Venezuelan government says it put down military revolt

By: Patricia Mazzei, Associated Press

Venezuelan authorities quelled an apparent military rebellion early Sunday, a ruling socialist party leader said, the day after a new all-powerful legislative body condemned by the international community began targeting opposition opponents.

Socialist deputy Diosdado Cabello called the incident a “terrorist attack” at a military base in Valencia, a city west of the capital, Caracas. He wrote on Twitter that the situation had been brought under control and that several people were arrested.

His announcement came after the release of a video showing about a dozen men dressed in military fatigues and holding assault rifles declared themselves in rebellion and urged like-minded security forces rise up against President Nicolas Maduro.

Witnesses posted videos including what sounded like gunshots ringing in the dark at the Paramacay military base. After daybreak, neighbors gathered at the base entrance, cheering and singing the national anthem. At one point, they were dispersed with tear gas.

More tear gas was used against a spontaneous protest in a Valencia plaza. Helicopters belonging to security forces flew low over the base throughout the morning.

The military denounced a “paramilitary attack” and said seven men who had been detained were “giving up information.”

In the widely circulated video, a man identifying himself as Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, demanded “the immediate formation of a transition government.”

“This is not a coup d’etat,” he said. “This is a civic and military action to restore constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction.”

Caguaripano was discharged three years ago, accused of conspiring against the government. He had been in hiding since. It was unclear if he was on the Paramacay base — and if so, how he might have gained entry. The rebellion was said to take place among troops from the 41st Army Tank Brigade.

A video later showed Bolivarian Army Commander Jesus Suarez Chourio — surrounded by troops he said were from the 41st Brigade on the base — declaring victory over the “mercenary paramilitary terrorist attack.”

“They assaulted us, but we suppressed them,” said Suarez Chourio, who is under U.S. sanctions for violently repressing political dissent.


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has been pushing for sanctions against Maduro’s government, said on Twitter that Cabello’s acting as the government’s principal spokesman on the incident “shows who’s in charge of security forces in Venezuela.” He called Cabello, who has long been the subject of allegations that he’s involved in drug trafficking, a “narco leader.”

Cabello responded that Rubio was the first “character” to “defend the terrorist attack.”

“Now we know where it all comes from,” he said, later calling the senator “Narco Rubio.”

“Diosdado ‘Pablo Escobar’ Cabello is unusually nervous and frantic this morning,” Rubio retorted.


Cabello is among several socialist leaders threatened with being sanctioned by the U.S. in coming days.

On Saturday, a new constituent assembly elected under suspected fraud dismissed Luisa Ortega, the attorney general investigating the government, from her post and ordered her to stand trial. In response, the president of the opposition-held parliament urged the military to step in to restore the democratic order.

Late Saturday night, the government returned jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to house arrest.


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Moroccan women vow to continue protests

Female activists in Casablanca and Rabat have added their voices to a chorus of anti-government demonstrations.


Casablanca, Morocco – Female activists in Morocco say they will continue to press the government for justice, just days after stiff jail sentences were handed down to activists in the northern region of Al-Hoceima.

Hundreds of women demonstrated in Casablanca on Friday to demand the release of four political prisoners associated with the Hirak movement, who were recently sentenced to 18 months in jail. Scores more remain in “preventive detention”, according to government spokesman Mustapha El-Khalfi.

On Saturday, another group of women gathered in Rabat to denounce what they deemed to be politically motivated arrests. The demonstrators were forcibly dispersed by local police.

“Despite the repression, women’s mobilisation will not stop,” Khadija Ryadi, an activist with Morocco’s women’s movement, told Al Jazeera. “Al-Hoceima has shown us that [the governing establishment]’s repression will not be able to stop the upheaval. Both men and women have the same discourse; we will not stop until they answer our demands.”

Among those demands was the release of Silya Ziani, 23, a prominent Amazigh singer and a leading voice in the Hirak movement. She was arrested on June 5 in Al-Hoceima and transferred to Casablanca.

