community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * Chuck D. speaks on youth empowerment and local history at November's Urban Roots Hip Hop Symposium in East Liberty * Activists call for a moratorium on tasers in response to increased cases of police abuse and taser related deaths * Pittsburgh residents organize to save Schenley High * On the twenty-six year anniversary of the incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal, new developments in the case * Another noose incident in Pittsburgh, this time at a local high school * and more in our local and global headlines
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Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
Rustbelt Radio is broadcast live from WRCT studios every Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
We can also be heard weekly on the following stations:
We're also available on the internet, both on WRCT's live webstream at W-R-C-T dot ORG and for download, stream or podcast from our website at radio dot I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot org.
We turn now to local stories.
Women’s rights advocates, community activists, and survivors of domestic violence declared a partial victory on Tuesday when the Pittsburgh City Council passed an ordinance that set forth strict guidelines to regulate the conduct of city police officers accused of Domestic Violence.
The ordinance states that this new policy (quote) recognizes that the profession of law enforcement is not immune from members committing domestic violence against their intimate partners (end quote) and adds that (quote) It is imperative to the integrity of the profession of policing and the sense of trust communities have in their local law enforcement agencies that leaders, through the adoption of clear policies, make a definitive statement that domestic violence will not be tolerated (end quote).
Under the new ordinance, Pittsburgh Police Officers found guilty of a qualifying domestic violence crime through criminal proceedings will be terminated. Additionally, any police officer candidate who has a history of perpetrating violence including elder abuse, child abuse, sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence will be screened out of the hiring process.
Fraternal Order of Police President James Malloy called the effort (quote) a witch hunt against police officers (end quote), and stated that "Groups of ladies" and Pittsburgh City Council should butt out of police domestic-violence concerns at a public hearing on the issue.
While federal law prohibits police officers convicted of qualifying misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from possessing firearms, this prohibition was not previously enforced in Pittsburgh. Shirl Regan, executive director of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh says recent promotions of Pittsburgh Police officers guilty of domestic violence has brought this issue to the forefront.
The ordinance also mandates the confiscation of an officers weapon if he is arrested on domestic violence charges. According to Shirl Regan many women’s rights activists and advocates believe that this aspect of the new ordinance does not go far enough.
Regan added that Pittsburgh is one of the first cities in the country to pass such an ordinance. She says that they are working with people in other cities and counties who are interested in passing similar legislation.
On November 21, the Pittsburgh Courier reported on yet another noose incident in Pittsburgh, this time at Oakland Catholic High School. Fourteen year-old African-American student Dyesha Butler was confronted by a white girl who accused Butler of spreading rumors and stealing homework. The white student then pulled out a noose.
Butler went to the office to report the incident in the morning, and was told to return in the afternoon. After speaking with principal Katherin Freyvogel, Butler returned to class. The white student was removed from the school that day, and later expelled.
Butler's mother, Muriel Butler, expressed frustration at the slow process of investigation leading up to the expulsion, saying (quote) “If it was my daughter they would have kicked her out the same day and she would have been on the news handcuffed and on her way to Shuman,”
In a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, Father Kris Stubna, Secretary for Education of the Diocese of Pittsburgh wrote, (quote) “As a result of that investigation, the student that threatened another student is no longer a student at Oakland Catholic and is not enrolled in any other Catholic school....We have been and remain ever-vigilant in making certain that our Catholic schools reflect the highest standards of human respect and dignity for all persons... No school can ever think that it has reached a point where such vigilance has become unnecessary.” (end quote)
Dyesha Butler returned to school following the noose incident.
Oakland's Schenley High School is one of the city's oldest public high schools, counting among its alumni jazz musician Ray Brown and artist Andy Warhol. In 2005, the Pittsburgh School District took back its plans to shut down Schenley HIgh School after strong public opposition through the Save Schenley campaign. This year, the plan to shut down Schenley High is back, as part of what Pittsburgh Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt calls a "right sizing plan."
Students, teachers, parents, and allies are stepping up to oppose this plan. Through the Informed Reform project, community members are advocating for better and stronger community involvement in Pittsburgh school decisions.
S.J. Antonucci of Informed Reform and Save Schenley described Mark Roosevelt's latest rightsizing plan:
More from S.J. Antonucci on why Roosevelt's plan would hurt students:
Rustbelt Radio asked S.J. if there are similarities between right sizing in Pittsburgh and reform plans in public schools around the country.
Mark Roosevelt has cited asbestos and water infiltration as environmental hazards that justify shutting down Schenley, rather than budgeting money for repairs. More from S.J. Antonucci:
Here are some of the strategies that the Save Schenley campaign has used:
For more updates on upcoming hearings and rallies, visit http://www.informedreform.com. This Monday evening at 7:00 PM, there will be a public hearing on school district related issues at Pittsburgh School Board building, near Forbes and Bellefield in Oakland.
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
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You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
On December ninth, 1981, Officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed in Philadelphia. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist, Black Panther and taxi cab driver, was convicted of his murder and sentenced to death. Twenty-six years later, Mumia maintains his innocence. A new book about the case and recently released photographs of the crime scene mark the anniversary.
Maureen Faulkner, widow of Officer Daniel Faulkner, has just released a book titled “Murdered by Mumia”. She appeared on NBC's 'Today Show' with co-author Michael Smerconish on December sixth to promote the book. Mumia supporters were pleasantly surprised, yet detractors were appalled when Today Show Host Matt Lauer acknowledged protesters outside the studio and asked Mrs. Faulkner: (quote) "There is a fairly substantial protest right across the street from our studio. These people got up early in the morning, came from someplace to express their views that this man is innocent. Why do you think they're here if they don't truly believe that?" (end quote) Faulkner replied, (quote) "They are trying the case in the court of public opinion and not in the court of law."
To see the segment from the Today Show, you can go to www.phillyimc.org
The Today Show segment followed on the heels of a Reuters article from December 4th about recently released crime scene photographs. The pictures, by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff, depict aspects of the murder scene that Mumia supporters say are inconsistent with evidence produced by prosecutors. In response to the release of Smerconish and Faulkner's book, the group 'Journalists for Mumia' held a press conference along with activists David Love, Linn Washington Junior, and Pam Africa, to offer their own answers to the question - "Was Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner really 'Murdered by Mumia'?" Hans Bennett, from Journalists for Mumia:
One photo shows a policeman holding two guns in his bare hand, contradicting that officer's trial testimony that he had preserved ballistics evidence. Another picture shows Faulkner's hat on top of a parked car, contrasting with the official police photo of the crime scene in which the hat was on a sidewalk grating. According to Bennett, the picture suggests the police were manipulating evidence to produce a more dramatic picture. A third picture shows a blood-stained sidewalk where Faulkner was shot but lacks any sign of marks in the concrete that would have occurred if the officer had been shot from above, as prosecutors contended.
The press conference also addressed the questions of where these photographs have been for the past twenty-six years, and why Pedro Polakoff didn't contact Mumia supporters on his own.
The movement to free Mumia is pushing for more mainstream media coverage of the new photographs and will continue to push for a new trial. Mumia's case is still pending following a hearing held in May 2007 in front of the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Blackwater Worldwide is a private security contractor in operation in Iraq since 2003. It has been referred to as a mercenary organization with little to no accountability to neither the US nor Iraqi governments and their citizens. Blackwater is the largest of the U.S. State Department's three private security contractors and they have received hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts over the past 5 years to operate in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their personnel include special-forces operatives, soldiers, and retired law enforcement agents, including Chileans trained during the Pinochet regime.
Between 2005 and September 2007, Blackwater security staff were involved in 195 shooting incidents. In 163 of those cases, Blackwater personnel fired first.
Although practices such as these have been documented for years, a recent killing of 17 Iraqi civilians on September 16th has drawn wider public scrutiny to the company.
Dubbed the Nisour Square shootings, witnesses claimed that the attack was unprovoked and that Blackwater personnel continued firing while the Iraqi civilians were fleeing. However, Blackwater maintained that its guards were under attack and responded accordingly. The FBI found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and found no evidence to support assertions by Blackwater employees that they were fired upon by Iraqi civilians.
In response to this event, on October 20th, 40 peace and justice activists from the Norfolk, Virginia-based Catholic Worker group and Blackwater Watch staged a reenactment of the killings at the company's headquarters in North Carolina. Demonstrators say they wanted Blackwater officials to see what Iraqi's go through everyday. (quote) “Blackwater is a mess both domestically and internationally…We would like the killing and the bloodshed to stop..."
Seven demonstrators who crossed onto Blackwater's property were arrested and charged with trespassing among other offenses. This past Wednesday December 5th, a district court judge found the group guilty. The protestors were given sentences ranging from from 10 to 45 days. All of the sentences were suspended, on the condition the defendants not violate any laws while on probation for one year, and pay fines ranging from $100 to $450.
None of the defendants said they planned to pay their fines, saying they would rather give their money to the poor. None of the seven were expected to go to jail — at least not immediately — because all said they planned to appeal Barnes’ rulings. One protestor Steven John Baggarly, stated he believed his actions were justified. “We have been charged with breaking the law… We felt like breaking the law was the strongest, unequivocal non-violent statement we could make against Blackwater. ... Breaking the law is very much to the point: as it is law, in the end, that perpetuates war.”
In April of this year, President Bush was asked by a college student to talk about how privately contracted security firms are regulated under US law:
On October 5, 2007 the State Department announced new rules for Blackwater's armed guards operating in Iraq. State Department security agents will now accompany all Blackwater units operating in and around Baghdad. The State Department will also install video surveillance equipment in all Blackwater armored vehicles, and will keep recordings of all radio communications between Blackwater convoys in Iraq and the military and civilian agencies which supervise their activities.
To view the video of the protest, go to www.blackwaterwatch.net
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
The phrase "Don't Tase Me Bro" is now part of the popular vernacular. But the controversial weapon, the Taser, has also become increasingly common. In just the last two weeks of November four men in the United States and three in Canada died after being shot with tasers. Following these deaths the United Nations Committee Against Torture declared that the use of taser stun guns can be a form of torture, thus violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The committee said the stun guns cause extreme pain and in some cases death. Various reports state that tasers have been involved in over 250 deaths.
Civil rights organizations -- including Amnesty International and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and civil liberties groups including the ACLU of Texas -- have called for moratoriums on their use until independent hard evidence is shown that they are safe,
The recent death of an unarmed Polish Tourist in a Vancouver airport has called into question the safeness of tasers. Forty year-old Robert Dziekanski had flown in from Poland to live with his mother. Upon arriving in Canada Dizekanski, couldn’t find his mother and was unable to communicate with any airport staff or police as he did not speak English. After waiting 10 hours he became increasingly agitated, and shortly after he picked up a wooden table, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police tased him. He died minutes later.
The Tasing of University of Florida student Andrew Meyer during a John Kerry Lecture also received national attention. Mayer, who was asking John Kerry about African American disenfranchisement in the 2004 presidential elections, was dragged away by police and then tased. A video of the incident has been widely circulated on the internet, with Youtube remixes sampling Mayer’s screams, and T-shirts being sold with the phrase “Don’t Tase me Bro”. Here is an excerpt of the Youtube video:
As public criticism of tasers grows, Taser manufacturers have increased their marketing campaign. Taser International has lobbied Police Departments to purchase Tasers and Shieldher Inc. has been sponsoring “taser parties” in which women sell these “less lethal” weapons to friends out of their homes.
Shortly after the University of Florida incident Rustbelt Radio had the opportunity to interview Debbie Russell with Stop Taser Abuse Today and the ACLU of Texas about the proliferation of these stun guns and grassroots campaigns to curb their usage.
That was just Debbie Russell speaking about Tasers, their connection to deaths, and campaigns to stop their proliferation. For more information you can visit http://stoptasers.org
On Friday, November 16th, Royal Tribe Music held the first annual Stand Up Now! Urban Roots Hip Hop Symposium. The event took place at East Liberty's Kelly Strayhorn Theatre and featured performances by local poets and hip hop artists as well as a panel on current media issues. Chuck D, activist and hip hop artist with the group Public Enemy, was on hand to share his thoughts on music, politics, youth, and Pittsburgh's vibrant history.
You are listening to Chuck D, speaking at the Stand Up Now! Urban Roots Hip Hop Symposium on November 16th of this year.
Among Chuck D's many recent political projects, he continues to be a committed activist against the exploitative diamond trade in West Africa. You can hear him as a narrator in Kareem Adouard's short film Bling: Consequences and Repercussions. Chuck D. was also recently honored at the first Justice, Arts and Music (J.A.M.) Awards, designed to draw attention to the positive impact of hip-hop culture.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, WVJW Benwood, WIUP Indiana and WKCO Gambier.
Our hosts and contributors this week are Andalusia Knoll and Matt Toups with additional contributions from Vani Natarajan, Diane Amdor, and Carlin Christy. This week's show was produced by Phillip Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, or to send us your comments, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. All of our shows are available for download or podcast on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now!
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.