You might think the pussyhat phenom would be the best thing to happen to a yarn store since the poncho craze of the early 1970s. But the owner of a Tennessee knitting store doesn’t want anyone buying its yarn for arts and crafts for the women’s movement, following weekend protests by marchers in knitted, pointy-eared hats.
Some members of Congress are boycotting the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., plans to attend the inauguration. The Milwaukee congresswoman explains:
I support my colleagues in their decision to boycott the Presidential Inauguration, but knowing how he operates, I suspect President-elect Donald Trump will use this expression of free speech as an excuse to bypass Democrats and to push his extreme agenda with utter impunity. With that in mind, I refuse to be a pawn in the president-elect’s efforts to rally support from congressional Republicans. As a proud Democrat, I want President-elect Trump to see me front and center as he’s sworn in. I want him to see exactly what his opposition looks like. When he sees me, I want him to see The Resistance.
I did not come to this decision lightly. I weighed my responsibility as an elected official against my disgust over the president-elect’s vile tactics employed to ascend to the presidency and the disrespectful treatment of revered civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis. I considered the multitude of supportive phone calls and tweets from my constituents in light of the embarrassing and ongoing petulance employed by the president-elect. I prayed on this and thought of First Lady Michelle Obama as she reminded us to refrain from abandoning decency in the face of intolerance and moral depravity.
It’s no secret that I find President-elect Trump and his policies repugnant and anathema to my efforts to pursue social justice, and I know a majority of my constituents feel the same. In November, Milwaukee sent a strong, clear message that Donald Trump was the wrong man to lead our country. I intend to deliver that message with my presence at the Presidential Inauguration and serve a symbol of opposition, not normalization.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee will not attend the inauguration of Donald J. Trump on Jan. 20. She explains why:
Inaugurations are celebratory events, a time to welcome the peaceful transition of power and honor the new administration. On Jan. 20, I will not be celebrating or honoring an incoming president who rode racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry to the White House.
Donald Trump ran one of the most divisive and prejudiced campaigns in modern history.
He began his campaign by insulting Mexican immigrants, pledging to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and then spent a year and a half denigrating communities of color and normalizing bigotry.
He called women “pigs,” stoked Islamophobia and attacked a Gold Star family.
He mocked a disabled reporter and appealed to people’s worst instincts.
I cannot in good conscience attend an inauguration that would celebrate this divisive approach to governance.
After the election, many hoped the president-elect would turn toward unifying our country. Instead he has shown us that he will utilize the same tools of division he employed on the campaign trail as our nation’s commander-in-chief.
We need look no further than the team he is assembling to find signals that the era of Trump will be one of chaos and devastation for our communities.
The president-elect has named Steve Bannon, a white nationalist as his chief strategist. He has nominated U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to the office of Attorney General, despite his long career of opposition to civil and human rights.
And in perhaps the most damning sign of the chaos to come, the president-elect has expedited the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make America sick again.
To make matters worse, after the intelligence community reported Russian interference in our election, Donald Trump frequently and forcefully defended Vladimir Putin.
He insulted senior intelligence officials in order to preserve his reputation and disguise the truth.
The American people will never forget that when a foreign government violated our democracy, Donald Trump chose the interests of another nation over our own.
Donald Trump has proven that his administration will normalize the most extreme fringes of the Republican Party.
On Inauguration Day, I will not be celebrating. I will be organizing and preparing for resistance.
The Milwaukee County Transit System is keeping a seat open and the headlights shining on its entire fleet on Dec. 1 to honor the life of Rosa Parks and her contribution to equal rights.
Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, on Dec. 1, 1955.
Her act of civil disobedience led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation on public transportation.
“This country was changed for the better that day Rosa Parks refused to give into racism and oppression,” County Executive Chris Abele stated in a release. “While we can never truly thank her for her bravery, we mark the occasion to remember and honor her courage.”
Every bus in the MCTS fleet has a seat reserved in honor of Rosa Parks. The signs feature a picture of Parks on the bus and one of her famous quotes: “My only concern was to get home after a hard day’s work.”
On the Web
Learn about Rosa Parks.
Some 60 investors representing $2.1 trillion in managed assets joined the NCAA, entertainers and more than 200 businesses in calling for North Carolina to repeal its law limiting LGBT protections against discrimination.
“While the U.S. economy continues to grow, quite frankly North Carolina appears to be headed for what I would call a state-government-inflicted recession,” said Matt Patsky, chief executive officer of Trillium Asset Management. Trillium has more than $2 billion in assets under management.
Patsky spoke this week at a news conference alongside some of the investors who signed a statement calling for repeal of the law known as HB2. Trillium was one of the organizers of the statement, along with environmental research group Croatan Institute and the New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer. Stringer was unable to attend because of a New York ban on travel to North Carolina, Patsky said.
“As long-term investors, we can’t sit idly by as HB2 undermines fundamental human rights at our expense,” Stringer said in the statement. “For the last 25 years, New York City’s pension funds have pushed more than 100 companies to enact non-discrimination policies that protect LGBTQ individuals and ensure they attract, retain, and promote the best and the brightest. These policies are essential if we want companies — and our economy — to succeed, and we can’t let a hate-filled law get in the way.”
State legislators were enraged when the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance expanding protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. During a one-day special session in March, Republicans passed a state law that blocks any municipality from expanding protections against sexual discrimination in public accommodations to LGBT people and ordered public schools and universities to ensure that students use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.
Earlier this month, Gov. Pat McCrory and GOP legislators offered to consider rescinding the law, but only if the Democrats who pushed for Charlotte’s ordinance would essentially admit they were wrong, something the council hasn’t done.
Meanwhile, the NBA pulled its All-Star Game from Charlotte. The NCAA earlier this month took the unprecedented step of pulling seven championship events from the state over its objection to the law. Two days later, the ACC did the same thing — relocating all 10 of its neutral-site championships from the state the conference has called home since its founding in 1953.
Performers including Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Maroon 5 canceled concerts in North Carolina, and more than 200 business leaders signed a letter to McCrory. The Williams Institute, which is part of the UCLA School of Law, has said HB2 could cost the state as much as $5 billion in lost federal funding and business investment.
“This latest attack on North Carolina values is being coordinated by the same people who manage the New York City pension fund that is on the verge of an ‘operational failure,’ according to a recent report,” McCrory said in a statement released by his campaign. “For New York hedge fund billionaires to lecture North Carolina about how to conduct its affairs is the height of hypocrisy.
McCrory is seeking re-election in a campaign against Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who opposes the law.
Some clients are seeking “North Carolina-free portfolios,” including divestment of municipal bonds, Patsky said, and he expects that number to grow if the law isn’t repealed.
Those who signed the letter include representatives of North Carolina-based groups such as Investors’ Circle and the Mary Babcock Reynolds Foundation. Others who signed are from Morgan Stanley Investment Management, John Hancock Investments and RBC Wealth Management.
“This fallout is real,” said Bonny Moellenbrock, executive director of Investors Circle, which she said has invested $200 million in more than 330 start-ups. “It has had a devastating impact on our reputation and that has a direct impact on entrepreneurs’ ability to grow their business here.”
Stagehand Kery Eller doesn’t own any Bruce Springsteen albums. If he did, he says he would smash them — but he might do better to direct his anger at North Carolina Republicans.
Eller says he expected to earn at least $3,000 working the sold-out Springsteen concert and other high-profile shows around the state before artists canceled the events in protest over North Carolina’s new LGBT law.
Eller and about 100 members of the local union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are among the many workers and businesses caught in the crossfire of the national debate over LGBT rights and feeling the economic shockwaves from the growing number of canceled shows.
Hotels, restaurants, bars and even community groups who work arena concession stands say they are suffering from the boycott.
“It’s my livelihood; it’s where I make my money,” Eller said. “It’s not just hurting the entertainment industry. It’s hurting our state overall, period. And I’m not talking politically at all.”
The wide-reaching law that directs transgender people to use the public bathroom that aligns with the gender on their birth certificate was signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in March. Since then, Pearl Jam, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Ringo Starr and Cirque Du Soleil have canceled.
The pop group Maroon 5 became the latest entertainer to decide to skip the state.
Other acts performed but donated proceeds from their shows to groups fighting the law.
McCrory, who has sued the Justice Department over its directive allowing transgender students to use their preferred bathroom, has continued his support of the law.
His re-election campaign issued a statement condemning Maroon 5’s recent cancellation, saying the artists’ boycott only hurts people of North Carolina and arena employees.
The last-minute cancellations are disappointing to fans, but more devastating to venue staff, said promoter Gregg McCraw, owner of MaxxMusic in Charlotte.
“Springsteen fired the first shot and he cancelled that show only two or three days before the show,” McCraw said. “That had a major impact. The venue clearly couldn’t get anything else in there.”
McCraw said the impact is likely to affect the North Carolina live music industry for months to come because artists and agents are wavering on whether to even schedule shows in North Carolina four to six months from now.
“So there will be a period, and none of us know how long this will last, before something happens in a positive way,” he said.
The Greensboro Coliseum Complex, the city’s economic powerhouse, estimated it lost $188,000 from three no-shows so far, according to Ted Oliver, chairman of the advisory board to the complex.
The city sent the governor a May 12 letter asking him to reconsider his support of the law.
“When we hear that the coliseum is suffering, what that really means is the employees are suffering,” Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said. “People who work part-time to balance their budget. That affects workers in hotels, housekeeping, front desks. These are people who are dependent on every single paycheck.”
For a large event like Bruce Springsteen, the venue would have hired part-time work from 225 event staff, 60 parking staff, 30 housekeepers and about 100 stagehands, said Andrew Brown, a spokesman for the coliseum complex.
Concessions booths staffed by organizations such as the Walter Hines Page High School Band Boosters, who get a cut of the funding for their programs, were left with nothing. They can reap at least $600 a night when the shows are on, which helps them pay to dry clean uniforms and feed the marching band before away games.
Band boosters were scheduled to work both Springsteen and Cirque du Soleil, said treasurer Dan Kasper, whose son plays trumpet.
Small business owners that share Gate City Blvd with the Coliseum say it’s too early to quantify how much the cancellations have cost them, but the events are usually big business.
Badreldin Mustafa, general manager at Tito’s Pizza, said a concert night nearly doubles his business because visitors must walk by to get to the coliseum. Jesus Macias, who owns La Bamba Mexican restaurant, said servers rely on tips from those three or four major events to balance out a dwindling stream of regulars the rest of the year.
Owners of some restaurants declined to comment, saying they didn’t want to be entangled in personal and political implications. Both Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte and PNC Arena in Raleigh, which have lost Demi Lovato & Nick Jonas and most recently Maroon 5, declined to comment on the cancellations.
Near the Greensboro coliseum, owner and manager Ziad Fleihan of Ghassan’s, a kabob and sandwich shop with a location two blocks from the coliseum, said the potential economic effect is scary.
“We should be making laws that bring business to North Carolina rather than creating barriers keeping people away from the state. The goal of business is to make money,” he said.
He is also worried about the NCAA pulling its championship events out of the state. The coliseum and the accompanying Greensboro Aquatic Center are slated to host NCAA basketball tournament games in 2017 and NCAA swimming and diving championship games in 2018. It’s not yet clear whether the NCAA will keep the events in North Carolina.
“I think that we can continue to try to get the message out that Greensboro is an inclusive city and not to punish us,” said Vaughan, the Greensboro mayor. “It really is punishing the city when acts don’t come here and people continue to feel the brunt of that decision.”
At the Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain in California, waiters serve plates of vegan rice bowls, vegetable pizzas and tempeh sandwiches with names such as “Gracious,” “Warm-Hearted” and “Magical.”
The last two weeks, though, have been anything but kind.
Angry patrons and animal rights activists are calling on vegans to boycott the restaurants after learning that owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart have begun eating meat and consuming animals raised on their private farm.
“The brand has betrayed my trust by turning around and killing the animals that trust them on their property,” said Anita Carswell, a communications manager for In Defense of Animals who says she won’t eat at Cafe Gratitude again.
Though the restaurants continue to serve only plant-based food, the couple’s decision has provoked a heated backlash in a state where vegan restaurants and juice bars can be as easy to find as burgers and barbecue.
Death threats were left at the couple’s Be Love Farm in Northern California and demonstrators gathered outside a Cafe Gratitude restaurant in Los Angeles last week. Meanwhile, groups such as In Defense of Animals are calling on the couple to turn their farm into an animal sanctuary.
The Engelharts themselves declined an interview request, but Terces Engelhart’s son and Cafe Gratitude’s chief operating officer said the feud against Cafe Gratitude has unfairly cast his mother and stepfather as deceptive animal killers.
“I personally feel it’s a little illogical to require my parents to remain vegan for the rest of their lives just because they created a vegan restaurant at a point in time that they were vegan,” Cary Mosier said.
The family’s chain includes six Cafe Gratitude restaurants and two Mexican vegan eateries called Gracias Madre in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Matthew and Terces Engelhart were vegetarians for nearly 40 years, but decided to return to eating meat after leaving San Francisco and starting a farm about 55 miles away in Vacaville. They started with eggs and cheese from the farm’s chickens and cows. Then, after one old cow had to be put down, they decided it made sense to incorporate meat into their diets as well.
In a blog post, Terces Engelhart wrote the transition was a “necessary and important part of our own growth as well as the sustainability of our farm.”
The entry was posted in February 2015 but went largely unnoticed until a few weeks ago, when it was shared and went viral on vegan and animal rights websites. The couple is now being inundated with messages on Facebook and social media forums criticizing them as “flesh eaters” and calling them hypocrites for owning vegan restaurants but eating meat at home.
“If they market themselves on ethics, they should follow through on that,” Carswell said.
Mosier said his parents have “literally two cows,” and his mother dotes on them, even rubbing them regularly with coconut oil. While the restaurants are vegan, he said the company has never promoted a “meat is murder” viewpoint.
“I understand people can disagree with eating meat or killing animals,” he said. “But to put those beliefs on another person and call them a liar if they don’t do it, I think, is heading in the wrong direction.
“And if you’re a vegan, why would you want to close and boycott, frankly, the largest vegan restaurant group in California?”
As Jewish college students headed home to celebrate Passover with their families on April 21, there was one topic on many of their minds with the potential to disrupt the joyous mood around their Seder tables: the BDS movement.
BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions — against Israel. It’s a growing movement on college campuses, where students are stepping up protests of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, as well as the nation’s continued occupation of land that BDS supporters say belongs to Palestinians.
BDS as proxy
The BDS movement — although focused primarily on human rights — has become a proxy for disagreements over a much wider and longer-standing set of issues. As such, the movement has pitted Jews against Jews, pro-Israelis versus anti-Israelis, and pro-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supporters versus Netanyahu critics. It’s also created rifts in the progressive movement, which attracts Jewish followers because of the faith’s culture of tolerance and identification with the underdog.
Reform Judaism — the largest branch of Judaism — was the first major religious denomination to support same-sex marriage, and Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that recognizes same-sex marriages. It also is the most progressive nation in the region by far. Arab countries stone adulterers to death, throw gays off skyscrapers to their deaths and some do not allow women to drive or even show their faces.
Given the human rights abuses of other countries in the region, a lot of Jews believe Israel is singled out due to anti-Semitism, and they’re blaming the BDS movement for anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. While the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks and fights anti-Semitic hate crimes, said it hasn’t seen a dramatic rise in such crimes on campuses, a spokesman said, “The BDS movement does fuel anti-Semitism. We have some serious concerns about BDS.”
He noted that anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States routinely exceed anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said part of the problem she has with BDS is that “when we talk about Israel being grounded on injustice, we’re applying different standards to Israel than every other nation.”
The University of California-Davis held a hearing last month to consider divesting university holdings from companies that do business with Israel. After the meeting, the school’s Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi had its house defaced with swastikas. Fraternity leaders said they believed they had been targeted over their support for Israel. However, the coalition of student groups that supported divestment condemned the vandalism.
Fighting anti-Semitism on campus
The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a report last year titled “Anti-Semitism on Campus: A clear–and-present danger.” The report called the growing rate of anti-Semitism on campuses “alarming” and “getting worse.” It referenced “grim examples of Jewish students being blocked from participation in student government and being harassed.”
Last month, the University of California’s Board of Regents became the first to adopt a “Principles Against Intolerance” policy in response to a series of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents — including swastikas found on Jewish fraternities and the attempted exclusion of a student government candidate because of her Jewish faith.
The document, which took months to prepare due to the charged political environment, states, “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”
But to many Jews, especially older ones, anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic. “The well-being of Israel is really a critical part of what it means to be a Jew today,” said Rabbi Mendel Matusof, director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at UW-Madison.
The reality is that living in peace in the Middle East is impossible in these times, said Matusof. As WiG was preparing this story, the terrorist bombing of a bus in Jerusalem injured 21 people, two of them critically. And, the same day, an Israeli military court charged a soldier with manslaughter after he was caught on video by an Israeli human rights group fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker.
“Israel doesn’t live in a friendly neighborhood,” Matusof said.
“What frustrates me now is the way we talk about Israel these days in America,” Kahn said. “We eliminate complexity. The problem is that real life is more complex than these really simple reductive narratives that people are drawing. They’re drawing cartoon characters. There’s good on one side and bad on the other. I would challenge people to find a place in their heart to care about Palestinians and Israeli Jews at the same time.”
While Kahn doesn’t believe the BDS movement is inherently anti-Semitic, she believes it’s “a magnet for people who hold Jews in great disdain.”
Jews against Israel
Most Jews, especially older ones, want a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. But many who support the BDS movement, including members of groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace, want Jews to abdicate their control of Israel. They reject the notion of Zionism, which guarantees a Jewish state in perpetuity.
“Anti-Zionism, non-Zionism is more common in Jewish history than Zionism,” said Rachel Ida Buff, faculty adviser to a recently formed JVP chapter on the UW-Milwaukee campus.
JVP is a pro-Palestinian campus group whose supporters believe the conditions that led to the creation of a Jewish state no longer exist and do not justify what JVP national media coordinator Naomi Dann called a situation that “privileges Jews at the expense of Palestinian lives.”
“The impact of Zionism … has been wide-scale displacement, dispossession of millions of Palestinians and nearly 50 years of a brutal military occupation,” Dann wrote to WiG in an email. She said her group values the fundamental equality of all people and cannot support Zionism because it devalues Palestinian lives.”
“This is a generational issue that I think is reaching the fever pitch that it is because the Zionists are beginning to be scared of it,” Buff said.
Buff said there’s a kind of McCarthyism in the Jewish community that stigmatizes and disavows Jews who speak out against Israeli military and social atrocities, as she does.
She said she’s stepped on the equivalent of a “third rail.” But she said she will not be silenced for her beliefs.
“It is up to me to decide what my government does with its tax dollars,” she said. “Stop arming the occupation. The Zionists are being played by Netanyahu. American Jews are a little bit mistaken if they think the State Department is supportive of Jews. Israel is on the brink of (becoming) a pariah state. American geopolitical involvement is not going to make the world safe for Jews.”
The BDS movement in the United States is emerging “from the heart of the American left,” according to Cary Nelson, a retired English professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He’s co-editor of the book, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.
BDS is the current cause célèbre of the left, and its presence can be seen at rallies and protests for virtually every grievance on the progressive agenda. Advocates for Palestinians have linked divestment to social justice movements against racism, militarization, globalization and other issues that are important to many college students.
Campus divestment advocates often come to student government hearings with the backing of student associations for blacks, South Asians, Mexican-Americans, gays and others. Last year, anti-Israeli protesters unraveled a sign several yards long behind speakers at a Black Lives Matter rally in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park. The rally was intended to draw attention to the April 14, 2014, police shooting of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man.
The BDS sign was by far the largest at the rally. Jody Hirsh, a world-renown Jewish educator and WiG contributor who attended the rally, left because of it.
“I went to the rally because I really feel (police shootings) are an American problem that needs to be dealt with and the first thing I saw was a sign that said, “Milwaukee, Ferguson, Palestine. Resistance to occupation is heroism,’” he said.
“I was so upset, because it’s not the same thing at all,” he continued. “I felt that this very important American issue was hijacked by something different and I felt that I couldn’t participate in the rally.”
Nevertheless, the BDS movement is growing on the backs of other issues.
“Drawing these connections cross-struggle has been huge for our movement,” said Tory Smith, a 2012 Earlham College graduate and member of National Students for Justice in Palestine.
UW students’ experience
While BDS activism is taking a toll on Jewish life on some campuses, that’s not happening on campuses in Wisconsin, multiple sources told WiG.
At UW-Madison, which reportedly has the nation’s eighth largest number of Jewish students — a statistic that Matusof questions — BDS is a very visible movement. Nonetheless, Jewish life on campus is thriving.
UW-Madison offers a major in Jewish Studies and it has a number of active Jewish organizations, including fraternities and sororities.
UW-Milwaukee has a small Jewish population of around 200, said Marc Cohen, interim executive director of Hillel Milwaukee. Hillel International supports Jewish life on campuses throughout the world. Cohen described Hillel in Milwaukee as a kind of “Switzerland,” where pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians can talk freely and openly in a neutral, non-threatening environment.
Hilary Miller, a Milwaukeean enrolled in Jewish Studies at UW-Madison, contrasts the Wisconsin experience with that at other schools. She has attended conferences at UC-Berkeley and UC-Irvine, and she’s felt the tension on those campuses. There, she said, some people in the BDS movement are “absolutely using this as a wedge against Jews. … Sometimes it reminds me of what I’ve studied about anti-Jewish propaganda in Nazi Germany.”
Indeed, critics of Israel often complain that Jews have all the power, money and influence in the region. The re-emergence of what sounds similar to the myth of Jewish wealth and secret control of society frightens older Jews, because it echoes Nazi propaganda.
But Miller said she’s encountered nothing like that sort of extremism at UW-Madison, which she described as a very comfortable environment for Jews. In fact, she’s highly engaged in Jewish activities.
Miller founded the independent group Student Alliance for Israel, which she said is apolitical and promotes understanding of Israel’s traditions and culture. She attends pro-Palestinian events and rallies because she “wants to understand the other side,” she said.
Miller identifies politically with progressives, but she feels almost apologetic at times in progressive circles about her involvement in Jewish activities. She knows Jewish students who are afraid to put such involvements on their resumes out of fear it might affect their job prospects, she said.
And, based on what she witnessed in California, she’s afraid the situation on campus could deteriorate if BDS becomes a stronger force at UW–Madison.
Ongoing internal conflict
There will always be Jews who say that precisely because of their history of persecution, Israel should be more compassionate.
But Jews such as Matusof and Kahn are alarmed “that the Jewish community is not seen anymore as a minority deserving of the same sensitivities that the progressive community really holds strong,” Matusof said. “Jews in America,” he added, “are seen as a white privileged class, while we still are a minority and there still is discrimination.”
At any rate, analyzing and arguing are essential elements in Jewish theology and culture. There’s an old joke that goes, “If you ask 10 Jews for advice, you’ll get 11 opinions.”
The number is probably higher.
Bruce Springsteen is canceling a concert this weekend in North Carolina because of the state’s new anti-LGBT law – HB 2 – that was driven through the Legislature in one day.
“Bruce Springsteen is a hero and an icon because he gives voice, both through his music and his advocacy, to those who struggle against injustice and equality,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a news release. “It means so much that he has spoken out against this hateful bill on behalf of thousands of citizens whose rights and fundamental dignity are being trampled by the leadership of North Carolina.”
Springsteen, according to HRC, said: “As you, my fans, know I’m scheduled to play in Greensboro, North Carolina, this Sunday. As we also know, North Carolina has just passed HB2, which the media are referring to as the ‘bathroom’ law. HB2 — known officially as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act — dictates which bathrooms transgender people are permitted to use. Just as important, the law also attacks the rights of LGBT citizens to sue when their human rights are violated in the workplace. No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden. To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress. Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10. Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”
H.B. 2 has eliminated existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future.
The legislation also forces transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity, putting $4.5 billion in federal funding under Title IX at risk.
The measure also compels the same type of discrimination against transgender people to take place in state buildings, including in public universities.
Springsteen statement on the Web
Read Bruce Springsteen’s statement here.
Senate Democrats have opened a rare public feud with President Barack Obama over a congressional effort to discourage America’s trading partners from targeting Israel with politically motivated boycotts and sanctions.
Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats voiced their objections to Obama’s decision not to implement provisions in a trade law that instructs U.S. negotiators to protect Israel from being punished economically for its treatment of Palestinians.
House Speaker Paul Ryan also criticized Obama and said Congress would use its power of oversight to ensure the provisions are enforced.
“Only this administration would try not to enforce a trade enforcement law,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
Specifically, the provision instructs U.S. negotiators to resist other countries’ actions that support the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement, known as BDS. The senators said the movement tracks with growing anti-Semitism around the world.
Obama is opposed to the boycott movement and has pledged to fight it “as long as I am president.”
But his administration took issue with part of the bill that it said conflates Israel with “Israeli-controlled territories.” That’s a reference to the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war but the Palestinians demand for part of their future state.
The U.S. considers Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank to be illegitimate, and the White House said the language lumping Israel and the Palestinian territories together contradicts U.S. policy toward the settlements.
In a signing statement Obama issued, he said he intended to interpret the newly signed law “in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy.”
But the senators said the White House has mischaracterized the provisions as making a U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements. “This simply is not the case,” they said. The provisions are aimed at countering “commercial actions aimed at delegitimizing Israel and pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions outside the bounds of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” according to the senators.
Reid was joined in the statement on by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.