WALKING WHILE BLACK: L.O.V.E. Is the Answer

Hollywood FAME Award-winning Director and Producer A.J. Ali, and Oscar and Sundance winner Errol Webber have teamed up to create Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. Is the Answer, a documentary film that examines racial profiling in law enforcement. The film recounts painful stories of the past while offering solutions to curb future profiling incidents. It seeks to build a movement that will make a distinct difference in the areas of social justice and racial reconciliation.

“I think police departments need an intervention,” retired LAPD Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey said. “If you don’t admit that there’s a problem, then there’s nothing to fix and so there’s no harm in saying that we don’t always get it right as police officers.”

“It is a reminder of some of the things in law enforcement that we’re not proud of,” Santa Monica College Chief of Police Johnnie Adams said.

“The next step is we need churches and schools and non-profits and even law enforcement agencies to license this film and bring us to their town so we can go there and do the screening, do a ‘Q and A,’ hold workshops and just spend time with people and teach people how to love each other again,” Ali explained.

The word “love” in the title is also an acronym as explained by those involved with the film. “Lstands for learning about your community and its people, “O” means to open your heart, “V” stands for volunteering yourself and “E” stands for empowering.


Learn More
Make a Donation
Host a Screening
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18 Ways to Help Immigrants & Refugees Impacted by Donald Trump’s Executive Order

exo-2Protester at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia (Paul J. Richards/ AFP /Getty Images); Background: The Jouriyeh family, Syrian refugees who arrived in California in August (Photo: Lenny Ignelzi / AP).

⊱ “The time is always right to do what is right.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ⊰

On January 27,  Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that banned  immigrants from seven Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) from entering the United States for the next 90 days. New refugee admissions are suspended for 120 days. The Syrian refugee resettlement program was suspended indefinitely. Trump’s ill-conceived and illegal order has, predictably, thrown thousands of lives into chaos. Immigrants and refugees with visas are either being prevented from entering the country or are being detained when they arrive.

Federal judges in several states have temporarily blocks parts of the order.  Federal Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn blocked deportations nationwide and granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportations after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision. However, there are reports that border patrol is defying federal judges’ orders. And many refugees and immigrants across the United States and the world are currently stuck in limbo.  They are either being detained by US Immigrations at airports and thus are unable to immigrate to America despite having legal visas, or they are unable to leave the U.S. for fear of being denied re-entry upon return.

We cannot remain silent as the Trump administration violates the U.S. Constitution with impunity,  instill fears, and rips apart families. We cannot sit idly by as the foundation and fundamental fabric of our society is being shredded. We must fight and we must assist those who have been left stateless and voiceless by Trump’s order.  The good news is that there are many ways to help those impacted by Trump’s order, both from within the United States as well as abroad. The following is a list of 18 ways in which you can contribute your resources, skills, and time right now. It’s not too late. 

1. Fund Organizations Helping Immigrants Currently Detained At U.S. Airports
On January 28, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); the National Immigrant Law Center (NILC), the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center; Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization; and the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton jointly filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqi men who were en route to the United States on immigrant visas when Trump issued the executive order. Other notable organizations committed to challenging Trump’s executive order or assisting immigrants and refugees include Amnesty International, Arab -American Anti-Discrimination CommitteeCouncil on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Doctors Without Borders,  International Rescue Committee, Oxfam International,  the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), and The White Helmets. The many refugees, immigrants, and valid U.S. visa holders languishing in airports across the country need information, legal representation, and social services. Making a financial contribution to the aforementioned organizations not only says you support their important work, it also helps subsidize the cost of an otherwise expensive process.

2. Call Your Elected Officials — Frequently
You can contact your elected officials by phone or email officials to express your concerns about the executive order. However, activists of all political stripes (myself included) recommend calling legislators — and not just venting in an email or on social media. To understand why a phone call holds more weight than an email and far outweighs a Facebook post or tweet, read this article.  Also, check out this helpful database that list contact information for senators and governors (but not House members) along with a summary of their public position on Trump’s executive order.

When calling your elected official, you may be asked to provide your name and city. Congressional aides need this basic information to ensure you are a constituent of the congressional member you’re attempting to reach.  Please be respectful to congressional aides and staffers. Explain the nature of your contact, namely that you are calling to ask your representative to reject Trump’s  executive order calling for an outright ban on individuals from seven Middle Eastern countries and the indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee resettlement program. Alternately, you can also draft 3-4 sentences in your own words, perhaps sharing your own immigration or refugee story. There is no limit to the number of times you can contact your elected official.

3. Join An Airport Protest Or Welcoming Committee
Since the executive order and subsequent detentions were announced, people have been protesting at airports all over the country to demand that immigrants and refugees are released from detention and to welcome immigrants into the United States. Keep an eye on social media to see if crowds are gathering at an airport near you and consider heading over in-person to take a stand. No gathering near you? Consider coordinating an event with friends, family, and members of your community. This is still incredibly necessary. Despite the federal court orders, travelers continue to be detained and denied access to lawyers.

4. Provide Necessities To Those At The Airport
While it is unfortunately impossible to reach the individuals being detained at airports around the country, providing basic necessities to those outside of the secure area — families waiting indefinitely for detainees, lawyers and translators working pro bono to secure their release, and protesters, among others — is both necessary and welcomed. Consider heading to your local airport to provide food, snacks, drink, and other necessities to those who are waiting and working.

5. Offer Your Legal Or Translation Skills
Lawyers, human rights advocates, and translators are needed at local airports to gather information and to assist detainees and their families.  If you are unable to go to the airport, consider contacting a local immigration advocacy organization and letting them know you are willing to work pro bono or volunteer your translation services (e.g., the Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, California needs Farsi and Arabic speakers to assist LAX detainees) to immigrants with legal U.S. visas who are currently stranded abroad. 

6. Encourage Your Religious Leaders Take a Stand Against the Ban
According to a  Pew Research Center, Islam is the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity) and the fastest-growing major religion. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century. Trump executive order is an anathema to the very religious freedom this country was founded upon. Perhaps this is why Trump’s announcement was met with an immediate backlash from leaders of nearly every Christian denomination, along with those of other faiths. They argue that Trump’s actions do not reflect the teachings of the Bible, nor the traditions of the United States, and they have urged Trump to let them get back to work — many of the country’s most prominent refugee resettlement organizations are faith-based. From religious leaders’ perspectives, backlash against Trump’s immigration policy may be the most ecumenical issue in America right now. Hundreds of prominent clergy signed onto a letter condemning the “derogatory language that has been used about Middle Eastern refugees and our Muslim friends and neighbors,” calling on Trump to reinstate the refugee program. While these efforts included many progressive and mainline denomination leaders, along with an interfaith coalition of other clergy, it’s not just liberals who are pushing back against Trump. A wide range of conservative Christian leaders, along with other relief organizations, have also spoken out against Trump’s order. Ask your religious leaders to join them!

