Category activism

Victim of Anti-Gay Hate Crime Luke O’Donovan Sentenced to 10 Years for Self-Defense: Family & Friends Rally in Support while Attackers Remain Free

[ATLANTA, GA]  Luke O’Donovan, a survivor of a homophobic attack in Atlanta, GA, was sentenced on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 to 10 years in prison on charges that he assaulted those who attacked him.

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On December 31, 2012, O’Donovan was attacked, beaten and stabbed by at least five men shouting homophobic slurs at a New Year’s Eve party. O’Donovan defended himself with a pocketknife and left the scene, receiving treatment for stab wounds and injuries to his head and body at an Atlanta Medical Center. Hours later, police arrested O’Donovan as he was receiving treatment, charging him with five counts of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. A superseding charge of attempted murder was handed down to O’Donovan at a later date.

On August 12, 2014, O’Donovan was sentenced to prison for 10 years through a negotiated plea deal.

In response, The Luke O’Donovan Support Committee issued the following statement:

“This is the epitome of a hate crime. Witnesses report seeing between 5 and 12 men attacking O’Donovan, stomping on his head and body, and stabbing him in the back while calling him a ‘faggot.’

US Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion: Human Rights Watch Report Reveals Investigations, Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

[WASHINGTON, DC]  The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

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The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

FBI Releases New Documents Detailing Extensive Spying on Nelson Mandela in Response to MIT Student’s FOIA Lawsuit

[CAMBRIDGE, MA] As revealed in an exclusive report by Jason Leopold for Al Jazeera America, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate Ryan Shapiro has received a second batch of documents from the FBI as part of Shapiro’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records on Nelson Mandela.  In the wake of recent NSA and FBI spying revelations, the documents obtained by Shapiro shed light on decades of politically motivated FBI surveillance, including the monitoring of Mandela’s post-prison meeting with a Yugoslavian President and the surveillance of Mandela’s meetings with activists in the USA.

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The first batch of documents, received by Shapiro last month, exposed FBI spying on Mandela during his historic 1990 visit to the U.S. shortly after his release from 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities.

The newly released second batch of documents provides additional evidence of FBI monitoring and surveillance of Mandela’s activities, both prior to and following his release from prison. This included FBI monitoring of Mandela’s meetings with world leaders.

Further, the newly released documents also reveal FBI investigation of the South African and U.S. anti-apartheid movements as being Communist threats to American domestic security. Notably, these FBI “Communist” threat investigations of the anti-apartheid movement continued even after U.S. imposition of trade sanctions against apartheid South Africa, after Mandela’s release from prison, and after the fall of the Berlin wall.

Shapiro, a FOIA specialist, is an historian of the political functioning of national security and the policing of dissent. His pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is also suing the NSA, CIA, and DIA over those agencies’ failure to comply with his FOIA requests for records on Mandela. Shapiro is represented by FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.

Six key takeaways from the FBI’s latest release of documents to Shapiro:

Cecily McMillan Released from Rikers Island: Uses Platform to Challenge Systemic Injustices Incarcerated Women Face Daily

[NEW YORK, NY] Imprisoned Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was released from Rikers Island on Wednesday morning, July 2nd, after serving 58 days. She spoke publicly at a 1pm press conference outside the jail’s outer gates on Hazen Street.

Cecily McMillan Presser

This was the first time she was able to speak publicly after testifying in her trial. Cecily’s controversial trial garnered international media attention. She was supported by elected officials, community leaders, and celebrities. While serving her term at Rikers Island she was visited by members of Russian rock group Pussy Riot, themselves unjustly imprisoned in 2012.

The Following is Cecily’s Statement as read to members of the press at 1pm EST:

“Fifty nine days ago, The City and State of New York labeled me a criminal. Millionaires and billionaire–who had a vested interest in silencing a peaceful protest about the growing inequalities in America–coerced the justice system, manipulated the evidence, and suddenly I became dangerous and distinguished from law-abiding citizens. On May 5th, the jury delivered its verdict, the judge deemed me undesirable, and officers drove me across that bridge and barred me within. On the outside, I had spent my time fighting for freedom and rights. On the inside, I discovered a world where words like freedom and rights don’t even exist in the first place. I walked in with one movement, and return to you a representative of another. That bridge right there, that divides the city from Rikers Island, divides two worlds – today I hope to bring them closer together. Crossing back over, I have a message to you from several concerned citizens currently serving time at the Rose M. Singer Center.

Investigative Journalist and MIT PhD Candidate Sue CIA for Spy Records: Duo Targets Agency for Illegal Surveillance on Senate Investigation of CIA Torture

[WASHINGTON, DC] Investigative journalist Jason Leopold and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a lawsuit this morning against the Central Intelligence Agency. The suit is over the CIA’s failure to comply with Leopold and Shapiro’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records on the CIA’s alleged spying on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s (SSCI) review of the CIA’s notorious rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program.

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As detailed in an exclusive report by Natasha Lennard for Vice News, through their FOIA request and lawsuit, Leopold and Shapiro seek to shed light on a critical yet little-understood ongoing controversy frequently described as a possible constitutional crisis.

Jason Leopold is an investigative journalist covering counterterrorism and human rights. He has been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which includes successfully suing the FBI to force changes to Bureau FOIA practices.

Ryan Shapiro, a FOIA specialist, is an historian of the political functioning of national security and the policing of dissent. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security.

Leopold and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.

Three key elements of Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request and lawsuit: