The OSCAR are coming but let’s not forget to honor all the great work that ordinary people, organizations, communities, and others do everyday to help save our democracy and make this a livable and just country for all. Some of the movies nominated remind us how far we have come and how far we still need to go for equality and justice. This past President’s day protest and so many other actions show us that we are not alone, that we have not given up the struggle, and we will continue to make progress on the issues we fight for.
- #StandWithImmigrants New jersey is holding those who run detention facilities accountable for what goes on in them and Wisconsin is not selling state facilities to help grow detention centers, groups are holding noise protests to support detained immigrants, and courts are treating citizenship the same for LGBTQ families.
- #RedForEd Teachers in West Virginia ended their strike after stopping charter schools, teachers at some Chicago schools win big, and Oakland teachers on strike.
- #FightFor15 Boston is building affordable housing, New Jersey expanding paid leave, Illinois raising the minimum wage, CA and Maine standing up for ripped off truck drivers and consumers, and Wisconsin is not getting bad idea tax cuts.
- #GreenNewDeal We are taking back public ownership of our shorefront, banning the use of harmful styrofoam in MD, agreeing to reduce harmful emissions and coal production in the EU and coal generating plants in Alabama.
- #MeToo Thanks to lawsuits, complaints and investigations IHOP and KFC franchises will pay for allowing sexual harassment, federal prosecutors are being held accountable for not protecting underage sexual abuse victims, and one high school will give dignity back to its female students.
- #BlackLivesMatter Bail bondsman in New Orleans stopped from cheating clients and bail reform working in PA and started in Berkshire County,
- #PoliceReform Houston police to stop no-knock attacks on citizens, LA and New York City must release police records.
- #CriminalJusticeReform The Supreme Court stopped states from excessive fines and forfeiture of property and LA stopped the use of pepper spray on children.
- #CivilRights A topless protester is set free, Tree company and staffing agency to compensate African-Americans and Latinos for discrimination, PA won’t keep private prisoner mail, Chicago to delete gang database.
- #FairFight Santa Monica and Idaho were stopped from political and racial gerrymandering, North Carolina gets new election for House seat due to republican fraud along with their voter ID and tax caps struck down, dark money disclosure in Montana will continue, and the NAACP’s novel approach to end racial gerrymandering in CT got the thumbs up to continue by the courts.
- #NoH8 Feds stop white supremacist terror attack, Utah catches hate crime perpetrator, Indiana tried to curb hate crimes, Alabama editor calling on the KKK to ride again is out and so is a homophobic officer in Florida.
- #FakeNationalEmergency Sixteen states suing over the Fake National Emergency declaration and they are not alone. The ACLU representing the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a group of about 60 organizations along the southern border, CREW and Public Citizen, have also field suit. The U.S. House is due to take it on this week. And citizens took to the streets all across the country to demand action to stop this unconstitutional power grab.
AND MORE SO READ ON…
🧕 STANDING UP FOR IMMIGRANTS
- County officials in New Jersey will be holding a hearing on unsanitary conditions at a migrant detention facility uncovered by investigators.
- A federal judge ruled that children of married, same-sex parents, one American, and one non-American regardless of their biological relationship, are eligible for citizenship from birth and that there is nothing in federal citizenship law to support the State Department’s policy for requiring DNA testing.
- Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. blocked the sale of a former state prison to a private company to operate federal immigration detention center by the republican controlled state legislature.
- Activists held a noise demonstration outside of a Boston I.C.E. detention facility in support of the immigrants inside on a hunger strike over conditions.
- The Boston Mayor announced that more than $26 million has been allocated to support affordable housing projects.
- New Jersey expanded paid family leave under a new law, which doubles paid time period, increase payments, includes caring for siblings, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren and more, covers victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, and more.
- Illinois governor signed legislation raising the state’s minimum wage.
- The Federal Trade Commission and the Maine Attorney General’s Office reached settlements with two companies who both falsely marketed weight loss supplements that will result in nearly $3.5 million in refunds going to consumers affected by the alleged scam.
- A California Court of Appeal granted class certification to a group of truck drivers alleging wage fraud by Dark Horse Express Inc.
- Wisconsin Democratic Gov. vetoed a GOP bill to cut taxes because it did not limit tax cuts to wealthy companies.
- Public school teachers in West Virginia ended their strike after a bill which would have brought charter schools to the state and provided private school tuition to some households that they opposed was killed in the state House.
- Teachers at the Chicago International Charter Schools ended their strike after winning a 35% pay increase, reduced class sizes and protections for counselors and social workers.
- Educators in Oakland are on strike to demand higher pay and better resources for students.
👨🏿⚖️SEEKING RACIAL AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
- The Supreme Court ruled the constitution’s prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose financial penalties and seize property and continuing ability to “police for profit” through the practice of seizing cash, cars and other property from those convicted, or even suspected, of committing a crime.
- L.A. supervisors approved a “phased elimination” of pepper spray use by staff at juvenile facilities.
- Bail bondsmen in Orleans Parish were ordered by the Louisiana Insurance Commissioner to issue refunds to about 50,000 clients at a total cost of $6 million, for overcharging them on bonds for years .
- Philadelphia DA announced that the bail reform efforts of the DA’s office led to fewer defendants sent to jail before their first hearing, a 23 percent decrease in defendants released without bail, defendants with bail amounts of $5,000 or less dropped by 41%, and the number of eligible defendants spending at least one night in jail dropped by 5% all without any noticeable increase in crime or defendants failing to appear for their court dates.
- Berkshire County district attorney’s office (MA) implemented a model of bail reform.
- The Houston Police Department announced it will end its use of no-knock warrants in most situations, after public outcry over the recent deaths it led to.
- A Los Angeles judge ruled that records from shootings, use of force and some misconduct by police officers in California are public even if they occurred before a new public accountability law took effect.
- A New York appeals court ruled that police body camera footage is subject to public disclosure under state law.
🧑🏿ENDING THE DEATH PENALTY
- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas continued to use factors that have no grounding in prevailing medical practice and invite lay stereotypes to guide assessment of a defendant’s disability in determining whether the death penalty can be applied and they reversed the death penalty sentence for a 59-year-old intellectually disabled man.
- Another state takes baby steps in the right direction, with the Ohio Gov. halting all executions in the state until a new method of executions that is constitutional can be developed.
☮️ CIVIL RIGHTS
- The Asplundh Tree Expert Co., working as a federal contractor settled charges by the U.S. Dept of Labor for discriminating against African-American job applicants and will pay $55,000 in back wages and offer some application positions.
- A Virginia Judge who initially ordered a political protester who went topless held without bail (in a case not likely to even result in jail time) reversed course after public outrage and agreed to release her on a $1,500 bond.
- The ACLU and PA have reached a tentative agreement to stop the Dept. of Corrections from copying and storing inmate correspondence with their attorneys.
- The Cook County Board voted to destroy the controversial gang database.
- Four staffing agencies agreed to pay $475,000 to settle a U.S. EEOC complaint that alleges they abused workers in an Alabama poultry processing plant because of their race and ethnicity.
🌎SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT
- The U.S. Supreme Court allowed an Indiana Supreme Court decision to stand that the state owns the shoreline to the ordinary high water mark and holds it in trust for all residents and did not allow residents to extend their property rights all the way up to the Lake Michigan shoreline.
- The Anne Arundel County Council (MD) passed legislation banning food service businesses from using polystyrene containers.
- The European Union agreed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from new trucks and buses by 30 percent
- Mining giant Glencore has pledged to cap its coal production and develop Paris Accord-consistent strategies for growth.
- Alabama Power Company announced it was permanently retiring one of their coal power generating plants.
👩 WOMEN’S RIGHTS
- Nine IHOP franchises agreed to pay $700,000, provide training and monitoring and take other steps to settle an EEOC lawsuit alleging female employees were subjected sexual harassment and the company retaliated against workers who complained.
- A federal judge found that federal prosecutors broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein.
- A Wisconsin high school is ending offensive cheerleading awards called “Big Booty” and “Big Boobie.”
- A jury has ruled that a KFC franchisee must pay over $1.5 million to a former employee who was demoted because she wanted to pump her breast milk.
🗽BECAUSE MONUMENTS AND NAMES MATTER Saint Elmo Brady, the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry, was honored with a National Historical Chemical Landmark dedicated to him on the University of Illinois campus.
- The Mormon church announced they won’t stand in the way of a proposal to ban gay conversion therapy for minors in Utah, of crucial importance in a state where the majority of legislators are Mormons.
- Utah police found and charged the suspect in an alleged anti-gay attack.
- A Kansas Republican disavowed an anti-LGBTQ bill he co-sponsored after being publicly shamed by his queer daughter
🕫🗳️FAIR AND ETHICAL VOTING
- A California State court ruled that Santa Monica’s at-large election system is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act and the California Constitution and ordered the city use the map drawn by an expert for the plaintiffs and that the City hold a special election for all seats on the City Council using the new district map.
- The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted to call a new election in the state’s 9th congressional after extensive evidence of voter fraud by the republican candidate.
- A North Carolina state court voided two constitutional amendments which would impose a photo voter ID requirement and lower the state income tax cap after ruling that the North Carolina General Assembly did not have legal authority to place constitutional amendments on the ballot prior to Nov 2018 because it did not act with the full will of the people. Why not full will you ask? Because the United States Supreme Court found the state’s legislative districts had been illegally drawn along racial lines and therefore they were not representative of the people until the new districts were used. What a brilliant approach by North Carolina NAACP, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and Forward Justice and win for North Carolina.
- A judge ruled an NAACP federal lawsuit can proceed challenging Connecticut’s practice of “prison gerrymandering” where they count incarcerated people as residents of the legislative districts where they are held, rather than in their home districts, increasing the balance of power in white rural areas where the prisoners can’t actually vote.
- The U.S. Supreme Court let stand Montana’s 2015 Disclose Act, a campaign finance reform law that seeks to make public “dark money groups” more transparent and require more public reporting on spending by political groups.
- An Idaho bill that would have allowed republicans to control redistricting was stopped by democrats threatening to bring all legislative business to a halt over it.
💓STOPPING THE SPREAD OF HATE
- Federal investigators stop white supremacist planned terrorist attack.
- David Duke’s longtime political adviser was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
- Indiana tried to curb hate crimes by passing a water-down hate-crime bill that will “allow a judge to generally consider bias when determining the severity of a sentence.” It’s a step in the right direction for a state with no hate-crime protections at all.
- The owner of a local Alabama newspaper who called on the KKK to ride again in an editorial has resigned and hired a black woman as editor and publisher to replace himself.
- Members of the Ole Miss basketball team kneeled in protest of the pro-Confederate march taking place on campus.
- A Broward County (FL) officer who posted homophobic slurs on Facebook was fired.
🙂 A VERY QUICK LOOK AT RUSSIA ETC…
- In an ancillary case brought to light by the Russia investigation, the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP will pay a $4.6 million settlement that charged the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not registering as an agent of the government of Ukraine.
- The judge in the Roger Stone case expanded the gag order in the case after he violated her prior order and posted a picture of her with crosshairs aimed near her head.
☑️ ELECTION RESULTS Democrats held on to the District 86 seat in a special election for the Virginia House of Delegates.
And here you can find inspiring actions and events from just a few of the groups working to protect the people like Moms Demand Answers, Sister District, Coalition Better Il 16, Little Lobbyists, North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign, Let NY Vote, Poor People’s Campaign, Sunrise Movement, Indivisible Il 9, New Mexico Dream Team, Restore Justice, Campus Vote Project, March For Our Lives, Get Organized Brooklyn, and so many more this list could be pages long.
One final note, I wish that more towns had pre-teen girls like the editor of the Orange Street News.