7. Hold the Media Accountable for Islamophobic Coverage
In September 2014, a Pew Research Center survey found that 82% of Republicans are “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world, compared with 60% of political independents and 51% of Democrats. Similarly, two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers, compared with 47% of independents and 42% of Democrats. Age and religious affiliation were also considered by the study with similar results: unfavorable, Islamophobic sentiments. To understand the pervasive anti-Islamic sentiment within America, some argue that we need not look any further than mainstream media.

Scholars of media studies, including British sociologist Christopher Allen, maintain that news agencies are largely responsible for propagating anti-Islamic or Islamophobic beliefs in the minds of their audiences. Although Allen acknowledges that the media is not the sole transmitter of Islamophobia, he argues “It is the most accessible and indiscriminate disseminator of such ideas in our global environment.” In the past decade, news agencies such as Fox News and CNN have tended to frame their news stories on terrorism in a way that has engendered stereotypes and instances of prejudice towards the Arab world. This, in turn, completely distorts the image of the Islamic faith as well as its 1.6 billion followers. We must hold our media accountable for allowing Donald Trump to use its airwaves to stir up unfounded fears and spew racists, anti-Islamic rhetoric unchallenged. We must hold media accountable for its disproportionate coverage of Muslim-inspired terror attacks both at home and abroad. We must boycott any media outlet that perpetuates false narratives or treats attacks against Muslims in our community or around the world as anomalies or non-issues.

8. Encourage Businesses to Hire / Invest in Immigrants and Refugees
Many tech giants have publicly condemned Trump’s executive order. The list includes Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, Facebook, Google and Apple. On January 30, two companies – Expedia and Amazonfiled a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing the executive order would hurt their businesses. As of Sunday, at least a thousand Expedia customers with passports from one of the seven countries had made travel plans that involve flights to, from or through the United States. Amazon said it was aware of 49 employees out of its United States work force of 180,000 who are from one of the countries identified in the executive order, nearly all of whom hold citizenship in another country.  At Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, 2000 employees crowded into a quad near the main cafeteria to protest the order. Employees carried signs like “Trump, Don’t Be Evil” and “Silicon Valley: Built by Immigrants,” while others chanted “No Ban, No Wall” into a megaphone. Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin participated in protest over the weekend. 

The finance, media, consumer retail, and energy industries’ responses to Trump’s order have varied wildly. The nation’s biggest banks (e.g., Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Citibank), which rely heavily on immigrant labor, have taken a more moderate “we’re reviewing the matter” stance. Media and telecom companies (e.g., Time Warner, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Sony & Paramount) have been virtually silent, offering little or no public comment. Consumer and retail giants like Starbucks (which has pledged to hire 10,000 refugees), Nike, and Coca-Cola have publicly opposed the order, while other companies like Walmart and Target claim to be focused on assisting employees directly impacted by the order.  Similarly, the energy and heavy industry’s response has been mixed.  Companies like Ford, GE, and General Motors have publicly expressed concern or opposed Trump’s order. Yet other energy giants (e.g., ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Marathon, and Fiat Chrysler) have not responded to requests for comments.

Our message to business owners should be unified and clear: We will support companies (big and small) that are committed to hiring and assisting immigrants and refugees. We will encourage and pressure companies that have taken a “wait and see” stance. We will boycott companies that side with the Trump administration on this issue.  

9. Ask Local Colleges and Universities to Refuse to Release the Immigration Status of Their Students
The 62 institutions comprising the Association of American Universities (AAU), released a statement on January 28, urging government officials to end the travel ban “as quickly as possible.” The University of Michigan took its objections a step farther. On January 28, the university released a statement, saying it will flat-out refuse to release the immigration status of their students. “The University of Michigan welcomes and supports students without regard to their immigration status,” the statement said. “Campus police will not partner with federal, state, or other local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law except when required to do so by law.”  Regardless of whether you are a student or alumni, ask your college or university to join the University of Michigan and refuse to release the immigration status of its students.  

10. Lobby Your Local Officials (Mayors) to Declare Your City a Sanctuary
In the United States and Canada, a sanctuary city is a municipality that has adopted a policy of protecting illegal immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws in the country in which they are now living. Such a policy can be set out expressly in a law (de jure) or observed only in practice (de facto). The term applies generally to cities that do not use municipal funds or resources to enforce national immigration laws, and usually forbid police or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status. Federal officials must rely on local police to help enforce federal immigration laws, but the law doesn’t require local authorities to detain illegal immigrants just because their federal counterparts make a request. In fact, federal courts across the country have found complying with the requests is voluntary. Of the 168 counties where most of the 11 million illegal immigrants live, 68 sanctuary counties (or 400 sanctuary cities across the country) decline federal requests to hold arrestees in jail due to their immigration status compared to the 99 non-sanctuary counties that comply.

On January 25, Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General to defund sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration law. He also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to begin issuing weekly public reports that include “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at George Mason University, has argued that Trump’s withholding of federal funding would be unconstitutional: “Trump and future presidents could use [the executive order] to seriously undermine constitutional federalism by forcing dissenting cities and states to obey presidential dictates, even without authorization from Congress. The circumvention of Congress makes the order a threat to separation of powers, as well.”

At least 37 sanctuary cities across the country are standing firm against Trump’s executive order.  On January 31, San Francisco sued the Trump administration, charging that its crackdown on sanctuary cities violates the state rights provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The move has broad implications for California, a state that aggressively protects immigrants who are in the country illegally from deportation. The state stands to lose more than $1.2 billion dollars a year in federal funding, most of it for healthcare, nutrition and other programs for the poor, according to San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera. Boston mayor Marty Walsh is another example of defiance and protest. He vows to defy Trump’s executive order, even offering up city hall as a safe space for people who now felt threatened. Whatever the response, Walsh says he still has no intention of helping Trump’s mass deportations and that making cities poorer will hurt the whole country. “I’m keeping my policy as it is,” he says. 

Lobby your mayor to declare your city a sanctuary. Ask your mayor to publicly denounce the Trump administration’s inhumane and unconstitutional directives. If you live in a sanctuary city, contact the mayoral office to find out if they need volunteers or supplies to assist immigrants and refugees.

11. Individual Fundraisers
Consider donating funds to several individual GoFundMe campaigns started for immigrants who are stuck or in dire straits due to the executive order. Some of these campaigns include emergency funds for the Al-Rubaye family, who spent 10 years getting refugee status after the father was killed working with the U.S. military in Baghdad, but are now fearful of flying from Oregon to Texas meet their relatives; legal funds for a Nazanin, an Iranian Ph.D. student who left her U.S.-based school to visit her family and is now stranded in Iran; legal funds to bring the Assali family who, after waiting 13 years for a US visa, arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport from Syria on January 28 and were immediately detained and put on a flight to Qatar then sent back to Damascus; and funds to help the St. Louis refugee community via Timothy Evangelical Lutheran Church, which pays refugees airfare directly to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.   

12. Join A Non-Violent Protest March or Rally 
 Tens of thousands of people peacefully came together across the country and around the world last weekend to protest Trump’s illegal, anti-immigrant order. This was only the beginning.  We must fight to ensure that this executive order is permanently grounded and never becomes the law of our land. Coordinate a public rally, march, or walkathon. If you don’t have the time to coordinate an event, make a donation to those who do and keep an eye on social media for events you can attend. 

13. Sign Up To Help Refugees In Your Community
There are nine voluntary agencies that have cooperative agreements with the State Department to resettle refugees. Contact your local affiliate for one or several of the agencies on this list in order to contribute your time or resources. It’s even more important than ever to help refugees already in the United States to ensure that they feel welcome, safe, and cared for under the Trump administration. Furthermore, creating an enormous volunteer list of Americans willing to help refugees will be a direct affront to Trump’s executive order.

14. Make Immigrants Already In Your Community Feel Welcome
It is certainly a somewhat frightening time to be an immigrant in the United States. Take the initiative to make immigrants already living in your local community feel welcome and safe; get to know them, spend time together, and learn about each others’ cultures. One of the best ways Americans can fight the anti-immigrant rhetoric perpetuated by the executive order is to continuously embrace immigrants and ensure they fell welcome in the United States.

15. Open Your Home To Those Stranded, Stuck, Or Helping
Trump’s executive order has left many travelers stranded in the U.S. and abroad. If you are in a position to do so, consider offering immigrants and/or their families a place to stay. This applies to people abroad and in the United States. Furthermore, families of detained immigrants as well as lawyers seeking to assist these individuals would likely be open to staying in a place close to the airport for ease of access, so consider opening your home to them if you are in a location nearby.

16. Spread The Word About Immigrants’ & Refugees’ Rights
Use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to ensure that immigrants, refugees, and their families know their rights, particularly if they are planning to traveling to or from the United States anytime soon. Experts advise that arriving immigrants refuse to sign anything and insist on speaking to a lawyer. Families of immigrants being detained can also speak with some of the many lawyers currently installed for free in U.S. airports around the country. Additionally, current immigrants living in the United States are advised not to leave the country. The most commonly used hashtags across social are: #MuslimBan#NoBanNoWall#Resist, and #ResistTrump.

17. Share The Number For The Refugee Hotline
On January 29, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced via press release and Twitter that a 24/7 refugee hotline which allows New Yorkers to “report family members, relatives, friends or colleagues who they believe are passengers on flights coming into the state, but are missing or believed to be detained.” The toll free number for the hotline is 1-888-769-7243. Share the number widely, including on social media and at New York’s airports if you are a New York resident. Non-New York residents should request that their respective state congressional leaders or governors create a similar hotline or refugee network. 

18. Document & Share
If you go to an airport or rally, document the situation if possible. Things worthy of documenting include the location of the event (e.g., park, airport, courthouse, etc.);  name, nationalities, and native language of detainees; conversations with immigrant families (please ask for permission to record) or persons of authority, such airport security, US customs, or local law enforcement; and info regarding the number of attendees and their level of participation (e.g., 200 protesters, 42 police officers, 25 medical personnel, 12 lawyers, 9 translators, etc). You can also record your own experience or be a video eyewitness using a disposable camera, digital camera, or your phone. Information is power, and the more people that know about the damage being caused by Trump’s executive order, the larger the movement against it will become.

There is an urgent need to help all immigrants and refugees who are needlessly suffering from Trump’s misguided and unconstitutional executive order. Commit to doing as much as you can to assist those in need and protest the order. The goal is to make sure that Trump’s distorted, cruel, and hopeless vision of America never becomes our reality.  Thanks! 


Primary Sources:
Stephanie Williams, J.D. | International Human Rights Law Advocate – This is one of my fields of expertise.

Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States | Donald J. Trump (January 25, 2017) – Seeks to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities across the U.S.

Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States | Donald J. Trump (January 27, 2017) – Seeks to ban immigrants from 7 Islamic countries and indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee resettlement act

A New Yorker’s Guide to Upcoming Protests Against Trump’s Executive Orders -By Madina Toure | Observer

13 Ways To Help Immigrants & Refugees Affected By Donald Trump’s Executive Order -By Sarah Friedmann | BUSTLE

10 Concrete Ways To Take Action Against The Muslim Ban -By Erin Schrode | Huffington Post

Starbucks Pledges to Hire 10,000 Refugees -By Jill Disis | CNN Money

More than 2,000 Religious Leaders Sign Letter Supporting Refugee Resettlement | Interfaith Immigration Coalition

The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050 | Pew Research Center

How Americans Feel About Religious Groups | Pew Research Center

Creating Fear: How American News Outlets Perpetuate Islamophobia -By Omeed Alidadi (Boston College) | Progress Me

Sanctuary City | Wikipedia

How Sanctuary Cities Work, and How Trump’s Executive Order Might Affect Them -By Darla Cameron | Washington Post

Sanctuary Cities Stand Firm Against Trump -By Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna | Politico

San Francisco Sues Trump Over Executive Order Targeting Sanctuary Cities -By Moura Dolan | Los Angeles Times

Why Cities Will Protect Immigrants -By Mayor Marty J. Walsh | CNN (OpEd)

Charles M. Blow: ‘No, Trump, Not On Our Watch!’

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When Barack Obama was in office — remember the good old days, just over a week ago, when we didn’t wake up every morning and wonder what new atrocity was emanating from the White House — Republicans were apoplectic about his use of executive orders. They called them “unilateral edicts” and “power grabs.” As Iowa Senator Charles Grassley once said in a floor speech: “The president looks more and more like a king that the Constitution was designed to replace.”

What a difference a week makes.

Now many of those Republicans are as quiet as church mice as Donald Trump pumps out executive orders at a fevered pitch, doing exactly what he said he’d do during the campaign, for all of those who were paying attention: advancing a white nationalist agenda and vision of America, whether that be by demonizing blacks in the “inner city,” Mexicans at the border or Muslims from the Middle East.

Trump’s America is not America: not today’s or tomorrow’s, but yesterday’s. Trump’s America is brutal, perverse, regressive, insular and afraid. There is no hope in it; there is no light in it. It is a vast expanse of darkness and desolation.

And that is a vision of America that most of the people in this country cannot and will not abide. That is a vision of America that has galvanized ordinary American citizens in opposition in a way that is almost without precedent. We are inching toward anarchy as both the people and the president refuse to back down.

Not only is Trump a literacy-lite, conspiracy-chasing, compulsively lying bigot, he is also a narcissistic workaholic who now wields the power of the presidency. You could not have conceived of a more dangerous combination of characteristics. He is the paragon of the clueless and an idol of the Ku Kluxers. Already, people feel deluged by a never-ending flood of national damage and despair. But Americans are not prone to suffering in silence. America’s period of mourning has ended; the time of anger and active opposition has dawned. The greatest two motivators of electoral activism in this country are a desire for change and durable fear: In Trump, those two are wed.

The most recent move to excite and outrage the opposition was Trump’s move to “indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees and temporarily ban people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States,” according to a New York Times editorial.

The ban is nonsensical and likely unconstitutional, as well as chaotic and damaging to our national security interests.

As The Times noted Saturday: “Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the seven countries targeted in the order’s 120-day visa ban, according to Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina.”

The report continued: “There was a random quality to the list of countries: It excluded Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the founders of Al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups have originated. Also excluded are Pakistan and Afghanistan, where persistent extremism and decades of war have produced militants who have occasionally reached the United States. Notably, perhaps, the list avoided Muslim countries where Mr. Trump has major business ventures.”

Furthermore, as CNN reported on Sunday, on Friday night the Department of Homeland Security decided that the restrictions “did not apply to people with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.”

The report continued, however: “The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President’s inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon.”

Yes, that Steve Bannon, the one who was recruited to the Trump campaign from his job as executive chairman of Breitbart News and is now Trump’s chief strategist, the one who said of Breitbart to Mother Jones in July: “We’re the platform for the alt-right.” Alt-right is just a slick, euphemistic repackaging and relabeling of white nationalists, whether they be white separatists, white supremacists or actual Nazis.

Also, as The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, Trump added Bannon to the National Security Council while removing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is outrageous. What does Bannon know about national security? It is becoming worrisome that in this reign of bigotry, Bannon may be the brain and Trump the brawn; Bannon the spiritual president and Trump the spurious packaging.

America will not stand for this, so if obsequious conservative politicians or lily-livered liberal ones won’t sufficiently stand up to this demagogic dictator, then the American people will do the job themselves.

Over the weekend, protesters spontaneously popped up at airports across the country to send an unambiguous message: Not in our name; not on our watch. It is my great hope that this will be a permanent motif of Trump’s term. If no one else is going to fight for American values, it falls to the American people themselves to do so. 

Reprint: No, Trump, Not on Our Watch -By Charles M. Blow | New York Times

Full Text of Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration & Refugees

exo-5(Image credits: Getty Images;  feat. ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ Poster by Shepard Fairey / ObeyGiant.com via Amplifier Foundation)

A Little Background – What in the Hell is Happening?
President Trump signed an executive order on Friday, January 27 at 4:42 p.m. ET titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” President Trump’s executive order on immigration indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

After the order was signed, students, visitors and green-card-holding legal permanent United States residents from the seven countries — and refugees from around the world — were stopped at airports in the United States and abroad, including Cairo, Dubai and Istanbul. Some were blocked from entering the United States and were sent back overseas. The order unleashed chaos on the immigration system and in airports in the United States and overseas, prompting legal action.

On Saturday night, a federal judge in Brooklyn blocked part of Mr. Trump’s order, saying that refugees and others being held at airports across the United States should not be sent back to their home countries. But the judge stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s actions.

Federal judges in three states — Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington — soon issued similar rulings to stop the government from removing refugees and others with valid visas. The judge in Massachusetts also said the government could not detain the travelers.

Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, said on Sunday that green card holders from the seven banned countries would not be prevented from returning to the United States “going forward.” That appeared to be a reversal from one of the order’s key components. Mr. Priebus also said that border agents had “discretionary authority” to subject any travelers, including American citizens, to additional questioning and scrutiny if they had been to any of the seven countries mentioned in the executive order.

United States Customs and Border Protection instructed airlines to stop passengers from the banned countries from boarding flights and to remove any who had already done so. Airline crew members from the seven named countries were also barred from the United States, it said. An official message was sent to American diplomatic posts around the world, instructing them to immediately stop visa interviews for citizens of the seven banned countries and to halt the processing or printing of any pending visas.

The order was widely condemned by Democrats, religious groups, business leaders, immigration policy experts, academics and others. Thousands of people protested the executive order in cities across the country on Saturday, many of them at airports. Those protests are ongoing, and a large rally was held outside the White House on Sunday, January 29.

Following is full text of Trump’s executive order, as provided by the White House.


Full Text: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose. The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.

Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.

Sec. 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 30 days of the date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.

(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

(d) Immediately upon receipt of the report described in subsection (b) of this section regarding the information needed for adjudications, the Secretary of State shall request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.

(e) After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.

(f) At any point after submitting the list described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.

(g) Notwithstanding a suspension pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or pursuant to a Presidential proclamation described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.

(h) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall submit to the President a joint report on the progress in implementing this order within 30 days of the date of this order, a second report within 60 days of the date of this order, a third report within 90 days of the date of this order, and a fourth report within 120 days of the date of this order.

Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of this directive within 60 days of the date of this order, a second report within 100 days of the date of this order, and a third report within 200 days of the date of this order.

Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures. Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures. Upon the date that is 120 days after the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.

(b) Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.

(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.

(d) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.

(e) Notwithstanding the temporary suspension imposed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.

(f) The Secretary of State shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of the directive in subsection (b) of this section regarding prioritization of claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the date of this order and shall submit a second report within 200 days of the date of this order.

(g) It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, State and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees. To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions, and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.

Sec. 6. Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, consider rescinding the exercises of authority in section 212 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182, relating to the terrorism grounds of inadmissibility, as well as any related implementing memoranda.

Sec. 7. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President periodic reports on the progress of the directive contained in subsection (a) of this section. The initial report shall be submitted within 100 days of the date of this order, a second report shall be submitted within 200 days of the date of this order, and a third report shall be submitted within 365 days of the date of this order. Further, the Secretary shall submit a report every 180 days thereafter until the system is fully deployed and operational.

Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.

(b) To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of State shall immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program, including by substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service, and making language training at the Foreign Service Institute available to Fellows for assignment to posts outside of their area of core linguistic ability, to ensure that non-immigrant visa-interview wait times are not unduly affected.

Sec. 9. Visa Validity Reciprocity. The Secretary of State shall review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification, truly reciprocal insofar as practicable with respect to validity period and fees, as required by sections 221(c) and 281 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(c) and 1351, and other treatment. If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable.

