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Jerry Brown’s Last Challenge

Michael Brune

Commentary from the Sierra Club’s Executive Director

August 7, 2018 (

If Donald Trump could take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as efficiently as he sucks oxygen out of the news cycle, the climate crisis would be solved faster than you can say “Mexico will pay for that wall.” Unfortunately, even as we deal with the Trump administration’s daily cascade of corruption, crudeness, and cruelty, the clock keeps ticking and climate pollution keeps rising. But the math is merciless: If we don’t accelerate a phaseout of fossil fuels today, then the wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather events currently plaguing the planet will seem mild compared with what’s coming.

We can’t count on the federal government to tackle this problem while Trump is in office, but neither can we afford to wait until Trump is out of office. The solution? Take the challenge to a state in which Donald Trump’s leadership is so unpopular that he’s spent less than 24 hours there since he became president. A state with a booming economy that is not only the largest in the U.S. but also the fifth largest in the world. A high-tech state that has embraced clean energy and energy efficiency. And, paradoxically, a state that happens to be the nation’s fourth-largest producer of crude oil.

I mean California, of course. Nowhere else in the U.S. do we have a better opportunity to show how it’s possible to transition from fossil fuels in a way that’s smart, pragmatic, and equitable. What’s been missing, surprisingly, is the leadership to get started.

That’s ironic, because California is still led by one of the most vocal and visible resisters to Trump’s retreat from climate action: Governor Jerry Brown. And when it comes to the demand side of climate action (energy efficiency, renewable energy, cutting pollution at the tailpipe) Governor Brown has been a true champion. But when it comes to fighting climate change at the source — curbing the production of fossil fuels — it’s been a different story.

Normally a pragmatic visionary, Governor Brown has failed to reconcile two key climate facts: California is a major oil and gas producer, and the basic physics of climate science demand that we phase out oil and gas. Although no one expects oil and gas drilling to end overnight, California doesn’t even have a plan for how to begin phasing it out. In fact, under Governor Brown’s leadership, California has approved more than 20,000 new oil and gas wells. That’s leadership — in precisely the wrong direction.

Here’s what Governor Brown said to German policymakers about climate change less than a year ago: “Let’s lead the whole world to realize this is not your normal political challenge. This is much bigger. This is life itself. It requires courage and imagination.”

Exactly. The governor has an opportunity before leaving office to not just talk about how courage is needed in others but to show some himself by initiating a thoughtful and reasonable drawdown of fossil fuel production in the Golden State.

Here are three important steps Jerry Brown can take. First, stop approving new wells! You can’t begin to solve a problem until you stop making it worse. Second, lay the groundwork for a just transition for oil-producing regions. Commission an analysis of how the state could help communities in Kern County, the San Joaquin Valley, and elsewhere to not just survive but thrive during a transition to clean energy. Finally, start shutting down the existing oil and gas drill sites that are causing the most harm — those within 2,500 feet of schools, homes, parks, and businesses.

Los Angeles County alone, which is home to 10 million people, has 68 active oil fields, and thousands of drill sites are within that 2,500-foot boundary. Across California, millions of people are constantly exposed to toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and other compounds that are known to cause respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, nervous system damage, reproductive and endocrine disruption, and premature death. Even if climate change weren’t an issue, this should be stopped.

In September, Governor Brown will co-chair a Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The stated goal is to “Take Ambition to the Next Level.” Simply supporting renewable energy and defending fuel-efficiency standards is not the next level in 2018 — it’s where we already are. That’s why 26 climate scientists recently sent Governor Brown a letter telling him he needs to commit to phasing out oil and gas production in the state. In June, 109 elected officials from 24 counties in California told him the same thing, as did five Nobel Laureates last week. At this point, anything less can only be considered a failure of leadership when the governor should instead be securing his true legacy as a climate visionary.

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‘Potential War Crimes’: Lawmakers Demand Answers About US Role in Saudi Slaughter of Yemeni Civilians

Noting that he served on active duty as a Judge Advocate General officer in the U.S. Air Force, Lieu wrote that “a number of the coalition’s airstrikes look like war crimes.”

Mourners carry the coffin of a child at the funeral procession for those killed in an airstrike on a bus carried out last week by a warplane of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on August 13, 2018 in Saada, Yemen. (Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)Mourners carry the coffin of a child at the funeral procession for those killed in an airstrike on a bus carried out last week by a warplane of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on August 13, 2018 in Saada, Yemen. (Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

In the wake of the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition’s horrific bombing of a school buslast week that killed 40 Yemeni children and amid reports on Tuesday of dozens more civilian deaths after a new wave of Saudi bombings, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has sent a detailed letter (pdf) to the Department of Defense Inspector General demanding an investigation into whether Trump administration officials violated U.S. or international law by assisting the Saudis in their assault on Yemen.

“It is indisputable that the DoD-supported coalition has killed large numbers of children, women, and men who are civilians.”
—Rep. Ted Lieu

The Saudi-led coalition, which receives essential military support and intelligence from the U.S., “has repeatedly hit civilian targets—including schools, hospitals, funerals, and weddings—nowhere near military targets,” Lieu writes, pointing to an analysis by the Yemen Data Project showing that a third of Saudi bombings in Yemen have hit civilian targets. “I previously served on active duty as a JAG [Judge Advocate General] and a number of the coalition’s airstrikes look like war crimes.”

“If the coalition’s targeting of farms, food storage sites, and water sites was deliberate, these airstrikes would constitute a violation of Article 14 of Additional Protocol II and customary international law in non-international armed conflict,” Lieu adds. “I am deeply concerned that continued U.S. refueling, operational support functions, and weapons transfers could qualify as aiding and abetting these potential war crimes.”

The California congressman goes on to note that the U.S.-backed Saudi attacks on civilian targets cannot be attributed to mere faulty intelligence or incompetence.

“The coalition, which has air superiority, has in a number of cases very precisely struck civilian targets,” Lieu notes. “For example, coalition jets precisely struck a funeralattended by a large number of people and then came around and struck the same civilian target again. It is indisputable that the DoD-supported coalition has killed large numbers of children, women, and men who are civilians.”

In a letter (pdf) of her own on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Gen. Joseph Votel—the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East—to explain the U.S. military’s role in the Saudi-led coalition’s bombings of Yemeni civilians.

“According to public reports and non-governmental organizations operating on the ground in Yemen, coalition airstrikes, including some that are likely to have been supported by U.S. refueling and supplied with U.S. munitions, have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Yemeni civilians since the beginning of the military campaign in 2015, including most recently a school bus carrying dozens of children,” Warren noted.

Lieu and Warren’s letters come as Yemen-based journalists reported that yet another Saudi-led bombing campaign in the port city of Hodeidah on Tuesday killed more than 30 people, including women and children.

Since the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition’s bombing of a school bus last week, journalists and human rights advocates have denounced the attack as a clear war crime and demanded to know precisely what role the U.S. played in the massacre.

