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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
Video: Kersey discusses why he’s opposed to House Bill 1479. It is an education bill that focuses on revamping and privatizing failing schools. The bill is very similar to a nation-wide program proposed by President Obama. In his 2012 Department of Education budget, Obama is looking to allocate $600 million for the project.
I sat down with Indiana State Representative Clyde Kersey last night at Comfort Suites in Urbana to talk about what’s going on in his home state. Of the 40-member Democratic caucus, some 35 representatives are on the run in Urbana, one in Kentucky, two are missing and two were left on the floor of the House of Representatives.
In a surprise visit, Indiana Democratic Representative Clyde Kersey gave a talk in Latzer Hall at the University YMCA on Wednesday, February 24, 2011. He and the entire Democratic caucus have fled the state. About 35 of them have taken refuge in Urbana where they are holding out on two bills which would destroy public education and undermine unions in Indiana.
“How long will we be out?” Rep. Kersey said. “As long as it takes.”
The Indiana Democrats are opposing two bills, HB 1468, the so-called “right to work” bill, a union-busting piece of legislation. According to Kersey, in 22 states where similar bills have been passed, salaries have gone down an average of $5,500.
What has received less media coverage is the “voucher bill,” HB 1479, which will dismantle the public school system and eliminate teacher bargaining units.
“It’s an attack on teachers. It’s an attack on working men and women,” Kersey said.
The February issue of The Public i is out now! There are articles on: Coretta Scott King by Courtney Suzanne Pierre; Chicago artist Margaret Burroughs by Brian Dolinar; the legal battle of Timothy Kendrick; racial microaggressions by UIUC profs; an eBlack update by Noah Lenstra; UC2B by Laura Allured; SOLHOT article by Porshe Garner; and a visit to Guinea by Isak Griffiths.
There is a complete archive of essays from the MLK essay contest on our new web site.
Also, read about the effort to erect a new tower for WRFU, 104.5.
The people of Madison and the rest of Wisconsin are not alone in protesting their government. Others are standing up for labor rights all across the Midwest in Michigan, Iowa, Ohio and Indiana, and showing support from across the nation and beyond. Today, at noon, ralliers met and spoke at the Alma Mater on the University of Illinois campus. They shouted support for the people of Wisconsin and spoke about their own issues in organizing here. The Service Employees International Union, for example, hasn't had a raise in years while the University president got an extra $170,000 and improvements on his residence.
Join the effort; go to the University YMCA, where groups like the Campus Faculty Association and the Graduate Employee Organization will hold down camp until the bill in Wisconsin gets defeated. Watch movies, come study, host your own events, come and learn.
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Check out the February 2011 edition of the Public I to read about my first-person experience in Washington DC.
Songs in the podcast:
"Nowhere Man" by The Beatles
"Wedding Cake" by Cataldo
"Home" by Explosions in the Sky
"Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" from the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack
"Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
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A Texas man's two-and-a-half year old drug case in Champaign County finally came to an end on February 9, 2011 in Judge Tom Difanis' courtroom after State’s Attorney Dan Clifton suddenly dropped the case. The alternative was for Judge Difanis to rule on an 8-page Motion to Dismiss for lack of a speedy trial. Had the State not dropped the case and the judge not granted the Motion to Dismiss, then the trial would have commenced.
Timothy Kendrick was arrested on Sept. 4, 2008 when coming from Houston, Texas to pick up his brother in Champaign and go to see their mother in a Chicago hospital. The apartment where Kendrick went to pick up his brother was raided within that half hour by the Drug Enforcement unit of the Champaign police with a search warrant. Kendrick claims that of the five adults who were present on the scene, or brought in from the parking lot, one of them was let go and Kendrick’s fingerprints were the only ones taken. He says his photo id was taken from his pocket while he was handcuffed and a crime scene photo was taken with his ID propped up in a kitchen cabinet, above a drawer where drugs were found.
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Check out what's coming up at the IMC in early February!
On Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011, a solidarity rally for Egypt took place at the Champaign County Courthouse in downtown Urbana.
More than 100 people stood in the bitter cold to show their support for the ouster of Egypt's President Mubarak and called on the US to get out of the Middle East.
One woman reported that her sister who is in Cairo told her that there were F-16s doing flyovers above the city, planes which the United States had sold to Mubarak.
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Qwantrell Ayers was brought into a courtroom Friday morning, Jan. 21, 2011, in a wheelchair. He claims that the previous Friday, Jan. 14, he was kicked in the back, his groin, and had his leg injured by Sgt. Johnson in the Champaign County jail. He has been in and out of Carle Hospital three times since the alleged beating due to internal bleeding described as “excessive.” A colostomy bag was attached during surgery after he was having difficulty urinating. His leg is also swollen making it difficult to walk.
He was in court for a ruling on his fitness to stand trial for criminal charges against him. After a report filed by Champaign psychiatrist Dr. Jeckel, Qwantrell was ruled to be unfit by Judge Heidi Ladd and will receive treatment at the McFarland Mental Health Center in Springfield. Also in the courtroom was Qwantrell’s mother, who I spoke with in order to get her son’s account of what happened.
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A look at upcoming events at the Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center for the week of January 10 and beyond!