IEB Supports 2018 Prison Strike

Update: IEB members participated in an August 25, 2018 rally at San Quentin in support of the National Prison Strike; stay tuned for a first-person report.

On August 21, 2018, prisoners around the US began a three-week strike “demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.” This strike, which involves work strikes, sit-ins, boycotts and hunger strikes, is in response to the April 2018 riot at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, during which seven prisoners died while guards waited hours to take action. The dates are significant: August 21st is the anniversary of the date on which Black Panther Party Field Marshal and prison activist George Jackson was killed by a prison guard in 1971; September 9th is the anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion, which erupted two weeks after Jackson’s assassination.

Indivisible East Bay is endorsing the strike and stands in solidarity with incarcerated people who suffer through the American penal system. In particular, we appreciate those who work to fight the wildfires throughout California for as little as $2 per hour. California has argued in court against releasing prisoners because it finds their cheap labor so valuable, which philosophically aligns with the legality of slavery under the 13th amendment. We cannot stand by as these workers are undervalued simply because of their conviction of a crime and imprisonment without a voice or adequate rehabilitation programs.

Therefore, we urge all of our members and others to stand in solidarity with those striking through September 9. IEB will periodically publish events that members can attend to support this effort, including one on August 25 at San Quentin. We also encourage members to spread the word about the strike and to ask elected officials to meet the 10-point list of demands, and to investigate root causes for the increase in incarceration rates in the US since the 1970s.

Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee

Graphic credit Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee.

Manafort. Cohen. Trump? Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

OMG! We witnessed on Tuesday August 21, in little more than an hour, a confluence of events that a political thriller screenwriter would reject as too far-fetched. But the head-spinning news was true, and, if you’re Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen or Donald Trump, the truth was astonishingly bad.

At almost exactly the same moment, in two courthouses only a few hours drive from each other, two of Trump’s key associates were found guilty on multiple counts for federal crimes.

In Virginia, at the trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a jury found the defendant guilty on eight counts of tax fraud and bank fraud. Since this was the first jury conviction in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, you might think this would be the worst news of the day for Trump and his base and enablers.

You’d be wrong.

At the same time as the Manafort jury delivered the guilty verdicts, Trump’s long-time personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen stood in a federal courtroom in New York City and pled guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of bank fraud, and, most critically for potential impact on Trump, a count of having violated campaign finance laws “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Trump isn’t named, but Cohen’s court filing refers to “Individual-1, who by January 2017 had become president of the United States.” The violation refers to payments Cohen made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to prevent them from going public with their salacious stories in the weeks before the 2016 election.

Tuesday’s events echo one of Doonesbury’s most memorable comic strips about Watergate:

Doonesbury.jpg

While no one expects Trump to admit it, the day’s events put the lie to any notion that the Mueller investigation is a “rigged witch hunt” or “hoax.” Quite the contrary.

We can’t overstate the shattering implications of what went down on Aug. 21. For starters, Cohen stated under oath in open court that “Individual-1” (evidently He Whose Name May Not Be Spoken, but who we all know is Donald J. Trump) conspired with him to commit a federal crime. Cohen further said that the charge linked to McDougal was done “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” In normal times, this alone would be sufficient to initiate impeachment proceedings. Sadly, these are not normal times. Rather, these are times when a gutless GOP-controlled Congress won’t even think the “I” word for fear of Trump and his base turning on them.

Meanwhile, 69-year old Manafort faces a sentence that legal experts estimate from seven to 10 years, and a second trial on separate Russia-related charges due to start next month. The pressure for him to cut a deal for leniency in exchange for info about Trump appears immense.

Which is why Aug. 21 shoved us a huge step closer to the precipice of a constitutional crisis! Trump could pardon Manafort and/or Cohen. Most likely? A pardon of Manafort to try to keep his former campaign manager from “flipping.” And Manafort’s steadfast refusal (preceding his convictions) to bargain with prosecutors suggests he is counting on a pardon. Conversely, appearing on the Today show the Day After, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis stated that his client would not accept Trump’s pardon, elaborating that Cohen “. . . considers a pardon from someone who acted so corruptly as president to be something he would never accept.”

Trump’s pardon of a key witness would be a serious, crisis-precipitating obstruction of justice; an attempt to impede the investigation into crimes his co-conspirator has plead guilty to, crimes that may have altered the outcome of the election and thus call into question the legitimacy of his victory.

This is one of the “red lines” on the list issued by MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups, that will trigger mass protest if Trump crosses one:

  • Firing Mueller
  • Pardons of key witnesses
  • Actions that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mueller’s current supervisor, or repealing the regulations establishing the office

What you can do now:

And prepare if we need to hit the streets:

  • Read the ACLU’s article Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations
  • Download the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app to record police activity and send it immediately to the ACLU affiliate nearest you. Get the California app, MobileJusticeCA
  • Put the National Lawyers Guild hotline numbers into your phone, and write them on your arm in ink:
    • to call from local jails ONLY: 415-285-1011
    • outside of jail calls, call NLG hotline volunteers: 415-909-4NLG (4654)
    • if no answer, send an email to the NLG Demonstrations Committee at nlgsfhotline@protonmail.com
  • Prepare a go-bag with:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

Doonesbury comic strip © Garry Trudeau
Photo-montage of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump, and Paul Manafort © Getty Images

Ted Landau contributed to this article. Ted is a retired professor of psychology. He has also spent several decades as a tech journalist/author — writing primarily about Apple products. He has been politically active in the East Bay since moving here in 2004.

 

Bake for Bonds (and more ways to help immigrants)

After Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston announced on July 10, 2018 that he was terminating the County’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), several local groups that had been working to support the immigrant detainees at West County Detention Facility in Richmond mobilized to help ICE detainees who were at risk of being transferred out of state. These transfers would have left the detainees far from their families, communities, and attorneys. Learn more about the Sheriff’s decision at our article.

There are many ways you can help!

  • Bake for Bonds! Support the Freedom for Immigrant Community Bond Fund – help make these fundraisers, organized by the El Cerrito Progressives, a success. The bake sales will raise bond funds for approximately 150 adults. Drop by one of the many bake sales, or volunteer to bake and/or staff a table. You can see all of the dates and locations sign up here. Any questions? Email Sherry Drobner.
  • Donate to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, organized by the  Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and other groups, to pay bond for detainees who can’t afford it, and to pay for related expenses such as phone calls from detention centers.
  • Another fundraiser by the El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. They’ve already raised over $3,000, help them get to their goal! Donations go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants. Updated August 24, 2018: The El Cerrito Progressives has informed us that as of August 19 there were only eight ICE detainees remaining at the West County Detention Facility because ICE transferred the rest of the detainees out of state although they had court dates in San Francisco. Rebecca Merton of Freedom for Immigrants, the organization handling the Community Bond Fund has said: we definitely still need more fundraising! We are actually running low on funds. And now, in addition to bonding people out, we need to pay for last-minute airfare for folks from cities like Denver, Honolulu, and Tacoma back home.”

Other ways you can help!

Kicking off August ’18 with local political events

With midterm election day barreling toward us, local political groups (including Indivisible East Bay, of course) and elected officials are stepping up their efforts to make sure we cross the November 6 finish line as victors. The first weekend in August – we’ve hit the less-than 100 days out, folks – saw many IEBers participating in a wide variety of events. Didn’t make any of them? Here’s a quick roundup. Oh, and don’t miss any more, check out the upcoming events listings in our weekly newsletter and our Midterm Election Work webpage!

Paint Congress Blue, Art + Action Festival

On Sunday August 5, crowds of people from the Bay Area and beyond met in Oakland to Paint Congress Blue. The free block party featured art, activism and a visit from an infamous barnyard fowl. 

IEB, together with Indivisible Berkeley, Sister District, Swing Left, Working America, and more, helped organize the event. Each group had a table to provide opportunities for the public to get educated and get involved. IEB’s table had supplies for writing GOTV (Get Out The Vote) postcards to voters in swing districts. By the end of the evening, IEB volunteers and members of the public had written over 170 postcards to voters in California Congressional Districts 1 and 21!

Don’t miss these upcoming IEB postcarding and social events:

  • August 12, 10 AM-noon: Indivisible We Write! IEB August postcard party, Sports Basement, Berkeley. Info & RSVP.
  • August 25, 2-4 PM: IEB Ale & Mail! No-host mingle & postcarding at Hop Yard Alehouse in Pleasanton. Info & RSVP.
Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang
IEB table at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang

At the main stage, speakers from each organization described their methodology and goals. Kristen Law (co-lead of the IEB CA-11 Team) spoke about the work of Indivisible East Bay, highlighting the successes of our Judiciary Team and efforts to hold our members of Congress accountable.

Kristen Law speaking at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang
IEB member Kristen Law speaking at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang

Between speeches local musical groups entertained the crowd, and Project Bandaloop, an aerial dance team, also performed. A number of art galleries in the district were open for tours.

The Trump Chicken overseeing the festivities.
Trump Chicken oversaw Paint Congress Blue festivities

Lest we forget, the guest of honor was the Trump Chicken, a 13-foot tall inflatable chicken that bears a striking resemblance to, well, you-know-who! Attendees could have their photos taken while giving the Chicken a piece of their mind. By any measure, Paint Congress Blue was a huge success, and a good time was had by all; well, except for maybe the Chicken.

Phone Banking for Northern Nevada

Want to help GOTV (Get Out the Vote) beyond our deep blue Bay Area? Here’s one way: Northern Nevada. That was the message delivered by two members of Issue Voters of Northern Nevada at IEB’s July All Members Meeting. The group is focused on contacting unaffiliated voters in Washoe County to ask what issues matter most to them. The number of these voters has grown dramatically in recent years — to the point that they will likely be the deciding factor in the November election.

Five IEB members who were fired up by this appeal packed their mobile phones and laptops — and headed off to Oakland for an afternoon of phone banking. They spent three hours calling voters, using national Indivisible’s virtual phone bank system. As is common with phone banking, most calls wound up with no one picking up, but the good news is that those who did answer were usually willing to talk and share their thoughts.

According to Toni Henle, one of the “IEB five,” the group made about 200 calls and “each of us had four or five good conversations (and a couple of not-so-good ones); we found it helps that others are around to share the good and bad!”

Can you help turn out the Nevada vote? We’ve scheduled two phone banks on Sundays August 19 & 26 from 3-6 PM at our hostess’ house in north Oakland. To join us, email vivian@mendezleal.com. And there are several other phone- and text-banking opportunities listed in our newsletter and this webpage.

Phone banking to Nevada
Phone banking to Nevada

Starting in September, there’ll also be opportunities to drive to Reno to canvass voters identified as “persuadable” for Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen,  running against Dean Heller, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: Immigration town hall

Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has been to our southern border, witnessing first-hand what Trump’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy means. DeSaulnier’s message to constituents attending his immigration town hall in Concord on August 4, was that the policy is something we, as Americans, should have zero tolerance for.

In a slide-show presentation that focused on immigration, DeSaulnier walked through the damage being done — including the fact that at least 500 children may now be permanently orphaned because they were separated from parents who were subsequently deported. 

DeSaulnier described his trip to the border crossing at Brownsville Texas. Upon arrival, he met with a federal judge who confided that the immigrants here were not “bad people.” In most cases, they were legally seeking asylum. DeSaulnier attended the adjudication of 70 individuals, the majority of whom came from Central America, immigrants who had traveled thousands of miles and paid as much as $20,000 to “coyotes” to gain transport to the border.

DeSaulnier also met with several families who had recently been re-united. A young boy told him how, after being separated from his family, an immigration official had told him: “Your parents don’t ever want to see you again.”

Finally, DeSaulnier was able to tour a facility for new arrivals, the place where immigrants are housed in fence-enclosed “cages” (as you may have seen in television reports). Several immigration officials related how uncomfortable this all made them. One lamented that he had sought the job after 9-11, to be one of the “good guys” helping his country; he now felt he had become one of the “bad guys.”

An obviously emotional DeSaulnier stressed to the town hall audience that “this has to stop. It is not acceptable.” What the Trump administration is doing at the border is not only ethically wrong, it is illegal!  He described efforts to get legislation passed that addresses the issue. The frustrating problem is that GOP Speaker of the House has absolute control over which bills can be brought to the floor for a vote. Even though DeSaulnier is supporting at least two bills that would pass if voted on, Speaker Ryan has refused to let them reach the floor.

The meeting concluded with a Q&A where members largely voiced support for the work DeSaulnier is doing. At one point, he gave a shout-out to Indivisible — complimenting us for pressuring him to “tell us what you are doing about it.” Watch the recorded Town Hall here.

Rep. Eric Swalwell: baseball and town hall

For Eric Swalwell, Representative for the CA-15 Congressional district, last weekend was a combination of fun and business.

Fun was an Oakland A’s pre-game tailgate party at the Coliseum, which he hosted. After wrapping that up, it was on to the game itself, where Rep. Swalwell threw out the ceremonial first pitch!

The business part was a town hall meeting at Hayward High School on Saturday August 4. Swalwell answered questions on a wide range of issues, including health care, immigration, climate change, the rights of veterans and, of course, the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. His final words touched on FDR’s four freedoms: the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — with a new freedom added by Swalwell to provide hope in today’s troubled times: the freedom to dream.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond
Rep. Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond

Many constituents were interested in getting involved in the efforts to counter the Trump administration’s actions. That’s when IEB’s CA-15 team co-leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky stepped up to the plate. They and other members passed out flyers recommending IEB as a great resource for those wanting to be more involved.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond
Rep. Eric Swalwell and IEB CA-15 team co-lead Ward Kanowsky, photo by Josh Richmond

And IEB activism elsewhere too!

Several other intrepid IEB members took their activism on the road over the weekend as well! IEB superstars Amelia Cass and Linh Nguyen attended the Tahoe Summit, delivering a letter to keynote speaker Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski from 29 of her constituents asking her to vote NO on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And Nancy Latham traveled to New Orleans to join with thousands of other activists at the Netroots Nation conference. Read her inspiring first-hand account.

Paint Congress Blue photographs by Wesley Chang, see more of Wesley’s PCB photos here.

Ted Landau, Alice Towey, Toni Henle and Ward Kanowsky contributed to this report.

Experts talk about how to beat the Kavanaugh nomination

By Candace Goldman

On August 2, 2018, Indivisible East Bay took part in a community meeting in Berkeley to discuss Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, and actions we can take to prevent his approval by the Senate. IEB co-sponsored the meeting with the California Civil Rights Coalition, Equal Justice Society, The Center for Independent Living, and People For the American Way.

The evening was emceed by Eva Paterson, a long-time civil rights advocate, and speakers included Leslie Proll with the NAACP, Amy Everitt of NARAL Pro-Choice California, Raymundo Jacquez III from Centro Legal de la Raza, Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates, Dan Roth with the American Constitution Society, and IEB’s own Linh Nguyen, who co-leads our Judiciary Team.  Linh did a masterful job of informing the gathering about what IEB and the Judiciary Team have been doing. She really engaged the audience and was an inspiring example of what we can do when we band together to take action.  Great job, Linh – and thank you!

The speakers addressed the dangers a Kavanaugh confirmation would represent – and they are legion – and also the actions we can take to defeat his nomination.  Everyone’s rights and interests are at risk with this potential swing position on the Supreme Court – from women’s health to labor protections, from shredding Executive accountability to continuing environmental destruction to endangering the lives of immigrants.  Each speaker emphasized that it is NOT a foregone conclusion that Kavanaugh will be approved, but we need to keep a laser beam on the nomination and ramp up the pressure to defeat him.

What you can do:

  • Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris that you want them to vote NO on Kavanaugh in the Judiciary Committee; and that if the nomination gets out of committee and to the full Senate, you want them to vote NO and hold all other Democrats and swing voters to do the same
    • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
    • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Call all the people you know in the states whose senators are on the Judiciary Committee and urge them to tell their senators to vote NO on Kavanaugh in committee and, if necessary, in the full Senate
  • Ask all your friends to contact their senators – especially swing votes like Senator Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Collins of Maine – and tell them to vote NO if the nomination reaches the full Senate.
  • Read our articles here, here, here, here, and here (wow, we’ve been busy!) for more info, suggested call scripts, and actions you need to take.
  • Make your voice heard: Unite for Justice has called for nationwide rallies to oppose Kavanaugh on Sunday, August 26. Find an event near you at this link, or attend NARAL Pro-Choice California’s event from 1-3 PM, San Francisco Civic Center.
  • Educate yourself: the IEB All Members Meeting will also be held on August 26 from 1-3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. Linh will present an updated version of the Kavanaugh presentation she made at the August 2 meeting. Please join us if you can – it’s important to educate ourselves about this unacceptable nominee who would serve for life (and he’s only 53 years old!) if confirmed. We need to keep the pressure intense to stop this dangerous nomination.

 

Don’t Expose Protesters to Alt-Right Retaliation

Tell the media they’re putting people in harm’s way

Did you read about how the media put protesters against white supremacists and neo-Nazis in danger of reprisals by the far right? No? Berkeley, we have a problem.

On August 5, 2018, Berkeley witnessed another “Say No to Marxism” rally. This rally built on the momentum of a similar gathering in Portland the day before, for which organizers recruited big names in the far-right. Although Amber Cummings, the Berkeley event’s main organizer, vehemently denied any association with America’s white supremacist movement, she has fought alongside them in the street – and as in Portland, some major white supremacy groups were invited to the rally, including Patriot Prayer, the Proud Boys, and American Guard. Cummings invited alt-right speakers including Bay Area Proud Boy Jeffrey Perrine, who became infamous at an earlier far-right rally where he called for immigrants’ heads to be “smashed against the concrete” and to “separate their kids.” After the event gained negative publicity, the Proud Boys’ leader, Gavin McInnes, pulled his official endorsement, and the American Guard were disinvited; but Perrine and other well-known white supremacists were still photographed at the rally.

On the morning of August 5th, a wide coalition of community groups came together to counter-protest. From the beginning, police arrested counter-protesters for infractions such as wearing masks and carrying sign posts to a political protest. And before we go any further: We understand that some people feel uneasy in the presence of protesters wearing masks, but we ask you to consider these facts:

  • Some of those most vulnerable to alt-right attacks, including people of color and LGBTQIA folk, feel a strong need to conceal their identities from white supremacists. Like other people about whom we read far too often, they can find themselves in trouble for no reason other than simply existing while being black or brown or gay; they may have no intent to do anything to harm anyone, but may rely on masks to protect themselves from being identified and bullied or worse once the protest is over.
  • That’s no idle fear: publicly posting the identities of counter-protestors for harassment and death threats is a common white supremacist tactic.
  • Thus, by arresting those wearing masks, police may be endangering precisely the people who need the most protection from white supremacists.

In light of this, what followed played right into the hands of the alt-right. The Berkeley Police Department tweeted the mugshots, full names, ages, and locations of those they arrested, and news outlets, including NBC Bay Area, CBS and Berkeleyside, reported their full names, ages and towns of residence – leaving vulnerable community members open to future harassment, death threats, and attacks by violent white supremacists.

Regardless of whether or not the protesters committed a crime – and no one had been charged at the time of reporting! – this kind of release of information does not further justice. Rather, it puts those arrested at a serious risk of violence and harassment from the far-right, incites fear, and has a chilling effect on the number of people willing to attend future protests. This matters. We as a community need to be able to show up when our friends, loved ones, and neighbors feel threatened. We need to know that we can show strength and solidarity and stand up to bigotry without fear of being targeted. And we need to know that local publications will not publish our personal information and make it easy for the people who wish us harm to find us.  Tell Berkeleyside, CBS and NBC (for CBS and NBC, please write a comment after the article) that we will not accept this dangerously negligent reporting or public shaming and that they do not represent us in their actions.

What you can say:

My name is ______ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am outraged by your decision to publish the names, ages, and hometowns of those arrested at the August 5 rally and march in Berkeley. Alt-right organizations like those participating in this rally have a stated policy of exposing, harassing and threatening those who oppose them; your actions endanger members of our community and further embolden the far right in their tactics of violence and intimidation. I am asking you to remove this information from your article and commit to not repeating this sort of action that directly puts lives in danger.

Tell Your Members of Congress: Oppose H.R. 6054

Meanwhile, on the national front, there’s H.R.6054-Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018. This bill provides:

Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, while in disguise, including while wearing a mask, injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.

Let’s unpack that. It means, you could get put in jail, if you:

  • are exercising your free speech/assembly rights
  • while wearing a mask (what’s a mask? more on that in a minute)
  • and you injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate anyone – whatever that means.

Now you’d think that:

  • you’re not supposed to injure, oppress etc. anyone anyway
  • and that should apply to everyone no matter their political beliefs (the law specifically doesn’t apply to the police, which is a whole other story).

– but, as Vice says, “After all, it’s pretty clear whom something called the ‘Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018’ is meant to target.”

Now, we know that there are folks on all parts of the political spectrum who don’t like Antifa, and many who don’t condone violence under any circumstances. That’s an important discussion, but it isn’t necessary to get into here, and this is why:

  • You might think this law doesn’t appeal to you, but you might be very wrong. I’ve never gone to a protest in a mask but I’ve pulled a scarf across my mouth and nose when stink bombs went off. That counts as a “mask.” And who knows but someone might hear me say something against the Current Occupant of the White House and claim that I intimidated them?
  • And it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine someone calling the police on a group of young people of color who are wearing masks and making a lot of noise – say, on October 31 …
  • Bottom line: Do you really want this government – which calls the media the enemy of the people and prosecutes non-violent people for being journalists or carrying medical supplies at protests – passing laws that by their very name are aimed at jailing protestors on the left?

Please tell your Member of Congress:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please speak out against HR 6054, Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018. This government should not be passing unnecessary and poorly conceived laws that by their very name are aimed at protestors against white supremacists, at a time when the government is failing to take adequate action against white supremacists and supremacist organizations themselves. Please keep HR 6054 from becoming law.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

IEB Delivers Message to Sen. Murkowski from Alaska’s Indivisibles: Vote No on Kavanaugh

When we heard that the difficult to pin down Senator Lisa Murkowski was slated to be the guest speaker at the August 2018 Tahoe Summit, which several Indivisible East Bay members planned to attend, we reached out to Indivisibles in Alaska to see if there was a message we could bring to the senator on their behalf.

Sen. Murkowski is one of the most likely swing votes on the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination. She regularly breaks with Republicans to vote to fund Planned Parenthood (though she has yet to break with them in support of a judicial nominee) and she has demonstrated willingness to stand up to Republican pressure on ACA repeal.

Twenty-nine of her constituents gave us a letter asking her to vote NO on Kavanaugh, saying,

Here in Alaska, we are terrified that under a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of us would lose access to safe, effective health care and autonomy over our bodies. We fear that the brave men and women who take on tough and dangerous work to bring prosperity to their families and our state will lose their protections. And we worry that if the federal government, under this president, or a future president, takes action that harms Alaska and we take it to court, this Supreme Court will automatically decide against working Alaskans.

After almost being denied access to the event by some Nevada State troopers, we successfully delivered the letter to Sen. Murkowski as she was entering the event, and told her that Alaskans are counting on her. She was very polite and friendly and thanked us for giving it to her, though her staff was kind of rushing her past us. She said she was headed to Alaska tonight to have some meetings about Kavanaugh, but she did not say who those meetings were with – we hope they are with her constituents, a majority of whom believe the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court Justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Alaska Grassroots Alliance is collecting additional signatories to the letter we delivered here. Please share their petition with anyone you know in Alaska!

Photograph by Linh Nguyen

Contra Costa County Sheriff skates on thin ICE

Protesting works! Activism pays off! That’s a message we got loud and clear from Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston’s July 10, 2018 press conference announcing that he is terminating the County’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In practical terms, this means the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond will no longer be used to “incarcerate undocumented migrants.” In resistance terms, it’s a victory that many, including members of Indivisible East Bay and our CA-11 team, have long worked to accomplish.

For months previously, WCDF had been the site of increasingly frequent and larger protests over the immigrant detainee issue. The matter gained additional traction in the chaos caused by the Current Occupant’s policy of separating refugee children from their parents. In announcing the termination, Livingston admitted that the public’s growing opposition and mounting political pressure significantly affected his decision. As we said, score one for the effectiveness of persistent protesters.

Cancelling the ICE contract was praised by most local politicians and officials, including Supervisor John Gioia, who declared that housing ICE detainees “erodes the trust between local government and local law enforcement and our immigrant communities. Ending the contract is a critical step in rebuilding this trust.”  Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), who previously called for termination of the contract, also spoke out in support.

Not everyone shared this view. At the press conference, County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff said she was sorry to be losing the contract. One concern was about how the County would make up for lost revenue; the ICE contract reportedly provided around $3 million in profit. Another was that detainees would be moved to sites much further away from family members, supportive communities, and their immigration lawyers.

A solution to the relocation problem, advocated by the Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and other groups active in assisting immigration detainees, would be to release currently held detainees as they await their immigration hearings. Not relying on the administration to release the detainees, these same groups have organized the West County Detention Facility Community Fund to raise donations to pay bond for those who can’t afford it and to pay for related expenses such as phone calls from detention centers.

There’s more than a bit of irony to the Sheriff’s decision. While he deserves credit for  finally terminating the ICE contract, we can’t forget that he has long supported and defended it — which is why people have been protesting at WCDF. His decision looks more like political pressure forcing a one-time capitulation rather than a change of heart. The Sheriff himself has given us much reason to take such a harsh view. To see why, let’s take a closer look at Livingston’s political history:

Looking back

David Livingston was first elected as Sheriff for Contra Costa County in 2010. His initial term passed with apparent little controversy, leading to his unopposed reelection in 2014. Over the next four years, his tenure took a dramatic turn.

In 2017, the East Bay Times‘ Editorial Board objected to Livingston’s heavy-handedness and “bombastic bullying” in dealing with those who “dare disagree with his policies.” As one example, the article noted that the Sheriff rejected a police dispatch contract for El Cerrito as “punishment” for the city’s opposition to an unrelated Livingston-supported West County jail expansion plan.

Later in 2017, twenty-seven WCDF inmates sent a letter, detailing allegations of abuse, to civil rights organization Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC — the national group recently re-named itself Freedom For Immigrants). Among the allegations, detainees described being locked up for hours and told to use bags in their cells when they needed to go to the bathroom. In response to the letter,  Rep. DeSaulnier asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the claims of mistreatment. Numerous other politicians were similarly critical of the Department. Sheriff Livingston denied the accuracy of the letter but did pledge an investigation (we are unaware of any publicly released results). 

In March of 2018, the Mercury News reported that Livingston banned CIVIC volunteers from entering the jail for a routine visit. The advocacy group labelled it as “retaliation” for their prior publicizing of the allegations of abuse. Human Rights Watch supported CIVIC’s complaint, noting that the Sheriff’s decision appeared to be “in response to protected speech, rather than alleged violations of policies and procedures.” In other words, Livingston was again deploying his tactic of “bullying” opponents.

In April, Livingston was accused of publishing the release dates of inmates in what appeared to be an attempt to assist ICE in tracking the inmates upon their release. In response, the California Senate began debate on a bill that would end the ICE contract and prevent “law enforcement from communicating and cooperating” with ICE. Not surprisingly, Livingston strongly opposed the bill, calling it a “disaster.”

During this same period, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt sought to have a tour of the West County facility and Rep. DeSaulnier sought to visit a local children’s shelter that was housing two adolescent girls separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Both politicians were denied permission initially, but by July, close to the time of the ICE contract termination, permissions were granted.

Looking ahead

Amidst all of this controversy, Livingston was again running — unopposed! — for re-election as Sheriff. A strongly worded editorial in the East Bay Times lamented the lack of an opponent to Livingston and his “wrong-headed ideas and practices.” Similarly, IEB asserted that we should “speak out against his record and make sure none of our Democratic representatives supports him.”

Given the lack of an opponent, IEB and the CA-11 team, and several other groups, endorsed a “no confidence” write-in campaign against the Sheriff, rather than asking people to leave the ballot blank. Although the County’s official final vote tally shows Livingston receiving 100% of the vote (160,926), that is misleading — the County told us prior to the election that only write-in votes for “qualified candidates” would be reported. In fact, Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek has now informed us that the “total unqualified write in votes for Sheriff-Coroner was 5563.”  That is 3.46%, a significant increase over Livingston’s prior races:

  • 2010: 0.41% (692) of those voting for Sheriff used the write-in option
  • 2014: 1.22% (1,328) of those voting for Sheriff used the write-in option

David Livingston is now on track to be the Contra Costa County Sheriff until at least 2022. In response, the CA-11 team, in coalition with other groups, may consider a recall effort. Recalls are very difficult, so we’ll also continue to search for someone to oppose him in the next election. One problem is that California law requires that a Sheriff candidate be in law enforcement — and it has been difficult to find qualified candidates willing to oppose Livingston.

In the meantime, we will continue to closely scrutinize his actions, ready to protest again whenever the situation demands, and to support those vulnerable populations who suffer most from his policies and practices. It worked this time. It can work again!

How you can help!

Reunite families fund

  • Actions at West County Detention Facility: The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually the first Saturday each  month – check their calendar for date & time. And Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest there the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Keep the Heat on ICE! Join the weekly El Cerrito Shows Up protests organized by a coalition of groups including IEB and CA-11 team members; every Thursday from 6 to 7 PM at western entrance to El Cerrito Plaza
  •  Work with, support and/or donate to Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement
  • Donate to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund    
  • This local fundraiser by the El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. Donations will go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants.
  • Want to work with IEB and the CA-11 team to organize against the Sheriff? Email indivisibleca11@gmail.com or join the @moc_team_ca11 channel on IEB’s Slack.

Families Belong Together – We Demand Justice

Read our latest article on actions you can take to fight the administration’s war against immigrants. For more background on the family separation issue, please see our articles here and here

Hundreds of thousands of people nationwide marched and rallied at more than 700 protests on June 30 organized by a broad coalition of groups, including Indivisible, to protest the administration’s separation of refugee families and horrifying immigration policies.

The primary organizer, Families Belong Together, is calling for further mass protests on Saturday, July 28, to bring attention to the date — July 26 — by which federal District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the administration to reunite thousands of refugee children with their parents. The administration missed the judge’s first deadline to reunite children under 5 years old with their parents, and they’re clearly dragging their heels, so we must all continue to demand a solution to this crisis, demand dignity for all immigrants, and demand justice!

Activists from groups including El Cerrito Progressives, El Cerrito Shows Up (ECSU), and Indivisible East Bay have organized large weekly rallies each Thursday for the past month. They’re holding their Families Belong Together: We Demand Justice! rally on Thursday July 26, the day Judge Sabraw’s order goes into effect. The rally, from 6 to 7 PM, will be a visible direct action, with people holding signs and letters to form a human billboard lining the busy intersection at San Pablo Ave and Carlson Ave, the west entrance to El Cerrito Plaza. Join others in songs, slogans, and solidarity, and bring a sign — for inspiration you’ll find signs, protest songs, and more here.

Focusing locally, the organizing groups – including members of IEB and our CA-11 team, and El Cerrito Progressives – also actively worked to oppose Contra Costa County Sheriff Livingston in the June 2018 election, emphasizing in large part his close ties with ICE. The West County Detention Facility, which Livingston runs, is the only Bay Area jail that houses ICE detainees. ECSU has also called for ICE to be de-funded and abolished. In a stunning reversal, on July 19 Sheriff Livingston announced that he is cancelling the ICE contract, and noted that protests and public pressure were a factor in his decision.

El Cerrito Progressives and ECSU organizer Sherry Drobner noted that activists are gratified that the ICE contract will be terminated, but are concerned about the 200 immigrants who’ve been detained at the detention center. “We hope they’ll be released into the community with their family members so they get access to resources to allow them to have their day in court,” she said, adding “and we look forward to a day when there are no ICE agents in our neighborhoods terrorizing families.”

Not in the Bay Area? Search for a Families Belong Together event near you (and check back for added events closer to the date), or sign up to host one, and spread that link to everyone you know!

 

Thousands Protest Immigration Policies at “Families Belong Together” Demos

It was a dark time for the Rebellion. The armies of the Empire had thwarted the attempts of those seeking asylum from violence in their homeland — forcing refugees to choose between returning to the dangers of their home or being forcibly separated from their children at the border — perhaps forever. This unconscionable action could not stand. And it did not. Responding to growing protests even among his own supporters, Emperor Trump at last rescinded his order.

But for those families who had already been separated, it remained unclear when or how they would be reunited. Further, a recent court filing indicates the Justice Department plans to keep migrant families in detention. To keep the pressure on for a quick, humane and complete solution, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered on Saturday June 30 at more than 700 “Families Belong Together” nationwide rallies. At the largest rallies, numbers reportedly ranged from 35,000 in Washington, D.C. to 70,000 in Los Angeles.

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Families Belong Together in Washington, D.C.

Indivisible East Bay communities held several notable protests, and IEB members were out in force. Some of our reports:

West County Detention Facility (Richmond)

“We joined thousands of protesters at the Richmond, California West County Detention Facility (WCDF) to make it LOUD and clear that families belong together,” IEB and Indivisible El Cerrito member Melanie Bryson said. She also sent a special thank you to the dedicated people who’ve been attending monthly vigils and bi-weekly protests at WCDF, and to all those attending weekly vigils in El Cerrito.

Families Belong Together protest at West County Detention Facility, June 30, 2018
Families Belong Together protest at West County Detention Facility

IEB member Mandeep Gill estimated the “massive” crowd at over 2,000, also noting that the energy level was high, and the noise level loud at the Richmond rally. He added that “our sustained several minute ‘Abolish ICE’ chant roar was loud enough that I saw several folks covering their ears. Good! This is the kind of fierce collective energy that’s going to carry us all forward.”

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A protestor at the Richmond rally

Berkeley

Over 1,500 people gathered together in Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley. Carrying a wide variety of creative signs, the protesters were enthusiastic but peaceful. Undeterred by the week’s string of Supreme Court defeats, including the decision to uphold Trump’s Muslim travel ban, the crowd positively responded to the exhortations of the speakers — including State Senator Nancy Skinner — that we remain committed to the fight and maintain our confidence that we will be successful in the end.

Members from several Indivisible groups were among the crowd. Daron Sharps, a speaker from Indivisible Berkeley, called on demonstrators to phone-bank and vote President Donald Trump and his allies out of office.

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At Berkeley rally, protesting is a “family affair”

Livermore…and more

Several hundred people turned out for each of a trio of rallies in Tri-valley cities Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton. The largest was in Livermore, where CA-15 Congressman Eric Swalwell was a featured speaker.

 

Concord

CA-11 Congressman Mark DeSaulnier spoke to a large crowd attending the Migrants March at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord.

See our article for many actions you can take to continue to fight for immigrants.

Photos by CNN, Heidi Rand, Mandeep Gill, and Ted Landau