Sec. 10. Transparency and Data Collection. (a) To be more transparent with the American people, and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, consistent with applicable law and national security, collect and make publicly available within 180 days, and every 180 days thereafter:

(i) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later;

(ii) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and

(iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and

(iv) any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.

(b) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of the date of this order, provide a report on the estimated long-term costs of the USRAP at the Federal, State, and local levels.

Sec. 11. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


Related…
Full Text of the Ruling Blocking Trump’s Immigration Ban

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Human Rights Lawyer Describes Torture in China’s Secret Jails

xie-yangXie Yang, undated (Photo: ChinaChange.com)

Perched unsteadily on a stack of plastic stools in an isolated room, Xie Yang (谢阳), a Chinese lawyer, was encircled day and night by interrogators who blew smoke in his face, punched and kicked him, and threatened to turn him into an “invalid” unless he confessed to political crimes, he has said.

Eventually, according to transcripts of meetings with Mr. Xie issued by his attorneys, the isolation, sleepless days and nights of abuse and threats to his family from the police investigators proved too harrowing. Mr. Xie said he had scribbled down whatever they told him to say about trying to subvert the Chinese Communist Party by representing disgruntled citizens and discussing rights cases.

“I wanted to end their interrogation of me as quickly as I could, even if it meant death,” Mr. Xie, anguished and often sobbing, told his attorneys, Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing, according to the transcripts of the meetings this month that Mr. Chen released on Thursday. “Later, I wrote down whatever they wanted.”

The records lay out the most detailed firsthand allegations thus far that torture has stained a crackdown on Chinese rights lawyers and advocates that began in July 2015. The government detained almost 250 people in that operation, according to Amnesty International. Most were released, but four were tried and convicted last year on charges that they tried to subvert the one-party state, and about 13 are in detention and likely to face trial.

Mr. Xie, 44, a lawyer from the southern Chinese province of Hunan, is also likely to face trial in the coming weeks on subversion charges, according to his lawyers.

“These transcripts are totally authentic,” Mr. Chen said in a telephone interview on Friday, referring to two detailed records of pretrial meetings with Mr. Xie that were released on overseas websites focused on human rights in China. “He’s suffered torment and abuse, and this was a call for help, because the internal mechanisms for preventing torture haven’t worked.”

Other defendants and suspects in the clampdown on rights lawyers have abjectly declared their guilt, either in court or in televised confessions. Mr. Chen said that Mr. Xie wanted to release his account of his secretive detention to prove beforehand that he was innocent and that any admissions had been made under coercion.

“He was unbending. He refused all government lawyers. In the end, they had to let us see him,” Mr. Chen said, since he and Mr. Liu had been chosen by Mr. Xie. “We all know this kind of case is about political persecution.”

Mr. Xie’s wife, Chen Guiqiu, had also approved releasing the transcripts, Mr. Chen said. But Ms. Chen, an academic, did not answer repeated calls to her phone on Friday. Mr. Chen, the lawyer, said she had been led away that morning by security guards at the university in Changsha, the capital of Hunan, where she works.

“Let the world know what forced confession through torture is, what shamelessness without limit is,” Ms. Chen said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Mr. Xie’s account of being locked away appeared after China’s president, Xi Jinping, sought this week to promote his government as open and mature. On Tuesday, Mr. Xi told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that economic protectionism was like a country locking itself in a dark room.

Li Chunfu, a Beijing lawyer detained in the crackdown, was released early this month, emaciated and mentally shattered after nearly one and a half years in detention, according to his family and supporters.

“It’s ironic that the Chinese government is calling for openness in Davos when the Chinese government is doing the opposite domestically,” Maya Wang, a researcher on China for Human Rights Watch, said by telephone from Hong Kong. “They say one thing in terms of rhetoric, to appeal and charm globally, but what they do is quite another thing. What they do is exactly the opposite.”

Human rights organizations and defense lawyers have said that other suspects caught in the crackdown have also been at risk of torture while in secretive detention. The Chinese government has repeatedly denied such accusations. The police in Changsha did not respond to multiple phone calls to find out whether they knew of Mr. Xie’s allegations of torture and were doing anything about them.

But Mr. Xie has gone to extraordinary lengths to back his claims: He named many of the officers he says perpetrated abuses. “If I stand trial, I’ll recount to the court just what happened in this case — that the records were the product of torture,” he told his lawyers.

Mr. Xie was taken away by the police in Hunan on July 11, 2015, and spent half a year in secretive detention in a retired military cadres’ hostel, kept from contact with the outside world. In the first week, Mr. Xie said, he was questioned by rotating teams of officers who gave him no more than three hours of sleep between grueling rounds of questioning.

Often they made Mr. Xie sit on top of the “dangling chair”: several plastic stools without backrests that were stacked on top of each other.

“I sat on top so that my feet didn’t touch the ground and my legs were dangling there. They ordered me to sit there with my back straight,” he said. He said that an officer warned him: “If you move, we can consider that you attacked a police officer, and we can take whatever steps to deal with you.”

In addition, the interrogators would not let him drink water, lit fistfuls of cigarettes and blew nauseating clouds of smoke in his face, and beat, kicked and head-butted him, he said. They also indirectly threatened his wife, warning that she should be careful when driving, he said.

“We represent the party center in handling your case,” one police officer said, referring to China’s central leadership, according to Mr. Xie’s account. “Even if we leave you dead, you won’t find any evidence to prove it.”

By mid-August 2015, Mr. Xie said, he was broken, and he signed documents put before him, but still he resisted the interrogators’ demands that he name and implicate other people. A year ago, he was formally arrested on a charge of inciting subversion of state power and was moved to a detention center. But there, the abuses continued, and other detainees were used to bully him, Mr. Xie said.

Despite pressure from the police and prosecutors, Mr. Xie insisted on seeing his own lawyers. On Friday, they asked prosecutors to examine his claims of torture, listing the names of 10 police officers they say should answer the accusations.

“I tell you now that my spirit is free,” Mr. Xie told his lawyers. “I declare that I, Xie Yang, am innocent.”


Xie Yang, born on February 4, 1972, has been a lawyer with Hunan Gangwei Law Firm and has represented many politically sensitive cases. Some of Xie’s previous clients include activist Xue Mingkai (薛明凯), arrested in 2011 during the “Jasmine Crackdown”; New Citizens’ Movement activist Zhang Baocheng (张宝成), who was imprisoned in 2014; and “Southern Street Movement” activist Xie Wenfei (谢文飞), seized during the 2014 clampdown on mainland supporters of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests. In early 2014, Xie Yang criticized the violent assaults against four human rights lawyers in retaliation for defending their clients; perhaps to avoid official rebuke over Xie’s stance, his law firm issued a statement at that time denying it was employing Xie. More recently, Xie represented the family of a petitioner shot to death by police in Qing’an, Heilongjiang in May 2015, in one of the “politically sensitive” cases authorities cited as a “subversive” activity conducted by the lawyers in the “709 Crackdown.” Days after he traveled to Qing’an, Xie was himself a victim in an incident of violence in Guangxi while handling a case involving a financial dispute between two companies.

Sources: Punches, Kicks and the ‘Dangling Chair’: Detainee Tells of Torture in China -By Chris Buckley | The New York Times and Xie Yang | Chinese Human Rights Defender (CHRD)

Scores Killed After Nigerian Fighter Jet Mistakenly Bombs Refugee Camp

bombingSmoke rises from a burnt out shelter at a camp for displaced people in Rann, Nigeria, Tuesday Jan. 17, 2017 (Photos: Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières in Nigeria)

A Nigerian fighter jet searching for Boko Haram members on Tuesday, January 17 accidentally bombed a camp for displaced people who had fled the militants, killing dozens of camp residents and at least six humanitarian workers, and wounding numerous others. The incident happened at about 9:00 a.m. (08:00 GMT) in Rann, in the far north of Borno state, the epicenter of the jihadists’ insurgency, as food was being distributed to displaced people.

Government officials could not provide an exact death toll, saying they were focused on treating the wounded. Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, said its teams in Rann had counted 52 dead and 200 wounded as they tried to provide first aid and stabilize patients who were awaiting evacuation. But there was little hope of evacuation until Wednesday, raising the prospect that many seriously wounded victims of the attack would die overnight as ill-equipped rescuers stood by helplessly.

The Nigerian military has been locked in a fierce battle with Boko Haram fighters for years as they rampage through the country’s northeast, carrying out attacks on military positions and, more recently, frequent suicide bombings that have killed hundreds. In the government’s zest for rooting out the militants, civilians have frequently ended up detained, hurt or dead.

Among the dead in the bombing were six workers from a local Red Cross organization, said a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, adding that 13 were wounded. Two soldiers were also wounded. Military officials said local workers for Doctors Without Borders had also been wounded, but the group could not confirm that.

“This large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence is shocking and unacceptable,” said Dr. Jean-Clément Cabrol, the director of operations for Doctors Without Borders. “The safety of civilians must be respected. We are urgently calling on all parties to ensure the facilitation of medical evacuations by air or road for survivors who are in need of emergency care.”

On Tuesday afternoon, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria acknowledged the military error on his official Twitter account.

nigerian-president-tweet

Mr. Buhari has said repeatedly that Boko Haram has been defeated, even as the group has carried out marketplace bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon and elsewhere in recent weeks. This week, two suicide bombers — one of them a girl about 12 years old — detonated explosives at the University of Maiduguri, where students and teachers had gathered for morning prayer. The blast killed four people, including Aliyu Usman Mani, 60, a veterinary medicine professor and father of two, and forced the university to postpone exams. The bombing also came as the United States is considering selling the Nigerian government warplanes, despite objections from some officials in Congress over the military’s past record of human rights abuses.

The violence has uprooted more than two million people from their homes in the region. Some of them wind up in camps like the one at Rann, where 20,000 people in the past six months have fled to escape Boko Haram’s marauders.

The small, densely packed camp includes people living in an old schoolhouse, mud-brick homes and other structures, some of which were smashed in the bombing, said Hugues Robert, the Nigeria program manager for Doctors Without Borders.

The camp has been largely inaccessible for months, he said, and the charity’s workers had reached Rann for the first time only in December. Workers had returned on Saturday to establish a malnutrition screening clinic. On Tuesday, that clinic was converted into a triage center as the wounded victims of the bombing, some with grievous injuries, jammed under the tents, lying in the soil to await treatment from the small number of medical professionals there, who were equipped to treat hunger, not blast wounds.

Rann is known as a hotbed of Boko Haram activity. The military had cleared the area of militants just this spring, stranding 3,000 people without food or water, according to local news reports. But with the end of a rainy season that had limited mobility, Boko Haram has regained a foothold. Late last month, a military post near Rann was attacked in a battle that lasted three hours, an indication of the strength and firepower of militants in the area.

Before the bombing on Tuesday, the Nigerian military had been informed that fighters were amassing to attack a military post nearby, according to a Western diplomat who requested anonymity in talking about security issues. Armed with geographic coordinates of where they thought the fighters were assembled, the air force launched the bombing strike but hit the camp in error.

At a news conference in Maiduguri on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor acknowledged the mistake, calling it “disturbing.” In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Buhari pleaded for calm, calling the bombing “a regrettable operational mistake.”

Source: Nigerian Jet Mistakenly Bombs Refugee Camp, Killing Scores -By Dionne Searcey | New York Times


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Nigerian Air Force Bombs Refugee Camp, Killing Dozens | NBC News (Video)

Eyewitness Account of Bombing on Nigeria Refugee Camp -By Alfred Davies | TIME via Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières in Nigeria

Death Toll in Nigeria IDP Camp Bombing Climbs to 236 -By Chika Oduah | VOA

Boko Haram Attacks Bombed Refugee Camp -By AP | The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia)

First Amendment Provides Little Protection to Press Corp in Trump’s America

chain-mexicoCredit: Marco Ugarte/ AP Photo

When President Trump declared on Saturday that reporters are “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” it was not the first time he had disparaged the press. Nor was it out of character when, later that same day, his press secretary threatened “to hold the press accountable” for reporting truthful information that was unflattering to Mr. Trump. Episodes like these have become all too common in recent weeks. So it’s comforting to know that the Constitution serves as a reliable stronghold against Mr. Trump’s assault on the press.

Except that it doesn’t. The truth is, legal protections for press freedom are far feebler than you may think. Even more worrisome, they have been weakening in recent years.

The First Amendment provides only limited protection for the press. Over the centuries, courts have affirmed that it prohibits government censorship and offers some protection against defamation lawsuits. But journalists themselves have few constitutional rights when it comes to matters such as access to government sources and documents, or protection from being hounded by those in power for their news gathering and reporting. In those respects, journalists are vulnerable to the whims of society and government officials.

America’s press freedom, in other words, is something of a mishmash. There are some legal protections, but the press also relies on non-legal safeguards. In the past, these have included the institutional media’s relative financial strength; the good will of the public; a mutually dependent relationship with government officials; the support of sympathetic judges; and political norms and traditions.

However, each of these pillars has recently been shaken.

A generation ago, perhaps the strongest pillar was the economic power of the institutional media. Even small, local newspapers could afford to undertake investigations and to hire lawyers to argue for access to public meetings and for open courtrooms. But today both large and small newspapers across the country are closing, and the surviving publications have diminishing resources to continue to fight.

