Thursday, May 31, 2012

Call to Action: Stop Deporting Community Organizers!

From our friends at the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice:

“The main reason people don’t stand up for themselves and defend their own rights,” says Josue Diaz, “is because they’re afraid of being deported.”

Josue should know. He was arrested and put in deportation proceedings – all for having the courage to speak out.

He was hired to clean up after Hurricane Ike, but Josue and other immigrant workers were denied safety gear for working in toxic sludge – and then weren’t paid the wages they were owed. When he helped organize a strike, Josue’s employer called the police.

Josue is just one of 32 civil rights and labor organizers in the South facing deportation just because they stood up for their rights. This is not only morally wrong, but it also violates a new policy issued last year by the Obama Administration.

Click here to tell Secretary Napolitano to stop deporting these community organizers:

The Obama Administration issued a new policy to stop the practice of deporting labor organizers and civil rights defenders after advocates demanded change. But immigration officials in charge of 5 Southern states are refusing to follow orders. To add insult to injury, their boss – Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security has done nothing about it.

The Southern 32 have stood up to defend the rights of all of us, and now we need to stand up with them. Take action now and tell Janet Napolitano to stop deporting these leaders.

Jacinta Gonzalez
Lead Organizer
Congress of Day Laborers

Monday, May 28, 2012

Warning NOPD: Not My Sons! by Tracie Washington

My friends Richard and Hilda McCline needed a couple of guys to help them move boxes from the American Can to storage. So on Thursday, Jacob picked-up Donald (his friend) and they worked from a little after 11am until 2pm. On the way home, they stopped at the light at Carrollton and Tulane alongside a marked NOPD vehicle. When the light changed, both cars proceeded through the intersection and, immediately thereafter the police officers turned on their sirens. Jacob pulled over.

Jacob and Donald sat perfectly still (as they have been cautioned OVER AND OVER again), as they watched these officers, clad in those Black swat uniforms, jump out of their vehicle, jerk open the driver’s side and passenger car doors, and begin really gruff interrogations.

License and Registration

Where’s your I.D.? (Jacob hands over his driver’s license.)

Why don’t you have identification? Jacob just picked me up and I knew I would be driving so I didn’t think I needed to bring my license.

Is this your car? Yes, I mean, it’s owned by my mom, but it’s my car to drive.

What are you doing? We were doing a job for one of my mom’s friends.

Where are you coming from? The American Can.

What kind of job were you doing for these friends? This professor is moving to Georgia and so he and his wife needed help moving boxes to storage.

You boys in school? Yes, I attend Grinnell College. Yes, I attend Millsaps College. (each pointing to their gym shorts with the school names and logos on them; serendipity that they were wearing their college shorts that morning)

The officers look through the backseat of the car, walk to the back of the car, and then walk to their patrol car, wait about 30 seconds and return with this “warning” -- Just make sure you always wear your seatbelts.

Jacob and Donald had been wearing their seatbelts!

Everyone in the City of New Orleans knows, these NOPD Special Ops Jump Out Boys spend their days harassing young black men, hoping to pull over someone, open the doors to see if the smell marijuana, and then “justify” an illegal search under the guise that they smelled marijuana.

News Flash NOPD – You illegally stopped the wrong 19 year old. And because you don’t know whose son you may be stopping illegally, why not just end the illegal stops. ‘Cause see, when I'm done with these particular jokers, they will wish they had chosen a different profession. Sarah Palin could take lessons from this mamma-Grizzly. Orange is not on my color wheel, but I will wear it proudly if NOPD thugs harm my son. I’m just sayin’ ….. I’m scared every time my son is home from college. Not because of the New Orleans streets; Jacob knows how to avoid our “normal” thugs. I’m scared because I can’t tell him to avoid the “badge-wearing” thugs and in New Orleans they harass and kill Black men with impunity, and often without repercussions.

Jacob returns to Grinnell the day after my dad, Dr. Louis X. Washington, Sr., turns 75. I suppose I should find some comfort in the fact that my dad has survived 75 years of New Orleans. I don't.

I’ll sleep well again beginning August 11, 2012.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Orleans Filmmakers Win Major Award at Cannes Film Festival

Beasts of the Southern Wild, the remarkable film by a collective of New Orleans filmmakers calling themselves Court 13, won the Caméra d’Or today at the Cannes Film Festival. The award, which recognizes the best film by a first-time filmmaker, is one of the most prestigious honors in the world of cinema

The film already caused a sensation at this year's Sundance Film Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize and rave reviews from critics. The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, one of the most influential film critics in the US, gave Beasts a rave review at its premiere at Sundance this January:
One of the most striking films ever to debut at the Sundance Film Festival, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a poetic evocation of an endangered way of life and a surging paean to human resilience and self-reliance. Shot along the southernmost fringes of Louisiana, cast with nonactors and absolutely teeming with creativity in every aspect of its being, Benh Zeitlin’s directorial debut could serve as a poster child for everything American independent cinema aspires to be but so seldom is. A handcrafted look at the struggles of some of the poorest people in the United States is no prescription for commercial success, but the presence of a dynamite little girl at the center of things could, along with critical praise and enlightened handling, push this most unlikely but entirely elating drama into a successful specialized theatrical release.
Sundance (which focuses mostly on US filmmakers) and Cannes (which deliberately spreads its gaze around the world) have notoriously different tastes. Because each festival prefers to only feature world premieres, it is rare for a film to even be selected for both. Beasts is only the second film to have ever won both the Caméra d’Or and Sundance's Grand Jury Prize - the previous was 1998's Slam, starring Saul Williams. Among the small circle of other films that have been acclaimed at both fests are Me and You and Everyone We Know, which won a Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at Sundance before going on to win the Caméra d’Or at Cannes, and 1989's sex, lies and videotape, which helped establish Sundance as an important festival when it won an Audience Award in 1989, before going on to win Cannes' Palme d’Or, the top prize at that fest, and then becoming a surprise box office success.

Steven Soderbergh, the director of sex lies and videotape, also has a local connection, having grown up mostly in Baton Rouge.

Variety, the insider journal of the film industry, has already named Beasts director Benh Zeitlin one of ten directors to watch. At Cannes, Beasts was also honored by The International Federation of Film Critics, which gave the film its Un Certain Regard prize, one of three awards it gives out. Fox Searchlight paid a reported two million dollars for the distribution rights to Beasts, and are releasing it next month.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Official Statement From Women With A Vision After Recent Arson

This letter and video is reposted from the website of Women With A Vision. You can donate on their site:

Dear friends, colleagues and family,

Today we reach out to express our gratitude for your support and to let you know that everyone in the Women With A Vision family is safe.

Thanks to the fast response of all of our supporters across the country, many of you have already heard that our office was broken into last night and set on fire. The worst damage was concentrated in our community organizing and outreach office where we store all of the resources we use to educate our community. We lost everything. We do not have an office to operate out of right now.

Most of our office equipment and all of our educational resources were destroyed. Because of the targeted nature, we can only assume that this was intentional.

We are shaken to be sure, and deeply worried about how we will provide for our members while we are rebuilding. But the work will continue. This cannot and will not stop us from speaking out for people who do not have a voice.

Please know that your thoughts, your prayers, your kind words and your positive energy are felt. Your care for WWAV is what is giving us the strength to make sure that we reopen, bigger and better than before, as soon as possible.

But we will literally be starting from scratch, so donations and in-kind contributions are critical right now.

Immediate Meeting Spaces for WWAV Events. We are in the process of finding a new permanent home, but also need immediate assistance with space. We have several coalition meetings that were to be held at the WWAV office next week, and our new micro-enterprise program is scheduled to launch early next week. New Orleans friends, do you have conference room space you can lend? Member programming will need to accommodate 10-15 people. Coalition events will bring together 20-25 people.