“For the Saudi-led coalition to bomb a bus full of children is a war crime.”
—Shireen Al-Adeimi

As Democracy Now! noted in a segment Tuesday morning, images posted to social media suggest that the bomb used in the attack was a Mark-82, which is manufactured by the massive American defense contractor Raytheon.

While U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has dispatched an American general to assist the Saudis with its “investigation” into the school bus bombing, Shireen Al-Adeimi—a human rights activist and professor at Michigan State University—told Democracy Now! that it is “preposterous to think” that the Saudis can properly investigate their own crimes, particularly given that one Saudi official has already described the school bus as a “legitimate target.”

“Every single day, there are airstrikes and casualties and civilians who have been killed by Saudi-led airstrikes. They have essentially absolved themselves of all wrongdoing every time they have investigated themselves,” Al-Adeimi concluded. “What Yemenis need is really an independent investigation, which has been put forward in the U.N. twice already and has been rejected by the Saudi-led coalition and the U.S. unfortunately has provided cover for the Saudi-led coalition at the U.N.”

Watch Al-Adeimi’s full interview on Democracy Now!:

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UPDATES ~ 2 ACTION ALERTS ~ ANNOUNCEMENTS for Tues. 8/14 – Fri. 817 ~ SAVE the DATES (from Adrienne Fong)

Please consider posting your events on Indybay

Check Indybay for events not listed here that might be of interest to you.

ACCESSIBILITY: Please include Accessibility Information on events! This is a JUSTICE  ISSUE!  

KID FRIENDLY or CHILDCARE Please indicate for events.    


A. Teen girl slammed unconscious during arrest by San Francisco police, witnesses say – August 13, 2018 

B. I Don’t Remember Voting For U.S. Bombs to Murder Little Kids in Yemen, Do You? – August 13, 2018


C. Students, unions demand UC divest from ICE-related companies – August 10, 2018


D. Court to EPA: Chlorpyrifos ban is on! – August 10, 2018

 E. Trump’s “Space Force” Is About to Take Off in a Huge Way. Strategic Threat to Russia and China – August 10, 2018

F. California Wildfires: Inmates are Rising Their Lives Working Alongside Firefighters for $2 a Day – August 8, 2018


1. Two different judges granted this man asylum in the United States. So why is he still in detention?


Ansly Damus arrived in the United States two years ago. He was fleeing violent threats from a local politician in his home country of Haiti, and asked for asylum in America. Twice, a judge has granted it to him. Yet, Ansly is still languishing in a detention center in Ohio.

2. Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the fatal shooting of Mike Brown

   Four years ago, my son, Mike Brown, was fatally gunned down by Officer Darren Wilson as he surrendered with arms in the air, pleading for his life.

   My family and community took their outrage and pain to the streets. We made public pleas for the officer who murdered my son in broad daylight to be indicted and convicted.

   Yet,   we were denied justice

   Now Missouri Governor Mike Parson has the opportunity to right this terrible wrong by appointing a special prosecutor to reopen 


Tuesday, August 14 – Friday, August 17 

Tuesday, August 14 

1. Tuesday, 6:00pm – 7:00pm, What is a Community Land Trust? An Introductory Workshop.

SF Main Library
100 Larkin St., Mary Strong Room, 1st Floor

Learn more about Community Land Trusts and the ways that SFCLT is using this model of community land ownership to fight displacement in San Francisco.


2. Tuesday, 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Get Trained As an Ice Detainee Bail-Out Volunteer 

Berkeley Finnish Hall
1970 Chestnut St. (in North Berkeley)

GET TRAINED AS AN ICE DETAINEE BAIL-OUT VOLUNTEER ~2 hour training with Rebecca Merton of Freedom for Immigrants~

  –Trainings will also be on Sept. 11 & Oct. 9

Over $100,000 for the Richmond ICE bail fund!

The challenge:

So far, we’ve only had to time to bail out four people–even though there’s enough funds to bail out more.

The actual physical on-the-ground process of bailing someone out of ICE takes at least a full day, if not several, of meeting with the detainee in visiting hours, filling out paperwork, meeting with their family to help arrange to pick up them so they aren’t just ejected out into the night with no money and no charged phone, dealing with random paperwork issues that might come up, and a level of emotional of labor involved in working with a detainee and the family.

If we’re going to get this done before the facility closes, we are going to need around 1 volunteer per detainee per week. That’s around 50 new volunteers we need if we are going to reach our mission of bailing all 169 people out of Richmond ICE who were there the day the sheriff announced it was closing.

There’s a 120 day deadline for the facility to close, and already we’re a month in.

Even if you can’t speak Spanish you can become a volunteer! Also, there are people from Africa and China all over the world in there

We just need English speakers who are able to fill out papers and talk to jail/ICE personnel and the detainee’s family throughout the process.


3. Tuesday, 6:30pm – 8:45pm, Refuse Fascism Meeting #TrumpPenceMustGo! 

Sports Basement
1590 Bryant St.

We urge both new and experienced volunteers to join us in strategizing together and planning our next steps forward in the struggle to drive out the Trump and Pence regime.

We, the people, NOT the powers-that-be, are the ones who can end this nightmare. You are needed now. Come and find out the many ways you can be involved in this movement. Bring friends and family and get organized!

“We are horrified and angered at the shocking damage already done to lives here and around the world by the Trump/Pence regime. We recognize that they are poised to do far worse, including threatening WAR, even nuclear war. Through an unrelenting barrage of daily outrages and twitter outbursts, the Trump/Pence regime is radically remaking society – step by step hammering into place a vicious American fascism. This is not insult or exaggeration, it is what they are doing…”

See FB site for the call.

Sponsor: Refuse Fascism Bay Area


Wednesday, August 15

4. Wednesday, 2:00pm – 4:00pm, Bayview Hunters Point Environmental Justice Response Task Force

Southeast Community Facility (Alex Pitcher Room)
1800 Oakdale, Bayview Hunters Point

Part of the IVAN Network * Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods


2:00 PM     Welcome

2:10 PM     Review of July 2018 Meeting Minutes

2:15 PM     New Pollution Complaints filed on

2:20 PM     Presentation by BUILD LLC    –

                   Update on the India Basin Mixed Use Development Project

2:35 PM    -Community Discussion

2:55 PM      Presentation by Amy Brownell of the San Francisco Department of Public Health

–Review of SFDPH’s work in the BVHP Shipyard and the Shipyard Land Use Restoration, Parcel A, and SFDPH’s Community Outreach

3:15 PM    -Community Discussion

3:55 PM     Next Steps

Info: Bayview Hunters Point Environmental Justice Response Task Force

5. Wednesday, 3:00pm – 4:30pm, A Rebel’s Guide to the History of the Russian Revolution (sec 2) 

New Valencia Hall
747 Polk St. (nr. Ellis St.)

The first socialist revolt that established a workers’ state in Russia in 1917 was a roadmap for anyone determined to end corporate rule and income inequality today.

Leon Trotsky, a co-leader with Lenin, wrote a definitive account as participant and leader: The History of the Russian Revolution.

Explore this inspiring story where the 99% rose up and won! Be part of a small group discussion and reading circle led by socialist feminists.