Likewise, the public’s good will, which long sustained the freedom of the press in America, has evaporated. In the 1970s, nearly three-quarters of Americans reported they trusted the news media, and the press was able to translate this support into substantial opportunities for news gathering: People who trusted the media were more likely to bring them leads and to demand that the press be allowed to cover newsworthy events. Today, however, public confidence in the press has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history.

As for the relationship between the press and government officials, that too has changed. Until recently, the press relied on politicians for access to information while politicians relied on the press for access to the public’s ear. This ensured that government officials would never shut out the press entirely. But with the fragmentation of the news industry, this is less true; the established news media can no longer claim to be the primary source of the public’s information. (And when the president can convey his messages directly via Twitter, the press loses even more power.)

In addition, the courts cannot be relied on — at least not as they once could be — for forceful protection of press liberties. The Supreme Court has not decided a major press case in more than a decade, in part because it has declined to do so, and in part because media companies, inferring the court’s relative lack of interest, have decided not to waste their resources pressing cases. Several justices have spoken negatively of the press in opinions or speeches. Lower courts have likewise become less favorable to the press, showing more willingness than in the past to second-guess the editorial judgment of journalists.

As each of these press-freedom pillars weakens, the one remaining pillar must bear more than its share of the weight. It’s the one, however, that President Trump now seems most keen to destroy: tradition.

It is primarily customs and traditions, not laws, that guarantee that members of the White House press corps have access to the workings of the executive branch. Consider the Department of Justice’s policy of forcing reporters to reveal confidential sources only as a last, rather than a first, resort. Journalists have no recognized constitutional nor even federal statutory right for such protection. It’s merely custom.

This is why we should be alarmed when Mr. Trump, defying tradition, vilifies media institutions, attacks reporters by name and refuses to take questions from those whose coverage he dislikes. Or when he decides not to let reporters travel with him on his plane, or fails to inform them when he goes out in public. Or when he suggests he might evict the White House press corps from the West Wing and have his administration, rather than the White House Correspondents Association, determine who gets allowed to attend briefings.

We cannot simply sit back and expect that the First Amendment will rush in to preserve the press, and with it our right to know. Like so much of our democracy, the freedom of the press is only as strong as we, the public, demand it to be.

Source: Don’t Expect the First Amendment to Protect the Media -By Ronnell Andersen Jones & Sonja R. West | New York Times (OpEd)

RonNell Andersen Jones is a law professor at the University of Utah. Sonja R. West is a law professor at the University of Georgia.


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An Open Letter to Trump from the US Press Corps -By Kyle Pope | Columbia Journalism Review

Trump Team Considers Moving Press Corps, Alarming Reporters -By Michael Grynbaum | New York Times

Letter from Birmingham Jail

mlk-jr-nob

Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous Letter from Birmingham Jail was written in response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. It stands as one of the classic documents of the civil-rights movement – a movement that continues today.


My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
Birmingham, Alabama
April 16, 1963

Vice President Joe Biden Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom🏅

President Obama surprised Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday by bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on him, calling Mr. Biden “my brother” in a tearful goodbye in the East Room of the White House.

Having called Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, to the White House for a private farewell, the president instead brought him into a room filled with his friends, family and colleagues to present him with the honor, the nation’s highest.

For the first time, President Obama awarded the medal with distinction, an added level of veneration that previous presidents had reserved for recipients like Pope John Paul II and Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state.

Moments later, as the president called up a military aide to read the proclamation, Mr. Biden appeared to break down, turning his back to the audience to compose himself. After Obama hung the medal around his neck, the vice president cried openly.

The citation with the medal noted Mr. Biden’s “charm, candor, unabashed optimism and deep and abiding patriotism,” as well as his “strength and grace to overcome great personal adversity.” It called him one of the most “consequential vice presidents in American history.”

Addressing President Obama, who stood to his side, Mr. Biden said that he had never met anyone who had “the integrity and the decency and the sense of other people’s needs like you do.” The ceremony was an emotional conclusion to an improbable partnership that began in 2008 when Obama asked his former presidential rival to be his running mate. The two men became close during eight years in the White House.

While paying tribute to Biden during the ceremony, Obama said, “To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self regard and to live life fully. As one of his longtime colleagues in the Senate said — who happened to be a Republican — if you can’t admire Joe Biden, you have a problem.”

President Obama spoke emotionally about the relationship between his own family and the extended Biden clan, many of whom had gathered for the ceremony. “My family is so proud to call ourselves honorary Bidens,” he said. Mr. Biden sought to return the compliment. He noted that the Constitution did not grant the vice president any inherent powers — “for good reason,” he said. But he said that Obama had made good on a pledge to make sure that Mr. Biden had a job that mattered.

“You have more than kept your commitment to me by saying you wanted me to help govern,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he hoped the history books would record that he was an asterisk in Obama’s historic presidency.

“I can say I was part of a journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country,” Mr. Biden said.

Click here to read the full transcript of the event.


Background image: President Barack Obama surprises Vice President Joe Biden with a special send-off. In a White House ceremony honoring his Vice President, President Obama surprised an emotional Joe Biden by presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on January 12, 2017. (Photo: Yuri Gripas/ Reuters)

The Death Penalty, America, and the Rest of the World

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Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty would have likely been abolished in America. Slavery became a haven for the death penalty. -Angela Davis

On December 19, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a worldwide “moratorium on the use of the death penalty”—the sixth that the U.N. has approved in the past decade. Each one has gained the support of more of the organization’s members. The latest vote was a hundred and seventeen countries in favor to forty against. (Thirty-one abstained, and five did not vote.) In addition to a call for a halt to executions worldwide, the resolution urges countries that maintain the death penalty to increasingly restrict its imposition and to apply international laws that protect the rights of those facing the penalty. The rights include that a death sentence may be imposed only for the “most serious crimes,” defined as intentional crimes that have “lethal or other extremely grave consequences,” and that execution be carried out only after “a final judgment rendered by a competent court,” following a legal process that insures a fair trial and that provides access to appeal to a higher court and the opportunity to seek a pardon or a commutation of the sentence.

At the General Assembly, the United States cast one of the nay votes. Stefanie Amadeo, the deputy representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, explained the country’s position, which is basically unchanged since the U.S. opposed the first resolution against the death penalty, in 2007: “The ultimate decision regarding these issues must be addressed through the domestic democratic processes of individual Member States and be consistent with their obligations under international law,” which does not prohibit capital punishment. The position reflects the American reality of supporting the death penalty in principle, but increasingly outlawing it in practice. As Jeffrey Toobin reported recently, the U.S. maintains the death penalty under federal and military law and under the laws of thirty-one states—even though only five states conducted executions in 2016 and executed only twenty people in total, the lowest number in twenty-five years.

The U.S. stresses the importance of observing global norms. “Just as the United States is committed to complying with its international obligations,” Amadeo said, “we strongly urge other countries that employ the death penalty to do so only in full compliance with their international obligations.” Meanwhile, in the past forty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has increasingly sought to restrict the application of the death penalty to the worst of the worst offenders—first, to people who commit the most heinous murders and, then, only to adults who commit them, excluding youth under the age of eighteen. In addition, it generally takes a decade or more for a state to carry out an execution because of challenges to a death sentence allowed under due process of law.

Among the states with the death penalty, twelve have not carried out an execution for a decade or more, and another five have not executed anyone for at least five years. In California, where the last execution was in 2006, there were seven hundred and fifty people on death row as of December 2nd. Rather than being executed (the state has executed only thirteen people since 1978) it is much more likely that a death-row inmate will die as a result of natural causes or suicide.

Roger Hood, an emeritus professor at Oxford, and Carolyn Hoyle, who directs Oxford’s Centre for Criminology, last year published the fifth edition of “The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective.” Their book documents the many ways that people are sentenced to death in violation of international law—for drug-trafficking, for example, rather than for “the most serious crimes,” in unfair proceedings and with no opportunity to ask for clemency, and while imprisoned in terrible conditions. These and other realities, they write, are moving “the debate about capital punishment beyond the view that each nation has, if it wishes, the sovereign right to retain the death penalty” to persuading “countries that retain the death penalty that it inevitably, and however administered, violates universally accepted human rights.” Countries that employ the death penalty and insist that they are abiding by international law, including the U.S., decline to join in making the most important international commitment about the penalty, which is to reject it as a violation of human rights.

There has long been a gap between the idealism that the U.S. expresses when boasting of its dedication to the rule of law, especially the protection of individual rights, and the reality of its persistent refusal to abide by major international human-rights commitments. The U.S. was a leader in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.N. adopted in 1948, but stopped supporting the international system to carry it out because, among other reasons, Jim Crow laws directly violated the declaration. There is a sizable list of human-rights treaties—on the Rights of the Child, for example, and on the International Criminal Court—that the U.S. has signed but not ratified. Even when the U.S. ratifies treaties, the government often adds a caveat that excludes protection of some basic rights.

As a result, the U.S. has ended up in some rough company, particularly when it comes to the death penalty. In the past generation, the number of countries that have stopping using the death penalty has doubled, from about fifty to about a hundred. Of the fifty-seven member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and of the thirty-five member states of the Organization of American States, only the U.S. carried out executions last year. The countries that executed the most offenders were, in order, China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. China executed thousands of people, though its secrecy about its use of capital punishment makes it impossible to know exactly how many. Excluding China, Iran (with close to a thousand or more), Pakistan (three hundred and twenty-six), and Saudi Arabia (a hundred and fifty-eight) executed almost nine out of ten people put to death worldwide—“often after grossly unfair trials,” according to Amnesty International, and “for crimes—including drug trafficking, corruption, ‘adultery,’ and ‘blasphemy’—that do not meet the international legal standards for the use of the death penalty.” In 2015, according to Amnesty International, at least a thousand six hundred and thirty-four people were executed, an increase of more than fifty per cent from the year before and the highest number in a quarter of a century. (The organization expects to release figures for 2016 in the spring.)

The United States, in other words, ranks with countries that conspicuously are not in full compliance with their international obligations. And its responsibility is sometimes worse than guilt by association. As Maya Foa, the director of the death-penalty team at Reprieve, an international human-rights organization, told me, “The U.S. clearly leads and influences global death-penalty practice. Our partners, who are lawyers and human-rights defenders in jurisdictions that retain the penalty, tell us that the use of the death penalty by the U.S., a ‘developed’ nation, is used to justify the death-penalty practice in the jurisdictions they work in.” Reprieve is providing legal and investigative assistance to people facing execution in eleven countries, in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, and in the U.S.

In August at a rally in Istanbul, after the failed coup attempt in Turkey, the BBC reported, the country’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said, “They say there is no death penalty in the E.U. … Well, the U.S. has it; Japan has it; China has it; most of the world has it. So they are allowed to have it. We used to have it until 1984. Sovereignty belongs to the people, so if the people make this decision I am sure the political parties will comply.” He said that the Turkish people might want to restore the death penalty to punish those responsible for killing hundreds of citizens during the attempted coup. That has not happened yet, but, if it does, its purpose, Erdogan suggested, will be a display of cold-blooded power.

The influence of the U.S. on the death penalty worldwide has sometimes been constructive. In 1976, for example, when the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for a state to make the death penalty mandatory for any crime, it marked the beginning of the decline of mandatory death sentences around the world. “The fundamental respect for humanity underlying the Eighth Amendment,” the Court said, “requires consideration of the character and record of the individual offender and the circumstances of the particular offense.”

The Indian Supreme Court employed this logic when it struck down the mandatory death sentence in the country’s penal code, in 1983. The legislature, it held, could not compel judges “to shut their eyes to mitigating circumstances and inflict upon them the dubious and unconscionable duty of imposing a preordained sentence of death.” More recently, the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide reports, eighteen other countries have followed suit and struck down the mandatory death penalty, including almost every Caribbean nation and Uganda, Malawi, and Kenya.

In their latest edition of “The Death Penalty,” Hood and Hoyle write optimistically about the U.S. example: “Those who campaign for abolition worldwide can hope that it will not be many years before the U.S. Supreme Court will be able to find that the majority of states, in line with a majority of countries worldwide, does not support the death penalty for anyone.” Donald Trump has said that he will replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia—the Court’s most vehement defender of the death penalty for almost thirty years—with someone in his mold. But, even when that happens, there will be a possibility that Justice Anthony Kennedy will join the Court’s moderate liberals in striking down the death penalty, for reasons Justice Stephen Breyer articulated in 2015: “The Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would” insure the fairness of the capital-punishment system, he wrote. “Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed.” If the Court continues to uphold the death penalty, on the other hand, the gap between the U.S. and a large and growing majority of the rest of the world will continue to increase.

Source: The Growing Gap Between the U.S. and the International Anti-Death Penalty Consensus -By Lincoln Caplan | The New Yorker


Recommended…
General Assembly Adopts 50 Third Committee Resolutions, as Diverging Views on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Animate Voting | UN General Assembly (Dec 16, 2016)

General Assembly Adopts Landmark Text Calling for Moratorium on Death Penalty | UN General Assembly (Dec 18, 2007)

Death Penalty | Equal Justice Institute (EJI)

U.S. Death Penalty Facts | Amnesty International

✿ The Guilty Plea Problem Campaign | The Innocence Project

The Death Penalty, Nearing Its End -By Editorial Board | New York Times

The Strange Case of the American Death Penalty -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

Why Are So Many Veterans on Death Row? -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

A Strong Case Against the Death Penalty -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker