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Exploring African American History, In Illinois & Throughout The United States
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.