Sex Worker Allies Network (SWAN): Fighting for the Human Rights of Sex Workers

by Maya Menlo and Patricia Kane, SWAN

On Oct. 25, 2016, the New Haven Police Department (NHPD) arrested 14 sex workers in a sting. News media outlets published mug shots of the arrestees. The Sex Worker Allies Network (SWAN) formed in response to this archaic and unjust behavior. SWAN is comprised of a diverse group of New Haven residents, and is headed up by Beatrice Codianni, longtime community activist, and Brett Davidson, Connecticut Bail Fund co-founder.

One of SWAN’s first steps was to organize a rally at City Hall to protest the arrests as well as the public shaming of sex workers in New Haven. Mayor Toni Harp expressed doubts about the wisdom of the NHPD’s approach in an interview with WNNH shortly after the rally.

Members of SWAN met with Interim Police Chief Camp-bell to voice opposition to the sting. Chief Campbell suspended future sting operations in order to allow time to evaluate alternate approaches suggested by SWAN.

SWAN is tracking the arrestees’ criminal cases and has made free legal representation available to those who are interested.

SWAN volunteers have also been walking the streets to reach out to local sex workers, distributing bags of winter apparel and personal care items. Although SWAN’s work has just begun, the response from local sex workers has been overwhelmingly positive. SWAN is committed to lifting up the voices of sex workers in our community.

Studies show that many sex workers are victims of child-hood sexual and psychological abuse. They continue to be targets of violence, including by police, who trade sex for no arrest, or pressure them to become snitches – which endangers their lives.

Many of the sex workers to whom SWAN has spoken have multiple health issues. Some are homeless. SWAN is currently applying for a grant to fund its outreach expenses, and to cover the salary of one or more caseworkers to attend to the needs of local sex workers. In addition, SWAN is also working to raise funds to provide supportive housing to sex workers and women returning from prison. Please contact Patricia Kane (203) 559-1974 to get involved in SWAN’s efforts.

Green Fund Accepting Grant Applications Until Jan. 12, 2017

The Greater New Haven Green Fund promotes environmental quality and equity in the most environmentally distressed communities within the Greater New Haven area by providing local small grants to reduce pollution and create a more sustainable future. The Fund is seeking grant proposals for creative community-based initiatives that impact air and water pollution, as well as land conservation, sustainability, environmental education and youth leader-ship.

This year the Green Fund is particularly interested in encouraging small grant proposals of $3,000 or less from grassroots organizations. It has earmarked $18,000 of the total $48,000 to be used for this purpose and allotted $10,000 for smaller grants and $8,000 for microgrants. The smaller grants can be used for mission support and organizational capacity building as well as other projects that fit the priority areas of the Fund.

The Green Fund will also award $10,000 from the Community Benefits Agreement with Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc. (PSEG), owner of the Harbor Power Plant in New Haven. For this award the Fund seeks innovative proposals for activities that advance air quality initiatives in the areas of public education and outreach, public health studies, environmental justice and environmental analyses.

The deadline for 2017 applications is Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 at 4 p.m. Please check out the website for the Greater New Haven Green Fund, http://www.gnhgreenfund.org for further information and to download the application forms. Application forms are listed under the grants page titled small and large grants.

The New Haven Green Fund is a non profit 501(c)3 organization that was incorporated in 2006. It is administered by an independent board representing both local expertise and the communities that comprise the Greater New Haven Water Pollution service area. For more information, email info@gnhgreenfund.org, or call (203) 936-8136. Our mailing address is: Greater New Haven Green Fund, care of CFGNH, 70 Audubon St., New Haven, CT  06510.

The Listen Here Short Stories Reading Series continues 3rd Tuesdays

The Institute Library is proud to host the Listen Here Short Story reading series. Join us for a night of classic short stories selected by the staff of the New Haven Review and read by cast members of the New Haven Theater Company. Reading starts at 7 p.m., with talk back at 8 p.m. Also, freshly baked cookies–a different batch at each reading–and tea are available.

Admission is free!

Join us every third Tuesday of the month at the Institute Library, 847 Chapel St., New Haven. Our next reading will be Jan. 17. Stories TBA.

Please note that the Institute Library is one flight up and not wheel-chair accessible. For more information, visit us at www.institutelibrary.org.

State Commission on Human Rights Files ADA Complaint against Seymour Police Dept.

by Joe Luciano, Founder, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities has filed an ADA complaint (CHRO Case 1730312) on my behalf against Seymour Police Department, which will have thirty days to answer. Citing Conn. General Statute § 46a-64, the complaint charges that a Seymour police officer expressed bigotry by mocking my mobility device, a power (wheel)chair, by calling it a “little cart” and by identifying me to other officers as “our motorized complainant” who needs to be “appeased.”

When, on Nov. 10, I called to report vehicles parked at Seymour’s Fishway Park blocking access on the sidewalk, the desk officer belittled my complaint, saying, “You can’t get your ‘little cart’ up on the sidewalk?” When I corrected him by saying, “It’s not a cart; it’s a power chair,” the officer said curtly, “Same thing!” Though I had identified myself by name and did not reveal I use a power chair for mobility, in conversations with other officers he referred to me as the “motorized complainant.” I feel he has a grudge against me either because I am a disabled person or openly an advocate for older persons. Or perhaps he has contempt for civil rights that the ADA of 1990 provides.

In settlement proceedings I will demand, among other things, that Seymour’s police department obtain—from a recognized training and development organization—sensitivity training to enable respectful police encounters with persons with disabilities and ADA education so that officers can learn about, and enforce, responsibilities and rights of persons with disabilities.

In my opinion, Seymour PD needs to accept that we older persons are here to stay. The community should get used to seeing, not ‘little carts’ drawn by ponies, but scooters, walkers, and wheelchairs of all kinds downtown. We live there.

DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com

Jews, Muslims Gather on New Haven Green to Protest Islamophobia, Hate Crimes

by Kate Ramunni, New Haven Register, Dec. 22, 2016

Two groups that have been the target of hate crimes joined together Wednesday [Dec. 21} night to jointly recommit to justice for both and urge others to do the same. Members of Jewish Voices for Peace and the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut gathered on the New Haven Green, where they sang songs, held signs and advocated for tolerance. More than 30 people huddled together and traveled from corner to corner around the Green as evening traffic rushed by. [….]

“It’s gotten difficult to be a Jew or a Muslim in American society,” said Patrick Korth. “They are irrationally targeting the wrong people,” he said as he stood with the others at the corner of Chapel and College streets.

Wednesday’s demonstration was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace’s Network Against Islamophobia and set on the backdrop of Hanukkah, which starts Saturday night and runs through Jan. 1. The eight-day “festival of lights” celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple. Signs the demonstrators held laid out their beliefs: “We will not be silent when encountering Muslim and racist hate speech and hate crimes. We challenge through our words and actions institutionalized racism and state-sanctioned anti-black violence. We welcome Syrian refugees and stand strong with immigrants and refugees. We stand with Jews against Islamophobia and racism, rekindling our commitment to justice. We stand against U.S. policies on the ‘war on terror’ that demonize Islam and devalue, target and kill Muslims.”

“We need to change the direction of this country to address the problems of the world,” Korth said, “and we are not getting there with our politics.”

Read the whole story here at the New Haven Register’s website: Jews, Muslims gather on New Haven Green to protest Islamophobia, hate crimes

3-week Replica Solitary Confinement Cell Project opens Jan. 30

Join us at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, at the New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm St., for the opening event of the 3-week Replica Solitary Confinement Cell Project for New Haven with Mayor Toni N. Harp; Will Ginsberg, President & CEO of the GNH Community Foundation; Hope Metcalf, Yale Law School; and others.

Together with Yale Law School, Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, Sterling Library, the Joint Project Committee of New Haven UCC congregations, Wilton Friends Meeting, and My Brother’s Keeper, the NH Free Public Library is organizing this project as part of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), the nationwide interfaith campaign to expose and end the torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails and detention centers.

More information and a full program schedule will be forthcoming including Judy Dworin Performance Project, films, community panels and more! Thank you to our generous sponsors including the GNH Community Foundation, Dwight Hall and the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at the Yale Law School!

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