Archive for July, 2016

US criminal justice system targets minorities more than Wall Street thieves – UN human rights expert

© David Gray

The United States continues to be mired in racial, social, and economic inequalities, inhibiting the basic rights of its citizens, especially people of color, says a UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Following a 17-day fact-finding visit to various US cities, including Baltimore and Baton Rouge, United Nations human rights expert Maina Kiai reported that systemic inequalities in the US are prohibiting the exercise of peaceful assembly and free association. These inequalities are rooted in the history of the US and particularly impact black Americans, he said, adding that he could not conduct his visit to the US “without issues of racism pervading the discussions.”

“Racism and the exclusion, persecution and marginalization that come with it, affect the enabling environment for the exercise of association and assembly rights,” Kiai said Thursday. He noted the long, sordid legacy of racial discrimination in the US, from chattel slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws to more modern, covert racism engrained in the so-called “War on Drugs” and “three strikes” prison sentencing laws pushed by the likes of former President Bill Clinton.

Regarding the more subtle racism of today, “old philosophies of exclusion and discrimination were reborn, cloaked in new and euphemistic terms,” he said, as so-called law-and-order policies have resulted in often insurmountable fines and jailings over low-level criminal convictions, such as the discriminatory debtors-prison model employed in places like Ferguson, Missouri.

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Ohio judge jails attorney for wearing Black Lives Matter badge in court

© David Gray
An attorney in Ohio has been sentenced to five days in jail after refusing to remove her Black Lives Matter pin at the request of the judge, who found it too political and provocative for the courtroom.

Attorney Andrea Burton was found in contempt of court by Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich and sentenced to five days in jail for refusing to accept his request to remove the pin.

Milich told the court he found that by Burton choosing to wear it in court, she was making a political statement, which the court prohibits.

Burton will avoid spending time behind bars for the moment, however, after lodging an appeal against the judge’s ruling but she mustn’t wear the pin in court until the appeal takes place.

If she loses her appeal, Burton will have to serve the five days in jail, according to WKBN.

Milich explained that his decision was based on the 1997 US Supreme Court case Berner v. Delahanty, which found that “lawyers have no absolute right to wear such feelings on their sleeves” and that a judge’s “policy of prohibiting all political pins is a reasonable means of ensuring the appearance of fairness and impartiality in the courtroom.”

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Democratic superdelegates face uncertain future – but won’t be eliminated

© Mary Schwalm
Superdelegates are facing an uncertain future, thanks to a compromise that was struck at the Democratic National Convention Rules Committee on Saturday.

Bernie Sanders supporters tried to introduce a number of amendments to eliminate or limit superdelegates’ influence in future elections, as they are thought to wield too much power over the democratic process.

While these efforts were struck down at the committee meeting, Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters agreed to a compromise to create a “unity commission” that will revise the rules surrounding the nomination process, including the role of superdelegates.

What are superdelegates?

Superdelegates consist of a mix of elected officials, the vice president, members of the DNC and former politicians such as ex-presidents – including Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill – governors and senators.

Superdelegates were invented as a way for party officials to wield more control over the selection of a presidential candidate. They were established in the 1980’s following the election defeats of Democratic presidential candidates George McGovern and Jimmy Carter.

There are currently 713 Democratic superdelegates. The Republican Party, by comparison, has 298 superdelegates, which are limited to three members per each state’s national party.

Clinton managed to get the support of the majority of superdelegates early on in the primary season.

Democratic superdelegates are free to vote for whichever candidate they choose, regardless of the results of their state’s primaries. Republican superdelegates do not have this option.

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Petition for White House to declare Black Lives Matter a terrorist group has 100,000+ signatures

© Shannon Stapleton

Black Lives Matter has come under fire from over 100,000 people who have signed on to have the anti-police brutality group classified as a terrorist organization in a White House petition. However, the signatories may learn that petitions don’t matter.

A petition seeking to classify the civil rights organization Black Lives Matter as a terrorist outfit has exceeded 100,000 signatures on the White House’s petition center, We the People. Any initiative that receives at least 100,000 signatures is placed on a list of pending petitions to which the administration must respond within 60 days.

The author of the petition, known only as Y.S., created the petition a day after Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the same day that Philando Castile was shot during a traffic stop in a St. Paul, Minnesota suburb.

However, what may have helped the petition truly gain speed was an attack on police officers in Dallas, Texas the following evening.

The murder of five law enforcement officers and wounding of six others, plus two civilians, has cast a harsh light on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The shooter, Micah Johnson, had no direct affiliation with the group and had been blacklisted from several black-power groups due to his history of sexual harassment and emotional instability, the Daily Beast reported.

The lack of a direct connection to the BLM has yet to stop many people from assuming that the African-American shooter was a member of the movement. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick placed the blame for the attacks on the shoulders of the BLM, saying, “I do blame former Black Lives Matter protests.

The petition reads, “terrorism [sic] is defined as ‘the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims’. [sic]” and adds, “This definition is the same definition used to declare ISIS and other groups, as terrorist organizations.

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The justification for being on the same level as the Islamic State comes from “its actions in Ferguson, Baltimore, and even at a Bernie Sanders rally, as well as all over the United States and Canada.