working class; if the yellow hi-vis is a "floating signifier" - and it has certainly not yet found an institutional referent in the labour movement - it is one that many trade unionists are attempting to harbour.3
    Rachel Knaebel's essay, published by Basta! On 7 December, delineates the various union confederations' changing orientation towards the jaunes, and gives some sense of the difficulties this still-unmoored movement has presented to trade union militants. 

    On Thursday 6 December, nearly three weeks after the first blockade, two days before gilets jaunes' "Act IV" protest, leaders of the union confederations came together to take account of the situation. From it came a collective declaration, signed by the CFDT, the CGT, the FO, the CFE-CGC, Unsa, and the FSU, in which the unions "called for the government to finally commit to genuine negotiations"; questions of "spending power, salaries, transport, housing, the presence and accessibility of public services, and the tax system must finally find concrete resolution", said the group comminuqué. The organisations also "denounce[d] all forms of violence in the expression of demands".
    The Solidaires union, present at the meeting, refused to sign the text, which it described as "hors sol" ('overground'; top-down): "a posture of union unity which does not mention the violence suffered by protestors over many years, and even worse over the last weeks, is inconceivable for Solidaires". The union would not "decide it is urgent to do nothing". 
    The links between the unions and the gilets jaunes are in the process of being made - cautiously. The CGT paraded in Paris against unemployment and precarity at the 1 December [Act III] demonstration, but at a distance from the jaunes, though there were rail worker (cheminot/es) trade unionists at their side. Similarly, in Toulouse, CGT and Solidaires militants marched together, though without a real "convergence" taking place. But for a week now, strike notices (préavis de grève) have multiplied across different sectors over the question of spending power and salaries, echoing many of the demands that have emerged from the gilets jaunes' movement. 
    In haulage, the CGT and FO called for an unlimited strike from the evening of Sunday 9th December, against the reduction of overtime pay. In the public sector, Solidaire has placed a strike notice until the New Year, from 10 to 31 December. The union denounced the "abandonment of public services and the closing of sites, leaving by the wayside a part of the population, and further increasing inequalities", raising questions that resonate directly with the movement. And, the CGT called for a national Day of Action on the 14 December, "for an immediate increase of salaries, pensions, and social protection." 

    "The unions' recent actions and the retirees' demonstrations nourished the movement"

    It remains to be seen if the other confederations will associate themselves with the Day of Action. "This cross-union meeting, it wasn't to suffocate the gilets jaunes movement, but to see if we could find a common position between the unions, like demanding together an increase in the SMIC [minimum wage] by €300, for example", explained Fabrice Angéï, confederal secretary of the CGT. "We haven't waited for this meeting to act. There are strikes everyday across companies. The gilets jaunes, it's a movement which questions and interrogates, even positively, through its power. There are daily actions in France. In Bandol, in the Var, everywhere I go, there's always a blockade. But the movement doesn't come from nowhere. The unions' recent actions and the retirees' demonstrations nourished the movement." 
    The revolt of the gilets jaunes comes after a series of large-scale social movements over the last years: against Hollande's changes to the labour law in 2016, then Nuit debout, then Macron's own changes to the labour law (confirmed at the end of 2017), and then the long, brilliant strike of the rail workers (cheminot/es) against the reforms and the privatization of the SNCF – without forgetting a multitude of local mobilisations, from postal workers to nurses. The reforms were passed each time with only the narrowest room given to negotiations, and without with government listening to questions about work conditions and safety, as it weakened employment rights, opened up rail provision to competition, and closed lines and stations. 

    "The unions haven't successfully built the necessary mobilisations"

    These movements were quelled in the street, in the courts, and through threats of redundancies at the SNCF. "We might remember that classic union movements have not been able, over the last few years, to make any social advances. One consequence that is that anger that was muted, it's being heard today", say Fabrice Angéï. "Amongst the gilets jaunes, there are so many retirees, so many precarious people, unemployed people. Our terrain is, before anywhere else, the world of work. It's a question which we're posed with, the unions, how to reach out to these categories too".
    Éric Beynel, spokesperson for Solidaires, suggests something similar: "the unions haven't successfully built the necessary mobilisations to struggle against social injustices. On the labour law, we would have had to blockade the economy through strikes, but we didn't manage to do it", he said. "For us, this movement of the gilets jaunes is part of what happened with Nuit debout, which also started through petitions, on social media, and blockades were are an important element of it, too."

