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

We Need to Save Wildlife. Again.

By Christina Tarr and Andrea Lum

Action deadline: September 24, 2018

A death knell rang on July 19 for hundreds of endangered animals and plants in the United States, as the Trump administration announced its plan to roll back two key provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The proposal by the Interior and Commerce departments, which are charged with protecting endangered wildlife, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. Yes, this means polar bears. In the most brazenly anti-environmental/pro-business stance possible, the administration also wants to eliminate language that tells officials to ignore economic impacts when determining how wildlife should be protected.

The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing iconic species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. In a recent press release, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl stated: “These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife. If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they’re finalized now, [Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary.”

What you can do:

Comment on the proposal: The comment period on this proposal opened on July 25. Please file your comments here by the deadline: September 24, 2018.

Some points you can include:

  • The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. Even with the ESA in full force, however, there are indications that as many as one-third of America’s species are vulnerable, with one in five imperiled and at high risk of extinction.
  • This crisis extends well beyond species officially listed as endangered, and now includes many garden variety creatures from monarch butterflies to songbirds. Experts note that some 12,000 species across the country are “in need of conservation action.” Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, disease, and chemical pollution are the leading wildlife threats. Climate change amplifies these threats. Changing climate and precipitation patterns will create new and increased risks of drought and flooding as sea level rise creeps up the coastlines. The effects on individual species remain mostly unknown, but are likely to ripple throughout ecosystems.
  • Now, with our wild places in decline, is not the time to start weighing the economic costs of development against the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Nor do we have time to let threatened species become endangered before we move to act on their behalf. Reject these provisions whose only intent is to hobble the Endangered Species Act. We need an ESA acting in full force working to preserve our endangered wilderness, and the species with whom we share the planet.

Next, call your Members of Congress: Let them know that endangered species matter to you, thank them for their work in protecting endangered species, and urge them to continue to do so whenever they can. For example, in the 2018 Farm Bill, both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris stood against anti-environmental provisions. Our representatives all have good records: read about Representative Barbara Lee’s support for the environment and environmental justice here, and see her conservation scorecard here. See Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s conservation scorecard here, and Representative Eric Swalwell’s here. Call them using the same comments you adapted from the above scripts, or a slightly different one, like this:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank [Senator/Representative ______].

I’m calling because I’m very concerned about the proposed threats to the Endangered Species Act by the Trump Administration. The ESA, and all environmental legislation, is very important to me.

[Here’s an example, you can say something about your own experience with wildlife]: Seeing bald eagles nesting in Milpitas and peregrine falcons nesting on the Cal campus encourages me to believe that we can coexist with nature, but we have to work at it. When development and the resulting habitat loss is the chief danger to all wild life, I appreciate anything you can do to curb our destruction of wild species and wild places. We are lucky to be close to so much wilderness in the Bay Area, but we have to work to ensure that wild places persist, both here and everywhere around the country. Thank you.

[For Senators only:  Thank you for working to keep dangerous anti-environmental riders out of must-pass legislation like the Farm Bill and the Defense Authorization Act.]

  • 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

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. Andrea Lum is on the IEB newsletter and website team, and is the IEB Volunteer Team lead.
Photograph of bald eagle by Patrick Brinksma on Unsplash

Stop the House Reverse Robin Hood Budget

The House Budget Committee just passed a 10-year budget containing over $300 billion in cuts to crucial social services. Why do we need these cuts? To help pay for the staggering $1.5 trillion deficit created by the GOP tax scam giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and corporate donors!

Compare and contrast:

  • The military budget, which consumes 60% of all discretionary spending, is earmarked for only $1 billion in cuts, less than 1% of the total proposed cuts.  
  • The budget for education, which is only 1/10 the size of the entire defense budget, is proposed to be cut by $20 billion – 7% of the total cuts.
  • Critical social services (from both mandatory and discretionary spending categories) like Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and other important social services, will be cut by $150 billion.

Most concerning of all, this budget includes reconciliation instructions to repeal any part of – or all of – of the Affordable Care Act via an expedited process and 51 votes in the Senate. This was the same maneuver the GOP used in their first attempt to repeal the ACA last year, and which they used successfully to ram the #TaxScam through.

We know that our Members of Congress support human services, but we need to tell them that defeating this budget is a priority. We need them to do everything they can to make sure that no California Democrats agree to support this horrible budget proposal, and to work with any House Republicans they can to prevent Paul Ryan from gaining the support he needs to bring this dreadful budget to the floor for a vote. 

Please call your Members of Congress now, and KEEP calling each day. If we wait until Ryan has the votes he needs before we act, it will be too late!

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Representative _______ to do everything possible to oppose the horrible GOP budget. I’m outraged that the budget cuts over $300 billion from social services in order to pay for the $1.5 trillion deficit that’s going to be created by the GOP tax scam giveaway to the wealthy 1% and corporate donors. I hope that Representative _____ will work to make sure that every California Democrat and any possible Republicans votes NO on these terrible priorities.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Four Ways You Can Fight for Immigrants

For background on the family separation issue, please see our earlier articles here and here.

Updated July 3, 2018:

On June 26 federal District Judge Dana Sabraw granted a preliminary injunction in a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, halting the family separation policy and ordering agencies to quickly begin reunifying families separated as a result of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. As of this writing, the Administration still has no plan to reunite families, and there are troubling questions about where the children are – including the fact that children have been placed with religious foster care agencies linked to Betsy DeVos and her husband.

On July 2, a district court judge in Texas ruled against the administration’s blanket practice of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers instead of granting them parole and releasing them to sponsors in the U.S. who have indicated that they are willing to provide housing. The court, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, granted a preliminary injunction preventing the federal government from denying parole to “asylum seekers who traveled to the United States, were found to have a credible fear of persecution, and were referred for immigration proceedings to decide their asylum claims.”

Here are updated tips on what you can do to fight the administration’s war against immigrants: (1) show up and raise your voice; (2) tell our Members of Congress to take action; (3) donate and help organizations; and (4) know the facts & spread the word.

1. Show Up and Raise Your Voice!

Thanks to all of you who attended any of the June 30 protests put on across the country by a broad coalition of groups (including Indivisible). Don’t stop now: events are continuing!

  • Actions at West County Detention Facility: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) houses adult immigration detainees in Richmond, at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF), 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually on the first Saturday of every month – check their calendar for exact date and time. And Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest at WCDF the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Other actions on the spot: demonstrations and other events are being planned at short notice all over the Bay Area Please check the IEB facebook page for updated events listings
  • Join 90-year old Ethel Kennedy and many others in “Break Bread, Not Families,” a hunger strike organized in solidarity with and to benefit organizations doing critical work to protect and care for families at the border.

2. Tell Our Members of Congress to Take Action

Our Senators and East Bay Members of Congress (MoCs) have always opposed the administration’s immoral policy of separating immigrant families and jailing babies and children. They must remain vocal leaders as the administration tries to sweep this issue out of public view. This is a fast-changing story and we will update the following action list as often as we can; please check back frequently.

Find contact info for our Senators and Representatives below and here.

Insist on Information:

Does the administration think that if they don’t talk about their outrageous conduct, we’ll forget about it? HHS has stopped answering questions about how many children have been separated from their parents, as well as other information about the children. Tell our elected representatives that “I can’t hear you” is not acceptable and that we want information.

Legislative action:

The administration has no process to reunite children with their parents, even after they are deported. There are no Republican bills that fix the problems caused by the administration’s zero tolerance policy.

  • Ask our Senators to introduce, support, insist on legislation that will at a minimum return the children to their families. Since some of these children were taken from families seeking asylum who were wrongly arrested before their cases could even be heard, any legislation should also take this into account and allow for family reunification in the United States.
  • Ask our Senators to use every tool at their disposal, including Congress’ power of the purse. Ask them to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use all the authorization and appropriations powers in the Constitution to stop this immoral and inhumane separation of families and jailing children.
  • We’re proud that our California MoCs have been active in opposing, and trying to stop and reverse, the Administration’s cruel policies. Please thank all of them, with especial thanks for those who have taken on leadership:
    • Senators Feinstein and Harris introduced legislation to stop family separation and prevent future increases to immigration detention.
    • Senator Feinstein has requested a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on family separations and is working on plans to visit at least one detention facility in California during recess.
    • Senator Harris toured the Otay Mesa Immigration and Detention Facility in San Diego and has suggested scrapping ICE and starting from scratch.
    • If you live in Rep. DeSaulnier’s district, please thank him for his vehement and apparently successful opposition to turning the Concord Naval Weapons Station into a detention facility.
    • If you’re a constituent of Rep. Lee, please thank her for visiting with detained parents and children in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas and speaking out strongly afterward. She has also written to the UN requesting observers.
    • If you’re a constituent of Rep. Swalwell, you can thank him for being a signatory to a letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen strongly protesting the Administration’s actions and demanding answers to a number of questions including plans for reuniting families and whether separating families “violates international human rights law,” as well as a letter to the Inspector General concerning record-keeping and family reunification. Rep. Swalwell will be making multiple appearances at June 30 Keep Families Together events.
    • All three East Bay Representatives signed a letter seeking more information about the Navy’s proposal to create a tent camp for undocumented immigrants at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, and all three are co-sponsors of the Keep Families Together Act.
  • The Constitution-Wrecker-in-Chief has asserted that undocumented immigrants should be deported with “no judges or court cases,” despite the fact that the Constitution extends due process rights to all persons, not just all citizens. Tell our MoCs to fight any effort by the Administration to take away any due process rights from undocumented immigrants.

Witness and report: 

So far, we have the statements of the administration (and their Biblical interpretations) about the incarceration of children separated from their parents; and we already know they’re lying through their teeth about this policy. And the agencies running the ‘detention centers’ will only provide their own video and photos of the inside of the facilities where the children are imprisoned.

  • We want our MoCs to make the journey to see first-hand, to demand access, to investigate and report. HHS has issued a directive prohibiting visits with less than two weeks’ notice (except scheduled tours with RSVPs), and banned legislators from talking to the children in detention; we want them to fight back against this outrageous and transparent cover-up attempt. We want them to insist on being admitted into the facilities, on being permitted to talk to the children, and on making full reports of what they see and hear. Our MoCs have been strong on this issue; please thank them.
  • We also want our MoCs to call for oversight and to demand documents from all relevant agencies about all aspects of all decisions that have been made concerning these children. This should include what experts were consulted as to the children’s physical and emotional welfare as a result of removing them from their parents and housing them in their current conditions. The administration should be required to prove to the satisfaction of appropriate, disinterested medical authorities that these children, housed in tents in the brutal Texas summer, are physically safe. It’s already clear, however, that they aren’t emotionally safe; experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated forceful opposition to the policy of family separation, which they say “can cause irreparable harm.”

What to say [this is a suggested script, you can adapt to include more of the the above information]:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want ____ to visit and inspect the detention facilities, and to call for oversight and demand documents from all relevant agencies about all aspects of all decisions that have been made concerning migrant families. I also want ____ to block any appropriations bills that fund the forced separation of families, and to use the authorization and appropriations powers in the Constitution to stop these immoral anti-immigrant practices.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

3. Donate and help organizations

Ready to do more? These organizations are doing good and need your help:

  • Kids at The Border ActBlue Fund – your donation helps several organizations working to protect kids separated from their families. The list is being updated, at this time it includes: Human Rights First, We Belong Together, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Women’s Refugee Commission, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), United We Dream Action, La Union Del Pueblo Entero, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Al Otro Lado, The Florence Project, Neta, Innovation Law Lab, Fuerza Del Valle, and The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
  • This page listing many more worthy organizations is also being updated regularly
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) – This Texas-based organization gives direct legal support to immigrants. Your donation will help pay bonds so that parents can be released from ICE custody and reunite with their children
  • Are you a lawyer, or do you know any who might want to help? Sign up here for more info about volunteer opportunities with Lawyers for Good Government, L4GG Foundation, and the Immigration Justice Campaign. They offer a wide range of in-person and remote options to provide assistance to immigrants, from research to representation.

4. Know the facts & spread the word:

  • See this excellent article, including an extensive Q&A section by Suit Up Maine.
  • Refute the administration’s lies that this is all the Democrats’ fault or that separating families was just enforcing the law. If their claims sound wrong – they probably are. Use fact-check sites such as Politifact and Snopes, and share only info you can verify.

 

Contact Your Elected Representatives!

FEDERAL:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104

 

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

***************************************************************

STATE:

http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

Governor Edmund G. Brown: (email); (916) 445-2841c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra:  (email);  (800) 953-5335 [select English or Spanish, then press 0]

Sunrise, No Sunset: Stop the 2018 AUMF

For most Americans, when Trump decided to bomb Syria in mid-April, no alarm bells went off. Whether or not you agreed with the decision, the President has the prerogative to take such action — even without prior authorization from Congress. Right?

Not exactly! Time was, Congress retained sole authority to declare war on another country. But the last time Congress exercised that authority was in 1942 — following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that marked our entry into World War II. After that, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the first Gulf War were all wars, but they were never declared as such. Rather, by labeling them “Extended Military Engagements,” the administration bypassed the requirement for a Congressional declaration.

Following September 11, 2001, Congress decided that even Extended Military Engagements were not sufficient. The attacks led to Congress ceding more explicit authority to the President so he could deal with the (again, not formally declared) War on Terror. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 2001 gave the President the power to use military force, without seeking prior Congressional approval — but only in response to attacks by entities (primarily Al Qaeda and the Taliban) deemed directly or indirectly responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

While it seems the AUMF would greatly limit the President’s powers to wage war, it didn’t work out that way. Rather, we’ve slid down a slippery slope over the ensuing years to the point where the AUMF is now used to justify an attack on almost anyone the President chooses. Notably, the AUMF has been interpreted to extend to terrorist entities, such as ISIS, that had no direct connection to 9/11, and did not even exist until after 2003 and did not come to prominence until 2014. With our recent bombings of Syria (also in no way involved in 9/11), many in Congress have begun to question whether the AUMF’s authority has gone too far.

Enter the “Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2018” — aka the 2018 AUMF or the Corker-Kaine bill — which supposedly reasserts Congress’ role in “authorizing and conducting oversight of the use of military force.” While renewed oversight is a worthy goal, and one that Indivisible East Bay solidly supports (especially with someone as erratic and reckless as the Current Occupant of the White House), it is unclear that this new AUMF truly accomplishes this goal. In fact, some claim it does almost the opposite.

For example, the 2018 AUMF allows the President to designate new groups as military enemies, and it has no “sunset clause” – any such designation would remain in force until and unless Congress subsequently rejects it. If Congress fails to take any action (a too common outcome in today’s polarized climate), the President’s unilateral decision would stand. Congress could exert greater and more appropriate oversight if its approval was required before the President could engage in military combat. While the President should retain some ability to act quickly in a crisis, most responses can wait for this Congressional approval. 

The 2018 AUMF broadens the scope of the President’s power by untethering future U.S. military actions from any requirement that they be linked to 9/11 or any other attacks against our country. As Representative Barbara Lee argues, the new AUMF “effectively consents to endless war by omitting any sunset date or geographic constraints for our ongoing operations.”

Please contact Senators Feinstein and Harris and let them know you oppose the 2018 AUMF as currently worded. What to say:

My name is ___________, my zip code is ____________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m concerned about the Corker-Kaine AUMF bill. The 2018 AUMF has no territorial or time limits and no meaningful limit on who the president may prosecute wars against. This gives gives far too much of Congress’ decision-making power to the president. I support repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMF but any replacement needs clear limits, not fewer limits, on what the president can do. I urge the Senator to oppose the Corker-Kaine AUMF bill.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

The 2018 AUMF: Meet the new law, worse than the old law?

For most Americans, when Trump decided to bomb Syria a few weeks ago, no alarm bells went off. After all, whether or not you agree with the decision, it’s the President’s prerogative to take such action — even without any prior authorization from Congress required. Right?

Actually, not exactly. You may be forgiven for believing the President has this power, because it has seemed to be this way since — well, forever. The truth, as so often happens, is more complicated.

Time was, Congress retained the sole authority to declare war on another country. However, the last time Congress exercised its authority was back in 1942 — following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that marked our entry into World War II. “Wait!” you may be wondering, “What about the Korean War and the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War?” Yup, those were indeed all “wars.” But they were never declared as such. Rather, by labeling them “Extended Military Engagements,” the administration bypassed the requirement for a Congressional declaration. The difference in language may seem trivial — but it made a world of difference in Washington.

Following September 11, 2001, Congress decided that even Extended Military Engagements were not sufficient. The attack on our soil led to Congress ceding more explicit authority to the President, so he could deal with the (again, not formally declared) War on Terror. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 2001 gave the President the power to use military force, without seeking prior Congressional approval — but only in response to attacks by entities (primarily Al Qaeda and the Taliban) deemed directly or indirectly responsible for the Septamber 11 terrorist attacks.

While it seems that the AUMF would greatly limit the President’s powers to wage war, it didn’t work out that way. Rather, we’ve slid down a slippery slope over the ensuing years to the point where the AUMF can now justify an attack on almost anyone the President chooses. Notably, the AUMF has been interpreted to extend to terrorist entities, such as ISIS, that had no direct connection to 9/11. With our recent bombings of Syria (also in no way involved in 9/11), many in Congress have begun to question whether the AUMF’s authority has gone too far.

Enter the “Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2018” — often referred to as the Corker-Kaine draft — which supposedly reasserts Congress’ role in “authorizing and conducting oversight of the use of military force.” While renewed oversight is a worthy goal, and one that Indivisible East Bay solidly supports (especially with someone as erratic and reckless as the Current Occupant of the White House), it is unclear that the new AUMF truly accomplishes this goal.

In fact, some claim it does almost the opposite.

For example, the 2018 AUMF allows the President to designate new groups as military enemies, and such a designation would remain in force until and unless Congress subsequently rejects it. If Congress fails to take any action (a too common outcome in today’s polarized climate), the President’s unilateral decision would stand. Congress could exert greater and more appropriate oversight if its approval was required before the President could engage in military combat. While the President should retain some ability to act quickly in a crisis, most responses can wait for this Congressional approval. 

The 2018 AUMF broadens the scope of the President’s power by untethering future U.S. military actions from any requirement that they be linked to 9/11 or any other attacks against our country. As Representative Barbara Lee argues, the new AUMF “effectively consents to endless war by omitting any sunset date or geographic constraints for our ongoing operations.”

Please contact Senators Feinstein and Harris and let them know that you oppose the 2018 AUMF as currently worded. What to say:

My name is ___________, my zip code is ____________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m concerned about the current draft of the Corker-Kaine AUMF bill. The draft AUMF has no territorial or time limits and no meaningful limit on who the president may prosecute wars against. This gives gives far too much of Congress’ decision-making power to the president. I support repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMF but any replacement needs clear limits, not fewer limits, on what the president can do. I want the Senator to oppose the draft Corker-Kaine AUMF bill as it’s now written.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

“Mission Accomplished” in Syria? Tell Trump He’s Not Above the Law

By Alice Towey

On Friday, April 13, 2018, the Current Occupant of the White House announced that the United States was launching a missile strike against Syria. Trump said that he had ordered U.S. armed forces to launch strikes on targets associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program. It was the culmination of a tumultuous week in the White House. But the military strike on Syria did not eliminate concerns about Trump and the rule of law; rather, it added to them.

The previous week had been rough for Trump. On Monday April 9, the FBI raided the office and home of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, seizing information that – we later learned – might include recordings of private conversations. Later in the week, it was reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had evidence that Cohen had visited Prague in 2016, lending credence to the Steele Dossier. On Wednesday House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he will not seek reelection. And on Thursday, excerpts of former FBI Director James Comey’s forthcoming memoir leaked to the press, including salacious details about his time working for Trump. By Friday, America was poised on the edge of its seat, and there were rumors that Trump might fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

In the midst of the chaos the White House abruptly scheduled a press conference, and Trump announced that the U.S, France, and Great Britain were launching missile strikes on Syria, in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

Make no mistake: the Assad regime has committed repeated atrocities against its own people, and the use of chemical weapons is inexcusable. However, the timing of this action, and Trump’s process for implementing it, are highly troubling:

  • Just last week, Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from Syria. Why become even more enmeshed now? Was the decision to use military force influenced by a desire to distract the country from the ongoing scandals and legal turmoil surrounding him?
  • Trump’s sudden concern for Assad’s victims is highly suspect in light of his repeated efforts to ban Muslims and Syrian refugees from entering this country. So far this year, only eleven Syrian refugees have been accepted for resettlement in the U.S. (compared to almost 800 by this time in 2016).
  • Trump blatantly circumvented Congress in launching this hostile military act. Under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, only Congress has the authority to declare war; not the President. Unless the U.S. is in imminent danger, the President must seek Congressional approval before undertaking military action. So far, the Trump administration has neither sought Congress’s approval nor explained its rationale for bypassing Congress to strike Syria.
  • Trump is not above the law. Every illegal action that he is allowed to get away with sets a dangerous precedent, bringing us a step closer to Mueller or Rosenstein getting fired.

What You Can Do Now:

Our Members of Congress (MoCs) must make sure Trump knows that they hold him accountable, now. They need to assert their role in our government and insist that Trump not launch military offensives without consulting Congress, and they need to press for an actual strategy on Syria that includes diplomacy and real, significant humanitarian aid. And they need to make Trump understand clearly that any action to interfere with or distract from the Russia investigation will not be tolerated. 

Call or email your Members of Congress. The following actions are based on the statements each of our MoCs has made, beginning with their tweets immediately following the bombing:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Thank Senator Feinstein for her statement that Congress “must be consulted about the use of force,” which is an improvement over her statements following last year’s missile strikes. Ask her to insist that Trump come before Congress prior to launching any further action in Syria, and to vote NO on any authorization for further force in Syria, based on Trump’s demonstrated recklessness and lack of a full strategy. Thank her for her opposition to Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.

  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Senator Harris tweeted from her personal account: “The president needs to lay out a comprehensive strategy in Syria in consultation with Congress — and he needs to do it now.” Please call Senator Harris and thank her for this statement, and tell her you’d like her to make a stronger, official statement condemning Trump for bypassing Congress. And please ask her to vote NO on any authorization for further force in Syria, based on Trump’s demonstrated recklessness and lack of a full strategy, and to vote against Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who does not think Trump needs Congress’ approval to strike Syria.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Representative DeSaulnier penned a very thoughtful piece in the Chronicle about the president needing Congressional approval for further military involvement in Syria. Please call Rep. DeSaulnier and thank him and tell him that you agree that we need a cohesive strategy around Syria, and that you want him to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661

As ever, Barbara Lee comes through; please thank her for her strong statement criticizing Trump’s use of military force without Congressional authorization. Tell her you agree that only Congress has the power to authorize use of force and that you want her to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Rep. Swalwell also made a strong statement condemning Trump’s action; please thank him and tell him that you agree that we need a cohesive strategy around Syria, and that you want him to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

Concerned About the Humanitarian Crisis in Syria?

Consider supporting a group like the International Rescue Committee that is providing vital support to people within Syria, as well as to refugees around the world fleeing violence. Here is a list by Charity Navigator of charities providing humanitarian aid in Syria, along with their ratings of the charities’ efficacy.

Alice Towey is a Civil Engineer specializing in water resource management. She lives in El Cerrito, where she and her husband are active in Indivisible CA-11 United.

IEB endorses Reps Lee, Swalwell, DeSaulnier

Thanks to all Indivisible East Bay members who voted on our very first endorsement decision! We are delighted to report that IEB is endorsing Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Eric Swalwell (CA-15) for U.S. Congress. Each candidate received 97 percent of the votes from IEB members in their district. We’re proud to register such strong approval of the work these skilled, dedicated, and responsive leaders do on our behalf, and we look forward to continuing to hold them accountable as we fight together to protect our liberal democracy and advance our progressive values.

We have also nominated these three members of Congress for a national Indivisible endorsement. If you’re not already on the national Indivisible mailing list and want to have a say, fill out this form by 8:59 PM (PT) on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

We learned much during this process and received a lot of good feedback from members who commented both for and against endorsing. We’ll post a report soon with more on that and on the next steps as we form our candidate evaluation team.

Contact Your Representatives!

Contact Your Members of Congress (Senators and Representatives:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

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Contact Your State Representatives and Governor:

Assembly and Senate: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

Governor Edmund G. Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841