Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From the Deep South to the Midwest, a Generation Demands Justice


Members of Dream Defenders sit-in at Rick Scott’s office. (AP Photo)

From Student Nation at The Nation, July 23, 2013

E-mail questions, tips or proposals to For earlier dispatches, check out posts from January 18, February 1, February 15, March 1, March 15, April 2, April 15, April 26, May 10, May 24, June 7, June 21 and July 9.

1. Dream Defenders Occupy the Florida Capitol

On Saturday, July 13, George Zimmerman was found not guilty. This was the moment Florida showed the world that it does not care about its youth, especially young black and brown people. If neighborhood watch vigilantes are given the license to kill, what instructions are given to black and brown youth such as me? How do I stand my ground when I feel threatened? Am I not allowed to defend myself? Dream Defenders have been joined by community members and students from Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Miami, FAMU, FSU, UF, FAU and UCF, as well as the Advancement Project, Power U and USSA. We are occupying the state capitol until Governor Rick Scott meets our demand to convene a special session of the legislature. During this session, we want a new Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act to be passed. It will focus on the Stand Your Ground law, racial profiling and the war on youth. This is deeper than just the Zimmerman murder case. This is a movement to unravel the system that allowed Trayvon to be criminalized, profiled and killed in the first place. We will stay in the capitol until the governor meets our demands. We have gotten support from across the country and around the world. This is what the student movement looks like.

—Melanie Andrade

2. Black Youth Strategize in Chicago

Black Youth Project 100 is a group of 100 young black activists from across the country convened by the Black Youth Project to mobilize communities of color beyond electoral politics. As we convened for our first Beyond November Movement gathering, we collectively mourned over the Zimmerman trial verdict and produced this video response to affirm the humanity of black life. We are committed to connecting the tragic loss of Travyon Martin and this recent miscarriage of justice in Florida to countless other examples of American systemic racism and injustice. Moving forward, we will be mobilizing a black youth contingency to attend the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington and offering civic engagement training to young people. We are organizing local chapters to build political power nationwide while simultaneously supporting the efforts of other youth-led organizations such as Dream Defenders. As stated in our video, we see the hopelessness of a generation that has been broken trying to find its place in this world, and we understand that we need to turn anger into action and pain into power.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Defending the Constitution: Snowden Made the Right Call When He Fled the U.S.

Daniel Ellsberg is the author of “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.” He was charged in 1971 under the Espionage Act as well as for theft and conspiracy for copying the Pentagon Papers. The trial was dismissed in 1973 after evidence of government misconduct, including illegal wiretapping, was introduced in court.

By Daniel Ellsberg

Progressive America Rising via Washington Post

Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.

After the New York Times had been enjoined from publishing the Pentagon Papers — on June 15, 1971, the first prior restraint on a newspaper in U.S. history — and I had given another copy to The Post (which would also be enjoined), I went underground with my wife, Patricia, for 13 days. My purpose (quite like Snowden’s in flying to Hong Kong) was to elude surveillance while I was arranging — with the crucial help of a number of others, still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers, in the face of two more injunctions. The last three days of that period was in defiance of an arrest order: I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”

Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).

I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)

Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong. I agree wholeheartedly. More than 40 years after my unauthorized disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, such leaks remain the lifeblood of a free press and our republic. One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden’s leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.

In my case, my authorized access in the Pentagon and the Rand Corp. to top-secret documents — which became known as the Pentagon Papers after I disclosed them — taught me that Congress and the American people had been lied to by successive presidentsand dragged into a hopelessly stalemated war that was illegitimate from the start.

Snowden’s dismay came through access to even more highly classified documents — some of which he has now selected to make public — originating in the National Security Agency (NSA). He found that he was working for a surveillance organization whose all-consuming intent, he told the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, was “on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”

It was, in effect, a global expansion of the Stasi, the Ministry for State Security in the Stalinist “German Democratic Republic,” whose goal was “to know everything.” But the cellphones, fiber-optic cables, personal computers and Internet traffic the NSA accesses did not exist in the Stasi’s heyday.

As Snowden told the Guardian, “This country is worth dying for.” And, if necessary, going to prison for — for life.

But Snowden’s contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives — still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.

I hope that he finds a haven, as safe as possible from kidnapping or assassination by U.S. Special Operations forces, preferably where he can speak freely.

What he has given us is our best chance — if we respond to his information and his challenge — to rescue ourselves from out-of-control surveillance that shifts all practical power to the executive branch and its intelligence agencies: a United Stasi of America.

Read more on this topic: Eugene Robinson: We can handle the truth on NSA spying The Post’s View: Plug these leaks Marc A. Thiessen: The danger of what Edward Snowden has not revealed David Ignatius: Fallout from Snowden’s sharing of NSA secrets

© The Washington Post Company


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