Tag Archives | Civil Rights

Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Portion Of Voting Rights Act

voting rights actThe Supreme Court giveth some rights, and taketh others away. The Los Angeles Times reports:

A sharply divided Supreme Court has struck down a key part of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, freeing the Southern states from federal oversight of their election laws and setting off a fierce reaction from civil rights advocates and Democratic leaders.

The court’s conservative majority moved boldly Tuesday to rein in a law revered by civil rights groups that is credited with transforming the South by ensuring blacks could register and vote. In doing so, the court eliminated a tool that the Justice Department used hundreds of times to prevent cities, counties and states from adopting allegedly discriminatory voting rules.

Speaking for a 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. pronounced the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance process a “resounding success” — and then declared it unconstitutional. The decision is likely to be felt in small towns and cities across the South, legal experts said.

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Why You Should Never Speak To The FBI Without A Lawyer Present

From the ACLU of Massachusetts comes words of wisdom from civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who explains quickly and clearly why activists (or anyone else) should never have a conversation with an FBI agent without a lawyer and tape recorder present. The reason? Because the FBI is capable of blackmailing almost anyone into becoming an informant:
Learn how the FBI can manipulate what you say and use it against you, and how to prevent them from doing so! With civil liberties and civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate.
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China Releases Its 2012 Report On Human Rights In The United States

human rightsIt may be a bit ludicrous for the Chinese government to criticize other nations over human rights, but that doesn’t mean that their observations are wrong.

Via China Daily, excerpts from the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China’s report titled “Human Rights Record of the United States in 2012,” released a week ago:

The State Department of the United States recently released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, posing as “the world judge of human rights” again. However, the U.S. turned a blind eye to its own woeful human rights situation and never said a word about it.

In the U.S., elections could not fully embody the real will of its citizens. Political contributions had, to a great extent, influenced the electoral procedures and policy direction. During the 2012 presidential election, the voter turnout was only 57.5 percent.

The U.S. has become one of the developed countries with the greatest income gap.

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ACLU Uncovers Illegal Debtors’ Prisons Across Ohio

debtors' prison

Despite being blatantly unconstitutional, citizens are commonly being jailed for their inability to pay tickets and fines, wreaking havoc on people’s lives (and costing the state far greater sums than the unpaid tickets), ACLU Ohio reveals:

The resurgence of contemporary debtors’ prisons sits squarely at this intersection of poverty and criminal justice. In towns across the state, thousands of people face the looming specter of incarceration every day, simply because they are poor.

For Ohio’s poor and working poor, an unaffordable traffic ticket or fine is just the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines.

The U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code all prohibit debtors’ prisons. The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether an individual is too poor to pay.

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California “Right to Know” Act Would Reveal What Companies Have Your Personal Data

It’s time that Americans had data rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains an initiative being introduced by Los Angeles-area Democratic representative Bonnie Lowenthal with support from the EFF and ACLU:

Let’s face it: most of us have no idea how companies are gathering and sharing our personal data. A new proposal in California, supported by a diverse coalition (including EFF, the ACLU of Northern California, civil liberties groups, domestic violence advocates, consumer protection groups, sexual health, and women’s rights groups) is fighting to bring transparency and access to the seedy underbelly of digital data exchanges.

The Right to Know Act (AB 1291) would require a company to give users access to the personal data the company has stored on them—as well as a list of all the other companies with whom that original company has shared the users’ personal data—when a user requests it.

Lots of people around the world already enjoy these rights.

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Bigfoot DNA Hunters Push For Yeti Rights

Via Discovery News, a social movement is born:

A team of researchers led by Melba Ketchum, a Texas veterinarian, claims to have not only conclusively proven the existence of Bigfoot through genetic testing, but also that the mysterious monster is a half-human hybrid, the result of mating with modern human females about 15,000 years ago.

Ketchum sees her research as an important first step in obtaining legal status for Bigfoot, which she believes are an undiscovered Native American population. Ketchum issued a statement demanding that the “Government at all levels must recognize them as an indigenous people and immediately protect their human and Constitutional rights against those who would see in their physical and cultural differences a ‘license’ to hunt, trap, or kill them.”

Ketchum believes that “The Sasquatch people are more like us than they are different. The Sasquatch people have their own language, traditions, and rituals.”

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Virginia City Is First To Pass Anti-Drone Legislation

Three years from now, will we be trusting urban police forces to use drones equipped with “Tasers and tear gas”? The Los Angeles Times reports:

Charlottesville, Va., home to the University of Virginia, has taken action against the use of police spy drones, ordering a two-year moratorium on the citywide use of unmanned aircraft. It is the first city in the nation to do so, supporters say, and its move may prompt other municipalities to act. City officials said anti-drone measures are winning support in the Virginia state legislature.

Seeking tough regulation over the future use of civilian drones in U.S. airspace, the City Council passed a resolution that prohibits police agencies from utilizing drones outfitted with anti-personnel devices such as Tasers and tear gas. The measure comes in response to last year’s congressional mandate to integrate the nation’s airspace with robotic aircraft by September 2015.


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NYPD’s Staggering Stop-and-Frisk Stats

FestnahmeNYPDAfter much concern from nonprofit groups like the NY Civil Liberties Union (and public outcry), the NYPD has finally released the numbers of their precinct and racial demographics of all the 2011 stop-and-frisks. Emerging accounts and audio have indicated a high order of racial profiling, and the results of NYPD’s own internal reporting confirms that this bias exists in practice.

via  at Animal New York:

Ninety percent of stops in all of the city were of black and Latino people, and many of the neighborhoods with the most stops are majority black or Hispanic.

Brooklyn’s 75th precinct, covering East New York and Cypress Hills, ranked first, with 31,000 stops. Ninety-seven percent where of blacks and Latinos. In second came BK’s 73rd precinct, covering Brownsville, which logged 25,167 stops, 98 percent of which were against people of color. Queens’s 115th precinct, covering East Elmhurst Corona and Jackson Heights, came in third with 18,156, 93 percent were of blacks and Latinos.

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Arkansas Town Enacts Martial Law, ID Checks Of Everyone In Public

The mayor explains that normal constitutional protections don’t apply, because, due to the high rate of property crime, anyone walking outdoors in his city is a criminal suspect. Via Russia Today:

In order to curb the rising crime rate in this town of barely 25,000, Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall endorsed a plan to send cops dressed in full-fledged SWAT gear and equipped with AR-15s into downtown Paragould starting in 2013. What’s more, Stovall says, is he intends to have the cops collecting identification from everyone and anyone.

“If you’re out walking, we’re going to stop you, ask why you’re out walking, check for your ID,” the Daily Press reports him saying during last week’s meeting. “We will be asking for picture identification. We will be ascertaining where the subject lives and what they are doing in the area. We will be keeping a record of those we contact.”

“To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason,” he said.

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