Raleigh anti-war activist join nationwide protest

Raleigh antiwar activists will join a nationwide protest Thursday, June 16 in support of Carlos Montes, a longtime Chicano activist, immigration rights advocate and member of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, arrested by the FBI May 17.

The protest will be held outside the Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave., Raleigh 9 a.m. That same day Montes is scheduled for his first court appearance in Los Angeles. It’s being organized by the Triangle Committee to Stop FBI Represssion.

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Annexation reform bill passes House

The state House passed an historic and sweeping annexation reform bill, culminating years of work by grassroots groups seeking to have their rights restored.

“This is one big step in an historic direction toward the restoration of the rights of property owners in city-initiated annexation,” said Cathy Heath, director of the StopNCAnnexation Coaliton. “When the Senate passes this bill, it will be a momentous occasion in North Carolina.”

H.B. 845 passed by an overwhelming vote of 107-9. The North Carolina League of Municipalities, a taxpayer-funded lobbying organization for muncipal governments, which for years has thrawted any annexation law reform did not actively oppose the bill. Reform supporters believe that is because the NCLM feared that if this reform did not pass, another bill putting an moratorium on all forced annexations would.

Heath said the success of this seven year effort shows that when enough people come together for a common cause and can commit to however long it takes, they can accomplish good things. The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pass it quickly.

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Anti-war group plans ‘enlightening’ civil engagement filing FOIA requests

The Triangle Committee to Stop FBI Repression is planning an “enlightening form of civil engagement” for April 27 — filling out Freedom of Information Act requests. They group wants to find out what information the government is collecting about its members. The event will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Durham Solidarity Center, 331 W Main St.

“We encourage activists and organizers to fill out FOIA requests,” said Kosta Harlan, a member of the committee. “We know the FBI has been spying on those of us who peacefully exercise our First Amendment rights to speak out against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. What we don’t know is the extent of the surveillance here in our community.”

A federal agent infiltrated the Minnesota Antiwar Committee and for two and a half years. While pretending to be an active member of the committee, the agent raised money, befriended members, and gave public speeches on behalf of the group. He also handed internal reports to the government that described plans to go on an international solidarity trip to Palestine.

“By collectively filing these FOIA requests, we are demonstrating that we are not afraid to defend our rights, and we will not be deterred from working for peace and justice,” Harlan said.

The committee is organizing this event to generate FOIA request to find out what level of scrutiny the movement in our parts is under. This collective action is part of a larger efforts to find out where the FBI has been collecting information.

The committee believes it is critical to let the FBI and the federal government know that people are paying attention. Representatives from the National Lawyers Guild will be on hand to guide people through the process.

For more information, contact the Triangle Committee to Stop FBI Repression at ncstopfbi@gmail.com or go to their website.

State Senate approves annexation moratorium

It is now up to the state House whether or not North Carolina will impose a moratorium on municpal annexations. The state Senate approved the moratorium March 7 in a 36-12. Forced annexation opponents see this as a very important step toward ending the abuse once and for all.

“The new legislative majority has been moving quickly and decisively on the issue of forced annexation on some important fronts,” said Catherine Heath, director of the StopNCAnnexation Coalition. Both the state House and Senate are considering annexation moratorium bills and there are several bills to repeal or suspend forced annexations.

Senate Bill 27, Involuntary Annexation Moratorium, is sponsored by Senators Andrew Brock (R-Davie) and Phil Berger (R-Guilford), the Senate President Pro Tem. “Senator Brock has done an outstanding job of explaining and defending this bill in committees and on the floor,’ said Heath. A similar bill introduced in the House by Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), HB9, hasn’t moved past the first reading on the floor where it was referred to the House judiciary committee.

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Republican, Tea Party congressman favor unPATRIOT act

by Brian Irving

The parliamentary palaver in the U.S. House of Representatives over the extension of provisions of the questionably named PATRIOT Act should put to rest any illusion that the new Republican majority, even with its Tea Party flavor, is really committed to limited government and protecting Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Even though the measure was technically defeated, it was only because the Republican leadership attempted to have the bill quickly and quietly approved in a so-called “expedited procedure,” which incidentally didn’t allow amendments and limited debate to 40 minutes. But the plan backfired, because the process required a two-thirds majority.

The vote was 277-148; the 210 Republicans who yes included several supported by the Tea Party movement. The vote gave new meaning to the cliché “politics make strange bedfellows.” Democrats Heath Shuler, Larry Kissell, Mike McIntyre and Brad Miller voted in favor, along with Howard Coble, Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx, Patrick McHenry, and Sue Myrick.

Both Coble and Myrick are listed as Tea Party Caucus members on Rep. Michelle Bachman’s website. Ellmers, who upset long-time incumbent Bob Etheridge, was elected with Tea Party support.

Opposing the bill were Republican Walter Jones and Democrats David Price and Mel Watt.

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Anti-war activist protest FBI raids

Triangle area peace activist will be taking part in a national day of action against FBI repression Jan. 25 with a rally and march in downtown Raleigh beginning at 9 a.m. in front of the Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave .

The event is being held in support of fourteen Midwest peace activist who have refused to comply with subpoenas issued by a Federal District Attorney in Chicago. On September 24, FBI agents conducted coordinated raids on the homes of anti-war, labor, and international solidarity activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Fourteen activists were served with subpoenas that demanded they appear before a grand jury in Chicago and all fourteen refused.

In December 2010, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI delivered nine new subpoenas in Chicago to anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists, ordering them to appear before a grand jury January 25.

During the raids, FBI agents seized computer hard drives, cell phones, documents, newspapers and children’s artwork. They took 28 boxes out of one Chicago home, including a framed photo of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shaking hands with Malcolm X. None of the items have been returned and no one has been charged with any crime.

The event is being organized by the Triangle Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

Background information

FightBackNews.org

Activists Denounce FBI Raids on Anti-war and Solidarity Activists Homes

Minneapolis Star-Tribute

Activist decries raids, denies terrorist ties

Airport security theater a bad play for liberty

BURNET, Texas (Nov. 30) – The increasingly intrusive and demeaning actions of federal agents under the pretext of protecting airline passengers is a greater threat to our liberty than any possible terrorist action, said R. Lee Wrights, a potential Libertarian presidential candidate.

“The latest tactics being used by the Transportation Security Administration, body scanners and full pat-downs, have been called security theater by critics,” Wrights said. “Not only is it theater, it’s a dilapidated theater, showing a really bad play, but a play you can’t walk out on.”

“Rather than employing proven security methods, the TSA has engaged in a war on the rights of Americans,” Wrights said. He said that a recent experience he had flying from New Orleans to Dallas made him realize just how dangerous this war on liberty has become.

“I was standing in the longest airport security line I’ve ever experienced when I came up on a prohibited item sign, the only one along the line,” he said. “The sign listed only one prohibited item – snow globes. Not knives, not box cutters, not finger-nail clippers – but snow globes.”

Pornographic securityWrights said he laughed and was still chuckling when he presented his boarding pass and ID to a TSA agent. “I asked him why snow globes were prohibited. He tried to explain, but stopped when I laughed and asked, ‘Seriously, snow globes?’ The agent then laughed himself, shook his head and said, ‘Yeah, I know.'”

“It was then I realized that the real danger to Americans isn’t any terrorist, nor is it even the violations of individual rights by misguided government security agents,” Wrights said. “The real danger to Americans is our own complacency, our own willingness to allow ourselves to be subjected to the slow erosion of our freedom without protest,” he said. “Instead of standing up for our rights, we laugh about it and make jokes.”

What is worse still, Wrights said, is that both liberal and conservative commentators support these infringements on our rights, even going so far as to suggest that those who protest may be helping the terrorists. He noted that an internal TSA directive labeled anyone who opposed the new security measures or chose to opt-out of the body scanners as potential “domestic terrorists.”

Wrights said that TSA airport security is an illusion. “There’s no real security at airports, not even close to what I experienced on military bases while serving in the Air Force,” he said. “Most TSA agents I’ve observed didn’t seem capable of stopping anyone who seriously wanted to do harm. Those I’ve seen appeared lackadaisical, just going through the motions.”

In place of effective security measures, Wrights said the TSA relies on fear, intimidation and the coercion of ordinary people, treating them as criminal suspects without rights. “The whole scheme is designed to intimidate, coerce and dehumanize people, in order to cower them into submission,” Wrights said. “Why else would airport security lines resemble cattle pens.”

“Why else would TSA agents be allowed to grope people, even children, using a procedure that resembles a sexual assault,” he said. “Why else would government agents be allowed to view body images of people that border on pornography, and which may even be physically harmful to the individual.”

“And why else would government agents not only be allowed but encouraged to commit acts that would be illegal if committed by an ordinary citizen,” he said.

Wrights said he was particularly disturbed by the TSA agent who told a passenger objecting to the pat-down that he gave up his rights when he bought an airline ticket, and if he felt uncomfortable getting frisked he shouldn’t fly.

“The last time I heard a government agent tell me I had given up my rights was when I enlisted,” Wrights said. “But in that case, I willingly and voluntarily took an oath, and even then I didn’t give up all my rights.”

In that oath Wrights said he promised to “…defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” “I still live by that oath,” he said. “That’s why I’ll question the unjust acts of anyone, especially a government agent who acts in a manner that shows contempt for the Constitution and for the rights of the people they’re supposed to be protecting.”

Wrights said he recalled another image from that security line in New Orleans. “When I looked at the people shuffling through the security line in their stocking feet I couldn’t help but recall images from old movies I’ve seen, scenes from 1940’s Germany,” Wrights said.

Anyone who might think this is an over-the-top comparison should remember what happened in Germany during the 1930s, Wrights said. Most people then, including the Jews, also complacently acquiesced to the gradual erosion of the rights as a temporary but necessary step to protect their “national security.”

Wrights is considering seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 should be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. He has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states.

The 52-year old writer and political activist was born in Winston Salem, NC and now lives in Texas. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All.

Wrights 2012 press release

Wake commissioners give towns power over county property owners

While opponents of forced annexation are hopeful the new Republican majority in the General Assembly will enact meaningful annexation reform, Republicans on the Wake County Commission recently extended the power of two municipalities to control private property in areas near the towns.

Only one Republican, Paul Coble, voted against granting extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, to the towns of Wendell and Knightdale. That means that more county property owners will be subjected to the planning and zoning ordinances of the towns, even thought they don’t get to vote for town leaders or participate in town government.

ETJ is designed as a prelude to annexation. The idea is to allow the town or city to prepare the rural area as it transitions from rural to urban development. In supporting the recommendation, county planning board chair John Miller told the commissioners, “We are not in transition, but past the transition from rural to urban.”

In practice, however, most municipalities given ETJ authority never annex the areas. Annexation instead is used selectively, not for the supposed purpose of providing services but in order to bring in revenue.

In other words, if a town or city is strapped for money it takes over affluent surrounding neighborhoods in order to get more money through property taxes. Areas that will not bring in significant property taxes are ignored, resulting in “doughnut-holes” and a patchwork pattern of municipal boundaries.

Predictable, the only people speaking in favor of the ETJ requests at the public hearing were town officials and professional planners. In contrast, those who spoke against ETJ were citizens passionately pleading in defense of the right to use their own property which provided their very livelihood.

“My husband died on that land,” said Sue Puryear, who has lived outside Knightdale since 1958. “They might just as well have put a knife in my heart.”

Sarah Tant, a dairy farmer near Zebulon, told commissioners she lost half the calving season because of the blasting for a nearby planned subdivision that still hasn’t been built. “They destroyed my house,” she said. Tant, 75, said she and her family have lived and raised cattle on the 100 acres farm her entire life.

James Dunn, who farms outside Knightdale, said that nearby areas taken under ETJ still haven’t been developed. “If you ‘ETJ-ed’ these areas in, let the growth come there,” he told commissioners.

Commissioner Stan Norwalk, a Democrat, dismissed their pleas with the typical excuse, justifying the action as needed for “the orderly growth and expansion of our municipalities within Wake County.” That’s statist speak for “we know better than you how you should use your property.”

Republicans will gain control of the commission in December, when Phil Matthews replaces Democrat Lindy Brown. Brown voted against the ETJ measure.

Meanwhile, forced annexation opponents are optimistic that Republicans in the General Assembly will act more favorably to protect property rights. “I do believe there are now leaders in place who are committed to annexation reform,” said Doug Aitken, president of the Fair Annexation Coalition. He said he and other forced annexation opponents have met will some legislators who are drafting a new annexation reform bill.

One of the meaningful reforms opponents of forced annexation advocate is to give the people in the area target for annexation the right to vote on the annexation. They would also require municipalities to provide promised services such as water and sewer as soon as they are annexed and without additional cost to the people being annexed.-

Cost of freedom means tolerating opinions we despise

Students who were offended at some slogan painted on the NC State’s so called “Freedom Tunnel” exercised their own right to free speech and painted over the slogan. They then wrote, “Freedom of speech. At what cost?” Apparently the answer to that questions is not taught at NC State.

In case any NCSU student is interested, the answer is that the cost of freedom is a willingness to not only let people express opinions you abhor and detest, but to defend that right. As Noam Chomsky puts it, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, than we don’t believe in it at all.”

One NC State alumni does understand the answer. Stef Watson wrote in her blog GoLiberty.net that she had hoped her alma mater would be open-minded enough to resist unreasonable bigotry but was disappointed by the response from the students and the school administration.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re opinion, if you show open intolerance to someone of a different opinion, that’s bigotry,” she said. “The artist may be a bigot, but the artist isn’t trying to take away the rights of other students through his expression. The protesters are the ones taking their bigotry too far by assuming that the artist should not have a right to this type of expression.”

Read more at GoLiberty.net.

U.S. court upholds another restrictive ballot law

A U.S. District Court has upheld the North Carolina election law setting the signature requirements for an independent candidate to get on the ballot for the U.S. House. Judge Graham C. Mullen denied a request for summary judgment by Bryan Greene, who sought to have the statute ruled unconstitutional.

Greene argued that requiring an independent candidate to collect signatures from four percent of the registered voters in the district is unduly restrictive and discriminates against independent candidates because the number of signatures need varies from district to district.

While Mullen observed that North Carolina’s election laws place severe restrictions upon unaffiliated candidates and that they do not regularly qualify for the ballot, he said, “It is well settled law that the State has a legitimate interest in limiting access to the ballot in order to prevent ballot clutter and voter confusion, as well as discourage frivolous candidates.”

Mullen ruled that the statue does not violate the right to equal protection of the law, as Green argued, nor did he agree with the plaintiff’s argument that there is no rational basis for the rule.

>While on the high-end of the petitioning spectrum, North Carolina’s four percent requirement passes strict scrutiny because it is the only aspect of North Carolina’s election requirements that present a barrier of any significance to an unaffiliated candidate,” Mullen said.

Greene said that the judge did not address the central issue behind the lawsuit, which was filed to protect rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The real purpose of this lawsuit was the right of each individual to be represented and to be able vote according to his conscience,” he said. He said that people should able to vote for people they choose, and not be limited to a group that North Carolina says meets the state’s qualifications. Greene said that it seemed like the judge forgot about the Constitution in making his decision.
The contention that a less restrictive ballot access laws would result in the ballot being flooded with candidates has no merit, Greene said.

We don’t want to flood the ballot box, and it’s never happened, so why are they (the state) worried about it,” he said. “There’s no weight to that argument, there’s no evidence of that anywhere, in any state.”

The judge said that the General Assembly has “deemed it prudent that North Carolina require a greater showing of support for unaffiliated candidates than its sisters states.” He said he was not convinced that the four percent requirement is not “narrowly defined.”

Jordon Greene, Bryan Greene’s son and campaign manager, called this a ludicrous statement. “There are 318 U.S. House districts where the signature requirement is below 5,000 and 62 districts where it ranges between 5,000 and 9,999,” he said. “There are only 55 districts– including all those in North Carolina – where an independent candidate needs more than 10,00 signatures to get on the ballot.”

In his ruling, Mullen dismissed the plaintiff’s assertion that no independent candidate has every qualified for a U.S. House race since 1901. He cited the case of Wendell Fant, who the judge said has submitted sufficient signatures to run as an independent in the 8th Congressional District.

The judge ignored the rest of the story,” the younger Greene said. “First of all, Mr. Fant did not submit the signatures himself. They were submitted by the state employees union. Second, Mr. Fant is not running.”

Nor does Judge Mullen take note that the signatures were collected by paid petitioners, and that the petition drive was funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from outside the state, from outside of the typical man’s reach,” Jordon Greene said. The drive was funded by the Service Employees International Union, parent organization of the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

The judge’s comments had nothing to do with the real issues in the case because the Fant petition drive was actually part of an internal Democratic Party struggle, Jordon Greene said.

It’s clear that the entire effort was undertaken to punish the incumbent Democrat for failing to support President Obama’s political agenda, not as a serious effort to run an independent candidacy,” Jordon Greene said. “The organizers admitted this.” The unions first attempted to form a new political party to challenge the errant Democrats, he said, and when that effort failed they tried to qualify an independent candidate.

>The court seems to be saying that just because a well-funded union can get the signatures it means the law is alright,” he said, “totally dismissing the burden it places on the average Joe who wants to run for office but doesn’t have deep pockets and isn’t bought and paid for by the ruling class, lobbyists or corporate interests.”

Bryan Greene said he has not yet decided whether or not to appeal the decision.

Earlier story: Hearing set for independent candidate ballot access case