    "A rejection of union structures"

    But, they happened on a different scale: Nuit debout was initiated in Paris, at the place de la République, whilst the jaunes appeared across the four corners of France, in areas the car is the condition of travelling. "We have here, with the gilets jaunes, a movement strong from the start, and very popular", says Annick Coupé, former spokesperson of Solidaires, and secretary general of Attac. "I think that the gilets jaunes have an awareness that the struggles of these last years were smashed by the intransigence of the government and that, in order to be heard, we have to find other ways, other forms. It is a very political movement: there are immediate demands around taxes, and basic social questions have been posed, about public services, and the abandonment of areas. The question of real equality in these areas is fundamental. Demands over wages, the social safety net, and of maximum salaries have also emerged."
    The confederations seem now less distrustful of the movement, and less reserved than at first. On the part of the gilets jaunes though, on the contrary, mistrust of all structures remains strong. In these conditions, can one envisage a convergence? "The links between the union movement, over issues like the SNCF, for example, cannot be built other than at the local level. There is, in this movement, a rejection of union structures. At the same time, when people go to them as militants, they're not chased off." Attac, who have for two decades militated for a more just financial system, and the regulation of the financial markets, and shared their pamphlets on the 1 December protest. "I didn't hear of them being thrown aside", said Annick Coupé

    "There's no question of going with people who bring xenophobic discourses, and a rejection of the other".

    Could a meeting between union militants and gilets jaunes really happen? On the 1 December, the different groups protesting crossed paths, without truly converging. Will it be otherwise on the 8 December? And after? 
    Wage increases, a reinstating of the impôt sur la fortune (the "wealth tax"), and cancelling the increase to retirees' contribution sociale généralisée (CSG) are points of agreement. But, there's a problem: "it's not an organisation, there are no leaders. Given this, it's more complicated to meet", said Fabrice Angéï. "There are however exchanges and contacts, locally. Some gilets jaunes have called up local union branches. We don't have a pamphlet with the logo of the CGT and the gilets jaunes, of course, as we do with other union organisations. The convergence will be made from shared proposals." 
    Were the racist, anti-migrant, and homophobic statements that appeared from some blockades and from certain groups of protestors part of the reason for the unions' initial caution? "There's no question of going with people who bring a xenophobic discourses, and a rejection of the other. We can no longer bring bosses' proposals of abolishing benefits, which is a wage during periods of illness or unemployment. We won't converge over simply anything", said Fabrice Angéï. 

    Coming together?

    "With Solidaire, we have made an assessment of the situation, at the level of local sections. In a certain number of departments, there are common actions, some meetings, with the gilets jaunes. In Montpelier, Béziers, in Toulouse, things are coming together. In other places, like Pas-de-Calais and Vendée, it's impossible, since the movement has been infiltrated by the groups of the extreme right", says Eric Beynel. "The strongest brake on a convergence, so far as the unions are concerned, is the important presence of the extreme right in the this movement. On the part of the gilets jaunes, it's the distrust towards all forms of organisation, especially the unions. If these two are overcome, we could have a general (global) social movement".
    The presence of the extreme right within the gilets jaunes, even it is not the majority - is it the principle block to a true convergence of the social movements? "There are indeed attempts at co-optation by the extreme right, but we have to go beyond them", says Annick Coupé. "Amongst the unions' protests, we've also encountered sexist or homophobic slogans. We can never ignore them, never leave them be. But a revolt, an anger, is not chemically pure".

    1. A caveat - respondents were asked to identify their politics from 1-7, with 1 being "left", and 7 "right". I have assumed that "1" was intended as something approximating far-left. 
    2. Anglophone leftists owe a debt to the editors of Verso's blog and especially to David Fernbach, for their tireless translating of the France-based left's writing over the last month. 


    6) She Wouldn't Promise Not to Boycott Israel, So a Texas School District Stopped Paying Her
    By Jacey Fortin, December 19, 2018
    A demonstration in New York City.

    For nearly a decade, Bahia Amawi worked as a speech pathologist and therapist for children in the Pflugerville Independent School District, which includes schools in Austin.
    She was, to her knowledge, the only certified speech pathologist working for the district who spoke Arabic, which made her indispensable to children whose first language was Arabic. She had renewed her contract annually without incident.
    But this year, her contract came with an addendum: She was asked to affirm that she would not boycott Israel during the term of the contract.
    Ms. Amawi, 46, a Palestinian-American mother of four who has relatives in the occupied West Bank, said she did not consider herself an activist but avoided buying products from Israel. "This is a personal choice," she said. "I'm always aware of the products and where they come from. It's just a habit of mine that when I purchase anything, I always like to see where it's made."

    So she didn't sign, and her contract wasn't renewed. Now, Ms. Amawi is suing the school district and Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, in a case that has gained widespread attention.
    In the culture wars over free speech, battles over the right to boycott Israel are among the most contentious. It's an international issue, tangled up in United States politics and wrestled over at the state level — and not just in Texas. Cases like Ms. Amawi's are being litigated in several states.
    "The policy preferences of a foreign country are taking precedence over the needs of Bahia's students, who have benefited from her knowledge and her fluency in multiple languages," said Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations who is representing Ms. Amawi.
    "Bahia's decision to buy this kind of hummus and not that kind of hummus is her decision," he added, "and the Constitution protects it."
    In response to a request for comment on the lawsuit, a spokeswoman for the Pflugerville school district said it was "at the mercy of the state," and Mr. Paxton's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

    The lawsuit is part of a broader debate over efforts to boycott, divest investments from, and place sanctions on Israel — a movement known as B.D.S. Some supporters see the movement as a way to pressure Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank, provide full equality under the law to Palestinian citizens of Israel and grant a right of return to Palestinian refugees. But many opponents consider the movement anti-Semitic and see it as calling for the destruction of Israel.
    "Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement when he signed the bill into law in May 2017.
    Similar laws have been passed in more than a dozen states over the past four years.
    "I do think there's been a coordinated push around this, and you can tell that because many of the laws are virtually identical, they include very similar legislative findings, and they're all passed within a short time period," said Brian Hauss, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.
    The A.C.L.U. does not take a public position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it has been challenging the state laws, one by one, on the basis of free speech — and with lawsuits that are very similar to Ms. Amawi's.
    In Kansas, for example, the A.C.L.U. represented another education contractor who lost work after refusing to promise that she would not participate in a boycott of Israel. The suit led to a federal injunction in January, blocking the law's enforcement. In June, the A.C.L.U. agreed to dismiss the suit after state legislators narrowed the scope of the legislation so that it applied only to companies, not to individuals.
    In Arizona, the A.C.L.U. represented a lawyer who had a state contract to work with incarcerated people, and who did not want his purchases to support companies linked to Israel. In September, a federal court blocked the enforcement of that state's law, too.
    A parallel debate is happening at the federal level, where congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are considering legislation that would keep American companies from participating in boycotts — primarily against Israel — that are being carried out by international organizations.

    In the meantime, the state-level battles continue. This month, another lawsuit was filed in Arkansas, where the A.C.L.U. is representing The Arkansas Times, a newspaper that says the state's anti-B.D.S. law is unconstitutional. And on Tuesday, the A.C.L.U. filed a lawsuit in Texas (separate from Ms. Amawi's) on behalf of four people who were affected by the law there.
    "I hope the courts are going to continue standing up for Americans' First Amendment rights, but I also hope legislators will start standing up for those rights as well," Mr. Hauss said. "It takes a lot of resources to bring these lawsuits in every state, and I think the principles are pretty clearly established at this point."
    Joel Schwitzer, the regional director of the American Jewish Committee in Dallas, which supported the bill's passage in Texas last year, said the law was appropriate because the B.D.S. movement threatens the very existence of Israel, and because the law does not violate the United States Constitution.
    "You absolutely have a First Amendment right to free speech, but there is no absolute right to do business with the State of Texas," he said. "If a company chooses to boycott Israel, then the State of Texas chooses not to do business with you."
    But he added that the law was misapplied in the case of Ms. Amawi because she is an individual who can avoid Israeli products without affecting her work. "If her choice is to boycott Israel, that's her right and it doesn't have any bearing on her ability to provide speech pathology," he said.
    Phil King, a Texas state representative who wrote the bill there, said in an emailed statement that the law did not infringe on anyone's right to criticize or boycott Israel.
    "Our state law narrowly regulates against state and local government involvement in discriminatory commercial activity," added Mr. King, a Republican. "It does so in order to defend hundreds of millions of dollars in exports and employment interests that depend upon trade with Israel."

    Officials who support anti-B.D.S. laws often cite trade with Israel as a motivating factor. Last year, according to data from the International Trade Administration, Texas' exports to Israel were worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Imports exceeded $1 billion. But in terms of total value of trade, Israel is outranked by dozens of other countries including Canada, Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
    The Texas law has invited scrutiny before. National Public Radio reported that last year in Dickinson, a city on the outskirts of Houston, some people applying for repair grants after Hurricane Harvey had to sign a form saying that they would "not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement." That was a misinterpretation of the law, Mr. King, the state representative, said at the time.
    In his statement on Tuesday, Mr. King said that he would soon file "a simple bill to alleviate any confusion" about the law, which was always intended to "address companies involved in discriminatory commercial activity," though he did not elaborate.
    Ms. Amawi said she would like to see the law taken off the books altogether. "It's unconstitutional and it's un-American," she said. "I want to be able to overturn it because it really affects everyone, not just me."

    Emily Cochrane and Matthew Haag contributed reporting.


    7)  Thousands of Migrant Children Could Be Released After Sponsor Policy Change
    By Miriam Jordan, December 18, 2018
    Demonstrators gathered to protest immigration detention near the site of a tent city for migrant children at the border crossing near Tornillo, Tex., in June.

    The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it planned to ease onerous security requirements for sponsors of migrant children, meaning that thousands who have been parked in shelters for months could soon be released and reunited with family members.
    In a major policy reversal, the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the care of migrant children through its Office of Refugee Resettlement, said that it would no longer require that all members of a household where a child is to live be fingerprinted. Instead, fingerprints will be required only of the adult who is sponsoring the minor, typically a parent or another relative.
    Sponsors of migrant children who cross the border and are taken into custody of the United States authorities must still pass criminal and extensive background checks, the agency said in a statement. However, others in the same home will not be subjected to that extra vetting, which was introduced by the administration in June.
    As a result, it will take significantly less time to place children with their families, and their stays in the shelters will be much shorter.

    The agency said in its statement that it was "in the best interest of the unaccompanied children" for it to modify the policy.
    Some 15,000 migrant children, including adolescents who crossed the border alone and young children who were separated from their parents, are currently warehoused in more than 100 shelters in the United States.
    In an interview broadcast on National Public Radio on Tuesday, an assistant secretary at Health and Human Services, Lynn Johnson, put it bluntly: "The children should be home with their parents. The government makes lousy parents."
    She added that the extra screening "is not adding anything to the protection or the safety of children."
    Ms. Johnson said that about 2,000 children in shelters are to be released in the next four or five days to parents who have already been screened.

    The lengthy warehousing of minors had come under attack from immigrants' advocates, Democratic lawmakers and medical professionals, who had expressed concern about its detrimental effect on the mental health of the children.
    "Studies have shown that the institutionalization of children in general, and away from their families, has serious deleterious affects on their psychological and physical health, as well as their growth and development," said Amy J. Cohen, a child psychiatrist who is an expert on trauma.

    "It's a tremendous relief to hear that the government is finally going to enable these children to be reunited with family so that they can start the healing process," said Dr. Cohen, who has interviewed migrant children in shelters.
    The influx of migrant youths reaching the border alone, along with the Trump administration's monthslong practice of separating children from their families and the stringent security screening of potential sponsors, had stretched the shelters to nearly capacity.
    In June, the federal government erected a tent city on federal land in Tornillo, Tex., about 35 miles southeast of El Paso, as a temporary home for a few hundred migrant children. Several months later, it had expanded the camp to house about 2,800 minors, most of whom were transferred there from traditional brick-and-mortar shelters that were overflowing.
    The creation and expansion of the desert shelter showed the degree to which the Trump administration had taken a disaster-oriented, militaristic approach to the housing of migrant youths who entered the country illegally, often fleeing gangs or poverty in their home countries.
    Most of the children at Tornillo have been waiting for the results of F.B.I. checks on their potential sponsors.

    On Tuesday, staff members at a large complex in Texas operated by BCFS, a nonprofit network of shelters, received notice that they should prepare to release nearly half the children there in the coming days.
    A worker at the shelter, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said that staff members had also been advised to attend a meeting on Wednesday to learn the details of the new government policy.
    The worker said that many children at the shelter, which has a capacity of about 240, had been showing signs of "psychological duress" as their stay there dragged on. The worker said that some migrant youth had been at the facility for close to a year.
    "The longer they are here, the more they act up with incidents of aggression toward staff and other minors," the worker said.
    The worker attributed the protracted stay to the burdensome fingerprinting and screening process, which took months to complete. The process also inhibited some relatives from collecting the children if others in their household, who were undocumented immigrants, refused to be fingerprinted out of concern that they could be deported.
    The number of Central American migrants who began leaving their countries and heading to the southwest border surged in 2014, and included many unaccompanied minors, typically adolescents, and parents with children.
    The wave ebbed in the first year that Donald Trump was in office but has since strengthened.


    8) None of Us Deserve Citizenship
    On what moral grounds can we deny others rights, privileges and opportunities that we did not earn ourselves?
    By Michelle Alexander, December 21, 2018
    Members of the caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, at the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, last week.

    Late last month, 19-year-old Maryury Elizabeth Serrano-Hernandez reportedly scaled a wall along the United States-Mexico border while eight months pregnant and gave birth within hours of placing her feet on American soil. She was part of a widely publicized Central American caravan and traveled more than 2,000 miles from Honduras propelled by the dream of giving her new baby, as well as her 3-year-old son, a life free from the violence and grinding poverty she endured back home. She views her child's birth in the United States as a "big reward" for her courage, perseverance and faith. As she explained to Univision, which documented parts of her family's journey, "With faith in God, I always said my son will be born there."

    For some Americans, Ms. Serrano-Hernandez's story is nothing short of heroic, given the suffering she endured and the extraordinary obstacles she overcame to give her children a chance at a better life. For others, her story represents everything that's wrong with our immigration system. The Border Patrol said that Ms. Serrano-Hernandez and her family were released on their own recognizance. Her newborn is, for many, just another "anchor baby," proof that a more aggressive and unforgiving approach to illegal immigration is warranted and that Trump is right to call for an end to birthright citizenship.

    No matter what side of the debate one gravitates toward, stories like Ms. Serrano-Hernandez's highlights the moral quagmire that we've created by treating the migration of desperately poor people as a problem that can best be addressed by border walls, tear gas, detention camps, militarized policing and mass deportation — except, of course, for the relative few, truly "deserving" individuals who may be granted legal citizenship (typically after years of waiting and hundreds or thousands of dollars in attorney's fees) if they can win asylum.

    Questions abound: Does Ms. Serrano-Hernandez's baby son deserve citizenship because he was born here but not his 3-year-old sibling? Does everyone in the family deserve citizenship now that one member has been born here? Or does no one in the family deserve citizenship, even the baby, because the parents crossed the border illegally?

    Answering these questions may be easy legally, but they're more difficult morally. After all, none of us born here did anything to deserve our citizenship. On what moral grounds can we deny others rights, privileges and opportunities that we did not earn ourselves?

    Jose Antonio Vargas's powerful book "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen" wrestles with the moral, emotional and psychological dimensions of America's perennial question: Who deserves citizenship? With remarkable sensitivity to the extraordinarily wide range of people whose lives are affected by our nation's immigration policies, he writes from the perspective of someone who was brought to this country illegally at the age of 12 to live with his grandparents, leaving his mother in the Philippines. Ever since his grandfather confessed to him, at age 16, that "you are not supposed to be here," he has battled deep feelings of unworthiness and has striven to earn the right to belong. Yet no matter how much he achieved or contributed — indeed, even after winning a Pulitzer Prize for journalism — he still had the nagging feeling that he didn't deserve to be here. Only after being arrested near the border and held in a cellwith a group of terrified undocumented boys who had been separated from their families did he have an awakening: It was suddenly obvious to him that the boys huddled near him deserved safety, security and a place they could call home — a place where they could not only survive but also thrive. If they deserved such a thing, he did too. "Home is not something I should have to earn," he wrote. It's something we all have a right to.

    Many people will sympathize with Mr. Vargas's story but recoil at his bold conclusion, as it seems to imply support for open borders — a position that no Republican or Democratic member of Congress supports or even takes seriously. This reaction seems misplaced. The deeper question raised isn't whether our borders should be open or closed (generally a false dichotomy) but rather how we ought to manage immigration in a manner that honors the dignity, humanity and legitimate interests of all concerned.

    Reaching for a radically more humane immigration system is not pie-in-the-sky, utopian dreaming. But it does require a certain measure of humility on the part of those of us who have benefited from birthright citizenship. Rather than viewing immigrants as seeking something that we, Americans, have a moral right to withhold from them, we ought to begin by acknowledging that none of us who were born here did anything to deserve our citizenship, and yet all of us — no matter where we were born — deserve compassion and basic human rights.

    It's tempting to imagine that our position as gatekeepers is morally sound — since we're frequently reminded that "all nations have a right to defend their borders" — but our relationship to those who are fleeing poverty and violence is morally complex. Not only does birthright citizenship bestow upon us a privileged status that we haven't earned; our nation's unparalleled wealth and power, as well as our actual borders, lack a sturdy moral foundation. But for slavery, genocide and colonization, we would not be the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world — in fact, our nation would not even exist. This is not hyperbole; it's history. There's good reason some Mexicans say: "We didn't cross the border. The border crossed us." That is, in fact, what happened.

    Of course, it can be argued that virtually all modern nation-states were created through violence, exploitation and war. But we claim to be unlike most nation-states; indeed, we insist that we're "exceptional." We are the only nation that advertises itself as "a nation of immigrants" and the "land of the free," an advertising campaign complete with a Statute of Liberty whose pedestal includes a plaque of a poem that reads in part:

    "Give me your tired, your poor,

    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    The founders of our nation did not merely wax poetic about the virtues of liberty; our nation was birthed by a Declaration of Independence, a document that insists that "all men are created equal" with "certain inalienable rights" including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." After centuries of struggle, including a Civil War, we now claim to understand that all people — not just propertied white men — are created equal with basic, inalienable human rights. If this is true, on what moral grounds can we greet immigrants with tear gas and lock them in for-profit detention camps, or build walls against the huddled masses yearning to breathe free? After all, what was Ms. Serrano-Hernandez doing if not pursuing life, liberty and happiness for herself and her family? Did she not display a level of courage, fortitude and determination to win freedom for herself and those she loved comparable to that of those who helped birth our nation?

    Even if we're tempted to treat as irrelevant the circumstances of our nation's founding, we cannot ignore the fact that our recent and current foreign policies, trade agreements and military adventures — including our global drug wars — have greatly contributed to the immigration crisis that our nation is now trying to solve through border walls and mass deportation. Would Ms. Serrano-Hernandez and her family even be knocking at our door today if it weren't for the disastrous policies our government has pursued in Honduras for decades?

    The anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Today a relatively small group of courageous noncitizens — people like Mr. Vargas, Ms. Serrano-Hernandez, the Dreamers and the thousands who joined the caravan — are challenging us to see immigrants not only as fully human, created equal, with certain inalienable rights but also morally entitled to far greater care, compassion and concern than we have managed to muster to date.

    Michelle Alexander became a New York Times columnist in 2018. She is a civil rights lawyer and advocate, legal scholar and author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." 


    9) He Was Sentenced to Life for Selling Crack. Now Congress Wants to Reconsider.
    By Alan Blinder and Jennifer Medina, December 20, 2018
    Edward Douglas and his aunt, Addie Dorsey, in a photo taken at the prison and provided by his family

    Edward Douglas is serving a life sentence for selling crack cocaine. He cannot go to church with his mother, a pastor in Chicago. He cannot take his grandchildren to the park. He dreams of working as a mechanic again.

    It's a possibility that seems increasingly likely.

    Under bipartisan criminal justice legislation that won final approval by Congress on Thursday, Mr. Douglas, 55, could have his sentence reduced to less time than he has already served. He was convicted at a time when crack cocaine offenses were handled far more harshly than those involving powder cocaine.

    The disparity, now widely viewed as scientifically unwarranted and racially discriminatory, prompted mandatory minimum sentences for a far smaller amount of crack, more common in black communities, than powder, more common among whites. Even the judge who presided over Mr. Douglas's case says he believed the mandatory life sentence was unfair.

    Tens of thousands of people were sentenced under the harsher mandatory minimums for crack. But the change that could help Mr. Douglas has been so long in coming that relatively few of them remain incarcerated. No more than 2,660 federal inmates will potentially be eligible for sentence reductions under the change, according to the United States Sentencing Commission. Almost nine in 10 of them are, like Mr. Douglas, black.

    Though his case is an illustration of the disparity's pernicious effects, the fact that he is still in prison is also evidence of the half-measures, compromises and limited bureaucratic directives that resulted from a quarter-century effort to correct it.

    "A fair number of the people who are in there are people who literally missed every other retroactive reform to the crack sentencing over the years," said Molly Gill, a former prosecutor who is now the vice president for policy at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a nonprofit group in Washington.

    The First Step Act would provide more education and treatment to prisoners and expand early-release programs while shortening some sentences.

    The changes took one more crucial step toward becoming law on Thursday when the House, in one of its final votes of the year, overwhelmingly approved the First Step Act, 358 to 36. Having passed the Senate by a wide margin this week, the bill only awaits President Trump's signature to become law.

    In addition to the 2,660 inmates potentially affected by the change on cocaine, a change in the way "good time" is calculated could result in the release of another few thousand prisoners, out of about 180,000 in the federal prison system. Going forward, the law would mean shorter sentences in about 2,000 cases each year and the potential to earn a few days more "good time" each year for 85 percent of inmates.

