Justice for Mubarak Soulemane – One Year Later

Mike Merli, PAR reader

On Dec. 27, 2019, I took shahada at the Friday Jummah prayer at the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center, and officially converted to Islam, in public, in front of so many people. It was a beautiful moment, filled with love, and lots of hugging and happiness as I entered a new chapter in my life. Or, in many ways, began life anew.

Mubarak is a word, a name, a greeting we say, and a blessing we offer to each other, on joyous occasions, and holidays and on every Friday, which marks the most important day and prayer of the week, the Jummah prayer, or Friday afternoon prayer.

Eid Mubarak. Ramadan Mubarak. Jummah Mubarak.

I’ll never forget learning the name Mubarak Soulemane, shot and killed by Connecticut State Trooper Brian North on January 15, 2020. Less than a month after I converted to Islam.

Last Friday night, one week ago today, marked one year. To mark the anniversary, there was a vigil, a beautiful, and heartbreaking gathering at the site of Mubarak’s murder, on Campbell Avenue in West Haven. Mubarak’s family and friends were joined by community and neighbors who showed up in solidarity and support.

Justice for Mubarak organizer Kira Ortoleva spoke about meeting Mubarak as a student at Gateway Community College in New Haven. She talked about how they became best friends. She spoke of Mubarak’s heart, his generosity, the kindness with which he lived his life, and how much he cared about other people.

Mubarak’s mother Omo lifted her voice through so much pain, and in tears spoke about her son. Her family’s devastating and unimaginable loss was tangible and heartbreaking.

Other relatives of Mubarak’s spoke as well and illuminated his beautiful life for the world to see. His pursuit of business, his passion for sports.

West Haven-based organizer Farah Najjari emphasized the need for centering Black lives in this moment. As someone who is Muslim herself, she closed her powerful speech by addressing Mubarak’s family and saying, “Inna lillahi wa inna illahi rajioon” (“Verily we belong to Allah, and to Allah we return”).

There were chants of Black Lives Matter, and Justice for Mubarak that reverberated throughout that underpass that night, and inside each of us gathered there.

Middletown State’s Attorney Michael Gailor still hasn’t made a decision yet on whether or not he will charge Trooper Brian North for Mubarak’s murder.

We have to keep learning about Mubarak. We have to keep saying his name. We have to keep supporting his family, and fighting for justice.

To connect with the Justice for Mubarak movement and stay updated:
www.facebook.com/justiceformubarak
www.instagram.com/justiceformubarak

Mariyann Soulemane’s recent interview on Counterpoint with Scott Harris: btlonline.org/mariyann-soulemane-fights-for-justice-for-her-brother-slain-by-ct-state-police

My recent interview with Kira Ortoleva on WPKN’s Mic Check: soundcloud.com/wpkn895/mubarak-soulemanes-murder-by-ct-state-police-one-year-later

Press Charges Against Officer Who Shot Mubarak Soulemane!

by Mike Merli, PAR reader

December 3, 2020. The night was brisk but full of righteous anger and collective grief as a chorus of voices cried for justice.

Mubarak Soulemane

We were gathered outside of City Hall in Middletown, to call on State’s Attorney Michael A. Gailor to do the right thing and bring charges against State Trooper Brian North for the Jan. 15, 2020 murder of Mubarak Soulemane.

Mubarak, at 19 years old, was suffering a schizophrenic mental health episode when State Police crashed him off Exit 43 in West Haven and boxed the car in. With no possible way to exit the vehicle, escape, or flee in any way, Connecticut State Trooper Brian North (a resident of Milford) made the decision to fire upon Mubarak execution-style. An act so evil that the word “murder” doesn’t even come close to capturing the horror of what was done to Mubarak that night.

And the horror his family and friends have been living with ever since.

The Justice for Mubarak movement has been going strong all across Connecticut since January 15, 2020, demanding justice for Mubi. The protests and events have been organized by Kira Ortoleva (who was best friends with Mubarak) and Mubarak’s family.

The fight was taken to Middletown strategically to apply pressure on State’s Attorney Gailor to hold North accountable.

To be clear, up to this point, Connecticut has had an essentially non-existent record of holding police accountable for the murders they commit: the officers who, in 2017, murdered Jayson Negron, Vincent “Kuda” Fowlkes, and Zoe Dowdell were not charged by the State’s Attorneys overseeing the investigations.

Today, as I write these words, the front page of the New Haven Register announces the news that the Ansonia Police officers who murdered Michael Gregory earlier this year will not face charges.

These compounding injustices won’t stop Mubarak’s friends, family, and community, that much is clear.
And two weeks ago in Middletown, there were powerful speeches from Kira Ortoleva, best friend to Mubarak and lead organizer with Justice for Mubarak; Mubarak’s sister Mariyanne and mother Omo; Jayson Negron’s sister Jazmarie Melendez, who continues to fight for justice for her brother Jayson in Bridgeport; Alyssa Hughes, poet/organizer from Waterbury; Amina Seyal from Abolition Ummah, a Muslim Women Of Color-led organization and the only abolitionist organization in Connecticut led by Muslims; and organizers with Black Lives Matter Greater New York, including Hawk Newsome.

The next #JusticeForMubarak action will be held at 4 p.m. on Jan. 15, the one-year anniversary of Mubarak’s murder. It will take place at the site where Mubarak was killed: Campbell Avenue in West Haven, off Exit 43.

For more information on the groups present on Dec. 3:

https://www.facebook.com/justiceformubarak

http://www.instagram.com/justiceformubarak

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/Justice-for-Jayson-1554817064576339

www.instagram.com/justice4jayson

www.instagram.com/abolitionummah

https://www.facebook.com/blmgreaterny

www.instagram.com/blmgreaterny

www.twitter.com/blmgreaterny

‘Tired of Burying My Friends’: Young People Rally Against Violence in New Haven

Ben Lambert, New Haven Register, Dec. 23, 2020

Members of Ice the Beef, a youth organization working against gun violence, and community members came together for a rally on Stevens Street Wednesday Dec. 23, 2020, days after a 14-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl were wounded while walking there.

The youths decried the commonality of gun violence involving young people, noting that children younger than them had grown up in a world where children being shot was a common cultural touchstone, and called on the city, as a whole, to come together to address it.

“I stand here today with a heavy heart, but a mindset on change,” said Manuel Camacho, 15, youth president of Ice the Beef. “It should never be normal to see a young member of our community fall victim to a firearm.”

Read the entire article at https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/Tired-of-burying-my-friends-Young-people-15825776.php

Call Goes Out to Families of Victims as Homicide Memorial Opening Nears

by Rabhya Mehrotra, New Haven Independent, Nov 11, 2020

Marlene Miller-Pratt (at podium in photo) is asking New Haveners for help in finding the families of victims of fatal gun violence.

Rabhya Mehrotra photo

Standing in the shadow of West Rock on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, Miller-Pratt spoke at a press conference with Mayor Justin Elicker, announcing the near completion of the New Haven Botanical Garden of Healing she created and led to construction.

“Our goal is to get out the word to moms,” she said.

Along with a core group of fellow mothers of homicide victims, Miller-Pratt led the creation of the garden in West Hills. The garden honors homicide victims and provides a peaceful place for their loved ones to remember them…

Now construction is almost done: Urban Resources Initiative (URI) director Colleen Murphy-Dunning estimates that it will hopefully end before the start of 2021, although COVID may cause further delays.
Before the garden opens to the public, Miller-Pratt wants to extend an invitation for families affected by gun violence to come for a private viewing. They’ll be scheduled in advance for COVID safety, and last for 30 minutes. She’s especially focused on finding the families of victims whose names are on the Magnitude Walkway, which has a brick for each homicide victim from 1976-2000.

Over the last two weeks, Miller-Pratt has been going around the city with a poster, filled with the names of the victims. She has focused on Newhallville, while Celeste Robinson-Fulcher [whose daughter Ericka was killed in a nightclub shooting], and Pamela Jaynez (another member of the core group) have been going around Fair Haven.

When she stopped at corners, “I was ignored sometimes,” she said. But people spoke up “after they saw what that poster represented and saw how many names were on them.” One person, she said, turned straight around. He came back with four parents whose children were on that list. Another person saw the list and then lifted his arm to show his tattoo, which had his murdered cousin’s name. Yet others looked at the list and saw old friends.

Miller-Pratt gave out her phone number: (910) 975-2054. Any and every person who would like to schedule an early visit can contact her.

[Read the whole article at https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/visit_homicide_memorial_soon]

Indigenous Day Shifts from Columbus

by Thomas Breen, New Haven Independent, Oct 12, 2020

Richard Cowes lifted a wooden bear claw filled with smoldering white sage up to one side of Gary Tinney’s face and, whispering a prayer for peace, wafted the fragrant plume of smoke with a hawk feather.

Cowes and Tinney were celebrating Indigenous People’s Day along with 50 people late Monday afternoon on the New Haven Green.

Both Cowes and Tinney live in West Haven. Both are members of the Golden Hill Paugussetts. And both braved the blustery cold not just to celebrate Native American history and culture with a community of peers, but also to reflect on an extraordinary year of symbolic shifts.

In New Haven as elsewhere around the country this year, many of those changes have centered around a reappraisal of the legacy of the 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus, with an eye towards the role he played in a white, European settler-led genocide of Native people.

Those local changes have included the Board of Education’s vote to rename Christopher Columbus Academy on Grand Avenue; the tumultuous removal of the Christopher Columbus statue from Wooster Square; the ed board’s renaming of Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day; the Board of Alders’ renaming of the second Monday of October as Italian Heritage Day; and the alders’ formal recognition of racism as a public health crisis.

“This struggle has been a long one,” said Norm Clement, a member of the local Quinnipiac tribe. “It’s been 528 years since colonization in this country.

“But we’re starting to win back who we are. We’re starting to be recognized. Some of the mascots are disappearing. The statues are disappearing. That is all part of the decolonization of this nation. We have to continue to celebrate who we are and what we represent and to do that in a good way.”

Read the full article here: www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/indigenous_peoples_day1.

We Will Miss Mike DeRosa

by David Bedell, Green Party of Connecticut

Mike DeRosa died October 16 at Hartford Hospital after battling an extended illness. Mike was a founding member of the CT Green Party, working on the Nader for President campaigns back in 1996 and 2000. Even before that, he had a history of activism; he volunteered for the Eugene McCarthy campaign of 1976 and for Barry Commoner’s Citizens Party campaign of 1980.

Together with his wife Barbara Barry, Mike organized the Hartford chapter of the CT Green Party, and he served as co-chair of the state party from 2003 to 2020. As co-chair, he drew criticism for continually running for re-election and for holding the party to a strict set of ethical principles, but he was dedicated to the survival of the party, organizing meetings month after month for years, tape recording the proceedings to ensure transparency, and speaking forcefully against proposals that he felt would be harmful to the party’s integrity. He served on several national party committees, notably the Ballot Access Committee and the Peace Committee.

From 2000 to 2018, Mike ran ten times for public office, winning as much as 11% of the vote: four times for State Senate, twice for Congress, and four times for Secretary of State. In 2009-2010, he partnered with the ACLU to spearhead a legal challenge to CT’s Citizens Election Program, which discriminates against minor party candidates.

Mike produced a weekly public affairs radio program, “New Focus Radio,” for many years at WHUS, WWUH, and WESU, interviewing political activists and analysts both locally and nationally known.

Mike’s persistence, loyalty, and commitment to democracy will be missed in Connecticut’s political circles.

Unions Are Beginning to Talk About Staving Off a Possible Coup

by Barbara Madeloni, Labor Notes, Oct. 15, 2020

“Therefore, be it finally resolved that the Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO calls on the National AFL-CIO, all of its affiliate unions, and all other labor organizations in the United States of America to prepare for and enact a general strike of all working people, if necessary, to ensure a Constitutionally mandated peaceful transition of power as a result of the 2020 Presidential Elections.”

These words conclude a resolution passed October 8 by the Rochester Central Labor Council. In calling for all of labor to prepare to strike for democracy, the Rochester CLC may be the first out of the gate to call for direct action over concerns many share: will there be a peaceful transfer of power after the November election? Will votes be fairly counted, and will the outcome be determined by the voters—not the courts?

A few nights later the representative assembly of the Seattle Educators Association (SEA) passed a resolution stating that its board will call an emergency meeting within seven days of the election and, if it determines there has been election interference, call a meeting of the representative and general assemblies as soon as possible to vote on a work action.

And on October 20, the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee will host a discussion among labor leaders including Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson: “What Can Workers Do to Stop Trump from Stealing the Election?” EWOC is a pandemic-era collaboration between the Electrical Workers (UE) and the Democratic Socialists of America.

Ready on a Minute’s Notice?

In Rochester, the discussion began with concerns about whether or not Trump would step down if he lost the election. Then it moved to talk of the appointment of Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General, the subsequent mail delays, and Trump’s efforts to undermine faith in mail-in ballots.

The resolution was passed unanimously by the executive board and the full delegate body.

What if Trump refuses to accept a loss? “If he doesn’t, we need a plan already in place, ready to implement on a minute’s notice, to remove him from office,” wrote Rochester CLC President Dan Maloney in an email. “A national general strike, if joined by all democracy-loving Americans, can be the impetus the Congress and judiciary need to fulfill their role as co-equal branches of government.”

[Read the entire article here: labornotes.org/2020/10/unions-are-beginning-talk-about-staving-possible-coup

Progressive Action Roundtable statement on the latest happenings of 2020

Dear PAR Subscribers:

The world has changed quite a bit since our June newsletter. The brutal murder of George Floyd exposed the ugliness of power in the hands of the police and the entrenched racism against people of color. As Black Lives Matter rallies against police brutality were joined with demands for removal of racist and oppressive historic symbols, the Columbus statue in Wooster Square was removed, and the City formed a committee to rename Columbus Academy. Black Lives Matter marches of over a thousand people blocked highways and rallied at police stations. A thousand people marched in West Haven to demand justice for Mubarak Soulemane, who was killed by a state trooper. Many hundreds demanded Yale pay millions of dollars more to New Haven to make up for so much property being tax-exempt because of Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital. Two “elder rallies” in support of Black Lives Matter were held on the Green for people wanting to make their voices heard while wearing masks and maintaining appropriate distance from others because of coronavirus. Mayor Elicker reiterated that New Haven is a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. City and town councils of New Haven, Hamden, Hartford, Windsor, West Hartford and Bloomfield declared racism a public health crisis. In addition, our work for peace and justice around the world has not stopped. Plus we are still in the midst of the pandemic! Quite a busy time!

The Progressive Action Roundtable welcomes articles from organizations around these and other issues of concern to our readers, who not only want to know what’s going on, but read about “report backs” and analyses of their various actions.

Please send in articles and calendar events for our next newsletter before Wednesday, Aug. 19 to parnewhaven@hotmail.com.

The struggle continues!

Planting a Nonviolent Future: New Haven Mothers Honor Victims of Gun Violence

by John Besche, Yale Daily News, April 24, 2020

Nestled between West Rock and the West River, a plot of land on Valley Street is being transformed from nondescript park land into a memorial garden that will be the first of its kind in the US. The Memorial Garden for Victims of Gun Violence in New Haven, set to open late this summer, will be the first space to serve explicitly as a memorial garden for victims of gun violence, as a space to mourn, reflect and heal.

The cohort of mothers in New Haven who spearheaded this project wanted more than a cemetery to memorialize and honor their children who were taken by gun violence. They believe that this garden will be a gift not only for their children’s legacy, but to a city badly beaten by decades of bloodshed. They hope that it may even force people to lay down guns for good.

“As a mother, when you get the phone call that says your child has been shot and is on the way to the hospital, or if you make it to the hospital and they walk out and say, ‘We lost him,’ you’re hopeless,” Marlene Pratt, one of the women behind the memorial, said in an interview with the News.

To read the complete article, go to: https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2020/04/24/planting-a-nonviolent-future-new-haven-mothers-honor-victims-of-gun-violence.

Volunteer Readers Needed for Commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King April 3

by James Pandaru, GNH Peace Council

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

The above quote is from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” which he gave on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church, NYC. The following year, on April 4, 1968, while supporting striking sanitation workers, he was assassinated in Memphis, TN.

We will honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Friday, April 3, at noon in front of New Haven City Hall (165 Church St.). Dr. King’s words continue to be as relevant today as they were in 1967.

Volunteers are needed to read excerpts from Dr. King’s speech. Please join us in this event to commemorate Dr. King. To take part contact James Pandaru, (203) 933-4043, jpandaru@gmail.com. Thank you.

Hundreds Rally To Oppose War With Iran

by Paul Bass, New Haven Independent, Jan 5, 2020

“Trump says more war! We say no war!”

That chant filled the air on the southeastern corner of the New Haven Green Sunday afternoon as hundreds rallied to criticize President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate top Iranian General Qassim Suleimani through a drone strike in Baghdad.

The local chapter of the ANSWER Coalition organized the rally, one of many around the country this weekend (over 80 on Saturday alone) and around the world calling for peace as the fears of war mount in the wake of the assassination.

Local activist Norm Clement called the assassination “an act of war and a war crime.” He said it follows in a line of four centuries of land theft and occupation and death forged by the U.S. “This country is the biggest thief ever in the history of mankind,” Clement told the crowd. “They steal everything.”

“Nobody wants war. Nobody wants to be slaughtered,” Fahd Syed of The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of CT said in another speech at the rally.

Read the complete article at: www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/rally_to_opposes_war_with_iran.

In Memoriam, Anne Hall Higgins, 1921-2019

by Lesley Higgins-Biddle

Anne Higgins died on October 21, 2019, at her home in North Haven, Connecticut. Known for her commitment to social justice and racial equity, Anne was active in greater New Haven as a founding leader of People Against Injustice (PAI), with a special concern for prison reform and changes to Connecticut’s drug policy. She was active in New Haven/León Sister City Project after traveling to Nicaragua in her 60s and in the United Church of Christ state conference Peace and Social Concerns committee, which led her to be arrested for protests against nuclear weapons in Groton at the submarine base and in Washington, D.C. As an ordained minister, Anne believed unequivocally in “talking the talk and walking the walk.”

Anne was born in Bridgeport where her grandfather had been a progressive minister at Park Street Congregational Church on the city’s East Side. She attended a new, John Dewey-based elementary school that encouraged young girls to play sports, explore their intellectual gifts, and challenge social norms. She graduated from Smith College (1943) with a major in art and then became one of the first women to graduate from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity, subsequently becoming an ordained Congregational minister. At Yale Anne met the love of her life, Arthur Higgins, with whom she co-pastored small rural churches in upstate New York, Colorado and Maine, at a time when the profession was almost entirely dominated by men.

Anne and Arthur moved back to Connecticut to serve parishes in Chester and Wilton, and raise their four children. While in Wilton they became very active in civil rights, with Arthur attending the March on Washington and Anne becoming active in SNCC and CORE chapters in nearby Norwalk. Anne’s critique of the American power structure was a major inspiration for her art and she created many paintings that expressed both oppression and hope, often at the same time.

Throughout her life, Anne remained indomitably committed, both aesthetically and ethically, to a life well lived and that ‘spoke truth to power.’ From her friend Paula Diehl: “Her last years of ministry took the form of programming for elders in affordable housing. She always tried to increase residents’ world-view and help them to better tolerate and understand those who were not like them.”

Anne is sorely missed by her sons, Bart and Gerry, and her daughters, Lesley and Ethel, who are pictured here with her at an exhibition of her paintings at the New Haven Friends Meeting in 2018. Anne’s friends from PAI, the Nicaraguan Prayer Group, and the Friends Meeting, are grateful for having known her. The sparkle in her eyes will be missed by everyone who knew her.

Fundraiser for Venezuela Embassy Protectors Jan. 28, New Haven

by Henry Lowendorf, GNH Peace Council

On (new date, place and time) Monday Jan. 27, 2020, the people of Connecticut will welcome the “Embassy Protectors.” We will be able to hear their story and will be raising funds for their defense.

UPDATE: Friends, Embassy Protectors Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers have to appear in court in DC on Wednesday morning the 29th. They would have had to face an overnight 7 hour trip back to DC if they spoke on the 28th.

Thus, we had to move the date for their fundraiser. Sorry for the abrupt change.

The fundraiser will be held and Zeese and Flowers will speak at the Performing Arts space in the New Haven Free Public Library on Monday, Jan. 27, 5:30 to 7:30 (the library closes at 8).

