A long-time journalist is suing the Los Angeles Police Department over the alleged manhandling he says he was subjected to while covering an Occupy protest in LA last year.
Reporter Calvin Milam of Los Angeles’ City News Service says police officers with the LAPD tackled him to the ground, restrained him in dangerously tight handcuffs and detained him for hours without charge, all while he was just doing his job as a journalist one evening in late 2011.
Milam has insisted he displayed his press credentials to the LAPD during an Occupy LA rally outside City Hall on November 30, 2011 immediately before he was brought down by the cops.
In the aftermath of the incident, police spokespersons described the scene by portraying Milam as drunk and disorderly during his arrest. The video footage that has surfaced seems to contradict that take, however, and also clearly shows that Milam was acting as a member of the media.
“At some point, the Los Angeles police officers, in full riot gear, began to restrict the egress of those exercising their First Amendment rights and blocked access to leave the premises,” the recently filed complaint reads.
Milam’s attorney, Mark Geragos, tells the Courthouse News Service that the only reason his client wasn’t prosecuted was because video was found “which completely puts lie to what the cops said.”
When Geragos first became aware of the footage in the weeks after the arrest, he told LA Weekly that the footage was “completely at odds” with the accounts offered orally from both the LAPD and the City Attorney’s Office.
“They patently lied about the whole thing. It’s clear to me. I was told the exact same thing. It’s fortunate there’s a video which shows what really happened,” he said last December. “They have now told you two things that are demonstrably false. One, that he didn’t show his press credential. And two, that he was drunk. This guy hasn’t touched a drink in 20 years.”
“It’s astonishing to see that video and then see what was alleged: that he didn’t identify himself, show press credentials and that he was resisting,” Geragos now tells Courthouse News.
LAPD officer Victor Johnson charged Mr. Milam with unlawful assembly during the Nov. 30 incident, but the charges were quickly dropped. He was one of three journalists arrested that night during an event that ended with around 300 being put into cuffs.
Patrick Meighan, a writer for the animated show Family Guy, was one of the hundreds of persons who was arrested during the non-violent protest last year. Recounting the experience in a personal blog post, Meighan wrote that LAPD’s actions that evening were “horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize” anyone who could catch a glimpse.
“It was super violent, it hurt really really bad and he was doing it on purpose,” is how he described his brutal arrest last year.
“What does it say about our country that nonviolent protesters are given the bottom of a police boot while those who steal hundreds of billions, do trillions worth of damage to our economy and shatter our social fabric for a generation are not only spared the zipcuffs but showered with rewards?”
The City of Los Angeles has yet to respond to Mr. Milam’s suit and litigation is “at a very early stage,” Courthouse News reports.
- LAPD refuses to release video of fatal encounter with mother (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- After violent in-custody death, family of Alesia Thomas sues LAPD for video (tv.msnbc.com)
Occupied Palestine – 5am in Homsa in the northern Jordan Valley. Abdullah Ghanni, his family and his livestock are on the move under the watchful eyes of the Israeli Army. Two days earlier Ghanni had received a visit from soldiers informing him that military training would take place on land belonging to him and his fellow villagers. Ghanni and five other families were evicted from their land for the duration of the training – 7am to 5pm on the 9th December and 5am to 1pm the following day. All people in the village and their animals were required to leave.
Palestinians in the Jordan Valley of occupied Palestine are long-suffering. Ghanni has been farming this land for 40 years, primarily raising sheep. For all that time the Israeli Army has exercised total control over life. Temporary evictions for the purpose of military training are frequent here. Just three weeks ago the inhabitants of Homsa and two other nearby villages were evicted for two days to accommodate large-scale training manoeuvrers performed jointly by the Israeli and US armies. In the past, unexploded ordinance has been left after such drills, resulting in death and injury to children.
A visit to the northern Jordan Valley is a study in contrasts with the inequalities of the occupation laid out in the starkest terms. On the one hand, Israeli settlements are tidy villages of concrete houses. They are surrounded by plantations of grape vines, neat fields of vegetables, rows of greenhouses; a rich fertile green enclosed by double layers of barbed wire fences and floodlights.
On the other side of these fences, the nearby Palestinians struggle to cling to the remnants of their homeland. Villages here are often little more than a collection of makeshift tents yet, despite appearances, the Palestinians here were never nomadic Bedouins. They had homes, farm buildings, wells and water tanks. Designated Area C, large swaths of the Jordan Valley are under direct Israeli governance and military control. Building is forbidden and home demolitions are a common occurrence. The village neighbouring Homsa – Hadidia – had their stone houses demolished just last year.
If losing their homes wasn’t hard enough, the Israeli settlements and soldiers confiscate water resources. Valuable springs have been taken over and fenced off for the exclusive use of Israelis. Ghanni must travel 40km, past the Hamra checkpoint at the entrance to the Jordan Valley, to get the water he needs for his farm. This is despite the fact there is a spring less than 2km across the valley from his farm, in the Hadidia village. That water is forbidden to the Palestinians, despite it existing far outside the boundaries of any settlement or army base.
An elder in Hadidia pointed out two large tents his village erected to house the people of Homsa over the past two days. The Israeli Armydo nothing to assist the people they displace. No temporary housing, no assistance moving large herds of animals in the early morning. The army do, however, trail behind the villagers in jeeps on their trek across the valley, honking at the animals to hurry their progress,making the herding harder still. They also threaten Ghanni that they will create problems for his family with the settlements if they do not move as told. The frequent evictions disrupt normal family life. Each time, Ghanni is forced to send five of his eleven children to stay with another family close to the Hamra checkpoint so they can continue attending school.
Disturbingly, for Ghanni and the Palestinians in the valley, these incursions and disruptions of life, despite the feelings they provoke, have come to be accepted as normal. Since their 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Israel has deliberately made life in the Jordan Valley as difficult as possible in an attempt to force Palestinians from their land. The Palestinian population of the Jordan Valley prior to 1967 was 320,000. Now it hovers at 56,000. Despite the hardship involved in remaining, Ghanni and his family refuse to leave the land he has known all his life. A move elsewhere holds no promise of any kind of certainty, the fact he remains means his everyday life is a living resistance.
- Israel Evacuates Hundreds Of Palestinians To Conduct Army Training (eurasiareview.com)
- Israeli Settlement expansion in the northern Jordan valley (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Mother of American Torture Victim José Padilla Brings Case Before International Human Rights Tribunal
U.S. Courts Have Denied Recourse
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic today filed a petition against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) for the unlawful detention and torture of José Padilla, a U.S. citizen, whom the United States detained and interrogated for four years.
The petition was filed by Padilla’s mother, Estella Lebron, on her own and on her son’s behalf. Padilla and Lebron had previously filed federal lawsuits – since dismissed – against current and former government officials for their roles in Padilla’s torture and other abuse.
The petition is an international complaint asking the IACHR, which is an independent human rights body of the Organization of American States, to conduct a full investigation into the human rights violations suffered by Padilla; to find that his mistreatment violated the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; and to recommend that the United States publicly acknowledge the violations and apologize for its unlawful conduct.
“The U.S. justice system denied a day in court to a U.S. citizen who was arrested and then tortured on U.S. soil by his own government,” said Steven Watt, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. “The U.S. has historically been a leader in ensuring access to justice for human rights violations around the world, but it has effectively closed the courtroom door to all victims and survivors of the Bush administration’s torture regime. Denied redress in U.S. courts, torture survivors like Padilla are now left with no choice but to turn to international justice.”
In 2002, President Bush declared Padilla an “enemy combatant” and ordered him to be placed in military custody. U.S. officials seized Padilla from a civilian jail in New York and secretly transported him to the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., where they held him for 43 months without charge. Interrogators subjected Padilla to torture and other egregious forms of abuse, including forcing him into stress positions for hours on end, punching him, depriving him of sleep and threatening him with further torture, “extraordinary rendition” and death.
“For more than a decade, Estela Lebron has lived with the terrible knowledge that her own government tortured her son, but there has never been any official acknowledgement, let alone an apology,” said Alaina Varvaloucas, a student with Yale’s Lowenstein Clinic who worked on preparing the petition. “The pain and indignity of that betrayal continue to this day.”
For the first 21 months of his captivity, Padilla was held incommunicado, without access to lawyers and his family.
“No human being deserves what happened to our family, and I will continue to work for my son and for justice as long as I’m breathing. As a mother, I want to be sure this never happens to anyone else,” said Lebron. “This petition may be my last chance.”
Today’s petition filed with the IACHR is available at:
Information on the dismissed federal lawsuit against U.S. officials is available at:
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666
Cities across America are equipping their public transport systems with audio recording devices, potentially storing every word spoken by passengers onboard. Rights activists say the surveillance plan by far exceeds what is necessary for security.
The multimillion dollar upgrade is underway in several US cities, including San Francisco, Eugene, Traverse City, Columbus, Baltimore, Hartford and Athens, reports The Daily, which obtained documents detailing the purchases.
The money partially comes from the federal government. San Francisco, for example, has approved a $5.9 million contract to install the eavesdropping systems on 357 modern buses and historic trolley cars over the next four years, with the Department Homeland Security footing the entire bill. The interception of audio communication will apparently be conducted without search warrants or court supervision, the report says.
The systems would be able to record audio and video from several locations in a bus for simultaneous playback. In Eugene transit officials explicitly demanded microphones capable of distilling clear conversation from the background noise. The recordings would generally be retained for 30 days. One of the systems produced for transport monitoring supports up to 12 high definition cameras, each with a dedicated microphone.
The system may potentially have additional capabilities added like timing the recording with GPS data from an onboard navigator, using facial recognition technology to identify people recorded or connecting wirelessly to a central post for real-time monitoring.
“This technology is sadly indicative of a trend in increased surveillance by commercial and law enforcement entities, under the guise of improved safety,” Ashkan Soltani, an independent security consultant whom the online newspaper asked to review specifications of equipment marketed for transit agencies, told The Daily.
Transport authorities gave various explanations for beefing up surveillance. A San Francisco contractor says the system will “increase passenger safety and improve reliability and maintainability of the system”. An Arkansas transit agency official said it is needed to deflect false complaints from passengers, describing it as “a lifesaver for the drivers”. Maryland officials openly called it a tool for law enforcement.
In some cases the systems are being installed despite resistance of civil liberties activists and lawmakers. In Maryland a legislative committee rejected a bill that would allow the local transport agency to proceed with its plan over concerns that it would violate wiretapping laws. The state’s attorney general advised the transportation agency to use signs warning passengers of the surveillance to help the system withstand a court challenge.
Privacy law experts say audio surveillance systems on buses pushes the boundaries of what is necessary to protect the law.
“It’s one thing to post cops, it’s quite another to say we will have police officers in every seat next to you, listening to everything you say,” said Neil Richards, a professor at Washington University School of Law.
With the microphones, he said, “you have a policeman in every seat with a photographic memory who can spit back everything that was said.”
Public transport is not the only place where citizens are worried about being constantly monitored by keen-eared recording devices. Similar systems combining audio and video recording with wireless connectivity are being installed in lampposts across the US.
- Big Brother’s Listening (thedaily.com)
- Baltimore bus passengers now subject to secretive eavesdropping (rt.com)
Weekly News Update on the Americas | December 11, 2012
On December 9th Mexican authorities released 56 of the 69 people who had been in detention for more than a week on suspicion of “attacking public peace” during protests in Mexico City against the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. A total of 106 people were reportedly arrested on a day which included violent confrontations between police and protesters and widespread destruction of property [see Update #1154], but 28 were quickly released. Judge María del Carmen Mora Brito of the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) court system ordered the December 9th releases after “analyzing videos, testimonies and expert witnesses’ reports,” the DF Superior Court of Justice announced in a communiqué. (Europa Press 12/10/12)
The judge’s action followed a week of demonstrations against police repression and charges that agents had repeatedly attacked, beaten and arrested peaceful protesters and bystanders while failing to arrest the people who had been engaged in vandalism. There were also accusations that agents provocateurs had infiltrated the protests. Complaints about the police seemed to be supported by videos that circulated widely on the internet. One, a compilation by the student video collective Imágenes En Rebeldía, appears to show unprovoked police attacks, arrests of nonviolent protesters, and men dressed in civilian clothes and armed with crowbars and chains standing and walking among uniformed federal police agents behind metal barriers around the Chamber of Deputies building.
On December 6th the DF Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) reported that the DF police had arrested at least 22 people arbitrarily and that four people showed signs of having been tortured. A total of 88 people claimed to have been arrested without justification, the governmental commission said; 15 youths were charged with taking part in vandalism on Juárez Avenue even though the vandalism occurred after the time of their arrests. Among the people arrested on December 1rst was Mircea Topolenau, a Romanian photographer covering the events for a magazine. CDHDF president Luis González Placencia noted that his organization was only reporting actions by the DF police and that it was up to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to investigate alleged abuses by the federal police. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/7/12)
Two protesters were seriously injured during the December 1rst protests. Drama teacher Francisco Kuykendall Leal was hit by a tear gas canister and was hospitalized with cranial injuries. He is an active supporter of The Other Campaign, a political movement inspired by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) [see Update #832]. Uriel Sandoval Díaz, a student at the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM), lost an eye and suffered fractures when he was hit by a rubber bullet. “This struggle won’t end until poverty ends,” Uriel said from a wheelchair as he was being released from the General Hospital on December 6th. “An eye is nothing [when] every day thousands of human beings have nothing to eat.” (Kaos en la Red 12/4/12 from Desinformémonos; Milenio (Mexico) 12/7/12)
In related news, an online petition has been started calling on Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust to withdraw the offer of a fellowship at the university’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to outgoing president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012). Tens of thousands of Mexicans have died in the militarized “war on drugs” Calderón initiated soon after he took office in December 2006. The petition is at http://www.change.org/petitions/harvard-university-president-faust-deny-outgoing-mexican-president-felipe-calderon-employment-at-harvard
- Mexico: Peña Nieto Takes Office as Youths Riot (alethonews.wordpress.com)