After The Revolution
By David Rovics
It was a time I'll always remember
Because I could never forget
How reality fell down around us
Like some Western movie set
And once the dust all settled
The sun shone so bright
And a great calm took over us
Like it was all gonna be alright
That's how it felt to be alive
After the revolution
From Groton to Tacoma
On many a factory floor
The workers talked of solidarity
And refused to build weapons of war
No more will we make missiles
We're gonna do something different
And for the first time
Their children were proud of their parents
And somewhere in Gaza a little boy smiled and cried
After the revolution
Prison doors swung open
And mothers hugged their sons
The Liberty Bell was ringing
When the cops put down their guns
A million innocent people
Lit up in the springtime air
And Mumia and Leonard and Sarah Jane Olson
Took a walk in Tompkins Square
And they talked about what they'd do now
After the revolution
The debts were all forgiven
In all the neo-colonies
And the soldiers left their bases
Went back to their families
And a non-aggression treaty
Was signed with every sovereign state
And all the terrorist groups disbanded
With no empire left to hate
And they all started planting olive trees
After the revolution
George Bush and Henry Kissinger
Were sent off to the World Court
Their plans for global domination
Were pre-emptively cut short
Their weapons of mass destruction
Were inspected and destroyed
The battleships were dismantled
Never again to be deployed
And the world breathed a sigh of relief
After the revolution
Solar panels were on the rooftops
Trains upon the tracks
Organic food was in the markets
No GMO's upon the racks
And all the billionaires
Had to learn how to share
And Bill Gates was told to quit his whining
When he said it wasn't fair
And his mansion became a collective farm
After the revolution
And all the political poets
Couldn't think of what to say
So they all decided
To live life for today
I spent a few years catching up
With all my friends and lovers
Sleeping til eleven
Home beneath the covers
And I learned how to play the accordion
After the revolution
United in Action to STOP KILLER DRONES:
SHUT DOWN CREECH!
Spring Action, 2022
March 26 - April 2—Saturday to Saturday
Co-sponsored by CODEPINK and Veterans For Peace
Free Em All—Mic Crenshaw and David Rovics featuring Opium Sabbah
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
Sign Petition at:
Rashid just called with the news that he has been moved back to Virginia. His property is already there, and he will get to claim the most important items tomorrow. He is at a "medium security" level and is in general population. Basically, good news.
He asked me to convey his appreciation to everyone who wrote or called in his support during the time he was in Ohio.
His new address is:
Kevin Rashid Johnson #1007485
Nottoway Correctional Center
2892 Schutt Road
Burkeville, VA 23922
Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!
Wrongful Conviction podcast of Kevin Cooper's case, Jason Flom with Kevin and Norm Hile
Please listen and share!
Kevin Cooper: Important CBS news new report today, and article January 31, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed.
Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.
—Workers World, January 4, 2022
Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case
Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.
In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.
KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:
“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.
“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: email@example.com
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
By Adnan Ahmed, March 9, 2022https://www.leftvoice.org/massive-turnout-on-day-one-of-minneapolis-teachers-strike/
For the first time in 50 years, Minneapolis public school teachers and educational support professionals (ESPs) went on strike yesterday to demand better wages, smaller class sizes, mental health support for students, and retention of educators of color. The last time Minneapolis teachers went on strike was in 1970 when it was illegal for public employees to strike.
The strike began at seven o’clock in the morning on Tuesday. Teachers, students, parents, and their supporters picketed outside their schools and made speeches. Supporters brought coffee, snacks, and hand warmers. Many of the picketers carried signs calling out Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) superintendent Ed Graff for dismissing the demands of students or teachers.
Left Voice spoke with educators outside Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis. Teacher and activist Marcia Howard said, “They [the school district] pay poverty wages to ESPs. There are 17-year-old students who can leave and go to Target and make more money than the educational support staff even while working a part-time job.” She described the school budget as a “moral contract” that reveals the district’s true priorities. The strike, according to Howard, is evidence that teachers, students, and the community are not among those priorities.
We also spoke with Christine Patlan, an ESP at Roosevelt High School who said that she is striking for fair pay. A mother of three young adults, Patlan encouraged her children to become educators, but found they earned more in the service industry than they would as teachers. She said that she wants the current and next generation to be fairly compensated for their labor.
At noon, over a thousand people including teachers, students, parents, and community members marched from Minneapolis Public School Nutrition Center to the school district office.
MPS officials paid lip service to retaining educators of color, while disproprotionately laying off and excessing these very teachers. The hypocrisy was not lost on the speakers and attendees , whose demands include protections for educators of color.
The Minnesota DFL (the Democratic Party of Minnesota) recently published an open letter endorsing the educators’ demands. Yet this letter is effectively meaningless; all but two of the nine elected school board members carry Democratic Party endorsements. Teachers have also been frustrated about the closed-door contract negotiations, which leave the rank and file as well as the public in the dark.
The educators rejected the school district’s excuses that there aren’t enough funds to meet the teachers’ demands. Minnesota has consistently had budget surpluses for the last nine years, with a record surplus of $9.3 billion dollars in 2021. The city of Minneapolis, which is run by Democrats, has offered $7,000 payments to police officers to boost staffing but claims that it does not have money to invest in public education.
Teachers also spoke out against disingenuous allegations from the school district and pro-privatization-of-education groups who claim that strikes harm students. The vast number of students and parents supporting their teachers at the rally clearly showed they are not falling for this false narrative. Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. When teachers are spread thin and underpaid, students suffer, as well. One of the slogans that crystallized this concept at today’s rally was, “What about the students?” To which the crowd responded, “Exactly.”
