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"I Can't Breathe": As Protests Erupt in NYC, Eric Garner's Nephew Speaks Out on Grand Jury Ruling

Democracy Now - Thu 07 14 AM

The Justice Department has announced it will launch a civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner after a grand jury decided not to charge a white New York police officer for causing his death by placing him in a chokehold. Garner, who was an African-American father of six, died in July after being placed in a chokehold and wrestled to the ground. The grand jury’s decision set off protests across New York City that shut down parts of the city including the Brooklyn Bridge, the West Side Highway and the Lincoln Tunnel. Protesters also staged a die-in in Grand Central. At least 83 people were arrested. Garner’s death occurred just weeks before Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, and sparked a national debate about police use of excessive force, and the New York Police Department’s policy of cracking down on low-level offenses. Garner was first confronted on July 17 by police for allegedly selling single, untaxed cigarettes known as "loosies" on the streets of Staten Island. Garner’s family says it plans to sue the city for wrongful death, pre-death pain and suffering, and civil rights violations. We speak to Garner’s nephew, Brandon Davidson.

Ecuadorean Authorities Seize Climate Caravan Bus Carrying Activists Opposed to Drilling in Yasuni

Democracy Now - Wed 07 56 AM

A caravan of environmental activists traveling to the United Nations climate summit in Lima, Peru, has been stopped by authorities in Ecuador and had their bus seized. Activists with the group Yasunidos departed from Quito on Monday to denounce the extraction of oil from Yasuní National Park, an area of the Amazon renowned for its biological diversity. The group says they were subjected to seven or eight stops in the first 24 hours of their trip, and ultimately stranded by the side of a highway last night, when authorities seized their bus. We go to Cuenca, Ecuador, where we’re joined by two guests: Elena Gálvez, coordinator of the climate caravan and a member of Yasunidos, a group that opposes oil drilling in Yasuní National Park; and Ariel Goodman, a journalist traveling with the caravan.

Father of Missing Mexican Student Speaks Out as U.S. Protesters Stage Day of Action Against Drug War

Democracy Now - Wed 07 43 AM

Protests at federal buildings in at least 43 U.S. cities today will call for halting American aid to military and police forces in Mexico until human rights abuses are addressed. Organizers in the United States are working with the grassroots movement in Mexico triggered by the disappearance of 43 students in September. Protesters are using the hashtag #UStired2 — the English-language counterpart to the hashtag #YaMeCansé, a campaign in Mexico to protest state violence and human rights abuses. U.S. military and security aid to Mexico totals more than $3 billion since 2008. We are joined by two guests: Clemente Rodríguez, whose 19-year-old son Christian Alfonso Rodríguez is one of the 43 missing students; and Roberto Lovato, a writer and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research, and one of the organizers behind the #UStired2 initiative.

Peace Activist Sentenced for Protesting at Drone Base Near Syracuse, NY

Democracy Now - Wed 07 31 AM

A longtime peace activist was sentenced today to one year conditional discharge for demonstrating outside the gates of New York’s Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, which is used to remotely pilot U.S. drone attacks. Mark Colville faced up to two years in jail stemming from his arrest last December. More than 100 people have been arrested over the past five years as part of a nonviolent campaign organized by the Upstate Drone Coalition. Hours before he learns his fate, Colville joins us to discuss his activism and why he opposes the U.S. drone war. [Editor’s Note: This summary has been updated to reflect today’s sentencing which occurred after our broadcast.]

A "Precise" U.S. Drone War? Report Says 28 Unidentified Victims Killed for Every 1 Target

Democracy Now - Wed 07 26 AM

A new report finds U.S. drone strikes kill 28 unidentified people for every intended target. While the Obama administration has claimed its drone strikes are precise, the group Reprieve found that strikes targeting 41 people in Yemen and Pakistan have killed more than 1,000 other, unnamed people. In its attempts to kill al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri alone, the CIA killed 76 children and 29 adults; al-Zawahiri remains alive. We are joined by Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve and author of the new report, "You Never Die Twice: Multiple Kills in the U.S. Drone Program."

United Nations Panel Slams U.S. Record on Police Brutality, Torture, Child Migrants & Guantánamo

Democracy Now - Wed 07 09 AM

As protests continue over the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the United States is facing pressure internationally over its failure to put a halt to police brutality. In a new report, the United Nations Committee Against Torture expresses deep concern over the "frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals." The Committee also criticizes a number of other U.S. practices on torture and imprisonment, Guantánamo Bay, and the custody of migrants including children in "prison-like detention facilities." We discuss the report’s findings with Dr. Jens Modvig, member of the Committee Against Torture and one of two rapporteurs for its report.

Will Texas Execute a Schizophrenic Man Who Tried to Subpoena Jesus, JFK & the Pope at His Own Trial?

Democracy Now - Tue 07 39 AM

We look at the case of a Texas prisoner scheduled to be executed Wednesday despite the wide belief he is mentally ill. Scott Panetti was convicted of killing his wife’s parents in 1992, more than a decade after he was first diagnosed with schizophrenia. His mental health history until that point included hallucinations that prompted his dismissal from the Navy, and 14 hospitalizations for schizophrenia and depression, often under a court order. His previous wife divorced him after he buried their furniture, because he said it was possessed by the devil, and also nailed his curtains shut. Panetti’s murder trial drew headlines when he was allowed to represent himself after dismissing his court-appointed attorney. He dressed as a cowboy in a purple suit and a hat, and the witnesses he tried to subpoena in his defense included John F. Kennedy, the pope and Jesus Christ. At one point, he assumed his alternate personality of "Sarge" and testified in the third person about carrying out the murders. Then in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Panetti lacked the understanding of why he was being put to death, and asked a lower court to re-evaluate whether he was sane enough to execute. But the courts accepted the argument from the state’s lawyers that Panetti was faking his illness and reinstated his death sentence. We speak to Panetti’s attorney, Kathryn Kase, and Ron Honberg, national director for policy and legal affairs of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Will Obama's Police Reforms Bring Change? Admin Urged to Seize Political Momentum of Ferguson Moment

Democracy Now - Tue 07 22 AM

Responding to the protests in Ferguson and cities nationwide, President Obama has announced several new actions: a new task force to come up with concrete steps for "building public trust" in police forces nationwide; a $263 million "community policing initiative," which includes $75 million to provide body cameras for around 50,000 police officers; and an executive order that will tighten rules on the provision of military-grade equipment and weapons to local police forces, such as those used in the crackdown on the Ferguson protests. But in a rejection of activists’ demands, Obama vowed to leave the transfers mostly intact. Obama has also sent Attorney General Eric Holder on a tour of communities nationwide. Holder will soon release new federal guidelines to limit racial profiling, but they will not apply to state or local police agencies, such as in Ferguson. We are joined by James Peterson, director of Africana studies at Lehigh University and the author of "The Hip-Hop Underground and African American Culture: Beneath the Surface."

The Root is Racism in America: Ferguson Activist Speaks Out on Police Abuses After Meeting Obama

Democracy Now - Tue 07 11 AM

One week after the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, President Obama has given his first major policy response to the protests from Ferguson and beyond over racial profiling and police brutality. At a meeting with activists and officials from around the country, Obama unveiled a process to address what he called "simmering distrust." The administration’s response comes as protests continue nationwide over the non-indictment of former officer Darren Wilson over killing Brown. On Monday, demonstrators walked out of workplaces and classrooms in some 30 cities with their hands raised, the symbol of Brown’s death and the movement that has emerged since. As the "Hands Up Walk Out" took place, some of the movement’s key leaders were not out in the streets but inside the White House. Obama’s guests included seven young activists who have helped organize the protests in Ferguson and in other communities of color. We are joined by one of those activists: Ashley Yates, an activist, poet and artist who is co-creator of Millennial Activists United. "While that is a step towards ending this real problem," Yates says of Obama’s reforms, "the real root of it has to be addressed. And the real root of it is racism in America, the anti-black sentiments that exist. Until we begin to address that, we really can’t have any real change — all we have are these small steps towards justice. We need leaps and bounds."

"A Dark Moment in Egypt's History": Former Dictator Hosni Mubarak Cleared in Death of Protesters

Democracy Now - Mon 07 46 AM

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was cleared of ordering the killing of hundreds of protesters during the uprising against his regime almost four years ago. The decision, which came on a technicality, means he will walk free after finishing a prison term on corruption charges, possibly within a few months. The court also cleared Mubarak’s former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, and six aides. Several thousand protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday to protest the verdict, leading to a crackdown by state forces in which two people died. We are joined by two guests: in Cairo, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, and in New York City, Egyptian journalist and human rights activist Hossam Bahgat.

Dehumanizing the Black Lives of America: Michael Eric Dyson on Ferguson, Police Brutality and Race

Democracy Now - Mon 07 28 AM

President Obama is planning a day of meetings at the White House today related to the fallout from the killing of Michael Brown and the ensuing protests in Ferguson. Obama will first meet with his Cabinet to discuss the results of a review of federal programs that provide military-style equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. He has also invited younger civil rights leaders for a meeting to discuss what one official described as the "broader challenges we still face as a nation, including the mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color." Attorney General Eric Holder is heading to Atlanta today to speak at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. We are joined by Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University. Dyson’s op-ed for The New York Times this weekend is "Where Do We Go After Ferguson?" He is also the author of a forthcoming book on President Obama and race.

"Not One More Darren Wilson, Not One More Mike Brown": National Protests Continue Ferguson Struggle

Democracy Now - Mon 07 10 AM

As Darren Wilson resigns from the Ferguson police force, protests continue across the country, from shopping malls to football stadiums, over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson for shooting dead Michael Brown. Over the past week, there have been demonstrations in more than 150 cities — on public roadways, in shopping malls and government buildings. On Saturday, protesters kicked off a 120-mile, seven-day march dubbed the "Journey for Justice" from Ferguson to Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri. Black Friday was also a day of action as activists staged protests at retailers across the country. We are joined by two activists to discuss the week’s protests and what comes next for the movement against police brutality: In Oakland, Alicia Garza, co-creator of "Black Lives Matter" and one of the 14 people arrested for shutting down the BART transportation system on Friday; and in New York City, Dante Barry, an organizer at the Center for Media Justice and Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, who participated in last week’s protests.

Novelist Isabel Allende on Her Literary Career and Memories of Chile During the CIA-Backed Coup

Democracy Now - Fri 07 01 AM

In a holiday special, we spend the hour with Isabel Allende, one of Latin America’s and the United States’ greatest novelists. Just this week she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Allende is the author of 20 books, including "The House of the Spirits," "Paula" and "Daughter of Fortune." Her latest is a mystery novel titled "Ripper." Her books have been translated into 35 languages, sold close to 60 million copies around the world. Allende now lives in California, but she was born in Peru in 1942 and traveled the world as the daughter of a Chilean diplomat. Her father’s first cousin was Salvador Allende, Chile’s president from 1970 until Sept. 11, 1973, when Augusto Pinochet seized power in a CIA-backed military coup. Salvador Allende died in the palace that day. Isabel Allende would later flee from her native Chile to Venezuela. In April, Amy Goodman conducted a public interview with Isabel Allende at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas in New York shortly after the publication of "Ripper." In this wide-ranging conversation, Allende discusses her literary career and her memories of Chile before and during the coup.

Noam Chomsky at United Nations: It Would Be Nice if the United States Lived Up to International Law

Democracy Now - Thu 07 34 AM

After world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky gave a major address on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly in October, Amy Goodman interviewed him before an audience of 800 people. Chomsky spoke at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. "One important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask," Chomsky said.

In U.N. Speech, Noam Chomsky Blasts United States for Supporting Israel, Blocking Palestinian State

Democracy Now - Thu 07 01 AM

In this holiday special, we broadcast the words of world-renowned political dissident Noam Chomsky, who recently spoke in the hall of the U.N. General Assembly at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. "The pattern that was set in January 1976 continues to the present," said Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Israel rejects a settlement of these terms and for many years has been devoting extensive resources to ensuring it will not be implemented with the unremitting and decisive support of the United States — military, economic, diplomatic and ideological."

"I Didn't Know What the Sky Looked Like Any More": Ricky Jackson Exonerated After 39 Years in Jail

Democracy Now - Wed 07 44 AM

An Ohio man has been freed from prison after spending 39 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Ricky Jackson, a 59-year old African-American man, had been jailed since 1975 on a murder conviction. The prosecution’s case was based on the testimony of a 13-year-old witness. After a 2011 investigation, the witness recanted his testimony, saying he had implicated Jackson and two others under police coercion. The witness, Eddy Vernon, said police had fed him the story and threatened to arrest his parents if he didn’t cooperate. On Friday, Ricky Jackson was freed after prosecutors dropped the case. With nearly four decades wrongfully behind bars, Jackson is the longest-held U.S. prisoner to be exonerated. He joins us today along with his lawyer, Brian Howe, a staff attorney with the Ohio Innocence Project.