Tensions in Al-Hoceima have been simmering since October, after the death of a young fish vendor who was crushed in a rubbish compactor truck while trying to retrieve his wares, which had been dumped by local authorities.

The incident touched a nerve with Moroccans throughout the Rif region, which has long been under-served by the country’s government. A wave of protests against official abuses and corruption led to the birth of the Hirak movement.

Calling themselves Moroccan Women Against Political Arrests, the demonstrators in Casablanca said they were taking to the streets in solidarity with Hirak, chanting: “Freedom for prisoners.” Eight women chained their hands in an effort to portray governmental repression.

“We call upon the Moroccan women in the diaspora to stand with the women in Al-Hoceima and raise their voices to demand the immediate release of the political prisoners,” activist Soraya El-Kahlaoui told Al Jazeera.

A series of events will be organised at the international level in Italy and Brussels in solidarity with Hirak, she added.

“We want the voices of Moroccan women to [convey] those of Hirak’s political prisoners. Just as in Al-Hoceima women continue the fight, we will continue it,” Kahlaoui said.

The demonstrators also replicated a well-known form of protest in Al-Hoceima known as “tantana”, which involves repeatedly banging a ladle on a pot.

“[The demonstrations are] a Moroccan initiative against political arrests, called by different actors across the Moroccan political spectrum [who are] gathered and united around one goal, which is this quest for freedom, dignity and social justice and solidarity,” human rights activist Iqbal Chaqqaf told Al Jazeera.

Activist Bouchra Rhouzlani noted that Ziani’s release was one of the group’s key demands. The singer’s spirit could be felt throughout the protest, with a black-and-white portrait held up as a symbol as protesters chanted: “We are all Silya.” Ziani was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

Last month, Moroccan authorities stifled a women’s protest calling for access to jobs and health services in Al-Hoceima, encircling demonstrators to impede others from joining. Organisers said that police had been increasingly attempting to quash protests since the arrest of Nasser Zefzafi, the 39-year-old leader of the protest movement, for “undermining the security of the state”.

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U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel

Protest Cuomo's Attack on Palestinian Rights.Protest outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's office in New York City-June 9th, 2016. The protest Organized by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel; Jewish Voice for Peace-NY; and Jews Say No! around 300 people attending the protest (Photo by Mark Apollo/Pacific Press) *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***

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THE CRIMINALIZATION OF political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing T-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as “the Palestine Exception” to free speech.

But now, a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

The proposed measure, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), was introduced by Cardin on March 23. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reportsthat the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year:


The bill’s co-sponsors include the senior Democrat in Washington, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, and several of the Senate’s more liberal members, such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Illustrating the bipartisanship that AIPAC typically summons, it also includes several of the most right-wing senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

[Update – July 20, 2017: Glen Caplin, senior advisor to Gillibrand, sends along the following statement: “We have a different read of the specific bill language, however, due to the ACLU’s concerns, the Senator has extended an invitation to them to meet with her and discuss their concerns.”]

similar measure was introduced in the House on the same date by two Republicans and one Democrat. It has already amassed 234 co-sponsors: 63 Democrats and 174 Republicans. As in the Senate, AIPAC has assembled an impressive ideological diversity among supporters, predictably including many of the most right-wing House members — Jason Chaffetz, Liz Cheney, Peter King — along with the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer.

Among the co-sponsors of the bill are several of the politicians who have become political celebrities by positioning themselves as media leaders of the anti-Trump #Resistance, including three California House members who have become heroes to Democrats and staples of the cable news circuit: Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swalwell. These politicians, who have built a wide public following by posturing as opponents of authoritarianism, are sponsoring one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills that has pended before Congress in quite some time.


