Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, February 14, 2023


March to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal 

With ILWU Port shutdown! 

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Assemble at noon, 400 North Point, S.F. March to Harry Bridges Plaza 

(Opposite the Ferry Building)

This is the hour to fight for Mumia’s freedom. On Thursday, Feb. 16th, longshore workers in ILWU Local 10will shut down the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco to demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal.


Mumia was framed for killing a police officer. With Tyree Nichols’ murder, we know who the real criminals are!


Other actions are being organized for Feb. 16:


Unions in South Africa will demonstrate in Pretoria at the U.S. Embassy, and in Durban at the U.S. Consulate.


Railroad workers in Japan (in the Doro-Chiba union) will organize a demonstration for Mumia in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.


Bay Area teachers will also teach on Mumia’s case on February 16th.


We call on all Bay Area justice supporters to join the ILWU action for Mumia’s freedom. 


Why now?Judge Lucretia Clemons of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has ordered the Philadelphia District Attorney to turn over its files—up to 200 boxes—to Mumia’s defense team. His lawyers expect to findfurther evidence that he was framed, that police coerced and bribed witnesses, and that extreme racism andjudicial bias have permeated all the proceedings against him.


What you can do now: In addition to participating in the actions of Feb. 16, we can write letters to Judge Clemons to demand Mumia’s immediate release. Here is her address:


Judge Lucretia Clemons, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County 1220 Criminal Justice Center

1301 Filbert St.

Philadelphia, PA 19107


Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal www.laboractionmumia.org

(415) 483-4428

Results of Mumia Abu-Jamal's Court Hearing 

December 16, 2022


In October, Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons strongly signaled in a 30-page opinion that she is leaning toward dismissing the defense appeal.

However, she gave the two sides one last chance Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 to argue their positions. The lawyers did so in a courtroom filled with about 50 Abu-Jamal allies, as well as Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, and a smaller number of her supporters. Mumia Abu-Jamal was not present.

Clemons said she would rule within three months. Before ending the hearing, the judge asked the prosecutors and defense lawyers to make sure that Abu-Jamal’s lawyers had reviewed every scrap of evidence that the District Attorney’s Office could share.

“I do not want to do this again,” she said.




Watch the live-stream of the Dec. 16 Court Rally at youtu.be/zT4AFJY1QCo.

The pivotal hearing follows a hearing Oct. 26 at which the Judge said she intended to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s appeal based on six boxes of evidence found in the District Attorney’s office in Dec. 2018. Clemons repeatedly used procedural rules – rather than allowing for an examination of the new evidence – in her 31-page decision dismissing Mumia Abu-Jamal’s petition for a new trial. (https://tinyurl.com/mtvcrfs4 ) She left the door open on Abu-Jamal’s appeal regarding the prosecution’s selection of jurors based on race.

Abu-Jamal’s attorneys Judith Ritter, Sam Spital  and Bret Grote filed a “ Petitioner’s Response to the Court’s Notice of Intent to Dismiss PCRA Petition” (https://tinyurl.com/mvfstd3w ) challenging her refusal to hold a hearing on the new evidence.

Just this week, the UN Working Group on People of African Descent filed an Amicus brief, a friend of the court document that reinforced the facts and arguments in Mumia's attorney's PRCRA filing. (https://tinyurl.com/587r633p ) They argued that no judicial time bar should be applied when the defendant is a victim of historic racial bias that may have tainted the possibility of a fair trial and due process.

At a press conference Dec. 13 announcing the Amicus brief, the Hon. Wendell Griffen, Division 5 judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court for Pulaski County, Arkansas said, “Clemons is only the second Black judge to hear any aspect of Abu-Jamal’s case. Will she have the courage to say that there are too many factors here that compel for Mumia to justify dismissing the motion? This evidentiary hearing is required, because exculpatory evidence was concealed.” (https://youtu.be/Xh38IKVc_oc )

Griffen clarified his statement on Dec 14 during a Democracy Now interview (https://youtu.be/odA_jjMtXQA): “Under a 1963 decision that every law student knows about, and every lawyer that does criminal law practice, in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the U.S. held that due process of law is violated when the prosecution conceals evidence relevant to guilt or punishment from the bench. In this country, that kind of precedent should have required Mumia to be released and the Commonwealth decide whether or not to prosecute him based upon having revealed the right evidence. That hasn’t been done.”

More details on Abu-Jamal’s case can be found at 
https://tinyurl.com/ymhvjp8e and https://tinyurl.com/34j645jc.



Benefit for Defenders of Weelaunee Forest and Against Cop City- Tuesday Feb 21 - pass it along



John Beadle (Screenshot)


February 24-25 :: International Days of Action in Solidarity with Ukraine

On the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, activists throughout the world will be mobilizing for protests and education events in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their struggle to liberate their country. 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) will be organizing actions and events. 

Connect with us!

Solidarity with Ukraine!

Ukraine Solidarity Network Mission Statement 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) reaches out to unions, communities, and individuals from diverse backgrounds to build moral, political, and material support for the people of Ukraine in their resistance to Russia’s criminal invasion and their struggle for an independent, egalitarian, and democratic country. 

The war against Ukraine is a horrible and destructive disaster in the human suffering and economic devastation it has already caused, not only for Ukraine and its people but also in its impact on global hunger and energy supplies, on the world environmental crisis, and on the lives of ordinary Russian people who are sacrificed for Putin’s war. The war also carries the risk of escalation to a direct confrontation among military great powers, with unthinkable possible consequences. 

It is urgent to end this war as soon as possible. This can only be achieved through the success of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion. Ukraine is fighting a legitimate war of self-defense, indeed a war for its survival as a nation. Calling for “peace” in the abstract is meaningless in these circumstances. 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) supports Ukraine’s war of resistance, its right to determine the means and objectives of its own struggle—and we support its right to obtain the weapons it needs from any available source. We are united in our support for Ukraine’s people, their military and civilian defense against aggression, and for the reconstruction of the country in the interests of the majority of its population. We stand in opposition to all domination by powerful nations and states, including by the United States and its allies, over smaller ones, and oppressed peoples. 

We uphold the following principles and goals: 

1.     We strive for a world free of global power domination at the expense of smaller nations. We oppose war and authoritarianism no matter which state it comes from and support the right of self-determination and self-defense for any oppressed nation.

2.     We support Ukraine’s victory against the Russian invasion, and its right to reparations to meet the costs of reconstruction after the colossal destruction it is suffering. 

3.     The reconstruction of Ukraine also demands the cancellation of its debts to international financial institutions. Aid to Ukraine must come without strings attached, above all without crushing debt burdens. 

4.     We recognize the suffering that this war imposes on people in Russia, most intensely on the ethnic and religious minority sectors of the Russian Federation which are disproportionately impacted by forced military conscription. We salute the brave Russian antiwar forces speaking out and demonstrating in the face of severe repression, and we are encouraged by the popular resistance to the draft of soldiers to become cannon fodder for Putin’s unjust war of aggression. 

5.     We seek to build connections to progressive organizations and movements in Ukraine and with the labor movement, which represents the biggest part of Ukrainian civil society, and to link Ukrainian civic organizations, marginalized communities and trade unions with counterpart organizations in the United States. We support Ukrainian struggles for ensuring just and fair labor rights for its population, especially during the war, as there are no military reasons to implement laws that threaten the social rights of Ukrainians, including those who are fighting in the front lines.


Click here to read the complete list of USN Endorsements: 



Please sign below to add your endorsement:




Spring Action Week:  April 15 - 22, 2023
Holloman AFB, Southern New Mexico

Co-sponsored by CODEPINK & Ban Killer Drones

Mark your calendars & Join Us! 

Come for all or part of the week!





Dear friends and supporters of Kevin Cooper, 

We are horrified by the terrible report put out by the Morrison Foerster (MoFo) law firm who were assigned to conduct an independent investigation of Kevin Cooper’s case. As Kevin’s chief attorney, Norman Hile, says: "In short, Mofo did not do an innocence investigation. Instead, they simply looked at the evidence the prosecution used and then hired some of their own experts to affirm what the prosecution said.”

Attached is a brief press statement issued by Kevin’s defense law firm. If you would like to receive the link to the MoFo report (over 200 pages) let me know and I will email it to you.

More analysis and information will follow soon.

An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974



January 14, 2023


Kevin Cooper has suffered imprisonment as a death row inmate for more than 38 years for a gruesome crime he did not commit. We are therefore extremely disappointed by the special counsel’s report to the Board of Parole Hearings and disagree strongly with its findings.  Most fundamentally, we are shocked that the governor seemingly failed to conduct a thorough review of the report that contains many misstatements and omissions and also ignores the purpose of a legitimate innocence investigation, which is to independently determine whether Mr. Cooper’s conviction was a product of prosecutorial misconduct. The report failed to address that critical issue. The evidence when viewed in this light reveals that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the Ryen/Hughes murders, and that he was framed by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. 


The special counsel’s investigation ordered by Governor Newsom in May 2021 was not properly conducted and is demonstrably incomplete. It failed to carry out the type of thorough investigation required to explore the extensive evidence that Mr. Cooper was wrongfully convicted. Among other things, the investigation failed to even subpoena and then examine the files of the prosecutors and interview the individuals involved in the prosecution. For unknown reasons and resulting in the tragic and clearly erroneous conclusion that he reached, the special counsel failed to follow the basic steps taken by all innocence investigations that have led to so many exonerations of the wrongfully convicted. 


In effect the special counsel’s report says: the Board of Parole Hearings can and will ignore Brady violations, destruction of exculpatory evidence, planted evidence, racial prejudice, prosecutorial malfeasance, and ineffective assistance of trial counsel; since I conclude Cooper is guilty based on what the prosecution says, none of these Constitutional violations matter or will be considered and we have no obligation to investigate these claims.


