Posts filed under Civil Liberties

Bolivarian Process (Cont’d)

Shared Article from The Japan Times

Maduro-backing militias storm Caracas congress, rough up opposit…

Pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars stormed congress on Wednesday, attacking opposition lawmakers during a special session c…

CARACAS – Pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars stormed congress on Wednesday, attacking opposition lawmakers during a special session coinciding with Venezuela’s independence day.

Four lawmakers were injured and blood was splattered on the neoclassical legislature’s white walls. One of them, Americo de Grazia, had to be removed in a stretcher while suffering from convulsions.

“This doesn’t hurt as much as watching how every day how we lose a little bit more of our country,” Armando Arias said from inside an ambulance as he was being treated for head wounds that spilled blood across his clothes.

The unprecedented attack, in plain view of national guardsmen assigned to protect the legislature, comes amid three months of often-violent confrontations between security forces and protesters who accuse the government of trying to establish a dictatorship by jailing foes, pushing aside the opposition-controlled legislature and rewriting the constitution to avoid fair elections.

. . . Later Maduro condemned the violence, but complained that the opposition doesn’t do enough to control “terrorist attacks” committed against security forces by anti-government protesters.

— Maduro-backed militias storm Caracas congress, rough up opposition lawmakers
The Japan Times (July 6, 2017)

Shared Article from Reuters

Brazil bans tear gas exports to Venezuela due to violence: sourc…

Brazil's government has halted exports of tear gas for use in Venezuela due to violent repression of protests there, two sources familiar with the dec…

Brazil’s government has halted exports of tear gas for use in Venezuela due to violent repression of protests there, two sources familiar with the decision said on Monday, a move that added to the diplomatic isolation of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro.

Brazil’s Defense Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Relations made the joint decision in response to appeals by the Venezuelan opposition, the sources said.

The Defense Ministry said on Friday that Rio de Janeiro-based Condor Tecnologias Não-Letais had not shipped tear gas canisters to Venezuela’s armed forces as negotiated in April, without giving a reason.

Condor confirmed on Friday that it had two active contracts in Venezuela, but declined to comment on specific shipments.

The company and ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

The involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Relations underscores the role of diplomacy in the decision, as Brazil’s armed forces usually take responsibility for licensing the export of “controlled products” such as the stun grenades, rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas made by Condor.

“The (Brazilian) government decided to accept the opposition’s request because there’s a massacre in Venezuela,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity to speak freely. The other source, a senior government official, said export of other crowd control equipment would also be denied.

— Brazil bans tear gas exports to Venezuela due to violence: sources
Reuters (June 19, 2017)

See also.

Free Claudia Rueda — Border Patrol targets DACA youth activist

A couple weeks ago on May 18, Border Patrol agents in Los Angeles swept a neighborhood in Boyle Heights, raiding houses and an apartment complex and arresting seven Mexican-American and Guatemalan-American immigrants.

It appears the reason behind the raid was a deliberate effort to target Claudia Rueda Vidal, a 22 year old DACA-eligible student at Cal State LA. Claudia has been an immigrant rights activist since she was 17, previously got her mother Teresa Vidal-Jaime released from immigration lockup, and has publicly denounced the abusive practices of the Border Patrol. Throughout the raids, Border Patrol agents repeatedly interrogated community members asking for Claudia Rueda by name until they found her outside on the street and surrounded her. She is currently detained at Otay Mesa Detention Center.

Shared Article from Take Action: Urge ICE to Grant Prosecutorial Discretion to Claudia

Take Action: Urge ICE to Grant Prosecutorial Discretion to Claud…

Claudia is an immigration activist, DACA eligible youth and student at Cal State LA

Support Local Los Angeles Action: Press Conference to Denounce Border Patrol Raids and Abuses

  • When: Thursday, June 1st, 2017
  • Where: End of S Bernal Ave (Intersections: S Bernal Ave & E Sabina Street, 90023)
  • Time: 10am
  • Organizations present will include: Union de Vecinos, Los Angeles Immigrant Youth Coalition, Ovarian Psyco-Cycles, Serve the People, Defend Boyle Heights, NDLON, Cal State Students


Facebook Event

L.A. city government announces plans to decriminalize street vending

Thank goodness. They should have done this, anyway, decades ago. But now it is more urgent than ever.

Shared Article from Remezcla

LA Won't Arrest Undocumented Street Vendors Anymore

Some vendors receive warnings or tickets. Others face arrest and criminal misdemeanor charges, which increases their chances for deportation.

Yara Simón @

Just End It

Recently from Jesse Walker:

In practice, CVE’s efforts are already focused overwhelmingly on Muslims. But the big question here shouldn’t be which groups ought to be the program’s targets. It’s whether the program should exist at all. No matter whether it’s aimed at Islamists, white nationalists, or anyone else, the CVE approach has two big problems.

First: It rests on the idea that the best way to root out terrorism is to fight “radicalization.” This idea has support among both Democrats and Republicans, but the evidence supporting it is sparse. When investigators at the British think tank Demos (not to be confused with the U.S.-based liberal group of the same name) spent two years studying the differences between violent and nonviolent radicals, they found that while nonviolent radicalism can be a stepping stone to terrorism, it can draw people away from terrorism too. Meanwhile, there were other forces pulling people into terrorism that didn’t have much to do with ideology at all. Other probes have reached similar conclusions. So the focus here is all wrong: Radical ideas do not usually lead to violent tactics, and violent tactics do not emerge only from radical ideas.

Second: That focus can lead to some serious civil liberties problems. “Even though the agencies running the programs promised that they wouldn’t use CVE for intelligence purposes (as they did in earlier iterations of it), the program itself is designed to teach community members, teachers, police, social workers, and religious leaders to identify and report to law enforcement people showing signs of ‘radicalization,'” comments Michael German, a former FBI agent who now hangs his hat at the Brennan Center for Justice. So in practice, he argues, you get “soft surveillance,” and that surveillance “is intended to suppress ideas, which is likely to cause more problems than solve them. It encourages the identification, reporting, and ‘treatment’ of people with bad ideas, which will only lead to misuse of security resources and deprivation of civil liberties.”

Needless to say, that sort of surveillance can itself radicalize people. So CVE also runs the risk of contributing to the very process it’s meant to stop.

–Jesse Walker, Don’t Rebrand the ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ Program—Just End It
Reason, 2 February 2017

Shared Article from

Don't Rebrand the 'Countering Violent Extremism' Program—Just …

The question shouldn't be which groups the program ought to target. It's whether the program should exist at all.

Jesse Walker @

Don’t Send In The Clowns

You are going to think I am making this up, that this is a joke. I am not making it up; it is not a joke. I received this e-mail at 2:03pm on Tuesday from the Auburn University Public Safety & Security Department. This is a straight-up copy and paste job from the e-mail.[1] It is possibly the most amazing thing I have ever received from the campus cops.

From: Auburn University Public Safety & Security
Date: Sep. 20, 2016, 2:03pm
Subject: Rumors of Clowns on Campus

Auburn University Community:

On Monday evening the university and Auburn Police Division received a few reports of people dressed in clown costumes on campus. There were also several social media posts that suggested the same. We have seen similar reports of clown sightings at other universities and towns across the State of Alabama and the Southeast.

Auburn Police officers were on patrol and immediately responded to the areas reported but were unable to locate anyone. Auburn Police will continue to patrol our campus and investigate any suspicious activity. We are not aware of any danger or threat to our campus community.

We also had a report of students walking around looking for people dressed as clowns. For your safety, we strongly encourage you to leave this job to Auburn Police. Please use good judgment and avoid wearing clown masks, as it could be perceived as a hazard or threat to others.

We urge our campus community to be vigilant and always report anything suspicious by dialing 911. If you have information or questions, you can call the Auburn Police Division’s non-emergency number at 334-501-3100.

Another resource that is available to students is the free Rave Guardian app. Features of this app include the ability to send tips and photos to Auburn Police or set a safety timer to allow friends and family to help look out for your safety. Get the app and register with your AU email to maximize the features available.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind you about the Night Security Shuttle which provides safe on-campus transportation and operates from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m. (while the Tiger Transit is not running). To request a ride on the security shuttle, please call 334-844-7400. This on-campus service is free to our campus community.

The safety of our students, employees and visitors is our priority and we will continue to do everything possible to keep our campus safe.

Over at Reason‘s Hit and Run blog, here’s Jesse Walker on the Great Clown Panic of 2016 as it comes to higher education and secondary education in Alabama.

Shared Article from

The Clown Panic Comes to College - Hit & Run :

Auburn University has issued a public-safety bulletin about the clown menace. Read it here.

Jesse Walker @

The Great Clown Panic of ’16 began in August, you’ll recall, when children at an apartment complex in Greenville, South Carolina, claimed to have spotted some malevolent clowns in the woods, sparking city-wide chatter about clown conspiracies. Before long, the delirium was spreading across the Carolinas. In Winston-Salem, two kids claimed that a clown carrying candy had tried to lure them into the forest; not long after that, in nearby Greensboro, a man called 911 to report a clown, who he then supposedly chased into the woods with a machete. (“Officers responding to the call could not find the clown,” the local News & Record reported.)

The meme[2] had marched into Georgia by mid-September, when two Troup County residents claimed to have seen some clowns trying to lure kids into a van, then confessed that they had made it up and were charged with making a false report. Last week a Georgia girl was arrested for bringing a knife to her middle school. She said she needed it to protect her from the clowns. By then the currents of coulrophobia had flooded into Alabama, where Facebook posts about the clown threat prompted schools across the state to go on lockdown, and where yet more hoaxsters were eventually arrested.

Now the Alabama wave has hit the world of higher education. . . .

. . . Amid this cascade of hoaxes, pranks, and schoolyard rumors—and possibly, at some point, a sighting of an actual professional Bozo on his way to a birthday party—there have been exactly zero confirmed cases of harlequins plotting to kidnap or molest children. But you knew that already.

Meanwhile, in the Lee County high schools, it looks like a teenager, allegedly a young woman at Beauregard High School, used the clown panic to get on social media and make threats of a school shooting, either against Opelika City Schools or against Beauregard High School or against Beauregard Elementary School. The Lee County sheriff said there is no evidence that the threat is credible, but Beauregard schools announced they’ll be under a heightened sense of awareness for the rest of the week, which means, more or less, that they’ll be swarming the campus with cops from the sheriff’s office; and Opelika City Schools placed schools on lockdown yesterday. The sheriffs office announced that they had used tracking technologies to identify, track down and arrest the female student allegedly responsible for the video (We used technology available to us to identify who she was. –Sheriff Jay Jones.) They will be charging her with felony charges for making terroristic threats. Meanwhile, people in the newspaper comment threads are more or less overtly threatening to shoot people for wearing clown suits, and newsmedia stories continue to relay reports of an amorphous clowning menace lurking in the shadows of social media and the dark edges of the piney woods:

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office isn’t the only agency in the area to receive reports of creepy clown threats.

LaGrange police took to Facebook to warn the public about several calls they received Set. 12 about clowns in a van and wooded area trying to talk to children. There were also threats made on Facebook media the previous weekend from “clowns” threatening to commit crimes at LaGrange schools.

Police determined that the threats were not credible. By Friday, they arrested four people who allegedly made “creepy clown” threats toward LaGrange High School.

Two were arrested in Troup County Sept. 14 after falsely reporting creepy clown sightings in Hogansville, Ga.

–Sarah Robinson, Hundreds checked out of Lee County schools following ‘creepy clown threat’
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, September 21, 2016

And in the superstore parking lots of Alex City:

Clown sighting at Walmart proves unfounded

Wednesday afternoon a customer at Walmart on Highway 280 called police to alert them to a person dressed as a clown in the parking lot.

The caller told dispatchers that she saw a male, dressed in a clown costume in an older model red pickup truck with a confederate flag showing in the back.

. . . Officers were dispatched to the parking lot, but found the vehicle empty when they arrived. They backed off and waited for the occupant of the vehicle to return. But when the owner returned, there was no white makeup, no red nose, no rainbow wig and not a single balloon animal. The man wasn’t even wearing size 24 red shoes.

After questioning the man for a few minutes, police left and the man went on his way, and was seen dialing a cellphone to tell someone what had just happened.

While this turned out to be nothing, Alexander City Police issued an alert via social media on the subject.

“We have received social media messages in reference to clowns posting threats on social media pages” a post attributed to Deputy Chief Jay Turner reads. “The threats have not been credible and as written in the article it takes a considerable amount of time to investigate the alleged threat.

“The easiest solution is to change your social media security settings and only allow those you know to post on your social media page; this will eliminate receiving posts from these fake profiles being used in this current fad of clown hysteria.”

Elsewhere, police are locking people up when they track them down.

After threats were made to schools in Baldwin, Bibb, Calhoun, Escambia, Etowah, Geneva, Jefferson, Mobile and Montgomery counties, there have been several arrests. A 16-year-old from Pleasant Valley, an 18-year-old in West Blocton, 22-year-old Makayla Smith and two juveniles from Flomaton and four Geneva juveniles, three students at Geneva Middle School and one Geneva High School student, have all been arrested and face charges. Several are charged with making terrorist threats.

–Mitch Sneed, Clown sighting at Walmart proves unfounded
Alex City Outlook, September 21, 2016

  1. [1]If you want some corroboration, here is the Plainsman story issued about “Clown Sightings on Campus” shortly after the e-mail blast was sent out.
  2. [2]Sic. There’s no such thing as a meme. —Ed.