Their demands intersect many areas of class struggle. They are demanding fair pay for their lowest paid coworkers who are disproportionately people of color. They are demanding safe working conditions for a workforce that is predominantly women. They are fighting tooth and nail against the continued exploitation of their labor by a capitalist system that puts profits over lives. A win for the Minneapolis educators would have resounding positive effects for the labor movement, students, Black struggle, and the feminist movement.
Many educators on the picket line told us that this is the first strike of their careers. Yet based on today’s turnout and energy, these teachers, students and community members are more than ready for this fight. The rally closed out with a call to meet at the picket lines again tomorrow and to continue the fight for a fair contract. All workers and students must join them in this struggle.
By Patricia Park, March 10, 2022
Ms. Park is the author of “Re Jane” and the forthcoming novel “Imposter Syndrome & Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim.”https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/10/opinion/asian-american-hate-crimes.html
John Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday RM, via Getty Images
Growing up in New York City, I learned street smarts early. I kept my head down, my money in my sock and my mind on my business. At 12, I started riding the subway alone, and in high school I commuted four hours a day from Queens to the Bronx. When a classmate was slashed in the face by a stranger at our school’s subway stop, I still took the train home that day, and every day after. It takes a lot to faze me.
And yet, as an American of Korean descent, I now fear for my life and the lives of those who look like me.
The New York Police Department reported 131 bias incidents against Asians last year, up from 28 in 2020 and three in 2019. That increase doesn’t account for last week’s most recent spate of hate: Police officers arrested a man and charged him with assaulting seven Asian women in a two-hour spree in Manhattan during which he allegedly punched or elbowed most of the women in the face and shoved one to the ground.
And of course, not all attacks on Asians are recorded as hate crimes. In the past couple of months, Christina Yuna Lee was followed into her apartment building in the Lower East Side and stabbed to death; Michelle Go was shoved onto the subway tracks in Times Square; and Yao Pan Ma died following months in a coma after he was forced to the ground and beaten about the head in East Harlem. Of these, only Mr. Ma’s murder was labeled a hate crime.
In February, a Korean diplomat was punched in the face near K-Town, the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood where Korean businesses are clustered. In January, Hoa Nguyen was punched several times in the head on her way to buy groceries in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Just this week, a 41-year-old Asian man’s face was slashed on a subway train in Lower Manhattan. All of these attacks were unprovoked. And there were others, too many to name them all here.
“No person deserves to live in fear of physical attacks, but sadly, fear is the state of the union for many in the Asian American community,” Representative Grace Meng of Queens said last week. “Asian Americans continue to be victims of senseless violence, as we are scapegoated for the spread of Covid-19.”
I suspect that many, many more crimes and aggressions against Asians go unreported — in part because of language barriers or immigration status, but also because of a cultural phenomenon that is intuitively understood in our communities. It’s the fear of disrupting our “model minority” reputation. My Korean immigrant parents often told me when I was growing up: “Don’t make trouble. We’re guests in this country.” Never mind that I was born here, and that my parents are Americans, too.
Racism in this country is multifaceted, affecting each ethnic or religious group differently. When Asians are attacked, we’re expected to respond the way we have historically: Stay quiet and keep working, heads down. As so-called model minorities, we excel at masking our pain.
Every Asian in America can recall incidents of verbal taunting or stereotyping, times we’ve been asked to make ourselves smaller. Some have experienced physical aggression or violence. Letting these incidents go unchecked — be they microaggressions or far worse — sends the message that our lives are less valued. Dehumanizing a population in subtle ways emboldens some members of society to attack in more harmful ways.
I’m tired of how Asians in this country are treated — pushed around literally and figuratively. This is why I’ve decided I’m done being your model minority.
Throughout school and my early career, I used to play along with the expectations of Asians. I was grateful for every opportunity, and my parents worked too hard — bagging groceries seven days a week because office jobs were not available to them — for me to mess up. At one job in publishing, I was assigned to the math and science books that no one else wanted; I took all of them on without protest.
Even when I stopped conforming to these expectations, I found that others still wanted me to adhere to the model minority stereotype. I started to realize why my parents had advised me to not make trouble. If I voiced any dissent, I was met with contempt, and aggressively put in my place. Nobody likes it when you play against type.
As the Pulitzer-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen puts it, “Asian Americans still do not wield enough political power, or have enough cultural presence, to make many of our fellow Americans hesitate in deploying a racist idea.”
A paradoxical feature of the model minority is our simultaneous invisibility — when we’re quietly working in the background, head down — and our hypervisibility, when we become easy targets.
I’m tired of feeling terrified. This weekend, at my niece’s first birthday party in Queens — a celebration in Korean culture as big and joyous as a wedding — the table-talk with family and friends was about how scared we are for our elderly parents. We’re frustrated at how quickly non-Asian folks discount the role of race when they have not lived in our skin. We’re tired of being perceived as weak, easy targets, ripe for the pushing. We, especially as Asian women, feel threatened and helpless and silenced.
We're starting to push back. Asian American female business owners are confronting racist and misogynistic threats from trolls online. In New York City, advocacy groups are calling for citywide action and legislative change to combat bias against Asians and others. Head down and mouth shut is no longer an option, for many of us. We need voices, both Asian and non-Asian, to speak out. We are starting to realize that the bystander effect — seeing something but saying nothing, when we witness incivilities or worse — is as dangerous as the attacks themselves.
On the F train leaving Brooklyn, I recently saw a scuffle over an open seat in which a woman pushed an elderly Asian woman who barely cleared five feet out of her way with both hands. The older woman staggered back. The taller woman took the seat.
I spoke up: “You don’t have to push her.”
Then I looked around the train car, trying to enlist the help of other riders. But they all shuffled their papers or stared into their phones. Nobody met my eye.
By Gladys Carrión and Vincent Schiraldi, March 10, 2022
Ms. Carrión is a former commissioner of New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services and New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services. Mr. Schiraldi is a former commissioner of New York City’s Departments of Correction and Probation, and was director of Washington, D.C.’s youth corrections agency.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/10/opinion/crime-teeangers-jail.html
In 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder was jailed on New York’s notorious Rikers Island, accused of stealing a backpack, a charge he consistently denied. Bail was set at $3,000, a sum his family could not afford. He spent the next three years there awaiting his day in court, including two years in solitary confinement. He suffered abuse by corrections officers and inmates, and he attempted suicide. In 2013, the charges were dropped. Two years after his release, he committed suicide in his parents’ apartment in the Bronx.
Since his death and partly in his memory, efforts were finally successful in 2017 in reforming New York State’s draconian practice of trying all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults and jailing them with adults. Lawmakers raised the age at which young people are treated as adults in the criminal justice system to 18 and, for most of them, also allowed their records to be sealed after 10 years free of crime.
But that reform may be in jeopardy following a recent spate of shootings in New York City, including the killing of two New York City police officers by a 47-year-old man.
Mayor Eric Adams recently proposed that 16- and 17-year-olds caught in possession of a gun be charged as adults if they don’t disclose who supplied them with the weapon. State Assemblyman Mike Cusick has gone a step further. He has introduced legislation that would amend state law to permit the prosecution as adults of 16- and 17-year-olds charged with possession of real or imitation guns or whose co-defendants possessed real or imitation guns in the commission of another crime. This would expose them to the possibility of lengthy prison sentences and allow some of them to be jailed with adults.
Rolling back New York’s reforms is a grievous mistake. During the 1990s, a time of high rates of violent crime, officials on both sides of the political aisle were vilifying “superpredators,” a catchphrase for young people who they believed were so irredeemable that treating them as minors didn’t make sense. Nearly every state made it easier to try juveniles as adults, which ended up roughly doubling the number of young people in adult facilities, according to research conducted by the Justice Department.
These policies were catastrophic in their impact.
Examining those get-tough approaches, researchers found that people under age 18 who were placed in adult facilities were much more likely to be sexually assaulted than older inmates. They were also five times as likely to kill themselves as young people in juvenile detention. And they were significantly more likely to commit a violent crime after their release.
There were also racial disparities in treatment. Nationally, Black youth were 8.6 times as likely to be incarcerated in adult facilities as their white counterparts.
There is a large body of research from New York and around the country showing that trying more young people in adult courts rather than in family courts is associated with more, not less, crime among young people.
Such research, combined with advocacy efforts by criminal reform groups throughout the country, has led to a remarkable shift away from “adultifying” the youth justice system. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have made it more difficult to try young people as adults or incarcerate them with adults. As a result, the number of youth tried as adults declined by 80 percent between 2001 and 2019.
And when young people are tried in family courts, it is no walk in the park. In the first year following the phase-in of New York’s reforms, 16-year-olds charged in Family Court were detained more frequently than youth the same age charged in adult court.
But elected officials and law enforcement agencies are under pressure in New York and elsewhere to crack down. In promoting his own get-tough plan, Mayor Adams has argued that among all arrests of young people under 18, the percentage being arrested on gun possession charges has grown since six years ago. But let’s put that in context. Youth arrests overall in New York City plummeted to 5,846 in 2020 from 23,191 in 2015. Of those arrests, in 2020, 470 were for dangerous weapons; in 2015, the number was 1,204. So while the percentage rose almost three points by 2020, the actual number of arrests fell by 734 compared with 2015.
In fact, in the 18 months between New York’s reforms taking full effect and the advent of the pandemic, shootings in New York City remained the lowest they had been in decades, even as incarceration of 16- and 17-year-olds declined, according to research done by supporters of the reforms. It was only after months of lockdowns and school closings that gun violence among both adults and young people rose in New York City, as it did throughout the country. Prosecuting 16- and 17-year-olds in Family Court was not the reason violence escalated.
As in the “superpredator” era, some politicians are leaping to facile conclusions and taking it out on an easy target — young people of color. As youth corrections professionals, we believe that what we need to do is get creative and reconnect young people with supportive institutions to help them weather the storm we’re all in.
Research on New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program found that youth randomly assigned to the program had felony conviction rates 38 percent lower than those who did not participate, suggesting that Mayor Adams is on the right track by expanding this endeavor. Another innovative effort, New York’s Common Justice program, offers some offenders ages 16 to 26 convicted of violent crimes alternatives to jail, like counseling and reconciliation efforts between offenders and victims. From 2009 to 2018, fewer than 6 percent of participants were terminated from the program for committing a new crime. There are similar successes across the country.
Simplistic, knee-jerk solutions like prosecuting more 16- and 17-year-olds in the adult court system with the threat of permanent criminal records and lengthy time behind bars are not the answer to the crime problem. We need to rehabilitate young offenders, not shackle them with adult criminal penalties that will create lifelong barriers to work and school. We’ve seen the carnage that caused and should not revisit it.
By John McWhorter, March 11, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/opinion/ukrainian-russian.html
Delcan and Co.
It was long ago common for Russians to regard Ukrainian as just a dialect of Russian. “Little Russian,” it was called. Writing for The Conversation this week, Florida International University’s Phillip Carter said, “If you ask some Russian nationalists, Ukrainian isn’t a language at all,” noting that in the 1863 Valuev Circular, Pyotr Valuev, Russia’s interior minister, decreed that a separate Ukrainian language did not exist.
Ukrainian is indeed closely related to Russian — they both use a Cyrillic alphabet and have similar grammatical patterns — but Russian it is not. Through the auspices of my own nerdish obsession with language and opportunities to practice within a personal relationship, on a good day I can grasp maybe about half of what Russians are saying to each other in conversation if the topic isn’t too sophisticated. But years ago, when I moved to a neighborhood in Jersey City, I found that I couldn’t catch a single word of what my “Russian” neighbors were saying until it occurred to me that they weren’t speaking Russian at all. It was, rather, the distinct language Ukrainian.
That Ukrainian was viewed, for so long, as just a minor variation on Russian was an erasure of a way of speaking and writing with centuries of history. And its story is not unique: In the 2017 anthology “Standardizing Minority Languages,” Diana M. J. Camps describes how, after the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages recognized Limburgish as a language, rather than a dialect of Dutch, in the late 1990s, the decision drew a letter of “disapproval” from the general secretary of the Dutch Language Union. Elfdalian, a language of its own under any neutral analysis, retains the three genders and other characteristics of Old Norse. But as Andrew Warner reported for Language Magazine last year, “the Swedish government only recognizes Elfdalian as a dialect of Swedish.”
The world’s standard languages offer an impoverished picture of the global diversity of languages, analogous to seeing a group of icebergs from the air unaware of the vast masses of further frozen marvel beneath the water. Much of what linguists do is document the true range of languages in the world, including revealing the uniqueness of what traditionally have been dismissed as mere dialects.
This mission becomes especially urgent when it comes to speech varieties with origins in colonialism and imperialism, created by subordinated, often nonwhite people under various conditions of forced labor or social isolation. In many cases, under conditions like these, adults (as opposed to children, who start learning a language from birth) learned additional languages quickly and without formal instruction, and filled out what they learned with aspects of their native languages, and a good bit of sheer creativity, to fashion something brand-new: creole languages, as linguists call them. These new ways of speaking usually discarded much of the older language’s random material (which any language accretes over time) that is harder for adults to learn and not necessary to communication, anyway. A creole language doesn’t present you with long lists of conjugational endings or randomly assign genders to inanimate objects because many languages worldwide do not, and a language need not. But even when a language doesn’t do these things, it still has a great many rules to pick up, its own grammar, tens of thousands of words and specific ways that sounds are shaped and sentences are intoned. In other words, it’s full human language.
Yet this (rather efficient) shedding of the bric-a-brac, plus the creole’s being spoken by subaltern people, has encouraged a sense of it as a mere “broken” version of an older language. It often distracts even the speakers of these varieties themselves. While there has been, of late, a movement advocating recognition of Jamaican Patois as an official language, experts on the variety are perpetually frustrated by a general misimpression, especially beyond the academy and the arts, that Patois is just broken English, a bad habit.
But one way we know that languages like this are indeed languages is that you can write a detailed grammatical description of each of them, full of complex rules (and exceptions) mapping out how to pronounce words, add tense to verbs, put sentences together, convey nuance — just as in grammatical descriptions of languages such as Ukrainian that aren’t creoles but have suffered similar disrespect.
This brings to my mind Black English. It is a dialect of English rather than a separate language — while Standard English speakers may miss some of it when spoken rapidly, for the most part, they readily comprehend Black English. But traditionally, it has been seen as English gone wrong, just as Jamaican Patois has. The differences between Black English and Standard English are due in large part to the fact that it formed under circumstances like the ones that produced many creoles. Adult learners had a lot to do with its creation, and as such, it let go of some of Standard English’s unneeded bells and whistles, the absence of which is often presented in a way that inadvertently oversimplifies, even diminishes, Black English.
For instance, in various sources providing guidance for teaching reading to kids who speak Black English at home, you encounter the same stock examples showing how Black English relaxes standard English rules: You’ll see the comparison “col’” vs. “cold” show up in more than one place to explain that for some words, the final consonant sound is dropped. You’ll see a basic explanation that the verb “to be” is often superfluous — “she my sister” instead of “she is my sister” and so on.
These descriptions are well-meaning and technically correct. But often, in the way they’re presented, it’s hard not to hear or read them as if they’re describing what a toy piano lacks that a Bösendorfer has while insisting that Rachmaninoff will sound just as good on either one. With some of these sources, I’m surprised anyone comes away thinking of Black English as the equal of Standard English. More likely, they’ll come away with the impression that Black English is a kind of “Little Russian.”
Making the case for proper recognition of Black English requires a heavier lift, more like the comprehensive efforts of advocates of Limburgish and Elfdalian — who see themselves as preserving a heritage — and less like “Fun with Dick and Jane.” Merely observing that it’s grammatically correct to chuck the verb “to be” is inadequate.
A good starting point is Lisa J. Green’s “African American English: A Linguistic Introduction,” a useful primer on Black English grammar that has been available for 20 years now and covers it the way we expect a speech variety to be covered, addressing verbs, the sound system and so on, rather than just listing Standard English things you can get away with not doing. Then there’s this other book that includes a chapter on the aspects of Black English that are more complicated than their equivalents in Standard English: You’ve probably heard the phrases “They be frontin’” and “What had happened was …” but did you think of them as an explicit marking of habituality and a special marking of narrative tense?
There is a great deal of linguistic analysis of Black English out there in academic sources, addressing discrete issues one at a time, the way academic work often does. For instance, as I wrote in November, in Black English the verb “to come” can be used to express disapproval. That’s a fascinating discussion, but it’s hard to go from that to getting a grasp on the big picture because a stand-alone observation doesn’t tell the story of Black English. I hope that specialists on Black English will one day embark on a project to produce an obsessive grammatical deep-dive, some hundreds of pages worth, incorporating all of the important findings from the past, say, 50 years into a single volume, of a weight you could use as a doorstop, throw on a desktop and savor a window-rattling thump or present to a body like the Académie Française — if English had one.
Black English is no “Little English.” In fact, people who speak both Black English and Standard English speak, all together, a larger English. As a brand name, “Larger English” doesn’t really grab you — it’s not an elegant word or phrase, like “Patois” or “Old Norse.” But as a concept it’s vital, and as real as the knowledge that Ukrainian is not Russian.
The 16-year-old girl had a turbulent life in Ohio’s foster care system and was swinging a knife at a woman when a police officer fatally shot her last year.
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, March 11, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/us/makhia-bryant-police-charges.html
A grand jury has voted to bring no charges against the white police officer who shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl, as she swung a knife at a woman during a raucous dispute last year in the front yard of her foster home in Ohio.
The decision not to charge the officer, Nicholas Reardon, was announced on Friday by prosecutors. It brings a close to a case that led to protests in Columbus, Ohio, and scrutiny of the foster care system that had shuffled Ma’Khia between at least five homes in two years.
The shooting attracted national attention in part because Mr. Reardon shot Ma’Khia just 15 minutes before Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck as he struggled to breathe, was convicted of murder. When police officers, in the moments after the shooting, told Ma’Khia’s younger sister, Ja’Niah Bryant, to go back into the foster home she had shared with her sister, the verdict was the first thing she saw on a television.
Body camera video of the shooting showed that Ma’Khia had been swinging a steak knife at a 22-year-old woman outside the house when Mr. Reardon fired four shots, killing Ma’Khia.
Investigators working for the Ohio attorney general investigated the case and gave their findings to the local prosecutor’s office in Franklin County, Ohio, in July. Citing conflicts, the district attorney hired two special prosecutors, who said in a statement on Friday that grand jurors had voted against any indictment.
It was unclear what options the grand jurors had been presented with; the special prosecutors said in their statement that police officers were justified to use deadly force when the officer or another person was in imminent threat of serious harm.
Ma’Khia’s family was disappointed by the grand jurors’ decision, said Michelle Martin, a lawyer for her relatives. She said family members believed that the officer did not have to use his gun. They have previously said they wished he had tried to stun Ma’Khia with a Taser or pull her away from the other person involved.
They have also blamed the Ohio child-welfare system for taking the girl away from her family.
“We believe that the tragedy that ultimately resulted in Ma’Khia’s death started long before she was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer,” Ms. Martin said. “There must be full-scale changes made to Ohio’s foster care system to ensure that this doesn’t happen to another child.”
Jeff Simpson, the president of the union that represents Columbus police officers, said he sat with Officer Reardon and his family for four hours on Friday as they awaited the grand jury’s decision. He said the officer was relieved by the outcome but still grappling with having killed a teenage girl in what he has said was an attempt to save the life of the other young woman.
“He wishes he never would’ve been put in that position,” Mr. Simpson said.
Officer Reardon, who has been on desk duty since the shooting, hopes to return to patrolling now that the case is complete, he said.
The encounter began on April 20, 2021, when the sisters were at home after school with Tionna Bonner, the 22-year-old woman, who had previously lived there. Ja’Niah told The New York Times last spring that Ms. Bonner was berating them for not being clean enough and for disrespecting their foster mother.
As things escalated, Ja’Niah called her grandmother Jeanene Hammonds for help. Ms. Hammonds had taken care of the children after they were taken away from their mother over claims of abuse and neglect, but she said she lost custody when her landlord kicked her out of her home and she had nowhere permanent to live.
In interviews last year, Ms. Hammonds described arriving at the foster home and trying to keep her grandchildren separated from the former resident and another former foster child who had also arrived and joined the fray. Ms. Hammonds said she urged her grandchildren to pack up their belongings and had planned to take them to her house.
But as the shouting continued, Ja’Niah and her grandmother said, Ma’Khia grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen. Ms. Bonner grabbed a pink knife from her car, according to an investigative report released on Friday, confirming the family’s claim that she also had a knife during the dispute. Ms. Bonner told the investigators that she had put the knife back into her car before the police arrived, and that she believed that Mr. Reardon had saved a life by shooting Ma’Khia.
Inside the house, Ja’Niah called 911 asking for help, saying that “grown girls” were “trying to stab us” and had tried to hurt the grandmother.
New videos released by the Ohio attorney general on Friday show Ms. Hammonds and Ja’Niah leaving the house with a trash bag of belongings. A stamp on the video indicates that it took place at 4:35 p.m., moments before the shooting.
“Ain’t nobody going to jump you,” Ms. Hammonds said in the video that was captured by a doorbell surveillance camera. “Trust me, let’s go.”
The official declaration this week means that Isaiah Andrews, 84, can seek damages from the State of Ohio for spending more than half his life in prison after being wrongly convicted of killing his wife.
By Amanda Holpuch, March 11, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/us/isaiah-andrews-released-ohio.html
For decades, Isaiah Andrews has maintained his innocence in the 1974 murder of his wife, unaware that the key to his exoneration was buried in the archives of the Cleveland Division of Police.
The Cleveland police’s decision to withhold crucial information in the case resurfaced on Thursday, when an Ohio court determined that Mr. Andrews, now 84, had been wrongfully imprisoned for 45 years.
Mr. Andrews, who is sick and uses a wheelchair, has been free since May 2020. He was later found not guilty at a second jury trial in October, but the court had to declare him wrongfully imprisoned so he could seek damages from the State of Ohio.
“I’ve won the battle for this,” Mr. Andrews told reporters after the court hearing on Thursday.
Mr. Andrews and his wife, Regina Andrews, were newly married when he reported her missing from the Cleveland hotel room that they had been living in while they looked for a permanent home, according to court documents.
On Sep. 18, 1974, Mr. Andrews told detectives that he last saw her just before 8 a.m. that day and that he had been running errands into the evening, according to court documents.
Ms. Andrews’s body was found that afternoon in Forest Hill Park by a worker on his lunch break. She had been stabbed multiple times and wrapped in bedroom linen.
At the time of the murder, detectives wrote that they thought the crime was committed by Willie H. Watts, who was trying to sell his mother’s valuables to get away from the city, according to court documents. He was arrested, but his name was not mentioned in the trial and there was no indication that he was mentioned in the case discovery, according to the court papers.
Detectives produced no physical evidence linking Mr. Andrews to his wife’s murder, and the police found no blood in his car or hotel room, but he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1975. He had previously served 15 years in prison for the murder of his staff sergeant in the Marines, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.
Investigators released Mr. Watts after he provided an alibi for the time of death initially estimated by the coroner, court papers said. The estimate was revised after an autopsy.
Later, Mr. Watts was charged on four separate occasions with kidnapping and was imprisoned for more than 20 years for aggravated arson. Two of the kidnapping cases were later dismissed. Mr. Watts died in 2011, Cleveland.com reported.
The Ohio Innocence Project, which aims to get wrongfully convicted people out of prison, did not know about Mr. Watts when it decided to review Mr. Andrews’s case in 2015.
“You would have never known from reading the trial transcripts that the police had arrested someone else for this,” said Brian Howe, a staff attorney for the project.
That information became available only in 2019, after Mr. Andrews’s lawyers requested that the DNA in the case be tested. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation requested files from the original medical examination and was given police files which brought to light the other man’s arrest.
A judge for the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court reversed Mr. Andrews’s conviction in 2020 and ordered a new trial.
Mr. Andrews’s lawyers said that the retrial was unnecessary and that they were surprised the Cuyahoga County prosecutors decided to pursue it instead of declining to prosecute.
The prosecutor’s office said in an emailed statement that it had weighed Mr. Andrews’s previous murder conviction in its decision to pursue a retrial. “When this conviction was overturned, we had an obligation to pursue justice on behalf of the victim and her family,” the statement said.
At the second trial in October, the proceedings mostly involved reading aloud transcripts from the initial trial in March 1975. The jury found him not guilty.
Mr. Andrews’s wrongful imprisonment is considered the third longest known in the United States, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
The wrongful imprisonment declaration on Thursday allows Mr. Andrews to continue with a lawsuit that seeks damages from the state.
Mr. Andrews also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Cleveland in February, accusing the police there of failing to provide information about the other suspect.
Sarah Gelsomino, a lawyer with Friedman, Gilbert and Gerhardstein who is representing Mr. Andrews, said that under state law, he was entitled to $56,752.36 for each year that he was imprisoned, or more than $2.5 million. The lawyers will also seek money for lost wages, legal fees and the costs of proving his innocence.
The money cannot make up for the years Mr. Andrews spent in prison, however.
“He lost everybody when he was in prison,” Ms. Gelsomino said. “So, he didn’t have a family waiting to welcome him back.”
Instead, Mr. Andrews has been supported by a community of other people who have been exonerated in Ohio or who are still seeking exoneration. The Ohio Innocence Project has freed 34 individuals, including 14 cases that originated in Cuyahoga County, since it was founded in 2003.
Three members of that community sat behind Mr. Andrews in court on Thursday: Lamont Clark, Ruel Sailor and Charles Jackson, who was exonerated in November 2018 after 27 years in prison and who lives with Mr. Andrews and helps care for him.
The men told reporters after the hearing on Thursday that it was a day for them all to celebrate.
By David GonzalezPhotographs by Brittainy Newman, March 13, 2022
“On Thursday, responding to concerns that the overwhelming majority of people jailed in the past for marijuana charges were young people of color, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state was earmarking at least the first 100 retailing licenses to New Yorkers who had been convicted of marijuana-related offenses, or their relatives.”https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/13/nyregion/weed-washington-square-park.html
Wanting to invest in himself and be free of bosses, Terrence Gorham started selling customized T-shirts, hoodies and backpacks from a folding table in Washington Square Park a year ago. Like any good vendor, he noticed late last year when other tables started featuring something new: weed. Soon, he was offering pre-rolled joints and eighth-of-an-ounce pouches alongside his “Think Rich” clothing line.
“We’re chameleons,” said Mr. Gorham, 34, who once worked as a custodian. “We have to adapt to any environment. Weed’s legal here, so I thought why not.”
New York State legalized marijuana last September, and although the law allows for personal possession of up to three ounces of cannabis, regulations for sales have not yet been adopted. Direct sales, including those couched as “gifts” of marijuana offered with purchases of overpriced knickknacks or club memberships, are still prohibited.
On Thursday, responding to concerns that the overwhelming majority of people jailed in the past for marijuana charges were young people of color, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state was earmarking at least the first 100 retailing licenses to New Yorkers who had been convicted of marijuana-related offenses, or their relatives.
Not every vendor is waiting for a license to get started. In Washington Square Park in Manhattan — a place that is no stranger to weed, surreptitiously sold or smoked — a breezy open-air market has emerged. On a recent sunny March day, customers chatted up vendors while deciding which strain to buy. As if welcoming visitors with canapés, one vendor stood hawking pre-rolls from a tray.
Tim Green, an advertising executive from Sydney, Australia, took in the scene as he smoked a joint he had just bought from a vendor. He offered his professional opinion about some of the more carefully arranged tables, including one with rainbow and psychedelic designs.
“It’s got an old hippie vibe,” Mr. Green, 55, said, still surprised by the open sales. “The designs could do with a bit of work. But you don’t really have to advertise weed.”
For vendors who remember the way young lives were once derailed by a joint turned up during a stop-and-frisk, it is also strange new day.
“I smoke too much weed to be mad at anybody,” said a 21-year old vendor whose nickname, EZ, matched his attitude. “I’ve been dreaming about this day every day. Mistakes that were made in the past are being worked on.”
EZ, who prefers to go by his nickname because selling weed is still prohibited, is a musician. He had been working at a restaurant — where is father still thinks he works — when he switched to selling cannabis to help finance his music.
“I tried to do straight work,” he said. “But then reality hits.” He said he makes in a day selling weed what he used to make in a week at the restaurant.
On most days, EZ arrives at the park by 9 a.m., commuting from his home in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, and works at a table with his business partner. They are friendly and chatty, offering customers $20 pre-rolls and free paper to roll recently bought herb.
“Coming to the park is different than selling in your community,” EZ said. “Prices, appearance, preparation and delivery matter. People need weed and are willing to pay.”
He and the half-dozen other vendors who set up in the park regularly know they are operating in a gray area, but they said the police had not bothered them by and large. When officers walk by, the vendors put away their products and stop sales. In one case, a police officer fist-bumped a vendor and chatted her up.
The Police Department and parks department did not offer a formal response, but officials at both agencies said they were working together to enforce vending regulations. In the first two months of the year, parks enforcement officers issued 20 summonses for illegal vending — of anything — in Washington Square Park, compared with 31 in all of 2021.
Just as the pandemic changed people’s priorities, values and coping skills, Mr. Gorham thought it had also eased the way for selling openly. “This should have happened years ago,” he said. “Maybe Covid made people be a little more lenient. It’s hard out here, but the times are changing.”
Selling cannabis bought wholesale using her earnings as a bike messenger helped a vendor who goes by AI emerge from homelessness. She said she had left home after relatives could not accept her being queer.
Now, she presides over a busy and colorful table featuring cannabis edibles, pre-rolls and flower, as well as CBD lotions she sells under her Canaremedy brand, which she markets as a queer, Black-owned business. And yes, she — like other vendors — delivers.
“People want to smoke,” she said. “We see this as an opportunity. We are the future, and this is a good opportunity to have a just economic system.”
AI has two misdemeanor cannabis arrests — including one that landed her in jail at Rikers Island for five days around Christmas five years ago — that she plans to have expunged. She said she had friends and relatives who had also been arrested for marijuana possession.
AI, who preferred to use her nickname because of her arrest history, said she had anxiety and eczema, and that cannabis — smoked or in lotions — had eased her physical and emotional symptoms.
Now that New York has legalized marijuana, and with the latest announcement that the first licenses would go to people with cannabis convictions, her goal was to set up a storefront and expand her offerings. She had gotten her business documents in order and trademarked her brand.
“I’ve been a victim of incarceration and I have family members who were too,” she said. “This is like a dream come true. Marijuana has been helping me for 12 years, and it’s helped me so much, I want to create a company to help others. I have a lot to offer to the world when it comes to cannabis.”
It was the kingdom’s largest mass execution in years. In many cases, the charges involved “not a drop of blood,” a rights activist said.
By Vivian Yee, Published March 12, 2022Updated March 13, 2022
Rights groups said the executions announced Saturday flew in the face of claims by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that Saudi Arabia was overhauling its justice system. Credit...Saudi Press Agency, via Reuters
CAIRO — Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that it had put 81 people to death in what was the kingdom’s largest mass execution in years, despite recent promises to curb its use of the death penalty.
In a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Ministry of Interior said the people had been executed for “multiple heinous crimes that left a large number of civilians and law enforcement officers dead.” It did not say how they had been executed.
Those put to death included seven Yemenis and one Syrian, it said. The rest were Saudi.
Rights groups condemned the executions, saying they flew in the face of claims by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, that the country was overhauling its justice system and limiting its use of the death penalty.
“These executions are the opposite of justice,” said Ali Adubusi, the director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, a watchdog group. He said that in many of the cases, the charges against the accused involved “not a drop of blood.”
Saudi Arabia has tried to clean up its image in recent years as it seeks to attract more tourism and business. But its war in Yemen, the 2018 killing of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate and a crackdown on dissent have left lasting stains on its reputation.
Mr. Adubusi’s rights group said that of the cases it had been able to monitor and document among the 81 people executed, it had found no charges that merited the death penalty under the criteria that Saudi Arabia has made public. Some of the charges were related to participation in human rights demonstrations, the group said.
It said it had not been able to document many of the cases because of the Saudi justice system’s lack of transparency, and because family members of some of the accused had been threatened and intimidated.
Rights groups said that many of the executed were from Saudi Arabia’s Shiite Muslim minority, which has long been at odds with the government over discrimination against Shiites.
That may have played a role in the sudden appearance on Sunday of a report in Nournews, an Iranian news website linked to the country’s security establishment, announcing that Iran had “temporarily” suspended recent talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two countries are regional rivals whose enmity has underpinned conflicts across the Middle East, but began talks last year to lower tensions over the war in Yemen and Iran-backed militias in Iraq.
Part of their rivalry centers on sectarian competition: Saudi Arabia is majority Sunni, while Iran is mostly Shiite. The foreign minister of Iraq, who had been mediating between the two sides, had said earlier that a fifth round of talks was scheduled to convene in Baghdad on Wednesday, though Iran had not confirmed the date.
