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On Monday, March 14, 2011, former Champaign police detective Lisa Staples returned to court for a second DUI. She nearly killed two 17-year-old girls on December 19, 2010 when she struck their car at high speeds. According to four additional charges filed in court, Staples also lied when applying for a new driver’s license and Illinois state ID card just two days after her license was taken away.
In the initial report by Mary Schenk in the News-Gazette, Sheriff Dan Walsh was interviewed. Giving a minimum of the details, Walsh said that Staples had apparently rear-ended a small SUV on a country road near Bondville. Walsh provided irrelevant information about an Ameren gas line that was damaged. What Walsh did not say, and Schenk failed to follow up on, was that there was much more damage done that night.
On Friday, March 11, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off Japan's main island close to Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The quake, which was the strongest one ever to hit Japan, and the resulting tsunamis killed at least 1000 people. Today, there was also an explosion in a nuclear power plant which was damaged by the earthquake. The damaged plant has already exposed people to radiation. Please donate to the Red Cross relief effort. Give $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999. Your donation will go to support relief efforts for the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific. To give more, go to this Red Cross donation Web site.
On Friday, March 11, 2011, approximately 300 people joined a nationwide student walkout and rally on the quad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. What was unique about this rally was the number of many new faces of people who did not typically show up for rallies on campus. They have clearly been inspired by the mass protests in Wisconsin and rapidly spreading throughout the Midwest in Indiana and Ohio.
The rally was part of a nationwide call for student walkouts in solidarity with union workers in Wisconsin. On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers rammed through legislation undermining the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions in the state capitol in Wisconsin where there have been ongoing demonstrations for three weeks. On Friday morning, Governor Scott Walker signed the bill into action.
Local LGBTQ activist group Equality Champaign-Urbana has announced a boycott of the Chick-fil-A restaurant franchise. This action is in coordination with the LGBT law group OUTlaw as well as other University of Illinois student groups who are working to keep the fast food chain's contract from being renewed at the UIUC. Indiana University South Bend, Florida Gulf Coast University, Duke University and the University of North Texas are also working to either remove the franchise or keep it from coming to their school.
Recently the restaurant came under fire from the LGBTQ community when it was revealed that they have donated food and money to a number of anti-LGBTQ groups including Focus on the Family, the National Organization for Marriage, Exodus International and the Pennsylvania Family Institute. Chick-fil-A has also said that same-sex couples are not welcome at the company's marriage institute.
Equality Champaign-Urbana believes that it is neccesary to boycott Chick-fil-A because they finance inequality. It is wrong to pay for our own discrimination or anyone else's.
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Consider this: as I write this article, I can look out my balcony and see a number of homeless people asking for food and money on Green Street in Champaign. People pretend to send text messages or cross the street just to avoid confronting dingy-looking adults. We all have problems, so why not ask someone, “Will you allow me to help you?”
It took a first-hand perspective and some guidance from a man named David Pirtle for me to understand the gravity behind this concept. Pirtle started his journey here in Champaign, where he once attended Parkland College. While battling with schizophrenia he wandered the country for several years and found himself homeless in Washington DC. Someone finally reached out to him, helped him get cleaned up, and he now works with the National Coalition for the Homeless advocating for the rights of individuals within the homeless community of the District of Columbia.
Check out what's coming up at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center during the first two weeks of March!
Below is a report back from Madison by the GEO's Michael Verderame. BD