Domestic (In)justice Activism Opportunities

  • #TakeCTRL: Stop ALPR Surveillance in Your Community with CCOPS Laws via @ACLU

    ACLU_Right_to_remain_private.pngAs if there weren’t enough reasons not to have a car, here’s one more.

    Automated License Plate Readers, or ALPRs, are high-speed, computer controlled camera systems that automatically collect all license plate numbers that come into view along with location, date and time data. These cameras are bolted on traffic lights, telephone polls, overpasses, and squad cars, in towns and cities across America. Think of it like browser cookies, but instead of your web history, ALPRs track your whereabouts as you live your life in your community using your license plate as an ID. Local law enforcement agencies then purchase this data from ALPR providers to use as they see fit.

    When ALPRs came on the scene, the civil liberty concerns were glaring. This was yet another surveillance technology with zero accountability or regulation disproportionately impacting communities of color and other unjustly targeted groups.

    To help communities fight back, two months before the 2016 presidential election, the ACLU formed the Community Control Over Police Surveillance, or CCOPS, coalition effort, providing guiding principles for local anti-surveillance legislation, as well as a C COPS model bill. In short, these principles and the model bill emphasize the right for the people and City Councils to be notified and engaged at every turn when it comes to proposed adoption of surveillance technology in their community. Nothing will be grandfathered in, every approval will be specific, every technology will be thoroughly reviewed at all angles, and the process must  be entirely transparent and well-informed.

    Then came Trump, and the necessity for cities to protect themselves at the local level became even more urgent with the pending implementation of his racist, deportation-heavy agenda. Not to mention the attacks on First Amendment rights as the people immediately began resisting.

    By the summer of 2017, cities like Seattle; Nashville; Somerville, Massachusetts; and Santa Clara County, California - yes, the home of Silicon Valley - had all passed CCOPS laws. As of that time, nineteen other cities had C COPS laws in the works with Maine and California working on passing statewide CCOPS measures.

    But it is more important than ever to keep the anti-surveillance movement alive.

    Last month, ICE announced that they have entered into a contract with an ALPR provider, giving them agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database and the ability to conduct real-time location tracking. ICE has claimed they will not collect or contribute any data to a national public or private database, but somehow that doesn’t make you feel any better, does it?

    The Verge reported that the contract is with Vigilant Solutions, the largest ALPR provider in the country. According to The Verge, Vigilant has collected data on 2 billion license plate photos by partnering with vehicle repossession agencies and local law enforcement agencies. The photos come tagged with a date, time and GPS coordinates of the sighting. They know where you have been, where you came from, and they can even find out if other vehicles are associated with your location trends. I don’t think I have to spell out for you what that means.

    Because Vigilant and other ALPR providers are private companies operating in the Wild West of mass surveillance technology culture, there are no regulations or oversight to reign them in. Contracting out this work makes it easy for ICE to violate civil liberties without having their hands directly dirtied.

    Protecting your community and your most vulnerable neighbors, coworkers and friends must include stopping ALPRs, and therefore limiting the data available to Federal agencies like ICE. Go to www.CommunityCTRL.com for the CCOPS guiding principles and model bill. You can also contact the ACLU through the same page to get help passing a CCOPS law where you live.

    So, if defending civil liberties in your community and across the country is important to you, be sure to hit the share buttons to spread the word about #TakeCTRL: Stop ALPR Surveillance in Your Community with CCOPS Laws via @ACLU via social media so that others in your network can spread the word too.

     

    TAKE ACTION

    Go to ACLU's Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS) for guidance principles and a model bill for your community

    CCOPS Model Bill

    CCOPS Guiding Principles 

    Check out the #TakeCTRL hashtag for more actions and information

    EDUCATE YOURSELF

    Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) (EFF.org)

    Exclusive: ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US (The Verge)

    California: We Need Privacy When We Park Our Cars (EFF.org)

    ICE Accesses a Massive Amount of License Plate Data. Will California Take Action? (EFF.org)

     

    Posted January 26, 2018; Written by Best of the Left Communications Director, Amanda Hoffman

    Hear the segment in the context of Best of the Left Edition #1161: Privacy, what is it good for? (Privacy Rights)

     

  • Thank Black Women with Actions Not Just Words

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    In the wake of the Alabama Senate race heard round the world, there has been a lot of well-deserved and overdue thanks going out to black women. According to exit polls, black turnout surged and 98 percent of Alabama black women who cast ballots voted for Doug Jones, helping deliver a sound victory against Roy Moore.

    And while words of thanks are important, it’s time to turn those words into actions of support for a community that has been at the forefront of critical elections and movements throughout history.