    "This is simply an 'M' and 'M' issue — money and morals," said Representative Doug Collins, Republican of Georgia and one of the leading conservative advocates of the bill in the House. "It is about doing good with the taxpayer dollar and also giving people a chance from a moral perspective to have a second chance."

    While many supporters have heralded the legislation, they acknowledge that it is modest. Some have complained that it excludes too many people, including those convicted of violent crimes, and criticized compromises like one that limited a "safety valve" that would give judges more discretion.

    But it does make retroactive a 2010 law that reduced the crack cocaine disparity.

    The 100-to-1 disparity for crack became a signature policy of the war on drugs in 1986, when Congress approved mandatory minimum sentences that were tied to drug quantities.

    From the beginning, it was arbitrary. Lawmakers first considered a 50-to-1 difference — in other words, it would take only five grams of crack to provoke the same penalty as 250 grams of powder. But with bipartisan fervor, they opted to make the ratio 100-to-1, a former congressional aide later recalled, "simply to symbolize redoubled congressional seriousness."

    Even while the crack epidemic still raged, the disparity was criticized as unfair. In 1995, the Sentencing Commission, responsible for developing guidelines for judges to use when determining punishments, said it created "anomalous results" and recommended its elimination. Congress refused.

    Mr. Douglas and his family at a church function, in an undated photo provided by the family.

    When bills to reduce the disparity began to circulate, there was little talk of making the change retroactive. In the Senate, one of the first proponents of change was Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, who later became Mr. Trump's first attorney general. But Mr. Sessions's bill did not make the change retroactive, and advocates did not believe it would be politically feasible to do so, said Kara Gotsch, the director of strategic initiatives for the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates improvements to the criminal justice system.

    In 2010, Congress agreed to lower the ratio to 18-to-1, passing the Fair Sentencing Act. The change was not retroactive.

    Still, an adjustment to sentencing guidelines helped more than 7,700 crack cocaine offenders have their punishments reduced by an average of 30 months. There was no difference in recidivism rates between people who completed their original sentences and those who had theirs reduced.

    But attempts to make the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, even for those who had not yet been sentenced when the law went into effect, were met with resistance. Mr. Sessions opposed it — in part because "the equivalent of four U.S. Army brigades" would be released — as did, initially, the Justice Department under President Barack Obama.

    But Mr. Obama denounced the old sentencing rules, and in 2014 announced a clemency initiative for people whose sentences would have been shorter if their crimes had come later, commuting the sentences of nearly 1,700 people. Almost two-thirds of them had been convicted of crack cocaine trafficking, according to an analysis by the Sentencing Commission, but there were many more drug defendants — nearly 2,600 — who met the criteria outlined by the Justice Department but did not get clemency.

    "It was a tremendous missed opportunity to correct the injustice of not making the 2010 act retroactive," said Margaret Love, the executive director of the Collateral Consequences Resource Center and a former United States pardon attorney.

    Mr. Douglas was among those denied.

    He was affected not only by the crack-powder disparity, but also by the three strikes law for drug offenders.

    In 1989, he was convicted of marijuana possession. In the second case, in 1992, he was visiting his grandfather when the police raided the home. Mr. Douglas knew that his grandfather sold drugs, he said, and grabbed several small bags of cocaine powder in an attempt to save him from a harsh sentence. But his grandfather was arrested, too, and sent to prison — where he remained until his death in 2000. Mr. Douglas was convicted of cocaine possession.

    Both those cases were viewed as so minor that he was given probation instead of prison time. In 2001, though, an acquaintance called and asked to buy crack. Mr. Douglas made a sale of 140 grams and was soon arrested. The buyer had been a federal informant.

    Before his third conviction, Mr. Douglas worked servicing subway cars for the Chicago Transit Authority, a job he said he came to love. He continued working even after his arrest, while awaiting trial.

    He lost his case, and received a mandatory life sentence because it was his third drug conviction. "He got hit from both sides, the intersection of two unfair sentencings," said MiAngel Cody, the co-founder of the Decarceration Collective, an advocacy and legal group in Chicago, and Mr. Douglas's lawyer. "Those two strikes were not even federal cases. He went from zero to life in an instant."

    Mr. Douglas now spends his time as productively as he can, mentoring other prisoners, helping them get their high school equivalency diplomas, and counseling those who are on suicide watch.

    "Just looking at my mother and all the sacrifices that she had to make, that's what makes me brave," he said on Wednesday in a conversation taped by his lawyer.

    As Ms. Cody interprets the new legislation, Mr. Douglas would have had to have sold 280 grams of crack, twice as much, to receive a mandatory life sentence. Should the act become law, Mr. Douglas would have to petition a federal judge for a change of sentence. If the current federal law had been in effect when Mr. Douglas was sentenced, he would have most likely received a prison term of about 10 years, according to Ms. Cody. He has served more than 15.

    The original judge in his case, Michael P. McCuskey, has retired because he had grown weary of mandatory sentences, he said. "There is no way I would have sentenced Edward Douglas — and I remember him — to life if I had discretion," Mr. McCuskey said. "It made me sick."

    Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting from Washington.

    10) Oklahoma Church Erects Fence Around Nativity Scene to Protest Trump Border Policies
    By Christina Caron, December 21, 2018
    "But, Mr. Moore added, Mr. Trump's administration was not the first to crack down on migrants. 'It's a place of shame or regret to me that this is the first year I've put this up because I was silent during the last administration on this issue,' he said."
    The nativity scene at Fellowship Congregational Church in Tulsa, Okla. Pastor Chris Moore said the holy family is sitting behind a chain-link fence because he wanted to start a conversation about immigration policies in the United States.

    The nativity scene at Fellowship Congregational Church in Tulsa, Okla., looks a little different this year: There is a chain-link fence surrounding Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

    The display has been up since the beginning of December, but it drew news coverage this week after the church changed the message on its marquee to read, "The holy family was a migrant family," and posted photos of the nativity on Facebook.

    The scene is both an acknowledgment that the Christmas story is a migration story, and also a response to the Trump administration's efforts to discourage people from seeking refuge in the United States, the Rev. Chris Moore, the church's lead pastor, said in an interview on Thursday.

    Various religious texts, including the Gospel of St. Matthew, describe how the holy family sought asylum in Egypt after Jesus was born.

    "An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, 'Arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him,'" the New King James Version of Matthew 2:13-14 says. "When he arose, he took the young child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt."

    There are migrants today who are "fleeing the same kinds of oppression and threats to their safety that the holy family was fleeing," Mr. Moore said.

    The nativity fence — like similar displays this year at other places of worship — alludes in part to the practice of separating migrant children from their parents, which led to about 3,000 family separations at the United States' southern border. In June, Mr. Trump signed an order rescinding the practice.

    But, Mr. Moore added, Mr. Trump's administration was not the first to crack down on migrants.

    "It's a place of shame or regret to me that this is the first year I've put this up because I was silent during the last administration on this issue," he said.

    About 15,000 migrant children are currently housed in more than 100 shelters in the United States; some are adolescents who crossed the border alone, and others were separated from their parents.

    The Obama administration and earlier administrations also detained immigrant families and children, but did not have a policy to separate children from their families as a means of deterring other migrants from crossing the border.

    Fellowship Congregational Church has not been alone in protesting immigration policy under the Trump administration. Progressive churches elsewhere in the country have used their nativity scenes to make similar political statements this year.

    At St. Susanna Parish in Dedham, Mass., a statue of the baby Jesus was placed in a cage and displayed this month. The three wise men could be seen gazing at him, separated by a tall barrier.

    In that display, Jesus represented the children being separated from their parents at the border, the parish's pastor, Father Stephen Josoma told CBS News, and the wise men represented migrants stuck behind a border wall.

    "Jesus was about taking care of one another," he said. "This is not the way to take care of one another."

    Pat Ferrone, a member of the committee at St. Susanna's that conceived of the idea, told the CBS station that they did not aim to "scandalize anyone."

    "We're trying to reflect back a reality that has to be looked at," she said. Last year, the church's nativity scene sought to highlight America's deadliest shootings.

    Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis displayed its nativity scene months earlier, in July, installing barbed wire above the fence that surrounded the holy family in protest of President Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy.

    "I know what the Bible said," the Rev. Stephen Carlsen, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral, told USA Today at the time. "We're supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves."

    In November, Mr. Moore, of Fellowship Congregational Church, traveled from Tulsa to Texas, where he and other religious leaders stood near the main gate of a detention camp for migrant children in Tornillo, about 35 miles southeast of El Paso on the Mexico border.

    They sang and prayed. And when buses drove by, they became silent. Mr. Moore later recounted during a sermon to his congregation that they believed the buses held immigrants who had sought refuge and instead found "a kind of prison."

    "I do think the church has a very important role to play in the political life," he said on Thursday. "It's the partisanship that I don't want to be involved in."



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