The forum is free and open to the public, although we will be fundraising. The host, the US Peace Council, is building a list of co-sponsors. For more information, please contact Henry Lowendorf, uspeacecouncil@gmail.com, (203) 389-9547.

On May 16, 2019, four US citizens were arrested in the Washington, D.C., Embassy of Venezuela after having occupied that Embassy with as many as 100 other activists over the course of 37 days.

Those final four “Embassy Protectors,” Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, David Paul and Adrienne Pine, and the scores of others had been asked by the legitimate government of Venezuela to protect its embassy against being stolen by President Donald Trump in an intensification of the US political and economic war on Venezuela, started decades earlier.

“The Four are now facing misdemeanor charges of ‘Interfering with certain protective functions’ of the Federal government that carries a maximum of one-year imprisonment and $100,000 fine for each of them. The United States Government is intent on making examples of these citizens and is using its unlimited resources to make sure that they are penalized and incarcerated.”

Trump, in full regime-change mode, last winter decided who should govern Venezuela. He picked a rightwing parliamentarian, Juan Guaidó, relatively unknown to Venezuelans, to be president trying to force out the elected president Nicolás Maduro. Disagreeing with Trump, the people of Venezuela and their military stood behind the man they elected. In decimating the human rights of Venezuelans, Trump took the whole population hostage by illegally imposing deadly sanctions, threatening a military invasion and backing right-wing violence in the streets. By denying Venezuelans the ability to buy food and medicines the sanctions are intended to coerce that country’s citizenry to submit to the demands of the US.

In parallel to the oppressive measures taken by Washington toward Venezuela, Trump blockaded food, water, medicine and electricity from being delivered to the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective, to force them out.

 

Call for Proposals for SCSU Women’s & Gender Studies Conference Due Dec. 16

PAR readers are invited to send in proposals for panels, workshops or lectures for the Southern Connecticut State University 2020 Women’s & Gender Studies Conference. The theme is “Gender, Race, Community, & Conflict: Pursuing Peace and Justice.” The conference will take place ​Friday and Saturday,​ ​April 24 ​and 25​, 2020. Submission deadline is Dec. 16​, 2019.

The world is right now witnessing the unprecedented destruction of communities—mostly Indigenous—and their habitats, including the ongoing fires raging across the Amazon rainforest, the Dakota Pipeline construction, and the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. Major conflicts have been exacerbated among genders, races and cultural groups, resulting in unspeakable suffering and violence in communities, from the desecration of Indigenous lands and sacred spaces to climate strikes and the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit people, and trans women of color.

How do feminists and their communities, Indigenous and settler-colonial, address these problems and heal the breaches that have divided and torn communities apart? How have feminists and activists creatively used the existing power structures to reverse the fragmentation of peoples and break down hierarchies? In the pursuit of peace and justice, what are feminist activists doing within their families and communities to stop the divisions and violence and counter the hatred and demonization against “the other”? How are peace and justice achieved through the intersectional and transnational coalitions across gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, nationality?

Please submit proposals and supporting materials to womensstudies@southernct.edu, with attention to “Conference Committee.” If you have any questions, please call the Women’s & Gender Studies Office at (203) 392-6133. Include name, affiliation, e-mail, and phone number. Proposals should be no longer than one page (250-400 words). Panel proposals are encouraged.

The Women’s & Gender Studies Conference at SCSU is self-supporting; all presenters can pre-register at the dis-counted presenters’ rate. The registration includes all costs for supporting materials and all meals and beverage breaks. For more information, visit the SCSU Women’s & Gender Studies page, or contact Women’s & Gender Studies Program: womensstudies@southernct.edu or (203) 392-6133.

After Week of Occupation of ICE Building, Activists Announce Next Steps

by Constanza Segovia, CT Immigrant Rights Alliance

For one week, under cold rain and wind, community members have been occupying the front of the ICE Office, demanding the release of a Hartford mother from ICE custody.

On Tuesday, Oct. 22, community members and leaders from across the state ended a week-long continuous occupation of the ICE building on a powerful note at a closing rally. The coalition of immigrant and racial justice groups have occupied space outside of the ICE offices in Hartford in support of Wayzaro “Tazz” Walton, a local Hartford mother, who has been in detention since March despite receiving an unconditional pardon by the State of Connecticut and having her US citizen wife petition for her. Each day, the team has spoken to people walking by about the unfair detainment of Tazz, and about the need for CT residents to learn about and protect the state pardon system. They have mobilized the public to contact their elected officials. They have received widespread support, sharing supplies with neighbors. Although the tents have come down, activists are stepping up their efforts to get Tazz released. On Oct. 22, a coalition of immigrant rights groups, led by Hartford Deportation Defense, announced an effort to ask our CT US Senators and Representatives to step in and take action.

“We will continue our fight to demand that our neighbor and friend is released. Tazz is a Queer Black Woman, a demographic that is not well represented in immigration justice. It is important for me as a Queer Black Woman to stand behind and support Tazz, Tamika and family. We will not stop screaming FREE TAZZ until she is out of detention and can live her life in peace,” said Ashley Blount from Hartford Deportation Defense.

Connecticut has one of the most progressive pardon systems in the country and we cannot let that be threatened by this rogue agency. We fight for Tazz but this is also about Richard Thompson who also has a CT pardon and has been detained for two years in Alabama. This is about every person who might be in this situation in the future. This kind of collective effort and joyful resistance that includes children, elders, folks with varying abilities, makes me feel like another world is possible like we can abolish ICE. We commit to continue to envision and PRACTICE ways to keep up the fight while living in joy and love and in relationship with each other.

We are Each A Precious Entity: The Activist Life of Caroline Bridgman-Rees

The following is an edited version from the tribute written by PJ Deak for the Unitarian Society of New Haven.

Caroline Bridgman-Rees

Caroline was born on New Year’s Eve, 1922 and grew up on Staten Island. Her father, a Yale graduate, was a history professor at NYU for 29 years. A decorated war veteran, he came home from WWI in 1918 traumatized by the horrors of war, its barbarism, death, and destruction.

As a result of her father’s experiences, Caroline became very aware of the toll and folly of war – and of the importance of working for peace. In 1945, Caroline, 22, a Phi Beta Kappa and recent graduate of Smith College, joined the Red Cross. She sailed on a ship to the Philippines where she worked with the Red Cross until 1946 when she went to Korea. Why did she do it? To see the world and “to see life with the soldiers.”

She remembered the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with horror and condemnation – a bombing that in her words “was totally against moral and international law and which began a frightful new era that threatened all life on earth.”

In the 1960s, Caroline began her teaching career at Bradford College in Massachusetts – teaching Asian History and Philosophy. Caroline became increasingly concerned about the conflict between the US and both the Vietnamese liberation forces and all of Indochina.

Caroline Bridgman-Rees, Nancy Eberg and Jim Pandaru (l-r)

She joined a number of prominent peace organizations: The American Friends Service Committee; Sane/Freeze – later known as Peace Action; The Women’s International League for Peace And Freedom; The War Resisters League; Mobilization for Survival; and because of her service in the Red Cross, Veterans Against The War.

“I felt then, as I do now, that non-violent direct action is a citizen’s responsibility when the government is committing major war crimes against humanity!”

In 1972 Caroline was one of 171 American peace leaders chosen to attend the Paris Peace Talks. Also in 1972, she was part of a team of women who traveled to India and conducted interviews with Indian women about the role of women in the world – Caroline even had the privilege to interview Ms. Ghandi. In 1973, Caroline, her husband and 10-year-old son traveled through India, Burma, Thailand, Hong Kong, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Caroline became involved with the United Nations as an NGO representative, and also was active with the Greater New Haven Peace Council. In 1991-1992 she spent a year in England giving 45 separate lectures on Nuclear Disarmament and attended an international peace conference in the Netherlands.

When the first Iraq War began, Caroline was active as the anti-war movement surged anew – seeking avenues for mediation and diplomacy rather than violence.

Caroline attended meetings to discuss and take action on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke out about the size of the US military budget, the number of US military bases around the world (over 1,000) and the pollution they are allowed to create. She wrote letters to the editor that were published in the New Haven Register and participated in the New Haven Peace Council and the Unitarian Society of New Haven Peace Task Force.

“We need community, not guns. We must create a world with love, and caring and cooperation.”

Read Caroline Bridgman-Rees’ obituary on Legacy.com.

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