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Month March 2011

Know Your Rights! Training at NYU

6:30-8:30pm, Monday, March 21st, 2011
New York University, Kimmel Center
60 Washington Square South (Room 907)

 

In this climate of ever-increasing surveillance and suppression of progressive movements, it’s important for all activists to protect themselves and and know their rights. Don’t miss this Farm Sanctuary and Cruelty Free NYU sponsored Know Your Rights Training led by Sparrow contributor and attorney Bina Ahmad.  Bina will discuss what’s protected under your rights to free speech, how to respond to law enforcement and FBI encounters, the basics of grand juries, your rights as an immigrant, and why understanding “material support” is vitally important. In addition to the critical information you’ll receive, we will be a screening the video trailer to Will Potter’s forthcoming book Green Is The New Red, giving away 2 free copies of the book, as well as dozens of free copies of the Center for Constitutional Rights booklet If An Agent Knocks.

Women v. The World: The Conservative Attack on Reproductive Rights

by Bina Ahmad, Calla Wright and Nicholas Laccetti

 

We thought this battle was over. And that we had won.  In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that even unmarried women could use contraceptives.  In 1973,Roe v. Wade continued this momentum by granting further reproductive rights.  These were supposed to be the stepping-stones on the path to equal human rights for all U.S. residents, regardless of our sex or gender. The early 1970s were perceived by many as the turning point after centuries of struggle. Suddenly the government lost its ability to police women’s bodies, or tell us we were unfit to make our own decisions.  We seemed well on our way to a society where our health, opinions, and autonomy mattered.  Roe v. Wade was supposed to signal the end of man’s dominance over woman, not the start of a protracted battle.

 

And yet, if the current political climate reveals anything regarding the rights of women, it’s that the well-coordinated, multi-pronged assaults once thought of as a thing of the past, are alive as they ever were.  Since 1973, conservative forces have continuously chipped away at the progress we’ve made.  Plan B could have been made widely available in 2003, but was not offered over the counter until 2006 . We’re still waiting on an over the counter emergency contraceptive for individuals under the age of 18.  Many states require waitingperiods for individuals seeking abortions, and parental notification/permission if the patient is under 18 years. In 42 of the 50 U.S. States, you are more likely to live in a county without an abortion provider than ina county with one.  Abstinence-only sex education prevents young people from beingprepared to protect themselves when the time for intimacy comes. Combine these facts with the recent string of murders of abortion providers and the subsequent closing of even more clinics, and you have a climate that can only be described as antagonistic, aggressive and hostile.

 

This is not a climate created by those who respect life.  If it were, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania would never have proposed a bill allowing hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to provide abortions when the procedure is necessary to save women’s lives.  And when the anti-choice movement reached a seemingly all-time low by supporting and provoking the murder of abortion providers (Dr. Tiller’s for instance) we thought we had seen the “pro-lifers” at their worst.  That is, until legislation was introduced in three separate states to include“defense of an unborn fetus” under the definition of “justifiable homicide.”  Translation: not only are anti-choice individuals committing murder, they may very well get away with it.

 

This is also not a climate promoting equality. Federal funds no longer finance abortions provided at Planned Parenthood, yet conservatives still wished to defund the nonprofit organization entirely.  For many low-income individuals, largely people of color, Planned Parenthood is their only option for pap smears, cancer screenings, HIV tests, contraceptives and prenatal care.  Though there is a conservative push to ensure equal protection of fetuses—some government officials have proposed spending resources to investigateeverysinglemiscarriage—government programs that promote equality of U.S. citizens are losing support.  The public school lunch program, healthcare for low-income children, community health centers, the public education system, the Center for Disease Control, and the WIC (Women, Infants, Children) Program are all facing potential cuts.  And to make injustice a truly global phenomenon, a recent House resolution seeks to defund family planning groups working abroad to prevent infant and maternal deaths.

 

This is not even a climate conducive to reducing the number of abortions provided each year.  Therecent push to defund Planned Parenthood was particularly egregious given that its affordable and accessible birth control has prevented hundreds of thousands of unwanted pregnancies and abortions annually.  According to a March 3rd article, “Planned Parenthood helped prevent 973,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 abortions in 2008.”

 

This is a climate openly opposed to the progress women have made.  Thisis an assault on our bodies: a doctor may conscientiously object to providing an abortion, but not conscientiously object in any other medical procedure.  This is an assault on our sexuality: the original draft of one federal bill sought to deny federal funds for abortions of rape victims who were not “forcibly” raped, but raped nonetheless.  This is an assault to our integrity: one Georgia bill seeks to redefine victims in rape, stalking and domestic violence cases as “accusers”.  This is an assault on our intelligence: women find themselves forced to go through “abortion education,” waiting 24 hours, and “thinking” deeply on their personal decision to abort because women just aren’t seen as intellectually capable of deciding what is best for their bodies, their families, and themselves without government intervention.

 

As humorous as it seems, the news about an unborn fetus summoned to testify in Ohio in support of banning abortion after the first detection of a fetal heartbeat is not an Onion article.  It is an unfortunate reality of the 2010s.  As Alice Walker once put it, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”  Nearly 40 years after the Supreme Court ruled we could take control of our own lives, we are dangerously close to finding ourselves back at square one.  We live in a society where the anti-choice movement, conservative political figures, and popular culture proclaim that the power women have recently gained is just an illusion.  But we cannot give in to these lies and we cannot back down from this fight—as redundant a fight it may seem.  It’s easy enough to concede your rights, but once they’re gone, no one is going to offer them freely back to you.

Green Is the New Red

“Here comes the future and you can’t run from it. If you’ve got a blacklist I want to be on it” – Billy Bragg

 

What is it like to be on the FBI’s domestic terrorism watch list? How did you end up on that list? …perhaps it was your art, your advocacy, an email you wrote, or something as simple as sitting with the wrong group of folks at a coffee house in college. What some environmental advocates have labeled “The Green Scare” is a throw back to the domestic repression of the McCarthy era. It’s an analogy that just like the during the Red Scare special interests with influence on government are once again slinging muddy household buzzwords to slander, blacklist, and chill contemporary social movements. Scratch the label “communist” and replace it with “terrorist,” scratch the name Joe McCarthy and replace it with James Inhoff, and you get a new era of old tricks enhanced by fresh technology. Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of A Social Movement Under Siege shows these old fashioned tactical models of repression are less about stopping the criminal activity of individuals as they are more about chilling mainstream justice movements that challenge the baseline of American comfort and the big businesses that sell comforting products.

 

Instead of presenting a detailed case study into the federal repression of animal and earth liberation activists, designer statutes, and draconian investigative grand jury probes, Will Potter decides to take us on an intimate journey along with the individuals most effected within these movements under siege. From the book’s opening in the Willamette National Forest 24 hours before environmental activist Daniel McGowan is set to be sentenced, to the sentencing, incarceration, and eventual release of the SHAC7, to the later arrest and persecution of environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, Potter brings us into the personal lives of the movement’s figures, shows us how they fight, shows us how some find a way to laugh even when everything is going wrong, and shows us how some decompress and move on with their lives after years of incarceration, some spent in solitary confinement.

 

“Part history, part action thriller and courtroom drama, part memoir, Green Is the New Red plunges us into the wild, unruly, and entirely inspirational world of extreme environmental activism. Will Potter, participant-observer and partisan-reporter, is the perfect guide… Green Is the New Red is an indispensable book that will change the way we think about commitment, the limits of protest, and the possibility of radical change.” - Bill Ayers

 

In the troubled wake of the recent conviction of climate change activist Tim DeChristopher, Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the SHAC7 appeal, and the recent relocation of Daniel McGowan to the federal Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Indiana, (a secretive prison recently investigated in a 2-part NPR expose entitled ‘Guantanamo North’) Will Potter’s Green Is the New Red helps us make sense of systems of oppression by letting us see through the eyes of the individuals most effected.

 

Brilliantly written, meticulously accurate, and deeply emotional, Green Is the New Red is a collection of intimately personal stories of activists that every-day Americans need to hear, without these accounts the draconian chapters in U.S. history filled with senate hearings and blacklists are doomed to repeat themselves …repetitions like these, we as a nation cannot afford.

 

Green Is the New Red will be available in April, 2011 from City Lights Publishers and is currently available for pre-order through the City Lights Website or Amazon.com.