The PSL urges all progressive organizations to show their support for The People's Forum which was targeted tonight by a right-wing physical assault on its offices. The NYPD were fully involved in this coordinated assault. The following is a statement issued by the The People's Forum following the attack. Please share widely.
NYPD and Far-Right forces collude in physical assault on a socialist and anti-racist space
The People’s Forum in New York City attacked by the far-right, enabled by the police
Since our founding in 2018, our space, The People’s Forum (TPF) has been the target of multiple attacks by the far-right on both social media and in our location. We have managed to defend our space which operates on values and principles of social justice and people power. Most recently a coalition of anti-vaxxers, Cuban and Venezuelan anti-communists, and other far-right reactionaries have increased their attacks on TPF. Today, over a dozen officers of the New York Police Department (NYPD) entered TPF, uninvited, and acted as security for the far-right who carried out an illegal attack on our space.
We ground and pride ourselves in organizing our own safety and coordinating with other organizations to defend and protect each other. Today, as many of TPF staff and leadership are in Los Angeles building The People’s Summit for Democracy, this far-right coalition attempted to forcefully occupy our space as part of a larger strategy against TPF’s politics and mission. The NYPD facilitated the attempted occupation by objectively preventing us from ejecting these far-right reactionaries. They allowed for the occupation attempt to continue for over an hour, while our staff and guests were physically assaulted and verbally harassed, and anti-vaxxers vandalized our space.
Today, this far-right coalition was driven out of the space by the strong stance and resistance of TPF staff and fellow comrades who protected the space. Rest assured, we will continue to uplift our socialist values and be a welcoming space for working people and all those who want to transform society for the better.
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Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale
U.S. Air Force veteran, Daniel Everette Hale has recently completed his first year of a 45-month prison sentence for exposing the realities of U.S drone warfare. Daniel Hale is not a spy, a threat to society, or a bad faith actor. His revelations were not a threat to national security. If they were, the prosecution would be able to identify the harm caused directly from the information Hale made public. Our members of Congress can urge President Biden to commute Daniel's sentence! Either way, Daniel deserves to be free.
Sign the petition:
If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.
UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".
Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.
Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.
The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense."
The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.
The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.
Laws are created to be followed
by the poor.
Laws are made by the rich
to bring some order to exploitation.
The poor are the only law abiders in history.
When the poor make laws
the rich will be no more.
—Roque Dalton Presente!
(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)
 Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.
“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.
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”
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
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:
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.
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:
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
By Kim Phuc Phan Thi, June 6, 2022
Ms. Phan Thi is the founder of the Kim Foundation International, which provides aid to child victims of war.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/06/opinion/kim-phuc-vietnam-napalm-girl-photograph.html
I grew up in the small village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam. My mother said I laughed a lot as a young girl. We led a simple life with an abundance of food, since my family had a farm and my mom ran the best restaurant in town. I remember loving school and playing with my cousins and the other children in our village, jumping rope, running and chasing one another joyfully.
All of that changed on June 8, 1972. I have only flashes of memories of that horrific day. I was playing with my cousins in the temple courtyard. The next moment, there was a plane swooping down close and a deafening noise. Then explosions and smoke and excruciating pain. I was 9 years old.
Napalm sticks to you, no matter how fast you run, causing horrific burns and pain that last a lifetime. I don’t remember running and screaming, “Nóng quá, nóng quá!” (“Too hot, too hot!”) But film footage and others’ memories show that I did.
You’ve probably seen the photograph of me taken that day, running away from the explosions with the others — a naked child with outstretched arms, screaming in pain. Taken by the South Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut, who was working for The Associated Press, it ran on the front pages of newspapers all over the world and won a Pulitzer Prize. In time, it became one of the most famous images from the Vietnam War.
Nick changed my life forever with that remarkable photograph. But he also saved my life. After he took the photo, he put his camera down, wrapped me in a blanket and whisked me off to get medical attention. I am forever thankful.
