Activists call for increased transparency in Trans Pacific Partnership trade negotiations

Today dozens of protesters gathered outside of the Office of the US Trade Representative in Washington, DC, where secret negotiations are taking place on the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership.  FSRN’s Noelle Galos reports.

“Human rights are what we need, it’s time to flush the TPP!” [chanting]

On bustling 17th Street, protesters chanted and preformed street theater to demand transparency from the countries negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership.  Brent Blackwelder, President Emeritus of Friend of the Earth US, told FSRN that he’s concerned about the quick pace the trade deal is being pushed through.

“Fast tracking is dangerous because if these are so wonderful for people, why aren’t we debating them? What are we afraid of? It’s only when you have something to hide, and what they have to hide are special deals for the most outrageous, un-responsible corporations that pollute the planet.”

The TPP is considered the “cornerstone” of the Obama Administration’s Asia-Pacific economic policy and the Trade Representative has pledged to keep Americans “informed and involved” in the negotiations.  But opponents counter that this isn’t happening.  They say the trade agreement threatens the environment and public health in the US.  TPP members include the US, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile on the eastern side of the Pacific, and Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei [broo-NYE] on the west.  Environmental, labor, and other groups fear that the TPP will eventually expand far beyond the 12 original signatories.  Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Download or listen here.

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#NoMoreNames Bus Tour rallies for gun control legislation on Capitol Hill on the heels of Navy Yard shooting

Protest signsWashington, DC — Hundreds of gun safety advocates and gun violence survivors rallied in front of the Capitol today to reignite the push for universal background checks after Monday’s deadly shooting at DC’s Navy Yard. Noelle Galos reports from Washington.

Around 200 gun control advocates gathered in front of the Capitol this morning to call on Congress to revisit the Thompson-King bill for universal background checks on all gun sales. Among them was Lori Haas, whose daughter survived the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007:

“It is ludicrous and offensive that we have elected officials who continue to ignore the plight and this plague of gun violence in this country.” 

Other advocates at the rally said that, while closing loopholes which allow many people to purchase guns without background checks is one part of the solution, elected officials need to do more.  Allie Clement, a public health student in DC from Newtown, Connecticut, said mass shootings like those at Sandy Hook and the Navy Yard ought to be treated as a public health crisis.

According to the No More Names campaign, which organized today’s rally, 9,200 Americans and counting have been murdered since Newtown, including 12 killed this week at DC’s Navy Yard.  Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Download or listen here.

Activists call for closure of Guantanamo, end to force feedings

Former military officials, prisoners and activists gathered in front of the White House today to protest the ongoing detention of prisoners at Guantanamo.  They also drew attention to the force-feeding of 30 detainees on hunger strike at the facility, a practice that human rights groups consider torture.  FSRN’s Noelle Galos reports.

Surrounded by supporters wearing orange jumpsuits, human rights activist Andrés Thomas Conteris underwent a voluntary force feeding Friday in front of the White House.  He has been fasting for 61 days in solidarity with prisoners in Guantánamo and Pelican Bay Prison in California.  Pelican Bay hunger strikers ended their protest on Thursday. Today’s action aimed to raise awareness about the indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees.  Protesters demand the prison’s closure.  Eric Montalvo is the attorney of former Guantanamo detainee Mohammad Jawad:

“I’m not here to say they are innocent or guilty, but they deserve a trial.  And when you start trying to do a trial 10 years after the fact, that undermines the entire justice system and the rule of law, which is what it’s all about.”

Last week, the Obama administration transferred two detainees to their home country of Algeria, the first release from Guantanamo in more than a year.  One-hundred sixty-four detainees remain, 84 of whom are already cleared for release.  Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Download or listen to the full piece here.

Wal-Mart workers protest retaliation across United States

Today, Wal-Mart workers in 15 cities across the US are gathering to protest low wages, poor working conditions, and alleged retaliation by the company against workers who participated in federally-protected strikes.  FSRN’s Noelle Galos reports from Washington, DC.

Walmart protest sign in Chicago courtesy of @changewalmart

Walmart protest sign in Chicago courtesy of @changewalmart

Wal-Mart employees began walking off the job in protest last year, culminating in a Black Friday action that drew thousands of workers and their supporters.  But organizers say the multi-national company has retaliated.

Former Wal-Mark associate Tonya C., who asked that her last name be withheld because of an unrelated legal matter, was fired from her position at a Laurel, Maryland location.

“They retaliated against me and fired me illegally, to keep me from speaking and telling stories.”

To date, Wal-Mart has denied that it behaved inappropriately.

In June, Wal-Mart workers gathered at the company headquarters in DC.  Protesters carried more than 180,000 petitions, but were blocked from entering the building, leading to a sit-in and the arrest of 10 people.

Organizers with OUR Wal-Mart are billing today’s national action as the largest since Black Friday.  They say police arrested three workers in New York City this morning.  Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Listen to or download audio file here.

Voices and Sounds of the 2013 March on Washington

As March on Washington marks 50 years, youth call for equality and justice in ongoing struggle

August 26, 2013 | Washington, DC — At the national program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Representative John Lewis, the youngest speaker at the original March on Washington in 1963, put out a call to action for youth to stand up for voting rights, immigration reform and equality.

“Back in 1963 we didn’t have a cellular telephone, iPad, iPod, but we used what we had to bring about a non-violent revolution. And I said to all of the young people, you must get out there and push and pull and make America what America should be for all of us.”

The crowds in Washington Saturday were filled with many youth activists. FSRN’s Noelle Galos spoke to some of them about what the gathering meant to them and their dreams for the future.

Those are the voices of Howard University students, Chelsi Davis, Charissa More, Debra Samuel, Ashley Washington, and Asia Quick; Loyala University student Theda Tann; Amuche Nwafor, senior at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, MD; Mackenzie Williams, student at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, VA; Tyla Goodridge, Teen President of the Greater New Haven Youth Council; and Avery Steck, a DC-area high school student.

Read more or listen to the audiocast here (via Free Speech Radio News)

Local DC activists draw attention to racial profiling, incarceration ahead of March on Washington anniversary

August 23, 2013 | Washington, DC — Events marking the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington are taking place across the country.  Illinois State University students are organizing a series of performances to pay tribute to Bayard Rustin, an organizer of the 1963 march. In Detroit, where Martin Luther King, Jr. originally delivered a version of his “I Have a Dream” speech, thousands gathered for a march earlier this summer. Now, that energy is coming to Washington, DC, site of the historic march and rally. Several days of events kick off this weekend. Marchers will gather Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial to protest against a number of civil rights issues that persist: the attack on voter rights, racial profiling, poverty and discrimination. Local activists are organizing to have a share in the weekend’s events, and they hope to address racial profiling within DC law enforcement, which they say is part of the “New Jim Crow.” They are planning two feeder marches from opposite ends of the city, and hope to bring national attention to racial inequalities in the Nation’s Capital. Laura Lising, one of the group’s organizers, explained to FSRN why the group was formed and how they are plugging in their campaign to the March…

Read more or listen to the audiocast here (via Free Speech Radio News)