    Activist and writer Brittney Packet wrote a widely shared article in The Cut that highlights organizations you can support to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to thanking black women. In it she writes…

    “Give because our power has been proven time and again — despite movements silencing us, funders forgetting us, and voter suppression restricting us. Give because Black women show up to save the country time and again.”

    Another article along these lines was published in The Little Rock Sun with the title “15 Ways to Thank Black Women for Carrying the Country on Their Backs.

    We encourage you to check out both articles which we’ve linked to in the show notes, but we also wanted to highlight a few of these authors’ suggestions on the show today.

    Black women are still underrepresented in politics. Higher Heights Leadership Fund seeks to elevate Black women’s voices to shape and advance progressive policies and to provide opportunities for these women to build their leadership skills. Check out their hashtag Black Women Lead campaign to help amplify and go to higherheightsleadershipfund.org to learn more.

    Black voters in Alabama cast votes at a higher rate than white voters despite new strict voter ID laws and the closing of DMV offices in predominantly black parts of the state. The organization Woke Vote, a collaborative of grassroots organizers in the south, was part of that success. They heavily canvassed black neighborhoods to register voters and get out the vote for Jones. Go to WokeVote.us to learn more.

    The all-black team at Stay Woke is working with Rock the Vote in Florida to restore the right to vote for those banned from voting due to a prior conviction. Because Florida has laws like that. Stay Woke is getting signatures for a petition to get an initiative on the ballot in 2018 that could restore 1.6 million Floridians ability to vote if passed. Floridians can sign petitions and volunteer and non-Floridians can donate petitions to be mailed and spread the word. The petition must be completed by February 1st. Go to Florida.ourstates.org to get involved.

    We’re only skimming the surface here, of course. We need to work on closing the wage gap, reproductive rights, fighting voter suppression laws, fighting for a living wage, helping to reverse the alarming mortality rate for black mothers, and reading black publications and following black activists on social media to understand the issues that are important to the black community.

    It’s the least we can do and the fact is all of society will benefit when we do.

    So, if thanking black women in a tangible way is important to you, be sure to hit the share buttons to spread the word about Thanking Black Women with Actions Not Just Words via social media so that others in your network can spread the word too.

     

    TAKE ACTION!

    Read: Black Women Kept Roy Moore Out of Office. Here’s How to Thank Them. (The Cut)

    Read: 15 Real Ways to Thank Black Women for Carrying the Country on Their Backs (The Little Rock Sun)

    Learn About: Higher Heights Leadership Fund 

    Learn About: Woke Vote

    Learn About: Stay Woke Florida Voting Initiative Petition (February 1st petition deadline!)

    Learn About: Color of Change PAC

    EDUCATE YOURSELF

    Black Turnout in Alabama Complicates Debate on Voting Laws (The New York Times)

    'Black Votes Matter': African-Americans Propel Jones To Alabama Win (NPR)

    White Women Thank Themselves for Thanking Black Women Today (Reductress)

    After Alabama: Say ‘Thank You’ to Black Women, and Mean It (LA Progressive)

     

    Posted January 5, 2017; Written by Best of the Left Communications Director, Amanda Hoffman

    Hear the segment in the context of Best of the Left Edition #1156: Women of color get the job done (Racism and Elections)

     

  • Support Mama’s Bail Out Day This Mother’s Day via @NationalBailOut #FreeBlackMamas #EndMoneyBail

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    For those of you not living the day to day oppression of black people in America, it’s possible you didn’t notice right away that The Movement for Black Lives has almost entirely dropped from the mainstream media headlines since November. 

    There is no question that this is a direct casualty of the election of Donald Trump. Maybe things will change as Jeff Sessions begins flexing his Attorney General powers, but it’s important to remember that nothing has changed for black people in America since November. Unarmed black people of all ages and walks of life are still dying at the hands of police and the police are still getting away with it. 

    So if you have found yourself unengaged from the movement, your first action is to jump back in. Visit the websites and social media pages of organizations like Advancement Project, Alliance for Educational Justice, Color of Change, Dream Defenders, Law for Black Lives, and of course, The Movement for Black Lives

    Your next action is to get involved this week with Mama’s Bail Out Day, leading up to and happening on Mother’s Day, this Sunday, May 14th. The day is organized by National Bail Out, a partnership with Color of Change and The Movement for Black Lives, with the goal of reuniting families, resisting mass incarceration and ending the cash bail system once and for all. 

    The idea is simple: Local and national organizations participating in National Mama’s Bail Out Day are raising money to pay the bail of as many incarcerated mothers as possible, in all of their varieties - queer, trans, young, elder, and immigrant - and give them an opportunity to spend Mother’s Day with their families. Additionally, the organizations plan to build community through gatherings that highlight the impact of inhumane and destructive bail practices on our communities, particularly communities of color.  

    Why the focus on mothers? Women held in local jails represent the fastest growing group of incarcerated people in the United States. Since 1970, the number of women in US jails has increased by 14 times. Nearly 80% of women in jails are mothers and nearly half are in local jails for crimes they haven’t been convicted of. According to National Bail Out, we spend $9 billion on pre-trial incarceration in this country and the results are devastating. Even a few days in jail can catastrophically impact a woman’s family and community by putting her job, housing and even the custody of her children at risk. But if she can’t pay bail, she has no way out.

    The idea of paying bail to release these women comes from the tradition of enslaved black people who used their collective resources to purchase each other’s freedom before slavery was abolished. The National Bail Out website states, “Until we abolish bail and mass incarceration, we’re gonna free ourselves.”

    The more money National Bail Out can raise, the more women can be brought home for Mother’s Day and reengage with their communities. Visit NoMoreMoneyBail.org to donate and find the cities and organizations taking part in this action. You can also follow the movement on Twitter @NationalBailOut and engage with the hashtags #EndMoneyBail and #FreeBlackMamas.

    So, if resisting the devastating impacts of mass incarceration and bail practices on people of color is important to you, be sure to hit the share buttons to spread the word about Supporting Mama’s Bail Out Day This Mother’s Day via social media so that others in your network can spread the word too.

     

    TAKE ACTION 

    Support Mama's Bail Out Day this Mother's Day via @NationalBailOut 

    Engage online with the hashtags #FreeBlackMamas and #EndMoneyBail

    EDUCATE YOURSELF

    Locked Up for Being Poor (New York Times)

    Federal judge: Harris Co. bail system unfair to poor, low-level defendants (Houston Chronicle)

    Black Is the New Black: Number of African-American Women in Prison Is Rising (BET, 2014)

    Incarcerated Women and Girls (The Sentencing Project)

     

    Posted May 9, 2017; Written by Best of the Left Communications Director, Amanda Hoffman

     

    Hear this segment in the context of Best of the Left #1102: Racism built a system we all suffer under

     

     

  • Tell Your Senators: Expose Jeff Sessions’ Anti-Civil Rights & Anti-Privacy History via @ACLU

    Screen_Shot_2017-01-06_at_7.36.28_PM.pngJeff Sessions has been around for a long time. In the 1980s, Reagan tapped Sessions for a judgeship, but the Republican Congress at the time rejected him due to his long history of racist comments and questions surrounding his unfounded prosecution of a black civil rights activist for voter fraud. Yea, he was too racist for 1980s Republicans. 

    Since then, Sessions has only revealed more about himself that proves he is in no way fit to fairly uphold the law or the constitution of this country. In fact, he has really gone out of his way to target or offend nearly everyone, while advocating for authoritarianism at every turn. 

    Here are just some of his views: He is opposed to key provisions of the voting rights act. He is anti bi-partisan sentencing reform, pro police militarization and thinks America is experiencing an all time crime high, despite all evidence to the contrary. He is pro boarder wall and the National Immigration Forum said, “Sessions is opposed to immigration as we know it. Full stop.” He is anti marijuana, and only disavowed the KKK when he learned its members smoked. He is anti-LGBT rights and has actively tried to protect discrimination against LGBT people. He is anti-abortion, voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and said that calling Trump’s comments about grabbing women by the genitals sexual assault was “a stretch.” He believes Islam is a “toxic ideology” and a “threat” and supports Trump’s proposed ban on immigration from Muslim countries. Oh, and he is also pro-torture. 

    And then, as if all of that wasn’t enough, there are his feelings about privacy. Even though many of his Republican colleagues supported it, Jeff Sessions fought against the bi-partisan bill to end the bulk collection of phone records. According to the ACLU, he has repeatedly pushed for greater surveillance authorities than law enforcement and intelligence agencies have even asked for. And when it comes to end-to-end encryption, Sessions is perhaps one of the fiercest critics out there - strongly backing the FBI in its case against Apple to force them to create back door access to the iPhone. 

    But despite all of this, on January 10th Sessions will yet again sit in front of members of Congress at his confirmation hearing - this time as Trump’s pick for Attorney General, the most powerful law enforcement office in the land. You can make sure every single bit of his dirty, anti-civil rights and anti-privacy laundry is exposed during this hearing by calling your Senators today, and often, to tell them how you feel about Sessions’ record, and to demand that the Senate Judiciary Committee leave no stone unturned when questioning Sessions at his hearing. Go to ACLU.org to read about Sessions record issue by issue, and then go to Senate.gov to find out how to reach your senator

    So if stopping a racist man with a long, documented history of fighting against your rights from becoming Attorney General is important to you, then be sure to hit the share buttons to spread the word about Telling Your Senators to Expose Jeff Sessions’ Anti-Civil Rights and Anti-Privacy History via social media so that others in your network can take action too.

    Stand up. Fight back. There is no time to lose.

     

     

    TAKE ACTION

    Call your Senators today and tell them why you oppose Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

    Read ACLU’s “The Confirmation Sessions” for Jeff Sessions history, issue-by-issue 

    Call Senate Judiciary Committee Members who will question Sessions on January 10th.  

    EDUCATE YOURSELF

    ACLU's "The Confirmation Sessions" (ACLU)

    Corporate Accountability Blunders Taint Sessions Record (Public Citizen)

    Trump and Sessions: Great for the Private Prison Industry, Terrible for Civil Rights (ACLU Blog)

    Jeff Sessions’ Nomination as Attorney General Alarms Civil Libertarians (Wired) 

    Trump’s attorney general pick could restart the encryption fight (The Verge)

    Trump's pick for attorney general: 'Good people don't smoke marijuana' (The Washington Post)

     

    Posted January 6, 20167; Written by Best of the Left Communications Director, Amanda Hoffman


    Hear this segment in the context of Best of the Left Edition #1069: Trump and our National Security State (Civil Rights)

  • Support Prison Strikers by Joining Actions Around the Country

    Its_Going_Down_Prison_Strike.jpgAs you’ve heard today, the largest prison strike in history is happening right now. And if you’re listening to this wondering why you haven’t heard much of anything about it, you’re not alone. The mainstream media is hardly covering it.

    For the last month, inmates at prisons around the US refused to show up for their prison mandated jobs, where they make pennies by the hour - or in some states nothing - at the benefit of major companies like McDonalds and Wal-Mart. They have nothing in the way of worker’s rights or worker protections or the ability to form unions….and our 13th amendment says that’s okay. 

    FreeAlabamaMovement.wordpress.com is the website run by the inmates at the Alabama prison spearheading this aptly named “Freedom Movement.” The site’s announcement of the strike proclaimed, “In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.”

    These inmates are striking in the face of retaliation. We already know that some have been put in isolation for their actions, but a few have been able to bravely speak to reporters via contraband phones. But while the rest of the media largely ignores the strike and prison wardens deny that anything serious is going on, calls for more public support are surfacing. 

    ItsGoingDown.org is a citizen-driven, repository of news and analysis on all kinds of acts of rebellion and revolt in North America. A post on this site is calling for a resurgence of actions in our communities October 15th to 22nd to show support for the inmates and amplify their message. You can find an action near you at the bottom of that post, or create an action and submit it to ItsGoingDown.org to be posted. 

    The New Yorker is one of the few major publications talking about the strike. In their article, an Alabama inmate said, “I want to clarify that it is not ‘slave-like conditions’ in prison labor—this is actually institutional slavery. Slavery was always about exploiting the labor of lower-class people in this country.”

    From private prisons, to the school to prison pipeline, to the rights of prisoners and former prisoners, to criminal justice reform, we have a long way to go when it comes to upending our state of incarceration rooted in America’s institutional racism. So make these issues part of your theory of change by getting involved in the long term with organizations like The Advancement Project, the ACLU, the Brennan Center for JusticeFair Vote, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations working to achieve racial justice. 

    As Nelson Mandela once said, “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” So if you want to work toward a society we can all be proud of, then be sure to hit the share buttons to spread the word about supporting prison strikers by joining actions around the country via social media so that others in your network can take action too. 

    TAKE ACTION

    Read the call to action post on ItsGoingDown.org and find an event near you at the bottom of the post.

    Create your own local action to support the prison strikes and submit it to be posted by emailing info@itsgoingdown.org. 

    EDUCATE YOURSELF

    Why Prisoners Across the Country Have Gone on Strike (via Mother Jones)

    "We're Freedom Fighters": The Story of the Nationwide Prison Labor Strike (via truthout)

    The biggest national prison strike in American history is happening now (via Daily Kos)

    Meet the inmate who launched a massive prison strike from his jail cell (via Vice)

    A National Strike Against "Prison Slavery" (via The New Yorker)

    DOJ Launches Investigation of Alabama Mens' Prison (via AL.com) 

    Free Alabama Movement  (website of the inmates spearheading the strike in Alabama)

    IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (unrecognized union for incarcerated prison workers)

     

    Posted October 7, 2016 * Written by Best of the Left Communications Director, Amanda Hoffman. 

     

    Hear the segment in the context of Best of the Left Edition #1048: Slavery in America is alive and well (prison labor) 

  • End the Culture of Warrior Policing via @ACLU

    We don’t need to tell you that the news has been awful. Everywhere you look are stories and videos of death and injustice. And we get that you may sometimes feel like you just want to just shut it all out. But we’re asking you today to allow yourself to get enraged by the news and to channel that rage toward making our broken and racist systems finally work for all. 

    According to the ACLU, a typical police cadet spends just eight hours on de-escalation training…just eight hours. That is not enough to counter inherent racial bias that leads to profiling and fear, and is sadly contradictory to the increasing militarization of our police departments. This conversation isn’t about “bad apples,” this is about a terrifying lack of emphasis on “protect and serve” and the deeply rooted racism at the core of those charged with keeping our communities safe. 

    Right now in Congress, there is a bill called the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016. If passed, the Preventing Tragedies bill would require police to be trained on de-escalation techniques that focus on preserving life. The legislation builds upon Police Executive Research Forum guiding principles on use of force and its belief that “the preservation of life has always been at the heart of American policing.”

    To show your support of this bill, take a second to sign the ACLU petition “End the Culture of Warrior Policing." 

    The ACLU also recently sent a letter to Congress urging them to pass the Preventing Tragedies bill as well as the following bills when they return from recess:

    - The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (H.R. 2875S. 2168), sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), provides law enforcement with resources for accreditation, best practices, training, and other resources to increase trust between police and community. The bill also mandates data collection on use of force and other police-community encounters, so the public can begin to knowwhat policing looks like in this country.

    - The End Racial Profiling Act (H.R. 1933S. 1056), also introduced by Rep. Conyers and Sen. Cardin, prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling and other biased policing. The bill would help law enforcement meet this mandate through training, funding, and data collection. As the Department of Justice formally acknowledged at the end of June, “most people experience some degree of unconscious bias.” Implicit and explicit biases have no place in policing.

    - The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 1232S. 1441), offered by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), would prohibit the transfer of some of the most dangerous  military weapons from the federal government to state and local law enforcement. Tanks, grenades, bayonets, and other weapons of war have no business in our communities.      

    - The Police CAMERA Act (H.R. 1680S. 877) is sponsored by Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and provides federal resources to state and local law enforcement so they can develop safe and effective body-worn camera programs that also protect civilians’ privacy rights. Communities and law enforcement agree that cameras can be a part of the solution, but they must be implemented the right way.

    …and…

    - The DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283S. 3045) is a response to the controversial practice of civil asset forfeiture from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The bill levels the playing field for individuals who want to challenge law enforcement’s seizure of their property by providing access to counsel, an increased burden of proof for the government, and other procedural protections.

    We urge you to call and write to your legislators in the House and Senate to make sure they know you support the passage of these critical bills as well. 

    So, if making sure our police departments truly protect and serve all is important to you, be sure to hit the share buttons to spread the word about Ending the Culture of Warrior Policing via social media so that others in your network can get involved too. 

    Please know that signing a petition and calling your legislators is NOT ENOUGH. These are just two things in a long list of things that you can do to help fight for police reform and support our persecuted brothers and sisters of color. So get mad, get in the streets, fight with your racist relatives and friends, vote for candidates who support police reform, and challenge America’s systemic racism every damn day. Because your silence says more than you’ll ever know.

     

     

    TAKE ACTION 

    Sign the ACLU petition “End the Culture of Warrior Policing." 

    Call and write to your legislators in the House and Senate to make sure they know you support the passage of the total suite of policing reform bills listed above.

    EDUCATE YOURSELF

    ACLU Implores Congress Consider Taking Up Law Enforcement Reform Legislation (ACLU) 

    You Can Be Pro Cop and Pro Police Reform (Brennan Center for Justice)

    Showing Up for Racial Justice - Actions in Your Area (Showing Up for Racial Justice)

    10-Point Justice Plan: National Urban League Police Reform and Accountability Recommendations (National Urban League)

    Guiding Principles on Use of Force (Police Executive Research Forum)

     

    Written by BOTL Communications Director Amanda Hoffman.

     

    Hear the segment in the context of the show: 

    Best of the Left Edition #1030: "From Warriors to Guardians" (Police Reform)