Given that (1) we have already uncovered seven prosecutorial violations of Brady v. Maryland during Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, (2) one of the likely killers has confessed to three different parties that he, rather than Mr. Cooper, was involved in the Ryen/Hughes murders, and (3) there is significant evidence of racial bias in Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, we cannot understand how Mr. Cooper was not declared wrongfully convicted.  The special counsel specifically declined to address ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial or the effect of race discrimination.  We call on the governor to follow through on his word and obtain a true innocence investigation.

Anything But Justice for Black People

Statement from Kevin Cooper concerning recent the decision on his case by Morrison Forrester Law Firm

In 2020 and 2022 Governor Newsom signed in to law the “Racial Justice Act.” This is because the California legislature, and the Governor both acknowledged that the criminal justice system in California is anything but justice for Black people.

On May 28th, 2021, Governor signed an executive order to allow the law firm of Morrison Forrester (MoFo) to do an independent investigation in my case which included reading the trial and appellant transcripts, my innocence claims, and information brought to light by the 9th circuit court of appeals, as well as anything else not in the record, but relevant to this case.

So, Mr. Mark McDonald, Esq, who headed this investigation by Morrison Forrester and his associates at the law firm, went and did what was not part of Governor Newsom’s order, and they did this during the length of time that they were working on this case, and executive order. They worked with law enforcement, current and former members of the L.A. Sheriff’s department, and other law enforcement-type people and organizations.

Law enforcement is the first part of this state’s criminal justice system. A system that both the California legislature, and the Governor acknowledge to be racist, and cannot be trusted to tell the truth, will present, and use false evidence to obtain a conviction, will withhold material exculpatory evidence, and will do everything else that is written in those two racial justice act bills that were signed into law.

So, with the active help of those pro-police, pro-prosecutor, pro-death penalty people working on this case to uphold my bogus conviction we cannot be surprised about the recent decision handed down by them in this case.

While these results are not true but based on the decisions made in 1983 and 1984 by the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, these 2023 results were not reached by following the executive orders of Governor Newsom.

They ignored his orders and went out to make sure that I am either executed or will never get out of prison.

Governor Newsom cannot let this stand because he did not order a pro-cop or pro-prosecutor investigation, he ordered an independent investigation.

We all know that in truth, law enforcement protects each other, they stand by each other, no matter what city, county, or state that they come from. This is especially true when a Black man like me states that I was framed for murder by law enforcement who just happened to be in the neighboring county.

No one should be surprised about the law enforcement part in this, but we must be outraged by the law firm Morrison Forrester for being a part of this and then try to sell it as legitimate. We ain’t stupid and everyone who knows the truth about my case can see right through this bullshit.

I will continue to fight not only for my life, and to get out of here, but to end the death penalty as well. My entire legal team, family and friends and supporters will continue as well. We have to get to the Governor and let him know that he cannot accept these bogus rehashed results.

MoFo and their pro-prosecution and pro-police friends did not even deal with, or even acknowledge the constitutional violations in my case. They did not mention the seven Brady violations which meant the seven pieces of material exculpatory evidence were withheld from my trial attorney and the jury, and the 1991 California Supreme court that heard and upheld this bogus conviction. Why, one must ask, did they ignore these constitutional violations and everything that we proved in the past that went to my innocence?

Could it be that they just didn’t give a damn about the truth but just wanted to uphold this conviction by any means necessary?

No matter their reasons, they did not do what Governor Gavin Newsom ordered them to do in his May 28, 2021, executive order and we cannot let them get away with this.

I ask each and every person who reads this to contact the Governor’s office and voice your outrage over what MoFo did, and demand that he not accept their decision because they did not do what he ordered them to do which was to conduct an independent investigation!

In Struggle and Solidarity

From Death Row at San Quentin Prison,

Kevin Cooper


Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)



Ruchell is imprisoned in California, but it is important for the CA governor and Attorney General to receive your petitions, calls, and emails from WHEREVER you live! 


SIGN THE PETITION: bit.ly/freeruchell




Call CA Governor Newsom:

CALL (916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer (Mon. - Fri., 9 AM - 5 PM PST / 12PM - 8PM EST)


Call Governor Newsom's office and use this script: 


"Hello, my name is _______ and I'm calling to encourage Governor Gavin Newsom to commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long. In the interests of justice, I am joining the global call for Ruchell's release due to the length of his confinement and I urge Governor Newsom to take immediate action to commute Ruchell Magee's sentence."


Write a one-page letter to Gov Gavin Newsom:

Also, you can write a one-page letter to Governor Gavin Newsom about your support for Ruchell and why he deserves a commutation of his sentence due to his length of confinement (over 59 years), his age (83), and the health risks of an elderly person staying in California’s prisons. 


YOUR DIGITAL LETTER can be sent at bit.ly/write4ruchell


YOUR US MAIL LETTER can be sent to:

Governor Gavin Newsom

1303 10th Street, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814


Email Governor Newsom




Under "What is your request or comment about?", select "Clemency - Commutation of Sentence" and then select "Leave a comment". The next page will allow you to enter a message, where you can demand:


Commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. 

He was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence.  Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long.


Write to District Attorney Gascon

District Attorney George Gascon

211 West Temple Street, Suite 1200

Los Angeles, CA 90012


Write a one-page letter to D.A. George Gascon requesting that he review Ruchell’s sentence due to the facts that he was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence. Ruchell’s case should be a top priority because of his age (83) and the length of time he has been in prison (59 years).


·      Visit www.freeruchellmagee.org to learn more! Follow us @freeruchellmagee on Instagram!

·      Visit www.facebook.com/freeruchellmagee or search "Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee" to find us on Facebook!

·      Endorse our coalition at:

·      www.freeruchellmagee.org/endorse!

·      Watch and share this powerful webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u5XJzhv9Hc



Ruchell Magee

CMF - A92051 - T-123

P.O. Box 2000

Vacaville, CA 95696


Write Ruchell uplifting messages! Be sure to ask questions about his well-being, his interests, and his passions. Be aware that any of his mail can be read by correctional officers, so don’t use any violent, explicit, or demoralizing language. Don’t use politically sensitive language that could hurt his chances of release. Do not send any hard or sharp materials.



of Detroit Shakur Squad


The Detroit Shakur Squad holds zoom meetings every other Thursday. We educate each other and organize to help free our Elder Political Prisoners. Next meeting is Thurs, Jan 12, 2022.  Register to attend the meetings at tinyurl.com/Freedom-Meeting



The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 

See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:


Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings



In the past year, we've learned that dozens of Federal Correction Institution Dublin employees sexually abused countless incarcerated people at the facility. Survivors' stories make clear that FCI Dublin staff specifically targeted immigrant women for abuse, and that ICE has knowingly detained and deported survivors and witnesses of sexual abuse by federal prison employees. Advocates have spoken with seven women who were sexually assaulted by prison staff and have already been deported, and at least 15 who are currently facing deportation (including at least six who are indefinitely detained by ICE).


We are writing to ask you to sign on to an open letter to the ICE leadership, demanding that they cease detaining and deporting noncitizen survivors and witnesses of prison staff sexual abuse, and release those currently in immigration detention. 


Sign on here:



You can read the full text of the open letter, and you can sign your organization on to the letter here:



Thanks for your consideration.





Urgent support needed for cancer-stricken, imprisoned writer/artist, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s Legal Fund!

Fundraiser for an attorney to represent Rashid’s struggle for medical care
A campaign is underway to hire an attorney to represent Kevin Rashid Johnson’s struggle for medical care. The prison has denied this care to him, despite a cancer diagnosis discovered over one year ago for which no treatment has yet been provided.

Here is the donation link for Rashid’s legal fund: 
Please be as generous as you can.


Prostate cancer can be cured if discovered and treated before it spreads (metastasizes) beyond the prostate. But once it spreads it becomes incurable and fatal.

Rashid's prostate cancer was discovered over a year ago and diagnosed by biopsy months ago, before it had spread or any symptoms had developed. However, he has now developed symptoms that indicate it likely has metastasized, which would not have happened if he had begun receiving treatment earlier. Denied care and delayed hospital appointments continue, which can only be intended to cause spreading and worsening symptoms.

I just received word from Rashid through another prisoner where he is, that he was transported on October 25, 2022 to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) hospital, which is a state hospital where Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) officials also work. MCV appears to have a nefarious relationship with the VDOC in denying prisoners needed treatment. Upon arrival to the hospital he was told the appointment had been rescheduled, which has now become a pattern.

The appointment was for a full body PET scan to determine if and to what degree his cancer has metastasized. When he met with a radiologist on October 4, 2022, after 3 prior re-schedulings, there was concern that his cancer may have spread because of symptoms he's begun developing. This is his fourth rescheduled hospital appointment which has delayed appointments for weeks to months, preventing him from receiving care.

Because of delayed testing and denied care Rashid has developed symptoms that continue to worsen, which include internal bleeding and pain. The passage of time without care is worsening his condition and making the likelihood of death from the spread of his cancer more certain.



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.



Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!


Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



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)[1]

[1] Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.







Screenshot of Kevin Cooper's artwork from the teaser.


 “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.



February 6, 2023 

Statement from Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier released this statement from his prison cell to mark the 48th anniversary of his unjust incarceration.[1]

Greetings my friends, supporters, loved ones. I know I’ve probably said this, or things like this, many times. Every time I say it, it is as heartfelt as the first time. From the bottom of my soul, I thank you for your support. Living in here, year after year, day after day, week after week, plays on your concepts of time and your process of thought beyond what you can imagine.

Every day, I have to say a prayer in the morning, about keeping my spirit up and the spirits of our people.

The struggles of the American Indian Movement, which are the struggles of all of us, have never ended for me. They go on, week after week, month after month, year after year.

When I speak, sometimes I think I may sound a bit too sensitive, but my love for my people and the love supporters have shown me over the years is what keeps me alive. I don’t read your letters with my intellect. I read them with my heart.

My imprisonment is just another example of the treatment and policies our people have faced since the arrival of the first Europeans. I’m just an ordinary man and I come from a live-and-let-live society, like all our people. And yet we have had to live in a state of survival ever since Columbus landed.

