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56 posts categorized "Civil Rights"

August 01, 2012

'Occupy' Photographer Gets Close-Up of Burlington Pepper-Spraying

Occupy Burlington Convergence (Burlington, Dylan Kelley, 2012) 003_1Vermont photographer Dylan Kelley was in the middle of the action Sunday when police dressed in riot gear fired pepper spray and "stingball pellets" into a crowd of protesters at the conference of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers. His pictures are some of the most arresting images to emerge from a melee that veteran demonstrators say is unprecedented in Burlington history.

Kelley posted the photos on his blog and the online news journal Vermont Commons, where he is a board member. They appear on Blurt by permission.

Kelley, a 25-year-old student at Burlington College, has been documenting the Occupy movement with his lens for months. He’s travelled all over the country photographing occupiers in New Hampshire, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Oakland.

“I’ve photographed all this stuff in various places where headlines are emerging,” says Kelley. “But to come back and be hanging out on College Street and see this go down, it feels like another thing entirely.”

Occupy Burlington Convergence (Burlington, Dylan Kelley, 2012) 012_1

Occupy Burlington Convergence (Burlington, Dylan Kelley, 2012) 006_1

More photos after the jump.

Continue reading "'Occupy' Photographer Gets Close-Up of Burlington Pepper-Spraying" »

July 30, 2012

Video: Police Clash With Protesters Outside Governors Conference in Burlington

ProtestPolice fired pepper balls and sting balls at protesters outside the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference in Burlington yesterday.

Activists from New England and Quebec converged on the Queen City for a day of protests outside the conference, which took place at the Hilton Burlington. The protests centered on Canada's mining of tar sands oil and what environmentalists believe is a plan to ship tar sands oil through the Northeast Kingdom. Protesters also rallied in solidarity with Quebec's student demonstrations and representatives from the Innu First Nation denounced Hydro Quebec.

The rallies were peaceful and non-violent all day long, with protesters numbering in the hundreds. But late in the afternoon, a small group of protesters attempted to block buses believed to be carrying the governors and premiers from leaving the Hilton's side driveway on College Street. It was then that protesters and police clashed and some protesters were shot with "less-lethal" munitions.

From a Burlington Police Department press release:

[Protesters] were warned several more times before a crowd control team of officers with plastic shields and helmets was deployed to walk ahead of the bus following standard procedure to ensure that protestors were not struck and to assist the bus in leaving. As the officers walked forward they were physically confronted by the crowd. Some began pushing back toward the officers, others sat on the ground while at least two others laid down locking arms. 

Click here to read the full account of the incident from the police department.

Below are some videos and photos shot by protesters and onlookers.

Continue reading "Video: Police Clash With Protesters Outside Governors Conference in Burlington" »

July 17, 2012

Burlington City Council Approves Planned Parenthood No-Protest Zone

Anti-abortionThe Burlington City Council overwhelmingly approved an ordinance Monday night that establishes a 35-foot "buffer zone" around health centers. The vote was 13 to 1 in support, with Councilor Paul Decelles (R–Ward 7) casting the lone dissenting vote.

Councilors said the ordinance seeks to balance the First Amendment right of protesters to speak out against abortion with the public safety concerns of patients to access medical care without being subjected to threats, fear or intimidation, 

Although the new ordinance applies to all healthcare facilities in Burlington, its primary aim was the Planned Parenthood clinic on St. Paul Street. Since moving to its downtown location last fall, Planned Parenthood has reported an uptick in anti-abortion activists approaching its patients on the sidewalk, asking why they're visiting the clinic and, in some cases, trying to dissuade them from getting an abortion.

Jill Krowinski, Vermont public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, told the council that in the past month alone, 30 patients have reported being "approached, intimidated or harassed" by anti-abortion protesters as they attempted to enter the clinic, creating "a serious public safety issue."

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Approves Planned Parenthood No-Protest Zone" »

July 16, 2012

Vermont DMV To Use Facial Recognition Software On All New Driver's License Photos and IDs

Operatorg-1The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) confirmed this week that it plans to upgrade its database to enable the use of facial recognition technology on all newly issued driver's licenses and state identification cards. The DMV says the upgrades to its photo-capture workstations are designed to crack down on identity fraud. However, civil libertarians warn that the capture and storage of such biometric data, which are unique to each individual, move Vermont another step closer to a full-time surveillance state.

"Facial recognition software offers the most promise to ensuring that a person is not using another person's information to obtain a license/ID card nor has multiple identities within our database," explains Michael Smith, the DMV's director of operations, in an email query response to Seven Days. "The software focuses on facial features that aren't easy to alter. Using sophisticated mathematics, it measures characteristics such as the distance between pupils, mouth size and shape of facial features."

The new technology, which is tentatively scheduled for implementation by late fall, costs $900,000 and is being paid for entirely by federal funds. Once implemented, Smith says, the system will compare each driver's license or ID card photo issued that day with photos already in the DMV's database. If potential matches are detected, the system will flag them for human review by the department's Criminal Investigators Unit.

Continue reading "Vermont DMV To Use Facial Recognition Software On All New Driver's License Photos and IDs" »

April 24, 2012

Rape Inside CCA Prisons? Brattleboro Prison Advocate Brings Shareholder Measure Seeking Stats

Cca_logoAn editor at the Brattleboro-based Prison Legal News (PLN) is using his position as a Corrections Corporation of America shareholder to shine a light on a pervasive problem: sexual assault in America's private, for-profit prisons.

Alex Friedmann has brought a shareholder resolution to the board of CCA with the goal of forcing the nation's largest owner and operator of for-profit prisons to release statistics on how often sexual assaults occur within its walls and what efforts it's making to reduce their incidence.

CCA owns and operates more than 60 facilities in 19 states, with capacity of more than 85,000 beds, according to its website. The Vermont Department of Corrections currently houses 470 inmates in two out-of-state CCA prisons: the Lee Adjustment Center, in Beattyville, Kentucky; and the Florence Correctional Center, in Florence, Arizona.

Prior to joining PLN, Friedmann served 10 years of a 20-year sentence — including six years in a CCA prison in Clifton, Tennessee — for armed robbery, assault, attempt to commit murder and attempted aggravated robbery, all crimes he committed in the late 1980s and early '90s. He is also president of the Private Corrections Institute, a Tallahassee, Florida-based nonprofit watchdog group that opposes private prisons.

 "So, I have an obvious bias in this regard," admits Friedmann, who is 42.

In the years since his release, Friedmann has worked to reform the private prison industry. Several years ago, Friedmann bought a single share of CCA stock so he could attend CCA shareholder meetings. Today, he owns 191 shares, enough to permit him to introduce his first shareholder initiative.

Continue reading "Rape Inside CCA Prisons? Brattleboro Prison Advocate Brings Shareholder Measure Seeking Stats" »

March 22, 2012

Do Ask, Do Tell! Norwich University to Celebrate Its First-Ever "Pride Week"

800px-Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skiesThe oldest private military college in the United States is about to get doubly fabulous: Next week, Norwich University in Northfield will celebrate its first-ever "Pride Week" from March 26 to 31. The schedule of queer-tastic festivities includes a keynote address by Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, as well as remarks by Gov. Peter Shumlin at Norwich's first Queer Prom on Saturday, March 31. And, in keeping with the fine military tradition of not just opening doors but kicking them down, NU's Pride Week will also feature a tie dye t-shirt-making event, a "Free Love Dance" and a "Condom Olympics." What's next — celebratory bong hits with a brigadier general?

Continue reading "Do Ask, Do Tell! Norwich University to Celebrate Its First-Ever "Pride Week"" »

March 15, 2012

Debating How to Die: Senate Judiciary Committee Hears Testimony on "Death With Dignity" Bill

DSC02069Following an emotional three hours of testimony on a right-to-die bill Wednesday, state Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor) shared a personal story about her mother to explain why she opposes the legislation.

At age 92, Nitka says her mother was "able bodied and still working" until one night when she fell and broke her hip. Nitka was at home covering her pepper plants to protect against an October frost. Nitka called her mother, who lived in Albany, and told her to look at the beautiful stars outside. Her mother switched the lights off to get a look and fell down in the dark.

Nitka says her mother went downhill over the next five weeks and was ultimately "eased out of life with morphine." To Nitka, that personal experience convinced her that it is not necessary to pass a law giving terminally ill Vermonters with fewer than six months to live the option of taking a fatal dose of medication.

"We already have a type of care that is easing people out of life," she says.

After collecting dust for more than a year, a right-to-die bill finally got a hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. More than 100 people packed a Statehouse hearing room for a bill that backers call "death with dignity" and opponents call "physician-assisted suicide." Committee chairman Dick Sears (D-Bennington) agreed to take testimony on the bill but predicted it likely wouldn't pass — even if it does get a vote, which is far from certain.

Sears opposes it. So do Nitka and Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington). That leaves only two members of the Judiciary Committee — bill cosponsors Jeanette White (D-Windham) and Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden) — who support the legislation. Nitka says she wasn't moved off her position by Wednesday's hearing, despite testimony from supporters including the architect of Oregon's right-to-die law, illustrating the long odds proponents face in getting the bill passed this year.

Continue reading "Debating How to Die: Senate Judiciary Committee Hears Testimony on "Death With Dignity" Bill" »

December 16, 2011

Indefinite Detention? Vermont's Senators Split on Support for Defense Spending Bill

LeahyVermont's U.S. senators parted ways last night over whether to support the $662 billion Pentagon spending bill, a sweeping piece of legislation that includes provisions civil libertarians fear will allow the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism rather than allow them a constitutional right to trial.

Citing concerns with the size of the budget bill, along with the indefinite detention provisions, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against the bill — one of just 13 senators to do so.

After an unsuccessful attempt to strip the bill of the indefinite detention language, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) voted yes, helping to pass the defense bill by a vote of 83-to-13 late Thursday night.

"At a time when we have tripled defense spending since 1997 and spend more today on defense than the rest of the world combined, I get concerned that my deficit-hawk friends say we’ve got to cut Social Security, Medicare, education, health care and other programs that help working families, but when it comes to defense spending the sky is the limit," said Sanders in a statement.

Continue reading "Indefinite Detention? Vermont's Senators Split on Support for Defense Spending Bill" »

December 13, 2011

Welch Joins Last-Minute Call to Strip Indefinite-Detention Provision from Defense Bill

220208gitmoRep. Peter Welch has joined 36 House members in challenging controversial provisions — namely, those that would allow the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of being terrorists — contained in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The proposed legislation, argue Welch and others, "authorizes indefinite military detention of suspected terrorists without protecting U.S. citizens’ right to trial."

Hey, what's a little indefinite detention between friends?

A letter was recently submitted to the House and Senate conferees (see full text below) in an attempt to turn back some of the bill's most egregious violations of constitutional rights, Welch said.

Continue reading "Welch Joins Last-Minute Call to Strip Indefinite-Detention Provision from Defense Bill" »

November 29, 2011

Who's Sitting Next to Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson in Tuesday's Burlington Free Press? Her Wife!

DSC00924A photo on the front page of Tuesday's Burlington Free Press captured a lighthearted moment from yesterday's swearing-in ceremony of Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson. The 46-year-old lawyer and gay rights advocate is responsible for the fact that same-sex couples can marry in Vermont.

To Robinson's left is Gov. Peter Shumlin, the guy who appointed her to the bench and for whom she has served as legal counsel for the past year.

To Robinson's right? The picture shows a smiling woman — with a camera — sharing a laugh with Robinson. But the caption doesn't identify her. Not a whisper. And she is, of course, Robinson's wife: Dr. Kym Boyman.

Normally such an omission would be no big deal. Standard, even. But the irony of this one can't be ignored.

Robinson has spent most of her professional life trying to get Vermont to recognize gay and lesbian relationships. She made a convincing case for civil unions before the Vermont Supreme Court in 1999. Then she masterminded the lobbying effort that led the legislature to pass same-sex marriage into law in 2009.

That Robinson's own partner remains nameless in a photo that otherwise perfectly documents her personal odyssey proves there's still work to be done.

If that was Mr. Robinson sitting next to Vermont's newest supreme court justice, do you think a copy editor would have tracked down the photographer to confirm his identity? No doubt.  

Justice for all? Not yet.

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