community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show... * We explore the roots of the global food crisis * The Officer who killed Oscar Grant will stand trial for murder * A campaign for Israel divestment is launched in Pittsburgh * Domestic Workers United march in New York for a bill of rights * The Pittsburgh City Council votes to arm police with assault rifles * And more in our local and global headlines
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Rustbelt Radio for June 15, 2009
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 other 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:
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We turn now to local stories.
Jonas Moffat of Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine explains:
Local activist Courtney Nassar gives an account of the action:
Pittsburgh's efforts are in solidarity with boycotts taking place worldwide, including in Europe.
Former Congressional Candidate Titus North describes the awareness aspect of the Boycott Israeli campaign:
Comparisons have been made between the current situation in Palestine and the history of apartheid in South Africa. Alborz Ghandehari speaks;
Despite Israel's three week bombing attack on the Gaza Strip this past winter and the recent refusals to adhere to Obama's demands to cease West Bank settlement expansion, local activists remain hopeful that their organizing efforts in the U.S. will have an impact on the situation abroad.
The Boycott Israel Campaign will continue its efforts to pressure Trader Joe's to take Israeli goods off of its shelves. This Saturday, June 20th is World Refugee Day. In light of the current Palestinian refugee crisis in Israel and the Occupied Territories, a local action is scheduled in front of Trader Joe's on Penn Avenue Saturday the 20th at 2 P.M. Other cities around the U.S., including San Francisco and San Jose, California will be launching a boycott Israeli products campaign as well. For more information go to www.bigcampaign.org
The Pittsburgh City Council voted on May 21st to fund the purchase of assault rifles for the Police Bureau. The vote was unanimous. The bureau plans to purchase 46 Smith and Wesson MP-15 rifles, and to give each zone station six rifles while 10 will go to the police training academy.
In advance of the vote, many citizensâ€™ groups voiced strong objections to arming the police with assault rifles. The Black and White Reunion, the Thomas Merton Center, One Hood, the Coalition Against Violence, and the Black Political Empowerment Project and others worked together to gather over 100 signatures in support of a petition to delay the vote 6 months. The proposal to give the police assault weapons was a direct response to the shooting deaths of three police officers on April 4th, when they responded to a domestic disturbance call and were met at the door with AK-47 fire. However, the anti-gun activists assert that even if the police had had similar weapons, it may not have saved the officers, because they had no information about the situation they were entering. Activists assert that gun control legislation is far more likely to reduce lethal violence than increasing police firepower. In a letter to the city council, the Black Political Empowerment Project called for changes in the gun laws which allow for the existence and purchase of assault weapons; tracking of the source of guns, including assault weapons, used in crimes; and prosecution of those who illegally manufacture, distribute, and/or sell these weapons. They also called for laws to reduce the prevalence of handguns.
The Fraternal Order of Police supported the proposal. In response to the question of whether giving the police assault rifles will create an arms race situation, Dan Oâ€™Hara, FOP president said that (quote) I think the exact opposite. I think itâ€™s been demonstrated that police officers are highly trained and that if we have equal weapons to what they have, they donâ€™t want to go against us for that reason. They know that weâ€™ll win in the end and I think youâ€™ll actually see it de-escalate and make the city safer. (endquote)
However, the anti-gun coalition took issue with the claims related to police training, citing the numerous incidents in which community members have been killed or maimed after the police were given tasers. Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project and co-convener of the Coalition Against Violence:
The police bureau has acknowledged that taser training has been inadequate, and there now exists a commission to improve training. The anti-gun coalition also cited the many incidents in which lethal force has been used against innocent citizens due to racial profiling, such as the murder of Johnny Gammage.
The petition to wait six months for the vote intended to delay action until emotions surrounding the police shootings had cooled.
That was Tim Stevens of the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Coalition Against Violence.
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.
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for June 16th:
Over the weekend of June 13th â€“ 15th Domestic workers United or DWU and their allies held a 24 hour vigil and a large march at New York's City Hall to demand the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Rustbelt Radioâ€™s Andalusia Knoll brings us these voices from the march.
New Yearâ€™s Day in Oakland California began with the tragic killing of an unarmed young black man. Inside a transit station, 22 Year old Oscar Grant was killed by BART police when he was shot in the back while pinned to the ground. The murder was captured on cell phone cameras by many witnesses and clearly shows that Grant was not struggling with the officers at the time of the shooting. The murder sparked riots and protests in Oakland that voiced the peopleâ€™s frustrations with the brutality and violence of local law enforcement.
BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who fired the shot that killed Grant, has been charged with murder. The preliminary hearing of the trial began on Monday, May 18th at the Alameda County Court House. During this preliminary hearing it was to be decided if there was enough evidence to proceed with a trial of Johannes Mehserle or if the murder charges should remain or be reduced.
On June 4th, the presiding judge, Superior Court Judge Don Clay, ruled that the former BART police officer will stand trial for murder. The friends and family of Oscar Grant consider this a victory on the path to obtaining justice for the murder. On Thursday June 18th, Mehserle goes to court again to declare his plea of guilt or innocence before the full trial begins. Supporters of Oscar Grant and those working against police brutality are hoping that Merserle will be held accountable for the death, unlike similar cases such as Sean Bell and Rodney King where officers were acquitted of any wrongdoing.
Following the announcement that the trial will proceed, the current status of the case was discussed at the weekly Town Hall for Justice meeting, which is held in honor of Oscar Grant. At the June 6th meeting, political leaders, relatives, and members of the faith community described the events that unfolded in the courtroom, including watching officers lie to support the case for Johannes Mehserle. Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks addressed the media bias in covering the preliminary hearing and recounted the blatant lies told by BART officials.
You have been listening to Oakland California City Councilmember Desley Brooks, describing the recent preliminary hearing of BART Officer Johannes Mehserle. The former Officer is charged with the murder of Oscar Grant, a young unarmed black male, who was shot and killed on New Year's Day. For more information go to www.indybay.org
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
The years 2007 and 2008 saw dramatic increases in world food prices. The prices for staple goods such as rice and wheat both increased by over 100%. With the prices of these goods skyrocketing, millions of new people are facing food insecurity.
Flavio Valente of Brazil is considered an expert on global food security. He has lived, worked, and studied in Brazil and the United States. He attended Harvard University to receive a doctorate. Upon returning to Brazil, Valente became an advisor to the presidency on the national food security council. He then spent 5 years as Brazilâ€™s National rapporteur on rights to food water and land. Since 2007, he has been the Secretary general of the Food First Information and Action Network. He has also written several books on human rights, nutrition and public policy.
During a lecture at the University of Pittsburgh this past spring, Valente addressed the issue of the global food crisis, what is causing it, and how it can be seen from a human rights perspective.
You have been listening to food security expert Flavio Valente of the Food First Information and Action Network.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, and WIUP Indiana.
Our hosts this week are Jessica McPherson, Shawn Watson and Carlin Christy with contributions from Jessica McPherson, Carlin Christy, Andalusia Knoll, Jason Oddo, and Seth Bearden. This week's show was produced by Phill 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.