Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC/DDF February 2016 Newsletter

Statute of Liberty
New York Anti-BDS Bill Would Limit Freedom of Speech for Any Critics of US Allies
January 28, 2016
Shannon Erwin Receives February 2016 Patriot Award
February 1, 2016

Welcome to our February 2016 Newsletter. We’ve had a busy start to the year, and we want to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who made a donation to BORDC/DDF during our year-end appeal! Your support makes our reporting, activism, and organizing possible. If you didn’t have a chance to donate, please consider making a contribution today.

Before reading our updates from January, we want to ask you to take action by emailing your Representatives to demand the repeal of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which was passed as part of the Omnibus Spending Bill that was rushed through Congress in December. Read more about the bipartisan effort to repeal the bill, and click here to email your representative.

Grassroots Updates

BORDC/DDF supports grassroots activism to protect and advance Constitutional rights. Join the movement! Please reach us at Here are some organizing highlights from around the country:

Shannon Erwin Receives February 2016 Patriot Award
BORDC/DDF is proud to honor Shannon Erwin with our Patriot Award and to spotlight the Muslim Justice League of Boston, Massachusetts, helping to protect the civil rights of Muslims at a time when they are increasingly in jeopardy. Shannon is the executive director and one of the four Muslim women co-founders of MJL. “Our long-term hope,” Shannon says, “is to live in a world without suspect communities.”

If You Give A Cop A Taser…
In response to continued protests over his administration’s cover-up of the truth about a Chicago police officer’s murder of Laquan McDonald, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed arming every cop with a taser. Black Youth Project 100 explains why that won’t solve the problem of CPD violence.

Bay Area Community Meeting: New Beginnings to Activate for The Best Year Ever
Bay area organizers convened on Sunday, January 10 to discuss plans for 2016. Topics discussed: Shut Gitmo, Prosecute Torture, Stop Police Brutality, Protect the Vote, No Nukes, Go Solar, Audit the Pentagon!

Say No To Unconstitutional, Anti-Free Speech Legislation in Maryland
Maryland may be the free state, but for the second time in three years the Maryland General Assembly may consider legislation to kill free speech rights for those who take a dissenting view on the Middle East. We have learned that several legislators are planning to introduce a bill that will deny state contracts to individuals or businesses engaged in boycotts aimed at Israel to protest human rights violations.

First it was the Italians, then the Jews, then the Reds, then the Muslims. Does it end now?
The New York City Police Department has a long history of spying on people because of their ethnicity, religion or political beliefs, but in a landmark settlement announced today, the NYPD has agreed to reforms designed to protect New Yorkers from discriminatory and unjustified surveillance.

Cleveland Rallies to Close Gitmo and Challenge Islamophobia
Activsts in Cleveland held an event to discuss and challenge Islamophobia, and a vigil and march in unison with national demonstrations to end torture and indefinite detention targeting Muslims, particularly at Guantanamo Bay Prison in its 14 years of operation.

#ReclaimMLK Actions
This month activists across the country sought to reclaim the radical Martin Luther King Jr. Here’s a roundup of actions our supporters attended.

‘Order of Protection’ Violation Sends Pacifist Drone Resister To Jail
Orders of Protection were never intended to allow army officers to hide from grandmothers who seek to educate on matters of law and justice. But that’s how they are being used in upstate New York, and one activist is about to go to jail for violating her OOP.

Oakland Privacy Commission Vote Marks Victory for Activists
This month marked a major victory for privacy activists in Oakland, when the city’s Privacy Commission was formally voted into being at a Council meeting. The creation of the nine-member Commission is the culmination of over two years’ campaigning, protest, and negotiation, triggered in 2013 by the proposed expansion and centralization of public surveillance in both the Port and City of Oakland.

New York Anti-BDS Bill Would Limit Freedom of Speech for Any Critics of US Allies
In an attempt to silence the growing social movement that seeks to use Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) to protest Israeli violations of Palestine human rights, the New York State Senate has passed a sweeping bill that would insulate “US allies” from boycotts. To avoid being criticized for singling out one viewpoint for censure, the bill prohibits the state from doing business with any people or companies that are boycotting any of approximately 52 “US allies”. As a result, a number of social movements could be ensnared in the New York State Legislature’s political repression.

Advocacy and Agitation

BORDC/DDF is your voice in the Nation’s Capitol. We advocate and agitate in Congress and with the Executive branch. Here are just a few of the issues we raised last month:

Whistleblowers Aren’t Spies… Or Murderers
The Obama Administration has a real problem keeping straight a kind of key distinction… at least if you want to have a democratic and open government. It just can’t tell the difference between a whistleblower and a spy.

Demand the Release of Guantánamo Force-Feeding Footage
Officials at Guantanamo have claimed that their force feeding is humane and the inmates are lying. But there is video evidence of the cruel and abusive treatment of prisoners on hunger strike, which advocates, led by the British human rights group Reprieve, have been fighting to make public. Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the release of the videos over a year ago, but the Administration has stonewalled.

The Civil Rights Movement Joins Forces Against HUAC
On MLK Day, we took a look back at the historical connections between Dr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, and our own predecessors’ activism against the House Un-American Affairs Committee, or HUAC.

Challenge to Military Spying on Antiwar Activists Gains Support of Grassroots and Legal Groups
Several grassroots and legal organizations filed an “amicus” brief Wednesday in support of a widely watched lawsuit challenging the military’s domestic spying against antiwar activists in the Pacific Northwest.

News and Analysis

Closing Guantanamo Should Extend to the Release of Prisoners
January 11 marked the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison. Since its opening in 2002, only eight of the original 780 detainees at the prison have been convicted of a crime by a military commission. In order for Obama to hold to his campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay and protect his legacy, he must not only close the physical prison, he must expedite the process to try and convict or release and offer reparations to all those who have been wrongfully imprisoned for the last 14 years.

Why Closing Guantánamo Matters
This month we asked you to sign the White House petition to close Guantánamo and, along with Amnesty International, call for all relevant agencies to read the full Senate Torture Report. Instead of denial and lies, we need transparency and accountability—not just surrounding Guantánamo, but surrounding the “War on Terror” in general.

Dissent and the King Paradox
If there is one thing we can say about the United States, it is that this is a country that adores, celebrates, even luxuriates in our rich history of dissenters—as long as they are dead, silenced, or “brought to you by McDonald’s.” Call it “the King Kool-Aid.”