Speakout is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. Speakout articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
Stop the NYPD Coup and Create the Police-Community Relationship We Want to See
Do the police serve the city or are they a law unto themselves? This is an issue of concern throughout the country but it has come into crisp focus in New York.
The conflict in New York City spurred by the death of Eric Garner and the failure of a Staten Island grand jury to indict the police officer who choked him to death; followed by the killing of two police officers, Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, by a deranged person has sharpened the conflict over policing in New York. The NYPD is trying to bully Mayor Bill de Blasio as they have done with almost all previous mayors. It is time for the mayor and city to stand up to police bullying.
Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian Israeli Christian and director of Ittijah, the Haifa-based Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, a network of Palestinian NGOs, was arrested by the Israeli government in 2010. He was accused of being a spy for Hezbollah. Makhoul squarely denied the charges, yet accepted a nine-year plea deal. Like so many political prisoners, frightened by the draconian life sentence with which he was threatened, Makhoul chose to confess to a crime he did not commit, rather than try to achieve justice in a two-tiered system in which, in the words of leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz, [v]irtually all – 99.74%, to be exact – of cases heard by the military courts in the [illegally occupied Palestinian] territories end in a conviction, according to data in the military courts' annual report.
It is quite likely that Israeli forces also illegally resorted to torture to force Makhoul to falsely confess. His lawyers stated he was tortured during his detention, and that interrogators told him they would render him disabled if he did not give in. Amnesty International said Makhoul's jailing is a very disturbing development, indicating Ameer Makhoul is well known for his human rights activism on behalf of Palestinians in Israel and those living under Israeli occupation. We fear that this may be the underlying reason for his imprisonment.
What would happen if the power went out for good? It's not a question many of us contemplate, probably because the answer is not reassuring.
It turns out that the power grid is quite vulnerable. There are a number of realistic scenarios that could bring it down, not just for a few days, but indefinitely. In addition to that, modern civilization depends on electricity. That is not a figure of speech. We have come to depend on electricity for food and water.
300 intellectuals, trade unionists, artists and activists from all over the world, have launched an appeal uniting their voices to say: We will defend the right of the Greek people to make their decisions freely; to break with austerity; to say 'no' to the humanitarian crisis which has plagued the country; to pave the way for a real alternative for Greece – for a social and democratic reorientation.
The Rural Coalition is a non-profit organization in Washington, DC, assisting impoverished rural people and farmers in the United States and Mexico, especially in the United States.
I went to Mexico with the Rural Coalition. This gave me an opportunity to see first hand the struggle of indigenous people defending their land from the encroachment of the agribusiness-government complex. The Rural Coalition is symbolic of one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century: the undoing of rural societies and their replacement by agribusiness machines.
A few years ago, the team of organizers I work with was contacted by a local business owner. They were concerned about an email thread they had been a part of wherein the local business alliance was trying to recruit local merchants to attend the court hearing of a local houseless woman. That houseless woman, whose name was Jennifer, had lived in the community for years. She had a drinking problem and a number of emotional issues. She could be loud and, at times, insulting. Basically, she was bad for business, and when the business alliance heard that she was facing an open container charge, they decided to use that situation as leverage to remove her from the community.
The business owners involved hoped to get an injunction barring Jennifer from being in their business district. They thought the judge and prosecutor would be willing to broker that deal if enough of them packed the courtroom to speak out about all the trouble she caused. Upon reading this, we quickly realized we needed to pack the courtroom with community opposition to this proposed exile. That task proved much easier than you’d imagine, as Jennifer was actually quite loved by a number of people in our neighborhood.
It was the moment many had been waiting for. On January 2, Palestine’s United Nations envoy, Riyad Mansour formally requested membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
"We are seeking justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power," he said.
For the past few months, news feeds and timelines have filled up with opinions about the current #BlackLivesMatter movement gaining strength and solidarity across the country. The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Kajieme Powell, and the growing list of unarmed people of color killed at the hands of law enforcement have sparked an important conversation about targeted, aggressive, and racialized encounters between police and the black community. The increased militarization of the police force, use of mass incarceration and excessive sentencing and the prevalence of the politics of fear against communities of color so deeply embedded into our public consciousness are all being brought to the forefront of a national conversation about race and justice.
If you choose to engage with or participate in this growing conversation, you do not have to look very long or very hard to understand that Americans are not terribly comfortable with facing our nation's history of racial injustice and its legacy in modernity. It is truly astonishing to read the opinions so bravely put forth from behind the veil of anonymity and protection of a computer screen, where the vast majority of contributors enter online conversations confidently, armed with definitive and defensive conclusions about racialized policing. Yet this argumentative rhetoric is often just an echo of the opinions set forth on the nightly news cycle of one's choice, and it is obvious that we are much more comfortable challenging the reality of a difficult history than engaging with its consequences.
It couldn't be known until now.
A San Francisco Chronicle article on Jan. 1, 2015 has revealed that former US judges requested clemency for the Cuban Five in early 2014 by a letter hand-delivered to President Barack Obama.
Nine retired appellate court judges from California, Washington, Montana and Iowa submitted the Feb. 24, 2014 letter to Obama, urging clemency for the three remaining members of the Five, a deed that only became public after Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero were home.
Yusef Bunchy Shakur is a father, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, self-published author of three books (The Window 2 My Soul, Redemptive Soul and My Soul Looks Back), documentary filmmaker (Detroit's Native Son) and community leader. Every year, he organizes a Restoring the Neighbor Back to the Hood event which feeds hundreds of families, provides clothing and hands out backpacks to over 500 kids. He was also wrongfully convicted in 1992 for assault in an unarmed robbery case and sentenced to a five-to-fifteen year term. He was 19 at the time and would serve 9 years, released ultimately in January of 2001. Since then, he has been at the forefront of resistance and restoration in Detroit.
Shakur spoke to Truthout about how he came to be in that position.