Grantee & Partner News

June 2, 2017

Paramilitary security tracked and targeted DAPL opponents as “jihadists,” docs show

Grantee News From Antonia Juhasz and Grist:

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As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.

Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.

The activities of the company spanned, but were not limited to, the four states through which the pipeline passes: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The documents also show that its surveillance efforts continued after the breakup of the Standing Rock camps this winter, including at ongoing pipeline protests in southeastern Pennsylvania, Iowa, and South Dakota.

The internal documents from the firm, called TigerSwan, take the form of situation reports, or “sitreps,” prepared between September and April for its employer, Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners. The records detail a range of tactics that experts from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and Electronic Frontier Foundation say would likely be illegal if conducted by law enforcement.

A private security company probably doesn’t face the same prohibitions, legal scholars say, but the close collaboration between TigerSwan and local, state, and federal authorities detailed in the firm’s internal reports raised red flags with them. Several legal experts described the contractor’s tactics as highly disturbing and perhaps unprecedented.

“It’s like a big brother society, with a private corporation — with even less restraints than the government — totally interfering with our right to privacy, free speech, assembly, and religious freedom,” said prominent civil rights attorney Jeff Haas, who works with the National Lawyers Guild and represents several of the nearly 800 people arrested while opposing the pipeline.

If the government can’t do it, he added, “Why should a private corporation working for another private corporation be able to?”

TigerSwan did not respond to requests for comment. Energy Transfer Partners said it would not answer questions related to its security procedures, but acknowledged that it had shared some information with law enforcement.

Dakota Access is expected to begin shipping oil today.

The tactics used against the self-described “water protectors” were first reported last weekend by The Intercept, which based its coverage on documents provided by a contractor who worked with TigerSwan, according to the news outlet. Grist independently obtained more than a dozen similar documents prior to The Intercept’s report.

According to the situation reports provided to Grist, TigerSwan also conducted surveillance of a church in Chicago, a 17-year-old girl in Iowa, and an AmeriCorps volunteer in Akron, among others. Reports of the actress Woodley’s arrest and the number of social media views she racked up were included in the reports.

The company specifically focused some of its most intense efforts on people of color — including Native American groups (like the Red Warrior Society and the American Indian Movement), members of Black Lives Matter, Palestinian activists, and those it labeled as “Islamists.”

Several of TigerSwan’s targets expressed surprise and outrage when informed of the surveillance against them, but also vowed to defy efforts at intimidation. “This is crazy!” said 21-year-old Alex Cohen, an Iowa activist named in the reports, which detail tracking him and his group’s movements and activities. At least some of TigerSwan’s knowledge could only have been gained through direct infiltration, he said.

A 17-year-old member of Cohen’s group was also included among the tracking reports. She was flattered when told the company considered her a threat. “I think it feels amazing that they are intimidated enough — not only by myself but by my friends — to write this!”

In addition to intrusive surveillance, the leaked documents reveal that the security firm attempted to create divisions between activists, manipulate and discredit pipeline opponents, and collect evidence that law enforcement could use to prosecute Standing Rock activists.

The ACLU’s human rights program director, Jamil Dakwar, said the records obtained by the news outlets suggest the company was painting an exaggerated picture to persuade both Energy Transfer Partners and law enforcement to take a more aggressive stance against those opposing the pipeline.

Said Dakwar: “They are operating with no transparency, no accountability.” More>

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Four Ways ISIS Manipulates Gender Dynamics

Grantee News From Inclusive Security:

The apparently ISIS-inspired attack, at a concert by Ariana Grande, whose fans are disproportionately young and female, has drawn heated argument about the roles gender and sexism play in terrorism.

We want to move past the pundits to hear what terrorism scholars and impacted communities have to say.

Today, Inclusive Security President Jacqueline O’Neill and Heather Hurlburt of New America published their piece on VOX.

What did they find? Our adversaries are exploiting gender dynamics in very sophisticated ways, and counter-terrorism needs to catch up.

 

Updated by

We need to think harder about terrorism and gender. ISIS already is.

Was the Manchester attack explicitly an attack on girls and women — on female culture? The apparently ISIS-inspired bombing, at a concert by Ariana Grande, whose fans are disproportionately young and female, has inspired heated argument about the roles gender and sexism play in terrorism. For some, it was an explicit salvo against women’s autonomy and the value of feminine culture. Conservatives fired back that this line of commentary represented just another example of so-called Western feminists making it all about them. (Men died in the attack, too!)

Another picture emerges, though, if you bypass the culture wars and speak to scholars who focus on terrorism, or to members of communities most affected by terrorism: It’s clear to them that extremist groups bend gender dynamics to their advantage in sophisticated ways. Too often, the topic of gender, as it relates to terrorism, is treated as superfluous — a nice-to-have extra. It’s cultural analysis that you might indulge in your free time, perhaps, but, in the end, a distraction from the hard-headed work of combating terrorism. But our adversaries are exploiting gender dynamics in very sophisticated ways, and counterterrorism needs to catch up.

Whether your goal is to understand the world or protect against security threats, it’s crucial to grasp the ways in which extremist groups manipulate gender norms and gender dynamics. Here are four key ways:

First, terror recruiters customize messages to promise women a life beyond perceived victimhood. Counterterror messaging has no good answer.

While women have long been involved in violent extremist groups around the world, the proportion joining ISIS from abroad — including the US — is strikingly high. Among ISIS members who have come to the Middle East from Europe, roughly one in five is female. ISIS recruiters create messages targeted at women and girls — and far more complex than the oft-cited cliché that becoming a “jihadi bride” is a noble calling. Recruiters, often females themselves, tap into the narrative that Western societies don’t respect Muslim women. More from Vox>

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May 22, 2017

Who Should You Listen to on Abortion? People Who’ve Had Them

News from The New York Times:

Angie Wang

When I arrived at the clinic in Washington, I looked for the young woman I was waiting for. Her body was covered with tattoos of birds and stars. She hugged me with a warm smile and introduced me to her boyfriend. He didn’t look at me. In fact, he didn’t look me in the eye for the five hours we sat together in the waiting room.

I assumed it was out of shame until I noticed the white supremacist tattoos on his shaved head, neck, forearms and knuckles. As a black woman, I was scared of him. Yet I felt a bond. They had driven several hours from Virginia to avoid the numerous restrictions on abortions there. He was returning from jail. She already had a child and wasn’t ready for another. I knew the feeling well.

She asked for an abortion doula because she wanted unconditional support, no matter what she decided. She wanted me, a total stranger, to reinforce her trust in herself. After she went to the procedure room, her boyfriend and I went outside, me to make a call, him to smoke. In the elevator down, he finally spoke: “Thank you.”

When I had an abortion, I was 19 and alone. Though I was pretty sure my parents would have supported my decision, I didn’t want to take the risk. So I kept it a secret. My boyfriend at the time dropped me off at the clinic, unwilling to go inside. I walked through the bombproof door, and a kind Orthodox Jewish nurse took care of me. She held my hand as the sedation filled my veins, and offered me saltine crackers and Coca-Cola when I woke up in the recovery room.

These are the realities of abortion.

The need to terminate a pregnancy knows no political affiliation or religious faith. I’ve hugged, cried with and held the hands of hundreds of people who’ve had abortions, many of whom never thought they would. All were thankful that someone was there to provide care, sit with them when they were alone and hold their hair as the nausea took over. All felt the stigma and shame society thrusts on them.

The abortion debate rages on, but the voices of those who’ve actually had abortions are ignored. Few people try to understand our lives. And we are never asked the most simple but important question: Why did you do it?