LAST NIGHT, THE ACLU posted a letter it sent to all members of the Senate urging them to oppose this bill. Warning that “proponents of the bill are seeking additional co-sponsors,” the civil liberties group explained that “it would punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs.” The letter detailed what makes this bill so particularly threatening to basic civic freedoms:

It is no small thing for the ACLU to insert itself into this controversy. One of the most traumatic events in the organization’s history was when it lost large numbers of donors and supporters in the late 1970s after it defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois, a town with a large community of Holocaust survivors.

Even the bravest of organizations often steadfastly avoid any controversies relating to Israel. Yet here, while appropriately pointing out that the ACLU “takes no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country,” the group categorically denounces this AIPAC-sponsored proposal for what it is: a bill that “seeks only to punish the exercise of constitutional rights.”

The ACLU has similarly opposed bipartisan efforts at the state level to punish businesses that participate in the boycott, pointing out that “boycotts to achieve political goals are a form of expression that the Supreme Court has ruled are protected by the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech, assembly, and petition,” and that such bills “place unconstitutional conditions on the exercise of constitutional rights.” The bill now co-sponsored in Congress by more than half of the House and close to half of the Senate is far more extreme than those.


THUS FAR, NOT a single member of Congress has joined the ACLU in denouncing this bill. The Intercept this morning sent inquiries to numerous non-committed members of the Senate and House who have yet to speak on this bill. We also sent inquiries to several co-sponsors of the bill — such as Rep. Lieu — who have positioned themselves as civil liberties champions and opponents of authoritarianism, asking:

Congressman Lieu: Last night, the ACLU vehemently denounced a bill that you are co-sponsoring — to criminalize support for a boycott of Israel — as a grave attack on free speech. Do you have any comment on the ACLU’s denunciation? You’ve been an outspoken champion for civil liberties; how can you reconcile that record with an effort to make it a felony for Americans to engage in activism that protests a foreign government’s actions? We’re writing about this today; any statement would be appreciated.

This morning, Lieu responded: “Thank you for sharing the letter. The bill has been around since March and this is the first time I have seen this issue raised. We will look into it.” (The Intercept will post any response from Rep. Lieu, or any late responses from others, as soon as they are received.)

Sen. Cantwell told The Intercept she is “a strong supporter of free speech rights” and will be reviewing the bill for First Amendment concerns in light of the ACLU statement.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, when asked by The Intercept about the ACLU’s warning that the bill he is co-sponsoring criminalizes free speech, affirmed his support for the bill by responding: “I continue to support a strong U.S./Israel relationship.”

Meanwhile, some co-sponsors seemed not to have any idea what they co-sponsored — almost as though they reflexively sign whatever comes from AIPAC without having any idea what’s in it. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, for instance, seemed genuinely bewildered when told of the ACLU’s letter, saying, “What’s the Act? You’ll have to get back to me on that.”

A similar exchange took place with another co-sponsor, one of AIPAC’s most reliable allies, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who said: “I’d want to read it. … I’d really have to look at it.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a co-sponsor, said she hadn’t seen the ACLU letter but would give it a look. “I certainly will take their position into consideration, just like I take everybody’s position into consideration,” she said.

Gillibrand, the only senator in the 2020 presidential mix to co-sponsor the bill, told The Intercept she would have a statement to provide, which we’ll add as soon as it’s provided.

Perhaps most stunning is our interview with the primary sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin, who seemed to have no idea what was in his bill, particularly insisting that it contains no criminal penalties.

But as the ACLU put it, “Violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.”

That’s because, as Josh Ruebner expertly detailed when the bill was first unveiled, “the bill seeks to amend two laws — the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945,” and “the potential penalties for violating this bill are steep: a minimum $250,000 civil penalty and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years imprisonment, as stipulated in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.”

Indeed, to see how serious the penalties are, and how clear it is that those penalties are imposed by this bill, one can just compare the bill’s text in Section 8(a), which provides that violators will be “fined in accordance with Section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1705),” to the penalty provisions of that law, which state:

That the bill refers to the fine, but not the prison sentence, is not enough to prevent a judge from applying the statute’s prison term, because the bill brings the statute into play, said Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s political director, who authored the letter to the Senate. “The referral to the statute keeps criminal penalties in play, regardless of what their preference for punishment might be,” said Shakir.

