Trump administration plans crackdown on protests outside White House

The administration has suggested it could charge ‘event management’ costs for protests and close 80% of the sidewalks

Donald Trump has frequently and falsely crowed about the idea of so-called paid protesters, including most recently the sexual assault survivors who confronted senators in the lead up to the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. Now his administration may be trying to turn that concept on its head, by requiring citizens to pay to be able to protest, among other affronts to the first amendment.

Under the proposal introduced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in August, the administration is looking to close 80% of the sidewalks surrounding the White House, and has suggested that it could charge “event management” costs, for demonstrations.

Currently the National Park Service is able to recoup costs for special events, but not spontaneous protests like the ones that typically take place in Lafayette Park across from the White House. These charges could include the cost of erecting barriers, cleaning fees, repairs to grass, permit fees and the salaries of official personnel on hand to monitor such demonstrations, all tallied at the discretion of the police.

Naturally, civil liberties groups consider the proposals an affront to the rights guaranteed under the first amendment. As the ACLU notes, such fees “could make mass protests like Martin Luther King Jr’s historic 1963 March on Washington and its ‘I have a dream’ speech too expensive to happen”.

During the Vietnam War the federal government attempted to impose similar barriers to citizens freely assembling in protest and were sued by the ACLU. In their ruling the courts reasserted the fact that “the use of parks for public assembly and airing of opinions is historic in our democratic society, and one of its cardinal values”.

The White House sidewalk, Lafayette Park, and the Ellipse were unique sites for the exercise of those rights, they ruled, and therefore they could not “accord deference to an executive approach to use of the White House sidewalk that is rooted in a bias against expressive conduct…”

"If you have to pay for free speech it's not free" The is considering fees for demonstrations in D.C.. is against the proposed plan, calling it an attack on free speech. WATCH: Public comment on proposal --->

The National Park Service has attempted to justify the proposal by pointing out that large protests, like the Women’s March, overtax their abilities, and place a heavy cost on the government. One might argue when it comes to preserving our right to protest no cost is too high.

The public has until 15 October to comment on the plans.

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US Barred from Ending Protections for Migrants from 4 Countries

The TPS designation offers protection from deportation to immigrants already in the United States, including those who entered illegally, from countries affected by natural disasters, civil conflicts and other problems.

A U.S. federal judge in California barred the Trump administration on Wednesday from implementing a plan to end temporary protections for more than 300,000 immigrants in the United States from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.

RELATED: Diplomacy is the Answer to US Immigration, Not Wall: AMLO

U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen issued a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by a number of immigrants with temporary protected status, or TPS.

The government has failed to establish any real harm if “the status quo (which has been in existence for as long as two decades) is maintained during the pendency of this litigation,” Chen wrote in the order.

“Indeed, if anything, Plaintiffs and amici have established without dispute that local and national economies will be hurt if hundreds of thousands of TPS beneficiaries are uprooted and removed,” he said.

There are more than 263,000 TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, 58,000 from Haiti, 5,000 from Nicaragua and 1,000 from Sudan, according to court documents.

The Trump administration has shown a deep skepticism toward the temporary protected status program and has moved to revoke the special status afforded to thousands of immigrants from a number of countries, including the four named in the suit.

Salvadoran immigrants covered by TPS will lose their protected status in September 2019, those from Haiti in July 2019, Nicaraguan immigrants in January 2019 and Sudanese immigrants in November 2019.

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Assange's Defense Attorney Denounces Risks to Client's Health

Assange's lawyer stressed the Wiki founder's wavering health which the Ecuadorean embassy is failing to properly moderate.

WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange’s health is at risk after being held without medical attention in the Ecuadorean Embassy in the UK since 2012, defense attorney Jennifer Robinson said Saturday.

RELATED: Julian Assange Forced To Name Replacement at WikiLeaks

"We are very concerned about his health: he has been locked up in the embassy for more than six years, without proper access to medical care," said Robinson during an interview with the Catalan publication, Nacio Digital.

The lawyer stressed her client’s wavering health, which, she said, the embassy is unable to properly moderate due to lack of proper medical equipment and facilities.

"The Embassy is not equipped for prolonged detention to provide a reasonable environment...the prolonged uncertainty of indefinite detention deeply affects the psychological and physical trauma above and beyond the expected stressors of incarceration," the Australian lawyer said.

Robinson also showed concern over the “very serious” threat of Assange’s extradition to the United States for trial, “If Assange faces a trial in the US, he can not benefit from the first amendment of the Constitution, which refers to freedom of the press.

“We can not forget that he is only an editor who published material of public interest,” Robinson said.

The defense lawyer also explained the recent change in Ecuador’s administration has only served to complicate the case, which she described as a 180-degree change in political position between President Rafael Correa to his predecessor, the incumbent President Lenin Moreno, particularly in regards to bilateral relations with the United States.

On March 28, just days after hosting a delegation of the United States Southern Command (Southcom), Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno decided to cut his guest’s communications with the outside world, denying him access to the internet and banning visitors who are not part of his legal team.

Julian Assange was granted political asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in the UK in 2012. Assange faced extradition to Sweden, from England, over allegations he sexually assaulted two women, which he categorically denied.

Although the judicial process for the alleged sexual crimes in Sweden was lifted, he fears that if he is given to British authorities he could face prison for skipping bail and face extradition to the United States, where he would be tried for espionage and could be sentenced to death for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Cuba Calls for Massive Twiting and Web Forum againt US Blockade

The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) today called for a world message action through Twitter and a forum debate via Internet to reject the economic, commercial and financial blockade the United States imposed on the island almost six decades ago.

These activities will be held on Monday, September 17, between 10:00 and noon, local time in Cuba, under the title 'The world against the blockade'.

The initiative to invite Internet users to reject a siege condemned in the five continents is part of the event 'Tenemos Memoria (We have Memory): Solidarity vs. Blockade and Terrorism', taking place from September 4 to October 6.

This event also takes place in the context of preparations for a new vote, on October 31, at the UN General Assembly on a draft resolution aimed at demanding the lifting of unilateral and extraterritorial measures applied by Washington to suffocate the Caribbean nation.

Since 1992, the international community has strongly supported similar texts at the General Assembly, the main UN deliberative forum, claiming that in the last three years, 191 of 193 member states of the multilateral organization have supported it.

Some few days ago, the Cuban government published its annual report on the impact of the U.S. blockade on many sectors of society and its extraterritorial scope, a siege to which damages are valued at $933.6 billion USD, taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against the value of gold on the international market.

Official sources denounced here the U.S. pressures to try to minimize votes in favor of the draft resolution similar to that adopted in the last 26 years by the Assembly plenary session.

The administration of President Donald Trump, since he took office in January 2017, has worsened the application of a blockade that Washington has never left aside, not even in 2015 and 2016, when his predecessor, Barack Obama, admitted the failure of that policy and promoted a bilateral approach in search for the normalization of relations with Cuba.

Another feature of the new U.S. government is the escalation in its aggressive diplomacy, which includes threats within the UN to those who do not join their positions of imposition, unilateralism and hegemony, scenario present in issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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UN's Day of Abolition of Slave Trade Comes Amid Ominous Times

The Transatlantic slave trade is regarded by Pan-Africanists as the Maafa, a Swahili term meaning “great disaster.”

Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition as decreed by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco. Its purpose is to pay homage to those who were enslaved for hundreds of years as part of European colonization in the Western Hemisphere, as well as freedom fighters who heeded the call to freedom.

RELATED: Britain's Loan to Pay Off Slave Owners 'Not Repaid Until 2015'

Regarded by Pan-Africanists as the Maafa, a Swahili term meaning “great disaster,” it is estimated that between 1525 and 1866, some 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the so-called “New World,” the Caribbean, North and South America, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

Even before reaching the new world, it must be noted that the conditions aboard the slave ships were so horrific that it is estimated that 1.5 million enslaved Africans died before ever reaching the shores of the Americas.

Each year Britain goes to great lengths to celebrate its passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act on Mar. 25, 1807.

It didn't take into account the geopolitical shift spawned by the Haitian Revolution, which, after 13 years of warfare, prevailing against a number of European superpowers, including the brunt of Napolean's army, became the first Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere on Jan. 1, 1804.

It certainly didn't take into account the fact that British taxpayers were paying off slavery debt, the compensation afforded to former slave-owners as part of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, until 2015.

Speaking at a conference organized by the Center for Reparations Research, Sir Hilary Beckles, chairman of the Caribbean Community's Reparations Commission and vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), called the British government "immoral " for denying reparations to Caribbean communities.

"For me it is the greatest act of political immorality, to be told consistently and persistently to put this in the past and yet Her Majesty's Treasury has released the relevant information to suggest that it is just two years ago that this bond was being repaid," Beckles said. 

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The International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade comes amid ominous times, times that call into question and reminds the international community of the ongoing legacies of the slave trade and European colonization in the Western Hemisphere.

Britain, for its part, has been threatening to deport and has denied public services, to scores of older Caribbean-born residents who migrated to Britain between the 1940s and 1970s. Having destroyed thousands of landing slip cards and other immigration documentation of the so-called Windrush Generation residents in 2010, these older residents are now experiencing difficulties with their residential status.

The records were destroyed in 2010 when Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May was serving as Home Secretary. The move came despite warnings that it would make it hard to verify the records of Caribbean-born residents.

Speaking about the database destruction, Sir Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, said some government ministers described May's tenure at the Home Office as being “almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany.”

African-descendants, or people who identify as Black in Brazil, the country that received the largest number of enslaved Africans, are 23.5 percent more likely to be killed than any other ethnic group in the country according to the study titled, “2017 Violence Atlas.” Brasil de Fato reported that for every 100 murders in Brazil, 71 are Black people.

RELATED: Britain's Loan to Pay Off Slave Owners 'Not Repaid Until 2015'

According to Dina Alves, a lawyer and researcher of race, gender, and class, the staggering numbers are conclusive in determining that Brazil is a “genocide project” of Black people. She added that “it's not by chance that most people who die are Black, that the majority of those incarcerated are Black people. It's the state that kills when police kill.”

With the majority of Brazil's prison population being Black men, Rio de Janeiro's Public Defender's office reported earlier this month that a prisoner had died every two days during the first four months of 2018. The majority of the deaths, a total of 55 from January to April, have been attributed to infectious diseases, substandard hygienic conditions and the lack of healthcare professionals operating in the prison system.

The international day also comes amid an alarming practice that has been identified in recent months which is slave trades taking place in North African countries such as Libya amid a surge in migration from African countries into Europe using illegal and exploitive smugglers promising to take the asylum seekers into Europe using dangerous routes and boats.

Reports late last year revealed that migrants were being sold into slavery, for as low as US$400, to perform excruciating labor. Reminiscent of the auctions during the transatlantic slave trade period, migrants are priced based on their physical capabilities. Many are left broken, mentally and physically, as a result of their forced servitude, the report states.

In 2017 survivors of Libya’s slave trade testified to the United Nations on their horrific experiences. Victims reported that they were sold into slavery to pay off debts to their smugglers or to those from whom they borrowed while trying to stay afloat in the African country after their funds ran out.

Most migrants are no longer reaching their final destination, many are dying at sea, and as a result, many are opting to repatriate to their home countries empty-handed.

Meanwhile concerns are growing over modern-day slavery practices in which migrant workers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other developing countries suffer from abuse and exploitation in terms of wages and labor rights in oil-rich nations in the Persian Gulf such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which has been under fire over treatment of migrant workers employed for projects relating to the World Cup 2022. 

Some of those practices also exist in North American countries where immigrants from Central and South America suffer labor abuse at the hands of big corporations in industries like agriculture.  

Meanwhile, in the United States, a national prisoner strike is taking place to protest “modern slavery” conditions. Inmates are refusing to work, holding sit-ins and going on hunger strike from Aug. 21, the 47th anniversary of the murder of Black Panther member, George Jackson, by correctional officers in San Quentin, until September 9, which marks the 47th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising for humane conditions and fundamental sociopolitical rights.

Every day, over 800,000 inmates are forced to work in different industries in the United States. In an industry that rakes in two billion U.S. dollars per year, prisoners in the state of Louisiana receive just four cents per hour.

A shortlist of companies profiting from prison labor include Microsoft; American Airlines; Starbucks; BP; Victoria Secret; Walmart; and McDonald's.

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Humanitarian Ship seeks European Port for Rescued Migrants

More than 650,000 migrants have come to Italy’s shores since 2014, but the numbers of new arrivals have plunged over the past year, with Rome encouraging the Libyan coastguard to carry out most of the rescues.

Human rights groups called on European governments on Sunday to tell a charity ship where it can dock and let more than 140 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean disembark in safety.

RELATED: Spain Takes in Drifting Migrant Ship Aquarius as UN, EU Slam Italy Over Refusing It

The Aquarius, run by Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), rescued 141 people in two separate operations off the Libyan coast last week.

The boat had just started heading north on Sunday toward Europe when Libyan coastguards called it back to pick up 10 migrants spotted aboard a small fiberglass boat.

As that rescue was underway, SOS Mediterranee and MSF asked for guidance on where to take those they had saved.

“What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse,” said Nick Romaniuk, search and rescue coordinator for SOS Mediterranee.

SOS Mediterranee and MSF accused the Libyan coastguard on Sunday of endangering lives by not telling the Aquarius there were boats close to it that were in distress. They also said other ships in the area had apparently ignored the migrants.

“Ships might be unwilling to respond to those in distress due to the high risk of being stranded and denied a place of safety,” said Aloys Vimard, MSF’s project coordinator on board the Aquarius. “Policies designed to prevent people from reaching Europe at all costs are resulting in more suffering and forcing those who are already vulnerable to take even riskier journeys to safety.”

The Aquarius has operated in the central Mediterranean since early 2016 and says it has helped more than 29,000 people in distress, many of them African migrants, who, until this summer, were brought swiftly to Italy without any incident.

However, when a populist government took office in Rome in June, it immediately shut its ports to all NGO boats, accusing them of encouraging illegal immigration and helping human smugglers — charges the charities deny.

In June, the orange-hulled Aquarius picked up 629 migrants, including scores of children and seven pregnant women, but first Italy and then Malta refused to let it dock, provoking a row within the heart of the European Union over immigration policy.

Spain eventually agreed to take in the boat, but there was no indication of where the Aquarius might head on Sunday, with Malta immediately refusing it access and Italy saying at the weekend it would not be welcome at any of its ports.

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UN human rights chief: Trump's attacks on press 'close to incitement of violence'

Exclusive: Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who steps down this month, says US president’s rhetoric echoes that of the worst eras of the 20th century.

Donald Trump’s anti-press rhetoric is “very close to incitement to violence” that would lead to journalists censoring themselves or being attacked, the outgoing UN human rights commissioner has said.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian prince and diplomat, is stepping down this month as UN high commissioner for human rights after deciding not to stand for a second four-year term, in the face of a waning commitment among world powers to fighting abuses.

Zeid said the Trump administration’s lack of concern about human rights marked a distinct break with previous administrations, and that Trump’s own rhetoric aimed at minorities and at the press was redolent of two of the worst eras of the 20th century, the run-up to the two world wars.

In an interview with the Guardian, he singled out the US president’s repeated designation of the press as “the enemy of the people”.

“We began to see a campaign against the media … that could have potentially, and still can, set in motion a chain of events which could quite easily lead to harm being inflicted on journalists just going about their work and potentially some self-censorship,” Zeid said. “And in that context, it’s getting very close to incitement to violence.”

He said it would be up to a court but determine whether Trump was actually guilty of incitement depending on the circumstances, if say, a journalist was stabbed while covering a rally. He said Trump’s example was already being followed elsewhere, giving license to authoritarian leaders to crack down on the media in ways they had not previously dared to. Zeid pointed to the Cambodian leader, Hun Sen, who he said had used similar language when he closed down independent media organisations.

“The US creates a demonstration effect, which then is picked up by other countries where the leadership tends to to be more authoritarian [in] character or aspires to be authoritarian,” he said.

Zeid has also taken on the Trump administration over its policy of separating children from their parents in migrant families arrested at the border, and Trump’s own long history of rhetoric aimed at minorities.

“When language is used in a way that focuses on groups of people who have traditionally suffered a great deal from bigotry and prejudice and chauvinism, it harked back to a period not too long ago in the 20th century when feelings were stoked, directed at a vulnerable group for the sake of political gain,” he said, adding that he was referring in particular to the 1930s and the period before the first world war.

Zeid began his tenure as UN human rights commissioner in 2014 during the Obama administration and said his contacts with the state department dropped off significantly after Trump took office in January 2017.

“The Trump administration seems to have separated itself from previous administrations in its upholding of human rights globally,” Zeid said. The administration’s failure to appoint an ambassador to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, before withdrawing from the council altogether, he added, was “illustrative of the lack of any deep commitment to the human rights”.

Zeid has been an unspoken critic of governments around the world for their human rights records, but his tenure as high commissioner has coincided with the catastrophic failure of the UN Security Council to halt mass killings in Syria or Yemen, and the relegation of human rights as a priority at the UN in general, where it accounts for just 3% of overall spending.

A pivotal moment came in March when Zeid was blocked from even addressing the Security Council on human rights in Syria, where more than half a million people have been killed in seven years of violence.

Russia and China were adamantly opposed but the French delegation was confident it had the nine votes necessary for the session to go ahead.

However, with less than a minute to go and Zeid primed to speak, the ambassador from the Ivory Coast informed his French counterpart he had changed his mind and would abstain. The session was called off. The Ivorean government insisted that its diplomat, Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoue, had acted without its permission. Western diplomats became convinced that Tanoh-Boutchoue, who had previously served as ambassador to Moscow, had come under pressure from Russia to switch his vote, but the mystery was never resolved. The 67-year-old diplomat died in New York of a sudden illness, said to be a heart attack, a month after his controversial abstention.

Zeid said he never understood the machinations behind the vote, but said it reflected a broader trend.

“It tells me more about the weakening influence of the western powers that they could not secure nine votes for a briefing on human rights in Syria,” he said. “If you are discussing Syria in the security council and you are not discussing gross human rights violations, what are you discussing? The latest arts and crafts fair in Damascus? It’s ridiculous.”

Zeid’s has often been a lonely voice. Hopes that the current secretary general, Antonio Guterres, would be more outspoken on human rights than his predecessor, have been dashed, a western diplomat at the UN said.

“There is a complete separation of what Zeid said and what the secretary general says, and his impact has been reduced because of that,” the diplomat said. “And there a broader problem of the ability of human rights abuses to shock and lead to a change of policy. That link has been broken. Actors who should have listened to Zeid, have not.”

Zeid said he came to the decision early on in his tenure to speak out on human rights abuses irrespective of the political circumstances. He attributed his approach in part to his first major foreign mission as a UN official in his early 30s, when he witnessed first hand UN dithering and timidity during the fall of the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, and the subsequent slaughter of some 8,000 men and boys by Bosnian Serb troops.

“We felt that there were periods of silence and that was painful for the UN and the UN was not respected ultimately by the parties to the conflict and therefore we saw the disasters that came from it,” Zeid said. “And … if the UN is not respected, the UN is rolled over to my mind. You don’t earn anyone’s respect by being silent.”

Zeid’s advice to his successor, Michele Bachelet, who has been both a political prisoner and president in her native Chile, is to stay courageous and not to run for a second term.

“I would be very suspicious of any commissioner seeking a second term because I’d wonder what deals are being struck and if they’d been struck they’ve been struck on the back of victims,” he said.

The job of bearing witness to crimes against humanity also takes an emotional toll. Zeid recalled a trip to Mexico to speak to the families of 43 students who were abducted and presumed murdered by a criminal gang in 2014.

“I was listening to mothers and fathers, siblings, speak of those who were disappeared and presumably killed. After that, I had a series of interviews and I wasn’t in the right emotional state to actually give the interview because there was something deep within me where I felt I was a fraud,” Zeid said. “That given the enormity, the colossal nature of their suffering … with us they wanted salvation … they want an end to suffering. They want us to do something that is many respects almost impossible to do. That is where most of the pressure comes from in this job.”

 

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ICE denies hunger strike by immigrants at Texas detention center

(Reuters) - A group of immigrant fathers, recently reunified with their sons and detained in Texas, have gone on a hunger strike to demand their release, an immigrant rights group representing them said on Thursday.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said there had not been a hunger strike by residents of the Karnes County Residential Center, about 51 miles (82 km) southeast of San Antonio.

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“On Aug. 2, a small group of fathers and their children (fewer than 50 total) staged a brief sit-in and expressed their concerns about their immigration cases,” ICE said in a statement. The residents “appreciated the information and dispersed.”

It was not immediately clear how many fathers were in the group.

The immigrants said they were being held at the detention center with no notification from authorities on their immigration status, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) said.

Fathers had staged sit-ins, children were refusing to take part in school activities, and some fathers had started a hunger strike, RAICES spokeswoman Jennifer Falcon said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

“The dads are on a hunger strike and they are refusing to obey any directions from ICE and GEO guards,” she said, referring to private contractor GEO Group Inc (GEO.N) which runs the center. The hunger strike was said to have begun on Wednesday.

GEO did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked later to respond to the ICE statement, Falcon told Reuters: “There’s definitely a strike.”

She added that the group had audio recordings of the fathers saying they were on hunger strike.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made a hard-line stance on immigration an integral part of his presidency and has promised to keep immigrants targeted for deportation locked up “pending the outcome of their removal proceedings.”

Some 2,500 children were separated from their parents as part of a “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration that began in early May. Many of them had crossed the U.S.-Mexican border illegally, while others had sought asylum. The U.S. government said last week it had reunited just over half of them.

Fathers at the Karnes center said they were misled into agreeing to deportation as a condition of seeing their children again, RAICES said. Others said they had not been given the opportunity to apply for asylum.

A federal judge in San Diego indefinitely suspended deportations last month.

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