For more info: 415-864-1278


6. Wednesday, 3:00pm – 7:00pm, BBQ to Break Down Borders and End Mass Incarceration 

120 Broadway

Safe Return and Communities for a Better Environment are coming together through the Our Power Coalition to spread the truth about the corporations profiteering off of the separation of families and caging of children as young as 2 years old.

Join us for a discussion on how we can interrupt this system that criminalizes Black and brown communities.

As organizations dedicated to building people power for social, racial, economic and environmental justice, we demand that this administration return all children back to their families. Youth should not be used as a bargaining tool, especially in creating immigration policies.

As we resist the Trump regime’s anti-immigrant policies, we acknowledge that this is just one piece of systemic violence against Black and brown people locally and globally; from mass incarceration to police violence to colonialism and imperialism.


7. Wednesday, 5:30pm – 6:30pm, PEACE VIGIL – mostly every week 

One Post Street
(on the steps facing Market Street, below Feinstein’s office,
directly above the Montgomery BART/Muni station).

Look for the PEACE banner!

Themes vary each week on topics for PEACE & JUSTICE 

8. Wednesday, 5:30pm – 8:00pm, Issue #25 Launch: Remaking Rent Control 

Impact Hub
1885 Mission St.



The San Francisco Public Press invites you to the launch of Issue 25, which digs deep into potential solutions aimed at renters and landlords:
– a novel, expanded form of rent control
– a tax on vacant units
– limits on speculation
– mediation or free legal counsel for tenants being evicted
All were raised during this year’s mayoral race and all would require action by voters or city officials. None of these proposals has universal support.

The evening will begin with a journalist roundtable to examine housing solutions featured in the issue, followed by a panel discussion on rent control, moderated by assistant editor Noah Arroyo.
Learn about Proposition 10, the statewide ballot measure to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, the 1995 state law limiting rent control and new policy questions:
– What are the consequences of the repeal of Costa-Hawkins on the Bay Area housing crisis?

– What can cities do to protect tenants, preserve existing rental units and encourage the development of new housing?

Panelists will hold views on all sides of the rent control debate and are also keen on engaging in civil discourse.
– David Garcia, Policy Director, Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley
– Peter Reitz, Executive Director, Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute
– Deepa Varma, Executive Director, San Francisco Tenants Union

Sponsors: San Francisco Public Press and Impact Hub


9. Wednesday, 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Solidarity Meeting 

1 Fam
1612 7th Street

OneFam has been engaged in an eviction with its landlord for the past few years.

The solidarity meeting is a chance for the OneFam community to come together and talk strategy to #DefendOneFam.

The first hour is spent giving updates on the legal battle. The second hour is where we split into working groups. We have working groups for social media, direct action, outreach, fundraising and more.


10. Wednesday, 7:30pm, APTP General Membership Meeting 

East Side Arts Alliance
2277 International Blvd

Agenda will include presentations from families and discussion about Sheriff Ahern and Santa Rita Jail.

The Anti Police-Terror Project began as a project of the ONYX Organizing Committee. We are a Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color. Founding coalition members include the Black Power Network, Community Ready Corps, Workers World, and the Idriss Stelley Foundation.


Thursday, August 16 

11. Thursday, 10:00am – 1:00pm, Coalition Free School

Coalition on Homelessness
468 Turk St.

Week 5, August 16: Tenant Rights

This is an 8-week course where individual training will take place every Thursday from 10:00 to 1:00 starting Thursday July 19th, unless time is noted as different. These trainings will be open to all Coalition staff, Board, volunteers, work group members, Our City Our Home campaign members, as well as ally organizations. People can simply show up for individual classes or the entire course. Bag lunches will be provided. Classes will be in English and translated into Spanish.


12. Thursday, 6:00pm, SF Food Not Bombs Thursday Food Share – Weekly 

16th Street & Mission

We will share free hot food in the 16th & Mission BART plaza at 6pm until the food runs out. We welcome help! Talk to us at the sharing if you’d like to help us cook, serve, or clean up. We cook from 3pm to 6pm. Contact this page with any questions.


13. Thursday, 6:30pm – 9:00pm, Film: “Manilatown Is in the Heart Time Travel with Al Robles” 

Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin St.

Ticket Info:

Free with museum admission.

Part of PAL / The Pilipinx American Library + Thursday Nights at the Asian Art Museum

Take a journey through the heart of Manilatown with Al Robles in Curtis Choy’s acclaimed lyrical portrait, “Manilatown Is in the Heart Time Travel with Al Robles” (2008). In this touching documentary, Choy chronicles Robles’ enduring commitment to supporting the manong generation, Filipino men who came to the West Coast as workers in the 1920s and 1930s, and preserving their stories through activism and poetry. This screening will be introduced and followed by readings by Robles’ nephew, poet Tony Robles.

Tony Robles is the author of “Fingerprints of a Hungerstrike” (Ithuriel’s Spear, 2017) and “Cool Don’t Live Here No More” (Ithuriel’s Spear, 2015) and is co-editor and a revolutionary worker-scholar at Poor magazine.

Presenters: Center for Asian American Media and Manilatown Heritage Foundation.


Friday, August 17

14. Friday, 12Noon – 2:00pm, Mothers on the March Against Police Murders

Hall of Justice
850 Bryant St.

Please join us to demand that DA George Gascon charge police officers with murder! Stand with ALL the families that have been impacted by police murders.

They have been out there every Friday. This will be the 98th week!!

15. Friday, 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Bystander Intervention Training 

CAIR – SF Bay Area
3160 De La Cruz Blvd., Suite 110
Santa Clara



Join us for an interactive Bystander Intervention training on Friday, at the CAIR-SFBA’s office. This training will be led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. During the training, participants will learn about the history and principles of nonviolence, and will practice specific de-escalation techniques as a bystander in a variety of scenarios.


16. Friday, 7:00pm – 8:30pm, Eyewitness Cuba: “The Ongoing Revolution” 

2969 Mission St.

$3-10 donation, no one turned away.
Refreshments provided. Wheelchair accessible.

Join us for talks, video and a slideshow from two recent PSL delegations to Cuba. The delegates took part in the celebrations marking the 65th anniversary of the Moncada action that sparked the Revolution. Come learn about the new Cuban constitution project that the whole Cuban population will debate in the next three months, and how their socialist democracy differs from the capitalist system we live under.


17. Friday, 8:00pm – 9:30pm, Know Your Rights in FBI Interactions & at Airports 

Yassen Burlingame Center
1722 Gilbreth Rd.

CAIR-SFBA , Asian Americans Advancing Justice- Asian Law Caucus (AAAJC-ALC) and Yaseen Burlingame Center Present:

Know Your Rights in FBI Interactions & at Airports

Presentations By:

Ammad Rafiqi, CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights & Legal Services Coordinator
Sally Horna, CAIR-SFBA Legal Fellow
Christina Sinha, Staff Attorney & Program Manager, National Security & Civil Rights, AAAJC-ALC


18. Friday, Aug. 17, 8:00pm – 10:00pm & Saturday, Aug. 18 , 8pm; Sunday, Aug. 19, 7:00pm, My Name is Rachel Corrie 

American Conservatory Theater SF Costume Shop: Fittings
1117 Market St.


