All posts by Sparrow

Charlottesville Activists Respond to Looming Threat of Violence at Nationalist ‘March for Freedom’ in Portland, Oregon

Charlottesville Activists Respond to Looming Threat of Violence at Nationalist ‘March for Freedom’ in Portland, Oregon

On Saturday August 4th, far-right Republican US Senate candidate Joey Gibson’s “Patriot Prayer” organization, members of the “Proud Boys” fraternal organization, and a rogues gallery of white nationalists, fascists and Nazis, plan to march through the city of Portland, Oregon stoking conflict wherever and whenever they can. Ahead of these events, Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, Showing Up for Racial Justice Charlottesville, Congregate Charlottesville, and UVA Students United have issued the following statement:

“It’s no coincidence that Joey Gibson’s ‘March for Freedom’ resembles last year’s tragic ‘Unite the Right’ white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Indeed, some of the very same individuals and organizations that attended last August’s deadly rally in Charlottesville have announced their intentions to be at this Portland event. This so-called ‘March for Freedom’ is a large-tent conglomerate of disparate fascist, nationalist, racist, and white supremacist provocateurs openly planning street violence against rightfully concerned Portland community members. Gibson’s marches also rely heavily on muscle from the ‘Proud Boys’ whose members both organized and participated in the violence of last year’s deadly rally in Charlottesville.

“Charlottesville understands all too well what it means to have fascist agitators bring choreographed terror into our community. We remember bracing ourselves last year against the threat of white supremacist attacks cloaked as free speech. We send solidarity and love to Portland, particularly to communities most targeted by the Islamophobic, transphobic, anti-immigrant, genocidal agenda of Saturday’s fascist event. We also send solidarity and love to those in Berkeley, California facing fascist threats on Sunday, August 5th.

“We call on communities across America to address the deep history of white supremacy, recently amplified by the Trump administration, that generates this latest wave of fascist terror.”

2017 Was the Deadliest Year on Record for Land and Environmental Defenders

2017 Was the Deadliest Year on Record for Land and Environmental Defenders

Global Witness today reveals that at least 207 land and environmental defenders were killed last year – indigenous leaders, community activists and environmentalists murdered trying to protect their homes and communities from mining, agribusiness and other destructive industries.

  1. Global Witness annual figures show at least 207 land and environmental activists were killed in 2017 across 22 countries, almost 4 a week, making it the worst year on record.
  2. The report shows a huge rise in killings linked to consumer products. Brutal attacks on those defending their land from destructive agriculture – such as land grabs for palm oil, used in household goods like soap, and coffee – are on the rise.
  3. It critically urges government and business to take action to end the attacks and support defenders, with campaigners such as Yuri Herrera, Margaret Atwood, Lily Cole, George Monbiot and Ben Fogle speaking out against the killings.

Severe limits on the data available mean the global total is probably much higher. Murder is the most egregious example of a range of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, intimidation, cyber-attacks, sexual assault and lawsuits.

The report At What Cost? shows that agribusiness has overtaken mining as the industry most associated with these attacks.

These include the murder of Hernán Bedoya in Colombia, shot 14 times by a paramilitary group for protesting against palm oil and banana plantations on land stolen from his community; an army massacre of eight villagers in the Philippines who opposed a coffee plantation on their land; and violent attacks by Brazilian farmers, using machetes and rifles, which left 22 members of the Gamela indigenous people severely injured, some with their hands chopped off.

The report links this violence with the products on our shelves: large-scale agriculture, mining, poaching, logging all produce components and ingredients for supermarket products such as palm oil for shampoo, soy for beef and timber for furniture.


The report also reveals that some governments and businesses are complicit in the killings, with Global Witness calling for urgent action if the trend is to be reversed. As well as being part of the problem, governments and business can be part of the solution. They must tackle the root causes of the attacks, for example ensuring communities are allowed to say ‘no’ to projects, like mining, on their land; support and protect defenders at risk and ensure justice is served for those suffering from the violence.

Ben Leather, Senior Campaigner, Global Witness said:

“Local activists are being murdered as governments and businesses value quick profit over human life. Many of the products emerging from this bloodshed are on the shelves of our supermarkets. Yet as brave communities stand up to corrupt officials, destructive industries and environmental devastation, they are being brutally silenced. Enough is enough.

“Governments, companies and investors have the duty and the power to support and protect defenders at risk, and to guarantee accountability wherever attacks occur. But more importantly, they can prevent these threats from emerging in the first place, by listening to local communities, respecting their rights, and ensuring that business is conducted responsibly.

At least 48 land and environmental defenders were murdered in the Philippines in 2017 – the highest total ever recorded in Asia, and a 71% increase in the country since 2016. | Photo Credit: Thom Pierce, Guardian, Global Witness, UN Environment

“Despite the odds they face, the global community of land and environmental defenders is not going away – it’s only getting stronger. We invite consumers to join us in campaigning alongside defenders, taking their fight to the corridors of power and the boardrooms of corporations. We will make sure their voices are heard. And we will be watching to ensure that defenders, their land, and the environment we all depend on are properly protected.”

Other key findings include:

  1. Brazil recorded the worst year on record anywhere in the world, with 57 murders in 2017.
  2. 48 defenders were killed in the Philippines in 2017—the highest number ever documented in an Asian country.
  3. 60% recorded murders were in Latin America. Mexico and Peru saw marked increases in killings, from 3 to 15 and 2 to 8, respectively. Nicaragua was the worst place per capita with 4 murders.
  4. For the first time, agribusiness was the bloodiest industry, with at least 46 murders linked to the sector. Killings linked to mining increased from 33 to 40, and 23 murders were related to logging.
  5. Taking on poachers became even more dangerous, with a record 23 people murdered for taking a stand against the illegal wildlife trade – mostly park rangers in Africa.
  6. Global Witness linked government security forces to 53 of last year’s murders, and non-state actors, like criminal gangs, to 90.
  7. There was a large decrease in killings of land and environmental defenders in Honduras, though repression of civil society in general worsened.
  8. Recent years has seen some increased recognition and action taken by governments and business, but much more must be done, and urgently, to tackle this issue.

The campaign has gained support from a number of high profile environmental campaigners including Yuri Herrera, Margaret Atwood, Lily Cole, George Monbiot, Ben Fogle, Paloma Faith and Martin Freeman. Quotes available on request.

Notes to editors

The report can be found here.  High-quality imagery and video testimony can be found here.

Whilst Global Witness maintains a real time data base with the Guardian this reports represents a consolidated data set of all killings from 2017 that have been through an additional verification process that has been complemented by an in-depth analysis, case studies and recommendations.

Severe limits on available information mean the global total is likely far higher. Murder is the sharp end of a range of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, sexual assault, abductions and aggressive legal attacks.

Thousands of Pages of FBI, CIA, DIA and NSA Documents About Nelson Mandela Were Just Published by Property of the People

Thousands of Pages of FBI, CIA, DIA and NSA Documents About Nelson Mandela Were Just Published by Property of the People

Washington, DC — Today, on the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, Property of the People is making all documents about Mandela obtained through it’s FOIA litigation from the FBI, CIA, DIA, and NSA available to the public.  Spanning thousands of pages, the vast majority of these documents have never before been seen by the public.

Searchable Archive of Documents Published Online Today **

For his role coordinating the movement to end apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, ultimately serving 27 years in prison. Though Mandela was freed in 1990, Mandela remained on the U.S. terror watchlist until 2008. Despite long standing public knowledge of U.S. intelligence agency assistance to apartheid South Africa, and likely involvement in Mandela’s 1962 arrest in particular, little specific public information exists on these crucial matters.

Shortly after Nelson Mandela’s death in 2013, MIT PhD candidate and Property of the People president, Ryan Shapiro, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for records on agency efforts to counter Mandela and his movement for racial justice in South Africa.

Shapiro’s FOIA lawsuit, which remains ongoing, has forced the intelligence agencies to release thousands of pages of illuminating documents. Shapiro has made a portion of these documents available to the public, resulting in extensive press coverage of FBI efforts to surveil and subvert Nelson Mandela and his struggle for racial justice. Some highlights of these documents are provided below.

According to Shapiro

Regarding the released FBI documents specifically:

“These documents not only bring to light politically motivated FBI spying on Mandela, they also expose something even darker. The documents reveal that, just as it did in the 1950s and 60s with Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, the FBI aggressively investigated the U.S. and South African anti-apartheid movements as Communist plots imperiling American security. Worse still, the documents demonstrate the FBI continued its wrong-headed Communist menace investigations of Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement even after U.S. imposition of trade sanctions against apartheid South Africa, after Mandela’s globally-celebrated release from prison, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ultimately, what the documents reveal is the FBI’s unflagging conflation of social justice efforts with security threats, and the FBI’s cartoonish obsession with Communist Party subversion in the United States even as the Cold War itself crumbled into obsolescence.”

Regarding the released documents more broadly:

“Democracy cannot meaningfully exist without an informed citizenry, and such a citizenry is impossible without broad public access to information about the operations of government. Secrecy is a cancer on the body of democracy. The records of government are the property of the people. Yet, unknown billions of pages are needlessly hidden from the people behind closed doors and “classified” markings. It is an honor to make public for all these critical documents about the United States’ long and continuing conflation of necessary social justice efforts with threats to American security.”

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder and president of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh.

You can support their work at propertyofthepeople.org/donate

Charlottesville Mayor Leads Pilgrimage to Montgomery Lynching Memorial

Charlottesville Mayor Leads Pilgrimage to Montgomery Lynching Memorial

Charlottesville, VA – 100 Charlottesville community leaders and resident delegates will culminate a six-day Civil Rights Pilgrimage with a soil delivery ceremony for 1898 Charlottesville lynching victim John Henry James at the new Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Legacy Museum, 122 Commerce Street, Montgomery, AL, at 2:30 pm on Thursday July 12th.

The delegates have been visiting history museums and pivotal Civil Rights Movement sites on their journey to Montgomery, studying the 400 years of Southern racial violence and terror against Black people that provide a backdrop for James’ 1898 lynching; the white supremacist rallies, the attacks against anti-racist protestors, Heather Heyer’s death in Charlottesville in 2017, and the uncountable similar tragedies between.

“Charlottesville is mobilizing to make change by literally getting on the bus to learn how our own history fits with Southern and US histories of anti-Black terror and Black resistance,” said Don Gathers, Chair of the 2016 Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces.

“This trip is part of an effort to educate students, teachers, and all community members about the legacy of anti-Black racial terror and Black resistance in Charlottesville specifically and across the South more broadly,” explained Professor Jalane Schmidt of the University of Virginia.

“Nelson Johnson reminded our delegation in Greensboro, ‘We must speak to the soul of the other…. Seek truth, seek justice, and seek not to become the thing which we oppose.’ It is time to tell the truth in America. It is the only way we can all live,” declared Rev. Brenda Brown-Grooms of New Beginnings Christian Community.

At the one-year anniversary of the summer 2017 Alt-Right violence, this trip is one of many ways in which the Charlottesville community is mobilizing to face the town’s difficult history of white supremacy.  The Pilgrimage commenced on July 8 — the one-year anniversary of a Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville — and will arrive in Montgomery on July 12, the 120th anniversary of John Henry James’ 1898 lynching. Trip participants will report back to the broader Charlottesville community before the one-year anniversary of the deadly August 12, 2017 “Unite the Right” Rally.

“Charlottesville —and the nation— have to understand how the violent white supremacist rallies last summer fit into a legacy of racial terror,” said Dr. Andrea Douglas, Executive Director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and organizer of the trip. “This is our challenge: Can we create a process that uncovers and disseminates racial truth?”

Note to Editors

The 100-Member Delegation Includes: Mayor Nikuyah Walker (Charlottesville’s recently-elected, first-ever African-American woman mayor); Susan Bro (mother of slain anti-racist activist Heather Heyer); members of the clergy; University of Virginia students, faculty and staff; local public high school students and teachers; former members of the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission which held hearings in 2016 about Charlottesville’s Confederate monuments; representatives of community organizations, including 2017 counter-protesters; and other residents.

Images from the Pilgrimage: A selection of photos will be made available after the event by Eze Amos Photography. Reporters are also encouraged to peruse images uploaded with the tag #cvillepilgrimage on social media.

Pilgrimage Itinerary:
Charlottesville, VA – July 7 (departure)
Appomattox, VA – July 8
Danville, VA – July 8
Greensboro, NC – July 9
Charlotte, NC – July 9
Atlanta, GA – July 10
Birmingham, AL – July 11 (9am 16th St. Baptist Church, 10am Birmingham Civil Rights Institute)
Montgomery, AL – July 12 (9:00 Southern Poverty Law Center Museum, 2:00 Equal Justice Institute)
Charlottesville, VA – July 13 (return)

FOIA Litigation Reveals $344,008.28 in Taxpayer Money Spent at Trump Properties

FOIA Litigation Reveals $344,008.28 in Taxpayer Money Spent at Trump Properties

Washington, DC  Over the past year, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation filed by the transparency organization Property of The People (PoTP) has produced receipts and other documents revealing an excess of $344,008.28 in emoluments from US government agencies at Trump properties.  Property of the People is publishing these documents in their entirety today in their new searchable archive.  A full list of document urls is attached below in our note to editors.

Via a partnership with our colleagues at ProPublica, these documents, in addition to others, have been integrated into an evergreen interactive news application for journalists, activists, and researchers to track how Donald Trump and his family trust are profiting off the US Presidency.  Titled “Paying the President” this news app highlights $16.1 million in campaign and agency payments made to Trump properties since the 2015 announcement Trump’s campaign, including $386,474.66 of taxpayer money.  Federal taxpayer data will be regularly updated and remains incomplete because agencies are fighting disclosure.

PoTP’s newest documents show expenses of $79,618.25 spent at Trump properties by the State Department, and $3,768.94 spent at Trump properties by the Department of Commerce since President Trump took office.

To date FOIA litigation from PoTP has uncovered the following agency payments at Trump properties:

  1. $147, 379.50 in Department of Defense expenditures at Trump Properties from January to June, 2017;
  2. $108,876.55 in Department of Homeland Security expenditures at Trump Properties across three events in January 2017, May 2017, and February 2018;
  3. $79,618.25 in Department of State expenditures at Trump Properties since February 2017;
  4. $3,768.94 in Department of Commerce expenditures at Trump Properties since January 2017;
  5. $2,604.57 in Coast Guard expenditures at Trump Properties from February to June 2017;
  6. and $1,760.46 in General Services Administration expenditures at Trump Properties from February to June 2017.

The State Department and Department of Commerce documents uncovered build upon earlier discoveries by PoTP, and show that it is both standard practice for Donald Trump to charge government employees the maximum posted rate (also known as the “rack rate”) for stays at Mar-A-Lago. Property of the People co-founder Sarahjane Blum explains, “setting up a situation where the American public is forced to pay the exorbitantly high rack to get the work of governing done is one of the many ways the Trump presidency is setting up and normalizing kleptocracy.”

Sarahjane Blum explains these emoluments on WNYC’s Trump Inc,

“Donald Trump views the American public as a bunch of marks waiting to be fleeced,” said Property of the People co-founder, Ryan Shapiro.Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American Presidency into a racket.”

Added Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh, “Repeatedly, our FOIA litigation has revealed blatant financial conflicts of interest resulting in the transfer of taxpayer dollars to Trump properties and likely constitutional violations. We expect this is only the tip of the iceberg, and we fully intend to aggressively continue our FOIA work exposing kleptocracy at the highest reaches of government.”

In September 2017, documents obtained by Property of the People from the Coast Guard and DHS revealed National Security Council and other agency  payments to Mar-A-Lago and Trump Hotels. These documents provided the first strong evidence of Trump’s violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.  These revelations also informed Senators Gary Peters, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Udall’s decision to introduce the HOTEL Act — Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating and Lodging — banning executive officials from staying at any property owned by the president, vice president, Cabinet secretaries or their families members.  A house version of the bill (H.R. 5304) has also been introduced by congressman Jamie Raskin.

 


A Note to Editors

Property of the People has organized these government charge card documents and others together as part of their Operation 45 project.  The projects full archive can be browsed online HERE.  For journalists and editors who would like URLs for individual documents we have organized them by agency below.

  1. State Department Charge Card Expenses: Production I, Production II
  2. Department of Commerce Charge Card Expenses: IOS Release I, IOS Release II, IOS Release III, IOS Release IV, IOS Release V
  3. Department of Defense Charge Card Expenses: March 2018 receipt Production, Summary Chart
  4. Department of Homeland Security & Coast Guard Charge Card Expenses: DHS Production I, Coast Guard Billing Statements, Coast Guard, NSC and Embassy Expenditures, FY16 + FY17 bundle
  5. General Services Administration Charge Card Expenses: GSA Production


About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh.

You can support their work at propertyofthepeople.org/donate