Online activists are calling for the Confederate flag that remains flying outside South Carolina's state house after nine parishioners were shot dead at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston to be removed on the grounds that it is "insulting" to the victims of the shooting. Gawker reports that, in fact, every flag at the state house is flying at half mast in honor of the slain—except the Confederate one! Apparently because the Stars-and-Bars is so revered that it requires an act of the state legislature to even lower it. So, the flag of slavery stays proudly at full mast in the wake of a massacre of Black folks at a church associated with the anti-slavery and civil rights struggles. The mind boggles.
A Muslim rights organization called June 3 for a thorough investigation into the fatal shooting of a Muslim man in Boston. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made the request a day after 26-year-old Usaama Rahim was killed by police after having been under surveillance by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. CAIR Director Jennifer Wicks also requested that authorities release video footage of the shooting, which shows the incident between Rahim and local police. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told the Boston Herald that "military and law enforcement lives were at threat" and that the video shows the police officers "backtracking" as Rahim approached them.
Robert Doggart, apparently an ordained minister in something called the Christian National Church, pleaded guilty last month in a plot to massacre Muslims at an upstate New York village known as Islamberg. Doggart, a resident of Signal Mountain, Tenn., was detained by the FBI April 11 as he was evidently planning to burn down the school, mosque and cafeteria at Islamberg—formerly Hancock, in Delaware county along the Pennsylvania border, in the southwestern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. "Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives," he wrote in an indiscrete social media post. "We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God. We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace." Court papers say he intended to use an M-4 assault rifle and explosives, and sought to recruit volunteers for the attack from right-wing militia groups. He was apprehended while planning a reconnaissance mission to Islamberg. Doggart ran as an independent for Congress in Tennessee's 4th District last year, but was handily defeated.
The UN Committee Against Torture has urged the US (PDF) to begin prompt, impartial investigations into all cases of police brutality and excessive use of force by police officers, and to limit the use of electrical discharge weapons. The committee expressed concern over the use of force against people of "certain racial and ethnic groups, immigrants and LGBT individuals, racial profiling by police and immigration offices and growing militarization of policing activities." The committee especially cited reports that the Chicago Police Department has harassed, racially profiled and used excessive force on African American and Latino youths. In particular, the report "expresses its deep concern at the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals."
Seven activists were arrested from Nov. 22 to Nov. 23 for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience during the 25th annual protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. The protest's sponsor, SOA Watch, opposes the US Army's training of Latin American soldiers, charging that SOA graduates have been among the region's most notorious human rights violators. A special focus on the US government's treatment of immigrants marked this year's activities, which followed US president Barack Obama's Nov. 20 announcement that his government would grant a temporary deferral from deportation for several million undocumented immigrants.
The US advocacy group SOA Watch reported on July 22 that the police in Columbus, Georgia, are trying to impose unacceptable restrictions on the annual vigil the group has held there every November since 1990 to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). According to SOA Watch, Columbus police chief Ricky Boren wants to limit the vigil to 200 people on sidewalks outside the US Army's Fort Benning, where WHINSEC is based. In previous years thousands of people have demonstrated at a gate leading to the base. Boren is also seeking to deny a permit for the group to post its stage and sound system at the usual spot.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive sting operations based on ethnic and religious identity, pushing people into terrorism, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute jiontly reported July 21. The report examines 27 cases, following them from investigation through trial. "In some cases," according to HRW, "the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act." Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at HRW and one of the report's authors, stated that although Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US, the reality is that many defendants would not have committed terrorist acts without encouragement, pressure or, at times, even payment from law enforcement to do so. In many cases people with intellectual disabilities were targeted. According to some members of Muslim communities, fears of government surveillance and informants now force them to watch what they say, who they say it to and how often they attend services. US Attorney General Eric Holder has defended the undercover operations, calling them "essential in fighting terrorism."
Veteran Black Panther Russell "Maroon" Shoatz was released from solitary confinement into the general prison population at Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution (SCI) Graterford Feb. 20, ending more than 22 consecutive years in solitary confinement. The news was confirmed by Maroon during a legal call with an attorney from the Abolitionist Law Center. Maroon’s son, Russell Shoatz III, said, "We are very excited that this day has finally come. My father being released from solitary confinement is proof of the power of people organizing against injustice, and the importance of building strong coalitions."