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Many are distressed by police violence and are personally affected by the ways in which it has been acted out in our community. We all know of examples of violence perpetrated by those who “serve.” This month, it seems timely to reflect on some examples that may be less familiar: law enforcement officers who perpetrate sexual and domestic violence.
In 2005, Urbana officer Kurt Hjort was accused of rape. He used his position as a police officer and the tools of his trade (police communication system, uniform, squad car, etc.) in this crime. Because the victim’s husband was a fellow officer, the State’s Attorney decided to assign a “neutral” prosecutor. Instead of seeking a prosecutor from the appellate court or a prosecutor in another county, a local attorney, James Dedman, was appointed special prosecutor. Despite a recommendation from the Illinois State Police, Dedman decided that a prosecution was not warranted. Officer Hjort was forced to resign, but can seek employment as a police officer elsewhere.
In 2008, 16-year veteran of the University of Illinois Police Department Curtis Bolding was charged with felony domestic battery against his wife. His Fire Arms Identification (FOID) card was suspended and he was placed on administrative leave. The State’s Attorney’s office ultimately reduced the charge to a misdemeanor. Bolding resigned and was given a 12-month conditional discharge, but is eligible to serve elsewhere.
In 2015, that year’s Officer of the Year, Jerad Gale, pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Piatt County Court and was sentenced to six months with 48 months of probation and required to register as a sexual predator…. Gale was a serial offender, assaulting women in Champaign County as well. The State’s Attorney agreed to a guilty plea in Champaign County with the same sentence as in Piatt, to be served concurrently, meaning that there was no additional penalty for two sexual assaults.
This type of prosecuting and sentencing stands in sharp contrast with our State’s Attorney’s Office pattern of stiff sentences, often ranging from 35 to 40 years, for civilian violent offenders. Many would argue that this is especially egregious because these are the individuals to whom we all look for protection. I work with perpetrators and survivors of this violence. In this field most, if not all, of my clients have had some contact with police officers. Survivors of domestic violence are encouraged to speak out and call the police when they are threatened. We are all told that the police are here to protect us. That said, most survivors with whom I have spoken report that they often feel disrespected and judged, and they do not feel safer when they call the police. Instead, they fear that calling the police in an effort to try and protect themselves and their children means risking losing their children to the Department of Children and Family Services, and revenge attacks from their partners that the police will fail to prevent. This fear has some basis in reality.
There is another reason why survivors might avoid calling the police: the police themselves might be perpetrators. The three cases I mentioned earlier occurred over a span of 10 years, and this may not seem to suggest a significant problem; however, these cases don’t reflect the actual frequency with which such violence occurs, and frequency is not necessarily the most important factor to consider.
Domestic violence is a destructive force at all levels of our society; from the individuals and families who are its direct targets to our communities and even our societal-level institutions. At all of these levels it undermines trust and inflicts permanent (though not insurmountable) damage. That said, incidence rates in the families of police officers are higher than among our general population.
According to the Cato Institute, more than 9 percent of reports of police misconduct in 2010 involved sexual abuse, second only to excessive force. FBI statistics indicate that “sexual assault rates are significantly higher for police when compared to the general population.” Domestic violence is 24 times more common among police families than American families in general.
Police perpetrators can be more dangerous and difficult to discover for several reasons:
- They have training, a badge, a gun and the weight of the police culture behind them.
- They know not to hit, slap, kick, or choke. It is not necessary. They exercise their power by intimidating, isolating, and terrifying.
- They learn a full range of information-gathering techniques: interviewing, interrogating, and surveillance.
- They are trained to be manipulative and deceptive.
- They know which situations “justify” the use of force and how to defend their actions in court.
Victims are particularly vulnerable because the officer who is abusing them:
- has a gun,
- knows the location of battered women’s shelters, and
- knows how to manipulate the system to avoid penalty and/or shift blame.
Victims often fear calling the police, because they know the case will be handled by officers who are colleagues and/or friends of their abuser and who may side with him and fail to properly investigate or document the crime.
Failure of Departmental Policies
There is a “clear and pervasive pattern” of departures from departmental policy. A 1994 nationwide survey of 123 police departments found:
- Almost half (45%) had no specific policy for officer-involved domestic violence.
- Weak responses/discipline: the most common consequence of a sustained allegation was counseling.
- Only 19% indicated that officers would be terminated after a second sustained allegation.
- Even officers who are found guilty are unlikely to be fired, arrested, or referred for prosecution.
Sustained allegations were not mentioned in the officer’s performance evaluation over three-fourths of the time. They keep their jobs, continue working domestic violence cases, get promoted, and often have their records expunged
The Brotherhood Barriers Built Into the Profession
Some suggest that people become police officers and firefighters because they seek power and status. Others say recruits join because they have a desire to help people, but over time, become cynical and corrupted. Both the police and firefighting cultures instill a sense of entitlement to power and authority.
Police training is designed to strip the individual’s identity and “make” a police officer. He expects and commands obedience and respect from the public. The police personality serves to insulate officers from the rest of society. It fosters an “us versus them” mentality. When anyone challenges them, the police defend their right to enforce control and authority. The Brotherhood must be reliable in life and death situations. Hence… the Code of Silence. Whether or not they personally condone his behavior, they may rationalize it: he was “stressed out,” “under a lot of pressure,” or “only human.”
Officers have a great deal of leeway in choosing what laws to enforce, with whom to enforce them, and the manner in which they uphold the law. For most law enforcement agencies, domestic violence is one of the most common calls –and often the most common violence-related call. One study of more than 800 Arizona street-level officers and their supervisors found that many officers struggle to understand domestic violence victims’ actions and attitudes, sympathizing with their plight but questioning their behaviors and outlooks.
Frustration for officers comes from a variety of factors: the high number of repeat calls; the infrequency with which victims support prosecution or leave the abusive relationship; and the perceived lack of effective follow-up by the system. Many conclude that intervening will at best protect the victim for one night.
I propose that we provide cognitive/behavioral therapy for all law enforcement officers. This type of therapy is uniquely suited to addressing domestic violence. It is one of the few evidence-based approaches in domestic violence to reduce recidivism. Furthermore, this therapy can provide invaluable insights into the complexity of domestic violence. All who participate are likely to gain something. Please take this as an invitation for further dialogue about safety and violence in our community and beyond.
On September 9, 2016, a “Rally for a Transformed University” was held at the alma mater on UIUC campus. It corresponded with the release of a list of demands. Led by Black Students For Revolution, the coalition of student organizations listed below signed on to the demands, which we are reprinting here.
In light of the current state of higher education within the state of Illinois and across this country, we, the undersigned student organizations of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have decided to issue a call to action. We recognize this university as an extension of a colonial system that profits from the exploitation of historically-looted communities. We also recognize that, as students, we have a unique responsibility to confront this system. Our demands are neither comprehensive, nor do they address entirely new issues. They represent a collective student voice, speaking out against violence, oppression, and institutional inaction. These demands are but one effort within a larger, international student movement that will radically transform this University and higher education throughout the United States and the world.
1. WE DEMAND that UIUC immediately and permanently halt tuition hikes.
2. WE DEMAND that the racial and economic demographics of UIUC students, faculty and staff reflect the racial and economic demographics of Illinois by 2032.
3. WE DEMAND that all on-campus sexual predators, especially those affiliated with the Greek Life system, face severe penalties for all forms of sexual violence that occur within their houses.
4. WE DEMAND that UIUC make a permanent commitment not to consolidate or combine the LGBT Resource Center and Women’s Resource Center, in addition to the continued autonomy of all cultural centers and ethnic studies programs.
5. WE DEMAND that UIUC collect and track gender- and sexuality-based demographics as an official population.
6. WE DEMAND that queer and trans students be given priority for all university sponsored all-gendered housing options and that genderqueer and trans students be offered these spaces at a discounted rate corresponding with the less expensive standard housing option.
7. WE DEMAND that UIUC hire a truly independent consultant to review the salaries of all University employees in order to detect and correct gender- and race-based pay inequality
8. WE DEMAND a living wage for all University employees and subcontracted workers and that this rate be indexed for inflation.
9. WE DEMAND all employees of UIUC have access to at least six months of paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child.
10. WE DEMAND that UIUC cease and desist job outsourcing and hire directly from underrepresented populations in Urbana-Champaign and the surrounding communities.
11. WE DEMAND that UIUC work towards bridging the gap between this campus and the surrounding Black community of Urbana-Champaign.
12. WE DEMAND that UIUC implement fair-chance admissions and employment policies for those with past conviction records (Ban the Box).
13. WE DEMAND that UIUC release an annual, easily accessible, and comprehensive report of all its investments and move to divest from socially and politically negligent corporations.