Yet I also remember hating him at times. I grew up detesting that photo. I thought to myself, “I am a little girl. I am naked. Why did he take that picture? Why didn’t my parents protect me? Why did he print that photo? Why was I the only kid naked while my brothers and cousins in the photo had their clothes on?” I felt ugly and ashamed.
Growing up, I sometimes wished to disappear not only because of my injuries — the burns scarred a third of my body and caused intense, chronic pain — but also because of the shame and embarrassment of my disfigurement. I tried to hide my scars under my clothes. I had horrific anxiety and depression. Children in school recoiled from me. I was a figure of pity to neighbors and, to some extent, my parents. As I got older, I feared that no one would ever love me.
Meanwhile, the photograph became even more famous, making it more difficult to navigate my private and emotional life. Beginning in the 1980s, I sat through endless interviews with the press and meetings with royalty, prime ministers and other leaders, all of whom expected to find some meaning in that image and my experience. The child running down the street became a symbol of the horrors of war. The real person looked on from the shadows, fearful that I would somehow be exposed as a damaged person.
Photographs, by definition, capture a moment in time. But the surviving people in these photographs, especially the children, must somehow go on. We are not symbols. We are human. We must find work, people to love, communities to embrace, places to learn and to be nurtured.
It was only in adulthood, after defecting to Canada that I began to find peace and realize my mission in life, with the help of my faith, husband and friends. I helped establish a foundation and began traveling to war-torn countries to provide medical and psychological assistance to children victimized by war, offering, I hope, a sense of possibilities.
I know what it is like to have your village bombed, your home devastated, to see family members die and bodies of innocent civilians lying in the street. These are the horrors of war from Vietnam memorialized in countless photographs and newsreels. Sadly, they are also the images of wars everywhere, of precious human lives being damaged and destroyed today in Ukraine.
They are, in a different way, also the horrific images coming from school shootings. We may not see the bodies, as we do with foreign wars, but these attacks are the domestic equivalent of war. The thought of sharing the images of the carnage, especially of children, may seem unbearable — but we should confront them. It is easier to hide from the realities of war if we don’t see the consequences.
I cannot speak for the families in Uvalde, Texas, but I think that showing the world what the aftermath of a gun rampage truly looks like can deliver the awful reality. We must face this violence head-on, and the first step is to look at it.
I have carried the results of war on my body. You don’t grow out of the scars, physically or mentally. I am grateful now for the power of that photograph of me as a 9-year-old, as I am of the journey I have taken as a person. My horror — which I barely remember — became universal. I’m proud that, in time, I have become a symbol of peace. It took me a long time to embrace that as a person. I can say, 50 years later, that I’m glad Nick captured that moment, even with all the difficulties that image created for me.
That picture will always serve as a reminder of the unspeakable evil of which humanity is capable. Still, I believe that peace, love, hope and forgiveness will always be more powerful than any kind of weapon.
The workers, at a store in western Massachusetts, cited health and safety concerns and cuts to benefits at the grocery chain.
By Noam Scheiber, June 8, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/08/business/economy/trader-joes-union.html
Maeg Yosef, an employee at the Trader Joe's store in Hadley, Mass., is one of the leaders of a union campaign. Credit...Holly Lynton for The New York Times
In a sign that service industry workers continue to have a strong interest in unionizing after successful votes at Starbucks, REI and Amazon, employees at a Trader Joe’s in western Massachusetts have filed for a union election. If they win, they will create the only union at Trader Joe’s, which has more than 500 locations and 50,000 employees nationwide.
The filing with the National Labor Relations Board late Tuesday seeks an election involving about 85 employees who would form an independent union, Trader Joe’s United, rather than affiliate with an established labor organization. That echoes the independent union created by Amazon workers on Staten Island and the worker-led organizing at Starbucks.
“Over the past however many years, changes have been happening without our consent,” said Maeg Yosef, an 18-year employee of the store who is a leader of the union campaign. “We wanted to be in charge of the whole process, to be our own union. So we decided to go independent.”
Ms. Yosef said the union had support from over 50 percent of workers at the store, known as crew members.