Donations to Replace our Health Education Materials. We lost all of our health education materials, including harm reduction supplies, condoms/dental dams/lube, reproductive health models, educational brochures, hygiene kits and OraSure HIV tests. Replacing these will cost thousands of dollars. If you are able, please make a tax-deductible donation through our website.
• $50 will buy a case of male condoms;
• $100 will cover a month supply of harm reduction kits,
• $250 will replace one of our reproductive health models;
• $500 will enable us to make a month’s supply of hygiene kits;
• $1000 will buy a case of female condoms; and
• $2000 to replace our two cases of OraSure rapid HIV tests.

Suits/Dresses/Shoes to Restock our Clothing Bank. We have lost all of the professional clothing that was donated to WWAV for our women to go on job interviews. Please contact us if you have suits, skirts, dress pants, dresses and shoes to donate. Women’s clothing 8 to plus-size and shoe sizes 7 to 12 are most needed.

Donations to Replace our Office Furniture & Supplies. When we are ready to move into our new office, we will need to replace most of our office furniture, all of our office supplies, and all of our decorations for WWAV member holiday events and women-centered programming. Desks, desk chairs, and furniture for our drop-in space will all be incredibly costly. And we all know how quickly copy paper and post-it notes can add up. Any donation will help us to open as quickly as possible. Gift cards to office supply stores like OfficeMax, Office Depot and Staples are welcome. In-kind contributions of women-centered art, social justice posters, and holiday decorations will all be deeply appreciated when we are nearer to our re-opening date.

Donations to Replace Computers & Printer(s). One desktop computer, one laptop and one printer were completely destroyed in the fire. We are in the process of testing our remaining computers and printer to see if they have been permanently damaged by smoke. At this point, our technology replacement costs are unknown. Again, any donation will help us to reopen as quickly as possible.

We will continue to post updates to our website as our rebuilding process continues. Please keep checking back!

For now, we thank you for your love and your support. We are truly humbled to be on this journey with such an incredible community of allies. And the work continues…

In struggle,

Deon Haywood, WWAV Board of Directors, WWAV Staff and the women we support

Break-in and Arson at Offices of Women With a Vision, Local Organization That Advocates for Poor Women of Color

UPDATED: See youtube video embedded below featuring Deon Haywood and footage from WWAV office. For the official statement from WWAV, as well as a list of needs, see this link.

Shockwaves went out across social justice communities across the US at the word that Women With a Vision, a local organization that advocates for poor women of color, was the victim of a break-in and arson at their offices in MidCity.

Women With A Vision (WWAV) was co-founded by a collective of Black women in 1991 as a response to the non-existence of HIV prevention resources for those women who were the most at risk: poor women, sex workers, women with substance abuse issues, and transgender women.

WWAV executive director Deon Haywood announced the news late last night: "Family and Friends, thank you all for the kind words, and positive energy. Someone broke into our office and torched it...We are all safe. The office with important files and outreach supply was burned and there is smoke and water damage. We're looking for a space and donations can be made on our website."

The attack seemed political in its nature, directly targeting the crucial information, files, and materials needed for WWAV's work. According to an email report from Bill Quigley, a social justice attorney and friend of the organization, "Major fire damage was done to a room which contained education and outreach materials. The arsonist seemed to have deliberately targeted this room. Destroyed were: three plastic and silicone breast models which were used to help people learn how to do self-examinations for breast cancer; a plastic pelvic model of a vagina; a two feet by one and a half foot plastic model of a woman’s reproductive system; boxes of male and female condoms; flip charts demonstrating the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV; several wooden penises which were used for condom demonstration; and boxes of educational materials. The fires in that room seem to have been set with some accelerant and scorched the walls, ceiling fan and ceiling and destroyed everything in the room....The offices were ransacked leaving drawers pulled out and papers and files on the floor. A TV and a laptop were taken but many valuables were left including computer monitors, office equipment, even some beer left over from a reception held earlier in the week. Several small fires were started inside the offices, in the bathroom, the hallway and in a sitting room."

