Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Rep. Gabbard to President Trump: Words on Saudi Arabia Are a “Betrayal”

“I and my fellow service members are not your prostitutes. 
You are not our pimp”
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first female combat veteran to run for President, called President Trump’s recent comments and policy toward Saudi Arabia a “betrayal” of the men and women serving in the armed forces, the American people and our Constitution. Rep. Gabbard released the following statement.
“President Trump yesterday offered to place our military—my brothers and sisters in uniform—under the command of Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, the dictator of the Islamist Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mr. President, as you know, I have never engaged in hateful rhetoric against you or your family, and I never will. But your offering our military assets to the dictator of Saudi Arabia to use as he sees fit, is a betrayal of my brothers and sisters in uniform who are ready to put our lives on the line for our country—not for the Islamist dictator of Saudi Arabia.
For you to think that you can pimp out our proud men and women in uniform to the Prince of Saudi Arabia is disgraceful and once again shows that you are unfit to be the commander-in-chief.
As a member of Congress and as a soldier, I and all of my brothers and sisters in uniform have taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and nothing in our Constitution gives you the power to go to war without the express consent of Congress, what to speak of giving you the power to offer our military to a foreign power like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to use as they wish.
In short, your words and actions are a betrayal of my brothers and sisters in uniform, the American people, and our Constitution. I and my fellow service members are not your prostitutes. You are not our pimp.”

About Tulsi Gabbard:

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Tomorrow marks 56 years since the murder of four young girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Tomorrow marks 56 years since the murder of four young girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
In an act of terror intended to intimidate civil rights activists who used the predominantly African-American church as a rallying point and organizing hub, Ku Klux Klan members planted a bomb under the building’s steps. It detonated at 10:22 a.m. on Youth Sunday, a day dedicated to the church’s young members, as the girls were getting ready for the service in a basement lounge.
During his eulogy for Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the attack “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetuated against humanity.” He sent a telegram to then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace, telling the state’s top segregationist: “The blood of our little children is on your hands.” Ten days before the bombing, Wallace had railed against the civil rights movement to The New York Times, saying, “What this country needs is a few first-class funerals.”
At that time, violent attacks on the civil rights movement were common in the city dubbed “Bombingham.” And in the decades since, researchers have laid bare the lack of political will to convict the perpetrators. Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover blocked prosecution of the case, and the FBI failed to turn over thousands of files to prosecutors, including audio surveillance tapes.
It wasn’t until 1977 that the first of four Klansmen behind the crime was brought to trial by the state attorney general and convicted. Two others were convicted in the mid-1990s by federal prosecutors. A fourth died before being charged.
In 1987, the SPLC would win an unrelated, and unprecedented, civil lawsuit against the same Klan group behind the bombing – the United Klans of America – after its members murdered a black teenager in Alabama six years earlier. The $7 million verdict bankrupted the United Klans, finally putting an end to the group whose members had also killed civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo after the Selma-to-Montgomery march.
The church bombing did not slow the momentum of the civil rights movement. Instead, it became a seminal moment that galvanized the nation and propelled the  movement forward. Ten months later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing segregation in public accommodations.
Today, a memorial named “Four Spirits” stands across the street from the church with the inscription “A love that forgives” – the title of the pastor’s undelivered sermon on Sept. 15, 1963. 
During this moment of remembrance for these and all civil rights martyrs – those who fought and died for freedom – let us reflect on the words of Dr. King’s eulogy for the girls. And let us remember that deadly violence remains an all-to-common response to the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country:
“[T]his afternoon, in a real sense [the four girls] have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows.
“They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. … They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.
The Editors

Thursday, September 12, 2019

As D.A., Kamala Harris prosecuted a mentally ill woman shot by police. The jury didn’t buy it.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is campaigning for the White House as a "progressive prosecutor."
Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

When San Francisco police broke down a door inside a group home for mentally disabled people in 2008 and shot a 56-year-old resident, then-District Attorney Kamala Harris didn’t charge the officers with a crime. Instead she prosecuted the schizophrenic woman who was severely injured in the shooting.
Harris charged Teresa Sheehan with assaulting the officers, alleging she came at them with a kitchen knife after they forced their way into her room. But the jury was not convinced. It deadlocked in favor of acquitting Sheehan on the assault charges, and found her not guilty of threatening to kill a social worker who had called the police for help to get Sheehan into a psychiatric hospital. 
“Somebody used very poor judgement in deciding to bring these charges,” said Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. 
“If (Harris) actually looked at it and said, ‘This is a righteous case, I want to go after a mentally ill woman who was shot,’ then you question that decision. If she didn’t know about it, then you question her management skills.”
Today Harris, California’s junior U.S. senator, is trying to win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination by highlighting her experience as a “progressive prosecutor.” The Sheehan case, though, is an example of her complicated record in criminal justice.
Harris did not re-try the case after the jury deadlocked, and Sheehan went on to sue the police for excessive force. After a legal battle that lasted several years and included arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, Sheehan won a $1 million settlement. Her civil suit also resulted in a landmark appellate court ruling that says police must take more care when interacting with people they know have a mental illness. 
Harris was not involved in the civil suit. Her campaign spokesperson declined to say how involved Harris was in making decisions about the criminal case, but said she appropriately did her job in charging Sheehan.
“It was the responsibility of the District Attorney’s office to pursue accountability for individuals who may have committed assault against police officers,” Kate Waters wrote in an email. 
Over her years as district attorney and California attorney general, Harris developed a reputation for being cautious on criminal justice issues and took criticism from across the political spectrum. Those on the left deride her for upholding wrongful convictions and the death penalty, while law enforcement and moderate Democrats were upset that in 2004 she declined to seek the death penalty for a man who had killed a police officer.
Harris recently released a plan for criminal justice reform that involves reversing some of her earlier positions. She now supports independent investigations of police shootings — though she didn’t back proposals to do the same thing in California when she was attorney general. She says she wants a tougher national legal standard allowing police to use deadly force only when necessary — a standard California just signed into law. But a key part of the new state law holds officers accountable for their actions leading up to a shooting — a provision that allows officers to be prosecuted if they escalate a confrontation before it’s become deadly. 
In the Sheehan case, Harris cleared the officers of wrongdoing, and her office wrote an article in the San Francisco police officer union’s monthly newsletter touting a judge’s decision to allow the charges against Sheehan to go to trial.
“San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris announced that Teresa Sheehan… was held to answer on charges of assaulting two San Francisco police officers with a deadly weapon and threatening to kill a social worker,” said the article from October 2008.
“The police subdued the defendant by shooting her several times.”
Such articles were routine during Harris’ time as district attorney. She had a regular spot in the police union’s newsletter where she highlighted developments in key cases. The articles were part of her effort to build rapport with the police department — a dynamic that got off to a bad start when Harris declined to pursue the death penalty against a cop killer just a few months after she was sworn in.
“I think the relationship between the DA’s Office and the average police officer has come a long way since I first took office four years ago,” Harris said in an interview in the police newsletter in March 2008. “There is more trust and a better understanding that the DA’s Office is committed to working with the Police Department to get dangerous criminals off our streets and make San Francisco a safer city.” 
That Sheehan could be considered a dangerous criminal was unfathomable to her attorney. 
“She had no record. There was no reason to believe that this was criminal behavior,” Kleigh Hathaway, Sheehan’s public defender, told CalMatters.
Hathaway said she thought she’d be able to quickly get the case dismissed, and was surprised how hard the district attorney’s office fought it.
“It was really clear hearing from potential jurors how outraged they were,” Hathaway recalled.
“There was this complete surprise and shock that this (56)-year-old Japanese-American woman who was in a wheelchair (from her injuries) was being charged with all these horrible crimes.”
Sheehan declined to be interviewed. Court records describe what happened the day she was shot: She had been off her medication and behaving strangely when a social worker decided she needed to be hospitalized and called police for help. Two officers entered her room, and found Sheehan lying on her bed. She then picked up a knife from a plate beside her, and came toward the officers shouting threats. They retreated to the hallway, and Sheehan closed the door. 
“With the door being closed and us not having the ability to see what she was doing, we had no way of knowing whether… she had an avenue of escape” or access to other weapons, one of the responding officers said in court records. “And so in my opinion, as soon as that door was closed, the threat became more scary for us.” 
The officers called for backup and drew their weapons. They broke down the door and pepper-sprayed Sheehan as she allegedly moved toward them with the knife. Then they shot her.   
Hathaway argued that backup officers had arrived with bean-bag projectiles and that there was no need for the first two officers to break in and shoot. The jury deadlocked with 11 of 12 jurors voting to acquit Sheehan on the charges of assaulting the police officers. Afterward, one juror told the San Francisco Chronicle that police used excessive force and that Sheehan should not have been criminally charged. Others said they doubted if she was mentally capable of standing trial
The assistant district attorney who handled the case declined to be interviewed for this article. 
Hathaway, Sheehan’s public defender, said she never dealt directly with Harris on the case and didn’t know how involved she was in making decisions about it. 
But, she said, “This wasn’t progressive at all. This was completely unsympathetic.” 
Hathaway said she later went on to vote for Harris, and has been impressed with her performance as a senator. Though she hasn’t decided who she’s supporting for president, Hathaway says she’s intrigued by Harris’ campaign. 
Harris defined her idea of a progressive prosecutor in “The Truths We Hold,” the book she published earlier this year:
“My vision of a progressive prosecutor was someone who used the power of the office with a sense of fairness, perspective, and experience, someone who was clear about the need to hold serious criminals accountable and who understood that the best way to create safe communities was to prevent crime in the first place,” Harris wrote.
Sheehan’s sisters have a different view, shaped by frustrations they faced advocating for their sister in 2008. They were flabbergasted that she could be put on trial after police broke in and shot her, and upset by the quality of medical care she received in jail for gunshots and shattered bones that have left her with a sunken face and a metal rod in her leg. 
Frances Sheehan said she repeatedly asked Harris and then-mayor Gavin Newsom to meet with her, but both of them refused. Her sister Patricia said that’s shaped her political views ever since.
“I just couldn’t cast my vote for either one of them, no matter what,” Patricia Sheehan said in a recent interview. “They didn’t even have the courtesy to give five minutes to my sister Frances when she begged and begged… to listen to what was going on with Teresa.”
Editors’ note: This story was updated to clarify that Harris’ office wrote the article in the police officer union’s newsletter.
Hear more about Sheehan’s case in an upcoming episode of the Force Of Law podcast, which explores California’s attempt to reduce police shootings.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Catholic filmmaker hopes re-release of ‘El Norte’ can inspire immigration reform

A film that moved audiences, critics, and even lawmakers to action 35 years ago is making a one-day comeback to theaters around the country this Sunday. 
“El Norte,” which tells the story of a brother and sister’s perilous journey from Guatemala to the United States, was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar award in 1985.
The film is widely credited with helping prompt the U.S. government to action with the 1986 Simpson–Mazzoli Act, which extended the protection status for Central American immigrants. 
Thanks to a restoration by the Academy Film Archive (supported in part by the Getty Foundation), the film is showing in select theaters around the country at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15.  Proceeds from the screenings will be donated to help survivors of last month’s mass shooting in El Paso. 
Last Saturday, “El Norte” director and screenwriter Gregory Nava was among the hundreds who packed into the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA to pray for immigration reform at the annual Mass for All Immigrants, celebrated by Archbishop José H. Gomez. 
In email responses to questions from Angelus News, Nava explained how his Catholic faith has shaped his perspective on the immigration crisis and why he thinks “El Norte” is a relevant film in 2019.

Pablo Kay: It’s been 35 years since your film “El Norte” was first released. A lot has changed with respect to immigration trends and policy since 1984. But what, in your view, hasn't changed? 
Gregory Nava: Refugees’ fleeing the violence of their homeland seeking sanctuary and trying to save their lives and the lives of their families has not changed. This has been the same not just since 1984, but since time immemorial. 
After all, in the Gospel of Matthew an angel warns Joseph that King Herod wants to kill his son and orders him to “flee to Egypt.” And so, like many families today, the Holy Family fled violence in their homeland seeking asylum in a foreign land, and that land, Egypt, did not turn these refugees away but had empathy. The story of the “Flight into Egypt” tells us that we need to treat refugees with compassion.  
This is the message of “El Norte” and it is the same today as it was 35 years ago.
Kay: Since you made “El Norte,” how would you say you’ve grown, both as a filmmaker and as a Catholic?
Nava: The farther I go in my life the more I understand how much I need God’s grace and how important the sacraments are. Receiving Communion at the Mass for All Immigrants was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
Kay: Why did you go to the Mass, and what was your experience?
Nava: Archbishop Gomez’ dedication to immigration reform is truly inspiring — I wanted to support his efforts and support all the immigrants who have come here. Our nation is a nation of immigrants. 
Today we have a crisis on our southern border, and we need to deal with this crisis with love and understanding. For God could have entered the world through any family but God chose to enter the world through a family who were refugees. If one wants to see today’s “Flight into Egypt,” one needn’t look any further than our U.S./Mexico border.
Kay: By the way, you have an interesting connection to the cathedral. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Nava: My brother, John Nava, is an artist who designed and executed the magnificent tapestries depicting the Communion of Saints that hang in the cathedral. These tapestries feature not just saints that were canonized but anonymous saints — inspiring us — that we all can do saintly acts. He did a beautiful job; I’m very proud of him. 
Kay: Archbishop Gomez has long said that immigration reform is not just a political issue, but a spiritual one. Do you agree? 
Nava: Absolutely, immigration continues to be one of the most politically polarizing issues in America. 
But the wisdom of the Bible is both simple and timeless. Here is a passage that tells us how we should treat immigrants, refugees, and those in need of help. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34). 
The Bible’s plea for compassion is a deeply spiritual message that resonates throughout the millennium.  
Kay: This coming Sunday, Sept. 15, theaters across the country are playing “El Norte” to mark the anniversary of its release. Why should people go see it again?
Nava: “El Norte” is considered a “classic” film, and the restoration that was done by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is gorgeous. But most importantly, if you’ve seen the film before or if you have yet to see it, its message of compassion and humanity for immigrants is needed more today that when we first made the film. 
I hope everyone can come together, see “El Norte,” and carry its message into the dialogue that is now taking place in our country. We need to build bridges, not walls; we need policies of compassion, not cruelty. That is the message of “El Norte,” and it needs to ring loudly in our country once again.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Celebrate the Life of YJC Peacebuilder Carletta Jackson

Saturday, September 21, 2019, 7PMCHUCO'S JUSTICE CENTER
7625 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 

It is with heavy heart that we are writing to let you know that Carletta Jackson died early Saturday morning. She is survived by her nine-year-old son Timothy,  her brother Eric and Timothy’s dad, Eddie.
Thank you for all the prayers and wishes you sent over the last week. We read her every message, and we know she is carrying those thoughts with her.
Carletta was a beloved peacebuilder here at Chuco’s. She had a laugh that lifted you up off the ground past all your sadness and frustrations. She was our heartbeat and our cheer squad, our counsel and our medicine. To honor her, we ask that we all live our lives as she did - a daughter of Nickerson Gardens in Watts who treated all hoods equally.
Please come out to Chuco’s on Carletta’s Birthday to celebrate her life - Saturday, September 21, 7PM at 7625 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles, 90001.
Thank you. 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Trump's fascist actions continue

The list of cruelties that the Trump administration is inventing in its zeal to punish migrants and their children keeps getting longer and more extreme.
This week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, beginning on Oct. 29, U.S. government employees and members of the armed services who are overseas will no longer be considered to be “residing” in the United States.

Shockingly, that means that, for some service members, if their children are born overseas, those children are not automatically granted citizenship. They would have to apply for it.

The announcement, which came a week after President Trump mused about ending birthright citizenship, caused widespread confusion and consternation among military and diplomatic groups.

“Forcing [members] to go through bureaucratic hurdles for no apparent reason, just to get their children naturalized as American citizens, does a great disservice to people who have dedicated their lives to serving their country,” tweeted American Foreign Service Association President Eric Rubin. “Frankly, it is hard to explain and deeply worrying.”

CNN quoted a Navy officer who said the policy was causing anxiety among military spouses. “You should go onto a spouse Facebook page and see the freakouts,” the officer said.

It wasn’t the only new policy that came to light this week, in a major departure from longstanding policy, critically ill children who have been granted special status to get medical treatment in the United States are being told to leave the country within 33 days.

Bess Levin wrote in Vanity Fair: “When you’ve already separated families, thrown children in cages, and held them in conditions that “could be compared to torture facilities,” it’s a bit of a challenge to come up with your next act. Evil takes creativity, and once you’ve forced migrant kids to go weeks without a shower or change of clothes and fed them expired food, it’s tough to continue nailing those Hitler comparisons. Somehow, though, the Trump administration always rises to the occasion.”

This policy was also hatched by the USCIS, the same agency that came up with the new idea for the children of diplomats and members of the armed services. The agency is now headed by Ken Cuccinelli, who has been dubbed the “new Stephen Miller” by The Atlantic. Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general, is a longtime anti-immigrant, anti-LBGTQ ideologue and “birther” who once proposed legislation to make speaking Spanish on the job a fireable offense and defended a state law prohibiting sodomy.

Lately, he’s been a reliable Trump cheerleader on cable TV.
“Cuccinelli may well have been created in a Trump-branded petri dish,” wrote Elaina Plott for The Atlantic. “He’s spent decades advocating for far-right positions on a variety of social issues, and the 50-year-old practicing Catholic enjoys widespread support among conservative evangelicals.”
Thousands of children, including those with leukemia, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, could be affected by this new USCIS rule. Some of them will likely die as a result.

Mariela Sanchez, a native of Honduras, told The Associated Press that her 16-year-old son “would be dead” if he had not gotten permission to be treated in Boston for cystic fibrosis. His sister already died of the disease. Now, he is being told to leave.

“Can anyone imagine the government ordering you to disconnect your child from life-saving care – to pull them from a hospital bed – knowing that it will cost them their lives?” said Anthony Marino, who is representing immigrant families at the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston. Yes, we can imagine.

We’re battling the administration in the courts on numerous immigration policies.
Last week, we filed a class action suit on behalf of migrants who are being denied health care and disability accommodations while being held in inhumane detention centers. Through our Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, we’re providing free representation to migrants held at some of the largest detention facilities in the South.

We’re also representing migrants in administrative complaints against the federal government to help them receive compensation for the physical, mental and emotional harm caused by the administration’s family separation policy.
We don’t know what the Trump administration will do next.
But, over these last two years and seven months, if there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s to expect the worst.
The Editors

P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week: