Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson Delivers Remarks at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Annual Convention


Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson Delivers Remarks at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Annual Convention

Pendleton, OR
United States
~
Monday, September 22, 2014
 
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
 
Thank you, Karol.  I’m thrilled to be in Oregon with my colleagues - two extraordinary leaders at the Department of Justice –Karol Mason and Ron Davis.  And I echo Karol’s sentiment – It is truly an honor to join the leaders of the many Indian nations of the northwest.

As Karol mentioned, the Justice Department is fully committed to supporting tribal communities in strengthening the tribal criminal justice system’s response to violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.  And each year, the Office on Violence Against Women reaffirms this commitment by providing necessary funding to interrupt the cycle of violence that is all too prevalent in Indian County.  I am particularly excited to be here following the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. As you know, VAWA now includes historic new provisions that give jurisdiction BACK to tribes over cases of domestic violence involving non-Indian perpetrators—something that was long overdue and that makes me particularly proud to be working at OVW at this time.

The task facing us all right now is very serious. Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data on the prevalence of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence in the United States. Sadly this new report confirmed what we already knew to be true –- what you all know from your lives in Indian Country -- that American Indian and Alaska Native women experience stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault far more often than other groups of women.

More than half  of American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetimes. 

A quarter  of American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced stalking during their lifetimes.

More than a quarter of American Indian and Alaska Native women were raped during their lifetimes.

And an estimated 55% of American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes.

These statistics are staggering. But we know from our work across Indian Country and elsewhere, that there is much we can do to stop the cycle of violence against women.  We know that the key to avoiding more serious and deadly violence in the future is to intervene early to stop violence from escalating. We know that support for victims is paramount. We know that early intervention saves women’s lives and protects children from growing up in a home where violence is the norm.

We know that American Indian and Alaska Native women have long been subject to violence, stalking, and rape—with little legal recourse to bring their perpetrators to justice.

But things are changing for the better and we now have reason to hope.

When President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, it marked a momentous step in expanding tribal sovereignty by addressing a jurisdictional gap that for too long has thwarted a tribe’s ability to protect its people, primarily its women, from non-Indian perpetrators.

Under the new "special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction"  tribes are able to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence both Indians AND non-Indians who assault Indian spouses or dating partners or violate a protection order in Indian country. VAWA 2013 also clarifies tribes' sovereign power to issue and enforce civil protection orders against Indians AND non-Indians.

As you all know, in February of this year, Attorney General Holder announced that three tribes would be the first in the nation to exercise the special criminal jurisdiction under a pilot project  -- and two of those tribes are part of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians -- the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and, of course, right here at the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon.

We have reason to hope because the partnership between tribal governments and the federal government has never been stronger.

We have reason to hope because we have a shared vision of the future where all tribes thrive as prosperous, vibrant, and safe communities for everyone.

Since 1998, OVW has made over 1150 awards to tribes and tribal organizations totaling over $491 million. And, through the Department of Justice's Coordinated Tribal  Assistance Solicitation for this fiscal year, OVW’s Tribal Governments Program will support 54 tribes for a total of more than $31 million. And this includes 12 tribes of the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians.

With this funding tribal governments - as sovereign nations - are developing and implementing government-based strategies to reduce violence and increase safety for American Indian and Alaska Native women.

Tribes are enhancing responses to victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

Through funding from the Office on Violence Against Women, tribal government grantees are providing education and awareness campaigns about domestic and sexual violence to thousands of  tribal residents across the country. 

Tribes are providing emergency shelter, transitional housing, support services, and financial assistance to victims.

Tribes are providing legal assistance so that survivors can seek justice.

And tribes are enhancing the tribal criminal justice responses to violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women by using OVW funds for law enforcement and  prosecution.  These funds are helping to increase the arrest and prosecution of domestic and sexual violence on tribal lands --increasing safety for all tribal members.

The impact tribal leaders and tribal governments have in the lives of victims, survivors, their children, and the community as a whole is undeniable. And the Department of Justice and the Office on Violence Against Women renews its resolve to use every tool we can to work in partnership with each of you and tribal governments all across the nation to reduce the rates of violence against women in Indian Country and to increase safety from domestic and sexual violence. 

All of our work together so far has been achieved befre VAWA 2013’s Special Criminal Jurisdiction has gone into effect across Indian Country.

We will continue to work with you to expand the number of tribes exercising criminal jurisdiction to stop domestic violence on tribal lands. 

We will continue to work with you to decrease the number of American Indian and Alaska Native women who fall victim to violence.

We will continue to work with you to strengthen the capacity of tribal governments to respond to violent crimes.

We will continue to work with you to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their behavior.

And, we will continue to work with you to help provide safety for survivors.

The safety of American Indian women is one of my office’s main priorities and a clear priority of the Administration.

It’s important that we all work together to bring about systematic, positive changes in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

Which is why I encourage each of you to participate in the 9th Annual Government-to-Government Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation in Rapid City, South Dakota next month - on October 15th. The annual consultation provides the federal government the opportunity to hear from tribal leaders on what is working in Indian Country, and to solicit recommendations from you on administering tribal funds and programs, enhancing the safety of Indian women from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking, and strengthening the federal response to such violent crimes.

As Karol mentioned there will be additional training and consultation sessions on October 14 and 16. These session will cover topics including Tribal Access to Federal Criminal Databases and Information Sharing, the CTAS  solicitation, tribal judicial systems and corrections, and concerns of youth. Additional information about this year’s consultation, including registration and logistical information is available on OVW’s website, as well as www.OVWConsultation.org. As in year’s past consultations we will be joined by our colleagues from the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services at this year’s consultation.

I cannot stress enough the importance of your participation and feedback as we strive to enhance the scope and reach of our grant programs.

I look forward to seeing you all there and to working with you to continue our efforts to end violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.  Thank you for the work you all do to keep your communities safe and thank you for taking the time to be in Pendleton this week. 

I’m now very pleased to introduce my colleague, Director Ron Davis of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.  Ron . . .
 
Component: 
 

 
 

Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason Remarks at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Annual Convention

Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason Remarks at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Annual Convention
Pendleton, OR
United States
~
Monday, September 22, 2014
 
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
 
Thank you, President [Fawn] Sharp.  I’m very pleased to be back in Oregon to join the leaders of the Indian nations of the northwest.  I had the opportunity last year to meet with many of you in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Native American Subcommittee.  I’m delighted to be back and pleased to be joined this time by my colleagues, Bea Hanson and Ron Davis.  Bea and Ron lead the other two-thirds of the Justice Department’s grant-making triumvirate, the Office on Violence Against Women and the COPS Office.  I’m thrilled to be with them today.

And I am grateful for the invitation to speak with all of you about the work we are doing at the department to support our tribal partners, here in the northwest and across the country.  This works covers every area of public safety in Indian country, from supporting children and youth and protecting native women to the hiring of tribal police officers and the strengthening of tribal criminal and juvenile justice systems.

The programs we administer, the training we deliver, the information we develop and share, support every facet of tribal crime and safety, whether it be prevention, enforcement, prosecution, courts and corrections, research and statistics, or victim services.  I’m proud that our resources are addressing the full range of public safety challenges faced by tribes.

I’m also proud that we are making it easier for tribes to gain access to those resources.  For too long, Indian nations were at a distinct disadvantage when it came to applying for federal justice grants.  Too often, grant programs failed to consider the unique needs of tribes.  In too many cases, applying for grants was a cumbersome process that made it difficult for tribes to participate.  The result was that tribal communities were limited in receiving much-needed federal assistance to support worthy programs.

That began to change in 2009, when the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Holder, made a renewed commitment to its tribal partners.  We met with tribal leaders, held consultations with tribal justice professionals, and listened to their concerns.  We heard that our grant programs weren’t always suited to the needs of tribes and that the grant process was unnecessarily burdensome.

So we took action and developed the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, or CTAS as we call it.  At the time, I was working in the Associate Attorney General’s Office, and I had the privilege of leading the development of that solicitation.  A team from my office, the Office of Justice Programs, the Office on Violence Against Women, and the COPS Office worked long and hard to design a grant mechanism that would respond to tribal concerns and put Indian nations on a level playing field when it came to applying for Department of Justice resources.

CTAS remains a work in progress, but the feedback we’ve received from tribes has been positive.  And we continue to hear your suggestions for improvement – about CTAS, and about all our tribal programs.  The Department of Justice and the President, through his most recent budget request to Congress, continue to ask for a set-aside for tribal programs that will make a portion of our funding – seven percent, to be exact – available exclusively to tribes.  While our call for the set-aside has yet to be answered, we remain hopeful that Congress will support our request.

One thing is certain:  Since CTAS went into effect, tribes have benefitted from far greater access to OJP, OVW, and COPS funding resources than ever before.  And today I’m pleased to join Director Hanson and Director Davis in announcing more awards under the CTAS banner.  As we speak, the Department of Justice is awarding 169 new CTAS awards totaling more than $87 million.  These awards bring the number of CTAS grants over the last five years to more than 1,100, totaling almost $525 million.

These grants address an array of tribal justice system issues, from at-risk youth and violence against women to community policing and corrections alternatives, and they give tribes the support they need to keep their communities safe and ensure a just, fair, and effective system for fighting crime.  I’m especially pleased that 22 tribes represented by the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians received at least one CTAS award this year.  I recognize that that’s not every tribe, but I hope it demonstrates that the Department of Justice is making a concerted effort – one that we are building on every year – to expand our reach to tribes and make our resources more widely available to our partners in Indian country.

I’m also excited that this new round of grants will fund some promising and innovative efforts.  Under an award from our Office for Victims of Crime, the Tulalip Tribes are developing a community wellness center where crime victims can access intensive intervention services focused on prevention, crisis response, community education, and trauma and healing.  And a grant from our Bureau of Justice Assistance to the Kaw Nation of Oklahoma will help pay for renovations to establish a multi-purpose justice center that will coordinate law enforcement, tribal court, emergency management, child welfare, and domestic violence services.

These and scores of other awards this year will build on programs funded in previous years, like the Kalispel Tribal Youth Program supported by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  This effort provides culturally-specific training for new Court Appointed Special Advocates so that they are equipped to address both tribal and state court dependency issues.

Our CTAS funding has become a cornerstone of our support for tribes, and it complements work the department is doing on other fronts – enhancing tribal prosecution authority, for instance, and expanding Indian country reentry programming.  Another area of particular focus is violence experienced by native children.  As part of the department’s Defending Childhood Initiative, the Attorney General established a national task force to examine these problems and recommend ways to address them.  An advisory committee that forms one of two parts of the task force will present its final report to the Attorney General in November.  Ultimately, we hope that its findings will help us develop a national strategy to reduce and mitigate the impact of violence on American Indian and Alaska Native children.

Through this task force, through Defending Childhood, through CTAS, and through all our efforts to support tribes, we believe that we have made good progress in improving our response to tribal needs, and we hope that our progress is evident to you.  At the same time, we know there is still room for improvement, and we are working hard at OJP, at OVW, and at COPs to coordinate our efforts.

In fact, next month – October 14th through the 16th – we will hold another of our consultation, listening, and training sessions in Rapid City, South Dakota.  Bea may have more to say about this, but we will be soliciting feedback from tribal leaders and representatives on issues such as the CTAS solicitation, tribal judicial systems and corrections, and concerns of young adults.  Our partners at the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services will join us, and I encourage all of you – or as many of you as possible – to attend.

I know I speak for both Bea and Ron when I say that we welcome your input on how we can continue to improve.  Our goal is to be in the best position possible to give you the resources you need.

Thank you for your time, and for all you do to keep your communities safe.
 
Component: 

Justice Department Awards $87 Million to Enhance, Support Tribal Justice and Safety

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 22, 2014
 
Justice Department Awards $87 Million to Enhance, Support Tribal Justice and Safety

The Department of Justice today announced the awarding of 169 grants to American Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, tribal consortia and tribal designees.  The grants will provide more than $87 million to enhance law enforcement practices and sustain crime prevention and intervention efforts in nine purpose areas including public safety and community policing; justice systems planning; alcohol and substance abuse; corrections and correctional alternatives; violence against women; juvenile justice; and tribal youth programs.

Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason for the Office of Justice Programs, Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson for the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and Director Ron Davis for the Office of Community Oriented Policing (COPS) made the announcement while attending the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) Annual Convention hosted by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.  ATNI represents 57 northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Northern California, Southeast Alaska, and Western Montana.  This year’s announcement includes awards to 22 of the represented tribes at the convention.  The awards are made through the department’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS), a single application for tribal-specific grant programs.
 
“This work covers every area of public safety in Indian country, from supporting children and youth to protecting and serving native women to the hiring of tribal police officers to strengthening tribal criminal and juvenile justice systems,” said Assistant Attorney General Mason.  “The CTAS programs are not only critical to reversing crime in Indian country but are integral strengthening and sustaining healthy communities.”

The safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women is a top priority of OVW, and a clear priority of the entire Department of Justice.  With funding from OVW’s Tribal Governments Program, tribes are able to develop and strengthen the tribal justice system’s response to violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women that meets the specific needs of their tribe.  This funding has played a significant role in increasing programs and services available to tribes, and has both improved and increased the effectiveness of services provided by tribal court systems.  This coordinated approach allows OVW and its sister grant-making components to consider the totality of a tribal community’s overall public safety needs in making award decisions.

“We know from our work across Indian country and elsewhere, that early intervention that interrupts or deters a pattern of escalating violence is the key to avoiding more serious and deadly violence in the future,” said Principal Deputy Director Hanson.  “And it is the key to saving more women’s lives and protecting more children from growing up in a home where violence is the norm.”

COPS funding through CTAS improves public safety and enhances community policing in federally recognized tribal jurisdictions. These funds will allow tribal jurisdictions to expand the implementation of community policing and meet the most serious needs of law enforcement. With this funding, 21 tribal agencies will be able to hire or re-hire career law enforcement officers and village public safety officers.   Funds awarded today may also be used to procure basic equipment and training to assist in the initiation or enhancement of tribal community policing efforts.
“I am pleased that COPS can help tribal jurisdictions hire more officers to help control crime through community policing,” said Director Davis.  “These funds also support tribal jurisdictions by covering the costs of basic equipment and training.  It’s a comprehensive package of support that delivers much needed help to tribal communities.”

The department developed CTAS through its Office of Community Oriented Policing, Office of Justice Programs and Office on Violence against Women, and administered the first round of consolidated grants in September 2010.  Over the past five years, it has awarded over 1,100 grants totaling more than $530 million.
Information about the consolidated solicitation is available at www.justice.gov/tribal/.
A fact sheet on CTAS is available at www.justice.gov/tribal/ctas2014/ctas-factsheet.pdf.

Today’s announcement is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.
 
14-1011
Tribal Justice
 
 

Ferguson Residents Generally Optimistic After First Closed-Door DOJ Meeting

FERGUSON, Mo. -- Hundreds of local residents gathered at two-closed door meetings Monday night to discuss what needs to change in this St. Louis suburb after weeks of protests in the wake of the death of an unarmed black teenager.

Many attendees said they were generally encouraged by the dialogue that took place at the meetings, which were open only to Ferguson residents and were hosted at two local churches by a secretive Justice Department unit. Ferguson was rocked by protests, looting and a heavy police response after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot several times by Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.

Community Relations Service, a part of the Justice Department that attempts to mediate tense situations in communities, particularly those involving race, organized the meetings. The service does not publicize its work, and often operates confidentially. As a result, Ferguson police took measures on Monday to keep non-residents and reporters out of the meetings, including checking for photo identification. One Ferguson resident was asked to leave when he attempted to record the meeting at Wellspring Church, but he was later allowed back in when he agreed to no longer film.

More:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/23/ferguson-doj-meeting_n_5866016.html

Path for Prosecutors to Reduce Incarceration

New York, N.Y. – Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and revelations about America’s unprecedented levels of incarceration have highlighted the urgent need to reform the justice system.

A new Brennan Center report proposes modernizing one key aspect of that system: federal prosecution.

Today, the Brennan Center launched this report at a conference keynoted by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Other speakers are four sitting U.S. Attorneys, including New Jersey’s Paul Fishman and Louisiana’s Kenneth Polite; former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer; Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance; Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier; and more.


Federal prosecutors are a uniquely powerful force for change, as they have wide discretion over criminal charges, plea agreements, and sentencing recommendations. This decision-making authority can have a great effect on the prison population. The report, Federal Prosecution for the 21st Century, was developed with the input of a Blue Ribbon Panel of the nation’s leading prosecutors, led by former U.S. Undersecretary for Enforcement James E. Johnson and former U.S. Attorney G. Douglas Jones.

“In this moment for justice reform, prosecutors can play an important role. They are charged with protecting the public and enforcing the law. Prosecutors increasingly agree that they can advance public safety and justice without excessively relying on incarceration. This report seeks to expand and institutionalize this shift,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program.

The report recommends that the Justice Department and U.S. Attorneys implement a policy called Success-Oriented Funding to create new incentives to drive practices toward three priorities:

  • Reducing violent and serious crime;
  • Reducing prison populations; and
  • Reducing recidivism.
“[Prosecutors] can lead the way to advance thoughtful, sensible approaches that have a real impact on violence and crime, while also reducing unnecessary prosecution and incarceration,” writes former Attorney General Janet Reno in the foreword. “This report provides a blueprint for federal prosecutors to establish a new set of priorities to better reduce crime and reduce incarceration, while modernizing criminal justice...We encourage prosecutors and law enforcement across the country to adopt this approach.

This shift in federal prosecutorial priorities can reduce the federal prison population and its costs, and spur change in state and local practices.

 
 
For more information or to speak with the report’s authors, please contact Naren Daniel at (646)292-8381 or naren.daniel@nyu.edu.

 


Albuquerque Creates Citizen Police Oversight Agency

During a five-hour special meeting on Thursday, September 18, the Albuquerque City Council abolished the existing Police Oversight Commission and unanimously passed an ordinance creating the Civilian Police Oversight Agency.

Since 2010 the Albuquerque Police Department has killed 27 people. An April 2014 Department of Justice report of APD’s use of force concluded that APD routinely engages in unconstitutional policing and that a majority of recent fatal shootings were unjustified. Days after the release of the DOJ report three members of the existing Police Oversight Commission—Jonathan Siegel, Richard Shine and Jennifer Barela—resigned in protest.

The Police Oversight Commission ordinance abolished at Thursday’s meeting included an Independent Review Officer, whose job it was to review and investigate public complaints against APD officers. The DOJ report expressed concern that the Independent Review Officer has become increasingly cozy with APD. Jonathan Siegel agreed, describing the work of the Commission as “suspect” given the cozy relationship of Robin Hammer, the Independent Review Officer (IRO), with the City Attorney and Chief of Police.

In addition to concerns regarding the IRO, The DOJ pointed to systemic failures in police oversight in Albuquerque that contribute to the problem of unconstitutional policing at APD. Jennifer Barela, in her resignation, agreed, noting that the Commission “no longer has the power to conduct any civilian oversight of the Albuquerque Police Department or to review or disagree with the Independent Review Officer because of the current, defective Police Oversight Commission Ordinance and the City Attorney’s recent interpretations of the Police Oversight Commission’s Rules and Powers.” She pointed to the April 10, 2014 meeting of the Police Oversight Commission (ironically the very day the DOJ released its report) in which the City Attorney’s Office, through its representative, told the Commission that it does not have the power to vote against or change the findings of the Independent Review Officer and/or the Chief of the Albuquerque Police Department.

More:  http://www.popularresistance.org/albuquerque-creates-citizen-police-oversight-agency/

VIDEO: 310,000 Storm NYC for People's Climate March

An Acronym TV dispatch from The People’s Climate March feat interviews with:

Immortal Technique (Hip Hop legend)
Kshama Sawant (Socialist City Council member
Jill Stein (for Green Party Presidential candidate)
Pat Scanlon (Vets for Peace)
Art Shegonee (Federation of United Tribes)
and other artists, activist, children, and street revelers!

http://youtu.be/j08woT6rlxk

Flood Wall Street Sit-In Surrounds Wall Street Bull, 100 Arrests

Update: 104 people were arrested at the Flood Wall Street protest. This protest put Mayor de Blasio in the hypocritical position of marching for action on climate on Sunday and then arresting people for taking action on climate on Monday.

The Flood Wall Street Protest began at the WW II Memorial in Battery Park at the lower tip of Manhattan at 9:00 AM. Speakers from around the world representing people from Africa, Central America, South America, North America and Asia spoke to the crowd of approximately 3,000 about how climate change is already impacting their environment and lives with droughts, floods, heat waves and massive storms. The group than practiced the resistance action of the day — flowing like water down in the financial district leading to a sit-in, in an undisclosed area.

They also practiced a song:  The People are going to rise like water — We’re going to calm this crisis down — We hear the voice of a great grand-daughter — Calling shut Wall Street down.

More:  http://www.popularresistance.org/flood-wall-steet-sit-in/

Pentagon Supplies School Districts with Assault Rifles and Grenade Launchers

Due to public outcry, school districts nationwide are debating whether to keep their Pentagon-issued assault rifles, grenade launchers, and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles. Donated free of charge as part of the Defense Department’s 1033 Program, surplus military equipment has been dispensed throughout law enforcement agencies and school districts for decades. Recent criticisms of excessive police militarization in Ferguson, Missouri, last month has left many school officials questioning the need for military-grade weapons on campus. 
 
According to the Defense Logistics Agency, over $5 billion in military equipment has been handed out to more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies and at least 26 school districts since 2007. California alone has received 8,533 surplus guns, 7,094 pieces of night-vision equipment, 2,370 bayonets and knives, 49 armored vehicles, 59 airplanes and helicopters, and 18 grenade launchers since 2006. 

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed last month revealed that 61 M16 rifles, 3 grenade launchers, and an MRAP have been transferred to the Los Angeles School Police Department. According to California’s Office of Emergency Services, the Baldwin Park School Police Department received three M16 rifles that they plan to return, while Kern High School District Police received 30 magazines for M4 assault rifle ammunition. Although the Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to return the grenade launchers, they refuse to relinquish the assault rifles and mine-resistant vehicle. 

After receiving an MRAP valued at over $700,000, the San Diego Unified School District intended to soften the vehicle’s image by removing the weapon mounts and gun turrets, painting it white with a Red Cross symbol, and filling the interior with medical supplies and teddy bears. Although law enforcement officials were eager to acquire the armored vehicle, the school district has announced they will be returning the MRAP.

“Some members of our community are not comfortable with the district having this vehicle,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said. “If any part of our community is not comfortable with it, we cannot be comfortable with it.”

“Public sentiment regarding the use of excess military equipment by law enforcement agencies since the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, has pointed to the need to be more sensitive to perception,” admitted Police Chief Rueben Littlejohn. “The value that this defensive tool would bring cannot exceed the value of retaining the public’s trust, confidence, and perceptions of how we will protect our students.”

Federal records show schools in California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, Texas, and Utah have received surplus military-grade weapons and vehicles. 

See more at: http://portside.org/2014-09-22/pentagon-supplies-school-districts-assault-rifles-and-grenade-launchers

ANSWER Coalition speaks out against U.S. bombing of Syria

The U.S. bombing of Syria has begun tonight.

We in the ANSWER Coalition oppose this war and are calling for demonstrations to oppose the bombing of Syria and Iraq beginning September 23 through September 28. This war, like the earlier ones, is being sold on the basis of misinformation and fear. The United States is a major part of the problem and cannot be the solution to the current crisis in Syria and Iraq.

This new aggression is loaded with irony. The Pentagon spokesperson says that the bombing is directed against the self-named Islamic State (ISIS) forces that have gained control over large swaths of Syria and Iraq. But it was precisely the arms transfers and funding of ISIS by the U.S. government's principal allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, that have allowed the Islamic state to grow strong in its struggle to topple the secular Syrian government led by Bashar Al-Assad. 

Let's tell the fundamental truth that the Obama administration conceals from the people: the so-called Islamic State or ISIS wouldn't exist today as a major force either in Syria or Iraq if it wasn't for the U.S. military aggression that smashed the secular, nationalist governments in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, followed by the U.S. government's catastrophic support for the armed opposition against the similarly organized government in Syria.