This is CCR's weekly "Frontlines of Justice" news round-up, keeping you in the loop about what we've been up to and what's coming soon. Check it out every Monday, your one-stop-shop for CCR opinions, news coverage, reports from court appearances, upcoming events, and more!
Waiting for Abbasi
It’s been three months since we went to the Supreme Court to argue our landmark case holding high-level officials accountable for Muslim profiling and abuse in post-9/11 immigration sweeps. We’re on tenterhooks every time the Court announces a round of decisions, wondering if today will be the day we hear. The only thing we know is that they will issue a decision before the end of their term on June 30: the rest is trying to read tealeaves, so we watch SCOTUSblog and wait. If the Court rules in our favor, it will send a powerful message to Trump officials that no one is above the law. If we lose, the consequences are severe, but we certainly won’t give up fighting to hold federal officials accountable when they violate the Constitution.
Our clients have been seeking justice for 15 years, including Benamar Benatta, who joined us at the Supreme Court, his first time back in the country since his ordeal. Watch this moving video about that day. Rest assured, we’ll let you know the moment we hear the decision has come in, and we’ll continue to share important moments from the case while we wait!
Surveillance, infiltration, and the misguided DOJ about-face
Last week, the Guardian revealed evidence that NYPD officers had not only surveilled Black Lives Matter organizers in New York City, but infiltrated their meetings and gained access to their text messages. These tactics raise questions about whether the NYPD was violating its own intelligence-gathering rules. (This would not be the first time the NYPD has run afoul of the law; our current case Hassan v. City of New York is another example.)
The evidence of this latest surveillance came as the result of a Freedom of Information Law request filed on behalf of protester James Logue. The power of Freedom of Information requests cannot be understated: In October, CCR filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for their failure to disclose documents related to the surveillance of members of the Movement for Black Lives. The suit, filed on behalf of Color of Change, followed FOIA requests sent to the agencies in the wake of revelations that federal and local law enforcement have used counterterrorism tactics to surveil protests, protesters, and perceived protest leaders. As CCR staff attorney Omar Farah said, “The public has the right to know how and why the federal government is surveilling constitutionally protected activity in response to police violence.”
Police violence on a national level was in the headlines this past week when news broke that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be conducting a review of all consent decrees of police pattern and practice cases. The Department of Justice (DOJ) also had filed for a motion todelay finalizing the consent decree agreed to by the DOJ and the city of Baltimore to address systemic civil rights violations, which a Baltimore federal Judge denied last week. Coupled with the February Trump Executive Orders on law enforcement, the moves by the DOJ signal a break with the role the federal government has played in advocating for police reform nationally. As Vanita Gupta and Corey Stoughton, both formerly of the DOJ, noted in their recent New York Times op-ed, “It would be an abdication of the Justice Department’s congressionally mandated responsibilities to ignore these problems.”
Launched on April 4, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “Beyond Vietnam,” #No54BillionforWar is a coalition of leaders in the anti-war, civil rights, immigration, climate, women’s, and faith movements who have come together to denounce Trump’s proposed $54 billion increase in the military budget. This bloated military budget impacts every aspect of civil society by taking money from urgent social needs and feeding it into Trump’s 21st century War Machine.
As the authors of the #No54BillionforWar statement write, “Our environmental and human needs are desperate and urgent. We need to transform our economy, our politics, our policies and our priorities to reflect that reality.”
The statement, which you can read here, closes with this: “We can do this. Reverse the flow. No Walls, No War, No Warming!”
CCR executive director Vince Warren added his name to the list of signatories, and noted:
Hyper-militarism is not a new phenomenon in America and successive generations of activists have been consistently pushing back against war making in administrations Republican and Democratic. But this moment feels different. Although we’ve been saying the same thing for the last 30 years: less resources to the military and the corporations that incentivize war making; less resources to the police who, like their military counterparts, treat Black and Brown communities like the enemy under the rubric of "keeping the peace"; and more resources to our communities who suffer greatly under cruel and damaging economic policies, it is important for CCR to speak out now because of the profound shifts in military and police investment that Trump is implementing.
Learn more about the campaign, and how you can add your own name, by going to codepink.org/no54billionforwar.