That’s intentional. It’s easier to strip us of our rights when we’re not treated as humans, when political candidates say we deserve “some form of punishment,” when elected officials vote to define abortion as “murder,”when people call us killers. Language matters and it leads to violence. Abortion providers, and people who share their stories, including me, have received thousands of threats.

But nearly one-third of American women are estimated to have an abortion by 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Sixty-two percent of us are people of color. A majority are religious. We’re trying to make ends meet and can’t afford to expand our family at that particular time.

Continue reading the main story

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May 17, 2017

CITIZEN ARTIST SALON: POLICY ON BELONGING

Grantee News From U.S. Department of Arts and Culture:

WHAT IF Planning Departments had to make that rezoning decisions didn’t impinge on on the #RightToBelong?

WHAT IF your School Board could resist a campaign to end bilingual education because a Policy on Belonging obliged them to ensure that all students felt equally welcome.

WHAT IF church leaders  stood in solidarity with Jewish and Muslim neighbors whose houses of worship has been vandalized, adopting a Policy on Belonging and helping to, spread the #RightToBelong far and wide? Learn about the tools to make these possibilities fully real!

You can make the #RightToBelong official policy by following the easy steps laid out in our free, downloadable Toolkit and joining in on this Citizen Artist Salon featuring:

  • Roberto Bedoya, Secretary of Belonging on USDAC National Cabinet and Oakland Cultural Affairs Manager
  • Andrew Grant-Thomas, cofounder of EmbraceRace and editor of the Othering & Belonging journal
  • Arlene Goldbard, USDAC Chief Policy Wonk and author of The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future

Citizen Artist Salon: Policy on Belonging

Start: May 17, 2017 6:00 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada) (GMT-05:00)

End: May 17, 2017 7:30 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada) (GMT-05:00)

Host Contact Info: hello@usdac.us

Attend this event

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May 4, 2017

The Little-Known Nonprofit Helping Your Favorite Bands Give Back

Grantee News From Revolutions Per Minute:

 

The Pitch

“I want to help you but I don’t know how,” Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra sang on her Trayvon Martin tribute “Everybody Knows” back in 2014. Fortuitously, the song led her to Revolutions Per Minute, a nonprofit that quietly has helped musicians turn their good intentions into effective advocacy since 2005, when it was known as Air Traffic Control. Last year, selling “Women Are Powerful and Dangerous” T-shirts with help from RPM, the band raised more than $7,000 in just one week for Third Wave Fund, which benefits LGBTQ youth in need, and Oakland-based girls’ group Radical Monarchs. “RPM really eliminates that hopelessness you can feel sometimes when you’re like, ‘I care, but I don’t know what to do,’” Segarra tells me.

The song that first brought Segarra to RPM now finds a home on the organization’s most visible project to date: Our First 100 Days. Launched on Inauguration Day by Secretly Group’s family of labels and the folks behind last year’s 30 Days, 30 Songs, the subscription compilation benefits groups fighting President Trump’s aggressively regressive policy threats. It consists of a new song per day, through April 29, from a host of indie favorites including Angel Olsen, Will Oldham, Mitski, Toro Y Moi, Jens Lekman, and Waxahatchee, raising almost $100,000 to date from $30 subscriptions as well as charity merch from Courtney Barnett, David Byrne, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Guided by RPM, the team behind Our First 100 Days chose a wide range of beneficiaries that “really speak to the core of what is so totally fucked about the Trump administration,” says Secretly partner Phil Waldorf: pro-choice advocates All Above All, immigrant rights supporters Cosecha, and environmental activists People’s Climate Movement, plus regionally focused political organizers Southerners on New Ground and Hoosier Action. More>

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April 25, 2017

Poetry in a Time of Climate Crisis: A Generative Writing Workshop

Peoples Climate March

March 16, 2017

TRUMP’S STARVATION AND INSECURITY BUDGET

February 22, 2017

Extremism’s Earliest Critics

Carbon Bubble Is Bursting as Divestment Takes Hold