Monthly Archives: November 2014

Lessons Of Ferguson For Massachusetts

Originally posted here by WBUR on November 25, 2014.

Written by Carol Rose, Executive Director of ACLU of Massachusetts.

The anger, grief and disillusionment felt by many following the decision of a St. Louis grand jury not to issue an indictment against the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, has been met by public officials in Boston and nationwide with public calls for peace.

Calls for peace are understandable. Calls for calm are not.

The Boston Police Department, for example, issued public warnings to be on the lookout for “outside agitators.” Presumably, the BPD was unaware that the phrase “outside agitators” was made famous in 1964 by the segregationist governor of Alabama, George Wallace, to warn against the advocacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Outside agitators” was also the term invoked by the infamous Birmingham Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor to justify turning dogs and fire hoses on black protesters seeking justice.

Similarly, households of students in the Boston Public Schools reportedly received robo-calls from the BPD this past Saturday, urging them to be peaceful following the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson.

Of course, the BPD is right that we don’t need more violence. But where was the letter acknowledging that the people of Boston, and all over this country, have not only a right but a reason to be upset about racial injustice? Where were the robo-calls to young people in Boston acknowledging the BPD’s own documented history of treating people of color differently from white people?

Boston demonstration in reaction to Grand Jury decision in Ferguson; November 25

Boston demonstration in reaction to Grand Jury decision in Ferguson; November 25

I believe that most law enforcement officers work with courage and respect for the communities that they are sworn to protect and serve. But we ignore at our peril the patterns of racial bias in police stop and frisk practices, as well as police use of excessive and sometimes fatal force without adequate investigation and accountability.

And if you don’t think what happened in Ferguson can happen here, think again.  In many ways, it already has.

Do the names Malcolm Gracia, Mark Joseph McMullen or Denis Reynoso ring a bell? They should. Each of these Massachusetts men was recently killed by police officers. In each case, there was no independent investigation into the police shootings.

Malcolm Gracia, age 15, was fatally shot by two New Bedford police officers in 2012. The incident began with a stop and frisk, when officers stopped two teenage boys as they left a neighborhood basketball court. The encounter quickly escalated as officers surrounded the two boys. One officer reportedly grabbed Gracia, who reportedly then pulled a knife and stabbed the officer. Other officers fired two sets of three shots; the first set appears to have brought Gracia down to one knee, and the second set included a fatal shot to Gracia’s head.

The district attorney who investigated declared the shooting justified. But the DA’s report failed to justify the second, ultimately fatal, set of shots. It also failed to examine adequately the stop and frisk practices of the police, which lead to the confrontation in the first place.

The ACLU, NAACP and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights called upon Attorney General Martha Coakley to conduct an inquest into Malcolm Gracia’s death. It never happened.

Mark Joseph McMullen, a 44-year-old black man, was shot by white Boston police officers in 2011. Again, the local DA declared the police shooting justified. Again, the ACLU, NAACP and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights requested an inquest to restore public confidence. Again, there was no independent investigation. Instead, the Boston Police Department presented the Schroeder Brothers Memorial Medal — “the highest medal given . . . in recognition of bravery” — to the officers who fatally shot Mark McMullen.

Honoring police officers involved in fatal shootings seems to be a pattern. Just five days ago, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and the State Police awarded medals of bravery to three Lynn police officers who last year shot and killed Denis Reynoso, a veteran of the Iraq War who was reportedly suffering from PTSD when he was killed by police in 2013.

Beyond these shootings, consider the plight of tens of thousands of black Bostonians who are stopped, interrogated, frisked and searched by Boston Police Officers simply because of their race. Despite their stories — and a recent ACLU-issued report documenting racial bias in stop-and-frisk practices — the Boston Police Department has yet to announce a single policy change to address the problem.

We needn’t look to Ferguson to realize that racialized policing undermines public safety. We should not wait for violent street protests to reform police practices in ways that would enhance both public trust and public safety.

We need only take an honest look at ourselves.

Of course, people of color and their allies in Boston, Ferguson, Birmingham and the rest of America don’t need “outside agitators” to stand up for their rights. They are doing it on their own.

But they shouldn’t have to. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” we all have an equal obligation to stand up to racial injustice:

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial outside agitator idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Perhaps that is the real lesson of Ferguson.

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Become a Bricklayer or Allied Craftsmen

Applications for annual open enrollment for Apprenticeship in Bricklayers & Allied Craftsmen Local 3  MA-ME-NH-RI Apprenticeship & Training Program will be available for anyone interested in becoming a Bricklayer or Allied Craftsmen at the Training Facility located at 64 Mount Vernon Street, Dorchester MA on the following dates:

January 5,6,7,8 and 9 – 2015 (Days)  11:00 am – Noon only

January 5,6,7, and 8 – 2015  (Evenings)   6:00pm – 7:00

Directions by car:  take 193 North or south to Exit #15 (JFK Columbia Road.

From the North: at the bottom of ramp take a right, go to set of lights which should be Dorchester Avenue, take a right and next right to end of street…64 Mt. Vernon Street.

From the south take right and go around the rotary back on the other side of road (Columbia road) and go to set of lights, take a right and first right again – 64 Mt Vernon Street.

If there is any need for more information please call the Bricklayers and allied Craftsmen Local No. 3 at 617-242-5507

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Two Pastors and 90-year-old Face Jail Time for Feeding Homeless


November 3, 2014;WPLG Local 10 (Miami, FL)

This past week, two pastors and a 90-year-old man were charged by Fort Lauderdale police for violating a new city ordinance banning public food sharing. Arnold Abbott, 90, was the first to be charged. Having run a nonprofit that has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale for over 20 years, Abbott has faced obstacles to his mission from the city before. In 1999, Abbott won a lawsuit against the city after restrictions against feeding the homeless on Fort Lauderdale Beach were announced. And legal action might be needed again, as Abbott and the local pastors face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for their charitable work.

In 2012, NPQ covered a similar situation concerning food sharing in Philadelphia. Before that, in 2011, it wasFood not Bombs in an Orlando park. And according to surveys found in the October 2014 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless, “Share No More,” 12 cities, in addition to Ft. Lauderdale and Philadelphia, passed property use restrictions for feeding the homeless in 2013-2014. Such ordinances block the use of public space in terms of public food sharing, claiming that providing food to people experiencing homelessness causes traffic congestion and an increase in littering. Other cities cite food safety among the reasoning behind their anti-food sharing regulation. As such, nonprofits and others looking to distribute food in these cities often need to obtain a variety of special permits—a process that can be costly and time consuming for smaller organizations and individuals.

Such criminalization of the homeless and of people offering assistance is being fought by organizations like the National Coalition for the Homeless, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Claiming that regulations and restrictions on the homeless and their supports are not only ineffective and cost-inefficient as policy but also inhumane, advocacy against such marginalization of the homeless is reaching international levels. In November, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will ask the U.N. Committee Against Torture to review the U.S.’s human rights treaty commitments to rule that the criminalization violates our country’s human rights obligations. Such rights include the right to food, as confirmed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1999, the Commission on Human Rights in 2000 and the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture in 2003.

By ending criminalization, efforts can be put into policies that help the individuals who are suffering from homelessness achieve success rather than penalizing them for their human needs. Such goals can only be achieved through resolving the causes of homelessness – not by banning support services to those that need them.—Michele Bittner


Originally posted by: Non Profit Quarterly


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Mass. voters back paid sick leave

Voters have approved a ballot question that supporters say will give Massachusetts the nation’s strongest requirement for providing paid sick time to workers, according to the Associated Press.

Question 4 entitles people to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year if they work for businesses with 11 or more employees; staff at smaller companies would earn 40 hours of annual unpaid sick time.

Proponents of the ballot initiative said the change would improve productivity and public health, because workers now have to choose between going to work sick and losing income.

Those who urged a no vote argued that small businesses need flexibility and should not have their hands tied by new regulations.

November 05, 2014   Boston Globe


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