Tag Archives: New York City

LVMPD Documentary “What Happened in Vegas” Premieres in Los Angeles on Friday (Dec. 1st) at Laemmle Music Hall

Documentary What Happened in Vegas Ramsey Denison Laemmle Los Angeles Premier

What Happened in Vegas” by Ramsey Denison, the documentary about police brutality and corruption at the LVMPD, premiers in Los Angeles at Laemmle Music Hall 9pm Friday Dec. 1st.

Los Angeles Premier

What Happened in Vegas,” the award winning documentary by Ramsey Denison, is set to open in Los Angeles tomorrow. The official West Coast theatrical premier of the documentary about corruption, coverups, and police brutality at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is being held at the Laemmle Theater in Beverly Hills (a “Secret Path to Oscar Qualifying” for independent films, short films, and documentaries) at 9pm on Friday, December 1st. (Purchase tickets here.)

As has been detailed numerous times here at NVCopBlock.org, What Happened in Vegas explores the extremely controversial killings of Trevon Cole, Erik Scott, Stanley Gibson, and Tashii Farmer-Brown by Las Vegas police and the cover ups that followed. Several other instances of violent, racist, and/or outright criminal acts by members of the LVMPD are also featured to illustrate the overall systemic corruption within the department.

In the run up to the official opening, What Happened in Vegas has already received positive reviews from the Los Angeles media. In a preview article in the LA Weekly (originally published at the Village Voice), Daphne Howland writes:

Denison’s documentary What Happened in Vegas is more than a revenge project. He unveils a pattern of police malfeasance, including cover-ups and lies, through disturbing stories of unjustified deaths.

It’s a damning takedown of the city’s powers that be — casinos cozy with a sheriff willing to protect their interests, and a constabulary infected with a Wild West mentality, armed with military weaponry and prone to lies. He argues that those powers even abet a law enforcement debacle surrounding the recent mass shooting at an outdoor music festival that left 58 concertgoers dead and nearly 500 injured.

Denison keeps up the pace — those television skills coming in handy — and unpacks a lot. But he also allows in some light. There are plenty of Las Vegas police officers who want things to change, and Denison gives them, and the victims’ families, a voice.

(As mentioned within the review, What Happened in Vegas also addresses several questions and issues about the investigation surrounding the shootings from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock during the “Route 91 Festival” on Oct. 1st.)

Last week, What Happened in Vegas premiered in New York City at the Cinema Village Theater in East Manhattan on  Black Friday. Subsequent New York showtimes after the official theatrical premier can be found here. The New York opening represented the first showing of the movie within commercial theaters. Prior to that, What Happened in Vegas enjoyed a very successful run of screenings at film festivals throughout the country.

After premiering to rave reviews at Cinequest in San Jose in March, What Happened in Vegas won several awards in subsequent festivals. Among those awards was Best Documentary at the Las Vegas Black Film Festival and the Grand Prize award at the Anthem Film Festival, which is hosted by FreedomFest here in Las Vegas.

In addition, What Happened in Vegas is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.

Police Interference with Las Vegas Showings

Incidentally, outside of the two festival showings previously mentioned, audiences within Las Vegas have yet to see What Happened in Vegas. The reason for that is very much not because of a lack of interest. In fact, three different commercial theater chains had at one time expressed interest in showing the movie here in town.

However, in all those cases that initial interest waned due to the controversial nature of the film and potential fallout from it. It’s even been reported that they received visits from representatives of the LVMPD to help them make that decision. Sources I’ve been in contact with have also told me that Metro has issued a memo to all of their officers directing them not to discuss What Happened in Vegas publicly.

Once you see the movie, you will very much understand why Metro desperately doesn’t want it to be shown theatrically within the city of Las Vegas. It very clearly, convincingly, and dramatically lays out the criminal nature of Sheriff Lombardo and others at the top of the LVMPD and the real consequences of it for the residents and visitors of Las Vegas.

“What Happened in Vegas” Trailer

“What Happened in Vegas” Filmmaker Intro

Body Cam Video of Tashii Farmer-Brown Murder by Officer Kenneth Lopera

The LVMPD’s Shifting Timeline for the Oct. 1st Las Vegas Mass Shooting

Posts Related to What Happened in Vegas

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Police Brutality Documentary “What Happened in Vegas” Set to Premier in New York on Black Friday (Nov. 24th)

New York Premier What Happened in Vegas Cinema Village Theater

“What Happened in Vegas,” the documentary about corruption and police brutality within the LVMPD by Ramsey Denison, premiers in New York at Cinema Village on Friday, Nov. 24th.

New York Premier

What Happened in Vegas,” the award winning documentary by Ramsey Denison, is set to open in New York City this week. The first showing of the movie about police brutality within the city of Las Vegas takes place at the Cinema Village Theater in East Manhattan on (Black) Friday, Nov. 24th at 7:00pm. Subsequent showtimes after the official theatrical premier can be found here.

As has been detailed numerous times here at NVCopBlock.org, What Happened in Vegas explores the extremely controversial killings of Trevon Cole, Erik Scott, Stanley Gibson, and Tashii Farmer-Brown by Las Vegas police and the cover ups that followed. Several other instances of violent, racist, and/or outright criminal acts by members of the LVMPD are also featured to illustrate the overall systemic corruption within the department.

In the run up to the official opening, What Happened in Vegas has already begun receiving positive reviews by New York media. In a preview article entitled “A Filmmaker Reported Police Brutality in Las Vegas. So the Cops Arrested Him,” Daphne Howland of the Village Voice wrote:

Denison’s documentary What Happened in Vegas is more than a revenge project. He unveils a pattern of police malfeasance, including cover-ups and lies, through disturbing stories of unjustified deaths.

It’s a damning takedown of the city’s powers that be — casinos cozy with a sheriff willing to protect their interests, and a constabulary infected with a Wild West mentality, armed with military weaponry and prone to lies. He argues that those powers even abet a law enforcement debacle surrounding the recent mass shooting at an outdoor music festival that left 58 concertgoers dead and nearly 500 injured.

Denison keeps up the pace — those television skills coming in handy — and unpacks a lot. But he also allows in some light. There are plenty of Las Vegas police officers who want things to change, and Denison gives them, and the victims’ families, a voice.

(As mentioned within the review, What Happened in Vegas also addresses several questions and issues about the investigation surrounding the shootings from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock during the “Route 91 Festival” on Oct. 1st.)

The New York opening represents the first showing of the movie within commercial theaters. Prior to that, What Happened in Vegas enjoyed a very successful run of screenings at film festivals throughout the country.

After premiering to rave reviews at Cinequest in San Jose in March, What Happened in Vegas won several awards in subsequent festivals. Among those awards was Best Documentary at the Las Vegas Black Film Festival and the Grand Prize award at the Anthem Film Festival, which is hosted by FreedomFest here in Las Vegas.

Los Angeles Premier, Las Vegas Showings, and Beyond

Next month, What Happened in Vegas will make its West Coast theatrical premier when it opens in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Theater in Beverly Hills on December 1st. BTW, word on the streets is that playing at the Laemmle Theaters is a “Secret Path to Oscar Qualifying” for independent films, short films, and documentaries that normally haven’t received the attention that big-budget, studio films are afforded. So, Joe Lombardo and the rest of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in theory could really get their ivory tower shook up by a cameo with a guy named Oscar come February. (#JusSayin)

Speaking of the LVMPD and appearances they desperately don’t want to happen, outside of the two festival appearances previously mentioned, audiences within Las Vegas have yet to see What Happened in Vegas. The reason for that is not a lack of interest. In fact, two different commercial theater chains had at one time expressed interest in showing the movie here in town.

However, in both cases that interest waned due to the controversial nature of the film and potential fallout from it. It’s been reported that they even received visits from representatives of the LVMPD to help them make that decision. Sources I’ve been in contact with have also told me that Metro has issued a memo to all of their officers directing them not to discuss What Happened in Vegas publicly.

Regardless of that, plans are for the movie to show theatrically within the city of Las Vegas, one way or another, at some point after the New York and Los Angeles premiers. In the meantime, What Happened in Vegas is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.

“What Happened in Vegas” Trailer

“What Happened in Vegas” Filmmaker Intro

Body Cam Video of Tashii Farmer-Brown Murder by Officer Kenneth Lopera

The LVMPD’s Shifting Timeline for the Oct. 1st Las Vegas Mass Shooting

Posts Related to What Happened in Vegas

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State Department Preventing U.S. Citizen From Returning to the United States by Withholding Passport

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Daniel Bruno, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

Within the post, Bruno describes a situation he says he is involved with, in which the US State Department has refused to renew his passport therby preventing him from returning to the United States. According to Bruno, that is despite him being a natural born citizen (from New York) and him having a valid birth certificate to show that.

I have so much to say that I don’t know where to begin. So much has happened that it can be surreal and overwhelming to talk about and to hear about it, too. I have been through much more than most Americans can imagine. I guess I will start by saying that I was born in Manhattan. In fact, in Donald Trump’s neighborhood (although he is originally from Queens).

I have a birth certificate identical to his (you can find his online).

I’m in a bitter dispute with the State Dept. over my right to a passport. They say Americans have no such right, what we have is a possible entitlement (their words), which I interpret to mean a privilege, like a driver’s license.

In May of 2014, I walked into the US Embassy in Buenos Aires with my perfectly valid US passport that was due to expire in six months. I filled out the renewal forms, paid the fees, was interviewed and dismissed by Vice Consul Creaghe. I never had a US passport again because they would not renew it.

There is, of course, much more to this story, including recent developments since Jan. 20, but the bottom line is that according to them, Americans have no right to a passport, no right to a nationality document and no right to return to the US…and I know this is illegal.

BTW, let me mention that I’m not wanted for a crime, back taxes, child support, etc. Just yesterday, I had another meeting/argument inside the embassy, and I told Holly Wilkerson I will force them to change their attitude towards Americans if it’s the last thing I do. I have told them in person that I can not imagine that Russia, China, Iran, or Cuba would have so much contempt for their own citizens.

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So, we have the State Dept. refusing to accept the very passports it has issued to me in the past, as well as my authenticated New York birth certificate, for the purpose of renewing my passport. Yesterday, Holly Wilkerson, a woman at the embassy who has earned my scorn, confirmed this.

To me, this means that in theory, the State Department, accountable to no one but itself, is now deciding, at random and at will, who is an American.

I think Americans need to know.

I am actively seeking constitutional and civil rights lawyers who want to help me defend the rights of all of us.

– Daniel Bruno, editor, www.hpub.org

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Update: Sister Megan Rice, “Transform Now Plowshares” Members Released

Sister Meghan RiceLast week, I posted about the 6th U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling (see below) that overturned the sabotage convictions of the “Y-12 Three” and ordered resentencing for their convictions on the charge of “injuring government property.” This created hope that “Transform Now Plowshares” members Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed would be released as a result, since their sentences were largely based on that higher charge of sabotage. On Saturday May 16th, those hopes were realized after the government stated that they would not fight their release:

“All three peace activists who vandalized Y-12 are out of prison. Attorney Marc Shapiro said Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed were released from prison Saturday afternoon. Sister Megan Rice, 85, was released a several hours later…

On Friday, the government responded that it did not object to their release pending the July hearing, if the court ‘determines that the potential risk of the defendants over-serving their likely guideline sentences on their remaining convictions constitutes ‘exceptional reasons” under federal law.”

At this point, from everything I’ve heard it appears that they will be sentenced to time served on July 8th. Therefore, they will remain free, having already served more time than what is typical for the lesser crime for which their convictions were upheld:

The trio will still be re-sentenced on the lesser charges, but it could mean they are out of prison for good for the time already served. Quigley (their lawyer) says they are thrilled with the decision and still stand by their actions.

Excerpt from the previous post:

Transform Now Plowshares Members’ Convictions Overturned

Transform Now Plowshares Y-12 Sister Megan RiceOn May 8th, an appeals court overturned the convictions of Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, members of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, on sabotage crimes relating to their acts of civil disobedience against nuclear war and in favor of peace. They also ordered that they be re-sentenced for a lesser crime of “injuring government property,” which was upheld.

Via the NY Times:

An anti-nuke nun may soon be blessed with freedom.

An appeals court has overturned the sabotage convictions of an 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who broke into a weapons-grade uranium facility and splashed blood on the walls.

But Sister Megan Rice, locked up in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for the past two years, 66-year-old Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59, are not totally in the clear yet.

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Friday that the three did not injure national security when they cut through several fences and broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in July 2012.

But the court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. “If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons . . . the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion said. “But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The trio, known as the Y-12 three, hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker in Oak Ridge to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

Their aim was to bring the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation to people’s attention.

The Appellate Court’s ruling determined that “Congress never intended to punish individuals whose sole intent was to spread a message of peace, which is far from trying to disrupt nuclear defense systems.”

The government had 14 days (as of May 8, 2015) to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the convictions reinstated. I don’t have a lot of faith in the government in general or in their willingness to back down rather than fight to the bitter end to force compliance with their authority, but I have some personal reasons (read below for more on that) to hope they will, since I actually know Sister Meghan and consider her a friend.

Sister Meghan and the others convicted with her are nothing short of political prisoners, who (as the appeals court acknowledged) were given inflated charges based on the political messages they expressed with their protest and the defiance they displayed in the process, as well as the embarrassment the ease with which they carried it out caused to those tasked with guarding America’s war machines. They should be released immediately.

Sister Meghan RiceSister Megan Rice – an Unofficial Saint

Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun and long time member of the Catholic Worker movement, is one of the nicest, kindest, most soft-spoken people you would ever meet. She’s also one of the toughest and most morally grounded people you could ever be lucky enough to know. I first met her when she was living in Las Vegas and I was involved in helping to re-establish the local Food Not Bombs group here, back in late 2008. Sister Megan and other members of Las Vegas Catholic Worker were among those that had supported Food Not Bombs Las Vegas when the City of Las Vegas passed laws making it illegal to share food with hungry people, specifically with people who “a reasonable, ordinary person would believe” needed that food. Before that…Read the full post by clicking here.

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Convictions of Sister Megan Rice, and the “Y-12 Three” Overturned

Transform Now Plowshares Members’ Could Be Released Soon

Transform Now Plowshares Y-12 Sister Megan RiceOn May 8th, an appeals court overturned the convictions of Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, members of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, on sabotage crimes relating to their acts of civil disobedience against nuclear war and in favor of peace. They also ordered that they be re-sentenced for a lesser crime of “injuring government property,” which was upheld.

Via the NY Times:

An anti-nuke nun may soon be blessed with freedom.

An appeals court has overturned the sabotage convictions of an 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who broke into a weapons-grade uranium facility and splashed blood on the walls.

But Sister Megan Rice, locked up in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for the past two years, 66-year-old Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59, are not totally in the clear yet.

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Friday that the three did not injure national security when they cut through several fences and broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in July 2012.

But the court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. “If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons . . . the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion said. “But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The trio, known as the Y-12 three, hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker in Oak Ridge to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

Their aim was to bring the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation to people’s attention.

The Appellate Court’s ruling determined that “Congress never intended to punish individuals whose sole intent was to spread a message of peace, which is far from trying to disrupt nuclear defense systems.”

The government had 14 days (as of May 8, 2015) to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the convictions reinstated. I don’t have a lot of faith in the government in general or in their willingness to back down rather than fight to the bitter end to force compliance with their authority, but I have some personal reasons (read below for more on that) to hope they will, since I actually know Sister Meghan and consider her a friend.

Sister Meghan and the others convicted with her are nothing short of political prisoners, who (as the appeals court acknowledged) were given inflated charges based on the political messages they expressed with their protest and the defiance they displayed in the process, as well as the embarrassment the ease with which they carried it out caused to those tasked with guarding America’s war machines. They should be released immediately.

Sister Meghan RiceSister Megan Rice – an Unofficial Saint

Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun and long time member of the Catholic Worker movement, is one of the nicest, kindest, most soft-spoken people you would ever meet. She’s also one of the toughest and most morally grounded people you could ever be lucky enough to know. I first met her when she was living in Las Vegas and I was involved in helping to re-establish the local Food Not Bombs group here, back in late 2008. Sister Megan and other members of Las Vegas Catholic Worker were among those that had supported Food Not Bombs Las Vegas when the City of Las Vegas passed laws making it illegal to share food with hungry people, specifically with people who “a reasonable, ordinary person would believe” needed that food. Before that, she spent 40 years as a schoolteacher and relief worker in some of the poorest areas of Africa, until bouts with malaria and typhoid fever forced her to return to the United States.

From the first time I ever met her at a local coffee shop where we held the Las Vegas A-Cafe at that time, Sister Megan was never anything, but pleasant, friendly, and helpful. However, even as apparent as her good nature was, you could see and hear the strength of her character just as easily. She was the kind of genuine person that you respected as soon as you met her. Through involvement with Food Not Bombs and other peace groups, as well as my own personal advocacy, I have often worked with Catholic Worker and other faith-based groups in the Las Vegas area, such as Nevada Desert Experience and Pace e Bene, that are associated with them.

As a result, I had a fair amount of interaction with Sister Megan during her last couple of years in Las Vegas. During that time, my respect and admiration for her never ceased to grow. Her peaceful, yet determined, demeanor was always both inspirational and educational. Talking to her at regular “everyday” events was always a pleasant experience. On the other side of the coin, witnessing how she never let fear of punishment deter her from standing up for the right thing and was always willing to accept the consequences that might come, regardless of how overblown or draconian they might have been, was something that always strengthened my own resolve.

Toward the end of her time in Las Vegas, I attended the trial of the “Creech 14,” who had been arrested for stepping too close to the gate of Creech Air Force Base (where most of the U.S. drones are operated remotely) in order to protest the murders of people in other countries (including women and children) by people just north of Las Vegas. Sister Meghan (as well as the rest of the defendants) never backed down from her principles or recanted their beliefs as unjust, but simply made the argument that their actions were based on a duty to defend innocent people.

It seemed fairly obvious, that even the judge was sympathetic to their arguments, which included testimony from Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark on their behalf. Of course, when you are accused of challenging the government’s war machine, no judge will side against their employer and its biggest source of income, regardless of their potential sympathies for the accused. Especially in what was really a very minor case that was being used as a sort of show trial to discourage future activism against Creech’s drone murders. When I spoke to her after the trial on the phone, instead of being upset (like I was) or even disappointed that they were convicted, she was actually cheerful and talking about moving onto the next fight.

Transform Now Plowshares and the Oakridge Nuclear Facility – Pacifistic Terrorism

From left, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. (Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Not long after that, she left Nevada and shortly thereafter became involved in the biggest and most principled fight that anyone I know personally has ever undertaken. At a time when most people are relaxing in retirement, Sister Megan actually shut down a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

Along with Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, the (at the time) 82 year old nun entered the Oak Ridge (TN) National Laboratory, hung protest banners, poured blood on the walls, and spray-painted antiwar statements on buildings. The ease with which they entered what was supposed to be a highly secure nuclear weapons facility and the very public nature of it, this particular action not only challenged, but very much embarrassed the U.S. Government.

That public shaming of the United States’ war apparatus and it’s very lax security was their real “crime.” Outside of that, all the three pacifists had committed was trespassing and what would be a stretch to call vandalism, since no actual property was damaged. In spite of that, they were branded as “violent terrorists” by the Federal Government and charged with felony crimes. This was much more a case of saving face over the exposure of just how easy it would be for someone with real harmful intent to walk right onto a base filled with nuclear materials (they actually had to approach a security guard working there and alert him to their presence) than any real danger that they had ever created with their non-violent actions.

Square-bannerAs was the case in previous acts of civil disobedience, rather than back down from her convictions and beg her captors for leniency, Sr. Megan and the others reaffirmed their commitment to direct action and even informed the judge after their conviction that they would resume such activity upon release, stating that the only way to stop them from advocating for peace would be to give them a life sentence. At the time, they were in fact facing what amounted to an actual life sentence (a 30 year maximum), due to their ages.

Although it is still a travesty that she should have spent even a day in jail, the judge fortunately didn’t heed their advice in that respect and sentenced her to 35 months, along with sentencing Boertje-Obed and Walli to 62 months each. As the Daily News detailed earlier this year, Sister Megan has since been confined to a “Brooklyn hellhole,” crammed with 111 other women into an unsanitary, inhumane single room prison unit at the Metropolitan Federal Detention Center in New York City.

In spite of those deplorable conditions, Sister Megan responds with her typical strength and good cheer. Rather than complain, she makes her initial appearance for that interview serene and smiling and speaks of how the patience and endurance the beautiful women she lives with in the prison have become a “constant source of admiration and hope that change is possible.”

SecondSaturdayMay 047That sort of humility, determination, optimism, and caring spirit is what I noticed and admired almost immediately when I met Sister Megan. And it’s what has caused me to take inspiration from her and become determined myself to continue fighting for that change. Throughout my life and especially since I became involved in activist causes, I’ve been very fortunate to meet a variety of amazing and inspiring people that have left permanent impressions on me and helped to shape my character in a positive way. Sister Megan is someone I place among the top of that list. She and her fellow peaceful “terrorists” should be released right now, not so much because she personally needs or would likely ask for that on her own behalf, but rather because those of us out here need people like her standing with us.

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Release Sister Megan Rice, and the “Y-12 Three” Peaceful Political Prisoners

Transform Now Plowshares Members’ Convictions Overturned

Transform Now Plowshares Y-12 Sister Megan RiceOn May 8th, an appeals court overturned the convictions of Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, members of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, on sabotage crimes relating to their acts of civil disobedience against nuclear war and in favor of peace. They also ordered that they be re-sentenced for a lesser crime of “injuring government property,” which was upheld.

Via the NY Times:

An anti-nuke nun may soon be blessed with freedom.

An appeals court has overturned the sabotage convictions of an 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who broke into a weapons-grade uranium facility and splashed blood on the walls.

But Sister Megan Rice, locked up in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for the past two years, 66-year-old Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59, are not totally in the clear yet.

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Friday that the three did not injure national security when they cut through several fences and broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in July 2012.

But the court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. “If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons . . . the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion said. “But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The trio, known as the Y-12 three, hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker in Oak Ridge to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

Their aim was to bring the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation to people’s attention.

The Appellate Court’s ruling determined that “Congress never intended to punish individuals whose sole intent was to spread a message of peace, which is far from trying to disrupt nuclear defense systems.”

The government had 14 days (as of May 8, 2015) to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the convictions reinstated. I don’t have a lot of faith in the government in general or in their willingness to back down rather than fight to the bitter end to force compliance with their authority, but I have some personal reasons (read below for more on that) to hope they will, since I actually know Sister Meghan and consider her a friend.

Sister Meghan and the others convicted with her are nothing short of political prisoners, who (as the appeals court acknowledged) were given inflated charges based on the political messages they expressed with their protest and the defiance they displayed in the process, as well as the embarrassment the ease with which they carried it out caused to those tasked with guarding America’s war machines. They should be released immediately.

Sister Meghan RiceSister Megan Rice – an Unofficial Saint

Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun and long time member of the Catholic Worker movement, is one of the nicest, kindest, most soft-spoken people you would ever meet. She’s also one of the toughest and most morally grounded people you could ever be lucky enough to know. I first met her when she was living in Las Vegas and I was involved in helping to re-establish the local Food Not Bombs group here, back in late 2008. Sister Megan and other members of Las Vegas Catholic Worker were among those that had supported Food Not Bombs Las Vegas when the City of Las Vegas passed laws making it illegal to share food with hungry people, specifically with people who “a reasonable, ordinary person would believe” needed that food. Before that, she spent 40 years as a schoolteacher and relief worker in some of the poorest areas of Africa, until bouts with malaria and typhoid fever forced her to return to the United States.

From the first time I ever met her at a local coffee shop where we held the Las Vegas A-Cafe at that time, Sister Megan was never anything, but pleasant, friendly, and helpful. However, even as apparent as her good nature was, you could see and hear the strength of her character just as easily. She was the kind of genuine person that you respected as soon as you met her. Through involvement with Food Not Bombs and other peace groups, as well as my own personal advocacy, I have often worked with Catholic Worker and other faith-based groups in the Las Vegas area, such as Nevada Desert Experience and Pace e Bene, that are associated with them.

As a result, I had a fair amount of interaction with Sister Megan during her last couple of years in Las Vegas. During that time, my respect and admiration for her never ceased to grow. Her peaceful, yet determined, demeanor was always both inspirational and educational. Talking to her at regular “everyday” events was always a pleasant experience. On the other side of the coin, witnessing how she never let fear of punishment deter her from standing up for the right thing and was always willing to accept the consequences that might come, regardless of how overblown or draconian they might have been, was something that always strengthened my own resolve.

Toward the end of her time in Las Vegas, I attended the trial of the “Creech 14,” who had been arrested for stepping too close to the gate of Creech Air Force Base (where most of the U.S. drones are operated remotely) in order to protest the murders of people in other countries (including women and children) by people just north of Las Vegas. Sister Meghan (as well as the rest of the defendants) never backed down from her principles or recanted their beliefs as unjust, but simply made the argument that their actions were based on a duty to defend innocent people.

It seemed fairly obvious, that even the judge was sympathetic to their arguments, which included testimony from Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark on their behalf. Of course, when you are accused of challenging the government’s war machine, no judge will side against their employer and its biggest source of income, regardless of their potential sympathies for the accused. Especially in what was really a very minor case that was being used as a sort of show trial to discourage future activism against Creech’s drone murders. When I spoke to her after the trial on the phone, instead of being upset (like I was) or even disappointed that they were convicted, she was actually cheerful and talking about moving onto the next fight.

Transform Now Plowshares and the Oakridge Nuclear Facility – Pacifistic Terrorism

From left, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. (Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Not long after that, she left Nevada and shortly thereafter became involved in the biggest and most principled fight that anyone I know personally has ever undertaken. At a time when most people are relaxing in retirement, Sister Megan actually shut down a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

Along with Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, the (at the time) 82 year old nun entered the Oak Ridge (TN) National Laboratory, hung protest banners, poured blood on the walls, and spray-painted antiwar statements on buildings. The ease with which they entered what was supposed to be a highly secure nuclear weapons facility and the very public nature of it, this particular action not only challenged, but very much embarrassed the U.S. Government.

That public shaming of the United States’ war apparatus and it’s very lax security was their real “crime.” Outside of that, all the three pacifists had committed was trespassing and what would be a stretch to call vandalism, since no actual property was damaged. In spite of that, they were branded as “violent terrorists” by the Federal Government and charged with felony crimes. This was much more a case of saving face over the exposure of just how easy it would be for someone with real harmful intent to walk right onto a base filled with nuclear materials (they actually had to approach a security guard working there and alert him to their presence) than any real danger that they had ever created with their non-violent actions.

Square-bannerAs was the case in previous acts of civil disobedience, rather than back down from her convictions and beg her captors for leniency, Sr. Megan and the others reaffirmed their commitment to direct action and even informed the judge after their conviction that they would resume such activity upon release, stating that the only way to stop them from advocating for peace would be to give them a life sentence. At the time, they were in fact facing what amounted to an actual life sentence (a 30 year maximum), due to their ages.

Although it is still a travesty that she should have spent even a day in jail, the judge fortunately didn’t heed their advice in that respect and sentenced her to 35 months, along with sentencing Boertje-Obed and Walli to 62 months each. As the Daily News detailed earlier this year, Sister Megan has since been confined to a “Brooklyn hellhole,” crammed with 111 other women into an unsanitary, inhumane single room prison unit at the Metropolitan Federal Detention Center in New York City.

In spite of those deplorable conditions, Sister Megan responds with her typical strength and good cheer. Rather than complain, she makes her initial appearance for that interview serene and smiling and speaks of how the patience and endurance the beautiful women she lives with in the prison have become a “constant source of admiration and hope that change is possible.”

SecondSaturdayMay 047That sort of humility, determination, optimism, and caring spirit is what I noticed and admired almost immediately when I met Sister Megan. And it’s what has caused me to take inspiration from her and become determined myself to continue fighting for that change. Throughout my life and especially since I became involved in activist causes, I’ve been very fortunate to meet a variety of amazing and inspiring people that have left permanent impressions on me and helped to shape my character in a positive way. Sister Megan is someone I place among the top of that list. She and her fellow peaceful “terrorists” should be released right now, not so much because she personally needs or would likely ask for that on her own behalf, but rather because those of us out here need people like her standing with us.

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When Police Go Rogue on Facebook by Ken Armstrong of the Marshall Project

This post was shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader, via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. It was originally published by Ken Armstrong at themarshallproject.org.

Last week, Seattle police apologized for an incident in which a female officer arrested a 69-year-old man walking in the city with a golf club. She said he wielded the club as a weapon. He said it was simply a cane. Police video supported the man’s account.

But it was only after another discovery – made by a Seattle newspaper, The Stranger – that the police department removed the officer from street duty, assigning her to a desk.

The officer is white. The man she arrested with the golf club is black. Last year, the officer posted this on Facebook: “If you believe that blacks are NOT accusing white America for their problems then you are missing the point of the riots in Ferguson and the chronic black racism that far exceeds any white racism in this country. I am tired of black peoples paranoia that white people are out to get them. … I am tired of black people saying poor poor me …”

When Seattle’s police chief read those Facebook comments last week, she said she was “shocked and disappointed.”

Around the country, other chiefs can relate. So can other communities where officers – and sometimes, the police chiefs themselves – have posted Facebook messages that created controversy and sometimes led to suspensions or firings. Such episodes have played out on other social-media sites, of course. And, like the Internet itself, they extend beyond the United States. (In the United Kingdom, more than 150 officers have faced disciplinary action for bad Facebook behavior, including one constable who wrote: “Let’s not be so soft on these [worst expletive imaginable] out there.”)

But looking just at Facebook – and just at police in the United States – here’s a roundup of cases where officers have been accused of crossing a line when going online.

Marlin, Texas: A police sergeant was fired in August 2014 after posting this on Facebook: “The first day of the month! The day I absolutely LOVE going to the grocery store after putting in 120+ hours last month. I love being able to see how the useless lazy turd bags spend the hard earned money my working friends and I provided for them so they can sit of their lazy asses all month and drink the beer I am paying for. I especially love it in the summer so I can admire the thousands of dollars of ink they have adorning their unclean bodies as they smile at me with that mouth full of bling. Makes me want to help them take their groceries and help them load them into that Escalade with $4000 rims. I promise, if I ever snap and go on a killing spree, it will be in a supermarket on the first.” (Elsewhere in Texas, police have created Facebook dustups in Dallas, Emory, and Matagorda County.)

Jonesboro, Ark.: The same month that police sergeant was fired in Texas, the police chief in Jonesboro, Ark., resigned. The chief, on Facebook, called a newspaper reporter a “pro-dope smoking, law license revoked, left wing liberal.” He also called her “smelly,” and wrote: “Dealing with ole Sunshine is like trying to pick up a dog turd by the ‘clean end.’” Jonesboro’s mayor handed the chief a 30-day suspension, but the chief quit before serving it. (And he wasn’t the only police chief to resign last August over a Facebook post. The chief in Chickasha, Okla., did, too. Before that, so did the police chief in Williamston, S.C.)

Bainbridge Island, Wash.: On this island in the Puget Sound, police in 2010 shot and killed a mentally ill man, in a case that prompted a civil rights lawsuit and a $1 million verdict against the city. A week after the shooting, the officer who opened fire received a Facebook message from a Los Angeles cop, who flippantly referred to the shooting as “combat qual.” The Bainbridge officer responded, on Facebook, with: “no sweat here … bad guy should have listened a little better.” (A year later, a different Bainbridge officer was reprimanded for going on Facebook and writing of a crackdown on traffic offenses: “We rained terror on the island and no one was taken alive.”)

Portsmouth, Va.: In 2011, a police officer shot and killed an intoxicated, unarmed cook, a citizen of Kazakhstan who was struck 11 times. Afterward, the officer’s Facebook page – captured by The Virginian-Pilot before disappearing from the web – became the subject of an internal review. Among other postings, he described a photo of a box of handguns as his “box of VENGEANCE!” and wrote: “would be better if i was dirtying them instead of cleaning them!”

Boston, Mass.: Last year, a police officer for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority posted on Facebook: “Farther’s (sic) Day, the most confusing day in Roxbury.” The president of the Boston NAACP told television station WCVB, “It’s a sad commentary on what this gentleman thinks is going on in communities of color.” Afterward, the officer was stripped of his role as a police-academy drill instructor.

Indianapolis, Ind.: Television station WTHR aired an investigative report in 2009 about an Indiana state trooper’s Facebook posts. “I pick up trash for a living,” the trooper wrote. He boasted of drinking heavily and posted a photo in which a fellow police officer pointed a .357 Magnum at the trooper’s head. By matching Facebook’s timestamps with state patrol employment records, the station discovered that the trooper sometimes posted while on duty. The trooper subsequently resigned.

Albuquerque, N.M.: That trooper certainly wasn’t the only police officer to refer to people as garbage. In 2011, an Albuquerque police officer shot a man in the back after a traffic stop, killing him. Soon after, local media reported that the officer listed his job on Facebook as “human waste disposal.” No charges were filed against the officer for the shooting, but he did get a four-day suspension for his Facebook post.

New York City: In 2009, a New York City police officer described his Facebook status as “watching ‘Training Day’ to brush up on proper police procedure.” A few weeks later, that post was used to attack the officer’s credibility when a defendant he had arrested went to trial. (In “Training Day,” there is little, if anything, proper about the corrupt narcotics detective played by Denzel Washington.) Two years later, more than a dozen NYPD officers posted offensive comments about the West Indian Day Parade, leading to eventual discipline.

Monroe, La.: Responding to the protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a police officer in Monroe, La., went on Facebook and wrote: “Ive got an idea on how to clear the streets in Ferguson Missouri. Lets have a crop duster fly over and drop job applications.” The officer, who was subsequently placed on leave, also wrote: “I’m surprised the beauty salon didn’t have armed guards. That ‘good hair’ is expensive. Thats ghetto gold.” Police elsewhere also made Facebook posts about Ferguson that stirred controversy. That happened, among other places, in Elgin, Ill.;Glendale, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; Kansas City; and Seattle.

Volusia, Fla.: Before Michael Brown’s death, there was the controversy surrounding Trayvon Martin’s. In 2013, on the day George Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin’s death, a Volusia County Beach Safety officer posted on Facebook: “Another thug gone. Pull up your pants and be respectful. Bye bye thug r.i.p.” The following month, the officer was fired.

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