There is nothing about my case, nothing about the Constitution, which is a treaty between the American people and the government, that warrants my continual imprisonment.

They have historically imprisoned or killed our people, taken our land and resources. Any time the law was in our favor they ignored the law or changed the law to benefit their agenda.

After they have gotten what they wanted, a generation later, some politician would apologize. They have never negotiated sincerely with us unless we had something they wanted and could not take, or we were an embarrassment before the world, or we were some sort of opposition. The opposition has always been the dominant reason for them making treaties with us. I could go on and on about the mistreatment of our people and on and on about my case, but the United Nations said it.

That the United States has kept me locked up because I am American Indian. The only thing that really makes me different from other American Indians who have been mistreated, had land taken, or been imprisoned by our government, is that it is all a matter of court record in my case. The violation of my Constitutional rights has been proven in court. The fabrication of every piece of evidence used to convict me has been proven in court.

The United Nations itself, comprised of 193 nations, has called for my release, noting I am a political prisoner. In my case as a political prisoner there does not have to be a prisoner exchange. The exchange they need to make is from their policy of injustice to a policy of justice.

It does not matter what your color and ethnicity are. Black, red, white, yellow, brown—if they can do it to me, they can do it to you. The Constitution of the United States is hanging by a thread. Again.

I want to say, from my heart to your heart, most sincerely—do your best to educate your children. Teach them to defend themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. Make them aware of our history. Teach them to plant a food forest or any plant that will provide for them in the future.

Again, from my heart to yours, plant a tree for me.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.


Leonard Peltier

—Liberation, February 6, 2023



Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1  

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.

[1] To learn what his case is about click here:


A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.

Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



The Moment

By Margaret Atwood*


The moment when, after many years 

of hard work and a long voyage 

you stand in the centre of your room, 

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, 

knowing at last how you got there, 

and say, I own this, 


is the same moment when the trees unloose 

their soft arms from around you, 

the birds take back their language, 

the cliffs fissure and collapse, 

the air moves back from you like a wave 

and you can't breathe. 


No, they whisper. You own nothing. 

You were a visitor, time after time 

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 

We never belonged to you. 

You never found us. 

It was always the other way round.


*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!



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. 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

Emergency Hotlines

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: 

National Hotline

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: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) The Relentless Attack on Trans People Is an Attack on All of Us

By Jamelle Bouie, Feb. 10, 2023


A hand holds out roughly a dozen blue-pink-and-white trans flags.

Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Over the past year, we have seen a sweeping and ferocious attack on the rights and dignity of transgender people across the country.


In states led by Republicans, conservative lawmakers have introduced or passed dozens of laws that would give religious exemptions for discrimination against transgender people, prohibit the use of bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and limit access to gender-affirming care.


In lashing out against L.G.B.T.Q. people, lawmakers in at least eight states have even gone as far as to introduce bans on “drag” performance that are so broad as to threaten the ability of gender-nonconforming people simply to exist in public.


Some of the most powerful Republicans in the country want to go even further. Donald Trump has promised to radically limit transgender rights if he is returned to the White House in 2024. In a video address to supporters, he said he would push Congress to pass a national ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth and restrict Medicare and Medicaid funding for hospitals and medical professionals providing that care.


He wants to target transgender adults as well. “I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age,” Trump said. “I will ask Congress to pass a bill establishing that the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female, and they are assigned at birth.”


There is plenty to say about the reasoning and motivation for this attack — whether it comes from Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida or Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas — but the important thing to note, for now, is that it is a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods of transgender people. It’s the same for other L.G.B.T.Q. Americans, who once again find themselves in the cross-hairs of an aggressive movement of social conservatives who have become all the more emboldened in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year.


This is no accident. The attacks on transgender people and L.G.B.T.Q. rights are of a piece with the attack on abortion and reproductive rights. It is a singular assault on the bodily autonomy of all Americans, meant to uphold and reinforce traditional hierarchies of sex and gender.


Politicians and those of us in the media tend to frame these conflicts as part of a “culture war,” which downplays their significance to our lives — not just as people living in the world, but as presumably equal citizens in a democracy.


Democracy, remember, is not just a set of rules and institutions, but a way of life. In the democratic ideal, we meet one another in the public sphere as political and social equals, imbued with dignity and entitled to the same rights and privileges.


I have referred to dignity twice now. That is intentional. Outside of certain select phrases (“the dignity of labor”), we don’t talk much about dignity in American politics, despite the fact that the demands of many groups for dignity and respect in public life has been a driving force in American history since the beginning. To that point, one of the great theorists of dignity and democracy in the United States was none other than Frederick Douglass, whose experience in bondage gave him a lifelong preoccupation with the ways that dignity is either cultivated or denied.


Douglass observed “that although dignity seems to be woven into human nature, it is also something one possesses to the degree that one is conscious of having it,” the historian Nicholas Knowles Bromell writes in “The Powers of Dignity: The Black Political Philosophy of Frederick Douglass,” “and one’s own consciousness of having it depends in part on making others conscious of it. Others’ recognition of it then flows back and confirms one’s belief in having it, but conversely their refusal to recognize it has the opposite effect of weakening one’s confidence in one’s own dignity.”


It is easy to see how this relates to chattel slavery, a totalizing system in which enslaved Black Americans struggled to assert their dignity and self-respect in the face of a political, social and economic order that sought to rob them of both. But Douglass explored this idea in other contexts as well.


Writing after the Civil War on women’s suffrage, Douglass asked his readers to see the “plain” fact that “women themselves are divested of a large measure of their natural dignity by their exclusion from and participation in Government.” To “deny woman her vote,” Douglass continued, “is to abridge her natural and social power, and to deprive her of a certain measure of respect.” A woman, he concluded, “loses in her own estimation by her enforced exclusion from the elective franchise just as slaves doubted their own fitness for freedom, from the fact of being looked down upon as fit only for slaves.”


Similarly, in her analysis of Douglass’s political thought — published in the volume “African-American Political Thought: A Collected History” — the political theorist Sharon R. Krause shows how Douglass “clearly believed that slavery and prejudice can degrade an individual against his will” and generate, in his words, “poverty, ignorance and degradation.”


Although Douglass never wrote a systematic account of his vision of democracy, Bromell contends that we can extrapolate such an account from the totality of his writing and activism. “A democracy,” Douglass’s work suggests, “is a polity that prizes human dignity,” Bromell writes. “It comes into existence when a group of persons agrees to acknowledge each other’s dignity, both informally, through mutually respectful comportment, and formally, through the establishment of political rights.” All of our freedoms, in Bromell’s account of Douglass, “are means toward the end of maintaining a political community in which all persons collaboratively produce their dignity.”


The denial of dignity to one segment of the political community, then, threatens the dignity of all. This was true for Douglass and his time — it inspired his support for women’s suffrage and his opposition to the Chinese Exclusion Act — and it is true for us and ours as well. To deny equal respect and dignity to any part of the citizenry is to place the entire country on the road to tiered citizenship and limited rights, to liberty for some and hierarchy for the rest.


Put plainly, the attack on the dignity of transgender Americans is an attack on the dignity of all Americans. And like the battles for abortion rights and bodily autonomy, the stakes of the fight for the rights and dignity of transgender people are high for all of us. There is no world in which their freedom is suppressed and yours is sustained.



2) Anger Over Quake Response Challenges Erdogan Ahead of Election

A furor is building among some survivors over the government’s handling of the crisis. “I have been voting for this government for 20 years,” said one. “I will never forgive them.”

By Ben Hubbard, Feb. 11, 2023


Many residents of the disaster zone have expressed frustration with the government’s response, saying that in some areas, the state was nowhere to be seen during the initial aftermath.

Many residents of the disaster zone have expressed frustration with the government’s response, saying that in some areas, the state was nowhere to be seen during the initial aftermath. Credit...Emin Ozmen for The New York Times

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — A powerful earthquake struck northwestern Turkey in 1999, killing more than 17,000 people, exposing government incompetence and fueling an economic crisis. Amid the turmoil, a young, charismatic politician rode a wave of public anger to become prime minister in 2003.


That politician was Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


Now, as president, Mr. Erdogan faces challenges similar to those that brought down his predecessors — posing what is perhaps the greatest threat of his two decades in power to his political future.


The deadliest earthquake to strike Turkey in almost a century killed at least 21,000 people this past week, with the bodies of countless others still buried in the rubble. It hit after a year of persistently high inflation that has impoverished Turkish families, leaving many with scarce resources to bounce back.


The quake’s aftermath has highlighted how much Mr. Erdogan has reshaped the Turkish state, analysts said. Critics accuse him of pushing the country toward autocracy by weakening civil rights and eroding the independence of state institutions, like the Foreign Ministry and the central bank. And in a series of moves aimed at undercutting his rivals and centralizing control, he has restricted institutions like the army that could have helped with the earthquake response while stocking others with loyalists.


Mr. Erdogan acknowledged on Friday that his government’s initial response to the disaster had been slow, and anger was building among some survivors, a sentiment that could hamper his bid to remain in power in elections expected on May 14. Many were also loudly questioning whether shoddy construction was to blame for some of the death and destruction.


“I have been voting for this government for 20 years, and I’m telling everyone about my anger,” said Mikail Gul, 53, who lost five family members in a building collapse. “I will never forgive them.”


The president, who faced harsh criticism in 2021 over his government’s failure to control disastrous wildfires, has long portrayed himself as a leader in touch with the common citizen. He visited communities hit hard by the quake in recent days. Dressed in black, his face grim, he visited the wounded and comforted people who had lost their homes and emphasized the magnitude of the crisis.


“We are face to face with one of the greatest disasters in our history,” he said on Friday during a visit to Adiyaman Province. “It is a reality that we could not intervene as fast as we wished.”


The 7.8 magnitude earthquake — the most powerful in Turkey in decades — and hundreds of aftershocks toppled buildings along a 250-mile-long swath in the south, destroying thousands of buildings and causing billions of dollars in damage. Across the border in Syria, nearly 4,000 dead have been counted, a toll that is expected to rise significantly.


“This is the largest-scale disaster that Turkey has to manage, and, inevitably, this will create a backlash against the government,” said Sinan Ulgen, the director of Edam, an Istanbul-based think tank. “But much will depend on how effectively it can address the needs of the affected population.”


The Turkish government has begun an extensive aid operation, dispatching 141,000 aid and rescue workers to search for the dead and wounded, to distribute food, blankets and diapers and to erect tents for the tens of thousands of homeless, many of them sleeping in cars to avoid the subzero winter chill.


Nevertheless, many survivors have expressed frustration with the government’s response, saying the state was nowhere to be found during the initial aftermath, leaving residents alone to find shelter and free trapped loved ones from collapsed buildings.


The scarcity of trained rescue squads and heavy machinery during the critical first days most likely increased the death toll because many people who could have been saved were not.


When government agencies arrived, residents said, their equipment seemed insufficient and they failed to coordinate the efforts of volunteers who were already struggling to help survivors.


For two days after the quake, Mr. Gul said his family lacked food and water and felt helpless amid the destruction.


“The house next to us collapsed and there was a girl inside saying, ‘Save me! save me!’” he said.


The girl was saved, but Mr. Gul and his relatives had to dig out their five dead family members, he said.


He had worked in Germany for 20 years, funneling his savings into 10 apartments in the city of Kahramanmaras, near the quake’s epicenter, so he could live off the rent. But all of the apartments were destroyed, and he has to start over.


“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.


During his two decades as prime minister and president, Mr. Erdogan has argued that changes to the way Turkey was run were necessary to protect it from a range of domestic and foreign threats, including military coups and terrorist groups.


He has also restricted the army, which played a key role in the government’s response to the 1999 earthquake.


Turker Erturk, a former Navy admiral who was a commander in the crisis center set up after that quake, said in an interview that the army had swiftly intervened. But in the years since, Mr. Erdogan’s government had limited that ability and the army had stopped planning and training for it, he said.


After Monday’s quake, the government called on the army only after public criticism, according to Mr. Erturk.


“It is because of one-man rule,” he said. “In authoritarian governments, those decisions are made at the very top, and they wait for his commands.”


On Friday, the army said in a tweet that its soldiers had been helping “from the first day” and now had more than 25,000 soldiers deployed. But their presence has not been obvious in many of the hardest-hit areas.


Leading the government’s earthquake response is the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, which critics say Mr. Erdogan has stocked with loyalists and empowered at the expense of other organizations, like the Turkish Red Crescent.


The earthquake has also brought increased scrutiny of the government’s use of construction codes aimed at preventing buildings from collapsing, and some in the zone were angrily questioning whether shoddy construction and contractors may bear the blame for at least some of the deaths.


After the 1999 quake, Turkey strengthened its construction codes to make buildings more earthquake resistant. But the zone devastated by the recent quakes is dotted with areas where some buildings survived while others nearby — some relatively new — completely collapsed, raising questions about whether some contractors had cut corners.


In response to the outcry, the Turkish Justice Ministry on Saturday ordered officials in the 10 provinces affected by the quake to set up so-called earthquake crimes investigation units and to appoint prosecutors to bring criminal charges against all of the “constructors and those responsible” for the collapse of buildings that failed to meet existing codes.


In one example, Yasar Coskun, the constructor of a 12-story building that was completely destroyed in the heavily damaged Hatay Province, was detained on Friday at an Istanbul airport while trying to board a flight to Montenegro. Dozens of people are thought to have died when the building collapsed.


At another collapsed apartment block this week, volunteer construction workers spotted what they said was inferior rebar and they broke up chunks of concrete with their hands, saying it was poor quality.


In the days since, a lawyers’ association has asked prosecutors in Kahramanmaras to identify contractors who built buildings that collapsed and inspectors who checked them so they can be investigated for possible criminal violations. Prosectors in Gaziantep have started collecting rubble samples for their own investigation.


Although no one can predict the precise timing of an earthquake, seismologists have been warning for years that a big one was expected in this region.


Three days before the quake, a prominent geologist, Naci Gorur, wrote on Twitter that he was concerned that other seismic activity in Turkey had put pressure on the faults near the epicenter of Monday’s tremor. He even posted a map pinning some of the locations that would be the hardest hit if his predictions came to pass.


After the quake, he tweeted again, saying: “As geologists, we grew exhausted of repeating that this earthquake was coming. No one even cared what we were saying.”


The earthquake left behind billions of dollars in damage, and government plans will require billions more at a time when the state budget is already strained.


Before the quake, Mr. Erdogan’s government unleashed billions of dollars in new spending aimed at cushioning the blow of high inflation to citizens before the election, a cash injection that some economists predicted could tip the country into recession this year.


On top of economic hardship, the earthquake will deepen Turks’ distress, and not in a way that makes them feel that they are contributing to a greater cause, said Selim Koru, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey.


“This, by its nature, comes out of nowhere, and it makes people even more miserable, and not just in the earthquake zone,” he said. “The economy is going to suffer, and I’m not sure it gives that suffering any meaning.”


The earthquake’s proximity to the presidential and parliamentary elections that must be held on or before June 18 could lead to other challenges.


The Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed Turkish official on Thursday as saying the earthquake’s devastation posed “serious difficulties” for the vote. It was the first hint that the government could seek to postpone it.


Trying to unseat Mr. Erdogan is a coalition of six opposition parties that want to bolster the economy and restore independence to state institutions. They have already started trying to turn the quake response into an election issue.


But even some angry voters still trust Mr. Erdogan.


“We failed this test,” said Ismail Ozaslan, 58, a long-haul truck driver in a park in Gaziantep where part of his family was cramped inside a tent. “We are like patients left to die. There is no management here.”


But his criticism of local and national officials, whom he accused of corruption and neglect, stopped short of Mr. Erdogan.


“It’s like a building where the roof is strong but the pillars are rotten,” he said. “We don’t have a chance other than Erdogan. May God grant him a long life.”



3) Video Raises Questions About Tortuguita’s Death at “Cop City” Amid Permit Appeal

The release of body camera footage and permit challenge come as one Atlanta Police Foundation board member steps down.

“…Tortuguita’s family and lawyers discussed the results of a private autopsy that showed Tortuguita was shot at least 13 times by several different firearms.”

By Candice Bernd, TRUTHOUT, February 10, 2023

A screen capture of the body-worn camera footage released by the Atlanta Police Department on February 8, 2023. ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT

Body-worn camera video released by the Atlanta Police Department (APD) showing the immediate aftermath of a Georgia State Patrol trooper’s fatal shooting of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán at the forested site of a planned police training facility raises questions about the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) initial story of Terán’s killing. The video release comes at a time when the facility’s land disturbance permit is being legally challenged.


APD released four videos from a unit of officers who were not directly involved in the shooting. The footage appears to confirm Terán’s killing was carried out by a Georgia State Patrol SWAT team, which is not required to wear body cameras.


Terán, whose chosen name was Tortuguita, was shot and killed by police on January 18 during a violent raid on a protest encampment in the South River Forest that has blockaded construction of what Atlanta-area activists have dubbed “Cop City,” an 85-acre, $90 million police militarization and training complex spearheaded by the Atlanta Police Foundation that, if built, would be one of the largest police training facilities in the country. The site would contain several shooting ranges, a helicopter landing base, an area for explosives training, police-horse stables and an entire mock city for officers to engage in role-playing activities.


The GBI initially said Tortuguita was shot and killed after allegedly firing a gun and injuring a Georgia state trooper during the raid, but APD’s newly released body camera video appears to show officers suggesting that the trooper was shot by friendly fire in the initial moments after the shooting. In one video, after gunshots ring out through the forest, an officer can be heard saying, “That sounded like suppressed gunfire,” implying the initial shots were consistent with the use of a law enforcement weapon, not the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield nine-millimeter the GBI alleges Tortuguita purchased and fired upon the trooper with, which did not have a suppressor.


Later, another officer can be heard muttering to himself, “You fucked your own officer up.” The officer walks up to two other officers and asks, “Did they shoot their own in there?” to which another officer replies, “We don’t know what he got shot by,” followed by inaudible dialogue. An officer responds and says, “The first one, they said, was suppressed.” At another point in the footage, a drone can be overheard, indicating that GBI may have more direct footage of Torguita’s shooting.


In a statement to the media on January 18, anonymous protesters and community activists dubbed “Forest Defenders” reported hearing “dozens” of gunshots around 9 am on January 18, indicating it wasn’t clear who fired the first shot, and alleging they had “reason to believe” Tortuguita was killed after a friendly fire incident. Police continued the raid after Tortuguita’s shooting, using tear gas and rubber bullets to remove protesters from tree houses and bulldozing forest around the camp.


Tortuguita’s death sparked an uprising in Atlanta in the following days, during which the city’s residents broke windows and burned a police car. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in response to protests that allows up to 1,000 National Guard troops to police the streets of Atlanta. Today is the last day the order remains in effect.


Over the course of December and January, 19 opponents of the police training center have been charged with felonies under Georgia’s rarely used 2017 domestic terrorism law, including participants of the recent uprising. A Grist review of 20 arrest warrants shows that none of those hit with terrorism charges are accused of seriously injuring anyone, and that many of the alleged acts of “domestic terrorism” consist solely of trespassing in the woods, camping or occupying a tree house.


The GBI released a statement in response to the release of APD’s body camera videos on Thursday, saying that the footage shows that “at least one statement exists where an officer speculates that the Trooper was shot by another officer in crossfire. Speculation is not evidence. Our investigation does not support that statement.” They went on to note that their investigation of the shooting remains ongoing, and that, “When the investigation is complete, all videos will be provided.” It’s unclear if that would include video from the drone heard on the APD footage.


Tortuguita’s family released a statement Thursday responding to the release of the body camera footage, saying the videos raise “more questions than they answer, but confirm the family’s worst fears that Manuel was massacred in a hail of gunfire. The videos also show the clearing of the forest was a paramilitary operation that set the stage for excessive use of force.”


In a press conference on Monday, Tortuguita’s family and lawyers discussed the results of a private autopsy that showed Tortuguita was shot at least 13 times by several different firearms. The family has joined community activists in calling for investigation of the shooting completely independent of the GBI, DeKalb County police and the APD, and for the agencies to share the evidence it has gathered with the family in a face-to-face meeting.


Kamau Franklin, an organizer with the Black-led collective Community Movement Builders, was among the community activists who spoke at the press conference Monday. Franklin called for an independent investigation from a private entity in response to the release of the footage, telling Truthout that, “It’s not sort of damning evidence that it actually was friendly fire, but, [police’s] estimation is that somebody assumed such. Those things lead us to believe that there’s no way whatsoever we can trust the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to do a thorough investigation.”


The release of the videos comes as the Atlanta public safety training center’s land disturbance permit is being challenged by a member of the project’s own review committee, and after another member, Nicole Morado, resigned in outrage over the police-perpetrated killing of Tortuguita the day they were shot on January 18. Morado told the Guardian that, “It doesn’t sit well with me, to be affiliated with a project that has resulted in somebody’s life being taken.”


Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, alongside DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced the county’s approval of the permit during a press conference last week. During the conference, Dickens and Thurmond referred several times to the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee, a body intended to act as a representative for the communities immediately surrounding forested area of the planned training facility — mostly Black and working-class residents of unincorporated DeKalb County.


But Advisory Committee member Amy Taylor, who lives within 250 feet of the site, filed an appeal to the project’s permit Monday with the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals. The appeal claims the county improperly issued the permit because the project’s construction would violate a state limit on sediment runoff and because the amount of green space its lease sets aside is inaccurately large.


The Advisory Committee has been at the center of many transparency issues since its creation in 2021 in response to criticisms about lack of transparency in the training center’s public process. Environmental engineer Lily Ponitz was removed from the committee last year after speaking to the press (including this reporter) about the project’s problematic environmental reviews. She previously told Truthout the committee’s public meetings are largely dominated by Atlanta Police Foundation officials and their development team, with little opportunity for open discussion. Taylor joined the committee after both Ponitz and Morado’s departure.


Taylor’s attorney, Jon Schwartz, tells Truthout the county processed her appeal Thursday. The next step is a hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals in April, Schwartz says, and then the board would have 60 days to issue a ruling. The stay against the permit would remain in effect until the board issues a decision, legally freezing construction on the project until potentially as late as June. If the Zoning Board rules the permit can move ahead, Schwartz says he still has the opportunity to appeal to the Superior Court.


DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry told Truthout he also plans to file an appeal alongside the South River Watershed Alliance using a similar argument to Taylor’s — that the permit violates the Clean Water Act. Terry, whose district includes the South River Forest, said his attempts to have the county reject Atlanta’s applications for permits have been met with silence.


“The announcement [of the permit] last Tuesday between the mayor and CEO Michael Thurman was a bit of a shock because they literally emailed us at 1 pm on the day of a 3 pm press conference,” Terry said. “It’s like that old saying, ‘When you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’


Terry emphasized the lack of transparency from city and Atlanta Police Foundation leaders pushing the training center project over the past two years, telling Truthout there hasn’t been a sincere attempt to engage the larger community or include county representatives like himself. In September 2021, the Atlanta City Council approved the project despite nearly 17 hours of comments from more than 1,100 constituents across the city, 70 percent of whom expressed firm opposition. Black working-class communities who actually live in the proposed area of unincorporated DeKalb County, and therefore aren’t represented in Atlanta’s City Council, also vocally oppose the project.


Residents are also fighting other development projects threatening the South River Forest, including a planned expansion of Hollywood’s Blackhall Studio, which they say would further intensify gentrification in an area that has one of the widest income inequality gaps in the country. Organizers argue both projects would further displace working-class Black people rather than prioritize the kinds of solutions the city and county desperately need, such as affordable housing.


The release of the body camera footage and news of the permit appeal also come as former Emory University President Claire Sterk stepped down this week from the board of the Atlanta Police Foundation. Sterk resigned from the board after more than 100 health care workers and students affiliated with Emory signed a letter calling for her resignation. The campaign is now focused on pressuring Foundation board member Douglas Murphy with the Emory Department of Surgery to follow suit.


The Emory letter is just one of many pressure campaigns that have kicked off at several universities and colleges in Georgia, including the historically Black colleges at Morehouse and Spellman. Faculty at Morehouse, Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater, also signed a letter in opposition to the project, prompting Mayor Dickens to meet with students and faculty of the larger Atlanta University Center system, including Morehouse President David Thomas, about student opposition across the system’s campuses.


Mayor Dickens reportedly became visibly frustrated during the meeting, telling students that he “was not a sellout.” Students at Mayor Dickens alma mater, Georgia Tech, are planning another protest against the training center today.


“In Black community vernacular, when you have to say you’re not a sellout, that usually means you are a sellout,” Community Movement Builders’ Franklin told Truthout, calling the burgeoning student movement at the city’s historically Black colleges and universities one of the most significant recent developments in the ongoing struggle against the police training center. “There’s actually now a larger movement building here to stop Cop City even as [city officials] grant themselves the permit to try to build this thing.”


A Georgia State University student and movement organizer told Truthout he is working to more closely coordinate student groups across different universities. Students are focused on organizing a large convergence during a week of action March 4-11 to reoccupy the South River Forest, he says. “We don’t want police to just chop down as many trees as they can before [a Zoning Board decision on the permit appeal]. So the legal front is really important for that strategy,” said Elias, who requested a pseudonym to avoid police surveillance of his organizing activities.


The land around the site slated to become the training center is associated with the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, a complex of farms sold in a land lottery to a chattel slave plantation. The site became a city-operated prison and dairy farm where incarcerated people were forced to grow crops and raise livestock to feed the populations of other city prisons from about 1920 to 1989, according to the Atlanta Community Press Collective. Today, the area continues to host a shooting range, juvenile detention facility and the Helms state prison.


The struggle against the training center has brought activists against police violence together with environmental activists as well as Muscogee (Creek) tribal members, whose ancestors originally inhabited the land before their forced removal in the early 19th century. Highlighting the intersection of the training center’s social and environmental injustices, they point out that not only is the South River Forest and watershed, known to the Muscogee as the Weelaunee Forest, one of the city’s most important defenses in the face of the worsening climate crisis, it’s also long been the site of racist displacement, enslavement and carceral subjugation.



4) They Are Russians Fighting Against Their Homeland. Here’s Why.

In the Free Russia Legion, soldiers repelled by Vladimir Putin’s invasion have taken arms against their home country, engaged in some of the most heated fighting in the war.

By Michael Schwirtz, Feb. 12, 2023

Michael Schwirtz and Lynsey Addario reported from eastern Ukraine on the activities of a unit comprising Russians fighting for Ukraine.


Soldiers from the Free Russia Legion fired against Russian positions a little more than a mile away this month along the front line in the Donbas region, in Eastern Ukraine.

Soldiers from the Free Russia Legion fired against Russian positions a little more than a mile away this month along the front line in the Donbas region, in Eastern Ukraine. Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

The soldier knelt in the snow, aimed a rocket launcher and fired in the direction of Russian troops positioned about a mile away. He was set up at a Ukrainian firing position, and looked just like the other Ukrainian troops fighting south of the city of Bakhmut in one of the most brutal theaters of the war.


But he and his comrades are not Ukrainian. They are soldiers in a Ukrainian military unit made up entirely of Russians who are fighting and killing their own countrymen.


They have taken up arms against Russia for a variety of reasons: a sense of moral outrage at their country’s invasion, a desire to defend their adopted homeland of Ukraine or because of a visceral dislike of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. And they have earned enough trust from Ukrainian commanders to take their place among the forces viciously fighting the Russian military.


“A real Russian man doesn’t engage in such an aggressive war, won’t rape children, kill women and elderly people,” said one Russian fighter with the military call sign Caesar, ticking off atrocities committed by Russian soldiers that motivated him to leave his native St. Petersburg and fight for Ukraine. “That’s why I don’t have remorse. I do my job and I’ve killed a lot of them.”


Nearly a year into the war, the Free Russia Legion, as the unit is called, has received little attention — in part to protect the soldiers from reprisals by Russia, but also because of reluctance within the Ukrainian military to highlight the efforts of soldiers whose home country has done so much harm to Ukraine. Several hundred of them are concentrated in the area around Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, officials said; they are always grouped with their own but are overseen by Ukrainian officers.


In interviews, some Russian soldiers said they were already living in Ukraine when Russian forces invaded last year, and felt an obligation to defend their adopted country. Others, often with no military experience, crossed into Ukraine from Russia after the war began, moved by a sense that the Kremlin’s invasion was profoundly unjust.


“We haven’t come here to prove anything,” said one soldier with the call sign Zaza. “We’ve come here to help Ukraine achieve the full withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory and the future de-Putinization of Russia.”


Fearing retaliation against relatives and themselves, none of the soldiers interviewed agreed to be identified by name or to provide specific details about their biographies. Last week, the Russian prosecutor general’s office filed a suit with the country’s supreme court to have the Legion declared a terrorist organization.


Zaza, a skinny blond who looks barely out of high school, would not even give his age, saying only that he was under 20. After Russian forces invaded, he said, he could not keep his mouth shut. His outspokenness and antiwar posts on social media got him in trouble with his university’s administration, then with the police. When officers from Russia’s security service showed up at his front door in the fall, he said, he decided it was time to leave.


He said he walked across the border into Ukraine and signed up to fight.


“At such a young age, it is a little early for me to talk about my political opinions and worldview, because these are just forming now,” he said. “But when your country has been taken over by one bad man, you need to take things into your own hands.” 


At the start of the war, Ukrainian law prevented Russian citizens from joining the armed forces. It took until August to finalize legislation that would allow the Legion to legally join the fight, Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence service, said in a statement.


“There was a large number of Russians who because of their moral principles could not remain indifferent and were searching for a way to enter the ranks of the defenders of Ukraine,” Mr. Yusov said, explaining the military’s motivation to create the unit. “All legionnaires have come with a huge desire to stop Putin’s horde and free Russia from dictatorship.”


The group operates under the umbrella of Ukraine’s International Legion, a fighting force that includes units made up of American and British volunteers, as well as Belarusians, Georgians and others.


It is not easy to join, Russian soldiers said. They have to submit an application and undergo an extensive background check that includes polygraph tests. Only then can they enter basic training. As Russian passport holders, they are inevitably met with distrust. There have been several attempts by Russian spies to infiltrate the Legion, Mr. Yusov said.


In a pine forest in the Kyiv region last week, a group of new Russian recruits nearing the end of a three-month basic training course practiced tactical retreats, firing mortars and basic combat medicine. They exemplified the international hodgepodge that has come to define much of Ukraine’s war effort: Russian soldiers trained on a French-made 155 millimeter mortar and carried American-made M16 rifles.


“It’s better than a Kalashnikov,” one of the soldiers said of the M16. “I’ve fired about 1,000 rounds and haven’t had any problems yet.”


The sounds of small-arms fire and heavy artillery echoed through the forest, and an instructor threw a dummy grenade near a small group of soldiers to gauge how they would react. Most of the soldiers will occupy positions back from the front lines, working in artillery or air reconnaissance units using drones.


Though the instructors were all Ukrainian, all spoke in Russian. In interviews, some of the recruits tried to speak a few words of Ukrainian, but quickly switched back to their native language.


“After about one or two months as they’ve settled in, they start to use small phrases like ‘thank you’ or ‘fire,’” said one of the instructors, who declined to provide his name.


The soldiers said they struggled to explain their decision to family back in Russia. Reports of atrocities committed by Russian troops, including the butchering of civilians in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Irpin, are dismissed as foreign propaganda in their homeland.


“They don’t understand the whole truth,” said a 32-year-old soldier with the call sign Miami, who said his parents had urged him to fight on the Russian side. “They’re told that bad people live here, and they believe it. They don’t believe that the second biggest army in the world could kill regular people.”


Back at the front in eastern Ukraine, the shelling never stops for long. Russian forces have been hammering away at Ukrainian positions, trying to dislodge them around Bakhmut in advance of an expected offensive push to take all of the eastern region known as the Donbas.


On a recent visit to a firing position, the precise location of which The New York Times is withholding for security, the ground rumbled and artillery shells crisscrossed a clear sky. That day, Russian forces had launched a volley of Grad rockets that blanketed the area, wounding several civilians but sparing the soldiers.


“They’re striking everywhere,” a panting Russian soldier said as he took cover in a dugout in a neighborhood of small, snow-covered cottages.


Soldiers in the Legion said that they were continuing to hold the line, but some have already begun to think beyond the immediate battle, and even beyond the war in Ukraine, to what comes next.


“My task is not just to protect the people of Ukraine,” said Caesar, 50. “If I remain alive after this phase and all Ukrainian territory is liberated, I will absolutely continue fighting, with a weapon in my hand, to overthrow this Kremlin regime.”


Caesar, who has earned a reputation as a kind of eccentric sage within the legion, said he was an avowed Russian nationalist. Yet he nonetheless believes that modern Russia has gone off the rails, particularly when it comes to invading Ukraine, he said.


He was once a member of the Russian Imperial Movement, which the United States has declared a violent extremist group, but said he broke with it in part over its support for Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.


A senior Ukrainian military official involved with overseeing the Legion said that Caesar “had spent a long time searching for a path he felt was ideologically correct,” adding that Ukrainian officials had found no reason to distrust him.


Caesar, who moved his wife and four children to Ukraine over the summer, said he did not believe he was fighting against fellow Russians, but “scoundrels and murderers” who have no nationality.


“I’m sitting before you, an example of a Russian man, and an example of a man that Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky wrote about,” he said. “That’s the kind of man I am. Not them. They aren’t Russian.”



5) ‘Our Losses Were Gigantic’: Life in a Sacrificial Russian Assault Wave

Poorly trained Russian soldiers captured by Ukraine describe being used as cannon fodder by commanders throwing waves of bodies into an assault.

By Andrew E. Kramer, Feb. 13, 2023


A warden kept watch this month over prisoners of war at a camp in western Ukraine.

A warden kept watch this month over prisoners of war at a camp in western Ukraine. Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

LVIV, Ukraine — Creeping forward along a tree line late at night toward an entrenched Ukrainian position, the Russian soldier watched in horror as his comrades were mowed down by enemy fire.


His squad of 10 ex-convicts advanced only a few dozen yards before being decimated. “We were hit by machine-gun fire,” said the soldier, a private named Sergei.


One soldier was wounded and screamed, “Help me! Help me, please!” the private said, though no help arrived. Eight soldiers were killed, one escaped back to Russian lines and Sergei was captured by Ukrainians.


The soldiers were sitting ducks, sent forth by Russian commanders to act essentially as human cannon fodder in an assault.


And they have become an integral component of Russia’s military strategy as it presses a new offensive in Ukraine’s east: relying on overwhelming manpower, much of it comprising inexperienced, poorly trained conscripts, regardless of the high rate of casualties.


There are two main uses of the conscripts in these assaults: as “storm troops” who move in waves, followed by more experienced Russian fighters; and as intentional targets, to draw fire and thus identify Ukrainian positions to hit with artillery.


In interviews last week, half a dozen prisoners of war provided rare firsthand accounts of what it is like to be part of a sacrificial Russian assault.


“These orders were common, so our losses were gigantic,” Sergei said. “The next group would follow after a pause of 15 or 20 minutes, then another, then another.”


Of his combat experience, he said, “It was the first and last wave for me.”


By luck, the bullets missed him, he said. He lay in the dark until he was captured by Ukrainians who slipped into the buffer area between the two trench lines.


The New York Times interviewed the Russians at a detention center near Lviv in Ukraine’s west, where many captured enemy soldiers are sent. From there, some are returned to Russia in prisoner exchanges. The Times also viewed videos of interrogations by the Ukrainian authorities. The prisoners are identified only by first name and rank for security reasons, because of the possibility of retribution once they are returned.


Though they are prisoners of war overseen by Ukrainians, the Russians said they spoke freely. Their accounts could not be independently corroborated but conformed with assessments of the fighting around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut by Western governments and military analysts.


The soldiers in Sergei’s squad were recruited from penal colonies by the private military company known as Wagner, whose forces have mostly been deployed in the Bakhmut area. There, they have enabled Russian lines to move forward slowly, cutting key resupply roads for the Ukrainian Army.


Russia’s deployment of former convicts is a dark chapter in a vicious war. Russia Behind Bars, a prison rights group, has estimated that as many as 50,000 Russian prisoners have been recruited since last summer, with most sent to the battle for Bakhmut.


In the early phases of  the war, the Russian Army had copious armored vehicles, artillery and other heavy weaponry but relatively few soldiers on the battlefield. Now, the tables have turned: Russia has deployed about 320,000 soldiers in Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence agency. An additional 150,000 are in training camps, officials said, meaning there is the potential for half a million soldiers to join the offensive.


But using infantry to storm trenches, redolent of World War I, brings high casualties. So far, the tactic has been used primarily by Wagner in the push for Bakhmut. Last week, the head of Wagner, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, said he would end the practice of recruiting convicts. But Russia’s regular army this month began recruiting convicts in exchange for pardons, shifting the practice on the Russian side in the war from the Wagner private army to the military.


Some military analysts and Western governments have questioned Russia’s strategy,  citing rates of wounded and killed at around 70 percent in battalions featuring former convicts. On Sunday, the British defense intelligence agency said that over the past two weeks, Russia had probably suffered its highest rate of casualties since the first week of the invasion.


Interviews with former Wagner soldiers at the Ukrainian detention center aligned with these descriptions of the fighting — and shed light on a violent, harrowing experience for Russian soldiers.


“Nobody could ever believe such a thing could exist,”  Sergei said of Wagner tactics.


Sergei, sat, shoulders slumped, on the sofa in the warden’s office of the Ukrainian detention center. He was balding and wore shoes without laces.


The soldiers arrived at the front straight from Russia’s penal colony system, which is rife with abuse and where obedience to harsh codes of conduct in a violent setting is enforced by prison gangs and guards alike. The same sense of beaten subjugation persists at the front, Sergei said, enabling commanders to send soldiers forward on hopeless, human wave attacks.


“We are prisoners, even if former prisoners,” he said. “We are nobody and have no rights.”


Sergei said he had worked as a cellphone tower technician in a far-northern Siberian city, living with his wife and three children. In the interview, he admitted to dealing marijuana and meth, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2020.


In October, he accepted an offer to fight in exchange for a pardon. The arrangement, he said, was not offered to rapists and drug addicts, but murderers, burglars and other prisoners were welcome.


“Of course, any normal person fears death,” he said. “But a pardon for eight years is valuable.”


The fighting would turn out to be far more dangerous than he had imagined.


In three days at the front south of Bakhmut, Private Sergei first served as a stretcher bearer, carrying out mangled, bloody former prisoners who had been killed or wounded in an omen of what awaited him when ordered to join an assault.


 On the night of Jan. 1, they were commanded to advance 500 yards along the tree line, then dig in and wait for a subsequent wave to arrive. One soldier carried a light machine gun. The others were armed with only assault rifles and hand grenades.


The sequential assaults on Ukrainian lines by small units of former Russian prisoners have become a signature Russian tactic in the effort to capture Bakhmut.


“We see them crawl for a kilometer or more,” toward Ukrainian trenches, then open fire at close range and try to capture positions, Col. Roman Kostenko, the chairman of the defense and intelligence committee in Ukraine’s Parliament, said in an interview. “It’s effective. Yes, they have heavy losses. But with these heavy losses, they sometimes advance.”


It could be, Colonel Kostenko said, that such infantry assaults on entrenched defenses will remain mostly confined to the fight for Bakhmut and that they are being used to conserve tanks and armored personnel carriers for the expected offensive. But they could also serve as a template for wider fighting.


The former convicts, Colonel Kostenko said, are herded into the battlefield by harsh discipline: “They have orders, and they cannot disobey orders, especially in Wagner.”


A private named Aleksandr, 44, who shaved three years off a sentence for illegal logging by enlisting with Wagner, said that before deploying to the front he was told he would be shot if he disobeyed orders to advance.


“They brought us to a basement, divided us into five-person groups and, though we hadn’t been trained, told us to run ahead, as far as we could go,” he said of his commanders.


His dash toward Ukrainian lines in a group of five soldiers ended with three dead and two captured.


Another captured Russian, Eduard, 22, enlisted to get four years cut from a sentence for car theft. He spent three months at the front as a stretcher bearer before being ordered forward. He was captured on his first human wave assault. From his time as a stretcher bearer, he said, he estimated that half of the men in each assault were wounded or killed, with shrapnel and bullet wounds the most common injuries.


Private Sergei said he had initially been pleased with the offer of a pardon in exchange for service in Wagner. “When I came to this war, I thought it was worth it,” he said.


But after his one experience in an assault, he changed his mind. “I started to think things over in a big way,’’ he said. “Of course it wasn’t worth it.”


Evelina Riabenko contributed reporting.



6) Secretive Network Rescues Russia’s Antiwar Dissidents in Nick of Time

Hundreds of people facing long prison sentences are being spirited out of the country by groups that arrange daring escapes, with one trip using six different cars over more than 4,000 miles.

By Neil MacFarquhar and Alina Lobzina, Feb. 14, 2023


Oleg Zavyalov reunited his sister-in-law and brother after separately fleeing Russia.
Oleg Zavyalov reunited his sister-in-law and brother after separately fleeing Russia. Credit...Andrej Vasilenko for The New York Times

The three young women, participants in an antiwar chat group, were falsely accused last fall by one of its members of plotting with him to firebomb a military enlistment office.


The trio quickly went underground, hiding in a friend’s house in their home city of Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, while seeking a way to escape the country and potentially lengthy prison sentences. That brought them to a group called In Transit, part of an extensive underground railroad that is rescuing hundreds of Russians who have been targeted for expressing opposition to the invasion of Ukraine or even sympathy for Ukrainian refugees.


Their flight to freedom would ultimately end in Kazakhstan, after a six-day odyssey in six different cars over more than 4,000 miles — the equivalent of driving from New York City to Alaska. They were not told the route they would take, the names of the drivers or the rendezvous points until they reached each new city.


“We were scared,” said one of the young women, all students, aged 16, 17 and 19 — so much so that they avoided talking to people in the streets when they switched cars for fear of informers and surveillance cameras.


In Transit, the group that arranged their escape, is one of at least five organizations that help dissenters to get out of Russia, usually just one step ahead of the law. Working from outside the country, they plan escape routes that can include cars, travel money, safe houses, border crossings and visas.


“In a situation where everyone is against you, including your own relatives, who think that you are a traitor and are ready to hang you from the nearest lamppost, I was extremely pleased to discover that there are people who don’t know you at all, who’ve never seen you, and they are ready to help,” said Oleg Zavyalov, 31. He had just had a tearful reunion with his older brother, Vladimir, months after the siblings fled to different countries from the city of Smolensk in western Russia.


In Transit was the brainchild of three women from St. Petersburg, Russia, who realized that people caught up in the sweeping arrests of antiwar protesters after the invasion last February would need help getting out. For security reasons, they set up shop in Berlin. For the same reason, The New York Times is withholding the names of the founders and granting anonymity for those escapees who requested it, as well as details about the routes they took.


After the European Union largely stopped issuing visas for Russians last year, a few countries — mainly Germany, Poland and Lithuania — extended a humanitarian visa program, originally intended for Belarusian dissidents, to Russian opponents of the war.


The number of Russians facing the most common charge for criticizing the war — discrediting the Russian armed forces — peaked in early March of last year after the law was first passed, then spiked again after the mobilization was announced in late September, then plateaued, according to OVD-Info, a Russian human rights organization that tracks repression.


Since last spring, the three countries have issued more than 3,800 such visas, according to government officials. Facing criminal charges is not a mandatory criterion, but the individuals’ actions have to extend beyond attending a few antiwar protests.


Irina, a 60-year-old economist, received a German visa after trying to help 750 refugees from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol who had been dumped in abandoned factory housing near Penza, in central Russia.


She said that she raised more than $14,000 through crowd funding — buying food, medicine, children’s books and even lingerie for some destitute women. Increasingly hostile local officials demanded that she deliver the aid through them.


Soon someone scrawled “Here lives an ally of the Ukrainian regime” on her apartment door. Agents from the F.S.B., the Federal Security Service previously known as the K.G.B., questioned her for an hour. Right after she was released, four burly men abducted her from the apartment’s parking lot and drove her into the woods.


“We will bury you here!” she remembered one shouted as they shoved her to the ground, ultimately giving her a concussion and severe bruising. “Who gives you money? Who are you working for?”


When they let her go five hours later, she decided she had to leave the country.


To avoid having to show their passports, escapees often shun public transportation and rely on long-haul taxis, but that comes with its own hazards.


The young women, for example, said that one of their drivers sped along at around 100 miles an hour, at one point eating shish kebab while on a video call with his wife. When he delivered them to a Siberian city six hours ahead of schedule, at 4 a.m., the escape organizers outside Russia scrambled to find housing lest the women be dumped on the street and draw police attention.


Nevertheless, for many escapees, the threat of disappearing into a penal colony far outweighs the risks involved in fleeing. “We had no choice,” said one of the young women, who were nervous about getting stopped at the border with Kazakhstan. “If we stayed we would be risking even more.”


Some of the escapees took flight to avoid the draft, after President Vladimir V. Putin announced plans in September to conscript 300,000 men.


Oleksandr, 32, a Ukrainian-Russian actor, had moved to Moscow from his native city of Donetsk after Russian-backed forces took up arms in eastern Ukraine in 2014. His employers in the city government sent him to the mobilization office, assuring him that the army would reject a Ukrainian citizen.


Instead, he was ordered to deploy immediately. “Great! You will go serve, you will go defend the Motherland,” the woman who reviewed his case barked in a chilling voice, he said. She ordered him onto a bus leaving within the hour.


Dazed young recruits were crying or getting drunk, Oleksandr recalled. Entering a bathroom thick with cigarette smoke, he spied a narrow window. He squeezed out and leaped down from the second floor to a portico and then to the street. He did not fear injury, he said, thinking only, “There was just one escape route.”


He had to walk past a waiting bus where some young men were being shoved aboard, while a few mothers stood around wailing. He rounded the nearest corner and ran for 30 minutes, convinced that he was being followed, then connected with In Transit through a friend of a friend.


Some initially try to hide within Russia.


In Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow, Ivan Bryzgalov, 22, checked himself into a psychiatric hospital — a common tactic — to try to shake off the law enforcement officers whom he said had arrested and beaten him for briefly marching in a holiday parade wearing a Ukrainian T-shirt. His ploy worked for a few months, but Mr. Bryzgalov, the designer for a YouTube gaming channel, said he soon felt he needed to flee.


People have also asked for help from some of the most obscure corners of Russia.


Pavel A. Verbitsky, 50, a truck driver from a town called Uray in Siberia, excoriated the invasion online as soon as it started, attacking Mr. Putin and others, some in verse.


One poem read in part:


“The senseless freaks and bastards tell us to kill our brothers.


“The balding dwarf is ready to go to war with the entire world to distract us from prices and the madness of thieves, to save both oligarchs and himself.”


Mr. Verbitsky faced various criminal charges, and leaked video from his court hearings was broadcast locally. In a town where virtually everyone backed the war, he said, people started calling him “Nazi lover.”


One argument about the war with a former friend descended into a fistfight. His court-appointed lawyer urged him to admit to all charges. Instead, he fled with his wife and three children, ending up in Montenegro, where they are awaiting German visas.


In Smolensk, early in the war, one of the two Zavyalov brothers, Vladimir, the owner of a small transportation company, discovered a Telegram channel that distributed miniature antiwar slogans that resembled price displays on grocery store shelves. The normal space for a description such as bananas or washing powder instead said things like, “The Russian army bombed a school in Mariupol.”


A young woman sent pictures of them to her grandmother, who alerted law enforcement. Officers reviewed the store’s surveillance tapes and arrested Vladimir.


His wife and brother, Oleg, were hauled in by law enforcement officers separately for questioning. Suddenly realizing that the infant he could hear crying in a nearby room was his nephew, Oleg said he felt stuck somewhere between an old Soviet spy film and the Gestapo.


In Transit’s founders say they have yet to lose any escapees, though they say some other groups have — mostly people who ignored orders to leave their cellphones behind or even posted on social media from the road.


Those who escaped described mixed emotions at crossing the border: relief mingling with the realization they would not be returning or seeing their families for the foreseeable future. As they rebuild their lives, they all grapple with anxiety, especially the fear they will somehow be hauled back.


The actor, Oleksandr, said that when he finally reached a hotel room outside Russia and closed the door, he laid in the dark for an hour, weeping. For the next month, scenes from the military enlistment office haunted his dreams.


But hearing of friends killed in the war, he has no regrets. “They were decent people before,” he said, “and now every day there are more and more people I know, people who could not escape, and just like that they waved goodbye to their lives.”



7) Tesla Workers in Buffalo Begin Union Drive

If successful, the workers who help develop Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system would be the first group at the company to organize.

By Jack Ewing, Feb. 14, 2023


“TESLA” is written in giant red letters on the facade of the company’s plant in Buffalo. There is a man walking toward parked cars in front of the building.

The Tesla factory in Buffalo produces solar panels and components for charging equipment and has hundreds of workers who help develop software for cars. Credit...Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

A group of workers at a Tesla factory in Buffalo began a campaign on Tuesday to form a union, saying they wanted better pay and benefits. If successful, the effort could establish the first union at the fast-growing auto and energy company, which has fiercely resisted efforts to organize its employees.


