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Learn, Share, Accompany
by Liz Moore
I’m delighted that we were so lucky as to host human rights workers Pablo Obando, Communications Director of the Fray Bartolomé Human Rights Center in Chiapas, Mexico, and Tony Nelson, of the Mexico Solidarity Network and the Autonomous University of Social Movements and the Albany Park Centro Autónomo, last month. It was a powerful and bilingual presentation. A great detail was the word “compañero” or “compañera” which was not translated because there’s not an exactly right English word–the best way to explain it is brother or sister, with a political and community meaning; a companion in the struggle for justice.
Pablo spoke on the human rights situation in Chiapas, Mexico, the Fray Bartolomé Center’s work, and the role of international solidarity. The Center has been widely recognized for accompanying indigenous communities under attack, documenting abuses, and defending cases in court. It has recently been increasingly threatened by paramilitary organizations for this work.
Both Tony and Pablo spoke about how they do their work: they do not give, teach, or help–they are committed, instead, to learn, to share, and to accompany, so that the people experiencing oppression are the authors of change. If you missed their great presentation, or if you just want a refresher, check out this video of their presentation!
Our Community of Action Going Forward Together
by Liz Moore, PJALS Director
What I love most about PJALS is being part of a community of people who take action together based on the connections between human rights, economic justice, & peace.
Our Steering Committee asked you, PJALS members, to guide strategic planning for 2013-2014. We learned that you overwhelmingly support organizing to raise revenue & reject cuts as well as to counter the costs of militarism and to demand money for people, not for war. You’re also passionate about alternatives to incarceration & police accountability. You value that we create community together through our events & campaigns. You strongly support our Young Activist Leaders Program & our interns. You love our Action Conference. You want PJALS to continue to strengthen our connections with communities of color & with rural people.
Why prioritize those areas? Read more »
17-year-old sentenced to life in prison needs support
Please support the release of Yvette Louisell (0805144), who was sentenced as a 17-year-old college student to life without parole. Yvette has been incarcerated now for 24 years. Take a moment to write a short letter to: Judge Michael Moon, Story County District Court, 1315 South B Avenue, Nevada, IA 50201
Since the June Supreme Court decision to strike down laws of Life Without Parole for Juveniles, the Iowa Governor Terry Branstad converted each of the individual cases in Iowa to 60 years. Her case is now in the courts. Read more »
Facing Race: Coalition Calls on Legislators to Work Towards Racial & Economic Equity
by Lucia Vazquez
Our WA legislature received a D for its voting on racial equity bills for the 2011 and 2012 sessions. The grade came from Washington Community Action Network’s Facing Race: 2012 Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity, which assessed the Washington Legislature’s performance during the 2011 and 2012 regular sessions on issues that affect racial and economic equity. The report was endorsed by 52 organizations across the state, including PJALS. The goal of this report was to educate legislators about the impact their decisions have on communities of color that make up about 30% of Washington residents, but also to spread awareness of advancing racial equity within our state. Read more »
Land, Freedom, Equality: A Palestinian Village’s Nonviolent Struggle – a visit with a leader of the nonviolent popular resistance in Palestine
By Marianne Torres
On January 11 (7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4340 West Fort George Wright Drive), PJALS will host Iyad Burnat, one of the leaders of the resistance in Bil’in, Palestine (West Bank). Mr. Burnat is in the midst of a speaking tour of the US. He and his wife were our hosts when our May 2012 Interfaith PeaceBuilders delegation to Palestine, that included PJALS member Myrta Ladich and me, stayed in Bil’in. Download a flier here to share!
Spokane will have a rare opportunity to meet a man who is deeply engaged in a life and death struggle to end 45 years of military occupation of his land, his home, and hear first-hand how a town reacts to confiscation of their farmland and crops by force and without compensation.
Burnat is head of the Bil’in Popular Committee and a leader in the village’s non-violent popular resistance movement. Since 2005 citizens of Bil’in have held weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the building of the Israeli separation wall through the community’s agricultural lands, and the steady encroachment of illegal settlements. Read more »
The Time Is Now: Safe & Just Alternatives to the Death Penalty
by Shar Lichty
PJALS’ Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG)has been working toward ending the death penalty for decades through raising awareness among the public. The statewide campaign Safe & Just Alternatives (SJA) could win legislation to end it soon!
The death penalty is an unjust, unfair, and irrational punishment that does not deter crime. The death penalty costs tax-payers more than life imprisonment, with majority of these extra costs being incurred during the trial phase. The death penalty is arbitrary in small part due to geography, with smaller counties unable to incur the cost, and in large part due to race. Washington’s death row currently houses 8 individuals, 4 of which are African American males. Read more »
Smart Justice Gains Momentum
The movement towards a smarter criminal justice system in Spokane is gaining momentum and has some worthy accomplishments to report! The Smart Justice Campaign coalition, convened by Greater Spokane Progress and endorsed by PJALS, the Center for Justice, and many other groups, co-sponsored the Smart Justice Symposium in November. About 200 elected officials, judges, police officers, attorneys, probation officers, ex-offenders, and concerned citizens gathered as experts and stakeholders discussed proven alternatives to jail that reduce crime, save taxpayer dollars and produce better outcomes for people re-entering the community. At the end of the day, anonymous polling revealed that a vast majority of the audience supported reallocating resources to support the programs discussed. Police Chief Straub helped closed the event by promising to work collaboratively with the public to heal, change and move forward towards a better Spokane.
For the coalition, part of making Spokane better is eliminating the grim fact that our criminal justice system disproportionately impacts people of color, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes. To educate and promote a dialogue surrounding this issue, the Campaign hosted the opening night of “The House I Live In,” a powerful documentary that links these disparities with drug war policies. After the film, Reverend Happy Watkins led an honest, but hopeful, discussion about institutional racism in Spokane and what we can do to address it.
The coalition has actively sought input from experts, criminal justice stakeholders, and the people most impacted by the system in order to create recommendations for change. At the core of these policy recommendations is the request that the city and county make all future policy decisions regarding criminal justice through a Smart Justice Lens – This means focusing on the person, not the crime, matching individuals with appropriate alternatives to incarceration that reduce recidivism and reduce costs, and monitoring such programs to ensure effectiveness. In addition, this lens includes paying particular attention to racial, economic, and other disparities within the system. The coalition hopes to share its recommendations with the three-member Regional Criminal Justice Commission recently appointed by the city and county to examine possible reforms.
While we have successfully gotten “Smart Justice” into Spokane’s vocabulary, it is time to push for commitment, a reallocation of resources, and implementation. To reach these next goals, we will need more participation and engagement from people like you. To find out how to get involved and for more information on Smart Justice alternatives, contact PJALS or go to the Smart Justice website – www.smartjusticespokane.org.
PJALS supports new strong Police Oversight ordinance
Liz Moore, PJALS director, gave this statement at a PJALS and Center for Justice press conference this afternoon, where our organizations released a newly drafted ordinance strengthening independent oversight of the Spokane Police Department, with the support of the League of Women Voters.
The Peace and Justice Action League strongly supports this new strong Police Oversight ordinance because it does 3 completely critical things:
1. gives the Ombudsman investigative authority and mandates public reporting on investigations;
2. removes police unions from the process of selecting the Ombudsman responsible for oversight of the police department; and
3. creates a commission of community members to review and guide the Ombudsman’s work.
November is for SOAW
Rusty Nelson on Peace and War
Remember School of the Americas? School of Assassins? Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation? Some of us will never forget our experiences at Ft. Benning or the U.S.-sponsored atrocities that made us passionate about being there, but we might forget our country still maintains a facility to perpetuate terror against impoverished Latin Americans who dare to act, or even speak, against their own oppression.
Perhaps you get emails from SOA Watch and know that thousands of opponents of our anachronistic U.S. policy on Latin America gather each November to observe the grim anniversary of the massacre at the University of Central America and try to shame our military into eliminating our own haven for state terrorism.You may know our tax dollars pay for this institution of human misery which has few enemies in Congress and a ‘wall of honor’ for many of our hemisphere’s worst abusers of human rights. Read more »