USA Court Rules NSA Spying Illegal

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Edward Snowden risked his life and freedom to bring to the world’s attention that the American government illegal (and unethically) spies on innocent people everywhere on the planet. Many Americans called Snowden a traitor and a liar. Now, the courts in his home country agree with Snowden: the wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) was indeed illegal. Hopefully the American government will stop spying on innocent people, and with his vindication hopefully others will be inspired to speak truth to power like Snowden did.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that the program, under which the NSA collected and analyzed bulk data provided by telecommunications companies, was in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and could have been unconstitutional.

“Seven years ago, as the news declared I was being charged as a criminal for speaking the truth, I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them,” said Snowden, who fled to Russia after exposing the program, on Twitter. “And yet that day has arrived.”

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Defund the Police, Fund These Roles Instead

Thankfully, calls to defund the police are being heard throughout North America where police have military equipment. Despite decades of “austerity” which witnessed governments defunding social services and programs that helped the disenfranchised we’re finally seeing the police budgets on the chopping block. Why is this good? Well, the police have been doing a terrible job and other governmental entities can handle what the police do better. Heck, in Toronto the police outright stopped traffic enforcement despite getting $1 billion a year.

It’s high time we defund the police and reallocate that money to better services.

3) Create a mobile crisis response unit

Oftentimes, a police officer’s role bleeds over from mediation into something that resembles social work, usually involving populations like those who are homeless, intoxicated, substance abusers, or suffering from mental illness.

The results can be disastrous. About half of prison inmates were diagnosed with a mental illness. Around a quarter of fatal encounters with law enforcement involve someone with a mental health condition (and those numbers are possibly severe undercounts). A massively disproportionate number of police calls and arrests in cities across the country involve homeless populations. In Portland, Oregon, the city’s homeless population made up 52 percent of the city’s arrests in 2017 even though they comprise less than 3 percent of Portland’s population.

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Protests Work: Minneapolis Police Defunding Begins and More

Democracy happens in the streets.

Every single person who has supported the Black Lives Matter movement, or has shown support for social justice in a direct way, has helped make change happen in America. The conversation about racist police and blatant police brutality is getting more attention now than ever before; subsequently the idea of defunding the police has reached more people.

This week Minneapolis has started the process of defunding their police. It’ll years, but it’s started. Other successes from the past couple of weeks can be found in corporate America with IBM no longer offering general purpose facial recognition or analysis software to track people (they realized it entrenches bias and racism).

The current pressure on government and racists is working in the USA keep it up!

Go out there and protest, support the protesters, and have conversations with your friends! Just remember to be safe, wear a mask, and stay physically part to not spread COVID.

“We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” tweeted Council Member Jeremiah Ellison on June 4, pledging to “dramatically rethink” the city’s approach to emergency response. In a TIME op-ed published the next day, Council Member Steve Fletcher cited the MPD’s lengthy track record of misconduct and “decades-long history of violence and discrimination”—all of which are subjects of an ongoing Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation—as compelling justifications for the department’s disbandment. “We can resolve confusion over a $20 grocery transaction without drawing a weapon or pulling out handcuffs,” Fletcher wrote.

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Unsure of what defunding is about? Read on:

Is dismantling different from defunding?

Dismantling implies abolition of the current structure. Defunding refers to shaving the budget.

Behind both is the idea of shifting resources from a paramilitary police force to education and social services with the aim of reducing socioeconomic disparities.

What would replace the police?

The idea generally would be to have a social services-based approach, possibly using the fire department to handle drug overdose calls, health care and social services professionals to tend to mental health matters instead of militaristic, uniformed officers with guns.

But even the council members who want to dismantle the police aren’t yet articulating detailed agreement on a new approach.

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It’s Time to Defund the Police

Militarization of police forces isn’t just an American problem, it’s a global problem, and it needs to stop. One of the many reasons police are buying tanks and high tech weaponry is because they have money to do so. In Toronto, we give the police $1 billion a year and yet something like half of all murders go unsolved and they literally stopped enforcing some laws a few years ago. In Toronto just a few days ago the police allegedly pushed a woman off of her balcony. Are the people of Toronto getting value from their police? Maybe not. Maybe we should do to the police what has been done to other public services: cut them.

Let’s replace the police with an organization that cares about the people they are supposed to protect.

Police have also become more militarized. The Federal 1033 program, the Department of Justice’s “Cops Office,” and homeland security grants have channeled billions of dollars in military hardware into American police departments to advance their “war on crime” mentality. A whole generation of police officers have been given “warrior” training that teaches them to see every encounter with the public as potentially their last, leading to a hostile attitude towards those policed and the unnecessary killing of people falsely considered a threat, such as the 12-year-old Tamir Rice, killed for holding a toy gun in an Ohio park.

The alternative is not more money for police training programs, hardware or oversight. It is to dramatically shrink their function. We must demand that local politicians develop non-police solutions to the problems poor people face. We must invest in housing, employment and healthcare in ways that directly target the problems of public safety. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, we need publicly financed supportive housing; instead of gang units, we need community-based anti-violence programs, trauma services and jobs for young people; instead of school police we need more counselors, after-school programs, and restorative justice programs.

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Protesting Works

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Democracy is messy and in order for it to function many voices need to be heard, when some groups can’t be heard they peacefully take to the streets. Despite a history of protesting for a good cause resulting in beneficial societal change there are people who doubt the efficacy of such movements. There is a long history of groups getting together and rallying behind a common cause which we take for granted today, like weekends and liberty. Given what is happening this week in the USA it’s high time we all show our support (in a non COVID-19 spreading way) for those fighting for human rights and eradicating racism.

In 1911, 146 workers were killed by a fire in an unsafe factory. At the time, workers often dealt with extremely hazardous working conditions. The tragedy prompted a march on New York’s Fifth Avenue of nearly 80,000 people. This march helped to pass new laws to ensure workplace safety and helped the growing union movement. This eventually led to laws that we still use today, like the minimum wage requirement and the right to collectively bargain as a union.

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