“We have always said we welcome a fair vote and are prepared to hold a vote if more than 30 percent of the crew wants one,” said a company spokeswoman, Nakia Rohde, alluding to the N.L.R.B. threshold for an election. “We are not interested in delaying the process in any way.”
The company shared a similar statement with workers after they announced their intention to unionize in mid-May.
In explaining their decision, Ms. Yosef and four colleagues, all of whom have been with the company for at least eight years, cited changes that had made their benefits less generous over time, as well as health and safety concerns, many of which were magnified during the pandemic.
“This is probably where we get to all of these things coming together,” said Tony Falco, another worker involved in the union campaign, alluding to Covid-19.
Mr. Falco said the store, in Hadley, took several reassuring steps during the first 12 to 15 months of the pandemic. Management enforced masking requirements and restrictions on the number of customers who could be in the store at once. It allowed workers to take leaves of absence while continuing to receive health insurance and gave workers additional “thank you” pay as high as $4 per hour.
But Mr. Falco and others said the company was too quick to roll back many of these measures — including additional pay — as vaccines became widely available last year, and noted that the store had suffered Covid outbreaks in the past several weeks after masking became laxer. The store followed the policy of the local health board, which altered its mask mandate at various points, lifting it most recently in March.
Some employees were also upset that the company did not inform them that the state had passed a law requiring employers to provide up to five paid days off for workers who missed work because of Covid.
“It was in effect seven months, and they never announced it,” Ms. Yosef said. “I figured that out at the end of December, early January.”
Ms. Rohde, the spokeswoman, said this account was incorrect, but four other employees who support the union also said the company had not told them of the policy.
Trader Joe’s has generally resisted unionization over the years, including earlier in the pandemic. In March 2020, the chief executive, Dan Bane, sent employees a letter referring to “the current barrage of union activity that has been directed at Trader Joe’s” and complaining that union advocates “clearly believe that now is a moment when they can create some sort of wedge in our company through which they can drive discontent.”
The company’s response to the current campaign appears somewhat less hostile, though union organizers have recently filed charges of unfair labor practices, such as asking employees to remove pro-union pins.
Several employees said a broader issue was underlying their frustrations: what they saw as the company’s evolution from a niche outlet known for pampering customers and treating employees generously to an industrial-scale chain that is more focused on the bottom line.
The company’s employee handbook urges workers to provide a “Wow customer experience,” which it defines as “the feelings a customer gets about our delight that they are shopping with us.” But longtime employees say the company, which is privately held, has gradually become stingier with workers.
For years, the company offered health care widely to part-timers. In the early 2010s, the company raised the average weekly hours that employees needed to qualify for full health coverage to 30 from roughly 20, informing those who no longer qualified that they could receive coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act instead. (The company dropped the threshold to 28 hours more recently.)
“It was done under the guise of ‘You can get these plans, they’re the same plans,’ but they were not the same plans,” said Sarah Yosef, the Hadley store’s manager at the time, who later stepped back from the role and is now a frontline worker there.
“I had to sit there individually with crew members saying you’re going to be losing health insurance,” added Ms. Yosef, who is married to Maeg Yosef.
Retirement benefits have followed a similar trajectory: Around the same time, Trader Joe’s lowered its retirement contribution to 10 percent of an employee’s earnings from about 15 percent, for employees 30 and older. Beginning with last year’s benefit, the company lowered the percentage again for many workers, who saw the contribution fall to 5 percent. The company is no longer specifying any set amount.
Ms. Rohde, the spokeswoman, said the change was partly a response to indications from many workers that they would prefer a bonus to a retirement contribution.
Workers said the company’s determination to provide an intimate shopping experience had often come at their expense amid a rapid increase in business over the past decade, and then again with the resurgence of business as pandemic restrictions lifted.
For example, Trader Joe’s doesn’t have conveyor belts at checkout lines and instructs cashiers to reach into customers’ carts or baskets to unload items. This can appear to personalize the service but takes a physical toll on workers, who typically bend over hundreds of times during a shift.
(The company asks workers to perform different tasks throughout the day so they are not constantly ringing up customers.)
Maeg Yosef and her co-workers began discussing the union campaign over the winter, angry over the store’s failure to publicize the state-mandated paid leave benefit and the change in retirement benefits, and some have drawn inspiration from the successful union elections at Starbucks, Amazon and REI.
Their union campaign may also benefit from the same leverage that workers at those companies enjoyed as a result of the relatively tight job market.
“People just keep leaving — I know they want to hire people now,” Maeg Yosef said. “It’s hard to keep people around.”
Patrick Lyoya was fatally shot by a white Grand Rapids officer during a traffic stop, renewing a national debate about police conduct and use of force.
By Mitch Smith, June 9, 2022
Protesters marched through downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., after videos of the shooting were released in April. Credit...Nic Antaya for The New York Times
The office of the county prosecutor in Grand Rapids, Mich., said he would announce on Thursday whether he would charge the white police officer who fatally shot Patrick Lyoya, a Black man, during a traffic stop in April.
Christopher Becker, the Kent County prosecuting attorney, was expected to share his decision at 3 p.m. Eastern time.
Mr. Becker previously said he was consulting experts to help determine whether Officer Christopher Schurr of the Grand Rapids police acted lawfully when he shot Mr. Lyoya while wrestling with the motorist, who had run away. The officer told Mr. Lyoya, 26, that he pulled him over for having license plates that did not match his car.
The death of Mr. Lyoya worsened longstanding tensions with the police in Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000 people where 18 percent of residents are Black. Protesters marched through downtown after videos of the shooting were released in mid-April, with many calling for the officer to be named, fired and prosecuted. Some blamed city officials for not doing more to address years of complaints about police misconduct.
“Patrick Lyoya immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to pursue the American dream and provide a better and safer life for himself and his family,” Ben Crump, a lawyer for the family, said in a statement when the videos were released. “Instead, what found him was a fatal bullet to the back of the head, delivered by an officer of the Grand Rapids Police Department.”
The case also renewed a national conversation about when officers should face charges for on-duty killings. The law allows police officers to use deadly force when they have a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm, and it remains relatively rare for American police officers to be charged or convicted in those cases.
Mr. Lyoya was pulled over on the cold, rainy morning of April 4. After stepping out of his car, the videos show, Mr. Lyoya appears confused as the officer tells him to get back in the vehicle. Officer Schurr asks him whether he speaks English.
Mr. Lyoya responds that he does speak English, and asks, “What did I do wrong?” After a brief exchange about whether Mr. Lyoya has a driver’s license, Officer Schurr grabs Mr. Lyoya, who pulls away and starts to run, the footage shows.
The officer tackles Mr. Lyoya in a nearby lawn, yelling “Stop!” as Mr. Lyoya appears to try to regain his footing. At one point, body camera footage shows Mr. Lyoya grasping for the Taser in Officer Schurr’s hand.
Midway through the struggle, the officer’s body camera stops filming. Chief Eric Winstrom of the Grand Rapids police said pressure was applied to the camera to turn it off during the struggle. It was not clear who applied that pressure or whether it was intentional.
Other cameras — from the officer’s vehicle, a nearby doorbell security system and a bystander’s cellphone — capture different portions of the encounter. Shortly before the fatal shot is fired, Officer Schurr yells, “Let go of the Taser.” Mr. Lyoya is facing the ground and pushing up, with the officer on top of him, in the moments just before the shooting.
After the shooting, city officials pledged to learn from the encounter and evaluate Police Department policies.
“When I saw the video, it was painful to watch,” Mark Washington, the Grand Rapids city manager, said when the videos were released. “And I immediately asked, ‘What caused this to happen, and what more could have been done to prevent this from occurring?’”
Mr. Lyoya’s parents said he was a good son who provided some financial support to his family and sometimes came by their home on weekends to help his siblings. He held a range of jobs over the years, including at a turkey processor and an auto parts manufacturer.
But Mr. Lyoya had struggled since arriving in Michigan. He had been arrested more than a dozen times, mostly for misdemeanors involving cars, and he also faced three charges for domestic violence. At the time of his death, Mr. Lyoya was on probation, his driver’s license was revoked and there were two warrants out for his arrest, including one for a domestic violence charge three days earlier. He had told friends he was trying to get his life together.
Acquaintances of Officer Schurr, who grew up near Grand Rapids, described him as a stickler for rules. He was a member of his college track team, and he married his wife during a Christian mission trip to Kenya in 2014. Members of his college team said Officer Schurr could be quick to anger.
After the shooting, city officials released records showing that Officer Schurr had been commended more than a dozen times and cited twice for minor issues, like damaging a police car, that did not result in any discipline.
Mr. Lyoya’s death was far from the first encounter in Grand Rapids to lead to calls for changes to police policy.
In 2017, officers searching for a middle-aged woman wanted for a stabbing instead handcuffed an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint while she was leaving a house. Those officers were not disciplined. Months prior, other Grand Rapids officers held five innocent teenagers at gunpoint. And in 2020, local outlets reported, an officer was suspended for two days after shooting a protester in the face with a gas canister.
By Natasha Lennard
—The Intercept, June 8, 2022
Jessica Reznicek sits at the entrance to the drilling site in Sandusky, Iowa, where the Dakota Access pipeline goes under the Mississippi River on Aug. 10, 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Joshua Smith
A panel of three Trump-appointed judges this week upheld an excessive eight-year prison sentence handed down to climate activist Jessica Reznicek, ruling that a terrorism enhancement attached to her sentence was “harmless.”
The terror enhancement, which dramatically increased Reznicek’s sentence from its original recommended range, set a troubling precedent. Decided by a lower court in 2021, it contends that Reznicek’s acts against private property were “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government.” The appellate justices’ decision to uphold her sentence, callously dismissing the challenge to her terrorism enhancement, doubles down on a chilling message: Those who take direct action against rapacious energy corporations can be treated as enemies of the state.
Reznicek, an Iowa-based member of the Catholic Worker Movement and a participant in the Indigenous-led climate struggle, engaged in acts of property damage in an attempt to stop the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016 and 2017. Along with fellow activist Ruby Montoya, Reznicek took credit for various acts of sabotage, which harmed no humans or animals but burnt a bulldozer and damaged valves of the pipeline. The damaged equipment was property not of the U.S. government, but of private pipeline and energy companies.
Following Reznicek’s guilty plea to a single charge of conspiracy to damage an energy facility—which brought a recommended sentencing range of 37 to 46 months—Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, in allegiance with prosecutors, added the terrorism enhancement. This increased her sentencing range to 210 to 240 months, making the eight-year sentence Reznicek ultimately received fit comfortably below the accepted range, though it’s more than double the previous recommendation. (Montoya, who also pleaded guilty, has filed a motion to withdraw her plea, claiming that it was coerced.)
Both courts’ decisions on Reznicek’s sentence reflect unsurprising but deeply troubling priorities in our criminal legal system. It would be unempirical to the point of foolishness to expect the courts, stacked as they are with right-wing justices, to side with individuals taking risks to stop environmental devastation rather than those corporations making millions on the back of it. Yet Reznicek’s appeal was on a point of law: Terrorism enhancements are only supposed to be applicable to crimes that target governmental conduct; Reznicek’s targets were private corporations.
The collapsing of government and corporate interests signified by Reznicek’s terrorism enhancement is worthy of profound challenge, but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges did not even address the substance of the activist’s appeal. In a short, unsigned opinion, the court wrote that even if there had been an “error” in applying a terrorism enhancement, it was “harmless,” because Ebinger had stated on the record that she would have imposed an eight-year sentence with or without the terrorism enhancement.
It is a cynical move indeed to sidestep the chilling effect of labeling such acts as “terrorism,” as if it carries no material consequences for the future of water and Indigenous land protection and other social movements. As Reznicek’s support team wrote in a statement Monday, June 6, 2022, “Federal prosecutors only pursued terrorism enhancements against Reznicek after 84 Congressional representatives wrote a letter in 2017 to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting that Reznicek and other protesters who tamper with pipelines be prosecuted as domestic terrorists.” These members of Congress, note Reznicek’s supporters, have together received a combined $36 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.
Determinations over which actions are labeled “terrorism” are always political, and in this case nakedly so given the clear pressure applied on prosecutors by politicians and their industry backers. Ebinger’s claim—that she would have imposed the excessive eight-year sentence with or without the terror enhancement triggered—cannot be considered the final word here. Reporting on Reznicek’s case, ABC News—an outlet hardly aligned with the environmental left—noted that neither white supremacist murderer Dylann Roof nor avowed neo-Nazi James Fields, who plowed his car into anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, received a terrorism enhancement when sentenced.
Reznicek’s legal team will continue to challenge her sentence in court, especially since the question of the misapplication of a terrorism enhancement remains open, despite the judges’ decision this week. A full court hearing by the 8th Circuit, an appeal to the far-right Supreme Court, or a request for clemency from President Joe Biden are all technical options, but hardly are any of these sites of optimism.
As her legal battles continue, Reznicek, whose acts of sabotage place her firmly on the right side of history, if not the law, deserves full-throated public support. As she noted in her 2017 statement claiming responsibility for the actions against the Dakota Access pipeline: “We acted from our hearts and never threatened human life nor personal property. What we did do was fight a private corporation that has run rampant across our country seizing land and polluting our nation’s water supply.”
—Sheerpost, June 9, 2022
Zeneta Everhart and her 21-year-old son, Zaire Goodman, who survived the May 14 Buffalo shooting by white supremacist that left ten Black people dead. (Screenshot)
Zeneta Everhart, whose 21-year-old son, Zaire Goodman, survived the May 14 Buffalo shooting by a white supremacist that left ten Black people dead, testified before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday that domestic terrorism exists in this country for three reasons, the first being that “America is inherently violent.”
“The very existence of this country was founded on violence, hate, and racism, with the near annihilation of my native brothers and sisters,” she continued. “My ancestors, brought to America thorough the slave trade, were the first currency of America…stripped of their heritage and culture, bargained for…sold, beaten, raped, and lynched. Yet I continuously hear after every mass shooting that this is not who we are as Americans and as a nation. Hear me clearly: this is exactly who we are.”
Everhart cited the failures of America’s educational system and its attempts to omit—or at least make it difficult to find—the real history of Black Americans and Indigenous peoples. She recounts, “the majority of what I learned about African American history I did not learn until I went to college, and I had to choose those classes…why is African American history not a part of American history?”
“We have to change the curriculum in schools across the country so that we may adequately educate our children,” Everhart declared. “Reading about history is crucial to the future of this country. Learning about other cultures, ethnicities, and religions in schools should not be something that’s up for debate…our differences should make us curious, not angry. At the end of the day, I bleed, you bleed, we are all human.”
Everhart, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for New York State Senator Tim Kennedy, cited guns as a third cause of domestic terrorism. She pointed out that the Buffalo killer’s parents gave him a shotgun for his 16th birthday, adding “Children should not be armed with weapons, parents who provide their children with guns should be held accountable, and lawmakers who…allow these mass shootings to continue, by not passing stricter gun laws should be voted out.”
“To the lawmakers who feel that we do not need stricter gun laws, let me paint a picture for you,” Everhart said. My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back and another on his left leg caused by an exploding bullet from an AR-15. As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life. Now, I want you to picture that exact scenario for one of your children.”
She called on the lawmakers to draft “common sense gun laws…No citizen needs an AR-15. These weapons are designed to do the most harm in the least amount of time.” She noted it took the Buffalo killer just two minutes to kill ten people and injure three others. “If, after hearing from me and the other people testifying here today does not move you to act on gun laws, I invite you to my home to help me clean Zaire’s wounds so that you may see up close, the damage that has been caused to my son, and to my community.”
Everhart concluded by quoting Charles Blow’s “The Devil We Know:” “Race as we have come to understand it, is a fiction, but racism, as we have come to live it, is a fact.”