Dissent

Tenth Anniversary Edition of "Wherever There's a Fight" to be Released

September 24, 2019

Heyday is proud to announce the publication of the Tenth Anniversary edition of Wherever There’s A Fight:  How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

According to Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman, "Ten years ago, Heyday published Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi's stirring compendium of California heroes, both sung and unsung, who down the decades demonstrated exemplary courage fighting the good fight to ensure civil liberties for all Californians and in so doing helped put the golden state at the forefront of a better, more just America. The stories they tell so well are needed now more than ever and this tenth anniversary edition is designed to reach readers everywhere, young and old alike, to inspire and provide hope for new generations of citizens who continue to fulfill the promise of the California--nay, American, dream."

November 5 release date set for special anniversary edition of award-winning book whose stories of civil liberties struggles are all the more relevant now.

Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt Dies

June 4, 2011

Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt. a leader of the Southern California branch of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s, died in Tanzania on June 3 at the age of 63.

Pratt, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, moved to Los Angeles from rural Louisiana in 1968 and quickly became a leader of the Black Panther Party, which was founded in 1966 by Oakland activists Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and David Hilliard in the aftermath of Malcolm X's assasination and violent clashes between police and African Americans in South Central Los Angeles.

Inspired by liberation struggles of African, Asian, and Latin American counties, the Black Panthers advocated armed self-defense against police abuse. From its base in Oakland, the party grew to a nationwide membership.

The Black Panthers and Pratt specifically were targets of the FBI's notorious counter-intelligence program, COINTELPRO, whose purpose was to infiltrate, disrupt, and discredit organizations that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI, considered subversive.

The FBI created divisions within the Black Panthers and between the Panthers and other African American organizations.

Pratt was the target of a frame-up for the 1968 killing of a young woman in Santa Monica. He was convicted and spent more than 25 years in prison.

His struggle for a re-trial drew support from Amnesty International, Nelson Mandela, Coretta Scott King, members of Congress, and the ACLU.

Pratt was eventually freed after an Orange County judge hearing Pratt's fifth petition to re-open his case ruled that a key witness during Pratt's 1972 trial had committed purjury and was an FBI informant.

In 2000, Pratt received a $4.5 million settlement from the FBI and Los Angeles Police Department for his wrongful imprisionment.

Pratt had been living in Arusha Tanzania for several years and worked with the United African Alliance Community Center, a youth organization.

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The former Los Angeles Black Panther leader was wrongfully convicted of a 1968 murder and spent more than 25 years in prison

Two Supreme Court Justices Critical of State Initiatives

February 20, 2010

State Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno expressed concern that fundamental rights can be changed by a simple majority vote through California's initiative process. Moreno was part of the four justice majority that in May 2008 struck down California laws banning same-sex marriages. Six months later, 52% of voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. Moreno was the sole dissenter when the court upheld Proposition 8 in May 2009. In his dissent, he wrote that the court's decision "places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities." 

In a recent interview, he commented that voters can be misinformed by initiative campaigns, and that the initiative process, unlike the deliberative legislative process, does not benefit from review by fact-finding committees.

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Within days, Chief Justice Ronald George, in a speech at Stanford Law School, was highly critical of California's initiative process. He suggested reforms, such as prohibiting changes to the constitution through initiatives.

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The initiative process has been significant in shaping and misshaping civil liberties in California. It began as a progressive tool in 1911 to ensure that legislators controlled by the railroads and big business would not block laws benefitting the majority of Californians. The first initiatives granted women the right to vote, established a limit on working hours for women and children, and set a minimum wage.

But inititatives have been used more often to deny rights. In 1920, voters approved three to one the "Alien Land Law" initiative, prohibiting Japanese immigrants from leasing land. Proposition 14 passed by a margin of two to one in 1964. That initiative amended the state constitution to rescind existing fair housing laws and prohibited the legislature from passing future laws to prevent racial discrimination in housing. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court struck down the proposition as a violation of the federal constitution.  In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187, which required state programs, including public schools and public health services, to deny aid to undocumented immigrants.  A court injunction prevented the law from going into effect.  And in 1996, the passage of Proposition 209 outlawed affirmative action in state programs.

Within a week, state supreme court Chief Justice Ronald George and Associate Justice Carlos Moreno expressed concerns about California's initiative system.

UC Davis Reaches $1 Million Settlement with Pepper-Sprayed Students

September 29, 2012

The University of California agreed to a $1 million settlement in a federal class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of non-violent UC Davis student protestors whom campus police repeatedly doused with military grade pepper spray at close range. The November 18, 2011 incident drew international outrage.

Twenty-one students and recent alumni will receive $30,000 each and an apology from the university's chancellor.

The lawsuit charged that the police violated state and federal constitutional protections, including the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, when they arrested and used excessive force against the non-violent demonstrators. The UC Regents approved the settlement in a September 13 meeting. A federal court judge must approve the settlement before it is finalized.

A task force that the University created to investigate and analyze the response to the protestors concluded in an extensive report that “The pepper spraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented,” and found culpability at all levels of the University administration and police force.

On November 18, 2011, students gathered in the quad on the UC Davis campus to demonstrate against ongoing tuition hikes, as well as the brutal treatment of demonstrators at UC Berkeley. UC Davis campus police arrived in riot gear and officers threatened students who were seated on the quad and ordered them to disperse. When students remained seated to continue their demonstration, a UC Davis police officer repeatedly sprayed the line of protesters with pepper spray at point-blank range, while scores of other officers looked on. Another officer sprayed the demonstrators from behind.

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In addition to payments to students, the university will issue a formal apology and will create new policies on student demonstrations, crowd management, and use of force.

New Questions Raised About Death of Journalist During 1970 Chicano Moratorium

August 29, 2010

On August 29, 2010, the 40th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium, an historic anti-Vietnam War march in East Los Angeles that spiraled into violence, the Los Angeles Times reported that its review of LAPD records uncovered conflicts between law enforcement officials and Ruben Salazar, a reporter and Times columnist who was killed during the Moratorium.

Salazar was covering the protest for the Spanish-language television staton KMEX, and was inside the Silver Dollar Cafe when a tear gas canister fired by a sheriff's deputy burst through the window. It hit Salazar ini the head, shattering his brain.

Salazar was one of three people killed during the moratorium. He was deeply mourned. Parks and schools have been named after him, and his death has inspired numerous artworks, including the painting above.

Many in the Chicano community believed his death was not random. He had written passionately about police brutality in East Los Angeles, Mexican American's lack of representation on juries, and unwarranted police surveillance.

Earlier this year, the Times filed a California Public Records Act request seeking the Los Angeles County Sheriff's files on Salazar's killing. Initially Sheriff Lee Baca refused to release any documents. But on August 16, he changed his mind and shared thousands of pages with the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, a civilian agency with oversight over the department.

Baca said that he will publicly share the Office of Independent Review's report on the documents and will then determine whether to release any other material in the department's records on Salazar's death.

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Los Angeles Times reports of slain journalist's tensions with the Los Angeles police and sheriffs prior to his death.

KQED Forum: California, 'Wherever There's a Fight'

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Date: 
July 28, 2010

Host Michael Krasny talks with Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi about the many unsung heroes of California's past profiled in their book.

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Los Angeles Police Attack Peaceful Anti-War Marchers

On June 23, 1967, thousands of white, middle-class citizens peacefully marched through posh Century City to protest the Vietnam War, while President Lyndon Johnson attended a fundraising dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel. Los Angeles police officers attacked hundreds of the demonstrators.

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Occupy Oakland Protestors Call General Strike

November 1, 2011

A week after law enforcement officers forced Occupy Wall Street demonstrators to leave their encampment in Oakland and used tear gas on protestors, supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement have once again filled Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland and are calling for a general strike throughout the city on November 2.

During the day-long strike, protestors intend to march from downtown Oakland to the Port of Oakland, the fifth-busiest in the nation, and shut it down. They also plan to demonstrate at banks and corporations that refuse to close for the day.

Several unions have expressed support for the Occupy Oakland strike but have not formally called for work stoppages.

Former Marine Scott Olsen, 24, suffered a skull fracture when he was hit in the head by a police projectile during the early morning hours of October 25, 2011 when law enforcement officers cleared protestors from Frank Ogawa Plaza.

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In July 1934, after police shot and killed a striking longshoreman and a volunteer cook in a union soup kitchen, longshoremen and their union supporters called for a general strike in San Francisco to support striking longshoremen.

On the morning of July 14, San Francisco was quiet. No street cars clanged down Market Street. No jitneys lined up to drive people to work. Restaurants were closed. No gas was delivered into the city.

The 1934 General Strike shut down San Francisco for four days; virtually every union heeded the call.

Though the General Strike could be sustained only for four days, the longshoremen stayed out for eighty days. They won signed contracts guaranteeing a 30-hour work week, a 6-hour work day, and a union hiring hall.

A week after law enforcement officers used tear gas and force to disband Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in downtown Oakland, protestors call for a general strike on November 2

Patriot Act Provisions Extended

February 28, 2010

On February 27, President Obama signed legislation extending for one year key provisions of the Patriot Act that were set to expire on February 28. The reauthorized provisions:

  • Allow the FBI to conduct "roving wiretaps," or wiretapping a phone without having to provide the target's name or even the phone number.
  • Maintain a lower standard of proof needed to obtain a court order to access private information. Before passage of the Patriot Act, the FBI needed evidence that a person targeted for surveillance was the agent of a foreign power. The reauthorized Patriot Act provision allows the FBI to claim that the items or information it seeks is relevant to an investigation. A subject of surveillance doesn't necessarily have to be the focus of the investigation or even be suspected of involvement in terrorism.
  • Authorize surveillance of a non-U.S. citizen suspected of terrorist activities but  not associated with a terrorist group or foreign nation. 

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Bush administration rushed through Congress the 342-page Patriot Act. The final version of the law was written behind closed doors and was presented to Congress for a one-hour debate and an up-or-down vote. The law's sweeping provissions included secret surveillance and searches, widespread government access to personal records (including library, insurance, medical, and financial information), and the suspension of the rights of the accused, esepcially noncitizens who could be arrested and subject to deportation for belonging to or providing material support to any organization tha the government deemed "terrorist."

Congress had rejected many of these same proposals in the months and years prior to 9/11, recognizing that they violated the Constitution. But in the chilling atmosphere, lawmakers were eager to go along with the Bush administration.

 

President signs bill reauthorizing for one year three provisions set to expire. Congress rejects reforms that would have restored privacy rights.

Sal Castro, Veteran Teacher and Advocate for Educational Equity, Dies at 79

April 21, 2013

On April 15, 2013, Sal Castro, a teacher and counselor in Los Angeles schools for more than 35 years, died at his home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

In March 1968, Castro was a 34-year-old social studies teacher at Lincoln High School in East Los Angeles. He helped organize Chicano students who were frustrated by overcrowded, understaffed, and run down schools in their neighborhoods.

Using the word "blowout" as the password for a student strike, 300 Chicano students walked out of Wilson High School on March 1.  The following day, 2,000 walked out of Wilson High School; the next day they were joined by 4,500 students from nearby Lincoln and Roosevelt High Schools.

Students were unprepared for the violent police reaction to their protest.  As students picketed in front of their high schools, Los Angeles police officers descended, attacking them with clubs. 

Officers identified student leaders and chased them through residential neighborhoods, where Mexican American families looked on in shock.

The "blowouts" and the police response attracted national attention, spotlighting the bleak educational conditions in East Los Angeles.

Eventually Castro and 12 others were indicted on charges of criminally conspiring to create riots, disrupt the functioning of the public schools, and disturb the peace.

Thousands of people picketed in front of the Los Angeles jail to support Castro and the 12 others who were called the "East L.A. Thirteen."

Charges were ultimately dropped against the East L.A. Thirteen after an appellate court judge ruled that they were exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights.

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In 1968, Castro inspired thousands of Chicano students to stage school "blowouts," or walkouts, to protest discrimination in education
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