1. Black Students for Revolution
2. SJP – Students for Justice in Palestine
3. Planner’s Network
4. MEChA – Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan
5. AASSCC – African American Studies Scholars Cultural Committee
6. CUTES – Campus Union for Trans Equality and Support
7. UMMA – United Muslim & Minority Advocates
8. GEO – Graduate Employees Organization
9. MSU – Mixed Student Union
10. Women of Pride
11. BLM-CU (community) – Black Lives Matter – Champaign Urbana
12. BPNJ (community) – Build Programs, Not Jails
13. SACC – Students for an Arab Cultural Center at Illinois
14. The Gharbzadegi Art Collective
15. Allies and Accomplices for Racial Justice
16. Men of Impact*
17. Students Against Sexual Assault
18. My Sister’s Keeper*
19. STEM Boycotts the War Machine
20. NAISO – Native American and Indigenous Student Organization
21. SECS – Students for Environmental ConcernS
22. WORD – Writers Organizing Realistic Dialect
23. ASA – Arab Student Association
24. First Followers
25. UIUC Beyond Coal
26. Black Rose/Rosa Negra – Central Illinois (community)
I made it a project of mine this year to construct a sort of pedagogy, or theory, of radical love. And people have directed me to all kinds of resources that are really great and radical. My friend Kaitlin pointed me toward Shine theory- which is summarized really well in the simple thought: I don’t shine if you don’t shine. Specifically, the focus was on women uplifting other women but I think we can expand it to all genders. Use it as a way of pushing back against gender-embedded violence.
And I talk about gender in a broad sense keeping in mind this concept of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is what creates and perpetuates rape culture. We need to mobilize against that. Gender can be used to mobilize something else—radical softness; through the uplift of femininity, and through performing types of masculinity that may not be dominant in the media, may be seen as alternate or subversive masculinities. But through the conscious performance of gender, certain actions, once normalized, can become the structure for a new society that vilifies rape.
Something else I found this summer was the writings of Lora Mathis, who’s a trans/non-binary poet. Their big thing is Radical softness as a weapon. They define radical softness “as the idea that unapologetically sharing your emotions is a political move and a way to combat the societal idea that feelings are a sign of weakness.”
“kiss your friends’ faces more / destroy the belief that intimacy must be reserved for monogamous relationships / be more loving / embrace platonic intimacy / embrace vulnerability / use emotionality as a radical tactic against a society which teaches you that emotions are a sign of weakness / tell more people you care about them / hold their hands / tell others you are proud of them / offer support readily / take care of the people around you.”
Okay, so I’m reading this as someone who doesn’t always like being touched. And obviously consent is a mandatory part of how any interpersonal intimacy needs to function. Ask your friends their boundaries. Ask small children before you pick them up. Respect their right to say no and model to them that you’re not upset when you get a no. There’s a real clear goal in mind here: Consent culture should replace rape culture.
And taking the cue from the adage ‘That the personal is political’, it isn’t too hard to see that emotions can be politicized. Marginalized people are politicized whether we like it or not; And that extends to femininity—womanhood. Queer people, queer movements have always radicalized and politicized love. But also if emotions have always been seen to be in the realm of femininity anyway, then heck yeah they’re already politicized by being the thing that patriarchal mechanisms have used to disempower us. We are reclaiming our feelings, fighting back against the notion that they’re illogical or irrational and saying we are doing emotions in a very purposeful, political way; because emotions don’t make us weak, they make us human.
To destroy toxic masculinity, men need to start prioritizing love. Shoutout to all my guy friends that do emotional support work for their friends, that make their friends feel safe and validated. We see you. We appreciate the hell out of you. Radicalize your love; That’s the biggest thing I have to tell men who claim they don’t contribute to rape culture.
I used to be scared of taking up physical space, noise space. Something a lot of people who are assigned female at birth are familiar with because of how we’re socialized. I reclaimed the use of my voice when I realized I needed it to strengthen my connection to my community, so now if I catch myself asking does this need to be said out loud? I usually think hell yeah this person needs to hear how much I appreciate them doing their thing! Training ourselves into a collectivist mindset we are fighting being cut off from caring about each other with the power of solidarity. As a means of resistance against all these abusive systems.
And so the biggest take away, for me, is that we need a cultural shift toward thinking collectively, consensually. In a society that teaches us to shy away from our emotions, we can use our love, emotional support work for each other, for ourselves, as a tool to fight back and reclaim our collective humanity.
Tyler Camp is a student organizer and president of UIUC’s Campus Union for Trans Equality and Support (CUTES). Their work is focused on creating safe and affirming spaces for transgender students on campus and to maintain solidarity with other student activist groups including Black Students for Revolution and Students for Justice in Palestine.
While a student, Al Kagan worked on the Eugene McCarthy campaign for president in New Hampshire, Indiana, Rhode Island, and Washington, DC., and experienced the 1968 Democratic Convention. He also did a bit of work on the Bernie Sanders campaign.
The 1968 Presidential Campaign
The Civil Rights and Black Power movements were strong in 1968, and significant anti-racist legislation had been passed in Washington. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, and urban rebellions rocked the country. The Poor Peoples’ Campaign brought thousands to camp out on the Washington Mall. The Vietnam War was raging, and the Tet Offensive proved that the Viet Cong were strong. Hundreds of thousands of students were marching in Washington and everywhere else against the war. US government officials agreed to negotiate with North Vietnam at the Paris Peace Talks. This massive pressure forced President Lyndon Johnson not to run for a second term.
A counterculture was rising, with values antithetical to the dominant corporate culture. It valued personal freedom, tolerance, equality, community, holistic living, sexual liberation, and recreational drugs. Some established urban communes and some went “back to the land.” Some were apolitical, but others combined counterculture with radical politics. All manner of leftist political groups sprang up. This “New Left” distinguished itself from the dogmatic and hierarchical Old Left, although sectarian left politics never disappeared. By the end of 1969, radical groups sprang up advocating the violent overthrow of the US government.
The military draft was a huge motivator for young men to join the anti-war movement, march, burn their draft cards, commit civil disobedience, leave for Canada or Sweden, or just drop out and go underground. Some used tricks to get medical exemptions, and others became conscientious objectors. Many inside the military organized off-base anti-war coffee houses, applied for conscientious objector status, or went AWOL. Young soldiers often disobeyed their officers, and some even “fragged” them (threw grenades into their tents). Young women, although not subject to the draft, were almost as equally motivated to oppose the war.
Senator Eugene McCarthy was the peace candidate inside the Democratic Party. He mobilized thousands of young people to campaign in presidential primaries across the country. Men were urged to “Get Clean for Gene,” meaning cut long hair and shave to make a good impression on middle America. After a few months, Robert (Bobby) Kennedy became the second peace candidate.
There were massive demonstrations and police riots at the notorious 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. Many young people were hospitalized, even some McCarthy volunteers who were beaten in their hotel beds. Thousands of demonstrators chanted “The Whole World Is Watching.” But the Democratic Party establishment nominated discredited pro-war Vice President Hubert Humphrey for president. McCarthy did not campaign for Humphrey, and remained silent until October, when he did endorse Humphrey. So it is no surprise that Republican Senator Richard Nixon became president. He promised to end the war, but refused to say how.
The 1972 Presidential Campaign
Although the anti-war movement continued unabated, President Nixon was in a strong position. He had concocted a strategy of “Vietnamization,” the withdrawal of large numbers of American troops while supposedly building up South Vietnam’s military. Although later shown to be a total failure, this was great for electioneering. And Nixon won praise for his very surprising overture to China, ending a hostile relationship in place since the Chinese revolution in 1949. Democrats were divided, but this time the peace candidate won the nomination, George McGovern. The Republicans succeeded in branding McGovern as weak on defense, and some southern Democrats left the party. Even worse, the AFL-CIO remained neutral. In the end, Nixon won re-election by a landslide. McGovern later acknowledged that he had run a disastrous campaign.
The 2016 Presidential Campaign
2016 is relatively calm compared to 1968 or 1972. The exception is of course in African-American communities, which have suffered so much police violence. The Black Lives Matter movement is strong and other movements are gearing up, especially the environmental, prison justice, Fight for $15, transgender, and Palestinian rights movements. The Bernie Sanders campaign for president captured the imagination of young people who understand that a better country is possible.
As opposed to 1968 and 1972, there is no draft, and US foreign policy has been nearly absent from the presidential campaigns, except for obligatory statements about fighting terrorism. Bernie Sanders made just a brief mention of Palestinian rights and the US overthrow of governments during the 1970s. Even though the US is bombing Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, and helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen, there is no longer any significant movement to stop the American military’s killing machine, perhaps in part because drone bombing significantly lowers the number of American soldiers killed and maimed.
There has been a massive accumulation of elite and corporate political power and wealth since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Unions have been systematically attacked, and the distribution of wealth is much more skewed. The end of Cold War competition with the Soviet Union demotivated the capitalist class to willingly provide benefits to working people. Many Americans do not see raises, but rather cuts in benefits. Many feel that their jobs are in constant jeopardy, are underemployed, or are working part-time. Many have dropped out of the labor force entirely. Many young people are scrambling to work two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Although the Sanders campaign did exceptionally well through grassroots organizing, the political establishment appears to have weathered the storm. Although Hillary Clinton is roundly discredited as corrupt and self-serving, the Democratic Party establishment had no problem in nominating her for president. Sanders endorsed her to beat neo-fascist Donald Trump, and it appears that most Sanders supporters will grit their teeth and vote for her, at least in the key contested states.
Is There Hope for the Future?
As many young people adopted some variation of socialism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, young people are again viewing socialism as a viable alternative to the dysfunctional economic system. However, as opposed to 1968, few people belong to avowedly socialist groups today. Although young people generally have more progressive views than older folks, there is less of a “generation gap” today than in 1968, when a popular youth slogan was “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30.” Perhaps the threat of fascism at home is more real today than it was in 1968? Privacy rights are under attack, and new technologies make spying on everyone so much easier. Richard Nixon was a much more mainstream centrist candidate than Donald Trump today. Years of the Republican Party’s appealing to right-wing racists, but without using overt language, have reached a logical conclusion. Trump now overtly shouts his law and order anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric for all to hear.
Although Jill Stein (Green Party) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) are on most ballots, neither has a chance of winning. So what would it take for our political system to produce an electable candidate who would represent the 99% instead of the 1%? Changing our profoundly dysfunctional system will take a serious organized resistance, both inside and outside the Democratic Party. Both McCarthy and McGovern were primarily anti-war candidates, but Sanders has broad appeal because he concentrates on bread and butter issues, and the rigged economic system that is leaving more and more people out. Sanders indeed changed the terms of the debate, and Hillary Clinton was forced to partially or fully adopt many of Sander’s proposals. It remains to be seen if the Sanders “political revolution” along with growing social movements can eventually overcome established interests.
Power to the People!
Resolution Opposing The Dakota Access Pipeline
WHEREAS, the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline would carry as many as 570,000 barrels of fracked crude oil per day for over 1,000 miles from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, passing over sensitive landscapes including treaty-protected land containing recognized cultural resources and across or under 209 rivers, creeks, and tributaries, including the pristine Missouri River, which provides drinking water and irrigates agricultural land in communities across the Midwest; and
WHEREAS, despite deep opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, farmers, scientists, environmental groups and other Tribal nations along the proposed route, and without Tribal consultation or meaningful environmental review as required by federal law, in July 2016 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit allowing construction of the fracked oil pipeline to move forward; and
WHEREAS, Americans recognize our responsibility to respect and protect the rights of Tribal nations and to honor their culture; and
WHEREAS, all people require clean water to sustain life and we are all responsible for protecting the clean water resources entrusted to us; and
WHEREAS, there is growing international recognition that expanded reliance on fossil fuels is threatening the survival of people world-wide through global warming.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Mayor and City Council of Urbana, Illinois that we support the efforts of the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota to raise awareness of this threat to American Indians, to clean water and to the world’s climate; and we call on our representatives in Congress and on our representatives in the Illinois Legislature to:
- ask President Obama to require a thorough review of the construction permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and to
- ask President Obama to require a review of the federal requirements for pipeline construction to consider the impact on Tribal nations, on water and on global warming.
PASSED BY THE CITY COUNCIL this 20th day of September, 2016
On August 8, 2016, attorney Shayla Maatuka sent a letter to Champaign County Board Chair Pattsi Petrie requesting a million dollar settlement for the wrongful death of Toya Frazier, who died in the Champaign County jail. The letter is a chance to negotiate before a lawsuit is filed. As Smile Politely reported in May, others in the jail heard Frazier screaming in pain throughout the previous night from heroin withdrawal, and said that guards denied her medical care.
After lying on a cell floor for more than an hour, Frazier was found dead on December 1, 2015. Since then there have been two additional deaths in the jail―Paul Clifton on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, from an asthma attack, and Veronica “Love” Horstead on June 10, 2016, from what was also likely drug withdrawal.
This November, in addition to the presidential election, voters will also have the opportunity to weigh in on a referendum for a Champaign County-wide quarter-cent sales tax, what is being billed as a “facilities tax,” but which will largely go towards expanding the county jail. For the last five years, Sheriff Dan Walsh has been campaigning for an expansion of the jail. According to newly-hired County Administrator Rick Snider, the project will cost $18 million, although in the past costs have been estimated at up to $32 million.
In Champaign, there is another upcoming referendum asking residents to pass $183.4 million in funding for a new high school and other school facilities upgrades.
As Maatuka explains in her letter to the Board, “On December 1, 2015 at approximately 2:00 a.m., Ms. Frazier began screaming and crying in her cell, complaining of severe abdominal pain.”
One woman also incarcerated in the jail said during an interview with state police investigators that when Frazier complained, “the correctional officers laughed at her and offered no medical assistance.”
She was put in an empty cell and placed on medical watch, where guards were supposed to conduct checks every 13 minutes. Video in the cell captured Frazier having a seizure and laying still for 80 minutes before being discovered by a guard.
Activists protested the three deaths at a County Board meeting in June. To quell public concern, the Sheriff showed the video to the County Board chair and Board members, but they were sworn to secrecy. Yet, as Maatuka indicates in her letter, the Frazier family has not to date received a copy of the video.
According to the letter, Frazier was a “loving grandmother” of seven grandchildren. Bryson, one of her grandchildren (pictured), often stayed at Frazier’s house, and the two of them were “exceptionally close.” Since Frazier’s death, “Bryson cries daily asking where she is and begging his parents to see her. Ms. Frazier is sorely missed.”
Maatuka presents as a “settlement recommendation” more than one million dollars in compensation: $500,000 for wrongful death, $500,000 for grief, sorrow and mental suffering.
I spoke with County Board Chair Pattsi Petrie, who said the State’s Attorney had passed the case to Heyl Royster, a private attorney firm the county often hires to resolve civil suits (although the State’s Attorney already employs Barbara Mann to handle civil cases, at an annual salary of $106,000). It was given to Keith Fruehling (pictured), who failed to return my phone call.
“I don’t think I should make any comment since the family is suing the county,” Petrie told me. “I think that’s the best response.”
The county will likely offer a settlement, but any amount of money can never make up for a lost life.
“Humane” Jail Plan
A local community organization, Build Programs, Not Jails, has been fighting the Sheriff’s plan for a jail. Albert Stabler, one of the members, criticized the upcoming referendum as a solution to the recent deaths in the jail. “As well as more comfortable booking and visiting areas, the construction proposal for the jail includes a 30-bed medical unit―but no improvements in the minimal level of medical staffing are anticipated.”
What he said was a “supposedly humane jail” would take the place of real social services. He noted that efforts toward a community-based drop-off center for those who need immediate medical care and drug intervention have been stalled by Sheriff Walsh.
If the referendum passes, Stabler said it would “consolidate the role of the jail as the county’s main provider of mental health care to low-income Black people.” According to information collected by the group, Black people are as much as 70 percent of the jail population. Indeed, all three who died in the jail were African American.
We, as a community, must find solutions to the social and economic crisis that is happening right now. In Champaign-Urbana, we see the erection of tall glass buildings across town for student housing at top dollar, while we are told that there is no money for social services. We must demand better for all C-U residents.
You can see a copy of the letter here: publici Toya Frazier letter to board
This article originally appeared in Smile Politely. Reprinted with permission.
The refugee crisis inside and outside of Syria has made its way into news stories and headlines on a daily basis as the U.S. has begun to admit refugees at a higher rate than in past years. Perhaps surprisingly, the U.S. recently reached the mark of 10,000 Syrian refugees admitted, the goal set by President Obama for the fiscal year. With a significant percentage of the world’s population displaced, the urgent need for action continues to accelerate. Most of us outside of the immediate zone of the crisis are not familiar with that space that seems to escape headlines: displacement, the space between ejection from one’s country and resettlement in another.
During the first half of 2016, Three Spinners Inc. had the opportunity to work with three interns who went on to spend time working with refugees on the ground in Greece. In an interview we conducted with Anne C., one of our former interns, we posed a series of questions that we hoped would be helpful for people who are interested in becoming more informed and more involved.
During her time abroad, Anne was placed with Arsis (Association for the Social Support of Youth, a Greek NGO), which she describes as “an organization that works with imprisoned youth, victims of trafficking, and refugees.” While there, she worked in one of their housing shelters for refugees located in Athens. She elaborated on some of the setbacks she faced as a volunteer for Arsis, the most challenging of which was the fact that, as she told us, “most of the staff was on strike because they had not been paid in eight months.” However, she used this as an opportunity to form bonds with the children in the shelter. As she describes it, she and her colleagues were told to entertain and care for the children, ages one to five, in the shelter until the assigned social worker came back from the strike. While this was not necessarily intended to be her assignment when she arrived, Anne stressed that it was wonderful to give their mothers a bit of a break, and that the language barrier did not prevent her and the children she supervised from having fun. In fact, leaving proved to be much more difficult than bridging a language gap. Anne reported, “When we left on our last day at the shelter, the children ran along the fence and tried to get us to come back, which made it really hard to leave. It was at that moment that I knew that our time at the shelter meant something to those children.” Over seven million children are displaced worldwide; it is crucial that these boys and girls continue to receive medical care and an education. These services, as Anne found, are sometimes dependent on international volunteers and the generosity of local staff, who often go unpaid because of the terrible lack of funding.