The bill also extends the current prohibition on participating in boycotts sponsored by foreign governments to cover boycotts from international organizations such as the U.N. and the European Union. It also explicitly extends the boycott ban from Israel generally to any parts of Israel, including the settlements. For that reason, Ruebner explains, the bill — by design — would outlaw “campaigns by the Palestine solidarity movement to pressure corporations to cut ties to Israel or even with Israeli settlements.”


THIS PERNICIOUS BILL highlights many vital yet typically ignored dynamics in Washington. First, journalists love to lament the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, yet the very mention of the word “Israel” causes most members of both parties to quickly snap into line in a show of unanimity that would make the regime of North Korea blush with envy. Even when virtually the entire world condemns Israeli aggression, or declares settlements illegal, the U.S. Congress — across party and ideological lines — finds virtually complete harmony in uniting against the world consensus and in defense of the Israeli government.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., speaks to reporters following a briefing on Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 7, 2017. Amid measured support for the U.S. cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base, some vocal Republicans and Democrats are reprimanding the White House for launching the strike without first getting congressional approval.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Second, the free speech debate in the U.S. is incredibly selective and warped. Pundits and political officials love to crusade as free speech champions — when doing so involves defending mainstream ideas or attacking marginalized, powerless groups such as minority college students. But when it comes to one of the most systemic, powerful, and dangerous assaults on free speech in the U.S. and the West generally — the growing attempt to literally criminalize speech and activism aimed at the Israeli government’s occupation — these free speech warriors typically fall silent.

Third, AIPAC continues to be one of the most powerful, and pernicious, lobbying forces in the country. In what conceivable sense is it of benefit to Americans to turn them into felons for the crime of engaging in political activism in protest of a foreign nation’s government? And this is hardly the first time they have attempted to do this through their most devoted congressional loyalists; Cardin, for instance, had previously succeeded in inserting into trade bills provisions that would disfavor anyone who supports a boycott of Israel.

Finally, it is hard to put into words the irony of watching many of the most celebrated and beloved congressional leaders of the anti-authoritarian Resistance — Gillibrand, Schiff, Swalwell, and Lieu — sponsor one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills to appear in Congress in many years. How can one credibly inveigh against “authoritarianism” while sponsoring a bill that dictates to American citizens what political views they are and are not allowed to espouse under threat of criminal prosecution? Whatever labels one might want to apply to the sponsors of this bill, “anti-authoritarianism” should not be among them.

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Clashing protests on New Haven Green turn chaotic, some would say violent

One man wearing a black hat with “Make America Great Again,” is kicked by a counter protester at a rally, Saturday, July 8, 2017, at the New Haven Green.

By Esteban L. Hernandez

NEW HAVEN >> A counterprotest on the City Green denouncing a planned demonstration by far-right groups dissolved into chaos Saturday after protestors clashed with local police who attempted to disperse a crowd of more than 150 people.

Counterprotest organizer Natalie Alexander said organizers had learned the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s group, were among five groups planning a rally at the City Green on Saturday afternoon, to “resist socialism.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes said the organization is, “pro-West fraternal organization,” and is linked to the alt-right movement.

At least four people were taken into custody by New Haven police.

Police spokesperson Officer David Hartman said one person was issued a summons and released on scene, while three others were arrested for misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges. At least one of the people arrested had participated in the counterprotest.

Hartman said one person arrested was hospitalized after a substance at the rally caused the person’s asthma to flare up. One of the individuals arrested had illegal fireworks, Hartman said. The incident led to road closures along the Green, including the portion of Church Street running parallel to the Green.

The event underscores the tension between far-right groups emboldened by what counterprotesters in New Haven said is rhetoric from President Donald Trump and left-leaning organizations that believe such far-right groups align too closely with white supremacists.

Other groups were said to be involved, though members affiliated with Proud Boys were the only ones who identified themselves to press members as belonging to a specific group. Police on-scene said no group had been issued a permit to rally on Saturday.

“Many of them, they’re kind of the middle band of white nationalists … people,” Alexander said. “They’re all explicitly nationalist.”

Jesus Morales Sanchez, of the immigrant advocacy group Unidad Latina en Accion, said Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims and immigrants has been especially problematic.

“We’re trying to send a message that that’s not welcomed in New Haven, because that’s not what New Haven stands for,” Morales said. “A lot of these groups have popped up; they’ve become more relevant since the election and since (Trump’s) campaign started.”

Two Proud Boys members, who said they were brothers from Massachusetts, said their organization was not affiliated with white supremacists. They declined to give their names. They arrived shortly after 1 p.m. near the Green. Their members spoke to some counterprotesters while others yelled chants and obscenities behind them.

One group member said they support immigrants, “as long as they come here legally and don’t expect us to conform to their culture.”

“As long as you’re not, you know, prompting your own culture, which deviates from the culture that is here,” the members said.

Another group member said they were surprised to see a counterprotest. He said Proud Boys are not white supremacists.

“Nazis hate us,” another group member said. “Because we have gay members and Hispanic and Asian members.”

The counterprotest began with a march at about 12:40 p.m. on the Green. Demonstrators stopped near the city’s war memorial flagpole.

There, a man who declined to name what group he was affiliated with was met with counterprotesters who asked that he leave. Obscenities were yelled at the man, who was shoved several times while walking away from the counterprotesters. A hat he wore was taken off his head, while one person attempted to punch him and another kicked the man. The man said he was from New Haven and said he was “anti-socialist.”

The incident was a harbinger of what soon approached: Proud Boys members came face-to-face with counterprotesters near Church and Elm streets. They were told by counterprotesters that they were not welcome in New Haven. While some demonstrators yelled at the protestors, a few began throwing objects, including what appeared to be paint-filled balloons.

New Haven police arrived on the scene in droves at about 1:11 p.m. The demonstration erupted after police began requesting people disperse from the area, which was now filled with close to 200 demonstrators and more and more police officers. Officers were seen arresting at least three people, including one woman who appeared to throw an object. Several high-ranking officers were on-hand, including Assistant Chief Achilles Generoso.

Among the four arrested was community activist Barbara Fair, who appeared to be released on-scene after being handcuffed. She told supporters afterwards she “was fine.”

Mayor Toni Harp released a statement on her re-election campaign Facebook page Saturday following the rally. She said the city wasn’t aware of any planned protests on Saturday.

“We were in no way supportive of any assembly that intends to incite fear, hatred and violence,” Harp said. “New Haven is and remains an inclusive city and I personally take responsibility for ensuring that this is the case.”

Hartman said the Proud Boys members requested that police escort them out of the Green, and they left shortly before 2 p.m. It’s unclear if other far-right group members attended the planned rally.

“They promised not to come back,” Hartman said.

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G20 protesters clash with police, set cars on fire

People use fire extinguishers during anti-G20 protests in Hamburg

Anti-globalization protesters set dozens of cars on fire and tried to block leaders’ delegations from entering the grounds of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany Friday.

This is the second day of protests as leaders of the world’s top economies meet for the annual summit. Hamburg police had 20,000 officers on hand to patrol the city’s streets and have already demanded reinforcements from police forces around the country.

The protests centre on anti-capitalist views.

On Friday morning, activists shot firecrackers at a police helicopter and only narrowly missed it, police said. Windows at the Mongolian consulate were also broken and the tires of a car belonging to the Canadian delegation were punctured.

Dozens of German officers built moving lines in different parts of the city and used water cannons to force away protesters from streets. Some were physically moved from a sit-in in front of the first security checkpoint near the summit grounds.

Police later tweeted that all leaders made it safely to the city’s convention centre where the summit is taking place. None of the activists managed to push into the no-go zone around the summit that the police had established.

Greenpeace activists were also protesting and had a float, picturing a depiction of U.S. President Donald Trump in a diaper, seeming to defecate oil onto the planet while tearing up a climate change treaty.

Clashes across the city paled in comparison to the more violent skirmishes seen on Thursday night.

Police said that at least 111 officers were hurt during Thursday’s clashes, one of whom had to be taken to a hospital with an eye injury after a firework exploded in front of him. Twenty-nine people were arrested and a further 15 temporarily detained.

Smoke is seen from an apartment during anti-G20 protests in Hamburg Friday.

In 2009, the G20 Summit in London, U.K., grew tense when riot police charged a sit-down protest in the city centre. An estimated 4,000 people demonstrated in the city’s financial district before the summit began. Following the summit, there were allegations of police brutality on protesters, and several officers were reprimanded.

A year later, the summit drew a similar scene in Toronto, when protests erupted through the city. The protests and large police presence led to the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, with more than 1,000 people sent to a detention centre. A report later found that police violated civil rights and detained some protesters illegally.

While every G20 meeting attracts protests, not all become violent or controversial.

— With files from  and the Associated Press

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How Freedom Cities Can Make All People of Color Safer


While many city officials proclaim more police officers mean safer neighborhoods, these activists disagree.


This summer will mark the third anniversary of the death of Eric Garner, a New York man who was killed by police officers outside of a neighborhood convenience store in Staten Island (he was suspected of illegally selling loose cigarettes). Garner’s death is one of many that has raised Americans’ concerns about the increasing number of Black men, women, and children killed by U.S. law enforcement officers.

At only 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans are killed by police, incarcerated, live in poverty, and have poor health at higher rates than White Americans, who make up the majority populace. These numbers and conditions are much the same as those attributed to other disenfranchised citizens, including Latino Americans, who are 17 percent of the population.

Contemporary movements continue to address these tragedies.

Black Lives Matter is campaigning against the criminal justice system, calling for an end to racial profiling, police brutality and killings, and for officers to be held accountable for their actions. The Movement for Black Lives policy platform, released last summer, is demanding the reallocation of resources to improve and protect the lives of all Black people in the United States—citizens, immigrants, cis, trans, queer, gender nonconforming, and differently-abled. And, in response to the Trump administration’s deportation machine, cities are looking for ways to create safe spaces for immigrants and refugees in the sanctuary movement.

Earlier this year, a campaign was launched to extend these ideas to all marginalized groups that need safety. Named Freedom Cities, this campaign expands on the sanctuary movement to create a framework for cities to offer protection to all oppressed people in the United States.

Marginalized U.S. citizens need protection, too

Historically, sanctuary cities or states have existed since slavery, when certain areas were identified as safe zones for enslaved Africans who had escaped their owners’ plantations. But the term became more common in the 1980s, under the Reagan administration, when protests grew against federal immigration laws that prevented Central American refugees from gaining asylum in the United States. Pastors designated their churches as sanctuaries for the undocumented immigrants, who were poor and homeless. Today, this concept—sanctuary as a strategy in which cities refuse to invest local resources in immigration enforcement—does not go far enough, some say.

On Inauguration Day, a coalition of New York City-based organizations held a mass demonstration outside the Trump Hotel, demanding resources for oppressed communities not only to survive, but also to thrive. The coalition wants sanctuary to include the provision of safety for citizens who live in danger daily. Members ask, “Where is the sanctuary when ICE is setting up checkpoints and conducting raids in our communities? Where is the sanctuary for folks impacted by the War on Drugs, racial profiling, or police violence? Where is the sanctuary for people with convictions?” Cities, towns, and neighborhoods need to be safe for low-wage workers, Black, Latino, and Muslim Americans—as well as immigrants—they say.

Enlace, an international multicultural alliance of low-wage worker centers, unions, and community groups in NYC, is a member of the New York Worker Center Federation, the coalition that is organizing Freedom Cities. Enlace Executive Director Daniel Carrillo says the group is shifting how safety is defined.

“The way that Trump and past [presidential] administrations defined it was more prisons, more police in the streets, more deportation and detention,” says Carrillo. The Freedom Cities campaign seeks to change that and look at what safety means for whole communities, he explains. “Because all those measures don’t create safety actually. They create more of a police state for us.”

The goal of Freedom Cities, he adds, is for all people to be safe and free from the threat of physical violence and economic disadvantage: immigrants—documented or undocumented—people with criminal convictions, workers, gender nonconforming folks, the poor, and all people of color.

Freedom Cities strategy and framework

Days after the 2016 presidential election, the plan for Freedom Cities emerged at a meeting run by NYWCF, a multicultural coalition of organizations for the rights of workers, immigrants, and people of color. The coalition wasn’t just responding to the election. It sought to address the violence and oppression against marginalized groups that had been taking place for years. In particular, coalition members looked to the deaths of Garner and Delfino Velazquez—a New York construction worker who in November 2014 was killed on the job because of contractor negligence—and the addition of 1,300 NYPD officers the following year. While city officials proclaimed more police officers meant safer neighborhoods, these activists disagreed.

So they have developed the Freedom Cities campaign to create safer communities. The demands in the framework are inspired by various social justice organizations’ campaigns over the past decade. Members studied sanctuary city tenets and the Movement for Black Lives policy platform. The Freedom Cities campaign builds on these movements and applies their core principles to issues of immigrant rights, police brutality, gender justice, and state violence. The result is a six-point platform for what the campaign will work toward. This includes:

1. Ending Criminalization

Divest from policing and militarization and invest in programs that produce real public safety, such as mental health services and restorative practices. This includes campaigns to end practices such as broken windows policing.

2. Economic Justice and Workers Rights

Create labor protections, jobs, and employment opportunities for workers. Engage in efforts to combat discrimination, increase wages, and protect the right to organize.

3. Investment in People and Planet

Divert resources toward communities’ basic needs, including housing, education, health, (nutritious) food, and safety net programs. Protect our communities from environmental injustices.

4. Community Control

Gain real control of the institutions that people interact with daily, including police and other public agencies.

5. Community Defense

Establish systems of self-defense in neighborhoods to protect rights and dignity.

6. Global Justice

Link national struggles for liberation with others across the world. Recognize that our identities and migration histories connect us globally, and that we are part of an international movement of those who believe that everybody deserves safety and freedom.

Organizers say the action plans are still in development. However, one tactic that Freedom Cities is looking to engage in initially and build upon is Hate Free Zones.

Hate Free Zones, Peace Zones for Life

A model for Hate Free Zones currently exists in Detroit under the designation Peace Zones for Life. For the past five years, Peace Zones has worked to address community violence and interpersonal conflict, which organizers say can bring about police violence when officers are called to scenes of crime or domestic disputes.

The group facilitates community meetings, where participants discuss “what peace zones look and feel like.” Organizers have found that sometimes discord comes from the feeling of being ignored. The meetings allow all voices at the table to be heard and space for leaders to emerge within the community.

Artwork plays a role in Peace Zones, too, and the campaign works to beautify neighborhoods to let potential troublemakers know that crime is not welcome, and lessen the need for heavy police presence in their neighborhoods.

Similarly, Freedom Cities’ Hate Free Zones seek to end the practice of broken windows policing by restoring and reclaiming neighborhoods through resources that could prevent community violence. The Hate Free Zones campaign extends to Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia.

“I know that there are neighborhood watch groups that work with the police, but in these times where you have to watch out for your neighbors and police from attacking you, this is the alternative for targeted communities and their allies to organize and create safe communities,” Carrillo.

Linking struggles

When Freedom Cities launched in January, it attracted the attention of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, where Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi is a member. The two organizations have partnered with NYWCF’s Freedom Cities campaign.

“What many people don’t know is that Black immigrants, like African Americans [and Latinos], live in communities subjected to over-policing, racial profiling, and practices such as broken windows, that result in them experiencing criminal contact more often than their White counterparts, and ultimately disproportionate deportation rates,” says Carl Lipscombe, deputy director of BAJI. For this reason, BAJI has led and participated in a number of campaigns that build toward freedom cities over the past few years.

While it’s not the first time multicultural alliances have formed in social justice movements, members recognize the challenges and benefits of working together.

“It takes incredible humility and strength to reach out or to accept a call from someone reaching out to restore bridges, or build new ones,” Carrillo says. “It is definitely a process … of learning from each other and developing trust.”

The process, he says, includes learning how to talk about each others’ issues and using messaging that does not undermine one another’s work.

So, unity building is necessary, especially in this time of fear and separation of families, says Rosanna Rodríguez, the co-executive director of Laundry Workers Center, another member organization of the NYWCF. Rodríguez says the Freedom Cities campaign creates a safe space to unite.

“Freedom Cities brings to our work the real solidarity [among] the different groups … working with the same purpose together. Our struggles for liberation have always been linked with others across the world.”

Edited for

WikiLeaks Julian Assange Warns about the Creation of Digital Armies


HAVANA TIMES — The founder of Wikileaks (an international non-profit organization that leaks secret information), Julian Assange, warned us on Thursday about the creation of digital armies in the world, which are a threat to society and don’t only come from Nations but from private enterprises too, reported dpa news.

“The ability to create digital armies is a very serious threat. This is the result of the efforts of powerful companies, large corporations and Governments who control online data and information,” Assange said in a video-conference that was broadcast in Quito, at a commemorative event which marked his five-year anniversary in refuge at the Embassy of Ecuador in London.

The expert warned that people no longer warn of information gathering plans that are being implemented and that, just as in chess, you have to plan 10 moves in advance.

He set an example with corporations such as Google and Apple who are changing their strategies “in order to get to know their users better” and said that the CIA is a dangerous organization which “is nothing more than a fleet of IT pirates” who have a complex in Germany.

“These espionage organizations such as Apple or Google are trying to become digital “super-states,” trying to become States within their States,” warned the Wikileaks’ founder.

“If we don’t do anything, the time will come when we human beings won’t be able to stand up and do anything to these companies,” Assange warned.

With regard to his personal situation, he complained that the United States and the United Kingdom have used “many resources” to stop him from being able to leave the Ecuadorian embassy.

He said he felt alone at the embassy. “I am completely cut off from the world, I don’t exist in London, in Quito…, just at this embassy.” he claimed.

He noted that the first thing he will do when he leaves the embassy, if he wins his case, will be to watch the sun, the cars, birds. “I want to see my family and bring them to Ecuador,” he added.

After his speech, a dialogue began with attendees at Quito’s media research center (CIESPAL), where the “Day of Reflection, Julian Assange, five years of freedom denied” took place.

Lawyer Baltasar Garzon, the head of the Wikileaks founder’s legal defense team, attended this event, who announced that he would take his defendant’s case to the United Nations, more specifically to UNHCR and the Committee against Torture.

“These actions answer to the fact that Assange, who has been in asylum at the Embassy of Ecuador in London for five years, finds himself in a legal limbo and that there aren’t any arrest warrants against him, however, they still want to arrest him,” Garzon pointed out to journalists.

The lawyer also announced that the case will be put forward to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).

He also went on to say that the defense team is asking the United States to indicate “whether there is any legal warrant against Assange” which hasn’t been communicated to the defense team on the record.

Assange asked Ecuador for political asylum in London five years ago and he has remained inside its diplomatic offices throughout this time.

His request was due to the fear of Sweden, a country which was after him over alleged sexual abuse crimes, could extradite him to the United States, after he disclosed information about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Charges against Assange have already been dropped by the Swedish Attorney General, but the United Kingdom has yet to announce that it will withdraw its home arrest warrant and extradition to Sweden.