The Saudi government said last year that it had suspended capital punishment for drug-related offenses, leading to an 85 percent drop in executions in 2020. It also pledged to stop executing people who had committed their crimes as children.
The crown prince has said that he was pushing to change Saudi law to reduce the punishment for some offenses from the death penalty to life in prison, though he said capital punishment would still apply where Islamic scripture demanded it.
The Ministry of Interior’s statement said the crimes of those executed included murder; pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist groups, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda; and traveling to join such groups, as well as the vaguely worded offense of “targeting residents in the kingdom.”
Others were convicted of targeting government employees and “vital economic sites,” smuggling weapons into the kingdom, killing law enforcement officers and planting land mines that the ministry said were intended for use against police vehicles.
“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the ministry said.
The ministry said the defendants had been able to exercise “their full rights under Saudi law” before Saudi courts, including the right to a lawyer. But the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights said it had documented cases in which defendants had been denied access to a lawyer, tortured and held incommunicado.
“The world should know by now that when Mohammed bin Salman promises reform, bloodshed is bound to follow,” Soraya Bauwens, the deputy director of Reprieve, an advocacy group that tracks executions in Saudi Arabia, said in a statement on Saturday.
Noting that Western countries were looking to Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers, to help make up for the shortfall in oil supplies as many countries shun energy from Russia because of President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, she added, “We cannot show our revulsion for Putin’s atrocities by rewarding those of the crown prince.”
Rights groups said the number of executions carried out on Saturday far outstripped those put to death in the kingdom’s two most recent mass executions: one in 2019, in which 37 were killed, and the other in 2016, when 47 were executed.
Asmaa al-Omar contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.
By Catalina Martínez Coral, March 14, 2022
Ms. Martínez Coral is the senior regional director of the Center for Reproductive Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/14/opinion/latin-america-colombia-abortion.html
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — For decades abortion rights activists in Latin America looked to our counterparts in the global north to learn the best litigation and advocacy tools. We considered the incremental gains made in the years leading up to Roe v. Wade in the United States a blueprint for victory in our fight.
But as a feminist green wave, referring to the green bandannas abortion rights supporters wear, sweeps across the region, this summer the United States Supreme Court could roll back abortion rights. Inspiration is now coming from the south rather than the north, thanks to the coordinated efforts of many Latin American activists.
Colombia had a blanket ban on abortion until 2006, when the country’s constitutional court mandated that abortion be legally accessible when a woman’s health and life were at risk, a fetus had serious health problems or when a pregnancy resulted from rape. But some women faced barriers to accessing these legal abortion services, including onerous medical requirements to prove they qualify. Others who had abortions — or who helped a woman obtain one — could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Last September, a lawsuit asking the Constitutional Court of Colombia to decriminalize abortion was filed by the Causa Justa — or Just Cause — movement, a coalition of which the Center for Reproductive Rights is a part. We argued that abortion is essential health care that should not be regulated in the penal system. The court also asked Congress to create regulations to apply the ruling. In a transformative shift for the majority-Catholic country, we are now the third country in Latin America to decriminalize abortion in the last year, behind Mexico and Argentina.
The landmark ruling was issued as my colleagues in the United States are defending the right to abortion in a case that could overturn a half-century of reproductive rights. My colleagues in Europe joined in filing amicus briefs in cases before the European Court of Human Rights highlighting the harms of Polands’s near-total abortion ban. A decade ago, few could have imagined that Latin America, which is home to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, would become a benchmark for advances in sexual and reproductive rights.
Women across the globe are connected by our shared struggle to overcome the discrimination we experience simply because of our gender. The hard-fought gains in Latin America are the result of decades of organizing, mobilizing, working to shift the conversation around abortion and, most importantly, working together to bring about change.
In Colombia, Causa Justa filed a lawsuit signed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, La Mesa por La Vida y La Salud de las Mujeres, Women’s Link Worldwide, Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir and Grupo Médico por el Derecho a Decidir on behalf of 90 other organizations and more than 130 activists. Teamwork is just one of the strategies that buttressed the fight for our fundamental rights, with feminists across the region tailoring their approach to adapt to local challenges.
But it wasn’t enough to change our laws. How people thought and talked about abortion had to evolve, too. The movement sought to socially decriminalize abortion. We fought diligently to destigmatize and combat misinformation about abortion. We took to the streets and social media with our messages. Advocates and celebrities came out on social media and in public events to support a woman’s right to choose. In one video, artists, actors, activists and even religious leaders explained that women who seek abortion cut across social, political and religious lines.
Having local organizations take the lead was crucial. In Colombia, we wanted to understand what obstacles women faced in accessing abortion, and who was criminalized. Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres, an organization that’s part of the Causa Justa Movement, fanned out across the country to talk to women and document what was happening.
Researchers found that the majority of women who faced legal consequences for having an abortion or for helping someone get one were low-income and lived in rural and remote areas. They also found that women living in those areas were more likely to have complications from unsafe abortions. Not only was this information critical to the lawsuit — it was also critical to changing the conversation about abortion in Colombia.
Our fight is far from over. In countries like El Salvador and Honduras, abortion is still prohibited in all circumstances and penalized. Colombian activists remain united to ensure that the decision of the court is implemented. But as some of the largest countries in the region take a more progressive stance on reproductive rights, there is reason to be optimistic.
If the United States Supreme Court rolls back the constitutional protection of abortion this year, the move would reverberate around the world. Latin American women will continue building knowledge and working across borders in the fight to guarantee everyone’s rights. Perhaps our approach can be useful to our sisters in the global north, to which we have looked for so many years for lessons.