Arsis’ many components include a community center and the refugee shelter. Anne recounted, “The community center is composed of lawyers and psychologists. It also sends volunteers to areas heavily populated with refugees to create activities for the children and bring a mobile school. The mobile school has different panels to cover topics including math, hygiene, sex education, social skills, and games. In the refugee shelter, there is room for 12 families, with access to a computer, child care, and social workers.” If Arsis is not able to provide a particular service, they will gladly send people to another organization that can fit their needs, one of which is Vavel, which has mental health services that they do not offer. “I think that the fact that the organizations are so well aware of each other really helps the refugees, because they have someone connecting them to something that they need.” The residents of the camp were able to access doctors, dentists, gynecologists, clothing donations, and showers, but, she said, “The main flaw is that these services are not as readily available as most human beings would like them to be. For example, Praksis is another organization where an individual can make an appointment to shower. Families can only come once a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The same thing goes for picking up clothes or food. These needs can be met, but not in a timely manner.” What we can infer from Anne’s reportage is that while services are not lacking, there are simply not enough people able to provide them. In light of this conversation, perhaps mobility of volunteer work should be the next investment for organizations facilitating rescue and relief efforts.
Anne adamantly stressed that the families she encountered were no different from families here at home in Champaign-Urbana. “I can say that they are just regular people who have gone through some extremely difficult situations and just want a better life for their families. The only difference between me and them is that I live somewhere where I am fortunate enough to feel safe every day. They should be able to feel that way, too.” As Anne’s perspective on her time in Greece suggests, there is a thin but powerful line separating security from precarity and, unfortunately, it seems as though that line is in constant motion, expanding the zone of insecurity and displacement. Crossing that line, making it porous and poking holes in it so that we can see through to the other side, can help us take some of the power back. Anne’s experience in Athens emphasized many of the challenges faced by a country that has opened its doors to refugees, whether temporarily or long-term, but it is important to note the tone of the atmosphere surrounding the families fleeing persecution and violence. “In Athens, there is plenty of support for refugees. There are ‘Immigrants/Refugees Welcome’ signs all over the city. One of the workers at Arsis shared a story with me about how the Greek people treat refugees. He said that many people were living in a square, so the locals made hundreds of sandwiches and brought water and clothing so that they would be more comfortable. There were people who also tried to exploit them, but overwhelmingly people just wanted to help. I think it is easier to see refugees as humans when they are at your back door.” For those of us not on the shores of the Mediterranean, it is important to access that same sentiment: a shared sense of humanity that inspires an environment where people overwhelmingly just want to help.
The purpose of reaching out to Anne about her time in Greece was not only to reorient our relief strategies at Three Spinners Inc., but also to share an honest account of life somewhere in the middle space that we call statelessness. Refugees have always been and are always at our back door. There is a tremendous community of immigrants and refugees in C-U and many organizations, both faith-based and secular, are working to help provide the necessary services to support these communities. Three Spinners Inc., the Eastern Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC), as well as a growing number of local churches, mosques, and temples are all invested in collecting and lending our resources to refugee populations in need. What we must continue to focus on, as Anne’s experience shows, is maintaining and developing that sense of shared humanity and taking seriously our responsibility to care for our neighbors, whether they are local or global. Information on how to get involved is available at www.threespinners.org.
Is WEFT a Sinking Ship?
By: Sandra Ahten
Sandra Ahten is an artist and activist as well as a business owner and grandmother. Her primary community work is primarily around both prison issues and independent media.
Disclaimer: Although I am on the Board of Directors for WEFT, this is my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Board of Directors, staff or volunteers for WEFT/Prairie Air Incorporated.
Community radio station WEFT 90.1FM is, as I write, in the midst of our $20,000 fall pledge drive. Combined with the spring drive, fundraisers, gifts from supporters, underwriting from local businesses and about $3000 from the Illinois Arts Council we might get to the $125,000 needed to keep us out of red ink next year. WEFT has roughly $33,000 in the bank but has operated about $15,000 in the red for the last two years, meaning we have two years to turn the ship around before the building (which we own) would (likely) have to be sold.
I’m gonna hit you with a little more doom and gloom before I tell you why we are not a sinking ship and why you should care.
WEFT has two big problems. One is the same one that every community radio station is facing: how to stay relevant in the era of options like Satellite radio and “on demand listening” –Pandora, Soundcloud, podcasts, etc, etc. The other is a dirty little secret that is much harder to address. WEFT has weathered some rough personnel issues. It’s not easy to keep 80+ volunteers, many with strong wills and strong voices, happy. A very high tolerance for disrespect has caused good volunteers to disengage or became just minimally involved over the years.
Now the (really) good news!
Lainey Emmons has been employed with WEFT since April, and got a vote of confidence in August from the Board of Directors that propelled her into an interim Station Manager position. This despite the fact that she had little radio experience. Why? Lainey proved herself to be a bridge builder, and the board had committed to “making the volunteer experience a positive experience.” Lainey has a Master’s degree with a focus on volunteer management and sponsorship attainment. She is putting her positive attitude, fresh energy, vision, determination, fundraising, and exceptional organizational and analytical skills to work for WEFT. The recent success of WEFTfest (our 35th birthday party which was co-sponsored by Seven Saints) is just one example.
Working her magic with attaining new volunteers and interns and connecting with existing volunteers, Lainey has launched SOUNDhouse Concerts, a monthly friend-raiser/fundraiser series being held to spotlight another non-profit each month in addition to WEFT.
You don’t need to be near your radio. Anyone can listen on their smart device. I do so using the “Tunein” app. Many public affairs programs are available through the WEFT podcast subscription, including the weekly five-minute shows from Black Lives Matter and Amy Hassinger’s The Literary Life. In addition, we have an association with WRFU 104.5 FM and with UPTV (cable channel 6), which air a handful of WEFT programs on their broadcast and YouTube channels. One of those programs is CU Progressive News, which is produced in association with the Public i.
But what about music?
Because of royalty issues we cannot have music podcasts, so that great Surfabilly show had to be caught live or it was lost forever. But no longer! Now you can listen to each and every WEFT program for up to two weeks through the Radio Free America link from www.weft.org. WEFT volunteers are keeping the Monday night WEFT Sessions tradition going with a live music in the building every Monday night at 10pm… also replayed on UPTV and youtube.
Community radio is exceptional and worth saving. You may have a dozen ways to listen to Democracy Now! But it’s rare that one who is not in the know will stumble across it, as I did as I tuned into WEFT to hear that great mix of commercial-free locally-grown eclectic music. That and listening to WEFT’s Saturday morning lineup helped shape my political views. That’s why I love WEFT. Others love it for the blues, jazz, world music, the poetry, the passion. I urge you to listen and (re)discover why you love WEFT.
A few years ago the station lost its Corporation for Public Broadcast grant because the CPB moved toward funding larger or consolidated stations. WEFT was not able to meet the base amount that CPB would then match. Some of us have a dream that we will one day be able to get that match again. We are scheming and planning! But in the meantime we are relying on you to keep us on the air through a one-time or monthly donation. (www.weft.org/donate).
WEFT history and future
WEFT had its beginnings in 1975, as community members began work to create a new radio station. In 1980 WEFT began to broadcast on the local cable TV network and acquired studio space at 113 N. Market Street in Champaign. On September 26, 1981, WEFT went on the air as an FM radio station, broadcasting at 90.1 FM. Initially WEFT was a less than 1,000-watt station.
In 1988, WEFT acquired a 10,000-watt transmitter and began to broadcast in stereo. This move extended the broadcast coverage area significantly, with the signal reaching up to 40 miles. In 1991, WEFT/Prairie Air Inc. purchased the building at 113 N. Market Street and within 9 years paid off the mortgage.
We plan to keep evolving. It’s the board’s plan to keep WEFT a “terrestrial” station and not go off the air or go to an internet-only station. It’s our intention to do that without losing the building. But there are no guarantees in these ever-changing times. We urge you to follow us on Facebook (WEFT Community Radio) and Twitter and listen as often as possible so you can stay tuned in as we continue to steer the ship toward our goals. If you would like to be on our Community Advisory Board or get involved in any capacity, email email@example.com or call 217-398-9066.
UCIMC’s Makerspace participated in this year’s Pride Parade with a mobile dance party! Photo credit: Jay Schubert