Ashley Malloy revives her award winning national tour of the one person show, My Name is Rachel Corrie, on Friday August 17th and Saturday August 18th at 8 pm, and on Sunday August 19th at 7pm in ACT’S costume Shop theater.

My Name is Rachel Corrie, edited from Rachel’s emails and journal entries by the late Alan Rickman and editor in chief of The Guardian, Katherine Viner, chronicles the life of 23 year old American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, who in January 2003 traveled from her home in Olympia, WA to the Gaza strip with the International Solidarity Movement, where she defended Palestinian homes and water resources from being destroyed. On March 16th, 2003, just weeks after her arrival, she was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while protecting a host family’s home from being destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces.


~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ 


Saturday, August 25

19. Saturday, 11:00am – 3:30pm, Bay Area National Prison Strike Call to Action / Mobilization

San Quentin State Prison

11:00am – Rally / Mobilization at West Oakland BART


Carpool & Bus to San Quentin

Support Bus to San Quentin

The Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee, stands in solidarity with the people who have declared a Nationwide Prison Strike beginning on August 21st (This date commemorates the assassination of Black Panther Party, Field Marshall, and prison activist, George Jackson, by San Quentin prison guards) and extending to September 9th, 2018.

The National Prison Strike is in response to the “riot” in the Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina on April 15, 2018. . Seven prisoners lost their lives during an instigated melee that could have been avoided had the prison not been overcrowded from the greed wrought by mass incarceration and a lack of respect for human life that is embedded in this country’s penal ideology

The Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee, is organizing a Mobilization and Call to Action, on August 25, 2018, at San Quentin State Prison, with the objective of raising awareness of the inhumane conditions, treatment and policies that afflict those held in these gulags throughout amerikkka.

National Demands of the men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons:

1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.


Sunday, August 26 

Note: The action on Monday, 8/13 of “No to a Handmaids World! No fascist USA!” organized by Refuse Fascism attracted lots of attention.

Plans are being made to do a demo with “Handmaids” on the 26th. Info when available will be provided. Your participation is welcomed. Contact if you are interested in participating.

20. Sunday, 1:00pm – 3:00pm, Unite for Justice: Bay Area to #StopKavanaugh (National Demos) 

Civic Center

On August 26, all across the country, Americans will stand united in commitment to our freedom and our future to demand that the U.S. Senate stop Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for a lifelong appointment to the Supreme Court.

In Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump chose a nominee who not only has extremist, ultra-conservative legal views on a range of issues, but who has repeatedly argued that the Supreme Court should put the president above the law. Donald Trump is at the center of a criminal investigation, and he should not be allowed to pick his own judge and jury.

Kavanaugh would rule against reproductive freedom, health care, the environment, voting rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, and immigrant rights for generations.

Senators in all fifty states must listen to their constituents, do their jobs to uphold the will of the people, protect the soul of our country and Constitution, and block this nomination. United, we will to fight to ensure Brett Kavanaugh never gets confirmed by the Senate. We will #StopKavanaugh. Join us.

This will be a rally with singing and interactive art, and it will be family friendly.

Cohosts include:
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
California National Organization for Women
Equal Rights Advocates
Equality California
Indivisible SF
Raging Grannies, East Bay
San Francisco Democratic Party
Sierra Club
South Beach District 6 Democratic Club of San Francisco
The Greenlining Institute
United Democratic Club

Help us spread the word – share this event & invite your friends.

RSVP on the official event page here:

This event will be in Civic Center Plaza, is wheelchair accessible and will have wheelchair accessible porta potties. Learn more about the Civic Center here:

Learn more about Unite for Justice 2018:

Questions? Contact Allie Lahey at


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This Sort of Spineless Corporate Pandering Is Why Democrats Keep Losing

The DNC’s vote to reverse a ban on fossil fuel industry giving is a deplorable step backward for the party

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, standing next to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking in Berryville, Virginia on July 24, 2017, as they unveiled the Democrats’ new “Better Deal” agenda. (Photo: AP/Cliff Owen)


When we were fighting the Keystone XL pipeline back during the Obama Administration, I learned to watch out for Friday afternoons. That was the Administration’s favorite time to put out a news dump, whether it was a faulty environmental impact statement or some sort of waffling delay of the project. We knew the Obama team was conflicted about the pipeline and increasingly realized that it undid all of their rhetorical commitment to climate action. But instead of showing the political courage to finally say “no” to the pipeline, they strung out the decision for years with these quiet Friday afternoon announcements, trying to bury the news at the end of a long week.

“It’s absolutely vital that the DNC and the climate movement stand with labor and workers across the country, but this is the wrong way to do it.”

Saying “no” to the fossil fuel industry clearly still comes hard for Democrats, which is why on Friday afternoon, at 5:00pm ET the Democratic National Committee voted to reverse a decision they made two months ago to not take political contributions for the fossil fuel industry. This had to be one of the quickest flip-flops in DNC history, and if it hadn’t been for some attentive journalists (credit to Alexander Kaufman over at Huffington Post who broke the news) and addicted Twitter users, the Committee may have succeeded in burying it.

Instead, the decision blew up in their face. Christine Pelosi, Nancy’s daughter, who had been one of the DNC officials who had worked with advocates to push for a ban on fossil fuel money, quickly started live tweeting the proceedings, revealing that she hadn’t even been consulted on the moves until they were already underway. The always attentive RL Miller of Climate Hawks Vote, and a main driver behind the “no fossil fuel money” push, immediately got some fiery quotes. I ended up getting out a tweet on the way to a friend’s wedding reception that now has over 500 retweets and 1,000 likes, big numbers for a pedestrian account like mine.
I think the virality of the news didn’t just come from our collective sense of outrage, but the sinking sensation that the decision affirmed everything that we knew to be true about the Democratic Party establishment. Yet again, given the chance to stand with young people, progressives, and the over 950 diverse, exciting candidates who have already signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, the party caved to a few conservative unions who represent fossil fuel industry workers and have worked hand in glove with the industry to support projects like Keystone XL.
It’s absolutely vital that the DNC and the climate movement stand with labor and workers across the country, but this is the wrong way to do it. Democrats should be embracing the powerful parts of the labor movement that are supporting a just transition to 100% clean energy, not unions who are still throwing their weight behind more fossil fuel projects. As Kaufman wrote in a follow up article in the Huffington Post, Democrats could unite their entire coalition around a Green New Deal agenda that could create millions of jobs while combating the climate crisis.

Instead, their lack of vision traps them time and again in the false dichotomy of jobs versus the environment, a division that is especially absurd considering how few union jobs there are in the fossil fuel industry these days. Only 4.4% of fossil fuel workers are unionized. The solar industry alone employs more people than coal, oil and gas combined. The future of labor in America isn’t with fossil fuels, it’s with advocating for policies like a federal jobs guarantee to give a job saving the planet to everyone to who wants one.

