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By Belden Fields of The Public i
In June, Champaign Country Associate Judge Richard Klaus was removed from his position by fellow Judges in the Sixth Judicial Circuit. This is the first time in 37 years that these judges have removed a colleague. The reason given was that attorneys and the public in the county had lost confidence in him. Indeed, the Champaign County Bar Association had urged that he not be considered for retention after observing ten years of his performance on the bench. To compound matters, County Chief Judge Difanis, a professed good friend of Klaus, had included him on the list for reconsideration even before the Bar Association had had a chance to offer its recommendations. For that, he was rebuked by the 6th District Chief Justice, Dan Flannell.
Since Ferguson, and more recently Baltimore, the searing images of police wearing riot gear, carrying high-powered rifles, and riding in armored trucks, have made police militarization a national issue. Not only is this a trend in big cities, but also in small towns like Champaign-Urbana where police have recently acquired a Mine-Resistant Armor-Protected (MRAP) vehicle fresh from the wars in the Middle East.
The Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (IMC) is seeking a full time Program Director to coordinate volunteers, outreach, program development, and fundraising for the organization. The Program Director is supported by a part time Operations Manager who manages the finances and facilities of the IMC.
Shasta Knox, a.k.a. “Klevah” [pictured right] ,an emcee at the center of a burgeoning hip hop movement in Urbana-Champaign, performed at a public forum about the broken criminal justice system. “It spoke directly to my heart,” she told me afterwards, “to see so many people passionate about something that affected me personally for most of my life.”
She revealed that when she was young her own mother was incarcerated. The years in prison did nothing to address her mother’s problems. “So much time that is wasted,” she said, “and families can literally be destroyed by this.”
Two long-time African-American community activists, Terry Townsend and Martel Miller, will be holding a press conference on Friday, Feb. 27, 4 p.m. at the University YMCA in the Board Room (1001 S Wright St., Champaign). They are releasing a report documenting the failure of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to fulfill its land grant mission of providing accessibility to all residents of Illinois, particularly its African-American residents.
On Thursday, Feb. 19, the Coalition for Police Demilitarization will make its first appearance before the Champaign County Board. The attached statement agreed to by the entire coalition, an assembly of 23 different groups, will be delivered by Rev. Melinda Carr, of the Ministerial Alliance of Champaign and Vicinity during public comment (the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m., with public comment near the beginning). We are a coalition of students, community members, people of faith, labor organizations, artists, civil libertarians, and people across racial and ethnic lines concerned about the growing trend of police militarization.
UCIMC joins MAG-Net and allies in counting down the days to the most historic FCC vote of our lifetimes. We applaud Chairman Wheeler for listening to the 7+ million public comments and coming out in support of Net Neutrality. We expect the FCC to vote in favor of the people and against the Comcast/Verizon/ATT oligopoly. Click below to call your rep and tell them "don't stand in the way of the FCC - stand up for Net Neutrality!"
***We'll be having a watch party at the IMC Thursday, Feb. 26, 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Join the Facebook page here.
Despite overwhelming opposition, tonight Urbana City Council voted to allow the Urbana Police Department to carry tasers. Tasers are weapons that use 50,000 watts of power to temporarily disable people. Although referred to as non-lethal, they have been linked to over 600 deaths in the US.
CUCPJ and UCIMC will host “Reclaiming MLK’s Radical Roots” as part of a national effort to bring the #BlackLivesMatter movement into the New Year. The event will be:
The is an interesting and thoughtful column about the University of Illinois firing Steven Salaita by Joseph Levine in today's New York Times "The Stone" discussion section.
Levine addresses the "civility" issue that Chancellor Wise raised in firing Salaita.
A controversial tweet about Israel’s bombing of Gaza this summer wasn’t true. But it ought to be.
Levine concludes, rightfully I believe, that such rhetorical questions are part and parcel of an effective educational process:
The Illinois chapter of NORML (National Organization to Reform marijuana Laws) fully supports Karen Lewis’s plan to legalize and regulate the adult cannabis market. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to decriminalize cannabis statewide is a step in the right direction it simply does not go far enough.
Decriminalization does nothing to curb the violence associated with the illegal cannabis trade and does nothing to prevent cannabis from getting in the hands of young people, especially teenagers. While decriminalization would reduce the stigma of having a criminal record it would still be against the law to consume this plant, and the manufacturing and distribution of this product would still be controlled by criminals, often violent gangs and drug cartels.
What’s next, now that the University of Illinois Board of Trustees has voted down Steven Salaita’s job? September 18, Katherine Franke, a top national scholar of law, religion, and human rights, spoke at a community conversation focused on academic freedom, political dissent, and particular legal issues involved in political action on Israel-Palestine as well as the firing of Salaita from a tenured faculty position.
Franke, the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University, is paying her own way to speak at the
Independent Media Center in Urbana. Joining more than 5000 other faculty who are boycotting the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she announced her decision
to cancel a previously scheduled speaking engagement at UIUC in a September 2 letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise. (See Letter from Katherine Franke.)
via MPP email...
Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner announced earlier this week that, if he had been in office, he would have vetoed Illinois' new law, which allows seriously ill patients access to medical cannabis. Rauner also said he preferred a system that would make business licenses available only to the highest bidders in order to raise money for state coffers.
Governor Quinn, who signed the medical marijuana bill in 2013, took exception to the comments, pointing out that the process is both competitive and transparent. His campaign called Rauner’s statements “heartless” and stressed that the law "will ease pain and provide relief for cancer patients (and) severely ill people."
by Ali Abunimah
Finally breaking its silence, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Friday claimed that the firing of Steven Salaita was “was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel.”
Rather, it was, in effect, a pre-empetive firing based on the assumption that his tweets would make him a bad teacher.
This transparent use of “civility” as a cover to fire a professor with outspoken views on Israel is almost identical to the pretext that was given by DePaul University in 2007 to deny tenure to Norman Finkelstein.
In that case, DePaul denied Finkelstein tenure on the vague grounds that he lacked “collegiality.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 5, Florida folk and Americana band Passerine lands in Urbana, IL, to perform at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. Show starts at 7:30pm. Admission is $5-10 sliding scale.
Dozens from Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, CU Immigration Forum, CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, Citizens with Conviction and other groups working for social justice in Champaign Urbana, gathered for an all-day workshop to learn media production.
In the IMC's newly created computer training classroom, participants used Audacity, free audio production software, to make short audio pieces.
DJ BJ showed people the ropes using the board in the WRFU 104.5 FM studio. Participants tried their hand speaking on air, then walked outside to view the 100 foot radio tower which broadcasted their message to all of Urbana, Champaign, and Savoy - all with 100 watts, or the power of a lightbulb.
Americans for Safe Access, the national medical marijuana patient's right organization has just released a national compilation of its evaluation of state medical marijuana laws. Although Illinois had a MMJ provision in its cannabis laws since the late 1970s, it was never more than a bit of window dressing and totally ineffective in protecting patients from prosecutors bent on running up their conviction rates. They simply ignored that part of the law, while prosecuting patients under the provisions of the law they are personally inclined to enforce.
That changed in 2013 when after years of trying, Illinois passed and Governor Quinn signed a MMJ law. While a small advance from the dreadful status patients faced previously, it is struggling to get off the ground, with significant doubts as to its ability to create improved access for patients, supply their needs at a reasonable cost, and prevent law enforcement abuse of patients.
ASA summarizes the current situation like this: