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.

DC Council passes emergency tax lien relief bill after newspaper investigation

Tax lien auction photo courtesy of NBC4On Tuesday afternoon, the DC Council passed 90-day emergency legislation to prevent city residents from losing their homes due to tax lien sales to private investors.  The vote came just days after a Washington Post investigation found some elderly residents lost their properties when they owed just a few hundred dollars in back taxes. FSRN’s Noelle Galos brings us more.

According to a Washington Post report, the city auctioned off 142 tax liens to private investors this year alone, worth a combined half million dollars. Amy Mix, an attorney with AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly, told FSRN that while anyone can be affected, certain populations are especially at risk for losing their homes and equity:

It’s going to be seniors, it’s going to be people with disabilities, maybe people with diminished capacity.”

Mix said that one client in particular caused her office to look into DC’s tax lien sale process, where they found accounting errors that led to foreclosure proceedings:

So this balance that was outstanding that caused the foreclosure suit to be filed against her, was because of an $8.61 balance that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

The emergency legislation will cancel this year’s tax lien sales and establish a review of past sales to compensate those who lost their home for owing less than $2,500 dollars.  A spokesperson for the Mayor said he will sign. Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Download or listen to audio here.

GrassrootsDC’s Living Wage Bill “Mixtape”

LRAA Petition Drop Off c/o the AFL-CIODespite the drop-off of over 30,000 petitions from DC residents urging the Mayor to sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act (pictured left), and a recent poll showing that a majority of residents support the LRAA, the Mayor used his pen to veto the bill. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, a vocal supporter of the bill, has rallied 8 votes in favor, but will need one more to override the Mayor’s veto. This override vote is scheduled as part of tomorrow’s legislative session, which will take place at the Wilson Building or available live online.

Meanwhile, what about those most affected by the living wage bill? GrassrootsDC’s Noelle Galos brings you this mixtape of DC residents, retail employees and organizers on what the LRAA means to them and how they feel about Wal-Mart’s presence in the District:

Mixed with Head Roc’s 2012 track “Keep DC Walmart Free,” these are the voices of:

Rev. Virginia Williams (native Washingtonian, Ward 7 resident)
Kimberly Mitchell (Macy’s employee, lifelong DC resident)
Tonya C. (former Wal-Mart employee, fired from a Laural, MD location)
Cindy Murray (13 year Wal-Mart associate at Hyattsville, MD store),
Mike Wilson (organizer with RespectDC)
Inocencio Quinones (Ward 7 resident & organizer with OurDC)

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this mixtape, including all the speakers listed above, Head Roc for the musical element, and the organizers that live-streamed a Wal-Mart protest from a Hyattsville, MD location on September 5th, 2013.

Audio download available (.mp3): Living Wage Bill Mixtape. Please share freely!

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)