WWAV has made national news for leading the fight against Louisiana's Crime Against Nature Statute, which targeted poor women of color, transgender women, and anyone forced to trade sex for food or a place to sleep at night, forcing them to register as sex offenders. With the leadership of WWAV, which was directly accountable to those most affected, a national coalition that also included Center for Constitutional Rights and police misconduct attorney Andrea Ritchie was able to get the law off the books and has won legal victories in the process of removing the sex offender registration requirements for those convicted in the past.

UPDATE: In a video released this afternoon (and embedded below) WWAV executive director Deon Haywood shows the damage and discusses the effects, concluding, "We are fighters, we are warriors here at Women With a Vision, and we continue our work."

We will help spread the word as more information becomes available, but for now we hope you will make a donation to support the crucial work of WWAV.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Another Day in Court for Angola Three Prisoner

From our friends at the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3:
On Tuesday, May 29th, Albert Woodfox will begin a 3 day hearing that may result in his conviction being overturned for a third time. Proceedings will begin at 9am in Courtroom 1 at the US District Court in Baton Rouge and continue through Thursday, May 31st.

Albert will be present for the proceedings, and the hearing is open to the public. Please remember if attending that the Federal Court strictly enforces a more formal, conservative dress code (no short skirts or shorts of any kind, even with tights, no bare upper arms, sleeveless, or low cut shirts) and requires that observers don't react, either visibly or audibly, to anything the might see or hear in the courtroom. Also security is tight, so bring only your ID, car keys, and a pen and paper into the courthouse.

There is limited seating in the courtroom so if you arrive and are turned away, consider your show of support a success and try coming back the next day!

Unlike the first and second time that Albert's conviction was overturned based on judges who cited racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense, and suppression of exculpatory evidence during his first trials for the 1972 murder of Brent Miller, this proceeding will seek to overturn based on apparent discrimination in the selection of a grand jury foreperson during his 1998 retrial.

The well known facts of the A3 case will not be debated; all that will be examined is whether or not people of color were discriminated against during the grand jury selection process. This means instead of murder mystery theatre, witnesses will mostly discuss compositions of the pool of grand jury forepersons in the Parish where Albert was indicted. Expert witnesses will discuss statistical analysis and methodology, the demographics of the community, and the sociological mechanics of how discrimination can play out in the criminal justice system. If successful, this claim could serve to overturn Albert's conviction for a third time.

Judge James A. Brady, the same judge who overturned Albert's conviction the second time in 2008, will preside. That ruling was ultimately reinstated on appeal by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals who cited AEDPA-gutted habeas protections that limit federal power that allowed them to defer judgment to Louisiana.

Although there are no time limits officially imposed by law, Brady is expected to rule before the end of 2012.

You can view or download a new A3 flyer updated to be used as an organizing resource here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Five Reasons Drone Assassinations Are Illegal, By Bill Quigley

US civilian and military employees regularly target and fire lethal unmanned drone guided missiles at people across the world. Thousands of people have been assassinated. Hundreds of those killed were civilians. Some of those killed were rescuers and mourners.

These killings would be criminal acts if they occurred inside the US. Does it make legal sense that these killings would be legal outside the US?

Some Facts about Drone Assassinations

The US has used drones to kill thousands of people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. But the government routinely refuses to provide any official information on local reports of civilian deaths or the identities of most of those killed.

In Pakistan alone, the New America Foundation reports US forces have launched 297 drone strikes killing at least 1800 people, three to four hundred of whom were not even combatants. Other investigative journalists report four to eight hundred civilians killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan.

Very few of these drone strikes kill high level leaders of terror groups. A recent article in Foreign Affairs estimated “only one out of every seven drone attacks in Pakistan kills a militant leader. The majority of those killed in such strikes are not important insurgent commanders but rather low level fighters, together with a small number of civilians.”

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal in November 2011 revealed that most of the time the US did not even know the identities of the people being killed by drones in Pakistan. The WSJ reported there are two types of drone strikes. Personality strikes target known terrorist leaders. Signature strikes target groups of men believed to be militants but are people whose identities are not known. Most of the drone strikes are signature strikes.

In Yemen, there have been at least 34 drone assassination attacks so far in 2012 alone, according to the London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Using drones against people in Yemen, who are thought to be militants but whose names are not even known, was authorized by the Obama administration in April 2012, according to the Washington Post. Somalia has been the site of ten drone attacks with a growing number in recent months.

Civilian deaths in drone strikes are regularly reported but more chilling is the practice of firing a second set of drone strikes at the scene once people have come to find out what happened or to give aid. Glen Greenwald of Salon, a leading critic of the increasing use of drones, recently pointed out that drones routinely kill civilians who are in the vicinity of people thought to be “militants” and are thus “incidental” killings. But also the US also frequently fires drones again at people who show up at the scene of an attack, thus deliberately targeting rescuers and mourners.

Here are five reasons why these drone assassinations are illegal.

One. Assassination by the US government has been illegal since 1976

Drone killings are acts of premeditated murder. Premeditated murder is a crime in all fifty states and under federal criminal law. These murders are also the textbook definition of assassination, which is murder by sudden or secret attack for political reasons.

In 1976 U.S. President Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11905, Section 5(g), which states "No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination." President Reagan followed up to make the ban clearer in Executive Order 12333. Section 2.11 of that Order states "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination." Section 2.12 further says "Indirect participation. No agency of the Intelligence Community shall participate in or request any person to undertake activities forbidden by this Order." This ban on assassination still stands.

The reason for the ban on assassinations was that the CIA was involved in attempts to assassinate national leaders opposed by the US. Among others, US forces sought to kill Fidel Castro of Cuba, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam.

Two. United Nations report directly questions the legality of US drone killings

The UN directly questioned the legality of US drone killings in a May 2010 report by NYU law professor Philip Alston. Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, said drone killings may be lawful in the context of authorized armed conflict (eg Afghanistan where the US sought and received international approval to invade and wage war on another country). However, the use of drones “far from the battle zone” is highly questionable legally. “Outside the context of armed conflict, the use of drones for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal.” Can drone killings be justified as anticipatory self-defense? “Applying such a scenario to targeted killings threatens to eviscerate the human rights law prohibition against arbitrary deprivation of life.” Likewise, countries which engage in such killings must provide transparency and accountability, which no country has done. “The refusal by States who conduct targeted killings to provide transparency about their policies violates the international law framework that limits the unlawful use of lethal force against individuals.”

Three. International law experts condemn US drone killings

Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international affairs and politics at Princeton University thinks the widespread killing of civilians in drone strikes may well constitute war crimes. “There are two fundamental concerns. One is embarking on this sort of automated warfare in ways that further dehumanize the process of armed conflict in ways that I think have disturbing implications for the future,” Falk said. “Related to that are the concerns I’ve had recently with my preoccupation with the occupation of Gaza of a one-sided warfare where the high-tech side decides how to inflict pain and suffering on the other side that is, essentially, helpless.”

Human rights groups in Pakistan challenge the legality of US drone strikes there and assert that Pakistan can prosecute military and civilians involved for murder.

While stopping short of direct condemnation, international law expert Notre Dame Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell seriously questions the legality of drone attacks in Pakistan. In powerful testimony before Congress and in an article in America magazine she points out that under the charter of the United Nations, international law authorizes nations to kill people in other countries only in self-defense to an armed attack, if authorized by the UN, or is assisting another country in their lawful use of force. Outside of war, she writes, the full body of human rights applies, including the prohibition on killing without warning. Because the US is not at war with Pakistan, using the justification of war to authorize the killings is “to violate fundamental human rights principles.”

Four. Military law of war does not authorize widespread drone killing of civilians

According to the current US Military Law of War Deskbook, the law of war allows killing only when consistent with four key principles: military necessity, distinction, proportionality, and humanity. These principles preclude both direct targeting of civilians and medical personnel but also set out how much “incidental” loss of civilian life is allowed. Some argue precision-guided weapons like drones can be used only when there is no probable cause of civilian deaths. But the US military disputes that burden and instead directs “all practicable precautions” be taken to weigh the anticipated loss of civilian life against the advantages expected to be gained by the strike.