The factory in Buffalo makes solar panels and components for charging equipment, according to Tesla’s website, and also has about 800 workers who help develop driver-assistance software for cars. The software workers initiated the union drive, and went public Tuesday in an effort to win broader support at the site.


Tesla pays workers in Buffalo less than national averages and they receive little sick time, workers involved in the drive said. “We are only asking for a seat in the car that we helped build,” Keenan Lasch, a member of a group calling itself Tesla Workers United, said in a statement.


The employees are working with Workers United, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. The union campaign was first reported by Bloomberg News.


Attempts to organize Tesla workers have so far failed. Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, has been openly hostile to unions. In 2021, the National Labor Relations Board found that Tesla had illegally fired a worker involved in organizing at the company’s car factory in Fremont, Calif., and that Mr. Musk had illegally threatened workers with the loss of stock options if they unionized.


Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.


The company’s nonunion workplaces potentially give the company a cost advantage over established automakers like General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis, whose employees are represented by the United Auto Workers in the United States. Unionized workers generally receive better pay and benefits than workers who are not represented.


The U.A.W. has so far been frustrated in its attempts to expand beyond the Michigan automakers. In recent years, attempts to organize workers for foreign automakers with factories in the South, including Nissan, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, have failed.


Tesla is the latest big technology company to be the target of labor organizers. Amazon workers at a warehouse on Staten Island voted in April to unionize, but workers at an Amazon facility in Albany voted in October against union representation.


The drive in Buffalo has the support of Jaz Brisack, who gained national prominence for her efforts to organize Starbucks workers in Buffalo.


“So incredibly glad to be working with the Tesla workers on their campaign!” Ms. Brisack said on Twitter Tuesday.


The Autopilot workers in Buffalo analyze data collected by cars to improve the software, which has been blamed for numerous crashes, some fatal. Federal officials have asked Tesla for documents related to the self-driving software, the company disclosed last month.


Tesla has openings for jobs in Buffalo that entail labeling images and videos collected from cars. No experience in artificial intelligence or data labeling is required, according to two job postings on its website.


Workers said they were committed to Tesla’s mission but wanted a greater voice. In an open letter to fellow workers, they said they wanted to form a union that would “be as innovative as the company we work for and to build an even more collaborative environment that will strengthen the company.”


“As much as I love my job, it can feel very disheartening living paycheck to paycheck when I work for one of the most successful companies in the world,” Zahra Lahrache, who has worked at Tesla in Buffalo for five months, said in a statement issued by the workers, “and that is why I am exercising my right to unionize.”



8) A Rising Awareness That Balloons Are Everywhere in Our Skies

As more unidentified objects were shot down by the U.S. Air Force in recent days, experts warned that there were an “endless” array of potential targets.

By William J. Broad, Feb. 14, 2023

Several scientists look up from the ground at a giant white translucent scientific balloon that is in the process of being inflated and launched. The ground is ice, and the sky is clear with the sun shining brightly in the middle of the sky.
NASA scientists in Antarctica prepared one of 20 balloon launches for a scientific mission in 2013. The National Weather Service alone floats 60,000 high-flying balloons that are designed to rise 20 miles high. Credit...NASA

The United States is going to need a lot of missiles if its fighter jets are to shoot down every stray balloon that sets off a radar warning in American airspace.


“At any given moment, thousands of balloons” are above the Earth, including many used in the United States by government agencies, military forces, independent researchers and hobbyists, said Paul Fetkowitz, president of Kaymont Consolidated Industries, a maker of high-altitude balloons in Melbourne, Fla.


Mr. Fetkowitz and other experts say this flotilla may explain the origins of some of what John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, called the “slow-moving objects at high altitude with a small radar cross section” that were shot down over the United States and Canada in recent days.


Since Feb. 4, when the United States shot down a large Chinese surveillance balloon that was reportedly flying at a height of roughly 12 miles as it crossed the North American continent, federal officials have sought to enhance radars and atmospheric trackers so they can more closely scrutinize the nation’s airspace. Balloon experts say the upgrade might generate a paralyzing wave of false alarms.


On Friday, fighter jets in waters over Alaska fired on an object the size of a small car that a Defense Department official said was most likely a balloon. The next day, an American F-22 attacked a cylindrical object over the Yukon Territory in Canada that was smaller than the Chinese surveillance device. On Sunday, an octagonal structure with strings hanging off it and no evident payload was hit over Lake Huron. It had first appeared over Montana days before.


Those three objects posed threats to civilian aviation, Mr. Kirby said, but they were not transmitting communications signals.


“This is a total shocker,” Terry Deshler, an emeritus professor of atmospheric science at the University of Wyoming, said of the recent downings and the enhanced-tracking effort.


“For years you didn’t hear anything about balloons,” he said. “Now, we’re on the lookout for any kind of flying object.”


Mr. Fetkowitz said he worried that government officials in Washington might not realize how crowded American skies had become with high-flying balloons. “There’s a concern that the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing,” he said of military and civilian activities.


Each year, around 60,000 high-flying balloons are launched just by the National Weather Service, the agency said. They rise into the stratosphere, a layer of the planet’s atmosphere that extends to a height of roughly 30 miles. The balloons used by the Weather Service are designed to rise 20 miles up — far higher than the altitude of any of the four objects detected in the past 10 days.


Mr. Fetkowitz noted that Alaska — where a U.S. fighter jet shot down the unidentified flying object on Friday — had more weather-balloon launching sites than any other state.


The Weather Service’s balloons gather data that keeps passenger jets out of harm’s way and lets experts predict the likely onset of violent storms, Mr. Fetkowitz said. “It’s all about life safety,” he added.


Then there is NASA, which runs a program from Palestine, Texas, that over the years has lofted more than 1,700 large balloons on scientific missions that can last for months. The balloons fly up to 22 miles high, and the payloads weigh up to four tons, roughly that of three small cars. Some carry sensors that explore the health of the ozone layer, which protects living things from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.


Experts in the balloon industry said that DARPA, the secretive defense agency in charge of advanced technology development, was experimenting with a new class of long-duration balloons for battlefield use that would act as communication relays. But Randolph Atkins, an agency spokesman, said neither he nor his boss knew of any such project.


The United States is not alone in its frequent use of balloons. Many of the 193 member states and territories of the World Meteorological Organization, based in Geneva, regularly send up stratospheric balloons in large numbers, some designed for long-term missions that collect data from around the globe.


“It’s endless,” Mr. Fetkowitz said of the array of different balloons and programs.


Mr. Fetkowitz said the weather balloons lofted by National Weather Service were designed to burst at their highest point and break into fine debris that cannot endanger wildlife down below. He added that some, however, were underinflated and never flew high enough to burst, and thus could wander about aimlessly with the winds.


“A balloon launched in Denver,” he said, “might land in New Jersey.”


Users of balloons for scientific, commercial and military purposes have faced criticism in the past. For years, environmentalists have said that exploded balloons have fallen back to earth and imperiled natural landscapes, and particularly sea life.


“It’s a major scandal,” said Marilynn Mendell, a public relations consultant who has criticized the environmental effects of stray weather balloons for many years. She pointed to balloon debris she found on a beach in 2016 as an example. “The strings on these balloons are huge, long things,” she said. “It’s an international problem.”


Mr. Fetkowitz of Kaymont Industries said that such criticisms had kept balloon users from speaking out and engaging with the public. “A lot of the scientists out there are keeping their heads down,” he said, even though they know “they’re doing the right thing” for public safety.


The silence of balloon experts might explain why no owner of a shot-down object, with the exception of China, is known to have come forward publicly to discuss the incidents or to complain.


Not all balloons are used for strict scientific or commercial purposes. A bizarre event happened, Mr. Fetkowitz said, when a customer used one of his company’s balloons to loft a device that played aloud the Pink Floyd album “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Mr. Fetkowitz said a different balloon carried a child’s Thomas the Tank Engine toy to stratospheric heights.


“We do vet our customers,” he added. “We’ve turned away people. We don’t want to do business with a guy who wants to send up a gun.”



9) Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau Cuts City's Ties With Israel Over 'Crime of Apartheid'

"We cannot be silent," said Colau

By Julia Conley, February 9, 2023


The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, responds to the media at a press conference

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, responds to the media at a press conference at the Barcelona City Hall on March 4, 2022, in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo: David Zorrakino/Europa Press via Getty Images)

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau on Wednesday announced her city is cutting ties with Israel and ending its symbolic 25-year-old "twin cities" relationship with Tel Aviv over the Israeli government's violent anti-Palestinian policies.


Colau said at a press conference that the city council came to its decision in response to campaigning by more than 100 rights groups and 4,000 residents, who urged her to cut ties with Israel.


In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leftist mayor said her constituents called on her to "condemn the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, support Palestinian and Israeli organizations working for peace, and break off the twinning agreement between Barcelona and Tel Aviv."


She added that she is "temporarily" suspending Barcelona-Israel relations "until the Israeli authorities put an end to the system of violations of the Palestinian people and fully comply with the obligations imposed on them by international law."


"We cannot be silent," wrote Colau.


The letter and Colau's announcement to the press come two weeks after an Israeli military raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank killed at least nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman.


Colau said groups in Barcelona began urging her to cut ties with Israel after an 11-day air assault on Gaza in May 2021.


Groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israel-based B'Tselem have accused the Israeli government of imposing apartheid policies on Palestinians, including its military occupation of the West Bank and its construction of settlements on Palestinian land.


Michael Lynk, the United Nations special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, also called Israel's treatment of Palestine "apartheid" last year.


The Sanctions National Committee (BNC), one of the groups that helped push the Barcelona city council to hold Israel accountable, applauded Colau's move.


"Barcelona has become the first city council to suspend ties with apartheid Tel Aviv in solidarity with the Palestinian people, a move that is reminiscent of the historic and courageous city councils that pioneered cutting links with apartheid South Africa," BNC said in a statement.