Tag Archives: civilian

Civil rights groups urge clemency for Chelsea Manning

The American Civil Liberties Union and more than a dozen LGBT groups on Dec. 5 urged President Barack Obama to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence for disclosing classified information to raise public awareness regarding the impact of war on civilians.

Manning is serving the seventh year of a 35-year sentence.

Ian Thompson, ACLU legislative representative, said, “Ms. Manning is the longest serving whistleblower in the history of the United States. Granting her clemency petition will give Ms. Manning a first chance to live a real, meaningful life as the person she was born to be.”

The letter to the president states, “Manning, a transgender woman who is being forced to serve out her sentence in an all-male prison, has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and denied necessary medical treatment related to her gender dysphoria. The Army even opposed her request to use her legal name and to be referred to by female pronouns. While the armed forces have finally opened the door to transgender men and women who wish to serve, the government has continually fought Ms. Manning’s efforts to be treated with basic dignity.”

The following groups signed the letter:

American Civil Liberties Union
Family Equality Council
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
Immigration Equality
Lambda Legal
League of United Latin American Citizens
Los Angeles LGBT Center
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Organization for Women
Pride at Work
Transgender Law Center

On the Web

Free Chelsea Manning.

Arrest of NYPD officer brings filming of officers into focus

Charges against a police officer accused of arresting a man for filming him with a cellphone camera have drawn fresh attention to a decades-old issue: citizens’ rights to record police.

Officer Jonathan Munoz pleaded not guilty recently to official misconduct charges in the March 2014 arrest of 21-year-old Jason Disisto.

Even before Munoz’s arrest, Disisto contended in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court that New York Police Department officers intimidate or arrest people recording police activity. He cited instances since 2005 when people, including journalists, were arrested after recording police with cameras or phones.

Police spokeswoman Sophia Mason says NYPD employees are reminded not to interfere with people recording police activity.

Patrick Lynch, president of the union representing police officers, said people sometimes abuse their rights, using them to torment or harass officers.

“It escalates the tension and makes it more dangerous for everyone involved,” Lynch said. “The act of recording police starts from the belief that every officer is doing something wrong and that’s insulting to all police officers.”

For officers, problems arise when recording can be interpreted as interfering with police activity, union officials say.

They add that officers understand they may be filmed, but the line between interference and documentation is blurred when a bystander shoves a cellphone into a crime scene from an arms-length away and yells aggressively at officers.

Prosecutors say their case against Munoz, 32, was built in part through surveillance video from a commercial establishment disproving his claim that Disisto entered a “fighting stance” before lunging and swinging a fist at him as officers investigated a young woman suspected of buying marijuana.

“Had this officer’s attempts to conceal his alleged misconduct succeeded, an innocent man may still be facing charges for a fabricated crime,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a news release.

Munoz’ lawyer did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said court fights over the issue have occurred periodically since a 1973 lawsuit resulted in a settlement four years later.

In it, the city agreed arrests would not result when someone merely takes photographs, remains near an arrest, or speaks out — even with crude or vulgar language — as long as there is no threat to safety and no law is broken.

In a report this year, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates allegations of police wrongdoing, said video recordings _ including those on someone’s phone _ had an increasingly important role in substantiating misconduct complaints. In 2012, only 3 percent of the agency’s investigations included video evidence, growing to 17 percent in the first half of 2015.

Dunn said the recording trend has exposed police.

“There are more and more instances surfacing where it is clear the police officers have lied in their descriptions of what happened in an incident,” he said. “That sort of police perjury is unconscionable and something police departments really have to tackle.”

Obama nominates out gay man to serve as Army secretary

President Barack Obama will nominate longtime Pentagon official Eric Fanning to become the next Army secretary, The Washington Post reported today.

If Fanning, 47,  is confirmed, he would be the nation’s first openly gay leader of a military service.

“Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role,” Obama said in a written statement. “I am grateful for his commitment to our men and women in uniform, and I am confident he will help lead America’s soldiers with distinction. I look forward to working with Eric to keep our Army the very best in the world.”

Matt Thorn, interim executive director of OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for LGBT service members, said he was thrilled by Fanning’s nomination.

“Having an openly gay individual in high level positions within the Department of Defense helps to set the tone at the top and provides an opportunity to bring better understanding about both the shared and the unique needs of LGBT individuals in the military and their families,” Thorn said in a statement. “I encourage the Senate Armed Services Committee, its chairman Senator John McCain and ranking member Senator Jack Reed to move proactively and swiftly in Eric’s confirmation hearing.”

Fanning has acted as undersecretary of the Army since June. His background includes serving as special assistant to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and holding senior positions in the Air Force, including serving as that service’s undersecretary from 2013 to 2015.

The Army secretary is a civilian position, but the Senate must still confirm Fanning’s nomination. Republicans, many of whom would face a costly challenge from their party’s right if they approved a gay military nominee, control the U.S. Senate.

As Army secretary, Fanning would work with Gen. Mark Milley, who became the Army’s top general in August. Together the two men would be responsible for the Pentagon’s largest and most troubled service, according the The Washington Post.

Fanning would replace John McHugh, who has said he plans to step down no later than Nov. 1.

In 2013, The Washington Blade reported that Fanning supported allowing out transgender people to serve in the military. In July 2015, the Pentagon announced that it will allow transgender members of the military to serve openly starting next year.

An estimated 15,500 closeted transgender people currently serve in the military, according to the Williams Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Civil rights leader Bayard Rustin to posthumously receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Barack Obama today announced that Bayard Rustin, the late civil and human rights advocate, will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

An aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rustin was the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He also was openly gay.

“Bayard Rustin’s contributions to the American civil rights movement remain paramount to its successes to this day,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “His role in the fight for civil rights of African-Americans is all the more admirable because he made it as a gay man, experiencing prejudice not just because of his race, but because of his sexual orientation as well.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award in the United States and recognizes individuals who made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

The White House said Rustin was “an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted non-violent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.”

He also worked to end apartheid in South Africa, fought for the freedom of Soviet Jews, worked to protect the property of Japanese Americans interned during World War II and helped highlight the plight of Vietnamese “boat people.”

“Bayard Rustin dedicated his life to advocating for fairness and equality and overcame prejudice to help move our nation forward,” said Griffin.

The president also announced 15 other recipients, saying, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”

The recipients are:

Ernie Banks. Known to many as “Mr. Cub,” Banks had 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, he played in 11 All-Star Games, hit more than 500 home runs and became the first National League player to win Most Valuable Player honors in back-to-back years. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year of eligibility. 

Ben Bradlee. During his tenure as executive editor of The Washington Post, Bradlee oversaw coverage of the Watergate scandal, successfully challenged the federal government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers and guided the newspaper through some of its most challenging moments. He also served in the Navy during World War II.

Bill Clinton. President Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States. Before taking office, he served as Governor and Attorney General of the state of Arkansas. Following his second term in the White House, he established the Clinton Foundation to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment. He also formed the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund with President George W. Bush in 2010.

Daniel Inouye (posthumous). As a young man, he fought in World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for which he received the Medal of Honor. He was later elected to the Hawaii Territorial House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate. Senator Inouye was the first Japanese American to serve in Congress, representing the people of Hawaii from the moment they joined the Union. 

Daniel Kahneman. After escaping Nazi occupation in World War II, Kahneman immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces and trained as a psychologist. Alongside Amos Tversky, he applied cognitive psychology to economic analysis, laying the foundation for a new field of research and earning the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. He is currently a professor at Princeton University.

Richard Lugar. Richard Lugar represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate for more than 30 years. An internationally respected statesman, he is best known for his bipartisan leadership and decades-long commitment to reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. Prior to serving in Congress, Lugar was a Rhodes Scholar and mayor of Indianapolis from 1968 to 1975.  He currently serves as president of the Lugar Center.

Loretta Lynn. Loretta Lynn is a country music legend. Raised in rural Kentucky, she emerged as one of the first successful female country music vocalists in the early 1960s, breaking barriers in an industry long dominated by men. Lynn’s numerous accolades include the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

Mario Molina. Mario Molina is a chemist and environmental scientist. Born in Mexico, Molina came to America to pursue his graduate degree. He later earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering how chlorofluorocarbons deplete the ozone layer.  

Sally Ride (posthumous). Sally Ride was the first American female astronaut to travel to space. As a role model to generations of young women, she advocated passionately for science education, stood up for racial and gender equality in the classroom and taught students from every background that there are no limits to what they can accomplish. Ride also served in several administrations as an advisor on space exploration.

Arturo Sandoval. Arturo Sandoval is a celebrated jazz trumpeter, pianist, and composer. Born outside Havana, he became a protégé of jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie and gained international acclaim as a dynamic performer. He defected to the United States in 1990 and later became an American citizen.  He has been awarded nine Grammy Awards and is widely considered one of the greatest living jazz artists.

Dean Smith. Dean Smith was head coach of the University of North Carolina basketball team from 1961 to 1997.  In those 36 years, he earned 2 national championships, was named National Coach of the Year multiple times, and retired as the winningest men’s college basketball coach in history.  Ninety-six percent of his players graduated from college. Smith has also remained a dedicated civil rights advocate throughout his career.

Gloria Steinem. Gloria Steinem is a renowned writer and activist for women’s equality. She was a leader in the women’s liberation movement, co-founded Ms. magazine, and helped launch a wide variety of groups and publications dedicated to advancing civil rights. Steinem has received dozens of awards over the course of her career, and remains an active voice for women’s rights.

Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian. C.T. Vivian is a distinguished minister, author and organizer.  A leader in the civil rights movement and friend to the Martin Luther King Jr., he participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across our country.  Vivian also helped found numerous civil rights organizations, including Vision, the National Anti-Klan Network, and the Center for Democratic Renewal.  In 2012, he returned to serve as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Patricia Wald. Patricia Wald is one of the most respected appellate judges of her generation. After graduating as 1 of only 11 women in her Yale University Law School class, she became the first woman appointed to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and served as Chief Judge from 1986-1991.  She later served on the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Wald currently serves on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 

Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey is best known for creating “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which became the highest rated talk show in America for 25 years. Winfrey has long been active in philanthropic causes and expanding opportunities for young women.  She has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010.