10 Months On, Families March Across Mexico in Search of Missing Ayotzinapa Students 

This article by Sergio Rincón was originally published on Sin Embargo and is reproduced here under a partnership agreement.

Relatives, students and activists announced two caravans will travel across Mexico from the north and south starting July 31 with the goal of joining forces and calling on more Mexicans to join the search for the 43 missing students of theEscuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos (Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College) in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

The students disappeared on September 26 of last year in Iguala, presumably at the hands of municipal police.

Since then, national and international human rights organizations have investigated and requested that the Attorney General of Mexico widen the investigation into the missing students and open new lines of investigation, including calling in military personnel to testify.

Families and advocacy groups maintain allegations of the presence of military personnel during the disappearance should be investigated, but the Mexican Army refuses to allow Ayotzinapa parent-investigators onto military bases. Prosecutors maintain that there is a lack of evidence of military involvement for them to pursue that line of investigation.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights named a group of international experts contributing to the investigation, who made detailed recommendations this past April. However, human rights organizations and experts have not had success.

Over the last week, the National Human Rights Commission raised many flaws and omissions in the ministerial investigation on the part of Mexican Attorney General and the State Prosecutor of Guerrero. The head of the special unit of the Iguala Case, José Larrieta, along with the national Ombudsman, Luis Raúl Pérez Gonzáles, recommended that Mexican authorities explore new lines of investigation.

One new line of investigation is that the attack on the students could have happened in Pueblo Viejo and the La Parota (locations in the vicinity of Iguala) “as there are reports of a clearly identified individual who could provide information related of the disappearance of the students”. As well as there being allusions to other individuals, known only by their last names, who have yet to be investigated.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the Paseo de la Reforma, a wide avenue that runs diagonally across the heart of Mexico City, as part of the day of protests, demanding the return of the students alive. Civil organizations and trade unions planned a demonstration at 4 pm to remind the authorities that a day like today, 10 months ago, after being held by police from Iguala, the students disappeared.

The demonstrators arrived at Hemiciclo a Juárez, a monument erected to honor former president Benito Juárez and located in Mexico City’s historic centerwhere they held a rally with relatives of the 43. There they demanded justice so that the military personnel involved in the cases of Iguala, Tlatlaya and Ostula would be punished. “The army is performing extra judicial executions”, was heard at the protest.

“The Mexican Army murdered a boy in Michoacán, this is the same army that took our children. Therefore we demand you open up the [military] bases to the team of experts from Argentina”, said Felipe De La Cruz, spokesperson for the parents of the students.

De La Cruz mentioned that the government’s historical truth has become “the country’s historical lie”.

The movement that is demanding the search for the 43 announced that on July 31, two informative caravans will be set up. One in the northern states that will begin in Chihuahua, and another to the south of Mexico that will begin in Chiapas.

“We want to join together, to join the cause with organizations and society”, they put forward.

The northern caravan will also cover the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, and Jalisco. The southern caravan will pass through Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Morelos, Estado de México, Distrito Federal and finish up in Guerrero.

Throughout the rally, the parents of the families stated that for the last 10 months they have lived through hell, but thanks to the support of many Mexicans, they have the strength to go out and demand justice “because we cannot remain silent in a country where the authorities say that nothing has happened”, said a relative of the students.

They also put forward that they would not allow elections to go ahead in Iguala, nor would they allow the presence of armed forces in the town.

“There will be no elections until they open the barracks to the experts”, one woman said.

Prior to the rally and protest, a march was organized at the anti monument +43 where parents of the families warned that if anything happens to their children, it will be President Enrique Peña Nieto who is responsible.

The day of protests over the students’ 10 month disappearance began on August 2 in the state of Guerrero, with protests from intellectuals, relatives, and classmates of the students.

In the country’s capital, a conference was held at the Hemiciclo a Juárez, where protesters demanded the return of the students alive, and also that they ensure that the recent report from the National Human Rights Commission shows that the official version of events seeks to conclude the parents’ movement to find their children.

“Today they ask us to go home and get over the pain. We say to them: we will not go home until our children are returned”, declared Vidulfo Rosales Sierra, lawyer from the Centre of Human Rights of Mount Tlachinollan.

In another act of solidarity, cyclists rode from Hemiciclo a Juárez to the Attorney General of Mexico with protest banners and photos of the 43 students.

Source: 10 Months On, Families March Across Mexico in Search of Missing Ayotzinapa Students · Global Voices


This Fall

In Step Back Towards Justice, Court Rules Texas Voter ID Law ‘Discriminatory’ 

Decision, however, falls short of broad injunction against the voter suppression rule

by: Sarah Lazare

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Texas’s controversial voter ID law, the most severe in the country, has a “discriminatory effect” against minority voters, in what civil rights campaigners say is an important step towards justice for African-American, Latino, and low-income people suppressed under the rule.

The three judge panel determined that the law, passed by the state in 2011, violates what’s left of the Voting Rights Act after it was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. The ruling itself comes just one day before the 50th anniversary of the Act, which was the product of the mass organizing and protests of the civil rights and black freedom movements.

“We recognize the charged nature of accusations of racism, particularly against a legislative body, but we also recognize the sad truth that racism continues to exist in our modern American society despite years of laws designed to eradicate it,” wrote the three-judge panel for the New Orleans court, which is known for being conservative.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision, however, fell short of issuing a broad injunction against the 2011 law, instead determining that it must be sent to a lower district court to find an appropriate remedy. It was not immediately clear whether the state will continue to enforce the rule in the meantime.

This is not the first time a judge has ruled against the law. In 2014, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzoles Ramos overturned the rule on the grounds that it has “an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans” and compared it to a poll tax. She noted that voter suppression under the law was vast, with over 600,000 registered voters in Texas lacking the required documentation.

However, Texas successfully appealed this ruling, and the law was in effect during the November 2014 election, thereby disenfranchising large numbers of voters. Wednesday’s decision is a blow against the 2011 rule but falls short of the Ramos ruling.

Nonetheless, civil rights groups were buoyed by the development.

“We are greatly encouraged by today’s decision,” declared Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP and an attorney with PotterBledsoe, in a press statement. “This decision acknowledges the problems Texas African American and Latino voters have experienced as cited by their leaders since the law was first implemented, that it blatantly discriminates against minority voters.”

“We call upon the Attorney General to stop these efforts and not seek a rehearing or an appeal to the United States Supreme Court,” Bledsoe continued. “There is no need to prolong discriminatory practices that truly are hurting Texans of color.”

“The Texas Legislature was determined to adopt the most restrictive photo identification law in the country, and it rejected repeated opportunities to reduce the law’s negative effects,” declared Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Voting Rights Project. “It should come as no surprise that the court found a violation of federal law.”

Wednesday’s decision has broad implications for other voter suppression laws across the country. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Since the 2010 election, 21 stateshave new laws in place making it harder to vote, and 15 states will have new rules in effect for the first time in a presidential election in 2016.”

Source: In Step Back Towards Justice, Court Rules Texas Voter ID Law ‘Discriminatory’ | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community


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Black and White: Survey Reveals Huge Disparities in Assessing Police Violence 

Nearly three-quarters of black respondents consider violence against civilians by law enforcement officers to be an extremely or very serious problem, while less than 20 percent of white people feel the same

by: Jon Queally

Just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri—a death which propelled the national Black Lives Matter movement and a national conversation about racialized police violence to the forefront—a new poll released Wednesday reveals just how different the perceptions and experiences regarding law enforcement in the United States remain for black community members compared to their white counterparts.

Conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, the new survey found black people are much more likely to have had a personally negative experience with police officers, with more than 3 in 5 saying they or a family member had been ill-treated by police based on their race, compared to just 3 percent of white respondents who said the same. In addition to actual experience, the perceptions of law enforcement practices and behavior were starkly different between black and white civilians.

Strikingly, when it came to assessing the severity of problematic police violence in the country, nearly three-quarters of black respondents consider violence against civilians by law enforcement officers to be an extremely or very serious problem, while less than 20 percent of white people feel the same.

Additionally, as AP reports, the survey found:

  • More than two-thirds of blacks — 71 percent — thought police are treated too leniently by the criminal justice system when they hurt or kill people. A third of whites say police are getting away with it, while nearly half — 46 percent — say the police are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
  • When asked why police violence happens, 62 percent of whites said a major reason is that civilians confront the police, rather than cooperate, when they are stopped. Three out of 4 blacks, or 75 percent, said it is because the consequences of police misconduct are minimal, and few officers are prosecuted for excessive use of force. More than 7 in 10 blacks identified problems with race relations, along with poor relations between police and the public that they serve, as major reasons for police violence.
  • Whites and blacks disagreed over whether police are more likely to use deadly force against blacks. Nearly 3 out of 4 whites — 74 percent — thought race had nothing to do with how police in their communities decide to use deadly force. Among blacks, 71 percent thought police were more likely to use deadly force against black people in their communities, and 85 percent said the same thing applied generally across the country. Fifty-eight percent of whites thought race had nothing to do with police decisions in most communities on use of deadly force.
  • Seventy-two percent of whites said they always or often trust police to do what is right for them and their community, while 66 percent of blacks said they only sometimes, rarely, or never trust the police to do what is right.

While accounting for how the diversity of a community impacts certain perceptions, the survey found white Americans who live in more diverse communities—those where census data show at least 25 percent of the population is non-white—were more likely than whites who live in more homogenous communities to say police in their communities sometimes treat minorities more roughly, 58 percent to 42 percent. Additionally, those in more diverse areas are more likely to see police officers as too quick to use deadly force, 42 percent to 29 percent.

Despite the very large differences in experience and perception, the study also discovered widespread agreement among both races that specific police reforms, in fact, are needed. For example, 71 percent of overall respondents said body cameras on police would be an effective deterrent to police aggression and 52 percent said they think community policing programs would help reduce the friction in minority communities.

“This survey indicates that while there is a deep divide among  Americans on these issues, there are key points of agreement as well,” said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center. “There is  widespread agreement that race relations in the United States are in a sorry state, and blacks and whites agree that changes in policies and procedures could be effective in reducing tensions between minorities and police and in limiting violence against civilians.”

The nationwide poll was collected July 17 to 19 using the web, landlines, and cell phones to conduct interviews with 1,223 adults, including 311 blacks who were sampled at a higher rate than their proportion of the population for reasons of analysis.

Source: Black and White: Survey Reveals Huge Disparities in Assessing Police Violence | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

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