Activists Identify DC Cop Who Infiltrated Bangladesh Sweatshop Protests

Originally posted on Earth First! Newswire:

Left: Still photo from a video of the May 15 protest at Children’s Place. Right: Photo from @snufftastic Twitter account.  by Mike Elk / In These Times

Rumors have flown for many years that DC police routinely infiltrate and spy on the frequent protests in the nation’s Capitol. But until now, activists have never been able to identify a specific undercover cop at a protest. Now, after months of piecing together evidence, attorneys Jeffrey Light and Sean Canavan working with United Students Against Sweatshop (USAS) have confirmed that under an assumed name, Metro police officer Nicole Rizzi has participated in USAS protests against companies doing business in Bangladesh who refuse to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh following the death of as many as 1,129 workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

USAS and its lawyers have numerous pieces of evidence placing Rizzi at…

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Message to DOJ: “Justice for Trayvon” means pursuing civil rights case

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by John Zangas

Activists from the Light Brigade of Maryland, GetEqual, and Code Pink sent the Department of Justice an unmistakable blue light message tonight: “JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON”

The light display was set up just after dusk to tell the county’s leading law officials that George Zimmerman’s acquittal was not acceptable. Petitions have been circulating to demand that the DOJ charge Zimmerman with civil rights violations in the shooting death of the teenager.

Annell Mungo, 25, an activist with GetEqual, said, “The verdict of [the] George Zimmerman murder trial was sickening [and] a clear example of the miles and miles that our country has to go before we live up to our promise of liberty and justice for all.”

She spoke while other activists held the lettered light panels which spelled out their demand for justice for Trayvon Martin. “This week–from Sanford Florida to Austin Texas, and here in Washington, DC–has been a harsh reminder that this country is a dangerous place for people of color, for queer people, for youth and immigrants, for women, and for all those who continue to be devalued and dehumanized.”

“We have much work ahead of us to achieve a fully equal and inclusive America,” Mungo said, “and our commitment to a pathway to social justice for all continues.”

Time is now for pathway to citizenship, say immigrant supporters at Capitol

“Citizenship–the time is now!” rang from Capitol Hill yesterday at the Immigration Reform Rally. Thousands packed the West Lawn to tell Congress that comprehensive reform of immigration policy–and a pathway to citizenship–is needed now.

They couldn’t have picked a better time. Although planned for months by a large number of organizations, the rally coincides with Obama’s push for immigration reform and a Senate committee haggling over a new bill. Harboring regrets over the 2012 election, Republicans seem poised to defy their base intent on deportation and finally make some concessions to get a bill passed.

It’s the first time since 2007 that Congress has taken on the reality of 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S.–many of them well-established in communities with their families. According to a Pew Research study, the majority of undocumented immigrants arrived in the U.S. before 2000. Only 1.6 million of the total number have entered the country since 2005.

Protestor Joyce Tarnow of Florida

Immigrants with citizenship and work permits who attended the rally were eager to express their support. Luís from Stafford, Virginia said he came to the U.S. from El Salvador illegally. Now a citizen, he’s worked for the same landscaping company for 25 years.

Standing alongside his friends and co-workers Alcía and Arturo, he said, “We didn’t come over here because we are criminals. We came over here because they are poor in our country.”

People came to Washington, DC from all across the U.S. bearing signs and flags from their home states, as well as flags from their homelands such as Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Venezuela.

Although Hispanics made up a large portion of rally attendees and speeches from the stage were delivered in Spanish, many people were immigrants from Mideast countries such as Syria, Libya, Tunisia, and African countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, and Mali.

A few protestors against “amnesty” for immigrants clustered by the Reflecting Pool. One of them, Joyce Tarnow from north Florida propped up a huge sign saying, “12,000,000 out of work.” She and rally attendee Johar Ali, a Canadian, engaged in a civil debate about the immigration issue. In spite of the focus of Tarnow’s sign, the discussion pivoted more around the environment and scarce resources than jobs.

“Our water table has been going down in the the central part of the U.S. for decades. There has been less water available, there will be less production,” she said, expressing her concern for rising population growth.

Ali, on the other hand, saw problems arising for countries with stagnating population growth. China, for example, is in “big trouble” because of their one-child policy. Workers are retiring, he said, and “you don’t have enough [people] to fill in their shoes.” Without population growth from immigration in the U.S., he argued, “Social Security will disappear.”

Federal benefits are often a sticking point in the immigration debate. But conservative proponents for immigration reform are countering the traditional argument that immigrants are a drain on resources. They point to a report by the American Action Forum which says that legitimizing undocumented workers will boost GDP and tax revenue over the long term.

For many people at the rally, however, changing immigration policy is not about macro-economics but keeping their families together.

One girl at the rally wore a t-shirt saying, “My Dad deserves citizenship.” An estimated 5.5 million children in the U.S. have one or more parents who are undocumented immigrants, according to a report released in 2011 by the Applied Research Center.

Luís, the landscaper from El Salvador who gained citizenship, feels for children in this situation. “Children suffer from this,” he said. “I see the news, the breaking heart news, all the little kids living in the U.S. without any parents.”

The eight senators working to draft the legislation may have cleared a hurdle by agreeing to measures related to border security. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, one of the members of the bipartisan group, told the rally crowd that they were nearly ready to present the bill.

John Zangas contributed to this article.

Gay or straight, a historic Supreme Court moment

On March 26 and 27, the Supreme Court hears arguments on cases banning same-sex marriage. The hearings have become a flashpoint for opposing social movements, whose members clashed outside the Court this morning in a highly charged atmosphere. John Zangas of DC Media Group live-tweeted the events.

View the story “Gay or straight, a historic Supreme Court moment” on Storify

Supreme Court marriage hearings draw thousands willing to brave Washington’s soggy snow

Both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage are arriving in Washington because of two Supreme Court hearings this week on the controversial issue.

The District, however, didn’t greet visitors with beautiful spring cherry blossoms. Instead, Supreme Court watchers got here just in time for the first snow accumulation in two years.

Shivering and soggy at the base of the Supreme Court’s steps, they nonetheless queued up for tickets to hearings challenging Prop 8, a ballot initiative passed in California, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law.

Several, mostly opponents of Prop 8 and DOMA, are still keeping vigil Monday night in a cold rain. Tents line the sidewalk along 1st Street.

Thousands are expected by Tuesday morning to advocate for their position on gay marriage. For proponents of marriage equality, banishing the Defense of Marriage Act would mean that couples legally married in states permitting same-sex marriage would receive a myriad of federal benefits now denied to them. They also hope that the Court will uphold a federal circuit court’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

DSC_0017Supporters of Prop 8 hope that it will be reinstated and DOMA remains intact, which would keep barriers to same-sex marriage high and establish legal precedent against it.

Whether the Court decides to apply the equal protection clause could determine the extent to which the cases are far-reaching in scope.

They face hurdles of “standing” in the Court. The cases are unusual in that both the state of California (in the case of Prop 8) and the Obama administration (in the case of DOMA) declined to defend the statutes. It may be unprecedented that members of the Congressional House–and not the Department of Justice–will attempt to defend a federal law at the Supreme Court.

The Court will most likely not hand down rulings on the cases until late June.

Faith leaders arrested, activists storm Valero Corp as Keystone XL protests heat up in Washington, DC

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Matt Kirkland protests in front of Valero Corporation

by John Zangas and Anne Meador

A week of protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington, DC continued Thursday with civil disobedience at the White House and visits to pipeline profiteers.

Fifteen participants in the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) were arrested for blocking the sidewalk in front of the White House. Religious leaders called the Keystone XL Pipeline “a grave threat to humanity” and described their moral obligation to stand up against it.

Unitarian minister Terry Ellen said, “The Keystone, as you know, is the fuse to the accelerant that will jettison our planet beyond the point of no repair… We are all moving toward a radically new future. We are all part of a serious challenge against the entrenched power and concentrated wealth of our land.” [VIDEO: Interview with Terry Ellen]

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As police arrested interfaith leaders in front of the White House, a separate protest kicked off from the Canadian Embassy just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue. They marched toward a TD Bank branch in Chinatown, chanting, “Jobs at the Keystone? No, let’s get it. There are no jobs on a dead planet!”

Protestors then stormed the lobby of energy company Valero Corporation, a major investor in the Keystone XL Pipeline. Valero stands to receive and refine more oil from the pipeline than any other company.

Police and security officers scuffled with protestors, and five were arrested after they refused to leave. [VIDEO]

Activists barricade TD Bank in Washington, DC to protest funding of Keystone XL Pipeline

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by Anne Meador and John Zangas

Environmentalists attempted to shut down a branch of TD Bank in Washington, DC early this morning to protest the bank’s funding of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Two activists chained themselves to a “bear trap”–a plastic container filled with concrete–in the ATM lobby, while another secured himself to the front door with a U-lock. TD Bank is a major bankroller of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline.

3Activists_TDBankThe action was in solidarity with a campaign aimed at keeping the Keystone XL Pipeline from going forward. The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would carry 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil from Hardisy, Alberta to Port Arthur, Texas. Environmentalists claim that the tar sands oil and the pipeline which would transport it could be environmentally devastating.

About 50 police officers and several police vehicles arrived on the scene at TD Bank about 6 a.m. and cordoned off P Street. They drove press away from the bank and held up sheets to block the view of extricating the protestors. No one was injured while removing the locks and chains, nor was there property damage.

Police did not arrest or charge the protestors. A police officer on the scene said that TD Bank did not want to press charges, but TD Bank would not confirm this. The protestors were cleared out by the bank’s 8 a.m. opening time.

The activists who barricaded the bank–Kelly Canavan, Jason McGaughey and Eli Greer–and about ten supporting protestors were objecting to TD Bank’s role as a primary financier of Keystone XL and demanding that it divest from TransCanada Corporation. As of 2010, TD Bank held $1.6 billion of stock in TransCanada.

TDBank_BoltcutterIn response to this morning’s protest, TD Bank released a statement saying, “TD Bank supports responsible energy development. We employ rigorous due diligence in our financing and investing activities relating to energy production.”

Protestor Kelly Canavan said she is concerned about the environment and her son’s future. “The tar sands pose a serious threat to all of us,” she said. “We must do everything we can to stop tar sand production from continuing. TD Bank must be held accountable for their part [in] promoting toxic genocide.”

“TD Bank is a Canadian bank that claims to be the most convenient bank in America,” says Jason McGaughey, one of the protestors chained in the ATM lobby.

“[But] it’s not very convenient they’re paying to have our futures destroyed. It’s not very convenient they’re paying to have our health destroyed. It’s not very convenient they’re pursuing the further genocide and ethnocide against the indigenous people around this country. It’s not very convenient at all.”

Protests against the pipeline are coming to a climax as its development enters a critical phase. Following the release of an Environmental Impact Statement from the State Department, President Obama will soon make a decision whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline or stop the project. According to environmentalists, harvesting the “dirty” tar sands oil, potential leakage and spills, and the amount of carbon emissions from the oil produced could all negatively impact the environment.

VIDEO: Protestor Kelly Canavan describes her reasons for blockading the bank

Video streaming by Ustream