Even using the more lenient standard, there is little legal justification of deliberately allowing the killing of civilians who are “incidental” to the killings of people whose identities are unknown.

Five. Retired high-ranking military and CIA veterans challenge the legality and efficacy of drone killings

Retired US Army Colonel Ann Wright squarely denies the legality of drone warfare, telling Democracy Now: “These drones, you might as well just call them assassination machines. That is what these drones are used for: targeted assassination, extrajudicial ultimate death for people who have not been convicted of anything.”

Drone strikes are also counterproductive. Robert Grenier, recently retired Director of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center, wrote, “One wonders how many Yemenis may be moved in the future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them.”

Recent polls of the Pakistan people show high levels of anger in Pakistan at US military attacks there. This anger in turn leads to high support for suicide attacks against US military targets.

US Defense of Drone Assassinations

US officials claim these drone killings are not assassinations because the US has the legal right to kill anyone considered a terrorist, anywhere, if they can argue it is in self-defense. Attorney General Holder and White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan recently defended the legality of drone strikes and argued they are not assassinations because the killings are in response to the 9/11 attacks and are carried out in self-defense even when not in Afghanistan or Iraq. This argument is based on the highly criticized claim of anticipatory self-defense which justifies killings in a global war on terror when traditional self-defense would clearly not. The government refuses to provide copies of the legal opinions relied upon by the government.

Growing Resistance to Drone Assassinations

In signs of hope, people in the US are resisting the increasing use of drones.

CODEPINK, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the London-based human rights group Reprieve co-sponsored an International Drone Summit in Washington DC to challenge drone assassinations. Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill noted that Congress only managed to scrape up six votes to oppose the assassination of US citizens abroad. “What is happening to this country? We have become a nation of assassins. We have become a nation that is somehow silent in the face of the idea that assassination should be one of the centerpieces of US policy.”

The American Society of International Law issued a report “Targeting Operations with Drone Technology: Humanitarian Law Implications” in March 2011. Concerned that drones may be the future of warfare, scholars examined three questions in the US use of drone technology: the scope of armed conflict (what is the battlefield upon which deadly force of drone killing is authorized); who may be targeted; and the legal implications of who conducts the targeting (since it is often not military but clandestine CIA agents who decide who dies). Concluding that the US may soon find itself “on the other end of the drone” as this technology expands, they criticize official US silence on these key legal questions.

Others are taking direct action. Select examples include: fourteen people arrested in April 2009 outside Creech Air Force base in Nevada in connection with a protest against drones by the Nevada Desert Experience; in January 2010 people protested drones outside the CIA headquarters in Langley Virginia; in April 2011, thirty-seven were arrested at Hancock Air Force base in upstate New York as part of a four hundred person protest against the use of drones; in October 2011, as part of the International Week of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space there were protests outside of Raytheon Missile Systems plant in Tucson; in April 2012, twenty-eight people were pre-emptively arrested on their way to protest drones at Hancock Air Force Base.

There is a brilliant new book, Drone Warfare authored by global activist Medea Benjamin which documents the nuts and bolts of the drone industry and the money involved in their production and operation. She collects many global media reports of innocent civilian deaths, investigations into these deaths, and gives voice to international opposition groups like her own CODEPINK, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Fellowship of Reconciliation, War Resisters International, Human Rights Watch, the Catholic Worker movement, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and others working against the drones.

As National Public Radio and The New Republic jointly editorialized, there is good reason to doubt the veracity of US claims that drone killings are even effective. Drone use has escalated and expanded the US global war on terror and thus should be subject to higher levels of scrutiny than it is now. As the use of drones escalates so too does the risk of killing innocents which produces “legitimate anti-American anger that terrorist recruiters can exploit….Such a steady escalation of the drone war, and the inevitable increase in civilian casualties that will accompany it, could easily tip the delicate balance that assures we kill more terrorists than we produce.”

There is incredible danger in allowing US military and civilians to murder people anywhere in the world with no public or Congressional or judicial oversight. This authorizes the President and the executive branch, according to the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, to be prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.

The use of drones to assassinate people violates US and international law in multiple ways. US military and civilian employees, who plan, target and execute people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are violating the law and, ultimately, risk prosecution. As the technology for drone attacks spreads, protests by the US that drone attacks by others are illegal will sound quite hollow. Continuation of flagrantly illegal drone attacks by the US also risks justifying the exact same actions, taken by others, against us.

Bill is a human rights lawyer who teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and works with the Center for Constitutional Rights. A longer version of this article with sources is available. You can contact Bill at

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We Belong Together: Women's Delegation to Georgia, by Williana Washington-Tadlock

My name is Williana Washington Tadlock and I am a member of STAND. I became a member by getting involved in the BW Cooper campaign to fight for the rights for jobs in rebuilding our community. I am happy to say that we won that fight! With that, I became intrigued and wanted to do more. I began to attend meetings, protests, speak for my rights and help out in the office when I can. My involvement with STAND brought my community into direct fights with politicians, developers, community board members, and others to make sure that our voices are heard.

I had never been out of Louisiana before Katrina, which forced by relocation to Texas. Through my involvement with STAND I began attending Women's group meetings as a STAND representative. I was asked to go with our Women's Group to Atlanta for the We Belong Together Women's Delegation for immigrant women's rights - the second time I have left Louisiana in my life. There were women from all over the world; and the women of STAND With Dignity, and the Congress of Day Laborers represented New Orleans. The We Belong Together Delegation was designed to understand the stories of women who are living in Georgia after the passage of HB87 - a law which is intended to discriminate against immigrants, and which to me is a throwback to slavery.

The first day of the convention all the women met at a hotel suite to introduce each other, where we were from, and the organization we represent. After the introduction, we met the Georgia women's delegation. They are Latina women who want to fight for their human rights, especially after seeing the effects of HB87 on their families. For me, this experience was amazing. The women told the story of their lives - about the discrimination they go through not only in the US but in the countries they are from. There was Claudia, who is from Honduras: her husband was abusing her and threatened her by saying that her immigration status would be used against her if she told anyone. She never called police for help because she was afraid of the police. When she went with her husband to get documentation for her son she was caught by authorities and immediately deported, but he was not - her worst fears came to pass. She found her young son left in the hands of her abusive husband.

Alicia was a victim of racial profiling. She feel threatened when she takes her daughter to school or the hospital, because of police checkpoints set up since the passage of HB87. Her daughter suffers from a serious medical condition where she has convulsions in her sleep. Two years ago, she was stopped at a police checkpoint on her way to a pediatric hospital with her daughter, who had a high fever and pneumonia. She tried to reason with the officer but he made her wait 30 minutes with her sick daughter, then she was told she would be arrested for driving without a drivers license.

There were two Latinas who were traveling with us as delegates from the Congress of Day Laborers. One told the story of how she was arrested in New Orleans. She is here undocumented but her six-month-old son was born here and is a US citizen. Because of a domestic dispute, she faces deportation and the loss of her son.

I sat together with another lady on the trip to and from Atlanta, and asked her about her life. She informed me that she left six children in her country in order to come to the US to make enough money to send her kids to college. That did not make sense to me so I asked why she could not just work in her own country. She said in her own country, there is no health insurance and a job pays $50-$80 per week if you are lucky.

I wanted to understand how she came to the United States. She is from Guatemala and had to cross the Mexican border as well as the US border, where she walked across the desert all night and was picked up by a van. I asked why she did not just pay money and get a visa to come to the US. She explained that to do so requires that you own your own home, have a good job, a family, and other things that will ensure your return to your home country. Essentially, the US immigration system only allows rich people to come to the United States. Me being African American, I saw that this is just another form of slavery.

Since I have been home, I have been searching for more information about the plight of the strong women that I was honored to spend time with in Georgia. I realize that this is the fight that African Americans have struggled to overcome here for over 400 hundred years; we must come together to make sure that we are all treated equally. After all, we are all human beings, and no human being is illegal. I am Williana and I STAND with Dignity.