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"All That Harms Labor Is Treason To America" --- Abraham Lincoln
Despite the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, this year's Labor Day March was a spirited affair. Members of the Iron Workers union, the Illinois Education Assocation, IBEW, Campus Faculty Association, and the Graduate Employees Organization joined other local unions for a march through Urbana.
Unemployment in Champaign County is the highest it's been in decades at 9.8%. Yet among many local unions morale is high as there have been successful strikes both with the GEO in November 2009 and more recently in Mahomet where the local chapter of the IEA won a strike.
The Labor Day Parade will conclude with a picnic in Prarie Park at Washington and Lierman in Urbana.
Greg Koger was found guilty on three misdemeanor counts by a jury on Thursday, August 26, 2010. Charges against him were pressed by the so-called Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago and carried out by the Skokie police and a Cook County State's Attorney. After he was found guilty following a three-day trial, a judge immediately revoked his bond and sent him directly to the Cook County jail where he spent last night.
I met Greg in 2005 through the UC-IMC Books to Prisoners program. Greg was then an inmate in Pontiac Correctional Center and we became pen pals. In December 2006, Greg was released and has since lived in Chicago and held a job as a paralegal working for an attorney.
To hear of Greg's re-incarceration is crushing. Greg is no harm to society. His jailing is another sign of a cruel and inhumane criminal in-justice system.
Below is a statement from the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason and Dropping the Charges in support of Greg.
As students were moving into campus dorms along Florida and Pennsylvania Avenues in Urbana, the SEIU Local 73 and the Campus Labor Coalition held a rally to bring attention to the deepening crisis in public education. The union also held other pickets across campus throughout the day. At lunchtime, they marched in front of students and parents chanting “Students Move In! Tuition Hikes Out! Students Move In! Wage Freezes Out!”
As freshmen students return to campus this fall, they face a 9.5% tuition increase voted on this summer by the Board of Trustees. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is asking workers to accept wage freezes and recent hires among the Building Service Workers are recommended to take a 13.5% pay cut. Across the campus, empty faculty positions are not being filled, job searches are being cancelled, tuition waivers for graduate students in Fine Arts are being rescinded, and annual contracts for lecturers and instructors are not being renewed.
The first day of school for Mahomet Seymour students did not happen today because the Mahomet Seymour Education Association (MSEA) has been out on strike since 7 am.
The union has had previous struggles with the school board over employment issues. The summer of 2009 was spent pressuring the district to bargain with MSEA about staff performing medical procedures like the insertion of catheters. The district board had refused to negotiate the matter and expected non-medical staff to perform medical procedures.
World's First Udderbot Recital: Jacob Barton preforms new xenharmonic music by local composers on a unique instrument
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Jacob Barton presents his first full-length concert featuring the udderbot, a unique slide woodwind instrument invented in 2005.
A joint project of OddMusic-UC and UnTwelve, the concert will feature adaptations of pre-existing compositions and new music commissioned especially for the occasion. Sixteen composers, half of them Champaign-Urbana residents, participated in the commissioning project.
The recital will take place at 8 PM on Friday, August 20, 2010, at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. Admission is a $10-15 sliding scale, with no one turned away for lack of funds. RSVP is recommended.
New issue of the Public i is out on stands now with a report back on the US Social Forum by Sarah Ross, an article about the local film scene by Jason Pankoke, news about the Odyssey Project by Noah Lenstra, a story about the Odyssey Project by Kerry Pimblott, two articles about programming for local youth by Belden Fields, and more.
The cover image is of a brick dedicated to Grandpa Walfeldt, grandfather of the local progressive movement.
The following letter to the editor from Caroline Yang was printed in Sunday's News-Gazette.
It responds to the trial of Keving Hemingway and in particular the skewed article on the trial by NG reporter Mary Schenk
Thanks to our kind readers for notifying us of the letter's publication.
As someone who witnessed most of the trial of Kevin Hemingway, I noted a troubling untruth and a glaring omission in Mary Schenk’s report. First, Ms. Schenk’s assertion that Mr. Hemingway “admitted to Champaign police that he robbed Herbst” is simply not true. This was never revealed during the trial. Considering that this case carries the possibility of an extended sentence, it would be generous to call Ms. Schenk’s error irresponsible.
The IMC was recently awarded $6,400 from the City of Urbana for the second annual IndyMedia & Arts Lab as part of the Consolidated Social Service grant. The Lab will take place July 26th-August 5th and will guide youths 13-16 years of age though a series of workshops focussed on: audio/radio production, community gardening, painting, and instrumentation. This 2 week-long initiative seeks to provide affordable summer activities that will empower youths to utilize their talents to explore various outlets of self-expression in a safe, nurturing environment. Lunch will be served to participants. Time - TBA. Enrollment is still open, and spots are limited! For further information contact Katy Vizdal at email@example.com or at 217.344.8820."
Learn to swing dance or polish you skills! Get ready to dance to great bands at the Champaign Music
Festival......or just have fun learning a classic couple dance!!!! $ adults $2 kids. Proceeds to
benefit Community Center For the Arts (C4A) www.c-4a.org (Donations als welcome to
support C4A's music camp scholarship fund.
On Monday night, June 14, 2010, longtime community activist Terry Townsend delivered a list of demands for construction of the new school to replace the Booker T. Washington School in Champaign. The new school is to fulfill the requirements of the consent decree to provide an additional 200 seats in the historically black community of the North End. The Unit 4 School Board is currently reviewing bids for the $13 million school. The old school has already been torn down and its replacement will be roughly double the size. Townsend says that this will significantly impact the neighborhood, bringing increased traffic and paving the way for gentrification.
Approximately 50 people protested in Champaign-Urbana against Israel's recent attack on a flotilla carrying aid to Palestinians in the Gaza strip. The blockade against Gaza has been in place since the democratic election of Hamas in Gaza and basic humanitarian aid has been shut off to the people residing there. The flotilla was in international waters when Israeli Defense Forces were dropped from a Black Hawk helicopter. In an ensuing clash, at least ten pro-Palestinian activists were shot and killed. One of those still missing is an activist who was on the Mavi Marmara boat, according to Chicago IMC. Other protests took place in Chicago, across the country, and around the globe.
According to Champaign City Manager Steve Carter, the appeal of a 30-day suspension given to Daniel Norbits, the officer who shot and killed Kiwane Carrington, was denied.
A day after the suspension was announced, an attorney with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) filed an appeal on behalf of Norbits. A hearing was held on May 18, 2010 between the FOP attorney, Norbits, Deputy Chief Troy Daniels, and Carter.
After a CCAPP meeting held Monday, May 24, 2010, Carter told me personally that he had made his decision and the appeal was denied. The city, he said, would send me a copy of his statement in response to a FOIA request for the results.
See the attached pdf. for Carter's letter to Norbits.
The demolition of Booker T. Washington Elementary began on May 19, 2010. A new two-story school costing $18 million is going to be built to fulfill the requirements of the "consent decree." The new school will double in size, significantly impacting the neighborhood.A traffic study has been conducted showing the increased traffic in the area.
According to local black activist Terry Townsend, a plan is underway to destroy the historic Douglass Park neighborhood.
On Wednesday May 19th at 7:30 pm one of the country’s best new Americana/Roots Bands, Red Molly, recently featured in Dirty Linen Magazine and scheduled to perform at Merle Fest this year, will grace the stage at the IMC. Red Molly consistently brings concert-goers to their feet with stunning three-part harmonies, crisp musicianship and a warm, engaging stage presence. They have earned a devoted and ever-widening fan base, and have begun to tour nationally. Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner and Carolann Solebello have a lot of fun on stage, and it’s contagious.
On Monday night, May 3, 2010, Durl Kruse delivered a proposal for revisions to the complaint process for the Champaign Police Department before the Champaign Human Relations Commission on behalf of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice. The document is a 12-step process to strengthen transparency in the the complaint process, which many have admitted is broken. Citizens who have gone to file complaints against the Champaign police are known to have been turned away, discouraged, yelled at, and delayed in recieving a response for months.
Members of a newly-formed working group were present at the HRC meeting. They include Mark Aber, Andre Arrington, Jamar Brown, Police Chief R.T. Finney, Sgt. David Griffet, Valerie McWilliams, Garth Minor, Deputy Chief Holly Nearing, and Steve Carter. Their areas identified for considering changes are: 1) making a complaint 2) offering mediation 3) reporting results and 4) educating and informing the public.
The working group plans to present their proposals before city council. Whether they would first be brought before the HRC at the next meeting on June 7 was not clarified.
At an event held in late 2009 by the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago in the suburb of Skokie, Gregory Koger was arrested for voluntarily videotaping a free speech statement made by Sunsara Taylor, a political commentator and writer for Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist party. After being asked to speak at the event, Taylor was later disinvited because of her political views. As an act of protest, she read a prepared statement in a public meeting area at the conference which was videotaped by Koger. As he was videotaping, Skokie police grabbed Koger, handcuffed and maced him, then charged him with trespassing.
Recently, Koger was charged with contempt of court by the Cook County State’s Attorney for speaking publicly about his arrest at a forum where he was on a panel with Billy Ayers, Marc Falkoff, and Sunsara Taylor, and for those speaking on his behalf at a website organized by his defense committee. He will be in court Wednesday, April 28, 2010. If found in contempt of court, he will be sent to jail.
On April 21, 2010 some 40 to 50 people gathered in front of the Swanlund Administration Building for an event billed "Take back YOUR Campus Rally". The gathering was organized by Students for Chief Illiniwek (SFCF), the Orange and Blue Observer, and Illini Against a Mascot as a response to SFCF Freedom of Information Request findings showing the UIUC administration scrambling to articulate a post-mascot era policy regarding the display of their copyrighted property. The entire Pro-Mascot rally is now available at http://www.iresist.org/
The April issue of the Public i can be viewed here. The theme is environmentalism for Earth Day this month with articles on the anti-coal campaign of Students for Environmental Concerns, Prarie Roots, Olympian Drive, Judi Bari, and Guerrilla Gardening.
Champaign City Manager announced that Officer Daniel Norbits, who shot and killed Kiwane Carrington, has been suspended for 30 days. This is the maximum suspension that can be enforced according to the police union contract. The justification was that Norbits "failed to maintain control of his weapon." The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police promptly responded, saying that Norbits was now the "victim" in the case.
See the attached pdf for the full reports.
Tuesday night, April 20, 2010, Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice presented three proposals for changes to the Champaign police union contract, set to expire on June 1, 2010 and currently under negotiation. Over a dozen organizations endorse the proposals, including the NAACP, Ministerial Alliance, and Planner's Network.
Here's Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart at the Tea Party in Champaign on April 15, 2010.
The Mayor says about Obama, "I don't think he's American, personally," and denies the existence of the President's birth certificate.
· Tamms Super Maximum Correctional Center, which opened in March 1998, is Illinois’ only “Supermax” prison. It is located at the southern tip of Illinois, originally opened under the guise of being for short-term incarceration.
Although it was 2008 when off-duty Champaign police detective Lisa Staples was caught driving drunk in an unmarked squad car, only recently were police reports describing the incident obtained. Many were outraged when Staples was given a lighter punishment than other DUI cases in Champaign County. But the public was kept from knowing the extent of her intoxication or the embarrassing details of her arrest. This case and others have led to a campaign for more harsh drug and alcohol testing for Champaign police officers.
In March 2009, I sent a FOIA request for police reports on the Staples case to the Illinois State Police. Notorious for their denials of public information, the state police summarily denied my request. After new FOIA legislation took effect in Illinois on January 1, 2010, I re-submitted my request. Now forced to obey the law, the state police handed over their records.
CHAMPAIGN- On April 1, 2010, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D) paid a quick visit to the Illinois Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall to speak about jobs, health care, and FutureGen, a coal project in Illinois.
Senator Durbin said he finds it "inexcusable and unacceptable" that wages have gone down when worker productivity is at an all-time high. He touted the new healthcare bill that recently passed saying that is it "good for everybody." And he fueled hopes that FutureGen, a proposed coal-fueled power plant with near zero-emissions, is still a possibility for Mattoon, Illinois.
Of particular interest to Indymedia fans was Durbin's renewed support for the Local Community Radio Act, a bill pending in the Senate that would open the airwaves for hundreds of new non-commercial stations across the country, bringing low power radio to urban areas for the first time.