“Climate, jobs and justice. That’s the vision that the Democratic Party needs to embrace.”

So, what do we do now? The answer is certainly not to give up on Democrats writ large and stay away from the polls. 2018 has seen a wave of inspiring, progressive Democrats who are putting forward genuine solutions to the intersecting problems we face. As I wrote above, over 950 candidates have signed onto the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, a number that will surely top 1,000 by election day. More so than ever, we have champions who deserve and need our support. Getting these Climate Progressives into office, and into positions of leadership in the Democratic party, is what is going to ultimately change the DNC from a corporatist, centrist bureaucracy into a meaningful force for change.

At the same time, we need to continue to fight for our principles. That’s why it’s vital, even in the midst of an election, to call out the DNC for this deplorable decision. We sent out a petition to 350 Action members across the country on Sunday and will make sure to get your voices directly to the DNC in the coming week. It’s also why at 350 Action, we’ve been proud to support the young people in the Sunrise Movement who have been birddogging Democratic candidates across the country and hosting sit-ins in places like Massachusetts, New York and California to push our elected officials to actually walk the talk on climate. And it’s why we’re going to be turning out in force for the Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice mobilization this September 8, a concerted attempt to push all elected officials and local governments to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry and support 100% renewables for all.
Climate, jobs and justice. That’s the vision that the Democratic Party needs to embrace. When it does so, it will find that instead of constantly fracturing its coalition into competing parts, it will be uniting a movement that is ready to contest for power in all 50 states. The DNC could take a big step in that direction by recommitting to not take a penny more from the fossil fuel industry and embracing a Green New Deal that will benefit our climate, our communities, and all the workers who live in them.
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Declaration of Campaign for the Human Rights of Landless People

First they came for the homeless

August 11, 2018

So say the people:

Declaration of Campaign for the Human Rights of Landless People
San Francisco Bay Area Landless Peoples Alliance
“Today we demand an end to the criminalization of homelessness and say ‘Homes for All’”


We live in a diverse community comprising many struggles against oppression: first the resistance of the Ohlone people from genocide, then the resistances of all people of color from racism, the struggles of poor people against classism, the movements for the rights of woman, LGBTQI communities, people with disabilities, and other marginalized people. Throughout these struggles these systems of oppression have been integrated into the local governance to be rooted out by mobilizations led by communities confronting power. Today landless people in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the country have been denied basic dignity, and our human rights have been violated continuously. Our people have been denied housing, a living income, health care, land, and education. Our current political leaders have been complicit in the oppression of landless people either through directly advocating for criminalization or failing to act.

But today, we say this oppression must end!

We, the dispossessed landless people and those with overpriced and substandard housing are integral members of the community in the San Francisco Bay Area. Standing together we comprise the majority in this community fighting displacement as the insatiable greed of real estate speculators drive up the price of housing and thus drive our neighbors and families into the street, into substandard housing, or away from the neighborhoods we call home. We are the ones betrayed by our local leaders; mayors, city councils, city managers, city officials, and police who consistently ally themselves with those who extract wealth from our community without providing anything in return. These leaders have proclaimed states of emergency due to the lack of housing, yet as they spend millions of dollars and give away public land nearly none of those resources produce housing lifting our people out of homelessness. The same ones who collapsed our nations economy and displaced millions during the foreclosure crisis are the ones who continue to take everything away from our communities enriching themselves.

To prevent the continuation of the above and as our last hope, after having tried to utilize all other means based upon various local political processes we invoke Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognizes as follows:

“the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for [themselves and their family] including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”
Therefore, according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution as well as the rights enumerated in its Amendments we declare to the local governments in the San Francisco Bay Area that they must end their role within the systemic disenfranchisement and displacement of our community and proclaim themselves true allies of the community by ending the criminalization of homelessness and ensuring “Homes for All”.

We also ask that the U.N. Human Rights Committee (CCPR), Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Committee against Torture (CAT), Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), and the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights as well as the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI), Secretariat for Legal Affairs (SLA), and Justice Studies Center of the Americas (JSCA) monitor the situation of the treatment of landless people and displacement of poor people and people of color.

Beforehand, we refuse any effort to disgrace our movement by falsely characterizing landless people by pathologizing, criminalizing, or attacking our character. Homelessness is a product of systemic classism and not a product of any individual’s character.

Therefore, according to this Declaration of Campaign for the Human Rights of Landless People we, the San Francisco Bay Area Landless Peoples Alliance, make the following demands:

First: All criminalization of homelessness must end immediately. All people who are sheltering themselves on public land will be immediately protected under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution which demands that public authority provide for “safe havens” for all homeless people where they can shelter themselves with dignity. This will include provision by local governments of water, sewer, toilets, sanitation, and trash removal services.

Second: To live in dignity landless people in “safe havens” will be allowed to self-govern. “Safe havens” will be run by their residents, not outside agencies nor non-profits. Local governments will provide equivalent funding to train and hire residents to provide their own services rather than hire outside contractors.

Third: Collective punishment and all other activity designed to undermine “safe havens” will end. Local officials will not raid an entire “safe haven” based on the activity of one or a small number of residents. Local authorities will also not interfere with the internal composition of residents within a “safe haven” by removing individuals without probable cause nor forcing “safe havens” to accept new residents without their consent.

Fourth: All confiscation of landless people’s property will end, and all property immediately returned.

Fifth: Officials will communicate to all public agencies the location and status of all sanctioned encampments to coordinate transitional housing services.

Sixth: Resolve that all landless people have the human right to assert self-defense against prosecution for activities necessary for survival. Prohibitions on sleeping, sitting, lying, panhandling, performing, and loitering in public will end. Individuals will be allowed to sleep in cars, and plans to reclaim vacant properties to provide housing will be put in place.

Seventh: All new housing shall prioritize housing for landless people including Section 8 housing and housing for truly low-income people such as those with an income below 30% of the Area Median Income. This goal shall include one or more of the following: eminent domain, community land trusts, housing cooperatives, affordability covenants, and changes to building, zoning, permitting, and other local codes to expand low-income housing opportunities.

To the People of the San Francisco Bay Area: We the landless people and our allies freely declare this San Francisco Bay Area Landless Peoples Alliance as a last resort for our community self-defense. The local governments have known for many years that our community is in crisis, yet they have failed to act in any meaningful way to address the needs of our community. Therefore, we ask for your participation and support for this plan that mobilizes for land, housing, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice, and peace. In return we declare that we will continue this Campaign for the Human Rights of Landless People until we have realized our vision: “Homes for All”.


First They Came for the Homeless
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
The Village
Land Action
Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers

Dated: May 2018

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How many law enforcement agencies does it take to screw in a light bulb?

By Michael Petrelis

How many law enforcement agencies have some jurisdiction to arrest or detain an individual, or who are equipped with guns and ammunition in San Francisco? I want to map out the number of police departments here.

This is the list I’ve compiled of such agencies and there are thirteen agencies on it. Let me know if I’ve missed any law enforcement department that ought to be listed:

1 – FBI

2 – ICE

3 – US Interior Department, National Parks Service

4 – US State Department Diplomatic Security Office

5 – US Marshals

6 – US Mint

7 – California Highway Patrol

8 – BART Police Department

9 – UCSF Police Department

10 – SF Police Department

11 – SF Sheriff’s Department

12 – SF Parks and Recreation Police

13 – SF City College Police

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Pentagon Officials Listen In Silence As Mike Pence Details Plans For Angel-Guided Defense Weapons System

August 10, 2018 (

WASHINGTON—Feigning polite interest throughout the 90-minute meeting, Pentagon officials from all five branches of the armed forces listened in silence Thursday as Mike Pence presented his detailed plans for a state-of-the-art angel-guided weapons system. “Though we are grateful for the vice president’s interest in national defense, the prospect of using seraphim-targeted bombs and heretic-seeking missiles to protect America from hostile sinners is not feasible, nor indeed useful, at this time,” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis, graciously thanking Pence for his hand-drawn schematics of a proposed Holy Ghost cloaking device that would allow planes to fly undetected above the homes of prostitutes and thieves. “Obviously, we cannot plan our defense against North Korea around the face of God appearing before Kim Jong-un and turning him into a pillar of salt, but it’s not like I can tell the vice president of the United States to stop talking. Luckily, he wound down after explaining how the Gabriel’s Trumpet Alert System worked, which is just as well, because apparently the idea behind it is that we would just all ascend bodily into Heaven, which in many ways contradicts our current strategic goals.” The National Guard, however, may consider Pence’s contingency plans for non-lethal counters to possible civil unrest, saying the idea of a crowd-dispersing holy water cannon is “not completely without merit.”

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What this report finds: Income inequality has risen in every state since the 1970s and, in most states, it has grown in the post–Great Recession era. From 2009 to 2015, the incomes of the top 1 percent grew faster than the incomes of the bottom 99 percent in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The top 1 percent captured half or more of all income growth in nine states. In 2015, a family in the top 1 percent nationally received, on average, 26.3 times as much income as a family in the bottom 99 percent.

Why it matters: Rising inequality is not just a story of those on Wall Street, in Hollywood, or in the Silicon Valley reaping outsized rewards. Measured by the ratio of top 1 percent to bottom 99 percent income in 2015, eight states plus the District of Columbia, 45 metropolitan areas, and 139 counties had gaps wider than the national gap. In fact, unequal income growth since the 1970s has pushed the top 1 percent’s share of all income above 23.9 percent (the 1928 national peak share, according to Piketty and Saez) in five states, 30 metro areas, and 78 counties.

What we can do to fix the problem: The rise of top incomes relative to the bottom 99 percent represents a sharp reversal of the trend that prevailed in the mid-20th century. From 1928 to 1973, the share of income held by the top 1 percent declined in every state for which we have data. This earlier era was characterized by a rising minimum wage, low levels of unemployment after the 1930s, widespread collective bargaining in private industries (manufacturing, transportation, telecommunications, and construction), and a cultural, political, and legal environment that kept a lid on executive compensation in all sectors of the economy. We need policies that return the economy to full employment and keep it there, return bargaining power to U.S. workers, increase political participation by all citizens, and boost public investments in child care, education, housing, and health care. Such policies will help prevent the wealthiest few from appropriating more than their fair share of the nation’s expanding economic pie.


This report, our fourth such analysis,1 focuses on trends in income inequality. It uses the latest available data to examine how the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent in each state have fared over the years 1917–2015 and to provide a snapshot of top incomes in 2015 by county and metropolitan area. (Data for our entire series, from 1917 to 2015, are available at

This analysis finds, consistent with our previous analyses, that there has been vast and widespread growth in income inequality in every corner of the country. Overall, the growth in incomes of the bottom 99 percent has improved since our last report, in step with a strengthening economy, but the gap between the top 1 percent and everyone else still grew in the majority of states we examine here.


In 2015, the top 1 percent of families in the U.S. earned, on average, 26.3 times as much income as the bottom 99 percent—an increase from 2013, when they earned 25.3 times as much.

Eight states plus the District of Columbia had gaps wider than the national gap. In the most unequal—New York, Florida, and Connecticut—the top 1 percent earned average incomes more than 35 times those of the bottom 99 percent.

Forty-five of 916 metropolitan areas had gaps wider than the national gap. In the 17 most unequal metropolitan areas, the average income of the top 1 percent was at least 35 times greater than the average income of the bottom 99 percent. Most unequal was the Jackson metropolitan area, which spans Wyoming and Idaho; there the top 1 percent in 2015 earned on average 132.0 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent of families. The next 16 metropolitan areas with the largest top-to-bottom ratios were Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida (90.1); Key West, Florida (81.3); Sebastian-Vero Beach, Florida (67.2); Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut (62.2); Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida (55.4); Port St. Lucie, Florida (45.5); Glenwood Springs, Colorado (45.0); Hailey, Idaho (44.9); Gardnerville Ranchos, Nevada (44.3); Summit Park, Utah (43.5); North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida (43.1); New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania (39.4); Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida (38.8); Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Arkansas-Missouri (37.2); Midland, Texas (35.7); and Steamboat Springs, Colorado (35.3).

Of 3,061 counties, 139 had gaps wider than the national gap. The average income of the top 1 percent was at least 35 times greater than the average income of the bottom 99 percent in 50 counties. In Teton County, Wyoming (which is one of two counties in the Jackson metropolitan area), the top 1 percent in 2015 earned on average 142.2 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent of families.

There is a wide spread in what it means to be in the top 1 percent by state, metro area, and county.

To be in the top 1 percent nationally in 2015, a family needed an income of $421,926. Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia, 107 metro areas, and 317 counties had local top 1 percent income thresholds above that level.

For states (including the District of Columbia), the highest thresholds were in Connecticut ($700,800), District of Columbia ($598,155), New Jersey ($588,575), Massachusetts ($582,774), New York ($550,174), and California ($514,694).

Thresholds above $1 million could be found in five metro areas (Jackson, Wyoming-Idaho; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut; Summit Park, Utah; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California; Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida) and 17 counties.

Looking at the residence of families with incomes above the 2015 national threshold of $421,926 for entering the top 1 percent, we find:

Of all the income received by the national top 1 percent in 2015, half accrued to families in five states: California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois. These five states accounted for about 40 percent of all income in the U.S. (the sum of all incomes including the bottom 99 percent and top 1 percent).

We find the largest concentrations of national top 1 percent income in New York, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, California, New Jersey, Nevada, Wyoming, and Illinois.

We find the largest concentrations (relative to each metropolitan area’s share of all income) of national top 1 percent income in the following 10 metropolitan areas: Jackson, Wyoming-Idaho; Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut; Key West, Florida; Summit Park, Utah; Sebastian-Vero Beach, Florida; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California; Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida; Hailey, Idaho; and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California.

At the county level, we find the largest concentrations (relative to each county’s share of all income) of national top 1 percent income in Teton County, Wyoming; New York County, New York; Collier County, Florida; Pitkin County, Colorado; Fairfield County, Connecticut; Monroe County, Florida; Westchester County, New York; Palm Beach County, Florida; Marin County, California; San Mateo County, California.

Examining the growth of income over the past century, we find growth was broadly shared from 1945 to 1973 and highly unequal from 1973 to 2007, with the latter pattern persisting in the recovery from the Great Recession since 2009:

Faster income growth for the bottom 99 percent of families between 1945 and 1973 meant that the top 1 percent captured just 4.9 percent of all income growth over that period.

The pattern in the distribution of income growth reversed itself from 1973 to 2007, with over half (58.7 percent) of all income growth concentrated in the hands of the top 1 percent of families.

So far during the recovery from the Great Recession, the top 1 percent of families have captured 41.8 percent of all income growth. The distribution of income growth has improved since our last report, when we found that the top 1 percent had captured 85.1 percent of income growth between 2009 and 2013.

From our 2016 report to this one, cumulative income growth during the recovery for the top 1 percent increased from 17.4 percent (looking at changes from 2009 to 2013) to 33.9 percent (2009 to 2015)—almost doubling. Among the bottom 99 percent, cumulative growth increased from 0.7 percent to 10.3 percent—growing to nearly 15 times what it was. The bigger relative improvement in growth for the bottom 99 percent (reflecting a strengthening economy) is why the top 1 percent captured a smaller share of income growth from 2009 to 2015 than from 2009 to 2013. Nevertheless, the average income of the top 1 percent still grew faster than the average income of the bottom 99 percent, thus the top-to-bottom ratio continued to increase.

We find a similar pattern in the distribution of growth by state:

In 49 states and the District of Columbia, the top 1 percent captured a larger share of all income growth from 1973 to 2007 than in the earlier period (1945 to 1973).

In 25 states, the top 1 percent captured half or more of income growth from 1973 to 2007. So far in the recovery, from 2009 to 2015, the average income of the top 1 percent has grown faster than the average income of the bottom 99 percent in 43 states and the District of Columbia. In nine states, the top 1 percent captured half or more of all income growth: In Connecticut and North Carolina, the top 1 percent captured all the income growth from 2009 to 2015 (while income declined for the bottom 99 percent); the other states are Nevada (81.0 percent), Florida (77.5 percent), Maryland (58.4 percent), Massachusetts (58.4 percent), California (53.1 percent), Missouri (53.1 percent), and New York (51.4 percent).

The top 1 percent has steadily captured a growing share of the benefits of America’s economic growth, with the share of all income going to the top 1 percent moving closer in 2015 to its 1928 peak.

Overall in the U.S., the top 1 percent took home 22.03 percent of all income in 2015. That share was just 1.9 percentage points below the 1928 peak of 23.9 percent.

Five states had top 1 percent income shares above 23.9 percent in 2015. Those states include New York (31.0 percent), Florida (28.5 percent), Connecticut (27.3 percent), Nevada (24.8 percent), and Wyoming (24.0 percent).

Thirty metro areas had shares above 23.9 percent in 2015. Shares were highest in Jackson, Wyoming-Idaho (57.1 percent); Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida (47.6 percent); Key West, Florida (45.1 percent); Sebastian-Vero Beach, Florida (40.4 percent); Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut (38.6 percent); and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida (35.9 percent).

Seventy-eight counties had shares above 23.9 percent. Shares were highest in Teton County, Wyoming (59.0 percent); New York County, New York (53.3 percent); La Salle County, Texas (48.2 percent); Collier County, Florida (47.6 percent); Monroe County, Florida (45.1 percent); Palm Beach County, Florida (44.0 percent); Pitkin County, Colorado (42.2 percent); San Miguel County, Colorado (41.1 percent); Walton County, Florida (40.9 percent); Indian River County, Florida (40.4 percent); Martin County, Florida (40.3 percent); and Fairfield County, Connecticut (38.6 percent).

Originally published by Economic Policy Institute

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The War on Immigrants

Read Our Complete CoverageThe War on Immigrants

As Toczylowski pulled out and drove to the exit, the truck tailgated her all the way to the front gate. The guard at the gate motioned for her to roll down her window. He asked her if she was the person who had just tried to go inside and visit detainees. “Did my guard catch you?” he asked. Another guard walked up and joined the one who was interrogating her. At this point, Toczylowski was boxed in by the truck behind her and two guards in front of her car. She started worrying that they were going to arrest her. “The whole thing felt like I was in another country or something,” she said. Over the course of her career, Toczylowski has made visits to detention facilities 100 times, she estimates. “I’ve never been treated like that.”

A few weeks later, after Toczylowski finally managed to get access to the detainees, she began to understand what the facility was hiding. “Everything I suspected they were doing, they were doing,” she said.


Demonstrators in front of the Victorville prison on June 30, 2018, as part of a national series of “Families Belong Together” rallies.  Photo: Jenna Pittaway/ACLU of Southern California

A Human Rights Crisis

On August 1, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the Prison Law Office in Berkeley, California, and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center in Denver, filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court, which enumerated allegations of egregious conditions for detainees at Federal Correctional Institute Victorville. In its press release, the ACLU referred to the conditions as a “human rights crisis.” The suit describes detainees, all of whom are adult men, “crying in their beds” at night and “cutting themselves due to depression and desperation.”

Detainees told Toczylowski that they were locked in their cells 23 hours a day, or in some cases for days at a time. One asylum-seeker she met with had been allowed outside of his cell three times in as many weeks, and had not been given a clean change of clothes since the day he arrived. For five weeks, according to the ACLU suit, there were no clocks in the cellblocks, so detainees had no way of knowing what time it was or how much time had passed, compounding their disorientation.

In the ACLU complaint, one detainee recalled seeing a young man who had sliced himself across his arms and wrists with a razor blade. He wasn’t given with any mental health services, and didn’t receive medical care for three days. Another detainee complained to guards for nearly a week about a toothache, seeking medical attention. In response, he was locked in his cell and threatened with pepper spray if he kept complaining. Michael Kaufman, a lawyer with the ACLU of Southern California, visited the prison in June. “A guard told one detainee that unless he was dying or had been raped, they won’t provide any medical care,” he said.

Detainees at FCI Victorville have been routinely prevented from practicing their religions. They are prohibited from praying together. Detainees who have asked for Bibles have been denied them. Many of the detainees are Sikh and have had their turbans confiscated. Even though many Sikhs are vegetarian as a matter of faith, the prison has served them meals with meat. One of the detainees reported losing 15 pounds as a result.

The ACLU lawsuit describes detainees being served spoiled milk with breakfast, and meat that appeared to be infested with worms or maggots. “Some days we receive sandwiches with nothing in them — just two pieces of bread,” one detainee complained.

“They’re rushed into eating,” said Meeth Soni, an attorney who works with Toczylowski and has visited detainees at FCI Victorville. “They all have to scarf down the food, or it’s taken away from them.” According to the ACLU complaint, detainees are given five minutes to eat each of their meals in the chow hall. Anything left on their plates is thrown out.

Soni was told by one detainee that ICE had informed them that the only detainees being moved out of the prison were those who had been separated from their families and people with medical emergencies. Detainees began cutting themselves and trying to break their own bones in order to qualify for a medical transfer. Some detainees have become so despondent that they have abandoned their asylum claims and agreed to their deportation, even though they face persecution and possibly death in their home countries.

“I think that’s what the administration wanted,” Soni said.

Kaufman said he has spoken to numerous attorneys who have worked in detention centers all over the country and are now seeking to represent detainees at FCI Victorville. “They have said they’ve never seen levels of despair from a group of immigrant detainees that they have in this facility,” he said.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, second left, speaks as Gov. Jay Inslee, left, looks on at a news conference announcing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a policy of separating immigrant families illegally entering the United States, in front of the Federal Detention Center Thursday, June 21, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. Ferguson made the announcement outside the federal prison south of Seattle, where about 200 immigration detainees have been transferred — including dozens of women separated from their children under the administration's "zero tolerance" policy. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, second left, speaks at a news conference announcing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a policy of separating immigrant families illegally entering the United States, in front of the Federal Detention Center on June 21, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash.  Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP

A Warehouse for Human Beings

In June, the Trump administration began using federal prisons in California, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, and Washington state to house immigrant detainees for the first time, having run out of space in the regular detention centers as a result of its “zero tolerance” and family separation policies. FCI Victorville is one of five federal prisons enlisted for the purpose. With 1,000 detainees at its height, it is by far the biggest.

“What became immediately clear was they had done no preparation to make the facility appropriate for immigrant detainees,” said Kaufman. “No attorney access was arranged. There was no way for people to call to the outside.” The prison had not expanded its food services capacity to feed all of the new inmates, so when they first arrived, the detainees were served cold meals three times a day. FCI Victorville didn’t even have enough prison uniforms to accommodate the new population, so detainees were given only a single set of clothes to wear for the first two to three weeks of their incarceration, including underwear. In the ACLU complaint, one detainee recounted using hand soap to wash his prison jumpsuit in the toilet of his cell.

Even before the detainees were brought in, FCI Victorville was understaffed. “The federal prisons are experiencing a staffing crisis because the federal government has put a hiring freeze on them,” said Margot Mendelson, an attorney with the Prison Law Office, one of the firms representing the detainees in their class-action suit. Nevertheless, the prison brought in no additional staff to handle the expanded population. The understaffing at Victorville as a result of the detainees’ transfer is now so severe that in the fall the prison plans to institute a process known as “augmentation,”  in which civilian prison staffers, such as nurses, doctors, and teachers, are drafted into roles as correctional officers.

Because of the staffing issue, the union representing the prison guards at FCI Victorville has been adamantly, and very publicly, opposed to housing the immigration detainees, which union leaders believe put their members at risk. “We are a prison. We are not a detention center. We don’t function at all like a detention center,” the union’s president, John Kostelnik, told the local NPR station in June.

As Kostelnik suggests, the staff of FCI Victorville is trained and accustomed to managing criminal inmates, not refugees fleeing humanitarian catastrophes and seeking refuge in the United States. “This is the first time they’ve been confining immigration detainees in a federal prison setting,” said Tim Fox, from the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, one of the groups that brought the class-action lawsuit. “From the perspective of the Constitution, it’s quite clear that the status of these people is very different from those convicted of criminal offenses.”

Despite the radical differences between immigrant detainees and criminal inmates, the prison has conducted no re-training of its staff. Combined with the understaffing crisis, this has created a situation in Victorville in which conditions for detainees, who are being held on a civil violation, are identical and in some cases worse than those of the criminal population.

Mendelson calls the conditions that the detainees are facing “appalling,” even for convicted criminals. “The kinds of things we’re seeing with lack of adequate food, laundry exchange — these conditions are exceptionally bad even for a prison that handles post-conviction prisoners,” she said.

Indeed, the rules that the detainees are subjected to in confinement are in some cases even more severe than those for the general population. Detainees, for instance, are not allowed to participate in the prison’s educational programs, and they have no access to the courts and extremely limited access to attorneys.

“Immigration detainees aren’t pretrial, pre-conviction, or even in the realm of the criminal justice system,” said Eva Bitran, an attorney with the Southern California chapter of the ACLU. But you couldn’t tell that from the conditions at FCI Victorville. When immigrant detainees at Victorville are transported, their ankles are shackled and their wrists are cuffed and fixed to belly chains. “The Bureau of Prisons is imposing their facility rules on detainees,” said Toczylowski. “They’re all civil detainees, but they have not relaxed any of the protocols.”

“They’re not supposed to be punished,” said Bitran. “This is a civil process. We wouldn’t tolerate this for any other civil violation.”

Bitran was the first attorney to be allowed access to detainees in the prison, and it had taken the threat of a court order for that to happen. Prior to her visit, the detainees had been held incommunicado. They were permitted no access to attorneys, no visits from family members, and no way to make telephone calls. Attorneys like Toczylowski who tried to access the facility were met with a brick wall. Bitran herself was told on one occasion that she couldn’t enter the prison because her dress was too tight. Bitran had to explain that her dress fit that way because she was pregnant.

Since the court order, the prison has been forced to allow some access, but instead of a brick wall, lawyers have been faced with a Kafkaesque labyrinth of ever-shifting and unwritten rules that make it all but impossible for them to effectively represent detainees. In interviews with The Intercept, two attorneys referred to FCI Victorville as an immigrant “black site.”

Typically, upon surrendering themselves to Customs and Border Protection, refugees seeking asylum are given an initial screening called a “credible fear” interview. If their fears of persecution in their home countries are deemed credible, they are referred to an immigration court for a full hearing. This process is followed, however imperfectly, by the staff of detention centers administered by ICE or by private corporations contracted by ICE. In the Bureau of Prisons, however, it has been utterly ignored.

“They’re just holding people,” said Kaufman. “They can’t even get evaluated. They can’t get credible fear or ask ICE to release them.”

When Bitran visited the prison in late June, she spoke to a detainee who had no idea where he was. He asked her for the name of the prison he was incarcerated in and the city where it was located. “Nobody had told them anything,” she said.

“They appear to be using Victorville as a warehouse for human beings,” Kaufman said of the BOP.

As far as the attorneys working with Victorville detainees can tell, BOP is transferring detainees out to regular detention facilities as space becomes available. But that’s just a guess. There are detainees in FCI Victorville who have been there since early June, when they were first brought in, while others who were brought in later have been moved out. There is no clear logic behind who gets out, when, or why.

The Bureau of Prisons and ICE both declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

In the meantime, the detainees exist in desperate conditions and in a legal limbo, almost entirely detached from the judicial system. “You’re holding people in captivity, in a prison, with no charges filed against them, nothing happening in their cases, for a significant period of time incommunicado,” said Soni.

“This is the Guantánamo Bay for asylum-seekers.”

Top photo: Homeland Security buses enter the Federal Correctional facility in Victorville, Calif., on June 8, 2018.

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